Among the new arrivals was CH Men, and my first impression, based on the packaging, was that someone had put some time and thought into the thing. The bottle is one of those that make people who love fragrance happy: a big block of glass, half of which is covered in embossed leather. CHCHCHCHCHCHCH. It feels great running under your fingers. A metal CH pendant has been attached to a deep red grosgrain ribbon and knocks against the leather like a little drum. Still, after CH Women, whose bottle was tricked out in the same bells and whistles, I wasn't expecting much. Too bad, I thought, after spraying CH Men. What a shame the cologne doesn't carry the same weight as the overall first impression.
The sales assistant assured me that something was there, but I couldn't smell much of anything on my wrist. At first I was reminded of Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's Zombi, with its dirt, rose, and violet notes. That was pretty thrilling. Would a mainstream masculine really make something that smelled of moist, flowered soil? Who could say. It was certainly gone before I could. Weirdly, as I looked at other things, I kept getting faint whiffs of that first spritz, convincing me that maybe I just couldn't hear CH through all the cacophonous Friday night noise and the bombastic tuberose of Very Hollywood. I bought some and brought it home. Just in case.
I'm glad I did. CH does indeed smell like damp earth and flowers, with some spice and stewed fruits thrown in. The notes are listed as mandarin, bergamot, grapefruit peel, saffron, nutmeg, jasmine, violet, wood, ambergris, vanilla, moss, burnt sugar and leather. I smell none of the first three, nor vanilla and ambergris. The impression of soil must be created by the saffron and violet, I've decided. Jack Black Signature for Men has a heftier dose of saffron and smells only vaguely similar. There the saffron is coerced by cedar into traveling in a very different direction. I smell date, too, but nothing in the literature for CH confirms this.
CH Men is the best mainstream masculine I've smelled in eons. It isn't a skin scent after all, though it doesn't exactly scream its way through a room. I wouldn't call it subtle, but I'm not going to accuse it of grandstanding either. I find it pretty addictive. There isn't a marine accord to be found. There's no patchouli, clean or otherwise. No cardamom. The leather is somewhere in the background, complimenting the violet and saffron in ways which bring to mind Serge Lutens. CH Men, unlike its feminine counterpart, isn't aiming to be all things to all people. It's wonderfully idiosyncratic, and this too places it in the company of niche lines like Lutens, Etat Libre d'Orange, Diptyque, and Parfum D'Empire, among others. Any one of these might have produced CH Men. It's more likely than Carolina Herrera. Then again, I'm a big fan of Herrera for men, and once I study it, I see a link between that fragrance's use of immortelle and the employment of saffron in CH. Like Herrera, CH has good longevity. It smells nothing like anything in the department store, which is, alas, probably why you won't find any there, short of a Russian kiosk.