Old Spice

Old Spice.

My grandpa died on my 13th birthday. I was too young to understand that it was going to happen, even though he was sick for about a year prior to that. He was in his early 60s, and much too young to leave us. And even though I still feel that I know him too little, there are certain things that make me feel like I know him quite intimately. There are certain things that no matter how adults try to hide, little children notice and are able to interpret later when they grow up enough to understand what was said, or what was exchanged in glances between overprotective parents or secretive relatives. Old Spice to me is one such key to reach out to these memories and reconnect with his never-dying spirit. 

Old Spice was launched when my grandfather himself was 13 years old. Maybe he worn it for his Bar Mitzvah, though I highly doubt it: life in Israel/Palestine under British Occupation was very frugal.  My grandmother told me that back in those days, his family had only two sets of clothes - weekday work clothes, which were washed and hang to dry every night, and another white shirt of Shabbat. That's it. 

Two years later, when my grandfather was a mere 15 year old boy, World War II erupted. Assisted by his sister, the eldest in the family of boys (like myself) he forged his age to 16 so that he can join the British Army and fight the Nazis and their allies, mostly in Italy. In 1944, he joined the Jewish Brigade and continued fighting Mussolini's fascist army all the while also saving Jewish survivors and refugees who escaped the Nazis, and helped smuggle them to Israel/Palestine and other safe lands.  

Old Spice.

I doubt that there was a spare moment for dousing oneself with Old Spice in those days of war, and my grandma's recollection also does not include Old Spice until after they married. So perhaps the saying is true - and if it wasn't for Old Spice, my aunt and my mother would have never been born, and neither would me and the rest of my brothers and cousins. SmellyBlog would have never existed, along with many other things - some good ones and some not so great.  It's really hard to tell without entering a time machine, isn't it? 

But what I do know for sure is that if it wasn't for my grandfather, I would know nothing of Old Spice, or men at all. I remember his bottle of Old Spice aftershave standing in my grandparents' bathroom. I was puzzled by the ship and sails on the bottles, and what does it have to do with spice, anyway? I was just as intrigued by it as I was by my grandmother's flacon of Shalimar, whose faceted blue stopper I would look through at the now-distorted blue world... To a girl who lived in a wild village with a stepfather that looked like Blackbeard himself, and a mom who never bothered to shave her legs or armpits or anything (not that she needs to, really) - the ritual of shaving was truly an exotic thing. 

I would wonder what is that bottle made of (its opaque shiny white glass looked like porcelain to me); how to open that bottle, and years later, when I finally did - I found the scent surprisingly familiar and comforting. It reminded me of traveling to London with my grandparents and visiting ancient ships and museums. It reminded me of sharing a hotel room with them that looked just as the hotel in Charade looks like, and marvelling at how late the light is still out in the summertime. Just as it is now as I type this in another Northern city - in Canada. 

My grandpa always made a point of shaving every time before he visited us, or if we came for a visit. He was travelling a lot, and must have been deeply hurt when as a little toddler I would recoil from his face if he had as much as a day-old stubble.  For a little child this feels quite unbearably rough. He was such a considerate person that he kept this habit even though I grew up and overcame this sensitivity (to some extent...). And he continued to shave for me every time I was allowed to visit him  in the hospital, in that agonizing, tragic year in which he was fighting pancreatic cancer and I was watching my baby brother who is ten years my junior in Tel Aviv all summer. 

Years later, that very brother, who my grandmother says looks so much like my grandfather did  in his youth, inherited the Old Spice bottle from the oldest brother, who inherited it from our grandfather. My little bother was the only one who really adopted that fragrance as his own. And when he ran out, he found more in Canada when he was living with me. He was 21 years at the time, and had worn it deliberately and enthusiastically in every form available – eau de toilette, after shave, body spray, deodorant, soap, you name it. It made the whole house smell like Old Spice and when he went through the whole ritual so to speak we were both sedated by all the clove and allspice in there. 

As I write this, I occasionally sniff my wrists, which are carefully doused with Old Spice's newest packaging (which you can see in the photos). It is no longer a splash bottle, but a spray of the cheapest kind. But I still like it. The writing is all in red, and so is the boat - which is much smaller. But the bottle still manages to stay true to its opaque white design - but not it is most certainly plastic of a creamy white rather than the bluish-grey milky white of yore.  

The scent is heavy yet heavenly. Familiar yet fantastic. Comforting yet seductive. What first comes to nose is cloves and allspice. So no wonder why it's called "Old Spice", right? Mystery solved! It's also sweet and carnation-like. A true spicy-oriental of the grand type. Yet there is also something very uncomplicated about it, which makes it so wearable and delicious. For a scent so inherently associated with barbershop and masculinity, it's a bit surprising how much bouquet there is in there. Although it's hardly what I would call "floral" - there is an unmistakable rose, jasmine and carnation at the heart, which really rounds it off. It's also surprising how sweet the base is, complete with vanillin and heliotropin. Really not what we've learned to consider "masculine" in our day and age. Drugstore fragrance or not - some things are simply priceless. The smell of my grandfather is one of them.

