The Life Aquatic: Yachtsman Fragrances
I am always intrigued when a new niche perfume line is launched, and in this instance it's almost a literal occurrence, because the scents in the new Yachtsman line all have a seafaring theme. Four perfumes have just been introduced, five more will be released over the next few months and still more are on the horizon for release in 2011. I have been testing the current batch, named Home Port, Cabo, Tobago and Zanzibar. As you may has guessed, the unifying theme is exotic ports-of-call around the globe, with each fragrance purporting to embody the essence of its namesake destination. Needless to say I was happy to see an original idea for a new perfume line that was not all about “edgy” weirdness or a clichéd, overtly sexual approach. The Web site is attractive, the packaging is clean and nautical, and the latitude and longitude of each place is listed on the bottle under the name, which is a novel touch. The advertising tag line is “exceptional fragrances” which is definitely a bold claim to make in the crowded field of fragrance marketing. So how well do they live up to their premise?
Well, there is good news and bad news. The good news is that a couple of them are promising and I would actually wear them – except for the bad news part, which is that just as they are beginning to develop past the top notes and fly their true colors, they disappear. The other bad news is that two out of the four have a generous dose of something in them that's a deal breaker for me most of the time: synthetic “marine” notes. Yes, the dreaded Calone (a.k.a. The Kraken in my book) has raised its ugly head. I really don't know if that's the only chemical used to create the so-called marine note impression in these scents, but there is plenty of it here. Anyone who likes aquatic fragrances would probably want to try these.
The signature (Dare I say flagship? Yes, I do!) fragrance in the line is Home Port, a traditional hesperidic/aquatic masculine. It is pleasant in a comfortable sort of way, and since the home port of the company's owner and avid sailor Jon Verde is New Orleans, it has tobacco, leather and oakmoss in the base, leavened by bergamot, citrus, iris, mint, lavender bamboo, patchouli, “ocean” and basil. The marine note is quite prominent at first and then it settles down into the deeper notes, but unfortunately it's pretty much gone about an hour or so. I actually liked it more than I thought I would, so it's too bad that it does not last longer. One would expect that a fragrance with the listed base notes would have better longevity. It's one of the very few scents with a synthetic marine character that I have found to be wearable.
Cabo is an ozonic fresh citrus and herbal blend and is the most marine-heavy of the quartet. It starts out as the kind of thing that people who love Cool Water and its endless array of imitators would really like, but it soon takes on a dry, soapy character. The confluence of the marine accord with tangerine, cedar and clary sage was just not my cup of seawater, since it gets a little scratchy and I was hoping for the emergence of a juicy tangerine, but it is held captive by the astringency of the other notes. It is a very lightweight formulation and does not last long on my skin except for the lingering effects of the marine note. I was trying to figure out what it reminded me of when it hit me: motel soap. It smells just like the soap from a no-frills beach side motel I stayed in once; its most luxurious amenity for the guests was a large freezer for the fish they brought back from their deep-sea charter boat adventures. If you like this style of fragrance and don’t mind reapplying throughout the day you can go wild with Cabo. At these prices ($37.50 for 60 ml) you can splash away.
Tobago is the one I thought I would like best on paper, but in truth it’s the least harmonious of the set once it hits my skin. It's a fruity scent, most of which is supposed to be citrus, but there is some kind of very sweet and clingy thing in there that makes it smell like far too many mainstream fruity/floral/amber concoctions. If I smelled Tobago at the mall it would not surprise me in the least, as it just does not stand out from the crowd. Listed notes are mandarin, tangerine, lemon, frangipani, rosemary, wisteria, allspice, oakmoss, vetiver, tobacco and ginger. I have to say that I don't really get any of these very clearly, because whatever the synthetic woody-amber note is, it's blowing everything else out of the water. I will concede the allspice and wisteria since both of these are sweet, but of the rosemary, tobacco and vetiver there does not seem to be any trace, and if there is any real oakmoss in Tobago I will eat my sailor cap. Naturally, it is the most long lasting of the group and I actually had to scrub it once, it had taken such a wrong turn on me. (On the other hand, one of my sisters was quite taken with it, so maybe it’s just me.)
My favorite among these scents is Zanzibar, which lacks any marine accords. It's refreshing without having any “fresh” notes, but it does have cucumber, and before you recoil in horror, it's better behaved than what I have smelled in many more expensive scents. Cucumber and melon can go horribly wrong so easily, but here it's a quiet and natural partner for lemongrass and citrus. The heart notes are vanilla and spices, including nutmeg for which I have a particular fondness, and the base is balsamic and softly woody. Of all of these it's the one I would actually buy, but it does a disappearing act no more than an hour after application. I don't know if it's my skin, or just that it's a very diluted formulation, but something that has teak, cedar patchouli and frankincense in the base should have a little more staying power. I tested it in both hot and cool weather conditions, and indoors as well, and it did not seem to matter. On the plus side, it's perfect for hot weather because it will never get too strong, and it's only barely sweet. I would really like a stronger version of Zanzibar so I could see it through the drydown before it goes to Davy Jones' locker.
I think that the concept here is fun and captivating, but the execution needs work. The quality of these “exceptional fragrances” is somewhere between the latest Escada resort fragrance and the kind of inexpensive perfumes that are made for tourists and sold in cute little gift shops. These could be amazing if they had more longevity and better materials. The concentration of these fragrances is not listed on the bottle but I would be surprised to learn that any of them were stronger an an Eau de Toilette. I hope the next wave of Yachtsman scents is not overburdened with too many marine notes and that more thought goes into the ingredients. There are just too many better niche and independent perfume lines from which to choose, but these would be fine for people who don't really care about fine fragrance and just want something light, fun and good for wearing in summertime. I wish them well, I really do, since the concept for this line appeals to my romantic side. (Full disclosure: I currently have my Facebook page language set as “English Pirate” so it’s obvious that I have a fascination with the sea.) Carded samples and roll-on travel minis are available on the Web site if you don't want to take a chance on a full bottle.
Disclaimer: I acquired my samples of the Yachtsman fragrances from an online promotional giveaway.
Image: Sailing photo via Wikimedia per Creative Commons Share-alike license, taken by Wiki contributor “DS” in 2007.