The disintegration of the fabulous Halston brothers, Z-14 and 1-12.

Perhaps a year ago, a thread about Z-14 appeared on Someone claimed that there was a new formulation that contained a lot of cinnamon but no oakmoss (and was quite bad), and apparently some of them went on a “vintage hunt” for boxes that listed oakmoss. In this case it was claimed that both were made by EA Fragrances, and the suggestion was made that this company reformulated Z-14 this way in order to conform to the latest IFRA guidelines. I’m writing this post because I now have experience with several different formulations of these two and it seems to me that they are an excellent example of how scents can travel a rather strange road after more than one reformulation.

About a week ago, I acquired some vintage Z-14 (made by Halston), and a couple weeks before that acquired some by French Fragrances (Miami). I’ve had the original 1-12 for a year or so, after sampling the new EA version and an earlier one. My guess is that the only ones I haven’t sampled are the French Fragrances version of 1-12 and the newest version of Z-14. When I sampled the original Z-14 I was struck by how much galbanum it seemed to have, and the thought crossed my mind that the names came from two samples being chosen, the twelfth and the fourteenth. I’d further speculate that there was one perfumer, and that he or she was just thinking in terms of variations on a theme, rather than significantly different scents, whereas once the formulating was out of Halston’s hands the two went in significantly different directions.

Now I’d like to quote the lists of notes for these two scents (taken from, starting with Z-14:

Top notes are cypress, gardenia, green notes, basil, bergamot and lemon; middle notes are coriander, patchouli, cinnamon, jasmine, vetiver, cedar and geranium; base notes are leather, tonka bean, amber, musk, benzoin and oakmoss.

And for 1-12:

Top notes are green notes, mandarin orange, galbanum, basil, bergamot and lemon; middle notes are carnation, juniper berries, lavender, jasmine and pine tree needles; base notes are labdanum, tonka bean, amber, musk, oakmoss, vanilla and cedar.

The EA Z-14 I have seems to emphasize lavender and gardenia, whereas the French Fragrances one is the spiciest and most ambery. The original has the strongest “green notes” but is otherwise the best balanced. With 1-12, the original is also the best balanced and after an hour or so it is perhaps best thought of as a complex chypre. The first EA formulation has a stronger “soapy” lavender quality and the latest, with no moss of any kind listed on the box, was spicy and had a “cheap” bubble bath product type of quality. I’m not saying it was “bad,” and for the prices it sells for I can’t say it’s a “bad deal,” but the difference between that one and the original is so vast I doubt that more than a few who have experienced any previous formulation will fail to recognize it.

And so we are back to the subject of my previous post. EA reformulated 1-12 to be at least recognizable up until this latest formulation, from what I can gather, so it doesn’t seem they are doing this because they are going to save a huge amount of money. Instead, they may have tried to create something similar to the original within the new guidelines and decided it was not possible, or that it was better to just create something “pleasant” and hope for the best. They might lose some old customers but the latest formulation might win over some new people to make up the difference. For me the problem with this new 1-12 is that I’d rather wear one of the better dollar store knockoffs. To be sure, there do seem to be natural ingredients that are not too restricted or too expensive, and makers of designer scents have done a good job in those cases.

One example is that of scents that include patchouli, vetiver, and vanilla in the base, often along with tonka, amber, benzoin, or something else to soften it up. If you’ve tried Roadster, Dior Homme, Obsession Night Men or Jacomo for Men (no patchouli here but a similar effect is achieved, suggesting that very little is used in the other three) you may know what I mean. However, even there, when I compared the original CK Cosmetics version of Obsession Night for Men to the newer Coty version I noticed that the base notes seemed to be lessened, removed, or replaced with ingredients designed to create a kind of “fuzzy,” nondescript quality. Needless to say, I would no longer buy a bottle of anything previously made by another company if it had a Coty sticker on the bottom of it. In any case, any scent that used to possess more than a small amount of oakmoss (or some of the other ingredients that might cause problems, according to IRFA) may be unrecognizable to many loyal fans after being reformulated to comply with the latest IFRA guidelines.

