Perfume Pen Pals: Brut Gets Political


Here’s a screenshot from the Brut USA page on Amazon, and I have questions:

First, it’s curious that a ‘70s drugstore cologne is getting into matters political and philosophical, and while I don’t imagine anyone is looking to Brut as an opinion leader on important matters — or on fragrance matters — I’m vaguely troubled by the way it feels like the big fat Tolstoy quote is addressing the little black bar of Black Lives Matter support. Because BLM is indeed changing the world and it appears someone at Brut (and how weird is it to think that in 2021, there are actual people at Brut?) decided to answer the company’s stance with a bastardized quote they found on the Internet.

Plus, that garish eagle (are those icicles hanging from its plumage?) seems specifically designed for an entirely different audience, an attempt to cover all bases.

If this weren’t confusing enough, exploring who is responsible for the Brut USA Amazon page quickly leads down a rabbit hole of corporate acquisitions and indifference. Brut by Fabergé is long gone and in its place are as many as three companies, all seemingly vying for the honor of producing the worst approximation of the classic drugstore cologne.

The logos on the various bottles, and the USA in the name, indicate it’s the Idelle Labs/Helen of Troy version, which is based out of Texas, which syncs up with the eagle.

Except the other logo, the one above the Tolstoy quote, belongs to Unilever, a massive European conglomerate that puts out a separate line of disappointing Brut products, all of which say they’re manufactured by Parfums Prestige, a small French company that despite not having much going on, doesn't even bother to mention Brut on its website.

If that weren’t enough to distract you from the BLM/Tolstoy/eagle menagerie, Brut USA’s Amazon page includes a vintage commercial from Brut's Fabergé days, advertising a fragrance that no longer exists. 


Not to put too fine a point on this (too late?), but the Brut logo at the top of the Amazon page — a logo that doesn’t seem to appear on any Brut products — includes the article-less phrase “MADE IN U.S.A.” Except when you link to the listed products, you learn they’re all manufactured in Mexico.

Brut symbolizes a world in which the future feels more uncertain than ever. And now it also symbolizes my propensity for wasting time. And yet I have a funny feeling about the person who included that Tolstoy quote, that’s still my bottom line.


Perfume Pen Pals: Jardins D’Ecrivains / Junky and George


Have you tried anything from Jardins D’Écrivains? Its perfumes are said to be inspired by great writers and literary movements and based on the two I’ve tried, they seem additionally inspired by soap.

First is Junky, after William Burroughs (you finally made it, Bill), which is not nearly as complex as its long list of notes (hemp, rosewood, iris, violet, gardenia, cedar, Japanese vetiver, cashmeran, moss, etc.) would indicate. Instead it smells like a stale bar of soap left out in the unused room of a dingy old motel near the Oregon coast.

One of these days, some bikers will need a few hours sleep and afterward they’ll go to the bathroom to freshen up and they won’t end up feeling fresh at all. Still, how do you complain about soap in a $39 motel room?

Sparky and Gary feeling not-so-fresh.

You complain because we’re not in a motel room, KP, and the soap is actually perfume and the perfume didn’t come with a room and it didn’t cost $39, it cost a hundred dollars! I paid a hundred dollars to smell like stale soap. Which in itself is sort of fascinating, yes?

Jardins D’Écrivains puts out another perfume, George, named after George Sand, and that one also smells like soap. But good soap, specifically Caswell Massey Number Six, which is the best-smelling warm-citrus soap your father probably never wore but you imagine him wearing every time you smell it.

George is a pleasure to wear and yet I’ve worn Junky more frequently because I just can’t believe how bad it is. George smells good, George wears well, now let’s put George over there and go back to figuring out what the hell the perfumer was thinking with this Junky garbage.

I love the things I hate more than I love the things I love and one of these days I should bring that up in therapy.


Bikers photo: 'Sparky' and Gary Rogues Schererville, by Danny Lyon 1965

Perfume Pen Pals: A Lab on Fire / Made in Heaven


Made in Heaven by A Lab on Fire smells like the classic Kmart smell, which is a warm, sweet, nutty smell.

I always loved that smell, the way it summed up the cheap but comforting claustrophobia of Kmart.

Cadentia Parfums / Jean d’Aigle Rose Eau de Cologne Extra

A couple of weeks ago, I was on the London Underground heading home after a long day. It was around 8 in the evening, and I boarded a car at the end of the train that looked to be completely empty. As I stepped inside, a glorious thing: the entire carriage was fragrant with roses. It was like some kind of olfactory hallucination.

Perfume Pen Pals: Gorilla Perfume / Flower's Barrow


As you already know, my parents were quite old, even when I was a little kid (especially then, it seemed), and Depression-era thrifty, so I grew up with a 1952 black-and-white Zenith console television. Its five or six channels were so grainy, it felt like an uncertain step between radio and TV.