Weekly Fumes: Classic Cologne by Old Spice

John Preston

First off, the bottle of Old Spice that I’m reviewing is the Classic Cologne, also called Original, and is about five years old.

I’m not sure if it’s been reformulated since then, but I suspect the bottle currently on the shelves is pretty much the same smell. The original formulation was released in 1938, and despite my somewhat advanced years, I have never smelt it. The blue Sports Whitewater version is altogether another beast and I suggest you don’t approach it, ever.

An interesting thing to do with Old Spice, if the thought of sampling it scares you, is to spray some onto the back of your hand (I decant mine into an atomiser) and ask someone to tell you if they recognise it or what it makes them think of. Considering the most common recollections people have of this genuinely iconic fragrance – a quick game of word association offers up ‘dads’, ‘uncles’, ‘old-fashioned’, ‘overpowering’, ‘traditional’ – the blind responses may surprise. ‘Powdery’, ‘flowers’, ‘unisex’ and ‘warm’ are some of the descriptions told to me based on a blind sniff of the fragrance alone – which hardly fits your archetypal, butch alpha-male aftershave.

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For me Old Spice is all about carnations – it’s the dominant note to my nose – along with, yes, various spices but predominantly clove and cinnamon. It goes on strong and tingly but after 30 minutes, retreats somewhat and becomes a smother and close to the skin hum of gentle florals and smooth woods. There isn’t much development after this.

Unlike other low-cost and enduring men’s aftershaves, such as Brut and the more upmarket Aramis, Old Spice is a shapeshifter and can smell quite different depending on the wearer, so try it before you buy it.

I was surprised by Old Spice and like many others dreaded that it would be – and even thought I remembered it being – crude and synthetic and dated. It’s none of these. It’s not what you would even categorise as fresh smelling – again, something you might have imagined – but it is initially invigorating and individual.

Projection is conservative and after a couple of hours it’ll just be a lingering memory, but its exceptionally low price point means you can re-apply with abandon.

I have never knowingly smelt Old Spice on a woman, but I bet it would work wonderfully. Get down to Boots and give it a go!

Old Spice Original Aftershave 150ml, £9.60

About John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.