As perfumery moved into the latter half of the 1990’s it seems perfume brands were willing to take a risk to attract new customers. There are many examples of a perfume from the late 1990’s which comes from a label now known for something entirely different. If I say Dolce & Gabbana to most perfume lovers they will think of the classic Light Blue and how that has become the standard bearer for not only the brand but aesthetically, as well. This is a bit of a no-win situation for a brand if you become so known for a style the consumer won’t let you branch out. Much like the actor known for an iconic role eventually you just give in and start signing autographs. Or in a perfume way start releasing flankers.
In 1998 Dolce & Gabbana was coming off the success of Dolce & Gabbana pour Homme; but oddly pour Femme would fail to win over consumers. It was three years away from Light Blue completely changing the brand’s fragrance image. Stefano Gabbana was trying to position the Dolce & Gabbana fragrance as something in the upper level of the prestige marketplace. A pair of fragrances were commissioned as the next attempt to find that position. By Man and By Woman were the names and both lasted barely six years before being discontinued. Light Blue would displace them from their shelf space as its popularity grew. By Woman has fairly sunk into the perfumed graveyard of perfumes not mourned for their absence. By Man is a different story.
Sig. Gabbana enlisted perfumer Alberto Morillas to compose By Man. M. Morillas delivered a spicy woody leather construction. It was against the prevailing wave of fresh and sport fragrances. It was also a calculated risk to see if men had become tired of those kind of fragrances and were ready to move on. They weren’t.
M. Morillas opens By Man with one of the best nutmeg openings of any perfume I own. He gives it some bite with pepper but it is really enhanced by a note called Hedione Elixir. The transparent expansive jasmine-like aromachemical is made a little less transparent, hence the elixir designation, and the spices seem to float suspended above the cloud of Hedione. In the heart M. Morillas gets more floral with lavender supported by artemesia. The Hedione Elixir persists into the heart adding its lift to the lavender as it did to the spices in the top notes. By Man finishes with base notes of primarily sandalwood and a leather accord. There is some Ambroxan to provide the same lift that the Hedione Elixir did over the early going. By using these very expansive aromachemicals I think M. Morillas was trying to make a “fresher” version of an Oriental. What he did was design one of the best spicy fougeres I own and something like no other in my collection.
Since its discontinuation in 2004 By Man has created a sort of holy trinity of discontinued men’s fragrances with Patou pour Homme and Guerlain Derby. I think it compares well with both of those and understand the affection. By Man carries a similar price tag to both of those if you can find a bottle for sale. If you get the chance to try By Man think about how different Dolce & Gabbana would have been if it became the signature fragrance success instead of Light Blue. This is the stuff of which parallel dimensions are made of.
Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.