Havana (Aramis for Estée Lauder)

Back in the mid-'90's, unisex aquatics such as CK One and Acqua di Gio ruled the fragrance shelf. After the bloated carnevale of the Eighties, their chiseled, unearthly beauty seemed like a health-giving tonic-- and the boys who wore them as fragrant accessories to Chuck Taylors and designer flannel seemed so young, so vital, they broke your heart. Liz Phair wrote an entire concept album about such boys, so you know it's no lie.

But while the bone structure of such fragrances remains admirable, the flesh was not designed to withstand the ravages of twenty years. To a modern nose, CK1 and AdG now seem distinctly old hat-- and those beautiful boys have grown into uneasy men who cannot seem to relax into middle age. Just as their fathers wore fragrances designed to broadcast masculine "ruggedness" in response to feminism, they don calone and dihydromercenol as a vain stopgap against expanding waistlines and encroaching age. (I imagine Liz Phair could write ANOTHER great concept album about it, if only she hadn't suffered her own midlife wig-out and got lost in the Matrix a decade ago.)

Which brings me to Havana. A debonair tobacco-leather redolent of mid-century glamour, this fragrance must have appeared hopelessly anachronistic when it debuted alongside CK One in 1994. The latter won the race, but one wonders what might have transpired if fashion had backed the other horse. Fortysomething-year-old guys might still insist on dousing themselves in the fragrance of their youth. But at least they'd smell suave and spicy while looking all glum... and fortysomething-year-old chicks like me would console them so much more willingly. Wouldn't we?

To some, Havana might smell like nightclubs, racetracks, and a humidor full of Coronas Grandes. To me, it smells like greasy black Doc Marten leather, American Spirit tobacco, and long, sun-warmed hair in need of a wash (but not just yet, please; kindly wait until morning). In other words, Havana is Pearl Jam, while CK One is just the Backstreet Boys. Which one is still relevant? The question answers itself.*

*We all know what Kurt Cobain smelled like, god rest his sweet soul. Or do we?

Scent Elements: Mandarin, orange, grapefruit, basil, artemisia, carnation, jasmine, hyacinth, anise, coriander, caraway, cumin, pepper, bay rum, juniper berry, pimiento, birch tar, fir, cinnamon, tobacco, cedar, sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, myrrh, frankincense, tonka bean, vanilla