Why I decided (finally) to buy a bottle of Aspen.

Like British Sterling, this was another “cheapo” that I never knew anyone else to wear, nor sampled myself. Over the last several years, I’ve been tempted, because it was compared to Cool Water and Green Irish Tweed, but with a “cheap” drydown, I didn’t see the point. I also read that it had a “soapy” quality, and seeing that the list of notes included lavender, was concerned that it would be unbalanced, as is so often the case with lavender in “masculine” scents. However, the other day I wore 273 for Men by Fred Hayman, and a thought crossed my mind: this may be what Aspen is like, but with the addition of pine.

Because of my experience with awful reformulations, though, I was not going to buy a new formulation intentionally, so I began to scroll through ebay listings, looking for a bottle that appeared vintage. The one I found was a 100 ml splash bottle with a tag that said the MSRP was $29.95, but your price was $9.95, for some inexplicable reason. I remember that kind of marketing when I was young and figured these were good signs. Moreover, the bottle shape looked different from ones that have been sold in recent years, to my knowledge. When it arrived, I noticed a web site listed, so this probably can’t be older than the late 1990s. The URL, aspencologne.com, generated an “operation timed out” message when I tried to access it. The label on the bottom of the bottle was white paper and only contained the most basic information. My conclusions is that this is circa 2000 or a bit earlier, which is what the seller thought it was.

Fragrantica.com has the notes for this 1989 release as:

Top notes are bergamot, galbanum, green notes and lemon; middle notes are coriander, cyclamen, geranium, jasmine, lavender, juniper and orange blossom; base notes are amber, cedar, oakmoss, musk and balsam fir.

As to the scent, it first came across as a bit “blob”-like, with a clear and strong camphorous/mentholated quality (with “green” qualities underneath, so to speak), though some of the lavender/fougere element seemed to be present. It does not register as similar to Cool Water or GIT, other than in a very general way, at this point, though that could be due to the strong the mentholated quality, which might largely mask any elements in common. After perhaps an hour I began to get the same sweet element one finds in CW, but considerably toned down. It also became a bit powdery, and the “fresh” element, likely dihydromyrcenol, became more obvious too. Unlike CW and GIT, there isn’t good note separation here, but the drydwon smells pleasant enough, especially for the price (of course this may not be true for new formulations, if they aren’t the same as what I have).

After this, it gradually gets weaker, and four or five hours later smells similar to CW: it is musky, a little sweet/powdery, and with clear jasmine, along with amber and perhaps a hint of woods. I don’t get any distinct pine and I wouldn’t call it “soapy,” though the mild lavender could “spike out” for some people, presumably. It’s reasonably natural smelling, with no aroma chemical overload (less dihydromyrcenol than CW and GIT, I would guess), and very slightly animalic. I can’t help but think this could have been a “Holy Grail” pine scent if that mentholated quality had been omitted and pine substituted in its place (the green notes/galbanum probably don’t need to be as strong at first as well). Instead, I consider Bowling Green to be more of a “pine scent,” and this can’t touch Pino Silvestre. Instead, it’s rather complex, and sort of moves around in ways that don’t make much sense, at least relative to a scent like GIT, though I consider CW to possess unnecessary and unpleasant note clashes.

Unlike Aspen, 273 for Men has much clearer notes, but in any case I’ll have to try Aspen again to see if it’s less of a blob and/or if the mentholated quality seems less pronounced. It may work when you don’t want the violet leaf in GIT but would like something “in the same ballpark” though then you’ll get a CW type drydown after a few hours. At least for this formulation, there is nothing “cheap” about it, unless you think vintage CW is cheap. One thing that had led me to be highly skeptical of reviews, no matter whether an “expert” or newbie writes them, is how certain things I consider basic are rarely mentioned (or are outright wrong if they are mentioned). For example, Cool Water (vintage) has quite a bit of sweetness to it (as does Molto Smalto) but lacks a fougere accord, whereas GIT is not a sweet scent (if it is, then what scent is not?). For some reason, many if not most reviewers simply don’t detect sweetness, unless perhaps the scent is super-sweet (or very dry and lacking in sweetness). Also, I’d like to know if scents such as CW and GIT possess noticeable if not abundant dihydromyrcenol (they do), and I don’t think more than one review mentions whether Aspen does as well (and in that case I don’t agree with the reviewer, who thinks there is too much). In any case, for the price you can’t “go wrong” with vintage Aspen, so long as the opening doesn’t bother you.

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