Perfume Pen Pals: Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne Revisited



Katie,

I'm wearing Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne every single day and I'm close to declaring it my favorite eau de cologne. The problem is I'm mindful of the appeal of the rare (TAOTR), that because this stuff is no longer made and sells for increasingly high prices on eBay, I get excited before I even spray it on. How much does this excitement influence my opinion of Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne? I say not at all, but then I'm not a fair judge. And yet I am a fair judge because I'm mindful, or at least I say I'm mindful, but who really knows the truth? We humans are so good at justifying ourselves, we're sometimes difficult to read. I boast about my mindfulness all the time in therapy, but some days I feel like I'm most mindful of my deceptiveness. Which is a start, I suppose.

The perfect fragrance for your therapy session.

These are the things I'm certain are true about Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne: it's uncommonly warm and rich for a cologne, almost creamy, no spiky citrus opening, just smooth and strong, a real Cary Grant cologne. Except I'm sure Creed insists Grant only wore one of its colognes. (When did Creed claim all the good celebrities? Sometime in the 1990s, right?)

Helmut Lang EDC: smooth and strong, just like this man.

It smells like Maurice Roucel taking a few small but crucial steps back from his typical 100-piece-orchestra compositions. Eau de Cologne is a 20-piece orchestra, and it's rare and selling for a whole lot on eBay and if I could manage to get that out of my head for five minutes, I'd trust my opinion more.

You like this one, don't you? And you're not affected by the marketplace in the ways I am. Would you say it's one of the greatest discontinued fragrances of recent years? One of the greatest men's fragrances of recent years? Be mindful, don't get carried away, but tell me what you think.

Dan



Dan,

With as much mindfulness as I can muster, I will pronounce Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne one of the greatest discontinued men's fragrances in recent years. But I'm nervous about declaring it one the the greatest men's fragrances, because declaring such a thing sounds so....declaratory.

Without getting carried away, I can say that I love smelling HM EDC. It's one of those soft, fresh musks like Mugler Cologne and Prada Amber pour Homme and Gendarme and Le Labo Musc 25 (though the last two fall in the "Killing Me Softly" category of bombastic laundry musks). I love that it's on the subsonic side -- with no sillage to speak of -- and brews subtly on the body to form a brand new "factory setting" smell. As I said to you before, it makes your skin smell worn-in, very day-after-the-shower -- a smell that I find suggests a delicious intimacy.

Hmm. I'm sort of talking myself into thinking it's one of the greatest men's fragrances of recent years.

But wait -- I thought Roger & Gallet Bois d'Orange was your favorite cologne ever....

Katie



Katie,

Bois d'Orange is spikier and spicier, more of what you might expect from a cologne, and while I won't discount points for predictability when something is good (and Bois d'Orange is good), I will give extra credit for surprise, and Helmut Lang EDC surprises. And, yes, it's the softness. It's soft and warm and billowy.

Helmut Lang EDC creator Maurice Roucel: he's soft, warm and billowy.

I sort of see the comparison with Mugler Cologne but I remember that one being pitched higher. (I also remember not liking it as much as most people seem to like it.) The Helmut Lang is quiet but it's also full. Although it doesn't project, it somehow encompasses. If it were a song, it would be Love's "Alone Again Or." It's quietly majestic.

I won't address the Prada comparison, though, because it was Prada that killed off Helmut Lang EDC when it acquired the brand. A pox on the house of Prada!

Dan


Catch up on the Perfume Pen Pals' first go-round with Helmut Lang Eau de Cologne here and here.

40 comments:

  1. De'ja' vu all over again........

    http://www.katiepuckriksmells.com/2011/09/perfume-pen-pals-helmut-lang-eau-de.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're giving me déjà déjà vu on the links I included above! It's true that Dan is rather stuck on this perfume.

      Delete
    2. I'd completely forgotten about that earlier exchange. I'm either getting very old or I have far too many fragrances. And when I say "either/or" I mean "both/and".

      Delete
    3. Hahaha! Well at least this post is confirmation that you really meant it the first time around.

      Delete
  2. Katie and Dan:

    big disagreement here. I recently came in possession of the Lang EdC and EdP - and there's no love. To me, they just smell like a synthetic, uninspiring creamy musk. Spare and modern in the worst possible way. Compared to this, Le Labo Musc 25, which I see as a good representation of the locals' impossibly perfect physiques, smells positively dirty.

    cacio

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Cacio, I won't disagree about the unremitting syntheticness of the Helmut Lang fragrance family, but I'd say the same about Le Labo Musc 25. It goes with the turf of white musks, which are as pre-fab as it gets in perfume. (And backs up your observation that Musc 25 mirrors the impossibly perfect physiques of Los Angelenos.) But if you're uninspired, you're uninspired. For me, HM EDC goes down easy and is comforting, though I won't deny that it does lack drama. It's a pleasing, "non-manifesto" perfume for me.

