An introduction to nostril scorching Powerhouse scents.

Much like losing your virginity at a Dutch brothel, I’m popping my blogging cherry by diving straight in at the deep end with a 5 part series featuring scents which most people nowadays simply don’t have the balls to wear in public.

Defining the term ‘powerhouse’ often causes seldom-ending debates and “what about [insert modern strong scent]?” arguments between fumeheads, so I need to clarify what I mean here.  Powerhouse isn’t a technical term in perfumery, but has been ascribed to scents from the 80s that would often be worn by men usually featuring strong notes of moss, leather, animal notes and patchouli.  They pack a huge punch in the opening, leave a scent trail that crosses time zones and remain on your skin after a nuclear holocaust.  However, the most important detail that distinguishes powerhouses from just “strong, long lasting scents” is an undeniable & aggressive swagger.  Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million (unfortunately) lasts 8/9hours or more, as does JPG’s Le Male, but in no way would you classify these as powerhouse scents.  As shamu1 from pourmonsieurblog.blogspot.com points out, some powerhouse scents can have weaker sillage than the two mentioned, yet give off an uncompromising macho vibe and still qualify.  Year of production doesn’t necessarily disqualify a fragrance from being classed as a powerhouse, indeed I’ll be featuring a section on modern powerhouses later this week, but most seem to have been released in the 1980s.

The picture of the guy to the left typifies the stigma attached to powerhouses these days by both the common perfume buying public and a lot of fragrance aficionados.  They’re seen as relics of a former, to be forgotten time in perfumery, resigned to grace drug store shelves and be worn by smarmy older men looking to trawl bars for women several divisions out of their league.  Ferrari Guy to the left probably douses himself in some of the scents I’ll be discussing in these next few blog posts and I say – good for him!  People SHOULD flaunt their fragrances; they’re meant to be noticed and enjoyed after all.  God knows a lot of overpriced niche crap could do with a touch of Ferrari Guy attitude.

Do you think this guy gives a fuck what anyone thinks about him?  I’m sure he wears what he wants without paying attention to modern trends, advertising or general public perception.  It’s a shame more respectable people can’t do the same.  Maybe then we’d see the fragrances in this list featuring a bit more prominently on department store shelves, perfumers/fragrance houses wouldn’t be afraid to push some boundaries again and fumeheads wouldn’t be complaining about the never ending conveyor belt of designer dreck clogging up the shelves nowadays.

The first 5 in the list are the “classic” powerhouses, those most people would associate with the term.  All 5 absolutely rule and are worthy additions to anyone’s fragrance wardrobe.  And they’re all better than Musc Ravageur.

1. DRAKKAR NOIR

Few scents have permeated mainstream society like Drakkar Noir.  It’s become synonymous with brash, trigger happy yuppies and is the whipping boy every time a cologne related gag is made on TV or film.  It’s the real life Sex Panther.  Drakkar’s not without it’s lovers though; how else would it still be in production 30 years on, and commanding moderately high designer prices?  On top of being something most teenagers wear as a rite of passage, I think this has it’s fair share of secret admirers amongst men and women.  I call on these people to fear no public shaming, and step out of the fragrance closet today.

Released in one of perfumery’s golden years, 1982, Drakkar Noir is an aromatic fougere (like most powerhouses).  The notes are well blended and it opens with a powerful citrusy green vibe dominated by a very pleasant lavender note.  Spicy & woody accords of cinnamon, coriander and fir then slowly join the fight for your nasal attention, but never fully KO the strong lavender.  Of course they all eventually run out of gas when they meet the bruisers oakmoss and leather, of which there’s a SHIT TON in here.

The vintage formulation amps up these moss and leather notes (as you’d probably expect) and I’ve been told that knock off brand Classic Match have released a copycat of this one which mirrors the original Drakkar from the 80s very closely.  But either way you’re getting a helluva powerful masculine fragrance that if oversprayed will provide you with a dense, mossy fog of a scent cloud all day.  Be warned!                   

2. QUORUM

Look at it.  Just look at it.  The bottle is absolutely hideous.  The box is the worst I’ve ever seen.  Which Rhodes Scholar thought a 1950s terraced house carpet pattern with diarrhea colours would attract buyers?  Combined with the fist-to-your-face notes of patchouli, caraway, leather and tobacco and this is so far away from the stuff currently topping best seller lists that it’s in another stratosphere!

In my opinion, this gem has  suffered slightly from reformulation, and the first time I tried the reformulated version (available at The Perfume Shop surprisingly) I couldn’t get over the harsh, balsamic herbal notes which reminded me too much of mixed cooking herbs.  Fortunately though the vintage (1982) juice is still relatively easy to obtain if you look hard enough (distinguishable by it’s symmetrical box pattern and PUIG at the bottom of the bottle).  If you do find it, you’ll be treated to a brilliant tobacco and leather based woody aromatic that to my nose, brings to mind tweed jackets and sitting in a cozy country manor fireplace, far more than any Penhaligon’s or Creed scent.

