Is bitterness now seen as old-fashioned in masculine scents? I asked myself the question the other day when I decided to wear Chanel's Pour Monsieur. Don't get me wrong, I still consider it to be a tremendous piece of work. But it did strike me as smelling of the past, and I wondered if this was because of the inky, almost acrid bitterness of the mossy elements. Modern masculines tend to be sweeter (see last year's Noir from Tom Ford, which traces its lineage back to 1965's Habit Rouge) or woodier (see just about any mainstream melange), although of course, if we're being pedantic, we have to point out that both sugariness and woodiness have been features of some male perfumes ever since the 30s, when Caron released Pour Un Homme. Perhaps bitterness is now seen as being too serious, too grown-up, too uncompromising for the modern man. Or maybe, in keeping with the chypre revival in the feminine market, the note will soon make a comeback on the boys' side of perfumery departments. Whatever happens, Pour Monsieur remains one of the classiest male scents around, and a real gem in Chanel's portfolio. The citrus opening is as sophisticated as anything that's ever been bottled, the herbaceous elements suggest a free-spirited love of the natural world, and the powdery, soapy facets of the drydown convey well-groomed civility. It's quiet, restrained and elegant... and even though, on a literal level, it smells bitter, it doesn't have a cynical bone in its lithe body.
[Review based on a sample of eau de toilette obtained in 2010.]