As perfumer Chris Bartlett has pointed out:

The bottom line though is that reformulating something is like trying to imitate a fragrance for which the formula is unknown – ten times harder than making one from scratch – no wonder many fragrances are just discontinued instead. Something I frequently have to explain to potential customers who imagine I’m going to be able to make them a version of Shalimar at a fraction of the price…

Thus, with these new IFRA guidelines it appears that many if not most scents that contained certain ingredients in appreciable amounts (oakmoss perhaps being the most significant one in “masculines”) may be headed for a severe “makeover,” perhaps with a hint of the original in the top notes followed by a fuzzy/muddled drydown. Try to sample the newest 1-12 formulation and see what you think (comment here after you do, if you don’t mind). If you like nondescript pleasantness, this may be the age for you !

UPDATE (4/1/14): I just tried the newest Z-14 formulation, and at first it bears little resemblance to any of the others I’ve tried. There is a kind of “hard” cinnamon quality (which is unique in my experience, if not especially pleasant) that lasts quite a while, and when that lets up you get a kind of diluted/lobotomized version of the older formulations.

UPDATE #2: (11/98/14): I wore the newest Z-14 formulation recently in my usual way and I applied an extra spray. This time, I got an interesting incense-like quality after perhaps two hours which I actually enjoyed! I have no idea why anyone would even think to reformulate Z-14 in this way, but unlike 1-12, which I think was reformulated in an outright ridiculous way, Z-14 is now a kind of oddball scent, something that might be best referred to as “cheapo niche.” I intended to swap off my bottle of it (which I obtained as part of a lot) but now I’ll keep it for at least a couple more wearings to see if I get the same effect. However, calling it Z-14 is not something I can agree with – why not call it Z-14 Now or Z-14 Today? Isn’t such a totally different opening going to irritate a lot of people who were fans of the original formulation? And why not reformulate it into something that’s likely to be more of a “crowd pleaser?” I really would like to know how the decision was made to market the current scent as Z-14 (though I’m glad they went in this strange direction)!

UPDATE:  Due to a conflict among batch codes (the one that was supposed to be newer smelled like the old, non-cinnamon-dominant scent), I did some research and came upon this timeline for the Halston fragrances:

  • 1974 Halston Fragrances, Inc. was created.

  • In 1981, we see the name Parfums Halston being used up until around 1990.
  • 1983 Halston Fragrances was licensed to JC Penney and was a division of Playtex International.
  • 1986 Halston Fragrances, Inc was acquired by the Revlon Group and fragrances were reformulated.
  • 1987 Halston Fragrances are now marketed under Revlon’s Prestige Fragrances, Ltd. Division. These items will be marked with “HALSTON ® ©Prestige Fragrances, Ltd. Dist. New York”
  • 1991 Both the Halston and Princess Marcella Borghese lines were acquired by Saudi Arabian investors, four unnamed brothers who formed a new company called Halston Borghese International Ltd, in 1992. Fragrances were most likely reformulated. These items will be marketed with the following “Made for © Halston Fragrances New York, New York, 10153London” Other times you may find the words “Halston Enterprises, Inc.”, “Halston Fragrances, Distr. New York, New York 10036.”
  • 1996 The Halston fragrances were acquired by French Fragrances and reformulated. These fragrances will be marketed under the “French Fragrances, Inc,” name. You may also see it worded as “FFI Fragrance International Inc.
  • 1999 French Fragrances acquired Unilever’s Elizabeth Arden.
  • 2001 French Fragrances changes its name to Elizabeth Arden, Inc. and reformulated fragrances again will be marked with “EA Fragrances Co.
  • 2008 brand relaunched with updated fragrances.

So, if they used the same batch codes every ten years, that would be one explanation (my older smelling bottle would therefore be from 2004 and not 2014, as is stated at; the newer one is from 2013).



Filed under Fragrance Reviews.

15 responses to “The disintegration of the fabulous Halston brothers, Z-14 and 1-12.

  1. Francis Desousa

    Agree with you 100%. The recent reformulation of Halston 1-12 distributed by EA fragrances is,to put it mildly, Horrendous. I just received my bottle this morning which I rashly ordered over the net after purchasing an original Z-!4 from a local store which contains both Oakmoss and Treemoss. Mindblowing stuff.

