What is Dunhill Cologne? And a trick for enhancing fragrance appreciation !

Perhaps a year ago I obtained a bottle of Dunhill for Men 1934. It was the newest formulation, but it did at least a reasonably good job of capturing that kind of fragrance. Here are the notes (from Fragrantica.com): “Top notes are lavender, geranium, nutmeg and amalfi lemon; middle notes are iris, rose, woodsy notes, jasmine and carnation; base notes are vetiver, sandalwood, oak moss, virginia cedar, tonka bean and leather.”

There is a animalic quality here, probably ‘dirty jasmine.” Overall, it’s dry, floral, woody, and opens with strong citrus, particularly the lemon. It’s a bit powdery, probably due to the iris, but the lavender isn’t very strong and it’s not a fougere. I certainly like it but I think another one I own, Colours for Men by Alexander Julian, does the same kind of thing in a way I find more pleasant (I find it richer, deeper, and less sharp). I’ll have to try both at least one more time to decide, and if and when I do I’ll update this post. My guess is that the original formulation had more essential oils, because this seems a bit weak, though it lingers with low projection (“sillage”) for quite a while. It may work very well if sprayed on my shirt, but I haven’t tried that yet (so many fragrances yet so few days!).

About three weeks ago, I was able to sample the vintage aftershave formulation. It seemed a bit less rich and it didn’t last well, but being an aftershave it’s impossible to draw conclusions about the cologne formulation. It is pictured below, on the left (your left) in the bottle with spiraling glass.


The bottle on the right is something I acquired about a week later. It just says Dunhill Cologne, not Dunhill for Men, and it’s clearly vintage, though exactly when I have no idea (I’d guess 1960s). When I first sampled it, I didn’t smell much of anything, but that’s likely due to the way I applied it (I put some in a vial and dabbed it on). Then I thought it may be that the top notes were largely gone, which I think is the case. However, I didn’t smell much even after about half an hour. It certainly didn’t smell much like my new formulation of Dunhill for Men 1934. Then I decided to spray some new formulation Grey Flannel just above my ankle (I can’t’ even remember what I was looking for in GF). After smelling a little of that, I notice that I could then smell Dunhill Cologne quite clearly, and that it was a very different fragrance.

Basically, it’s an oriental scent, a bit animalic, not dry, no sign of citrus, powdery, and definitely with obvious though not overbearing sweetness. There was some spice but it wasn’t too strong, and there are some florals softening it up. There may be a hint of something like suede providing a tiny bit of “structure.” If you have tried the original Guess Men (from around 1991) you likely have an idea of what this smells like. Many might mistake it for a vintage fragrance marketed to women. Today it could be marketed by a niche company as unisex without a second thought. So now that you know about this apparently undocumented Dunhill scent, let’s address what happened with Grey Flannel.

At least a few years ago, I noticed that if I was sampling two or more scents, when I smelled one and then another within the space of a minute or so, the notes in common would kind of get cancelled out and I would smell the notes that were different very clearly in the second scent I smelled. I’ll provide an example. You spray one ankle with one scent and the other ankle with a different one. They have everything in common except that the first one has no wood note but the second one has a strong wood note. In my experience, when you go to smell that second scent you will smell the wood very clearly, and perhaps little of anything else.

Apparently, this is a case of selective olfactory fatigue. And I think this is why you’ve probably been told to smell coffee beans after you smell one scent and want to try another one. This isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but I don’t think it will work well if the second scent has a strong coffee note. If it does, you probably won’t smell much of that coffee note and you will get an impression of it that will be very different from a normal wearing. What about Grey Flannel? My guess is that there are several strong notes in it that “contrast” powerfully with the dominant notes/accords in Dunhill Cologne. Try it yourself and leave a comment about what happens, if you don’t mind. You can use whatever fragrances you have if you don’t have GF and an old school oriental scent. Just keep in mind that it might not work well if you spray your wrists instead of your ankle because your nose may get too much exposure to both at the same time that way.

Note: Someone who seems to really enjoy making nasty comments (despite the fact that I don’t approve them) cited the page http://www.leffingwell.com/h&rfragrance/poster_genealogie_masculin.pdf, apparently thinking that I had never seen it before (I saw it years ago) and that it “proved” something in this context (he called this blog post a “failure,” which suggests a disordered mind, IMO). I used the search option to look up every use of Dunhill on that web page, and it does not help clarify what “Dunhill Cologne” from circa 1960s is. Certainly, it’s possible that the Dunhil Cologne is supposed to be Dunhill for Men 1934, but if so it’s lost almost all it’s top notes and my new Dunhill for Men 1934 (and the vintage aftershave version I tried) have hardly any of the rich, syrupy base notes of Dunhill Cologne. I thought that was self-evident in this post, but one person who seems to be a “right fighter” wasn’t able to imagine that possibility (the question mark in the title was supposed to make that clear). In fact, before I wrote this post I researched older discussions about this topic, such as http://www.basenotes.net/threads/259505-Unknown-Alfred-Dunhill-Cologne

UPDATE: I did an ankle sampling of my recent formulation Dunhill for Men 1934 and at no point does it smell like what my vintage bottle of Dunhill Cologne does. It stays dry, citric/woody the whole way through. This is yet another situation where I wish I had some equipment to measure the types and amounts of molecules that are in these two bottles!


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