3. KOUROS

Pictured left is a Kouros; a marble statue depiction of a young male from Ancient Greece.  An intriguing choice for inspiration, but let me get this straight: this is anything but a fruity, woody citrus you’d expect most young men to be wearing today!  It does though, display the complexities and confusions prominent in young men.  It’s clinical yet sexual, clean yet dirty, spicy yet soapy.  And without doubt, you either love or hate this one.
I initially didn’t bother to check it out as I remember smelling it in my youth and being turned off.  But considering I wore Polo Sport and Le Male during my school years, that’s not surprising.  The opening is as distinctive as it gets and despite being an aromatic fougere and containing a top note of artemisia like so many other powerhouses, this one seems to stand alone, proudly.
I could tell you about the top notes of aldehydes, clary sage and bergamot, developing into tradtional fougere accords of carnation, geranium, leather and oakmoss but it wouldn’t convey the civety monster barely contained in it’s statuesque bottle.  Civet dominates this one and gives it it’s sexual, animalic quality but also it’s “urinal keg” vibe.  I can certainly understand people being turned off by this, as it’s not quite at the top of the ‘things I’d most like to smell like’ list, but for some ridiculous reason, it really works.  The harshness of the opening fades (as much as anything in Kouros can fade) and it dries down to a more comforting, and incense-like, smell.  Longevity on this one is just crazy; if you get this on clothes, it could linger for weeks!
4. POLO
Pre-dating the 80’s boom, this ABSOLUTELY STUNNING fragrance was released in 1978 and contains a strong and distinctive pine note from opening to close.  The greeness of the bottle is reflected in the fragrance as the depth of the forest-like pine increases as musk and patchouli develop throughout the heart. It lasts 10+ hours and is without doubt the best coniferous scent of all time.
The fragrance equivalent of New Kids on the Block and The Breakfast Club, this was everywhere both sides of the Atlantic in the 80s, and as such, you’ll either bring back fond memories for middle aged friends/family/cougars or repulse them.  And if you do, so what?  Some say this is overwhelming and too in your face, but I disagree, I find it quite elegant and regal.  If you ever find yourself chopping wood at a black tie engagement, be sure to wear Polo.
5. ANTAEUS
Antaeus is named after a mythyical half-giant who wrestled passers-by, killed them and collected their skulls. It’s difficult to think of a more fitting concept from which to develop one of Chanel’s greatest ever scents.  With the release of Bleu de Chanel, the Allure Homme line and even Jersey from their exclusif collection, Chanel haven’t just dropped the ball, they’ve punctured it repeatedly with a kitchen knife, taken it back home and got their dad to tell their friends they’re not playing out for the rest of the summer.  Antaeus, released 31 years ago in 1981, and still as strong and beautiful as ever despite reformulation (if not more so!), shows that when Chanel do it right, they hit it out of the park.
Antaeus displays the common masculine notes of lemon, bergamot and clary sage in the opening, warming up throughout the mid and base with patchouli, oakmoss and one of my favourite notes in perfumery – castoreum!  No other fragrance house can make beaver secretions smell this classy though.  It’s bold, brash, powerful but also restrained (without that being a euphemism for ‘boring’ or ‘safe’) and very sophisticated.  Appropriate for any situation, this is one of the highlights of masculine perfumery.  Recommended for naked wrestlers, Greek gods and people who hate L’Eau d’Issey.
Next up, I’ll feature 5 classic “masculine feminine” scents.  Those fragrances that although marketed to women, display undoubted swagger and an ability to de-grease a car engine with their astringent power.
Thanks for reading, and feel free to comment on anything written and discuss your love (or hate) of powerhouses!
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Comments
11 Responses to “An introduction to nostril scorching Powerhouse scents.”
  1. Undina says:

    Congratulations on your first post! It’ll get easier as you go: WordPress is friendly enough.

    I do not mind strong and lasting perfumes/colognes as long as I’m not confined with a person wearing it on a plane, concert or other closed quarters situations.

    • cologneshow says:

      Thanks Undina!
      I can imagine some of these being a worst nightmare, especially if you’re confined with someone who’s just sprayed within 2 or so hours. Although I plan on overspraying Kouros this summer before a car journey, just to see the reactions I get.

  2. Vanessa says:

    For a man suffering from the virulent Wednesbury cold, this is a remarkable blogging debut. : – ) That bilious-looking Quorum bottle could easily provoke a relapse though. It reminds me of a failed batch of Brussels sprout soup from last Xmas.

    You have prompted me to resniff Antaeus, which I had always understood to be a curious paradox of classy but brash, ie the Thinking Man’s pulling scent or some such.

  3. Yay! Congratulation on Cologne Shows’ first post!

    I’m looking forward to lots more stuff from you 😀

    I do like a good 80’s powerhouse, my favourite of the ones you have mentioned is Kouros, I’m just not entirely sure that I can pull it off.

    • Cologne Show says:

      I just need to get the hang of wordpress without tearing my hair out! I’ve no idea why the text bunches up as it does towards the bottom of my post, it sure doesn’t look like that on the edit screen.

      I think Kouros requires breaking a slight mental barrier. The first few times I wore it out, I found myself cautious around some people, knowing a fair % of people must absolutely hate the smell. But I decided to stop caring & just revel in it!

  4. Liam says:

    I love Polo. In fact (as loose as I can go with this one) one of my first fragrances in my teens was Extreme Polo Sport. Nothing at all like Polo, but there you go. I love Polo because it has that unmistakable GREEN note to it, and it’s like a dense green – being fresh doesn’t even come into it!

  5. smellythoughts says:

    Awesome first post. Very informative.
    I heard from someone that they compared the opening of Antaeus to the smell of bandages, I loved the thought of that… but it didn’t do that for me :’)
    Takes some balls for a first post to tackle some huge scents like these. Well done man!

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