A bit over a year ago, I had the opportunity to smell an early 1980s formulation of Caron’s Tabac Blond (1919), which has been said to have been a favorite of Marlene Dietrich. The notes for it, according to Fragrantica.com, are:
…leather, carnation, lime blossom, iris, vetiver, ylang-ylang, cedar, patchouli, vanilla, ambergris, musk.
I enjoyed it but didn’t think it was all that special, so I sold the small bottle. The leather is obvious at first, and it’s certainly smooth, but longevity with strong projection (“sillage”) seemed to be lacking. I was hoping that a clear tobacco-ish note would be present during the drydown, but instead it just seemed to fade out over time. Because of current prices, I suggest trying some Aramis instead, unless you are wealthy and the prices are more or less irrelevant to you, of course.
And that brings us to Elvis Cologne (1989), pictured below.
EC was marketed after his death and he had nothing to do with its formulation, apparently. There is very little information about it, but there were a few reviews at Basenotes.net that I could read before deciding to pucrhase a bottle:
Strange and powerful fragrance… I remember it was very sweet and almost intoxicating and very musky, somewhere in between caramel, tobacco, smoke and leather…
Weird. Complex. Strong (very much so for a cologne). Anamalic, amber, tobacco, apples, spices, smoke, leather its all there. I’ve had a bottle for years and never worn it until today. It starts off smelling of apples, then has an amber anamilic scent. It has a nice middle of spices that is fairly benign, the end is apples, cinnamon, nutmeg, smoke, almost like taking a whiff of a Christmas candle…
This brew is a spice bomb…and not in a bad way. It reminds me of Bogart’s Witness, but with less cinammon and balanced with other thyme, sage, and wonderful amber and tobacco…even oakmoss…
There is a kind of apple note at first, and spice are certainly present. However, over time I perceive it as mostly an ambery tobacco scent, which is what I was hoping! When you think about it, there aren’t many options if you want this sort of thing. Ones like Michael for Men by Kors have a lot more going on, and those other notes have a tendency to “spike,” so I can never be sure exactly what I’ll get from them. Sometimes I’ve even gotten quite a bit of the wood note, which is nice but not always what I’m seeking when I apply Michael for Men. In fact, I like this Kors scent as a kind of “mystery meat” experience !
Another option for me is the long-forgotten Polo Sporting Cologne, which features strong oakmoss and jasmine, along with tobacco and amber. Elvis is less crude and has a soft ambery quality that I sometimes seek, though it needs to be counterbalanced, and tobacco seems to be a great way to achieve this. By contrast, many recent scents that feature tobacco and amber possess harsh, “synthetic,” or metallic qualities. Elvis’ drydown certainly could be unisex, and I wonder if there were any scents marketed many decades ago that in fact were very similar yet marketed to women. Lately, I’ve been curious about scents that have gotten hardly any attention online yet are still inexpensive (at least if you have some patience) and seem to offer things that are not easy to find, and if you do find it (likely in the world of niche), the cost may be quite high.
When I was first developing an adult consciousness, back in the late 70s, I remember one topic of “intelligent discussion” was the hypothetical question, who would you invite to dinner if you could choose any ten people from history? This kind of speculation has never appealed to me, even back then, but smells are quite different. Since there can be so much variation in how one perceives scents, we can imagine how a night club might smell, for instance, whether it is the late 1920s and Marelene Dietrich is present or it’s the late 1950s and Elvis is. Because our sense of smell can vary so much, and for many if not most people are a kind of olfactory blur, such imaginary scenarios feel a lot more authentic than things like the famous parody of Edward Hopper’s “Nighthawks” painting !