John Varvatos Star USA ~ fragrance review

John Varvatos Star USA advert

John Varvatos’ target audience for the Star USA line, clothing and fragrance, is “adults” (men in their 20s and beyond), but the effect of the name “Star USA” coupled with the new fragrance’s container — part beer bottle (note the metal-spring cap), part subway token (top) and part “microphone” — is more ‘Adolescent Avon’ than ‘Modern Metro-Man.’  (The bottle does fit with the Star USA m.o.: “being a little off.”1)

Star USA was developed by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux and includes notes of red ginger, juniper berries, cédrat, blue spruce, cardamom, osmanthus, vetiver, Belambre and tonka bean. Star USA starts off with a sheer, very mainstream (verging on generic) accord of citrus, ginger (zingy, but fleeting) and juniper-spruce. The opening is crisp and a tad menthol-y. I don’t detect any osmanthus (too bad!), but there is a hint of cardamom in Star USA’s early and mid-development.

Judging from past Varvatos perfumes, I assume the designer or his creative team — or Flores-Roux (a Givaudan perfumer) — adores Belambre and Serenolide2 (two Givaudan fragrance molecules that, in our simple times, can almost create a ‘perfume’ on their own when combined). Belambre and Serenolide smell of (non-specific) wood and sweet, fruity-floral musk (not feminine at all). Star USA’s base smells of these notes — there’s light orange blossom, maybe some “citron”-musk and wood. Flores-Roux also developed John Varvatos Artisan and Artisan Black, and when I sniffed Star USA, I immediately recognized a “family” resemblance; Star USA reminds me especially of Artisan Black.

John Varvatos Star USA bottle

Varvatos wanted Star USA to “take a risk and push the walls out and do something different,”3 but Star USA is just a clean, “nice” (inoffensive) perfume for men. The only way Star USA strongly differs from recent Varvatos perfumes is the bottle design (other Varvatos fragrances for men come in flask-shaped bottles). As for the other aim: to create a classic fragrance with “the lasting appeal” of “Chanel No. 5”? I’ll be kind and just say: no comment.

Star USA is the type of department store scent that will probably appeal to a wide audience — everyone from teens to grandfathers. That’s its strength…and weakness (if you like distinctive perfumes).

John Varvatos Star USA is available in 50 ($55) and 100 ($70) ml Eau de Toilette.

 

1. Women's Wear Daily, 7/8/2011.

2. You’ll recognize Belambre and Serenolide if you’ve smelled either of Varvatos’ Artisan fragrances.

3. Women's Wear Daily, 7/8/2011.

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12 Comments

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  1. Rictor07 says:

    I smelled this the other day in Sephora. The cap is a real pain in the ass to operate first of all. I agree that the scent does bear some resemblance to other Varvatos offerings. Vintage is still my favorite of the bunch.

    • Kevin says:

      Rictor: yes, the cap was hard to deal with….

  2. ceelouise says:

    Sorry, this is off topic, but I wanted to share somewhere, and Kevin, you had asked about De Profundis. I tried my wax sample of De Profundis last night. It was nothing like the little bit the SA dabbed on my arm at the Salons du Palais Royal! (I was there on Sep 1 when it came out!) I did not remember any mint, and what I got from the wax sample was mint and then minty leather. Either my nose was already exhausted that day in Paris or the wax samples don’t represent the perfume well. Perhaps I should post this elsewhere…who else finds the Lutens wax samples are not like the perfume sprayed? Anyway, I got lavender, then some chrysanthemum, then lots of mint and spicy leather. Compelling to sniff, but not to buy. Too masculine for some reason, in my mind. Perhaps it would make a good more exclusive Declaration de Cartier.

    • Kevin says:

      Ceelouise: glad you wrote…hope to have a De Profundis sample in my mitts soon (not wax, thankfully). I never liked the wax samples myself

  3. Jeremy says:

    I found this yesterday, and it was definitely a YAWN to me. I know I’ve smelled it before, but can’t place it. A shame, because I actually thought the bottle was kind of fun and quirky.

    • Kevin says:

      Jeremy: the musk in the base seems to pop up in lots of men’s perfumes.

  4. sjas1962 says:

    Its all about the money. Creativity is in VERY short supply in the fragrance market these days. Its out there…so keep looking for it and skip this monstrosity.

  5. eminere says:

    I really don’t like the bottle, especially when compared to the previous ones.

  6. pigoletto says:

    I believe Flores-Roux also did the Varvatos Woman scent (apricot woods), and the first Hilary Duff scnet, With Love (mangosteen ambery woods) – while pretty tame, both a heck of a lot better than the berry-patch-vanilla concoctions that had/have been overflowing the market.

  7. Tom Smith says:

    I am a really big fan of both Artisan and Vintage – have both bottles.

    What I would really love would be an Artisan eau de parfum or something to make it project and last. It,s so nice but so subtle.

    I can’t see myself liking USA judging by your review. The other Varvatos offerings are amongst my most “conventional” fragrances I own, and this one sounds even more staid.

  8. Tom Smith says:

    I am a really big fan of both Artisan and Vintage – have both bottles.

    What I would really love would be an Artisan eau de parfum or something to make it project and last. It,s so nice but so subtle.

    I can’t see myself liking USA judging by your review. The other Varvatos offerings are amongst my most “conventional” fragrances I own, and this one sounds even more staid.

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