Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Fall of Creed

One of the interesting aspects about the house of Creed is its unusually large portfolio of gentlemen's scents. Creed is, in fact, a house men are a good deal more enthusiastic (and quarrelsome) about than women and much of its image seems targeted at aspirational males. While I will happily acknowledge the quality of Jasmine Impératrice Eugénie, Fleurs de Thé Bulgarie, Ambre Cannelle, Angélique Encense (all of which can easily be worn by men, of course) Creed's reputation to me rests primarily on a series of very classicist masculine/unisex scents, most of which were conceived between 1975 and 1985, when Cool Water's pre-incarnation Green Irish Tweed announced a shift towards a modern citrus-aquatic and a more noticeably mainstream synthetic style embodied by Millésime Impériale, Royal Water, Silver Mountain Water, Himalaya, Original Vetiver and Santal and others (Bois du Portugal of 1987, as well as Neroli Sauvage and Royal Delight of 1994, were beautiful throwbacks to the older trad style). It is among the old school Creeds that I have found many of my most beloved autumnal scents, which rate 5 stars in my book and to which I always return. There's the soft smoky wood and sharp lavender of Bois du Portugal, the clovey-spicy herbacity of Royal Scottish Lavender; the warm sweet luxuriantly fruity Royal English Leather and its florally augmented cousin Royal Delight; the blend of outdoorsy naturalness and high end barbershop sophistication of Baie de Genièvre Feuilles de Canneliers (juniper and cinnamon); the pomander-potpourri glory of Orange Spice, the green and creamy Mysore beauty of Bois de Santal and the stunning complexity of the sweet, harsh, floral, spicy, warm, manly and formal Vintage Tabarôme. Perfect companions for thick cashmere sweaters, rough vintage Tweeds and elegant tuxedos I could do with no more than these thoughout the dark, but festive season and feel both perfectly well-groomed, elegant and comfortably insulated from the elements a well as being aesthetically attuned to them. These essences, brimming with fine naturals and eloquently quoting the traditions of 19th and early 20th century craft, truly light up autumn, like an olfactory painting of a richly colored New England forest. It is thus a shame that so many of them are no longer available, or at best as limited exclusives not affordable for middle class mortals. The fact is, when I got to know Creed, the house had already long turned towards a style which I personally don't care for and the vestiges of its former philosophy are disappearing for good. I understand that a firm has to go where the money is, to an extent, and it's not with vintage fogeys. But recent company policy seems to reflect the all-to-prevalent "keeping up with the Niche-Jones" mentality of jacking up prices while moving towards a blander "John Doe niche" style that bears the marks of Givaudan or Symrise molecules rather than a master perfumer. Autumn, for all its harvest riches, can be a melancholy season. But I find some consolation that when spring comes around, there will be some other Creed classics in my collection for now: Cypres Musc, Sélection Verte, Neroli Sauvage and Bois de Cedrat are waiting in the wings. And when these are gone for good, a handful of perfumers around the world will still be there, crafting new delights, faithful to the true artisan creed. You'll read about them here.