The not-so-great Z-14 reformulation debate ?

Over at the FromPyrgos blog (, the author seemed to feel a need to “prove” that I am wrong about Z-14, namely that is has been reformulated into something very different. As I made clear in that blog post, this was largely based upon the opinion of others, because I haven’t tried the newest, non-oakmoss formulation. However, the oakmoss EA version contains a bit too much lavender for me (and it doesn’t seem like it’s very high quality either), whereas the original Halston version seems to have more galbanum and less lavender, and is nicely balanced (though I still may prefer vintage Santos, which is a similar scent). Below I will quote some of the opinions about Z-14 that were posted on what I consider to be the best thread on the subject, which you can find at:

OK, I just sprayed the old version of Z-14 with Oakmoss listed in the ingredients. Even before spraying, I smelled the nozzle and it smelled really dark and deep. Immediately after spraying I get intense natural smelling citrus with spice in the background. In the “non oakmoss version”, I didn’t get this flavorful bouquet of citrus, instead I detected a strong astringent/biting scent that was rough and sharp. All smooth so far in the old version though.

With my nose up close to this (oakmoss included blend), I literally feel the scent tickling my nose hairs (with a heat-like feel) as it rises off my skin. Again, this was non-existent in the treemoss only blend.

When EA took over Z-14 they may or may not have toned down the potency of the juice a little, yet it smelled like the same product. But recently they completely changed the ingredients (not just oakmoss), and the result is a disaster. Big Red chewing gum, in mist form. Since this change (to the new Garbage labeled Z-14), there still exists the true formula on some store shelves and on Ebay. Usually it is in a gift set, not box.

My little splash bottle from Ross has definitely got to be the new formulation since it smells like cheap cinnamon dentist tooth cleaner and coumarin. Truly awful. Even though I don’t like leather, I’m very curious to try the older version now.

Another easy way to tell which one you have…..the good version has prominent citrus opening, like a lemon gumdrop or lemon hard candy.

The new version is just rough and irritating in the opening.

The one with oakmoss dated to January 2011. The one without oakmoss dated to June 2011. So I guess it’s safe to say that the reformulation took place somewhere between those dates, and any from 2010 contain oakmoss.

The one without oakmoss was TERRIBLE. It had no warmth or depth at all; all I got was big red with a touch of cigarette tar (and a very mild touch at that). It lacked the nice citrus that the older one had as well.

Okay, I do want to say first off that the old juice is different than the new. The new Z-14 is of course based on the old; it’s not completely different. They both have cinnamon. I agree with several posters who note that the new juice has almost no citrus, while the old has a distinct pleasing round lemon accord at the opening.

Secondly, I will confirm jclaxton’s prediction that I would like the old juice, while I thought the new is utter trash. It’s really, really good.

I put both formulas on my skin to compare. The old juice has a balance, depth and roundness to it which the new completely lacks. The new juice is harsh and almost medicinal, very synthetic, and lacks also the detailed flourishes of spice and other notes in the old juice. I don’t think calling the new juice “Big Red” is particularly helpful, as Big Red is basically the smell of cinnamic aldehyde, which both formulas have a good amount of. However, I will stick to my description of the new formula as highly reminiscent of American dentists’ tooth polish, the stuff they put on the rotary applicator: bitter, synthetic, harsh cinnamon and hygiene chemicals.

Other than the lemon opening, the heart of the old juice has a fullness to it that the new completely lacks. It feels as if huge chunks of the true formula were simply ripped out to make the new juice, maybe replaced with overdoses of some other ingredients that were already present but in much lower dosage. To top it off, the old juice had far better longevity on my skin, retaining its round cinnamon appeal in a rather consistent fashion, while the reformulation dropped off considerably at the 90 minute mark. Yet another sign of cheap formulation

These comments suggest to me that Z-14 was reformulated recently in a way similar to the way 1-12 was, with sweet spices and a bubble gum or bubble bath type effect. Over at, two of the reviewers I trust the most had these comments:

It [vintage formulation] has a smokey, hazy richness that made me feel warm. I was clueless about the notes in the 1970s, yet loved that rich potent “woodiness” that I would later discover was chypre. This was a leather chypre that worked best on winter nights, like ancient temple smoke. In the summer it is pure campfire smoke…

Enter EA Fragrance, Jeff Gordon and the sythetic plastic reformulation. Another icon is smashed.


