Columns Addicted: My Perry Ellis Time Machine

Addicted: My Perry Ellis Time Machine

08/02/16 10:25:10 (16 comments)

by: Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

 

Simple Minds, "Don't You (Forget About Me)", 1985.

 

"But when from a long-distant past nothing subsists, after the people are dead, after the things are broken and scattered, still, alone, more fragile, but with more vitality, more unsubstantial, more persistent, more faithful, the smell and taste of things remain poised a long time, like souls, ready to remind us, waiting and hoping for their moment, amid the ruins of all the rest; and bear unfaltering, in the tiny and almost impalpable drop of their essence, the vast structure of recollection."  Excerpt from Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust

Do you remember the first perfumes of your adolescence? Have you had the experience where a long-forgotten aroma wafts under your nose and transports you to another time, a long forgotten memory suddenly alive and as poignant as ever?

One of the very first fragrances that launched during the years when I initially became aware of scent as a pre-teen was the classic Perry Ellis for Men. The year was 1985, Madonna and Simple Minds were big on the radio, The Breakfast Club and Back to the Future were in the cinemas, and Guerlain Derby and Obsession for Women were new to the fragrance shelves. Big orientals and chypres were in vogue and the pastel hues of Miami Vice inspired men's fashions.

The current version of Perry Ellis for Men, ca 2016

Growing up as a young child in Florida, I regularly visited department stores like Jordan Marsh, Burdines and J Byrons, and I distinctly remember the holiday season of 1985/1986 when small glass sample vials of the new amber juice from American Designer Perry Ellis were being given out along with samples of Poison and Kouros. Each time my mom came back from the cosmetic department (still unknown territory for me at that time; I avoided it and lingered in the toy department), I ended up with another Perry Ellis sample and soon it became a kind of signature for the 11 year old me. I already knew the designer name from the clothing and the magazine ads with the handsome male model; along with Liz Claiborne, Ellis was a mainstream American label with affordable, on-trend designs and the brand that most filled my pre-teen "dress-up" wardrobe. 

Perry Ellis Men ads, ca 1985

At the time, approaching the fragrance counter was both new and a little scary for me. I had picked up a bottle of cologne a year or so earlier to sniff it only to be scolded by a saleswoman to "Put it back or it might get broken!" I was red in the face with embarassment and anger and it took a while to risk going back. When I eventually felt brave enough to again walk up to the fragrance counter that winter of '85 I was entranced by a rounded, rectangular, transparent glass flacon with an elliptical indentation in its middle and what appeared to be a black onyx and white ivory cap. It was truly striking.

But oh, the aroma! A sueded amber-vanilla with an airy-green accent (galbanum!) in the topnotes and honeyed carnation overtones and mossy spices in the woody-oriental base that conjured images of chocolate brown corduroy, photos of shadow-laden sand dunes from National Geographic and campfires in autumn. Mesmerizing. And hey, when I read the name on the bottle I immediately recognized it - Perry Ellis!

A Parfums Stern creation (who also developed scents for de la Renta, Cher and Deneuve; now defunct), the bottle was available in both the smaller rectangle (splash cologne and aftershave, as above) and the vertical rectangle (spray cologne, seen at top of article). Notes included: Top: Aldehydes, basil, green notes, lemon, lavender, verbena, bergamot, fruit notes, galbanum. Middle: Carnation, jasmine, thyme, mandarin, rose, pepper, pimento, cyclamen. Base: Amber, benzoin, incense, leather, moss, musk, tonka bean, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood, civet, opoponax, vanilla. 

Perry Ellis for Men was a precursor to 1986's Obsession for Men, and in fact you'll see many of the same notes in both compositions. Whereas Obsession is a cinnamon powerhouse, Perry Ellis is richer with a fuller, sweeter heart, bright green topnotes, and a more leathery, animalic base. But they are undoubtedly close cousins.

And those who have worn and enjoyed Perry Ellis are passionate about this scent. For example, Fragrantica member Highroller wrote:

This fragrance is classified as Royalty of fragrances in my opinion. Beautifully crafted. The 1980's released some real gems and this is one of them. I feel so fortunate to have some of the original left and because I take very good care of my fragrances this one from 1985 has weathered the years well and has not deteriorated. I put this on yesterday and was amazed at the preservation of the scent. It took me back to that year when I bought this bottle. I had just started touring with my Metal band at the time, the memories came pouring in with every whiff. The Carnation, Oakmoss and Galbanum stand out exquisitely upon opening. The Rose and Leather notes ooze warm lust into the mixture while Vanille lingers in the background like a voyeur. Bergamot keeps his clothes on and sleeps throughout this seductive orgy never really coming out to play with the rest of them, which is a good thing because bergamot's clean sharp snap would have whipped and evangelized these passionate lovers out of their sinful aromatic pleasures. The sillage of this fragrance is Nuclear, sending an olfactory invitation to your den of Lustful delights. This fragrance was never given a name, But I will name it 'LUST' because that name fits it perfectly. You simply cannot stop smelling this fragrance once you have it on and a good thing this one has mega longevity because this bad boy is going on 20 hours without stopping and it gets sexier as the hours roll on. Perry Ellis, if you are reading this review do whatever it takes, spend your whole fortune trying to recreate this masterpiece you made back in 1985. The new reformulations of this don't do it justice. Please get this back to us. It is like heroin to all of us fragrance addicts, we need it.