      Delete
  3. Anything that elicits comparisons to "Alone Again Or" has my attention.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Has Dan listened to A Sky of Honey off Aerial by Kate Bush? I think he would enjoy it. It does take a few listens to get into it though.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Dan is just as voracious a music consumer as he is a perfume snarfer, but I'm not sure if he's absorbed Aerial yet. However, I LOVEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE (as the kids say) that album. For about a year after it came out, I listened to it non-stop on repeat as I wrote.

      Delete
    2. Excellent taste! As I said, I recommend for Dan, if he has not encountered, and also that he read the Katha Upanishad, if he hasn't read that.

      Delete
    3. Yes Anonymous, in fact I think I bought it on Katie's recommendation. Or at least I went back and listened to it on Katie's recommendation. Though the bulk of my Kate Bush listening happened in the '80s.

      There's a whole parallel to Perfume Pen Pals consisting only of music and Katie will launch that blog in 2025. (I hope I'm not out of line in revealing those plans, KP.)

      Delete
    4. Hmmmmmmmm....not a bad notion, Rolleri.

      Delete
  5. Funny, but I've had a decant if this stuff for years and I had no idea it was a men's cologne. I didn't know it was rare, either, and have splashed it on willy nilly. As recall it had a metallic thing going on, but I haven't sniffed it in a while. I must go do that right now! Thanks for bringing this one to my attention again.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Carolyn, now that you mention it, there's nothing on the bottles of either the EDC or EDP that indicate that they're intended for lads or ladies. The EDC is perfected unisexy, and the EDP is sweeter, so one might profile it as "for women."

      Delete
  6. Replies
    1. the appeal of the rare.

      Delete
  7. OHMYWORD!!! I just got home and listened to Kate Bush. I have never heard of this artist. WOW!!!~ I am buying her CD's and handing them out at work!!!!~ Absolutely etheral and beautiful. What a GODDESS!!!~ Thank you Respondents to this forum. Had you not mentioned this as a recommendation for our Dan, I would have never experienced this incredible soul. Kate Bush - I love you!!!~ Katie, I know I have said this like a litany over and over again, but I really do learn so much from you and Dan!!!~ Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!!~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're so right, Byron, Kate Bush *is* a goddess. You have so many sublime worlds ahead to discover as you explore each of her albums - the first one ("The Kick Inside") made when she was 16. And then there are her videos and live performances on YouTube. I adore this clip of her on a kids' show where she is absolutely unpatronizing to her young audience:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7KVdwYSX6A

      Delete
    2. AAANNNDDD here ya go. Mr. Fuddles put the response in the incorrect reply. I am so sorry, Katie. Please forgive me. Just shoot me, please.

      Delete
  8. I hope one, if not both, of you get to try the new Amouage Beloved. Not that I don't trust my own judgement (well, as far as fragrances go anyway), but I am all over the map with this one. Can't decide if I want more sage, less jasmine, more leather...it's maddening!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jeff, I'll have a go with Beloved the next time I'm at the Amouage counter. I must confess that as much as I adore the brand, my eyes (nose?) have started to glaze over with the number of releases. That's happening more and more these days.

      Delete
  9. Oh, Katie - Kate Bush is LOVELY!!!~ What an Angel. The children adore her in this clip. I loved when she said: "My life is my work". It almost sounded like she was consecrating all of her actions into a beautiful expression of what she is at the core. I have never in my life heard of anyone who can perform, sing and dance like her. Geeezzz, again, I am 20,000 light-years behind everyone else. I went into my Bosses office this morning and said: "Hey, have you ever heard of this woman called Kate Bush". I kid you not, Katie. He spun around in his chair and started singing a track from Aerial/A Sky Full of Honey CD. I was stunned. He has several of her CD's in his collection in his Office. Therefore, I will probably be playing these CD's to death. They are so unique and powerful. Katie, I am the anonymous one at the very top. I was just trying to be cute and then you and Dan have to come along and be ULTRA-COOL about the entire thing. You two are Class and Style and I appreciate your intelligent and ALWAYS CLASSY responses. Both of you have a great day because you have certainly made mine. Take care!!!~

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your boss has hidden depths!

