musings on music and life

December 31, 2015

Davidoff Hot Water and Red Shirt

Filed under: Colognes — Tags: — sankirnam @ 6:25 pm

A lot has happened in the last month, and since the catastrophe with the rain and flooding in Chennai, my schedule and all my plans have been up in the air. I was incredibly busy with attending and performing concerts during the annual music season in Chennai, as well as organizing and overseeing my father’s 60th birthday celebrations (the sashtiabdapoorthi in Hindu culture).

On a lighter note, I finally opened a new bottle of cologne I had been saving for Christmas.


I saw this bottle in a couple of perfume stores during my travels last year, and immediately purchased it through Amazon. The draw for me was not that I thought this would have a unique scent but the fact that this is a Star Trek-branded cologne! Being a huge Trekkie, I was intrigued.

Unfortunately, this cologne is almost identical to one that I have been using for several years now… Davidoff Hot Water.


The similarities between the two make me feel like Red Shirt is a slight reformulation of Hot Water – it may have been made by the same company or the same person with a slight tweak of the base to make it different. Red Shirt has a bit more of an aquatic base to it compared to Hot Water – the spicy notes are muted, but the overall “heart” is the same. I think they may have just upped the dihydromyrcenol content in Hot Water to make Red Shirt. This seems to be in vogue nowadays – making men’s colognes that smell like soap or detergent, and unfortunately results in a lot of products smelling bland and characterless.

I guess this eventually happens once you start collecting colognes; you will encounter a lot of variations and imitations of original scents. I guess this just speaks to the success of the Davidoff house and the Hot Water cologne. I personally like Hot Water, although the reviews I have read tend to be mixed and it has not achieved the same success as the iconic Davidoff Cool Water.

Before I finish: Happy new year, everyone! I hope to increase the frequency of blogging somewhat (which will require me to lead a more active/ interesting life so that I actually have stuff to talk about), learn programming, web development, and hopefully get a job! Musically, I am hoping for more concerts, while collaborating and performing with more senior artists and talented young musicians. I also hope to FINALLY do AIR (All India Radio) grading this year and perform an HCL concert in the Madras Music Academy, allowing me to make progress towards my dream of performing in the Music Academy in December.


August 17, 2015

Yves Saint Laurent Kouros

Filed under: Colognes — Tags: — sankirnam @ 11:07 am

I got this cologne as a birthday present for myself this year, and after only wearing it twice, I have fallen completely in love with it. I had sampled it previously in airports at duty-free shops, but there is nothing that compares to actually wearing a cologne – it is not just about a smell (or combination of smells), but the combined olfactory and emotional experience that wearing a cologne gives you. You simply don’t get this from sniffing swatches of paper.


Kouros is one of the early creations of the legendary perfumer Pierre Bourdon, who later achieved everlasting fame with the creation of Davidoff Cool Water in 1988. It has a very abstract, musky smell, described by Luca Turin (Perfumes: The A-Z guide) as:

[…] the tanned skin of a guy with gomina in his hair stepping out of the shower wearing a pre-WWI British dandified fragrance: citrus, flowers, musk. It has that faintly repellent clean-dirty feel of other people’s bathrooms, and manages to smell at once scrubbed and promissory of an unmade bed”.

Turin’s description is very apt – I am reminded of a bathroom when I smell this, but not in a bad way. The idea of the bathroom in this cologne is not overpowering, but it is there, and it is not the idea of a dirty bathroom either; there are no indolic notes that I can detect (which would otherwise remind one of an uncleaned bathroom). To see what I mean, apply this cologne when you are in a bathroom. The bathroom will smell absolutely fantastic! In fact, I think YSL should also consider making this same scent into a bathroom air freshener.

Roja Dove (The Essence of Perfume) states about Kouros that:

The animalic, leathery base, sweetened with Jasmine, is what gave the scent its sensuality and originality. It was launched as the first fragrance to celebrate the beauty of the naked male form, a theme that was going to be picked up by many [fragrance] houses either side of the Atlantic”.

This marketing strategy was indeed reprised in the 1988 launch of Davidoff Cool Water and a number of Calvin Klein fragrances.

But one also has to remember that this cologne was launched in 1981, and as such some people may perceive it as a bit dated. In my opinion though, it has stood the test of time. I’m not sure if it has been reformulated or not since it was launched, but either way, it is still a great cologne. For an EDT, it is very strong – it lasts over 12 hours on my skin. It is moderately priced too; a 100 mL EDT bottle costs around $40-45 on Amazon.

