Flanker Round-Up: Ralph Lauren Polo Cologne Intense and Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Nightvision EDP

When flankers come out of what I consider the pillars of masculine marketed perfume I look closely. These can be signposts of how the mass-market brands view the current market. They count on the affection for the original to get a consumer to try a new version. This is the reason for the existence of flankers. This month I am going to look at the new flankers Ralph Lauren Polo Cologne Intense and Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb Nightvision EDP.

Ralph Lauren Polo Cologne Intense is the latest flanker to the masterpiece Polo released in 1978. The brand has not been shy about releasing flankers of this. There are years where there are multiples. The quantity makes it a hit-or-miss effort. Polo Cologne Intense is a hit.

Perfumers Carlos Benaim, who did the original and Pascal Gaurin take the strong herbal woody leather of the original and interpret in a lighter form. Even though it is labeled “cologne intense” this is a classic cologne construct using the ingredients from the original which fit the theme. What that means is a citrus top of grapefruit. It means an herbal piece of clary sage and thyme. It ends on the modern equivalent of woods ambroxan. This is a nice warm weather version of Polo without slavishly nodding to it.

Polo Cologne Intense has 12=14 hour longevity and average sillage.

While I know calling Polo a masterpiece finds wide agreement, I am not sure how many thinks 2012’s Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb is. I think it is the 21st century equivalent to Polo. The brand here has been much more judicious in releasing flankers. When they released the Eau de Toilette (EDT) version of Spicebomb Nightvision in 2019 I was disappointed. This was a lighter version, but it lost a lot of the DNA of the original. This recent Spicebomb Nightvision Eau de Parfum (EDP), by perfumers Pascal Gaurin and Nathalie Lorson finds the middle ground closer in style to the original.

Spicebomb Nightvision EDP retains the spicy core of the original as the hot pepper is part of that. In this case it is used to coalesce around grapefruit. The differences come in an herbal lavender meshing with all the spices and a mixture of balsamic notes in the base in place of the leather. This all adds up to a darker shaded version of the original which is a nice change of pace without straying too far astray.

Spicebomb Nightvision EDP has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Armani Code Eau de Parfum and Yves St. Laurent Y Le Parfum

If there is a masculine counterpart to the ubiquitous spring rose it is lavender. I have noticed that more of the spring men’s releases rely on this floral recently. I received two flankers where its addition is a positive.

Armani Code Eau de Parfum

Ever since its release Armani Code has acted as a cash cow for the brand. They would pump out releases which were uninspired copies. Something changed a couple years ago as the last couple of Armani Code flankers have been much more interesting. Some of that might have something to do with Antoine Maisondieu being involved or maybe being given the ability to color outside the lines. The New Armani Code Eau de Parfum benefits from whatever the reason is.

What is nice is at every phase there is a substitute for the original. It starts as lemon replaces grapefruit. This is a very warm lemon instead of bright. The floral herbal piece of this Eau de Parfum version is lavender and rosemary. Each is a change from the original while still cutting close enough to feel like part of the family. The base accord has a higher concentration of tonka bean which adds in another warmer ingredient. Overall it confirms that warmth a parfum version would likely have. I also think this is a good choice for the spring and fall.

Armani Code Eau de Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Yves St. Laurent Y Le Parfum

I have been mostly disappointed in the last few years at YSL. The original release of Y Eau de Toilette is an example of fragrance by focus group. It works for people who don’t really like perfume. Just like Armani Code, YSL has cranked out multiple flankers all of which retained that lack of ingenuity. By featuring lavender among many other changes, perfumer Dominique Ropion has made the best version of Y yet.

The opening is a collision of tart fruit in grapefruit and green apple. The tartness is a nice opening for the lavender to walk through. The floral is kept more on its herbal side with a little sage making sure of that. It closes on a sweetly woody accord of cedar and tonka bean.

Y Le Parfum has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Yves Saint Laurent L’Homme Le Parfum and Ralph Lauren Polo Red Eau de Parfum

Flankers have their own trends, too. The “parfum” version seems to be this year’s model. In a lot of ways it can be the easiest path to pleasing fans of the original. Because when you see “parfum” on the label you are expecting a higher concentration of what you liked about the original. It isn’t as straightforward as just upping the concentration there does have to be a rebalancing of things. If it works, it can deliver what is promised. This month’s Flanker Round-Up looks at two which do.

