Olfactory Stardust Memories.

For those of you who don’t know, Woody Allen wrote, directed, and starred in a film called “Stardust Memories” (1980). When I first saw it, some time in the 80s, my thought was something like “Woody uses his usual neurotic comedy schtick to do an homage to Fellini.” I enjoyed the film for the most part, though I remember thinking it would have been interesting to get some “backstory” on the several main female characters.

In 2001, a scent marketed to men called Stardust was released by Llewelyn. The notes for it (from the original press release) are:

…Italian Bergamot, Spike Lavender, Egyptian Geranium, Oakmoss and a Tobacco accord. It opens with top notes of Mexican Lime, Mediterranean Lemon, juicy Green Mandarin, Siberian Fir Needle, French Cypress and shaved Nutmeg. Middle notes are a heady blend of Stephanotis Jasmine, Ceylonese Sandalwood and Indonesian Patchouli. The full-bodied base is composed of Haitian Vetiver, Benzoin Siam, Spanish Labdanum, creamy Amber, African Olibanum, Bourbon Vanilla, rich Musk and impressions of Leather. .

I first sampled this in 2008, when it was “all the rage” on Basenotes.net, but I was unable to appreciate it. For me at the time, it was just another “fresh” scent, and when I began this hobby, in 2007, it was the orientals that I first became drawn to in a major way. Then it was the gourmands. And after that the complex vintage “masculines.” Then various “feminines,” mostly vintage. It took a few years before scents that came across to me as “fresh” started to interest me. The reason is that I was much more familiar with notes and “naturalness.”

Stardust has been compared to Green Irish Tweed and Cool Water for Men, and this is the main reason why I think a post about it is worthwhile. Unlike those two it seems to have a lot less dihydromyrcenol and little if any lavender. It also doesn’t have the wood and amber base of GIT nor the “woody amber” base of CW. There no violet leaf, as in GIT, and I can detect perhaps a hint of jasmine, whereas it is obvious in CW. However, I’d say it is compositionally closer to GIT than to CW (it’s a bit more complex than GIT), though it’s heavier and drier. It’s certainly not a sweet scent, though I would classify CW as such. Here is part of my Basenotes.net review of it (it’s not listed on Fragrantica.com at the moment):

I first sampled this as a newbie, and at the time my sense of smell was quite sensitive. This came across as harsh and discordant. Now I realize that was just the top notes, but these days I enjoy that lime/nutmeg/pine combination. For me, this does what GIT does, but in a more original, and hence more enjoyable way. There are so many “fresh” violet leaf/lavender type scents, and yet few like this one. However, to me the best part is the drydown, which again is similar in “feel” to GIT but doesn’t seem to have much dihydromyrcenol. Somehow, Stardust does what so many “dihydromyrcenol overload” scents fail to do, that is, create a slightly creamy (“crowd pleasing”), aromatic, and natural smelling effect, while possessing good note separation and dynamism. The sandalwood note is fairly good, but I don’t get clear leather, and the patchouli is mild, just a minor part of the blend. In a sense, this is Aventus for those who have some measure of “maturity” (in terms of how scents are often classified by age). Overall, I consider this quite an achievement and I can’t think of anything that is on this level. Oscar for Men (1999) had a similar idea, but feels rather heavy, muddled, and indistinct by comparison (and I consider Oscar to be quite good).

For me, Stardust for Men has a similar quality to “Stardust Memories,” in that I am led to reconsider previous assessments from years ago. I don’t find Woody Allen’s early films to be nearly as entertaining as I did at first (and I find his recent cinematic efforts to be laughable – not in a “good way”). By contrast, I can’t believe how good Stardust is, and how little I understood about scents back then (just as I didn’t know nearly as much about film when I first saw “Stardust Memories”). Using the word stardust in any name or title is problematic. In many people’s minds. expectations are likely to be raised upon hearing it, as a special, perhaps “sparkling,” quality is suggested. I don’t think of Stardust as a sparkling scent, though is does have a dry and particulate quality. One way to view it is as an attempt to combine Versace L’Homme type scents with the “fresh” ones with loads of dihydromyrcenol marketed to men beginning in the 1980s. I’d be quite interested to know what the perfumer had intended !

The latest contender for a “stardust” quality among “masculines” seems to be Aventus, if discussions on Basenotes is to be used as a major criterion to judge how special a scent is perceived, yet it does not supply the same kind of aficionado experience that Stardust does. There is nothing like clear pine, spice, sandalwood, etc. in the base. Instead, it comes across to me as too blended, though not unpleasant. Lastly, I can’t help but think of “Stardust Memories” when I think of Stardust – I wonder what all those Basenotes members who were scrambling to buy a bottle nearly a decade ago think about it now, or has it been entirely forgotten, other than perhaps being one of many bottles in a large rotation? Dust to dust…

UPDATE: When I take the cap off and smell it that way the lavender note is obvious but not strong. I think the other notes largely overwhelmed the lavender one when I wore it the usual way the other day.

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