This Movember I shall not only be sporting a dodgy looking moustache in support of raising money and awareness for men’s health, I shall also be celebrating all that is manly, specifically taking a look at four of the most important and wonderful masculine fragrances available on the market. In general, the world of masculine fragrance can be relatively hit or miss, as many men want to simply ‘smell good’ rather than be adventurous with their scent. That’s not to say that all men are conventional when it comes to fragrance however, and right through history the industry has seen a consistent trend of masculine rule-breakers that prove for incredibly interesting olfactory journeys.
When it comes to rebellious and rule-breaking masculine fragrances, no house is more prevalent than Yves Saint Laurent. In the world of YSL a man should not be afraid to smell like a man and three of their most notable scents – Kouros, M7 (now reissued as the slightly lighter ‘M7 Oud Absolu‘) and Rive Gauche Pour Homme – are strong examples of how masculine fragrances can be both challenging and wearable.
Kouros was created by perfumer Pierre Bourdon (Serge Lutens’ Féminité du Bois, Dior’s Dolce Vita and Davidoff’s Cool Water) and launched by Yves Saint Laurent during the decade where perfumes were loud, proud and stonkingly huge – the 1980s. Kouros of course, is no exception to this and those who are familiar with it will know that it is a completely distinct composition that even after 32 years on the market, is entirely unique amongst its contemporaries.
The inspiration for Kouros comes from the Greek Gods, taking its name from the Ancient Greek statues that depict masculine youth. It will be no surprise then, that this fragrance is a statuesque composition housed with a columnar bottle and supported by an advertisement showcasing the oiled-up and rippling abs of a modern Adonis. In short, there is absolutely nothing small or subtle about Kouros.
[Top notes: coriander, bergamot and artemisia. Heart notes: clove, patchouli and jasmine. Base notes: leather, oakmoss and vanilla.]
Straight out of the bottle, Kouros’ initial blast will most likely send one into fits of revulsion, especially if one isn’t used to delving into the blockbuster scents of the ’80s. In one hit one’s nose is delivered a whirlwind of scent, from the spice of cool mountain rock to the warm smell of sun-kissed bodies. Early on, the sweet sparkle of bergamot is challenged by an unsettling dose of clove, creating a signature that is entirely unique and absolutely unmistakeable.
What makes Kouros so interesting (and unique) is the dynamic between dirty and clean. On the one hand the core of the fragrance is a squeaky clean dose of bright, white orange blossom, evoking the image of a freshly cleansed bathroom, whilst on the other it is surrounded by a big spicy haze of animalic warmth, that conjures up the image of hot, well-tanned and sweaty male skin. In terms of skank-level, Kouros is incredibly human and is much more of an ‘open-shirt, smooth-chested’ kind-of-a-scent than anything remotely beastly.
In the base, Kouros retains the spicy facet shrouded in civet that gives it that human-funk but it cools down dramatically, with lactonic layers of white incense and vanilla coming together to make an intriguing and contrasting dry down. As with many YSL and Pierre Bourdon creations, Kouros (especially in the dry down) is exceptionally well put together and today stands unparalleled as one of the most fascinating masculine fragrances ever created.
Kouros is a brazen, bold and brawny scent. It positively proclaims its masculinity from the highest peak and it dares to be overtly and genuinely sexual in an industry where ‘sex sell’ but is rarely delivered. If the Kouros man were to sport a moustache for Movember he would go for the Tom Selleck, Freddie Mercury ‘Chevron’ style, one that shows that he is a true ‘80s god of the discotheque.