smell this: Halston 1-12

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Halston 1-12 launched in 1976 along with its more popular brother Halston Z-14. Both were named for the perfumer’s codes for the drafts, Halston couldn’t decide between the two and launched both simultaneously. Often considered the younger brother, overshadowed by Z-14 (a harbinger of the 80s powerhouse colognes to come), but I think it is also the more academic, more mysterious brother. Z-14 doesn’t interest me at all. I don’t typically like chypres,* often think they smell…not good. Old fashioned? Unpleasant. Musty but not in the way I like…

* “Chypre, pronounced: [ʃipʁ] or [ʃipχ], is the name of a family (or concept) of perfumes that are characterised by an accord composed of citrus top-notes, a middle centered on cistus labdanum, and a mossy-animalic base-note derived from oak moss and musk. Chypre perfumes fall into numerous classes according to their modifier notes, which include but are not limited to leather, florals, fruits, and amber.” (wikipedia)

But I like this. Probably because it meets the technical requirements of a chypre but feels like a fougère.**  Fougères I routinely like (ref. YSL Rive Gauche pour homme). Intellectually a chypre, emotionally a fougère, 1-12 is surprisingly complex for its price tag, and surprisingly contemporary for its age.

** Fougère, pronounced: [fu.ʒɛʁ], meaning “fern-like”, is one of the main families into which modern perfumes are classified, with the name derived from the perfume Fougère Royale (Houbigant) by Paul Parquet, now preserved in the archives of the Osmothèque. This class of fragrances have the basic accord with a top-note of lavender and base-notes of oakmoss and coumarin (Tonka bean). Aromatic fougère, a derivative of this class, contains additional notes of herbs, spice and/or wood.” (more wikipedia)

This opens with a bright lemon and green cedar-like accord, a little shrill for the first few seconds (but you know better than to judge a perfume in the first few seconds) but quickly softened by notes of basil and bergamot. The opening is not my favorite part of this, reminds me too much of the screaming green opening of Grey Flannel, which cologne I like but not until many minutes after application (and even then, not so much as I like 1-12). Grey Flannel, while it has its charm, could never be mistaken for a modern perfume, and I think 1-12 could be. And probably would be, as few seem to know about it.

Effervescent citrus and coniferous green soften into a soapy, lavender-infused green with a hint of gin—by which I mean juniper—, and when the creamy tonka bean (sweet, vanilla-like) comes forward, that’s when I begin to really like this fragrance. The green smells interesting and fresh, mossy yet newly laundered at the same time. This base is balanced such that the players that often dominate the base (amber, musk) are instead quietly warming and intensifying the rest of the team. The key players left on the skin hours in (and this lasts pretty well on me) are moss and tonka bean, with the aromatic cedar and juniper (and maybe lavender, sometimes I can catch it and sometimes I can’t) never quite fading away completely. This may be too soapy for some but I don’t mind it at all. My main complaint about soapy fragrances is that they are dull, and Halston 1-12 is not.

To me this smells subdued and elegant. It’s gently masculine, readily unisex. Suitable for wear year round. Especially good in the rain.

It’s been discontinued for a while but it’s still easy to find it dirt cheap all over, around $10 or less. Fantastic value here, this fragrance shows that you don’t need to spend a lot to get a quality scent. You’re not likely to bump into someone else wearing it, either. Woefully overlooked, check it out.

 

smell this: Lolita Lempicka

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Lolita Lempicka is a strange and unexpected fragrance, designed by the talented Annick Menardo in 1997 for the French fashion house.  It opens with a very sweet licorice note—imagine aniseed (or maybe better, anisette) cotton candy—which softens but remains in the forefront for the duration of wear. Give it 10 to 20 minutes and it’s hard to say what is happening on your arm; chocolate, lavender, powder, vanilla…the scent is creamy yet not heavy, lasting several hours on me and seeming to change its face from one hour to the next and one wearing to the next. Sometimes it seems like a complex bourbon-vanilla and the licorice, which I can intellectually trace back to, is almost entirely disguised or subsumed by something like praline or marzipan with hints of coffee and chocolate throwing additional licorice-cloaking shadows.

This perfume is often compared to Mugler’s Angel, another sweet gourmand of an entirely different species (chocolate/vanilla/patchouli), and while Angel has something flirtatious and heady about it, the brightening, almost herbal quality of licorice, underscored by the actually herbal ivy and violet notes, keeps Lolita Lempicka light and innocent. It manages to be fully sweet, unmistakably sweet, without being cloying.  A more or less straight licorice doesn’t work for me (see Hermes Brin de Reglisse) but the creamy current of powdery tonka sweetness contrasted with the gentle violet grounds this fragrance.

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The classic Lolita Lempicka bottle is an apple, and the Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin bottle a tree trunk. I say: cute.

There is an Alice in Wonderland kind of strangeness to this perfume (this is the flavor, perhaps, of the EAT ME biscuit), which was extremely innovative when it was launched and still smells interesting and modern to me now. It can be a bit sweet for me, and it may be a bit sweet for you. It’s often a candidate for layering with something more masculine to temper the sweetness, and I often opt for the less creamy Au Masculin when I want a licorice note (I’ll tell you about that another time), but this is the kind of fragrance I love to find lingering on my scarf or sweater days later.