The Prive line was launched sometime in '04 or '05 with a small selection of scents that were supposed to be more luxurious and more exclusive than Armani's popular mainstream fragrances, and between the packaging and the price he definitely achieved that much. With spray bottles that come housed in kotibe wood (that's the PR talking, not me) boxes and caps that look like polished semi-precious stones the packaging certainly fits the Armani image; elegance and restraint. And at $185 US for 1.7 oz of juice in it's elegant and restrained container the line does maintain a bit of exclusivity, but when I read on various websites that the plain refill bottles which go into the refined, elegant kotibe boxes had popped up at TJMaxx and Marshall's stores nationwide for around $30 it became my mission to try and score at least one. The two that I was hunting for in particular, Bois d'Encens and Cuir Amethyste, appealed to me for different reasons. Bois d'Encens, a spice, incense and wood affair, sounded like the kind of thing I'm always drawn to, and Cuir Amethyste sounded just unusual enough to be potentially awesome. I never did find any for cheap, and I honestly just put the Prive line in the "low priority" section of my list of things to try. As it happened I was on one of my semi-routine trips to Saks with my intent being to continue my exploration of the Bond No. 9 line and I happened to pass by the Armani Cosmetics counter. Standing there on a perfectly minimal and orderly shelf was the Prive lineup in all it's wood-and-stone packaged glory. I hightailed it over, found Bois d'Encens and went right for my forearm, which I normally don't do but since there were no blotters and no sales associates to find some for me I figured what the hell. Before moving on I decided I needed to smell Cuir Amethyste too, so I grabbed a tissue from the makeup display and doused it. It's tacky, I know that, but I didn't really care.
Bois d'EncensI had a feeling I would like BdE, which is why I decided to wear it, but I was completely unprepared to encounter something very, very familiar to me once the top notes faded away. Yes folks, for all it's elegant, exclusive packaging and the insane markup that comes with it Bois d'Encens smelled exactly like something that I'd not only smelled before but have been wearing for years. That fragrance, in case you're wondering, is Gucci Pour Homme. I've owned GPH since about 2004 and have worn it pretty steadily since, so I was shocked and frankly pretty amused to find that the $185 Eau de Parfum that was currently on my arm smelled exactly like something that I already own. For those of you who aren't familiar with Gucci Pour Homme it's a woody incense fragrance that was released in late 2003. I've read comparisons between GPH and cedar/pencil shavings, but there isn't any cedar in GPH. That's apparently the heavy duty frankincense, which I'm convinced is the same type of incense used in BdE. Maybe not surprisingly the two scents were created by the same perfumer, Michel Almairac. To satisfy my curiosity I paid another visit to the Armani counter and took a test strip sprayed with the stuff home to see if it smelled differently than it did on me. Apparently my skin amplifies the frankincense because on paper the scent isn't exactly like the Gucci after all, although they do have a very similar vibe. I'm not really sure what to make of Bois d'Encens now, although the fact that on my skin it smells just like something I have a bottle of is enough to convince me that I'll never need to own it. Even if it wasn't so similar it certainly didn't wow me, and for $180 it better knock my goddamn socks off.
Cuir Amethyste on the other hand was a bit more interesting, although I really ended up hating it....a lot. On paper it sounds like a rich, lush mix of notes like violet, labdanum, benzoin, birch, rose, vanilla and patchouli. On my skin it was rich all right, rich in a tooth-achingly sweet, headache inducing kind of way. For a while there it was pretty hardcore powdery as well before the basenotes settled in. Oh, and it lasted a long, long time. I didn't really sense anything leathery about Cuir Amethyste, although there was a vaguely sourish something that seemed to fade in and out every now and then. I will say this much for Cuir Amethyste, it kept me coming back. I couldn't stop smelling my arm, trying to decipher what it was I was smelling. And it had a very noticeable progression from the top on down. On the tissue I first shamelessly sampled it on it was kind of nice and pretty unusual, a creamy, sweet/tart, rich concoction that actually did smell "purple" in a way. Apparently my skin just hates it, ruining anything that may be good about it by projecting the sugar coated violets through a megaphone and drowning out pretty much everything else. I also have to say that despite it's unisex marketing it skews a bit feminine to my nose, more feminine than I would personally feel comfortable wearing, and bear in mind that I'm not one to strictly adhere to gender classifications in fragrances. On the plus side I'm pretty sure that I won't ever be including Cuir Amethyste on my "to buy" list.
images from armanicosmetics.com