My renewed interest in exploring men’s fragrance began after I had been wearing Armani Eau Pour Homme for over a decade as essentially my signature scent. I always felt that if I had my cologne figured out why bother changing it up too much? Eventually, though, I found myself increasingly bored wearing the Armani day in and day out, craving a bit more variety to my scent life. More than that, while always pleasant it started to go missing after about an hour. Yes, it still remained present as a skin scent (something you really have to put your nose close to to smell) but I wondered if continual reformulation through the years hadn’t neutered it, a common problem with classic colognes. Most of all, though, I came to realize I was looking for something to break the monotony and break out of my olfactory ennui. So I started doing some research, going to the local Sephora for samples, reading Fragrantica and looking at some opinionated men’s perfume blogs like Pour Monsieur and From Pyrgos. That piqued my curiosity to try new things, change it up and give several other colognes a chance. And one of the pleasures of this new scent journey has been finding out just how much variety there is in good men’s cologne these days, as well as how much wearing different fragrances for different occasions and circumstances can give you both personal enjoyment and a leg up in terms of confidence and polish to one’s sense of style.
So let’s talk about one of my new favorites, Estée Lauder’s Lauder for Men. Now, Lauder for Men is not a new scent at all, just new to me. It was created way back in 1985, in what some consider the golden age of power fragrances. But Lauder for Men is not a typical 80s badass like Drakkar Noir, Kouros or Lapidus. In fact, it seems to harken further back to more restrained, less spicy aromatic fougéres of the 60s and 70s. There is nothing ballsy, hairy chested or in your face about Lauder for Men. It opens crisp and green with pleasingly bracing notes of juniper and clary sage. This is freshness in a bottle, a classic cologne smell with the longevity of an Eau de Toilette. There’s also a pleasant hint of sweeter citrus — lemon and mandarin orange peel — to balance out the galbanum, though I don’t really get the cardamon or coriander listed in the notes in my modern formulation.
The dry down is equally lovely, the green vibe lingering for certain but opening up with pleasant notes of masculine flowers like carnation, jasmine, lily of the valley and rose. These heart notes are handled with an exceedingly light touch, the florals never getting too cloying or oppressive as they can in some other men’s classics like Fahrenheit and Geoffrey Beane’s Grey Flannel. And then a little bit later you’re into the base notes of sandalwood (more so than the cedar listed in the official pyramid), amber, a little oakmoss, non-skanky musk and non-hippy patchouli to punch home the masculine nature of the frag, plus the most delightful hit of vanilla brightening everything. The basenotes both warm things up and connect back to the herbal top in an extraordinary way.
The whole composition comes across beautifully — crisp and vibrant with no “wrong notes” or anything that anyone could interpret as offensive, as sometimes happens with the 80s power frags. There’s less than a minimum of animalic aromas and a maximum of green/herbal, semi-sweet citrus, with enough wood and earthy flowers to keep the whole thing from floating away or coming across as feminine. Despite being 30 years old the construction of Lauder for Men still smells very contemporary to me, although perhaps timeless is a better word. I don’t get that very prevalent “soapy” vibe like I do with other classic vintage fougéres like Paco Rabanne Pour Homme or Van Cleef & Arpels’ Tsar. And if there is a “barbershop” quality to the Lauder it is that of an herbal aftershave tonic (although an extremely classy one) as opposed to the admittedly pleasing “shaving cream” notes in the Rabanne, Tsar or the excellent contemporary homage to that style, YSL’s Rive Gauche. Of course, by wearing Lauder you’ll still be going against the prevailing grain since it doesn’t smell a thing like 1 Million or Bleu de Channel. But then chances are nobody else is going to be wearing this beauty so you’re more likely to stand out. I’d say it could take one try out before you get the hang of what’s going on with this old school juice if you’ve only ever worn modern stuff. But I’d also bet that the venerable Lauder for Men earns a place in your permanent rotation when it clicks because it is such a wonderful, undoubtedly musculine fragrance with a completely different approach to the concept of “fresh” than today’s aquatic and fruity scents.
Longevity is decent at around 6 hours, much longer on clothes, while sillage is solid if not aggressive. That makes Lauder for Men ideal for daytime and the office or a casual brunch out on the weekend. I don’t really see it as a sexy nighttime fragrance but if you go straight from work to the club or bar you could do a lot worse than still smelling this clean and good. Best of all, while it is not linear by any means and progresses as you wear it, it stays true to that very green, spring woods feeling at the beginning — probably the lingering juniper & sage — without devolving into something unpleasantly sour or falling apart competley. In fact, I find Lauder for Men so enjoyable that I like to reapply when it’s drying down so that the top notes are revivified and the whole thing takes off again with the added depth of the already extant base notes. I can’t say that about many colognes because by the end of their normal progression I’m usually tired of them and ready to give ’em a rest.
Great in warmer weather because of its crispness and lack of funk, Lauder for Men is also good in the cold the way an ice cold beer can still hit the spot after coming in from a long walk on a winter’s day. It’s refreshing, a very good eye opener in the morning, suits any occasion if need be and is constantly a pleasure to smell on yourself and for others to smell on you. It might be an older style fougére but I don’t feel it’s particularly old fashioned, although maybe it’s ideal demographic is really over 30, as this is definitely a poised and confident man’s scent. Really the only knock I can give it is that the otherwise handsome striated flacon (that’s “bottle” in fancy perfume speak) has a rather drippy vaporizer that seems to leak cologne all down the bottle when you spray. But that doesn’t even bother me because, unlike a lot of colognes, putting on a little extra Lauder for Men is a pleasure. Though I’ve never tried the older vintage version, the current formula still smells clean and natural with top quality, well blended ingredients. And with the rather high price for an older cologne of around $60 on Amazon for 3.4 ounces, that would also seem to indicate that they aren’t taking any shortcuts with the overall quality of the product. In short, Lauder for Men is one of my new favorites since embarking on this renewed fragrance exploration, maybe even Numero Uno. It’s only fitting that it’s my first review and long may it reign.