One of this blog’s readers asked a question about BLACK, the bespoke fragrance of Markham men’s lifestyle brand in South Africa. If BLACK is no longer available, what can replace it? Like many things we have got used to in our lives, the COVID-19 pandemic and the quarantines that came with it have led to some products no longer being available. But fragrance, like music and art, is something that is intensely personal to each person. You know what you like – and you stick with it.
(Above) BLACK Eau de Parfum Spray, for Markham by Earthgro Fine Fragrances
Question from a reader
“Hi Max, I’m so much in love with this perfume (Markham Black) but they have recently discontinued selling it. What is the closest perfume you can recommend as a replacement? I find it difficult to use any perfume because I don’t like strong ones. Markham Black was the best for me anytime.”Joseph Motupa
Perfumer Max Millies, after having given this some thought, says that the replacement depends on which note of the perfume you have fallen in love with – was it the first top notes – your first impression, the middle notes – which are the body of the fragrance, or the base notes that develop later and linger the longest? He answered the question in three parts.
The first note – cool marine
“BLACK Eau de Parfum Spray has three major scent profiles. The first one is a soft, smooth, melon-like marine freshness, something reminiscent of the Cool Water for Men series of fragrances, by Davidoff.”
(Above) Cool Water Man Eau de Toilette, by Davidoff for Men
The second part – green notes
“Then, the second, middle note is a Fougere, a typical intense masculine note, which smells of lavender and tonka bean, with green notes. It is a little like Green Irish Tweed, by House of Creed.”Max Millies
(Above) Green Irish Tweed, by House of Creed – “A classic, as the old adage tells us, never goes out of style. Like a perfectly tailored suit, Green Irish Tweed has been and continues to be worn by confident men at the peak of their field. The fragrance elegantly combines woody freshness and pure masculinity, equally suited to a stroll through the Irish countryside and a strut down the red carpet. One of Creed’s best-selling scents, to wear it is to be unforgettable.”
Fougère in BLACK is one of the main olfactive families of perfumes, and a classic element in men’s fragrances. The name comes from the French word for “fern” – hence the “green note”. Fougère perfumes are a blend of fragrances, it could contain lavender flowers or oakmoss, derived from a species of lichen, which smells woody, sharp and slightly sweet, and coumarin, similar to the scent of new-mown hay.
The third part – Ambrox
“The last part, the base note, which is a major element of the sillage (the aura or trail created by a perfume when it is worn on the skin) of BLACK, and which is much esteemed, contains Ambrox, musk, and gourmand notes.
Ambrox is an almost magical ingredient, and it is a classic component in perfumes. It was created in 1950, and you might not even know it but you have probably smelled it, and loved it, in any variety of perfumes.
The inclusion of Ambrox makes BLACK reminiscent of Hermes’ range of L’Ambre (Ambra) fragrances for women, or Paco Rabanne’s series One Million for men.
The combination of these three elements gives BLACK its sensual, warm, Ambergris-type signature.”Max Millies
(Above) L’Ambre des Merveilles Eau de Parfum (meaning “the amber of wonders”), by Hermes Paris. This perfume for women contains the main raw materials perfumer’s amber, patchouli, and balsam from Peru.
“Ambrox is typically used as one of the base notes of perfume compositions, due to its extremely lasting velvety effect which oscillates between an impression of ambergris (salty, smooth, skin-like), creamy musky & labdanum-like and with ‘clean’/blond woody facets in the mix too. In short, [it is ] a fascinating molecule that presents itself as a prism through which different facets can shine. Its reception is undoubtedly one of positive response: You’re hit with something that smells warm, oddly mineral and sweetly inviting, yet it doesn’t exactly smell like a perfumery or even culinary material.”From PerfumeShrine, edited by Elena Vosnaki
(Above) One Million Parfum, by Paco Rabanne for Men – described as “Salty pulse: “tuberous salty” textured by amber woods. Leather opulence: accord ‘solar leather’ patinated with notes of resin and pine.” The One Million series of fragrance products by Paco Rabanne includes perfume (parfum), eau de parfum, eau de toilette, shower gel, after shave lotion, and deodorant.
It depends on the blend
What makes BLACK so attractive is that it is made of high-quality, high-impact ingredients, like amber/Ambrox that have been carefully combined and balanced. As you now know, what you smell in BLACK compares well to the best perfumes in the world.
The choice and combination of components in BLACK means that while the fragrance is rich, sexy and sensual, it will be subtle, not overwhelming or sharp. You can still smell good, even when you only use a little bit.
So, our reader will have to choose which aspect of BLACK he likes best, and pick a perfume accordingly.
It’s also about how you smell to others
Interestingly, the comments from women buyers of classical men’s perfumes that contain Ambrox, like BLACK, and One Million, shows that a perfume is not only a pleasure for the one who wears it, but also for the person who is close enough to smell them.
(Left to right) Members of the One Million Nation: rapper joey bada$$, model Alton Mason, model Levi Dylan
One person commented that the smell reminds them of their boyfriend’s warm neck and that she finds it irresistible. Someone else wrote that it’s their boyfriend’s signature fragrance, and that they – not their boyfriend! – swears by it.
But this online comment about One Million puts into words what wearing a sensual, but not overwhelming, perfume feels like: “I wear this everywhere. To the store, to work, while mowing the lawn. I smell like a fancy Italian guy at the club with a really nice haircut. This scent is a crucial piece of me that I’ll forever need.”
Of course, there is nothing exactly like BLACK, since every perfume’s make-up is unique and the creation of one perfumier, or “nose”, but until it comes back on the market, you now have some suggestions on what to use instead.
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