Let’s just get the bad news out of the way now: Brut no longer comes with a darling little necklace glued around its collar. The good news is that English Leather still has its wooden cap. As for how the fragrances have held up over the years, I can’t say, since I haven’t smelled the old versions. But, in my opinion, both fragrances still have their charms.
A quick visit to Brut World informs us that Helen of Troy Brut is the “Essence of Man.” Brut World doesn’t give a lot of information about the fragrance, except to describe its ten products, six of which are forms of deodorant. But it does provide a long list of features defining the Brut Man, including: “He has conviction, but is never convicted.” (Always reassuring.) “He has been the hundredth caller.” (Not sure if this means he’s won at a game show or what.) And my favorite, “He prefers things shaken, not stirred. But he will stir for others if that’s what they like.”
Fabergé launched Brut, created by the aptly named Karl Mann, in 1964. This is a review for the Cologne, which Brut World helpfully adds comes with an “easy grip handle.” Its notes include lavender, anise, lemon, basil, bergamot, geranium, ylang ylang, jasmine, sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli, oakmoss, vanilla, and tonka bean. In a nutshell, Brut smells like sweet funk.
When I first cracked open the bottle of Brut, a strong, oily fougère hit my nose. I hastily resealed the bottle and went for the English Leather instead. But the smell of Brut clung to my fingertips, and long after the English Leather had faded I kept going back to the Brut, finally daring a splash on my arm. Once the alcohol burned off, I got a sweet, almost spearminty citrus with a twist of something fetid.
Brut is thick and loud, and I can’t imagine it blending well with anyone’s body chemistry, but it's kind of addictive. Something about that smell of full garbage bags in August riding along with a sugary, citrus-lavender fragrance compels me to smell it again and again. The essence of man? I don’t know, but I’m intrigued. Brut has hefty sillage and a moderate lifespan.
Dana Classic Fragrances English Leather was released in 1949. The Dana website says, “English Leather is a fresh chypre fragrance that opens with citrus and develops into a fuller masculine scent composed of mossy, woody and leather notes.” What I smell is lime and bone dry wood.
My dad always had a bottle of English Leather in the bathroom, although, come to think of it, it may have been the same bottle all those years. The wooden cap was starting to crack. I don’t remember him smelling like the dry, incense-tinged wood I get from English Leather now. A touch of lime peel and pinch of basil round out the quiet fragrance. I don’t smell any leather at all.
English Leather quickly retreats on skin and fades within an hour enough that I have to press my nose right against my arm to smell it. Still, it’s fresh and subtle and a nice surprise. English Leather may knock Revlon Jean Naté off her pedestal as my new favorite summer refresher.
I see a company called MEM also sells English Leather and advertises it as the original. The packaging looks nearly the same. Anyone know anything about that?
Both Helen of Troy Brut Cologne and Dana English Leather Spray Cologne are widely available at drugstores.