Back in 1995, Jean-Paul Gaultier released his first fragrance for men. You may have heard of it. It's called Le Male, it's sold in a bottle shaped likely a finely-toned male torso, and it just happens to be one of the most successful masculine scents of all time. Needless to say, it's inspired several flankers: the woefully underrated Fleur Du Male, countless 'light' editions aimed at summer holidaymakers and, most recently, a supposedly more intense version dubbed Le Male Terrible. Now, the folks at JPG have turned once more to the original's creator, Francis Kurkdjian, and asked him to give birth to a 'fresh' incarnation of their cash cow.
The result of his efforts, Le Beau Male, will do little to convince naysayers that it's worth re-hashing old ideas, no matter how popular they may be. As you might expect, this new iteration shares a key facet with the 1995 original: namely, a prominent herbal, lavender accord, which was itself based on the structure of a classic fougère. But the point at which the two diverge is their temperature: the first version is sweet, warm and musky; the latest one aims for iciness.
Kurkdjian has lowered the level of the mercury by reaching for mint (not especially surprising) as well as apple (think: crisp bite) and absinthe. It's the inclusion of the latter that feels most problematic. Yes, the material's anisic aspect is frosty, but it's also bitter and it lends the whole an air of standoffishness, at odds with the idea of bracing, lung-filling invigoration. This sneering attitude lasts well into the drydown, where the thin musks grant the lavender a few more spurts of life before finally dwindling into nothingness.
It's no accident that the anodyne, nude figure in this perfume's advertising campaign isn't smiling. If he were, he'd reveal teeth made of icicles, a grin only marginally less glacial than the heart of this frigid piece of work. Gaultier's previous masculine, Kokorico, was an entirely different prospect. It may have been somewhat derivative, but it was inviting, enjoyable and it came in a superb bottle. Sadly, it was also a flop. Maybe the great buying public just didn't appreciate the fact that its supermodel promoter, the lithe Jon Kortajarena, didn't bare much flesh in his advert. Who knows? I'm certainly no expert when it comes to predicting success at the till. But I confess I'll be surprised if this slice of shivering bitterness turns out to be a hit.
[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette provided by Jean-Paul Gaultier in 2013.]