Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb ~ fragrance review

Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb advert

Viktor & Rolf just released Spicebomb, its second men’s fragrance (remember Antidote?) Viktor Horsting said: “We were jealous of all the women who had Flowerbomb, and we wanted to have our own bomb.”* In the same interview, Rolf Snoeren added: “We felt that if flowers were a very typical feminine scent, spices were the masculine opposite.” (Translation: Viktor & Rolf wanted to fill a grenade-shaped bottle with a men’s scent that they hope will match Flowerbomb’s great commercial success.)

I was amused that the press release for Spicebomb mentioned licensee L’Oréal didn’t do any market testing for the fragrance (they’ve been burned in many perfume reviews for the ‘market-tested’ — generic — nature of many of their offerings). Since when did giant companies make a point of denying market testing?

Perfumer Olivier Polge chimed in, “Viktor and Rolf wanted an extroverted, outspoken fragrance.”* Spicebomb’s scent is not outrageous or “new,” but the strength of the perfume (excellent lasting power and sillage) qualifies it as a “bomb” of sorts.

Spicebomb includes fragrance notes of bergamot, elemi, grapefruit, pink pepper, cinnamon, vetiver, tobacco accord, chili, saffron and leather. Spicebomb opens with sharp (cool) citrus, almost pine-y, tinged with pepper. Immediately the fragrance “warms” to reveal a streamlined and well-blended progression of non-gourmand cinnamon (to my nose, included in the perfect amount), delicate saffron-leather and tobacco notes. Spicebomb’s tobacco (somewhat like the tobacco in Serge Lutens Fumerie Turque) is ample, diffuse and elegant; it comes to the fore accompanied by a spark of chili. As Spicebomb enters its final phase, the tobacco note is sweetened (with tonka bean?). I like Spicebomb.

Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb flacon

Spicebomb’s grenade bottle (nicer in photographs than in person) wants to foist a dangerous, over-the-top idea onto a nice mainstream perfume. I’m not offended by the ‘grenade’ but I’m a little embarrassed for it — like one is for a 50-year-old friend who suddenly adopts a mohawk hairstyle and starts to shop at Armani Exchange.

As for the ad campaign, Horsting said: “Here the guy is playing with the bottle, like for Flowerbomb the woman is playing with the bottle. You really don’t know what’s going to happen, so there’s a certain tension. We wanted a certain classicism — that’s why it’s black and white. That’s why he has a classically beautiful body. But at the same time there is an action that is suggestive.”* Viktor! I know what’s going to happen: nothing! It’s an ad. It’s a bottle of perfume. And we all know there’s no room in perfume ads for non-beautiful bodies, ‘classical’ or otherwise since what is “suggestive” in perfume advertising almost always revolves around SEX (the model is orally threatening to pull the “grenade” pin). The Spicebomb video is lame…and off-putting.

Spicebomb’s roll-out does sound great: merchandising units that appear as “exploding shelves,” some Spicebomb bottle sleeves with holograms that make it appear as if the bottles are exploding, and blotters in the shape of matches. My Nordstrom had a pitiful counter display of a few Spicebomb bottles, with a broken tester, no blotters, no samples and no sales assistant in sight.

Me? I don’t need Spicebomb since I have three tobacco fragrances in rotation. But if you’re looking for a semi-spicy, sweetish tobacco perfume, try it.

Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb is available in 50 / 90 ml Eau de Toilette ($75/95) and is sold at Nordstrom, Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

* via Women's Wear Daily, Nov. 17, 2011.

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  1. Owen says:

    this actually sounds interesting! I didn’t think I’d like it at first but the review sounds good :)

    I’m going shopping tomorrow, so I’ll have a look for it and let you know what I think if I try it.

  2. eaudemale says:

    I loved the bottle, I really wanted something sweet last winter, just no this. It’s that uncomfortable sweetness I get from 1million, then I couldn’t tell if it’s a masculine fragrance.

    • Kevin says:

      Eau: it does smell masculine to me, but it is on the sweet side.

  3. Meg says:

    “Viktor! I know what’s going to happen: nothing! It’s an ad. It’s a bottle of perfume.” –lol.

    • Kevin says:

      Meg: the mind spins!

    • Dilana says:

      Is it just me, or does it look like one gentleman’s face has been photo shopped on another gentleman’s body?

      • Kevin says:

        Dilana: it does look strange now that you mention it…maybe one of the body shots needed a “better” headshot? HA

  4. Emily says:

    My Nordies had the match-shaped blotters, which were kind of cute. I liked the scent well enough on paper to make myself a sample; haven’t tried it on skin yet, though. It seemed well-done, well-behaved, and not overtly masculine.

