Calvin Klein Man ~ fragrance review

Calvin Klein Man fragrance advert

Eternity and Obsession (in men’s and women’s versions), Escape (for women) and cK One are the six Calvin Klein fragrances I like. The Eternity, Obsession and cK One scents are all so “instantly recognizable” (and commercially successful) that I find them ‘difficult’ to wear.

Perfume People are an annoying bunch. We like fragrances with individuality, originality, and we like to smell different from the “masses.” We are drawn to exclusive scents. Any perfume that’s wildly popular, even if we like it, even if it stands out from the perfume pack, often does not get bought and worn by Perfume People because “Everybody’s wearing it!” I love Christian Dior Fahrenheit, but I rarely wear it because on the days I do, I am stopped in elevators, in line at the coffee shop, by the postman, and told: “You are wearing Fahrenheit.” Yes, I am now leave me and Fahrenheit alone! I hate my perfume snobbery but can’t seem to overcome it.

I don’t have to worry about such petty perfume concerns and my character flaws with the new Calvin Klein MAN cologne. It’s a nice fragrance but even if millions of men wear it, it won’t scream its identity to the world — it fits snugly into the men’s mainstream fragrance mold.

Calvin Klein MAN contains rosemary, mandarin, bay, nutmeg, incense, spearmint, cypress wood, and, oh dear, the usual (and overused) fragrance notes of bergamot, violet leaf, guaiac wood, sandalwood, amberwood (which is in LOTS of fragrances this year) and musk. Calvin Klein MAN starts with bergamot, cypress, a bit of bay and violet leaf. Nose boredom sets in immediately, but then the scent freshens thanks to mentholated rosemary and spearmint. (I like minty fragrances, but if you don’t, you may have trouble with the mid-section of Calvin Klein MAN.) The mints mix nicely with a subdued, unburned incense aroma; the heart of the fragrance with its minty incense is my favorite part of Calvin Klein MAN. As the mints calm down, I can detect one of my favorite notes: nutmeg. Too bad the nutmeg signals the start of the fragrance’s classic (or if you prefer “conventional”) warm finish of guaiac wood (with a tinge of rose aroma), sandalwood, amberwood and musk.

Calvin Klein MAN is a well made fragrance and it, along with Narciso Rodriguez for Him and Tom Ford for Men, make a pleasing trio of new mainstream men’s scents for fall and winter. But I’m not thrilled with any of these colognes and I’m left asking the question: why must all these masculine fragrances be so TAME? As with many mainstream men’s fragrances, Calvin Klein MAN is just too smooth, too ‘laundered’ and ‘well-pressed’ for my tastes. I’m frustrated as I think of what Calvin Klein MAN might have been — what if its spearmint and rosemary had been amplified, what if guaiac wood’s rosy element had been accompanied by a medicinal rose accord, and what if Calvin Klein MAN’s ‘incense’ had been burning, instead of simply sitting in its unopened cellophane-wrapped box?

Calvin Klein MAN is available in 50 and 100 ml Eau de Toilette.

Note: Kevin will be incommunicado until 13 October; please feel free to comment if you can wait that long for a response!

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I wish some of the bigger houses would take a few chances, but I guess even the presence of minted rosemary is chance enough for them..

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Kevin, I think this is my favourite review of yours so far. “Nose boredom” – lol!

    And your comment about the previous pop CKs being “all so instantly recognizable (& commercially successful) that I find them ‘difficult’ to wear” aahhh such words of wisdom and truth! i totally agree!

    In relation to your whinge about these latest releases all being “tame” – have you smelled Gant Adventure? Still my favourite men's scent. It's still the standard citrus-herbal amber-musk, but it's actually interesting!! And sexy!!