June 13, 2015

Random observation

Filed under: Colognes — Tags: — sankirnam @ 11:37 am

I just noticed that the fragrances used in the following 2 products are the same:

Hugo_Boss_Hugo_Man Old Spice Pure Sport

This is a testament to the absolute insipidity and lack of creativity of the folks at P&G fragrances as well as the genius of the marketing people; for those who don’t know, the Old Spice brand is owned by P&G, and the Hugo Boss perfumes are also made by them. It seems that the Hugo Boss Man cologne has (fortunately) been discontinued, since I had trouble finding it on Amazon. On the other hand, being able to reuse such a bland-smelling formula in an Old Spice body wash is no mean feat, especially since Old Spice is now undergoing renewed popularity thanks to some new marketing campaigns.

May 21, 2015

Bvlgari Black

Filed under: Colognes — Tags: — sankirnam @ 2:23 pm

I got this a few months ago upon reading Luca Turin’s review in Perfumes: The A-Z guide. Since then, I’ve worn this cologne on and off on a number of occasions and grown to like it.


Bvlgari is more known for their women’s merchandise, such as dresses and handbags. Thus, it is surprising that such a well-known fashion house does not have that many popular fragrances. Black is surprisingly not that popular, and is only regarded by perfume aficionados. It was released in 1998 and designed by Annick Ménardo of Firmenich. Turin has this to say about Black:

“Binary accords having been exhausted, what she [Ménardo] did was increase the number of dimensions by one. Black sets out boldly into space on three axes: a big, solid, sweet amber note; a muted fifties Je Reviens floral note (benzylsalicylate) as green as a banker’s desk lamp; and finally a bitter-powdery, fresh rubber accord such as one encounters in specialist shops or while repairing a bicycle tire puncture”

My own experiences with the fragrance profile of Black are similar to Luca’s. I do notice 3 different smells coming together, but to my nose, the prominent ones are the burning rubber smell and a “vanillic” odor. Ménardo must be given credit for developing this “burning rubber” smell. Those who are familiar with the smell of actual burning rubber (or burning car tires) will be immediately repulsed as it has a very acrid, stinky, pungent odor. Burning rubber owes its awful smell to the breakdown of the disulfide crosslinkers; upon burning, these are released as thiols, which are notorious for their foul odors. On the other hand, what is in Black is merely reminiscent of that smell; it is actually Lapsang Souchong. The vanilla angle in this perfume is also rather pronounced (at least to me), so much so that this could actually be worn as a purely vanillic perfume if you are OK with the “burning rubber” angle.

Unlike other colognes, Black was constructed without an olfactory pyramid. Instead, one of the components will smell stronger than the other at different points in time, and this effect is pretty much uniform throughout the time it is worn. In my experience, which one is perceived as stronger seems to be a random effect. It could be that it is not at all random, since I have not tried to track this effect properly.

The shape of the bottle (reminiscent of a car tire) and the smoky angle may lead one to think that is a purely masculine cologne, but it is actually unisex. The bold vanilla angle makes one think of female executives being able to sport this perfume.

There are two more things that deserve mentioning. This perfume seems to evoke strong reactions in most of the people I know who have smelled it. There is no middle ground; you either absolutely love it or find it revolting. My father says that the smell reminds him of squashed bedbugs (!), but I guess the fact that I like this cologne means that I have managed to suppress those memories. The other thing is that the smoky odor here is fundamentally different from that found in other popular men’s colognes. Ralph Lauren Polo and Antaeus Pour Homme (Chanel) also have smoky odors, but those are derived from the use of tobacco.

This is available on Amazon. 75 ml EDT for $31, so it’s not that expensive. I wouldn’t say that this is a super strong perfume; the sillage is average. But keep in mind that this is like a work of art, so the beauty of this perfume is in the subtlety of design.

December 6, 2014

Davidoff Cool Water

Filed under: Colognes — Tags: — sankirnam @ 8:25 pm

Davidoff Cool Water is a legit cologne, but it’s very success has become its fatal flaw. Because it is popular and so widely used, if you use it, and a lady friend tells you that you smell nice, chances are, you’re reminding her of someone else. If you’re young and dating impressionable girls for the first time, then this is a good purchase, and will ensure that you will be forever tied with the olfactory memory of this cologne in their minds.

Developing your own “unique” scent is a complex task, and research has shown this is tied to the MHC (major histocompatibility complex). There is a hypothesis that people select colognes/perfumes that amplify or reveal their immunogenetics. This due to another hypothesis, that individuals are attracted to those with opposite immune genotypes. Evolutionarily, this could be due to the necessity of preventing inbreeding.

Developing a unique scent also requires sifting through the thousands of colognes available today, and unfortunately, most modern ones are crap. I’ll return to this topic more later.

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