    • Kevin says:

      Emily: Robin here at NST said her Nordstrom had it in the feminine department…strange! Maybe they are expecting loads of women/Flowerbomb fans to buy this for the men in their lives.

      • Emily says:

        Now that I think about it, Spicebomb was in the feminine section at my Nordies, too. I didn’t even notice at the time.

        • I saw this in Nordstroms same area and well, I really like it for me! And I am shocked that I like it. for me and not for just DH (who is already stealing it too). A lil dab will do ya for the whole day but in this cold weather today it’s a wonderful surprise!

  5. lucasai says:

    I’ve been willing to try Spicebomb from the moment I’ve heard/read about it some time ago. It still hasn’t made it’s way to our perfume counters in Poland. I’m patient, I’ll wait – maybe my patience will be rewarded…

  6. Tama says:

    I like Spicebomb quite a bit, and was pleased that it seems to actually have some spice in it, as opposed to Flowerbomb, which is mostly vanilla (I do like Flowerbomb). I have a prediction that this will be an aisle-crosser.

    • Kevin says:

      Tama: perhaps…but when I smelled it I didn’t immediately think: unisex. But what do I know?

  7. poodle says:

    I liked this one on paper but didn’t try it on skin because at the time I was already covered in a variety of scents and had no free skin left. Shockingly my hubby liked it so he may be getting a bottle for his birthday. I’m going to give it another test though before I do that.

    • Kevin says:

      Poodle: yes, make sure YOU can stand it because it is powerful.

      • poodle says:

        Oh that won’t be a problem. I’m a bit of a fan of some of the sillage monsters. My skin eats them up and he applies far too lightly for that to be an issue.

  8. Merlin says:

    The notes sound really intriguing! Tobacco doesn’t work too well on my skin but will have to try this anyway!

    • Kevin says:

      Merlin: “anti-tobacco?” You may have problems!

      • Merlin says:

        I know, I’m such a square!:) But Fumerie Turque was one that was nice so there is still a chance to recover my social ego!

        • Merlin says:

          Kevin, dont know whether you will read this since its on an old-ish post but I did find a tobacco to love – Mugler’s Pure Havane! The chocolatey dry-down helps too :)

  9. Thanks for the review, Kevin. I already have a bottle, and love it.

    • Kevin says:

      Hi, Carlos! I’m a tobacco fiend too…so might have bought it if my tobacco larder was not full already

  10. willread says:


    I would like to know which the three tobacco fragrances are that are in your rotation?

    • Kevin says:

      Willread: Fumerie Turque, Tabacca (Costamor) and Tobacco Vanille.

      • Tama says:

        I’ve been wanting a bottle of the Costamor for a while. I have 2 out of the 3, though!

  11. thomkallor says:

    Sniffed and picked up a sample at a Nordstrom’s in OHIO on vacation last week. FIRST mainstream release I’ve sniffed in well over a year that I wanty wanty. Maybe not a groundbreaker but WAY different than the parade of “fresh” and “sporty” men’s fare of late.

    • Kevin says:

      Thom: completely agree

  12. kizzers says:

    I bought this for myself 2 weeks ago, definitely crosses from masculine to feminine with ease. It reminded me of Tauer’s l’air du desert marocain, but sweeter and lighter on the incense.

    • Kevin says:

      Kizzers: judging just from the comments here looks like it may be a “winner” for V&R

  13. nozknoz says:

    Kevin, I was surfing around the internet last weekend and chanced upon Cire Trudon Stink Bombs – parfum d’ambience in little glass capsules that you break to enjoy. They’re almost certain to smell better than this, but there was a complete lack of classical male torsos, so V&R (or L’Oreal) do score some points. ;-)

    • Kevin says:

      Noz: I’m not saying a “classically beautiful body” is a BAD thing. HA!

  14. Ericgmd says:

    The drydown is midway between the mammoth sillage of Tom Ford Tobacco Vanille and the sweet sickening gourmand Hermes Ambre Narguile’.
    Not bad at all for a L’Oreal mainstream fragrance. They indeed took a chance this time.
    If 20-30 something guys out there are becoming sick of the generic bar hopping aquatics, this new fragrance has a chance to become a trend setter.
    Let’s hope it generates imitations.
    I personally like it a lot. Wish they had launched it last fall though…

    • Kevin says:

      Eric: I know (it would be too much for summer)…those in the Southern Hemisphere can enjoy it first I guess….

  15. KateReed says:

    Really? Because I scrolled back up to the picture after the review (I typically don’t pay much attention to the pictures, for some reason,) and my first thought was that it would have been perfect if it were just the exploding bottle image. The model was distracting in the wrong way, but the “explosion” was kind of interesting. Certainly it made more of an impact on me, my brain immediately discarded the model as “is that what’s his name from Twilight?” And then promptly said (sad but true,) “Explosion…


    • KateReed says:

      And again, I forget that “reply to” means “put anywhere you feel like it” to my phone. This (uparrow), if it shows up where it should, was a response to Noz and Kevin.