Yves Saint Laurent L’Homme Le Parfum

The original L’Homme released in 2006 has been a perennial best seller. It falls squarely in the woods with a sharp crease category. While not one of my favorites it does do that style well. YSL has churned out many flankers most retaining the crispness of the original. L’Homme Le Parfum differs by taking some of the starch out of it.

Where it hews closest to its parent is in the early going with a citrus and sea spray opening. Cardamom comes along to provide a bit of softening. The heart is centered on geranium also softened via violet leaves and mint. The synthetic woody base remains with cashmeran adding a less strident finish.

L’Homme Le Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Ralph Lauren Polo Red Eau de Parfum

Unlike YSL L’Homme I did not care for 2013’s Polo Red. I thought it a thin irrelevant fragrance. Polo Red Extreme is the one I like best. But it is entirely different from its previous incarnation. Polo Red Eau de Parfum is recognizably similar to the original. What makes it better is in this higher concentration version is the thin quality I disliked before has been given more heft. It makes for a better Polo Red.

All the way through each phase is deeper. It starts with the fruity combo of grapefruit and cranberry given energy through ginger. This is the kind of presence I approve of. Lavender and clary sage remain from the original but here they are more balanced finding a harmony I didn’t experience before. Same sweet woody base is here with some benzoin to give more depth; matching the other phases.

Polo Red Eau de Parfum has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio Profondo and Armani Code Absolu Gold

I sometimes get an e-mail from a reader asking me, “What’s the point of flankers?” Trust me when I receive them in the mail that is something I ask myself. The cynical answer is the large companies are trying to part consumers from their money who feel brand loyalty. It is probably closer to the truth. Yet I have observed there might be a more positive perspective to have on flankers.

When I give someone a perfume to try on a strip and they tell me they don’t like it; I ask why. The most frequent answer is there is one thing which doesn’t make them happy. Too floral. Not floral enough. Too sweet. Too strong. A flanker can address this by making the one small change which might bring in someone who was put off by something in the original. This was my frame of mind when I received the two latest flankers from Giorgio Armani.

Giorgio Armani Acqua di Gio Profondo

To their credit Giorgio Armani has not overexposed Acqua di Gio by releasing a ton of flankers of the 1995 original. It is also commendable that they have been clearly different from each other. The original was one of the early uses of Calone as the source of the sea spray beachy quality. The big difference in Acqua di Gio Profondo is the use of an analog called Cascalone. This is a deeper version of the sea with a more concentrated effect. It is what perfumer Alberto Morillas uses in the opening moments. Lavender replaces jasmine from the original. The lavender goes well with the Cascalone in creating a slightly darker shade of fragrance. It ends with a mineralic accord in the base,

If you were someone who found the original Acqua di Gio too fresh and clean; Profondo is just a shade less of both.

Acqua di Gio Profondo has 8-10 hour.

Giorgio Armani Armani Code Absolu Gold

With Armani Code the brand doesn’t seem as protective; releasing nearly a flanker a year since its initial release. That kind of process leads to a cynical view. All the Armani Code flankers have been offshoots of the original’s woody Oriental construction. I had easily ignored them until last year’s Armani Code Absolu which did change things. I wasn’t fond of an odd boozy accord in the middle but I appreciated the effort to try something new. This year’s version Armani Code Absolu Gold makes a change which made me like it much more.

Perfumer Antoine Maisondieu was behind both of the Absolu versions. In Armani Code Absolu Gold the booze is replaced by a fantastic iris and saffron heart. This flows much more naturally from the crisp fruits of apple and tangerine on top into benzoin and tonka bean in the base. It is difficult to get the floral balance right in a perfume marketed to men. I think if you are looking for a subdued floral for a change of pace and you like the Armani Code DNA this is a good alternative.

Armani Code Absolu Gold has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by Giorgio Armani.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Kenneth Cole Mankind Legacy and Dior Sauvage Parfum

This month’s Flanker Round-Up I look at new releases from two masculine fragrance lines. One which has become a big seller and another which I consider to be an underappreciated mass-market gem.

Dior Sauvage Parfum

The original Dior Sauvage Eau de Toilette was released in the fall of 2015. It has become one of the perennial men’s fragrance best sellers ever since. Its appeal lies in the way perfumer Francois Demachy smooshed together most of the popular masculine perfume tropes into a monolithic whole. It works because there is something to appeal to everyone. The only thing I didn’t care for was the wall of Ambrox at the end of it all. With Sauvage Parfum M. Demachy remedies that.