The author (right) at age 13

Although the aroma might have been a bit mature for a pre-teen, I certainly didn't care and wore my samples of Perry Ellis with pride. It stands as a hallmark of my initiation into the world of perfumery and I used those samples for a good 2 or 3 years. When finally I was able to have my very own bottle of fragrance at age 14, it was not Perry Ellis, so familiar to me by that point, that I chose but Obsession for Men. And that was the end of Perry Ellis.

Fast forward to 2005 and an "Anniversary Edition" was suddenly available on the market and I couldn't have bought it fast enough; the opportunity to travel via scented time machine was enthralling. I'm not sure when exactly it launched but it retained the original bottle shape and smelled remarkably similar to what I remembered with two slight differences: the opening had an even airier, almost fruity topnote that I didn't recall being so pronounced; and the basenotes were only a shadow of their former glory. Still, I enjoyed wearing it and was happy to have a path back to 1985, even if the aroma was not identical. I owned it and enjoyed it for a few years but a cross-country move encouraged me to downsize my collection and so the Anniversary Edition and I once again parted ways.

Last year, 2015, I decided I wanted, no needed, a vintage original bottle and was surprised to have found one on Ebay for a pretty decent price (~$35 USD; comes in a box with the name Perry Ellis in cursive, as a cologne concentration, and with the name Parfums Stern on the bottom of the glass bottle). The anticipation between ordering and the arrival of my original Perry Ellis for Men was immense and I was so worried that I would receive a harsh and unwearable fragrance. 

The package finally arrived and I practically ripped the box apart to get at the fragrance. Yes! It read "Cologne" just as pictured on Ebay! Yes! It read Parfums Stern on the bottom; it was indeed vintage! Happy Magic Dance!

And then I sprayed it. Total time machine. It was everything I remembered though a little shaky in the opening. I could tell time had played its cruel trick on the magnificent amber juice as it seemed somewhat fractured overall. But I didn't care; I sprayed and sprayed with abandon. How exciting and strange to re-encounter an old friend so many years later. It was as if the 40 year old me could suddenly glimpse the 11 year old me. I worried the nostalgia might be too much, but was pleasantly surprised that I only recalled good memories wearing my original Perry Ellis for Men. I'm curious to purchase a modern bottle and see how it compares with the other two versions!

What are your time machine brands or scents? 

 

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

Managing Editor & Columnist

Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison’s journalism in the fragrance industry has appeared in international print and online publications such as PlayboyMen’s JournalMen’s Health and the New York Times. Marlen is also a regular contributor to BeautyAlmanac.com and works as a graduate professor, thesis advisor and faculty supervisor for MA programs in TESOL, Education, Writing and Literature. Learn more about Marlen by visiting www.MarlenHarrison.com.

 



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Macassar
Macassar

KL Homme Lagerfeld

V.O Jean Marc Sinan

Derby Guerlain

Bel Ami ( vintage ) Hermès ....

Sep
26
2016
odoro
odoro

Men's Fragrance flashbacks:

original British Sterling. Thanks to Fragrantica I knew not to buy a new formulations so hunted eBay for an original. When it arrived and my husband wore it, it was like meeting him all over again.

Dominica Bay Rum - as potent on him as ever. Every wearing is like the first time.

Aug
17
2016
lunamystic
lunamystic

Thank You Marlen, for the most interesting article topics!
@Luna_J , YES to time travel!! From a perfume I tested in a vintage fragrance shop. Without remembering that my Mom wore it when I was a toddler/very young girl(until I was transported back in time to her pink shag rug bathroom, with her singing to me).Next thing I remember is a very confused sales clerk asking me if I was OK, then I rushed to my parents to ask my Mother about the fragrance . I still get goose bumps thinking about the experience :)

Aug
17
2016
Gemini66
Gemini66

Wow, my Time Machine scents are all pure 80's,I just received my favorite (Armani Eau Homme) yesterday! I hadn't owned a bottle of this since the late 80's but firmly remember buying a bottle of it as a gift to myself from my 1st paycheck from my 1st summer job at a bank.I sprayed some(a lot) on before I even left Jordan Marsh!Perry Ellis I remember buying with my last paycheck to wear when I started school in September,I had met a really great fragrance mentor while working at the bank and P.E. was his signature scent.I liked the way it wore on him and decided to try it for myself.It was a little mature and refined for a high school sophomore then,but I'd like to try it again as a 50yro now to see if I've now grown up enough to carry it off.It's odd that most of my most purchased fragrances all hail from the same decade.Perry Ellis,Paco Rabbane and esp. Eau Savage Extreme are all among the scents I am looking to rediscover! Higher Love by Steve Winwood and Chaka Kahn,In the Air tonight by Phil Collins, Sweetest Taboo by Sade,and Whats Love got to do with it by Tina Turner are hits from my fragrance soundtrack from those days.