      • Kevin says:

        Kate: a lot of the ads ONLY feature the exploding bottle…I like that best too.

  16. sinnerman says:

    I simply love this fragrance! I bought it about a month ago and I can’t get enough of it enveloping warmth! With a nod and a wink to a certian Tom Ford Private collection, it’s lighter and not as sweet! And easier on the pocket! Thank you V&R for producing a collectible fragrance that blurs the gender lines and makes a man feel masculine in a sexy spicey way! I have been layering a little egoiste over the top to personalize the story! Magic, prepare for compliments!

    • Kevin says:

      Sinner: ah…the Egoiste/Spicebomb combo sounds intriguing…I’ll have to try it.

      • sinnerman says:

        Go for it man!
        Ps, keep up the great work! ! I absolutly love this site.

  17. Kristiane says:

    I do love Spicebomb on my partner – just seems to stand out a LOT from the other male scents around at the moment. Thanks for the review, Kevin!

    • Kevin says:

      Kristiane: you’re welcome

  18. AnnS says:

    Your review is interesting. I got some insert paper smell strips of this in a Nordies package and decided to try it out. I was surprised that I thought it smelled pretty good and different enough from the norm. There was a note I couldn’t quite get from the scent strip, and now I read it’s the chili. I’d wear it. I find the bottle kind of ridiculous, but it’s definitely decant worthy and I’d love to actually try the real thing on skin.

    • Kevin says:

      Anne: I like that little bit of chili…not too much of it.

  19. sergelutencio says:

    I do not know if you can face the scene, but I’m a Brazilian middle-aged guy with a Moorish aspect who speaks a poor English, I imagine myself in an American airport trying to board back to Brazil with a hard to find bottle of Spicebomb in hand luggage, after some “caresses” of U.S. agents can you guess another destination for me but to Guantanamo.

  20. sergelutencio says:

    Hey Guys if I went too far with my comment you can erase it, but I just wanted to show that in dangerous times we live in is at least distasteful to launch a perfume with a glass like this.

    • Kevin says:

      SLCio: Well, this is one to put in the checked luggage! (or maybe not..I guess an x-ray would make the bottle look even more threatening).

    • nozknoz says:

      SL, you’re right, I wouldn’t want anything labeled “bomb” with me when I travel and, to be honest, I don’t find anything sexy or chic about exploding devices in these times we live in. And I thought Flowerbomb was a dumb idea to begin with because it sounds like “bug bombs” (insecticide), which certainly don’t smell good at all!

    • AnnS says:

      I agree with you too – it’s distasteful, esp. given how many civilians and military get injured or killed by weapons and explosives every year. It is not a sexy concept. I hadn’t thought about travel – I can only imagine how awkward that would be. I guess a good decanter would be best.

  21. Thalia says:

    I think the bottle is hideous, and I agree that the whole “bomb” concept is unappealing/in poor taste to begin with. Still, as a woman this sounds much more like something I’d wear and enjoy than Flowerbomb does! I love tobacco scents — I wear Cabochard a lot in the winter.

  22. Subhuman says:

    It’s not a spice bomb – more’s the pity – but I like Spicebomb as well. It comes close to cloying with that vanilla/cinnamon combo, but the leather and tobacco do a brilliant job of reigning in the sweetness and keeping it grounded. The fragrance has a satisfying “roundness” and heft to it, in contrast with much of the screechy, thin stuff marketed to men these days.

  23. eminere says:

    I like Spicebomb as well, for all its slightly lame marketing.

  24. I really love this cologne. Heard about it months ago when it first came out and I pretty much assumed it was going to be for teenagers and adolescants due to the cheesy bottle, so I never made a point of checking it out. A few weeks ago I happened to be in a Nordstroms where they had a tester out though and I gave it a try.. to my surprise, I loved it! They had little 1ml samples out and the gentleman at Nordstroms was very happy to let me take a couple. I tried it out on a few occasions going out and it’s definitely a winner – I received more than one compliment on it from a few females who I’m around pretty often and rarely go out of their way to compliment me on my constantly changing cologne! The sweet and spicy together is something that I really like about it. This one certainly is an either “you love it or hate it” scent it seems for most people.

  25. relleric says:

    Tried this yesterday at SFA, it reminds me a bit of both Bang and LL Au Masculin. I get no tobacco, it seems more like pepper and anise.
    I do like it and will have to try it over several wearings. I doubt if I will end up buying it.

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