  3. Anonymous says:

    Sniffed this today, and lo' and behold, it smells like Usher He, Hypnose Homme, Polo Double Black, Baldessarini Ambre, Guess Suede, etc., etc. It always seems each label wants to capitalize on their share with their version of sweet-smoky-woody orientals and the last trend of fresh orientals before that, and the trend of fruity-something before that! I think Usher He is the most “laundered” of the aforementioned, and like a hypocrite I bashed Double Black on the Basenotes website, but now it seems to smell the most interesting of the lot to me. Even more scary is that I want a bottle of Double Black now! Ack!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Tom: I was trapped in Amsterdam airport for five hours yesterday and went into every duty-free perfume shop there…surprised how DULL everything was on the shelves…the men's stuff was the worst…but men would pop in and ask the clerk: “What's selling?” AND THEN BUY IT! K

  5. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Rosie…I've not smelled Gant Adventure…I'll find it and give it a try, K

  6. Anonymous says:

    iMav: the sameness of all these scents drives me nuts. Have you tried the new Tom Ford yet? That's my favorite of the current mainstream crop…but I'm still hoping DSquared's HeWOOD is interesting…. K

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hi Kevin, welcome back! Hope you had a wonderful trip.

    Haven't smelled Tom Ford yet, no Saks in my area, and I lost to two eBay auctions for samples of them. I've read many people were begging for more from the scent, either concentration or “that certain something” to take it over the top or set it aside from the rest. Hopefully I'll be able to snag a sample soon.

    Most of the time, I take it casually sniffing new mass market scents just because of that reason….they all smell the same! I think I'm in a mode of desperation, I needed another spark in the perfumery world to bring about another sensation, the way Dior Homme did to me.

    I was hoping for a lot with Diesel's Fuel For Life. Sure enough it's a powdery fougere, but it was rather linear and nothing in it seemed to really grab me like Fahrenheit 32's powdery fougere composition with a full orange blossom and leather-like notes.

    I did find a little treasure though–Cedar EdP, from the new L'Occitane 4 Winds collection! Sorry to speak blasphemy in front of many Terre d'Hermes fans, but I think this should've been the approach Ellena should've considered rather than his composition of orange peels on a big stack of cedar planks sitting in the desert which left me parched!

    Cedar starts off bright and resinous with grapefruit and sap (the best part, IMO), then a desert vibe with cumin and tobacco leaves, quite possibly in its green state because it still remains bright and not the dried variety for smoking would impart. You catch a slight impression of leather as well, and as the (atlas) cedar emerges at the base you catch a slightly mentholated kind of vibe from the cedar's camphorous quality from the wood, like that of Opium pour Homme, and finally a low hum of cedar (like that of Td'H) at the end. There's tonka listed at the base too, but only enough to smooth out all the edges and keep you from getting parched like Terre d'Hermes. Overall feel is a soothing and uplifting feeling giving proper homage to a Moroccan oasis as the L'Occitane website refers its inspiration from.

    HeWOOD seems to be another beacon of hope, I'm standing vigil there as well, and isn't it funny how Lalique's Encre Noir seemed to squeak by all this time after its introduction last year? I've been reading raves about it recently. I was prepared to buy it blind, but vetiver in anything can be a hit or miss with me because I can be really finicky with vetiver's bitterness.

    Hope you give Cedar EdP a try despite my long-winded description tainting your judgement now, hehe! — iMav.

  8. Anonymous says:

    iMav: WELL! After your Cedar description I'll be running to L'Occitane tomorrow to try it! And I really enjoy Encre Noir…Robin sent me a sample after SHE bought it unsniffed…I don't find it bitter at all. As for HeWOOD…I had a bottle in my hand in Venice and the damned sales woman would NOT open a test bottle or give me a sample! I didn't see it anywhere else in the places I visited in Italy. So close, and yet so far, K

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hey, I find CK Man rather sexy too. I mean, I walked past this guy at a Calvin Klein counter who was trying the fragrance, and of course putting aside his good looks, the fragrance on him sorta accentuates the sexy, iconic male that Calvin Klein Man is supposed to portray. It's a good fragrance. Fresh, yet spicy and woody.

    Actually, another one of Calvin Klein's fragrances that I personally like is Calvin Klein Euphoria Men. I got that for my guy-friend for his birthday. It is sexy as well, and manly. :)

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