    This one, the 1=12 is like nothing on earth and in a bad way. No oakmoss or treemoss listed here.


    • Sorry to hear you had the same experience I did with 1-12. On the other hand, for not that much money, I was able to compare some recent versus original formulations, which led me to become a “vintage hunter.” My most recent find has been Histoire d’Amour, which I consider an excellent unisex floral. However, I have only tried vintage and have read some negative things about the latest formulation (which I have no interest in wasting my time sampling, even if I was given a bottle for free!). Because the reformulations are usually cheap, they have been easy to sell or swap off with minimal loss, and so I view my experience as a kind of lesson in reformulations.

  2. Bjorn

    I’d say there was always a significant differentiation between 1-12 and Z-14 – it’s present in the original ad sheets and the package inserts describing the frags (and their ancillary products like shaving foam). There’s actually an interview with Halston where he’s talking about categories of fragrance – “sexy, sensuous” is pretty obviously directed at Z-14 while “clean, fresh” is referring to 1-12:

    • I agree. My point is that when you sample the originals you can see how one perfumer might have been developing variations on a theme, but if you try more recent versions (perhaps not the latest ones; I’ve only tried the newest 1-12, which doesn’t remind me of much of anything, other than perhaps bubble bath liquid) they seem miles apart. In particular, original Z-14 is crisper and lighter, whereas the new formulations seem to be heavier on “cheap” lavender and amber.

  3. Jclaxton78

    Hey that was me who started that thread on basenotes a couple years back! I’m famous! Haha. I’m glad you were able to finally sniff that atrocity in a bottle they are currently selling as Z-14. My stuff isn’t vintage, but it is still outstanding & probably my all time favorite. What a shame.

    • At the very least, I think the newest Z-14 formulation I’ve tried should be called something like “Z-14 Reimagined.” I actually look forward to trying it again, because that “hard” cinnamon effect that it opens with it so strange, and not outright revolting.

  4. KC Doc

    THis modification is an outrage. No notice and the aroma is entirely different. The folks at EA could care less

    …It has a wood cleaner smell and liekly would do well for that purpose.
    How sad!

    • I haven’t smelled wood floor cleaners in a while, but it’s widely available in some areas so I suggest fans of Z-14 give it a shot and tell us what they think of this cinnamon-rich version (but I don’t advise “blind buying” it).

  5. Last time I found some original Z-14 was in a sell-off basket of a big pharmacy in Portland, Maine. I’ve searched ever since, because I find the current formulation totally uninspiring. I don’t have your technical knowledge, but for me it’s like trying to find a vintage wine that’s sold out. How did you get hold of your ‘original’ so recently? I’d love to get my hands on even a small amount!

    • I think it was found on ebay. You should be able to get some there, but you may have to contact the seller to be sure. Anything that is EA might be the newer type, with the strong cinnamon, but IIRC there are Jeff Gordon ones that are by EA and are said to smell more like vintage, but not all of those do (oakmoss must be listed, according to some people). An ebay seller has several of them for less than $18 total now (2.5 ounce size), so you can contact that person and ask if oakmoss is listed as an ingredient (the item number is 221766429832). Some of the ones that are still similar to vintage may have tree moss, so you’d have to read some old Basenotes’ threads on the subject, and even then we can’t be certain, of course. My new ones were purchased without boxes so I can’t speak to whether they have oakmoss or tree moss listed. Hope that helps!

    • jclaxton78

      eBay item number:

      This is the real deal, go for it with total confidence.

      • Total confidence is not something I associate with the fragrance industry! LOL.

      • jclaxton78

        haha, I don’t blame you and people have every reason to be skeptical. Seem’s we have to research our asses off just to avoid having the wool pulled over our eyes. What I meant is that this listing is the real deal. You know what’s crazy, I didn’t even realize you’d listed the exact same item # in your earlier reply.

  6. jclaxton78

    and that apostrophe was a mistake!

  7. Stuart Rush

    I think when they re formulate a cologne it must say this because people might think they are getting the same product.

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