      Delete
    2. Byron, in addition to Kate Bush's glorious CD's, give a listen to her cover of Elton John's 'Rocket Man' from the "Two Rooms" anthology album. That is what got me into her music in the first place.

      Delete
    3. Sir Jeff: Thank you, kind sir - I shall!!!!

      Delete
  10. Katie,
    Please please please, can't you do an update of Katies perfume collection. Thoose videos are the most fun entertaning minites on youtube. I bet you have a couple of more in your collection by now.

    sara

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sara, your voice joins a chorus on my YouTube channel requesting just such a thing. And as you correctly surmise, I do have gobs more more perfumes in my collection. (Too, too many.)

      I shall make a new collection series a priority when I get back home to Los Angeles.

      Delete
    2. wonderful! cant wait!

      /sara

      Delete
  11. Too many? What is this thing you speak of?

    ReplyDelete
  12. I didn't know Maurice Roucel created this one. Do yo ualso know who was the nose behind Cuiron by any chance? I've searched and searched, but all I can find is that it came from Quest International.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I'm so pleasantly surprised to see a discussion about Helmut Lang fragrances take a detour into Kate Bush territory. I sometimes wear Night Scented Stock by Penhaligons simply because Kate wrote a song by the same name (I'm guessing she was inspired by this very scent - it was released only a few years before the song). I miss the Helmut Lang fragrances - and that crazy shop in Soho with the Jennie Holzer installation. And that crazy 'flameless candle'. I found that I can usually (somewhat) satisfy my craving for the old signature HL fragrance with L'Anonyme by A Lab on Fire - and equally inventive scent. I also found that Cuiron seems to have a distant cousin living in Piper Leather by Illuminum. I wonder what Kate Bush wears, scent-wise. Did I ever tell you how I thought I may have seen her at the Boots in Liverpool Street Station many years ago? It probably wasn't her but in my mind it was...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. So much nutrition in this response, Steven! I need to do a police line-up with L'Anonyme and HL EDC.

      Indeed, what does Kate B wear, do, think? I'll be sure to ask if I run into her at Boots.

      Delete
  14. Steven, I have L'Anonyme and I can smell the similarity, especially in both fragrance's reliance on soft, gentle musks. And it smells even closer to the slightly more feminine HL EDP.

    But L'Anonyme's hand is a little too light for me. Its leather base is so unobtrusive, it wouldn't even offend a cow. Which is the modern direction, I realize, and maybe I'm out of line for saying this, but when a cow takes offense at my fragrance, I feel a small jolt of satisfaction.

    Kate Bush in Boots reminds me of the time a friend and I saw Billy Bragg in a London bookstore. We discreetly pointed and whispered and then left the store and watched Billy flip through some magazines from the other side of the window. We were as unobtrusive as the leather in L'Anonyme.

    ReplyDelete
  15. So I never noticed an answer I was looking for regarding HL EDC,
    Was it discontinued? Is it available now? (appears to be). Is it the original formula? I had a sample tube from Nordstroms 15 years ago, and I fell in love with it, thinking it would never go away. I want to be able to acquire it, or something very similar.

    Alex

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Alex, both the HL edc and edp are discontinued. You can still find it sold by private sellers online.

      Delete
    2. And see Steven G's comment above for smell-alikes, as well as my suggestions in the post for Gendarme. Also check out The Body Shop White Musk for Men for the same kind of feel.

      Delete
  16. Thanks for the timely reply Katie. I found the reference to Gendarme, as well as the other 3, Mugler Cologne, Prada Amber pour Homme, Le Labo Musc 25. I will have to check those out. I have Thierry Mugler (green, citrus), while nice, is nothing like HL. I have tested many different brands over the years, and have owned many of the mainstream colognes; Drakkar, Farenheit, Obsession, Realm. I currently use Mugler, BVLGARI, and Hanae Mori. Have never found anything that has knocked my socks off like HL. If I can find a nearly identical substitute, I'll be happy. I take it the original formula of HL is a secret, and won't be duplicated. If I choose to go to ebay, amazon, perfumania, or whoever carries it, I don't want to get ripped off by a cheap imitation. Not sure how to check on authenticity. Counterfeiting is a huge problem in the world.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think you'll be fine buying your HL online. Counterfeiters are only looking to dupe the hugely popular, high demand stuff - HL is too under-the-radar.

      Delete
  17. I would also love to know what fragrance Kate Bush wears!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Now that would be interesting to know!

      Delete