Top notes: Orange, Lemon
Hear notes: Carnation, Geranium, Jasmine, Rose, Cinnamon, Cloves, Allspice
Base notes: Coumarin, Vanilla, Heliotropin, Musk

Choisya for the Lost Souls

Choisya in October: what a strange sight & smell in the the fall. Rare for them to bloom here in autumn. It's usually freezing cold by the end of October, but not this year. 
The contrast of heliotropin and methyl anthranilate on a backdrop of ripe rosehips and fallen leaves is intriguing and surprising. Choisya (AKA Mexican orange or mock orange blossom) is my flower of choice for Day of the Dead. And if I were Mexican I would probably anoint an altar with Old Spice in memory of my grandfather. Instead, I went to the Parade of Lost Souls and sprayed Black Licorice perfumer all around.

Favourite Father's Day Scents

Happy Father’s day to you all – fathers and grandfathers and everyone that celebrates with you. Check my newsletter for some fatherly thoughts for the day. For today on SmellyBlog, I decided to make a list of my favourite manly fragrances.

I haven’t tried nearly enough masculine fragrances, especially when comparing them to all the “feminine” scents I have tried. However I do have a few favourites and Father’s Day seems to be a good time to mention them – as well as a few significant males in my life.

1. Eau Sauvage
Always at the top of my masculine scents, Eau Sauvage is THE classic men’s fragrance there is. It was perfectly made by Edmond Roudniska and the combination of spacious hedionic jasmine with mossy base and herbaceous-citrus top notes is unbelievably gorgeous. I can’t think of any man in particular that I’ve known that worn it, but it always brings a sense of familiarity and recognition when I smell it.

2. Old Spice
An old-time classic and my grandfather used it regularly, but if you think it’s “too old” think twice; - my 21 year old brother adores it and wears it with passion in every form available – eau de toilette, after shave, body spray, deodorant, soap, you name it. It makes the whole house smell like Old Spice and when he goes through the whole ritual so to speak we are both sedated by clove and allspice.

3. Yerbamate
Rich, bold and green - this fougere has something quirky about it even though one of my customers claims it smells exactly like Canoe by Dana (that can be had for a fraction of the price). I have nothing to compare it to (Canoe pops up in drugstore only once in a Christmas-y blue moon) but I’m all the same curious.

4. Egoiste
With its soft, creamy sandalwood, Egoiste is the masculine answer to Bois des Iles and you really need not be selfish to enjoy it – I’m sure those around it will appreciate it too. Beware: Egoiste Platinum has nothing to do with it besides the name. Unfortuantley, it is not available in Canada – at least not on the West Coast.

5. Bel Ami
Bel Ami is dressed up entirely in leather like a hardcore fetishist, yet manages to conceal all that with its well-mannered attitude and elegance that has become the signature element in all the perfumes that come from the house of Hermes. I don’t smell it often on people around me, and I wish I did.

6. M7
Without being either particularly masculine or feminine, M7 is just different from what is out there among the thousands of department store fragrances. And that says something. It’s woody and sweet and although not exactly as oud-y as I would have liked it to be, it is a good way to get initiated into the secret society of oud admirers. If you’ll stay there long enough you may get to smell the real musty animalic wood. I think this would be my youngest brother’s next fragrance gift from me, since he’s always been fond of woods (Tam Dao and Dior Homme have become staples in his collection).

7. Cool Water
I’m just as surprised as you are to find this in my list of favourites or at all mentioned on SmellyBlog. . Just for reference: I used to compare Cool Water to a jacuzzi spray cleaner back in the day. Sometimes it’s all about the context, and even the most common, overly used and most synthetic cologne of them all can smell like a special perfume on the right person. I am fortunate to have had that experience and now I am quite fond of it – even though you won’t find me calling it a masterpiece anytime soon.

8. Bvlgari Black
Smoke, rubber and tea are hardly anything that one would imagine would go well together, let alone in a perfume. Bvlgari Black proves that darkness can be warm and cozy even with the strangest elements, and it has that addictive lapsang suchong tea note that echos the tea notes present in most (if not all) Bvlgari’s fragrances. It would make a perfect scent for my oldest brother, Yotam, who is particularly fond of the scents of gas stations and

9. Poivre Samarkand
Another favourite of my peppery brother Noam, it just smells incredible on him and in fact on all the people that I have come across smelling. It turns up more frequently that I would expect on the Latin dance floors which can be a relief in more ways than I can explain (compensation for lack of sense of rhythm is one instance).

10. Guerlain’s Vetiver
A very non-perfumey fragrance – Guerlain’s Vetiver is clean, fresh, citrusy and classy. It can be embraced by nature lovers and fragrance lovers alike, and can please both the country mouse and the city mouse – not to mention both sexes. If my second brother Yohai were to wear a fragrance again, I imagine it to be something like that.

11. Terre d’Hermes
A new discovery for me, and since vetiver is taking a very fond spot in my heart, I don’t feel ashamed of having two of this category here today. It is balanced, elegant, edgy, universal and still masculine enough to want to smell on a man.

12. L’Herbe Rouge
This is my quite personal interpretation of the scent of a man. Of course I have a history with it by now, and it’s too long to be told now. Ironically, it does make me travel in time just like the book that inspired it is all about. Now it belongs to a man of my past and a great love. And when I smell it that bittersweet longing for someone I lost creeps in and makes me wonder if I should ever let a man close to me wear my own fragrances. It is particularly dangerous to seal chapters of my life with my own perfumes.
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