Aug
06
2016
juniemoon
juniemoon

I just noticed in the recently added column Avon Raining Violets from 1972 and I almost cried. I once and a while wondered whatever happened to this wonderful cologne. This was when I was 17 years old and I still remember vividly how beautiful this smelled and why in the world they would discontinue it. Why is it so damn hard to find a reasonably priced pure violet fragrance anywhere these days? I have been looking and looking everywhere even on line and there is nothing. I can't really afford a hundred bucks for the one made by Guerlain. So frustrated.

Re: the video of Simple Minds at the top of the column - Jim Kerr, what a hottie he was back in the day! And the Perry Ellis model - not too shabby either, okay I'm gonna stop now, a little too much wine and divorced four years and no dating will do that to a girl if you know what I mean.,,,

Aug
06
2016
Luna_J
Luna_J

The time machine factor is fascinating to me, as I do not always experience it with reformulations, and, on those rare occasions when a vintage bottle comes my way... There it is, quiet but uncompromising proof that the "it's all in your head" rationale for tolerating reformulation has definite - very physiological- limits.
Here are the dates and efficacies...

A recently purchased thrift-store vintage bottle of Old Spice = fully functional time machine back to Xmas of 1985 or 86; current Old Spice aftershave (not spray) is a respectable (pardon the term) close shave in the heart notes, but I miss thecreamy opening.

Reformulated Grey Flannel purchased in 2015 (moss-less, newest, 'clear' formulation) = time machine sniffing the neck only, sadly. No Earl Grey bergamot top note hit, rainy-day vetiver, no gothic damp chypre base. This was my first, great serious cologne purchase back in high school and a bona fide masterpiece to boot. How was I to know?

Reformulated Dior Fahrenheit purchased in 2015 (new box with the black border)... a whisper of time machine in the heart notes, accompanied by a sore-throat inducing synthetics. This was beyond sad. From around 1990-92 - the years I met and fell in love with my partner - I'd worn the first and best formulation. I recently found a late 90's bottle at a thrift store and lo and behold, was back there again, and grateful to have not been as careless with my love life as I was with fragrances.

P.S. – A fun side tangent might be to ask whether a fragrance has ever caused you to time travel without knowing why. For me it was a brand new bottle of Eau Sauvage – where had I smelled it first, I wonder?

Aug
04
2016
KittyCute
KittyCute

Unforgettable. Salvador Dali Pour Homme - By Salvador Dali. 1987,,, Oh sweet memories. My first purchase. I mean the 1st one on my own budget. :) It was a gift for my Father.

Aug
04
2016
faerywren
faerywren

I must get this for my husband. I've been trying to expand his fragrance horizons of late. He's a die hard vintage Lagerfeld Classic guy, but I'd love to smell some other vintages on him!

Aug
03
2016
raygsoko
raygsoko

Thoroughly enjoyed reading your article. I always like hearing of other people's euphoric recall experiences and how it takes them back to a time that they remember so vividly in their life. All because of a particular scent.
Thank you!

Aug
03
2016
highroller
highroller

Thank you Marlen for the honorable mention. We do need this original Perry Ellis back in our lives. Oh, how the tears will flow when I spray the last drops of my original from 1985. I know extreme as it sounds, but a fragrance addict is no different than a drug addict, we are so passionate about our hobby. Perry Ellis, please help us. We are foaming at the mouth from neglect and restriction.

Aug
03
2016
sniffmaster
sniffmaster

Only 2 perfumes can take me straight back to the 80's, Kouros & Aramis

Aug
03
2016
matty64
matty64

My earliest recollections of a proper cologne I purchased for myself in the early 80's was JHL by Estée Lauder. My secondary scent memory was the original Kouros by YSL. Last but not least was the infamous Quorum by Antonio Puig.

Aug
02
2016
Bigsly
Bigsly

There are at least 3 distinct formulations, AFAICT, the original being the softest yet most complex. The others are interesting as well, though probably not of interest to the Bleu de Chanel/Sauvage generation (or even the Acqua di Gio one either!). The thing I like about the original is how the florals are integrated into a "masculine" scent, unlike some others (Insense being an obvious example), where it seems so ham-fisted. It's one of the few vintage scents I would not want to give up, if for some reason I could only possess a small number of bottles.

Aug
02
2016
ChrisInBrooklyn
ChrisInBrooklyn

Oooh, I remember this. It was a great juice and a great bottle design! I recently re-purchase Lapidus Pour Homme, which was my 80s flashback moment! BTW I'm sure my Lapidus is a new reformulation and still smells great, exactly as I remember it...

Aug
02
2016
perfumecritic
perfumecritic

@hsuru4u: I've been eyeing the same bottle, deterred by the harsh negative reviews (one reviewer called it "bilge water"!). I don't know, I might just have to take the plunge!!! If you do, please come back and tell us about it!!!

Aug
02
2016
hsuru4u
hsuru4u

funny..i am thinking of getting the new reform for 12.00 for a 5oz bottle....i never smelled the original so that doesnt matter to me...i want to know if it can stand on its own with the new formulation...sure it wont please dihard original fans but thats ok by me....

Aug
02
2016

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