Battle of the “old” Heavyweight Contenders (oriental division): Heritage vs. Envy.

I’ve read some reviews in which Gucci’s Envy for Men is called “too old man,” and wondered what that makes Heritage, not to mention Old Spice, Aramis, Brut, etc. Fortunately (I think), at some point smells became something I simply “deconstructed,” and most if not all of the cultural associations were lost. Instead, most odors that just about everyone considers “bad” I perceive as terribly unbalanced. Interestingly, the smells I seem to dislike most these days are emitted from food (not what I eat). In particular, rancidity is most offensive, though most others don’t seem to perceive this quality at all.

And while such claims about “oldness” are rather common, there seems to be quite a fan base for Envy. Not only have the prices for Envy “gone through the roof,” but at least the asking prices for other scents that are similar (Eryo, Carven Homme, ST Dupont Signature Pour Homme, etc.) have risen as well. Devotion for Men is still reasonably priced, but my guess is that it’s much less known in general compared to the others.

Anyway, back to perceptions about the “oldness” of these scent cococtions that we find so compelling, in one way or another. What could possibly make Envy seem “old,” and what is a “young masculine oriental?” The latter may be easier to answer, though I can only guess, of course, by what I read online, since I don’t talk to young men about scents. One thing they seem to like is a kind of sweet, “bumble gum” quality (as they descrbe it). They don’t mind a musky quality so long as it’s a kind of “clean smoke.” And as you might guess, there should be no clear animalic quality. Spicebomb seems to be a good example of this kind of scent.

As you probably know, neither Envy nor Heritage have an animalic quality, unless you thinkg the ginger note in Envy supplies one, though ginger doesn’t seem to come across that way for most people. Heritage has fairly prominent patchouli, which again may be perceived as animalic by some who aren’t used to it in such quantities. So, the first question that seems worth asking now is, how does Envy different from Spicebomb. Interestingly, a quality Envy possesses that I dislike may be a major factor here. That is, it has a kind of rounded, balmy character, one that I have perceived as a “blob” at times. I am now able to “fight my way through it,” but I can understand how many find it irritating.

Some Envy type scents begin with a blast of “fresh” aroma chemicals (such as Devotion for Men). I no longer have a sample of Envy, and I don’t remember if it did as well, but I can see why some would associate that presentation with a certain period of time. In a sense, anything novel and at least somewhat pleasant might be perceived as “new,” and since the ad campaigns target the young, many of that demographic will think “young” when they smell something that “feels like” a novel concoction. Of course it would be a lot easier if people who made such claims would be more specific, though to be fair, some have said that they don’t want to smell like their fathers or grandfathers, while others say they don’t want the young ladies to think that they smell like their fathers or grandfathers.

In any case, how do considerably old scents, such as Heritage, fit into this situation? It was never especially popular, apparently, and I’d guess it was quite unpopular in the USA (though somewhat similar ones, such as Zino, seem to have been). Luca Turin might say that Heritage has more “legibility” than Envy, as it’s much less of a task to identify most of the notes in Heritage. What’s interesting is that the notes listed for these two are quite similar. First, here are the notes for Heritage (1992), from

Bergamot, orange, aldehydes, green accords, lavender, lemon, petit grain, violet, clary sage, nutmeg.
Pepper, coriander, orris root, along with rose, jasmine, carnation, honeysuckle, geranium, lily-of-the-valley.
Cedar, vetiver, patchouli, amber, tonka bean, oakmoss, sandalwood, vanilla.

The Estonian site provides this list of notes for Envy (1998):

Mandarin, coriander, pepper, rosewood, cardemom, ginger, lavwender.
Rose, jasmine, carnation, sandalwood, cedar,
Patchouli, vetiver, leather, vanilla, amber, leather, musk tobacco, incense.

And for comparison purposes, ST Dupont’s Signature Pour Homme, (2000), which I consider very similar to Envy, has this list of notes (also from Fragrantica):

Lavender, tarragon, pepper, basil, grapefruit, lemon.
Birch, carnation, cinnamon, incense, heliotrope, geranium.
Tonka bean, amber, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla and cedar.

One thing to keep in mind is that when you get to the mid/late 1990s, especially (it seems), there are quite a few scents that use much larger amounts of certain aroma chemicals, such as dihydromyrcenol. By contrast, that’s not something you’ll find in Heritage. I think the main idea behind the Envy composition is to “power up” the opening, and this includes quite a bit of “freshness,” which then loosens up within an hour or two to reveal a rather simple oriental base. With Heritage, it’s all there at first, with notes that “know their place” and sort of play off each other, whereas with Envy the notes mostly “stick together.” Envy has more of a “vertical,” knife-like effect, whereas Heritage is more like a loose bundle of twigs from different trees. This is a good example of how “construction,” “structure,” or “composition” (whichever you prefer) plays a significant role. Neither of these are favorites of mine, but I’ve found that once in a while I am drawn to wearing them. So, while I can’t say that I think one is “better” than the other, I do think aficionados should at least obtain samples of both (or similar ones). If you are a “young guy” and have some thoughts on this subject, I would appreciate it if you leave a comment here.

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Filed under Fragrance Reviews.

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