Pure Havane, Pure Leather, or Purely Unnecessary ?


If Andy Warhol were still alive and painting, I can imagine him creating one that depicts these Mugler rubber flask units lined up, just like his famous Campbell’s Soup works. In any case, some have claimed that Mugler has produced unnecessary flankers to A*Men, and now that I have tried all the ones I consider “major,” I thought I’d weigh in here. The scents in question are A*Men, Pure Coffee, Pure Malt, Pure Leather, and Pure Havane. I’ve also tried B*Men but consider that to be so different as to not be worth discussing in this context. The main issue seems to be that the base is the same for all of these, so that one is simply getting different top notes with the flankers.

One problem in trying to assess such a claim is that if you are like me, and have a few hundred bottles to choose from each day, you don’t want to waste several days wearing similar if not very similar scents. Moreover, I’ve also got some samples I want to try, and if I think I’m in the mood, I generally give preference to them. The other problem, which is even more significant, involves how much perception can change, even from one wearing to another. Thus, if I wear Pure Havane and then Pure Coffee the next day, that might lead to different impressions than if I had done this in the reverse order. And it’s also possible that it would be best to wait a few days before wearing the second one, and during those days I should wear very different kinds of scents.

And as Ive said before, my sensitivity seems to vary quite a bit, though I can usually tell where it’s at, so to speak. Yet another issue is how the scent is applied. Because of all this, I no longer think that any assessment should be viewed as anything more than tentative, so I’d prefer the reader think in terms of sharing experiences rather than learning “the truth” from some sort of “expert.” In this case, I tried A*Men and Pure Coffee several year ago. With A*Men, I found myself liking it one wearing then disliking it the next. I’m still not sure if I “need” a bottle but I’m just going to put off making a decision about that for quite a while, I think, though I am leaning towards keeping it (especially since it seems to be “vintage,” with newer formulations being weaker, according to some Basenotes.net members).

By contrast, I wore Pure Coffee two or three times and strongly disliked it each time. My guess is that the “vetiver” note listed is what I found irritating (though it could be what they call cedar as well as the vetiver), and I view Pure Coffee as being distinct enough so that it should not be considered part of the A*Men flanker group (it had no tar or mint notes either). A*Men and Pure Leather are much more similar than the others, with PL having the clear tar and mint, along with similar gourmand qualities. Those who dislike PL and say it is quite different seem to be reacting to the leather note(s) used, at least one of which has an “old school” quality (which has been described, in other scents, as “sweaty,” “dirty,” or like a hippie’s old sandals, for example).

I happen to enjoy most if not all kinds of leather notes, but I still haven’t decided if the toned down mint and tar make PL a better scent for me than A*Men. My guess is that it will just depend upon what I’m in the mood for on a particular day. I tried Pure Malt more than a year into this “hobby,” I think in early 2009, and found the malt quality to be strange and somewhat irritating. It reminded me of friends who had spilled beer on themselves, and the base seemed to be less challenging than A*Men’s, though for some that may be an asset. I can understand this one being considered a “true flanker,” as it’s easy to see how those who liked A*Men might like Pure Malt too, but it’s different enough to lead them to want both.

Pure Havane is the one that I find to be “on the fence.” It doesn’t have the tar or mint, but it does have a similar gourmand base. My first couple of samplings with PH, done with a dab vial, led me to dismiss it because I found the base to be generic and the tobacco note(s) to be fleeting. However, the other day I acquired a bottle and used two full sprays. Doing this, I experienced much stronger tobacco, especially of a cherry flavored variety. And while the cherry-like quality didn’t last for hours, a dry tobacco note persisted for a very long time. Now I view PH as a “rotation worthy” tobacco scent, and instead of there being a positive connection, so to speak, there is only a negative one with A*Men (or PL), which is that I wouldn’t wear any of these if I wasn’t in the mood for a gourmand base. Otherwise, I view PH as distinct.

Some have mentioned that there are quite a few scents being sold (by other companies) that are very similar to A*Men or one of the flankers. I have only tried one that I would say is similar (to Pure Malt), which is called Enrico Sebastiano Fine Cologne. ESFC does not have the malt note, and instead goes with some more conventional, though “old school.” However, I find the drydown to be quite similar, and I’m mentioning ESFC because some might like the idea of PM without the malt and instead with a more traditional, aromatic opening. This is the case for me, and is the reason I haven’t pursued trying to obtain a PM bottle on ebay for a good price. I think that for many people, a few wearings is a good idea (spaced out over time) because these are the kinds of scents to which you may need to acclimate yourself, other than perhaps Pure Havane, which I’d guess a lot more people find enjoyable instantly (assuming they like tobacco notes, obviously).

Note that I’m not sure the photo above depicts the five scents I mentioned (the one on the viewer’s right looks like Taste of Fragrance to me), but I thought it was the best visual for this post. Also, if you are asking about other flankers, here’s the scoop: I didn’t mention Taste of Fragrance because I got the impression that it was a “flash in the pan” release that was closer to B*Men than A*Men. I tried it once or twice but found the chili or red pepper type note to be nearly nauseating. I didn’t get mint or tar and the gourmand base was quite weak, relative to what I would expect from a “true” A*Men flanker. And lastly (I think), Pure Shot seems to be the one that is only liked by those who want a “fresh” scent; I’ll just say that if you think A*Men is very similar to Pure Shot, stop reading my blog immediately (a joke, I hope everyone realizes) !

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