Sauvage Parfum is a much sweeter fragrance without having that sledgehammer of Ambrox waiting at the end. A juicy mandarin and cardamom comprise a citrus top accord which moves toward a creamy sandalwood heart. This finishes with vanilla and cedar providing twin amplifiers of the sweet and woody aspects of the sandalwood. I can see Sauvage Parfum becoming an excellent winter alternative for fans of the original. It isn’t exactly the same, but it is recognizable as a kissing cousin.

Kenneth Cole Mankind Legacy

I think the Kenneth Cole Mankind series of perfumes is better than most of what is found on the men’s fragrance counter in the mall. In 2014 perfumer Claude Dir was ahead of the curve using some of the more contemporary men’s trends before they became trends. For Mankind Legacy perfumer Stephen Nilsen creates an herbal green woody fragrance.

It opens with a pairing of nutmeg and clary sage. The sweetness of the nutmeg is a nice contrast to the dry green of the sage. Baie rose and rosemary shade the herbal quality a bit deeper. A rich fir and cedar provide the woody foundation for a bridging vetiver to unite the herbs and the woods. I like Mankind Legacy as a weekend hiking kind of perfume. Almost feels like a flannel shirt should come as a gift with purchase.

Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Le Beau and Bulgari Rose Goldea Blossom Delight

When it comes to summer flankers it usually means adding something tropical to the DNA of the brand. The majority of the time it feels awkwardly placed as well as being redundant or inconsequential. Of the flankers for summer 2019 I found two which did a nice job of adding a tropical attitude to their respective lines.

Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Le Beau

Jean Paul Gaultier adds a summer flanker to their Le Male line every year. As a whole this is one of the better summer flanker collections with many more successes than misses. For 2019 they created Le Male Le Beau by crossing the fresh aesthetic of the original through a fantastic coconut at the heart of it.

Perfumers Quentin Bisch and Sonia Constant collaborated on Le Male Le Beau. What they’ve produced is a perfume version of a summer book as a perfume. The freshness is provided by bergamot and they then use what the notes call coconut wood. It seems more like a mixture of coconut and wood. Tonka bean is also present to make that coconut sweeter and fleshier. So many coconut fragrances goo too far to the sweet. By using the wood to keep things drier the coconut has a better effect.

One caveat the name I gave you is what I was supplied by the brand. There are also other flankers which are Le Beau or Le Male. If this perfume interests you look for the exact bottle in the picture above.

Bulgari Rose Goldea Blossom Delight

The original Bulgari Goldea is one of the best commercial releases nobody talks about. The unfortunate upshot of that is Bulgari has become a flanker machine over the last decade. Their success rate is surprisingly low for all the effort they put into it. When they released Rose Goldea three years ago I thought it was a nice summery companion to Goldea which had some personality. For Rose Goldea Blossom Delight I can say the same thing.

Perfumer Alberto Morillas has been responsible for all the Goldea releases. Rose Goldea Blossom Delight is distinctly different from either of its predecessors. M. Morillas sets that difference right from the start with a green top accord made up of papaya and violet leaves. Papaya is a naturally musky fruit and M. Morillas uses that faux-muskiness to create a lightly fruity musky opening. It dovetails nicely into the rose in the heart and the amber in the base. This is a delightful end of summer choice that will also do well as the weather cools post-Labor Day.

Disclosure: this review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Portofino Acqua and Sole di Positano Acqua

There has been an interesting trend among the Tom Ford Private Blend collection; flankers.  In what has been one of the, arguably, most influential perfume collections the recent choice to release flankers stands out. In most of the cases it has been to make “intense” or “eau” forms indicating darker or lighter. The ones they’ve chosen to do that with allow for a choice between styles with similar construction at different volumes. The sub-collection which has seen the most flankers are the blue bottled Neroli Portofino collection. These flankers have had “acqua” appended to their name. While it might seem natural to think this means aquatic it generally doesn’t. It means a subtle shifting of ingredients. It makes it a true kind of flanker. This month’s Flanker Round-Up covers the two most recent additions to the neroli Portofino sub-collection.

Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Portofino Acqua

What I enjoyed about the original Fleur de Portofino was it was the most floral of the Neroli Portofino collection. It was an exuberant floral collage that remains a favorite. For Fleur de Portofino Acqua the exuberant florals remain but they are shifted in concentration to create a similar style as in the original.

The same summery citrus mélange is back in all its glorious tart juiciness. The difference is violet leaf is given more presence which teases out the green undercurrents inherent within the citrus accord. The key combination in the original was the honey nuance of acacia attached to honey in the base. For Fleur de Portofino Acqua, orange blossom joins with the acacia in equal presence. It provides a clearer connection to the citrus on top through to the honey in the base.

Fleur de Portofino Acqua remains a fantastic summer floral like the original.

Tom Ford Private Blend Sole di Positano Acqua

Sole di Positano is more emblematic of the overall Mediterranean aesthetic which runs through the Neroli Portofino collection. Especially with the classic citrus-floral-woody axis upon which many of this type of fragrance spins upon. Sole di Positano Acqua doesn’t disrupt this but it adds a little more to the bones of the original.

Sparkling lemon and bitter orange open the new version with an enhanced amount of shiso leaf. The sharp green quality of the shiso finds purchase among the brilliant tartness of the lemon. It accentuates the sunniness of the citrus. In the original I mentioned I liked the use of the lighter versions of jasmine and ylang-ylang. In the new one, versions of both florals which have a slight tint of the indoles inherent in both are used. It works because of the presence of the higher concentration of the shiso. It all coalesces into a sandalwood base with some moss growing on it.

Sole di Positano Acqua is an overall greener version than the original.

Disclosure: this review was based on samples provided by Nordstrom.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun and Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet

When a trend begins to filter down into the flankers, I presume that means it has been a best seller. Over the past two years transparent floral gourmands have become a persistent trend especially on the mainstream side of the fragrance world. For once this is a trend which I am fully behind as it isn’t an area where a lot of perfume has been created. It doesn’t feel to me like we’ve had that great version which will be the benchmark within the genre yet. In the meantime this style continues to expand and in this month’s Flanker Round-Up I look at Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun and Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet.

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun

Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue was launched in 2001 and has been one of the best-selling perfumes since then. This year’s summer flanker Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun tweaks the formula a bit more than the typical flanker without going too far away from what works. Perfumers Olivier Cresp and Alberto Morillas team-up to find a way to insert a gourmand element into the Mediterranean feel of the original.

The citrus top accord has always been a part of the Light Blue DNA the perfumers add in a crisp apple note to add a snap to it. Then a very light use of coconut inserts itself between that focused top accord and the jasmine in the heart. This is where the floral gourmand comes to life as the apple and citrus along with the coconut and jasmine form a summery accord at just the right intensity. The base is bit of vanilla sweetened cedar also kept light. One note there is also a Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue Sun pour Homme. This is not a review for that.

Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet

Here is the insanity of flankers as Marc Jacobs Daisy Love Eau So Sweet is the flanker of 2018’s Daisy Love which is a flanker of 2007’s Daisy. I can’t even keep up. Perfumer Alberto Morillas was there in the beginning and is here for Daisy Love Eau So Sweet. Last year Daisy Love went for floral gourmand territory, but it left the transparent part out. For Daisy Love Eau So Sweet M. Morillas adds that back into the mix.

The same berry top accord is back from Daisy Love but pitched in a much lighter shade of fruitiness. The floral heart is also equally expansive. Then as the fruity floral accord settles in; a wash of sugar and white musks adds a whole new level of expansiveness. It does it so ingeniously that it goes from being sugary sweet to almost fresh in the way it rises off my skin. It is just this happy sugar coated fruity floral bubble to spend a summer’s day within.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Boss Bottled Infinite and Givenchy Gentleman Cologne

As much as I spend the first few months of the year complaining about the avalanche of new spring rose perfumes; I’ve been asked if there is a men’s corollary. The answer is, kind of. As Father’s Day in the US gets closer, I get a significant increase in colognes from the big perfume brands. The reason it doesn’t bother me as much is there are more variations within a cologne architecture. Most of them are flankers of established best sellers which try to freshen and lighten things up. Boss Bottled Infinite and Givenchy Gentleman Cologne are two recent examples.

