Superficially, Royal Vintage seems like a fairly traditional “men’s” fragrance, heavy on the herbs, woods, and woody musk. Smelling it out of the bottle, I was prepared for the usual boring “men’s cologne” and braced myself for it. On my skin, however, it starts out dry and peppery, with what smells to me like a big dose of dusty vetiver and an almost mineral scent like newly wetted clay. Surprise! I love it! Growing in the clay are drought-tolerant herbs like lavender and sagebrush receiving the first drops of a long-awaited rain. Although bergamot is listed in the notes, I really don’t smell much citrus, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some of the mandatory domesticated bergamot lurking somewhere back behind the wild herbs.
As the fragrance develops, it warms a little, adding a faint citrusy-fruity-culinary sage scent to the dry, dusty-green, woody background. At this time, a scent of fresh evergreen trees also makes its appearance. Leather is listed in the notes, but at no point do I smell any form of leather explicitly. Leather is a difficult note to pin down anyway, taking so many different shapes that can easily be construed as other things, especially if part of the leather accord mentally combines with part of another one to produce an emergent scent, like clay, vetiver and/or sage. Patchouli is also listed, but it’s only there to sharpen things up, not to be noticeable.
Sillage is always well under control, but definitely noticeable at close range – just the right amount. Once the progression reaches the midpoint, it remains linear, a musky green herbal scent. It lasts all day, at least 8 hours, probably more. It’s quite a feat to produce a subtle fragrance that also has good longevity.
To my nose, Royal Vintage is a low-key, calming, meditative scent that evokes images of being out in the desert on a day when there are a few monsoon clouds starting to mill around in the sky. The first big drops of water hit the dry, dusty clay, releasing aromatic green scents from the leaves and roots of all the small plants, and these combine with the scent of big conifers in the distance. Don’t be put off by the picture of the shiny chrome hubcap bottle and the vintage car imagery used in the advertising. This is not the scent of a midlife crisis car purchase, an aging sugar daddy, a garage, or a greasy mechanic. Instead, it’s the scent of a zen cowboy communing with nature in a desert retreat. It’s fully unisex, and calmly beautiful. It’s going to go into my work rotation to wear when I need something subtle that I can enjoy myself.
Royal Vintage is being released in February, 2013, in 30 ml EdP ($89) and 100 ml EdP ($185). I hope Royal Vintage will also be released in the miniature format that’s just right for sniff-promiscuous but spray-cautious people like me, who could never even begin to use a 30 ml bottle of anything. If I haven’t mentioned it before, I really appreciate the fact that Micallef sells these 5 ml mini-bottles, and admit that I own quite a few of them.
[This review was based on a sample generously provided by M. Micallef/Hypoluxe. Product photos courtesy of M. Micallef/Hypoluxe; desert photos from Wikimedia]