…it [the vintage formulation] wears wonderfully and projects very well. Oakmoss, amber, musk, tonka bean and the key base note of leather allow the entire chypre composition on top to present itself, vividly. I love the blend of the spices with the green/herbal notes (including the patchouli in the heart). Great interplay between notes – but I rather not over-think this one. Along with the leather and warm base, there is simply no other fragrance like it. Once you have worn Vintage Z-14, you now have an understanding of what a benchmark masculine scent should smell like. Put away the castrated juice of today and enjoy what this has to offer in its true form.

If I were to consider buying the newest formulation of Z-14, why would I pay attention to the opinion of the author of FromPrygos? He clearly does not seem to perceive or enjoy scents the way I do, whereas others (who disagree with him about Z-14’s latest incarnation) do. He certainly has a right to his opinion, just as I have a right to disagree with it entirely. Perhaps he has a low sensitivity to oakmoss whereas I have a high sensitivity, but that is not something to debate; it’s just reality. One should understand these kinds of factors and make decisions accordingly. Unfortunately, he seems to think there is some objective standard to appreciating scents and that he understands that standard better than anyone else in the world! Are we supposed to trust his “nose” even when we are smelling the opposite of what he claims? Remember the old saying about trusting your “lying eyes?”

NOTE: Over the few months I have worn scents with strong oakmoss much more often than at any other time in my life.



Filed under Criticizing the critics.

6 responses to “The not-so-great Z-14 reformulation debate ?

  1. Dan S.

    This discussion might be more useful if you tried the latest formulation yourself. Trotting out negative opinions from Basenotes doesn’t add much (if anything) to the debate.

    • Sure, but that’s not the way things work in practice (and that’s why I often use a question mark in the titles). In this case, I’ve got three versions of Z-14 and I won’t wear the EA one with oakmoss due to the lack of balance, particularly too much lavender. I’m not going to spend any more money on Z-14 bottles, but I do have the utmost respect for a few of the people who commented and said that Z-14 was reformulated very recently in a similar way that 1-12 was. Oakmoss was removed as an ingredient listing on the box as well, which lends more credibility to their claim. By contrast, the author of FromPyrgos has said the same thing he has about other scents I found to be terribly reformulated. Note how he didn’t address 1-12, which I did try in the latest formulation, but instead chose to only mention Z-14. This suggests a desire to argue more than get to the what most of us are interested in, which is what it smells like! I feel obligated to give my opinion to my readers, and in the case of Z-14 there is no reason to take a chance on the latest version when all you need to do is have some patience and seek out an older one on ebay. Send a message to the seller and ask what the label says and/or whether oakmoss is listed on the box. For under $20 total you should be able to obtain a 75 ml or larger bottle of an oakmoss version as things stand now.

      • Dan S.

        Thanks for your reply. I have the most recent formulation of Z-14 that contains only treemoss (no oakmoss). However, I’ve never tried any of the vintage or more recent formulations. The version I have is pretty decent stuff – lots of cinnamon. I get compliments on it. Not my favorite by any means but solid.

  2. Andre Moreau

    Only for comparison: during year 2008 Versace Parfums released a limited quantity of Versace l’Homme (new dark box with greek chain) containing both Oakmoss and Treemoss (and reporting both on the box), Then switched to the “now-in-the-shops” version without any moss (and without reporting on the box, of course).
    Differences? Please don’t ask……
    If someone thinks Oakmoss is not so important, I’d suggest to try these modern versions of Versace l’Homme “side-by-side”.

  3. KC Doc

    The reformulated Z-14 is NOT BAD, it is not even useful to clean a floor. What a rip-off an embarrassment to EA, who apparently does not care— if they can cover their cost..they are happy.
    DO NOT BUY and avoid the rip off–and no refund attitude.

    • I really don’t understand how the decision was made to create a huge cinnamon note and apparently tone just about everything else down. Moreover, it has a dry, chalky quality that is not exactly in fashion among “mainstream” scents, from what I can tell. I have grown to like it, because it’s different, and more importantly, after a few minutes I find myself enjoying it, and that lasts for several hours. Buy why not create a flanker with that scent in it? Why not continue to market something that at least resembled Z-14, perhaps with only a little tree moss instead of the larger amount of oakmoss that some think was in the original formulation? The difference is so vast that one has to wonder if there was one person who made the decision, or a group. One person can have some oddball ideas, but if it was a group, what could they have been thinking? I doubt anyone would have said, “let’s alienate the old Z-14 fans while creating a scent that the younger generation is likely to hate.” Perhaps one day we will know the real story behind this very odd chapter in the history of perfumery!

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