Boss Bottled Infinite

Hugo Boss has surely milked the popularity of 1998’s Boss Bottled. Boss Bottled Infinite is the thirteenth flanker. I was not one of the fans of the original. I felt perfumer Annick Menardo overloaded things. I was in the minority as it has been a consistent best seller. Usually a flanker keeps much of the original formula while adding in a couple new ingredients. Which is a description of most of the Boss Bottled flankers. What made me give Boss Bottled Intense a second look was that it went in the opposite direction by stripping it down to the essential keynotes. Mme Menardo was again behind the wheel for the new flanker.

For this new version the top accord is simplified to mandarin and apple, with the citrus out front. Cinnamon and sage form the heart with some lavender as underpinning. This is more spicy than previous versions without becoming heavy. The significant change is olive wood for sandalwood. What that adds is less dry woodiness. It has a richer quality which complements the early accords nicely. If you’re a fan of the original I believe this will be a nice summer alternative.

Givenchy Gentleman Cologne

The Givenchy Gentleman released in 1974 is one of the masterpieces of that decade of perfume. When Givenchy decided to release a new perfume with that name in 2017, they did it in Eau de Toilette concentration. I was not happy it shared nothing of the sophistication of the original; it was a mess. A year later they released an Eau de Parfum version. This felt like the heir to the original I was looking for. When Givenchy Gentleman Cologne arrived it fell in the middle but closer to the Eau de Parfum side.

Perfumers Olivier Cresp and Nathalie Lorson continue to design the new Givenchy Gentleman collection. They keep it simple, too. In the Eau de Toilette there was a pear note on top that really turned me off. For Cologne the top note is a brilliant lemon in high concentration. It is a summery blast of sunlight. Some rosemary provides the herbal component of the cologne recipe. The perfumers substituted iris for the more typical lavender. It is a fantastic choice. The early moments are as good as it gets. My only drawback is a high concentration of synthetic woods. It lands like a sledgehammer. The lemon and iris nearly get obliterated holding on by a thread. If there was a bit better balance to the base, I would have liked this as much as the Eau de Parfum. Whether it is for you will come down to your tolerance for the synthetic woody in high concentration.

Disclosure: These reviews are based on samples from the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke

Flanker Round-Up: Givenchy Live Irresistible Rosy Crush and Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey Pure Petale de Nectar

This is the time of year when I receive an overwhelming amount of rose perfumes. In the minds of the brands rose equals spring. It is seemingly such a lucrative market that if there isn’t something new to go that means finding a flanker to be ready. Most of what I receive are flankers. I could tell even if I didn’t know the original. When the name starts to get longer by a few words it almost inevitably is a flanker. For this month’s Round-Up these are the two rose flankers I liked the best out of this year’s crop.

Givenchy Live Irresistible Rosy Crush

Last year’s Givenchy Live Irresistible Blossom Crush was one of my top spring rose flankers. Perfumer Dominique Ropion follows a year later with Givenchy Live Irresistible Rosy Crush. This one is more in keeping with the other Live Irresistible releases as it goes back to being very sweet. M. Ropion hews more to the previous formula of opulent fruity floral. What set it apart was a very earthy base.

It opens with the classic fruity floral of berries and rose. It says it is goji berry in the ingredient list but that has always been  tarter in other fragrances I’ve encountered it. This is a full-on sweet berry accord poised to accentuate the rose in the heart. This is that dewy spring rose with the berries teasing out a bit of the jamminess which is buried deep in these types of rose fragrances. The base is a rich earthy patchouli which feels like it wants to be a chypre but is just darkness to tint the bright berries and rose. Based on the last two years maybe Givenchy has this spring rose flanker thing figured out.

Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey Pure Petale de Nectar

I’ve lost count of how many flankers the classic 1992 perfume L’Eau D’Issey has launched. I couldn’t bring myself to count. What does happen is when you make so many a few manage to stand out. That’s the case for Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey Pure Petale de Nectar. The original defined the fresh aquatic floral. This current iteration honors that by finding a way of nodding back to the L’Eau D’Issey formula without being shackled to it.

Perfumer Dominique Ropion reprises the pear-honey-rose triad from last year’s L’Eau D’Issey Pure Nectar. This latest version has a much lighter overall effect which allows for synthetic woods and ambergris the opportunity to add in the “L’Eau” to the recipe. The use of the honey is what captured my attention as the way it is used as a thin film with the spring rose is really appealing on a spring day.

Disclosure: These reviews were based on samples provided by the manufacturers.

Mark Behnke