Calvin Klein Encounter ~ fragrance review

Calvin Klein Encounter, ad + bottle

Salutations, readers. I’m ensconced under my scuppernong arbor tap, tap, tapping away on the old Royal, preparing a review for Now Smell This. I must hurry; the mailman will arrive shortly and my review must be ready. It’s so trying, typing whilst thinking of the hens’ yard that needs sweeping, the cardoon bitters I must brew, the yarn I’m dyeing in my new aluminum livestock tub. I also have a “note to self” here that’s hard to read (the ink’s smeared…I only use fountain pens, you see). Oh, yes, I remember: I wanted to sincerely apologize to you all for being so masculine (an awful thing indeed). Apology accepted?  

Calvin Klein PR says Calvin Klein Encounter is “modern, stylish and unapologetically masculine” just like its front man Alexander Skarsgård. Since I dislike Encounter so much, I must be Alexander’s opposite: old-timey, “homey” and ashamed of my masculinity. Any other men out there who are apologetically masculine on a regular basis? Take a whiff of Encounter and get back to me!

Encounter was developed by perfumers Honorine Blanc and Pierre Negrin and includes fragrance notes of mandarin, cardamom, pepper, jasmine, patchouli, rum, cognac, agarwood, Atlas cedarwood and musk. As I sniffed Encounter’s rather “bare” fomula, I returned to that list of notes…and laughed.

Encounter opens with noticeably phony mandarin combined with menthol-y cardamom: together these two notes give off a “minty” vibe. If you pay CLOSE attention, you may get a whiff of pepper (sprinkled on lots of warm, indistinct wood notes). Oud? Uhhhhh…. In mid-development I smell a mildly floral, strongly synthetic note that may stand in for “jasmine” (it arrives and departs quickly). The cognac and rum are missing (I think), or are they the nose-searing “alcohol” notes I smell that are like the fumes emanating from jugs of homemade liquor that would kill you if you drank more than a cup of it? Modern, and feminine, patchouli (how could this “apologetic” note appear in Encounter?) lingers in the perfume's base with more sheer woods and musk. On paper, Encounter smells like wood-mint mouthwash (more ‘interesting’ than on skin).

Is there a designer perfume division that puts out more crappy men’s fragrances than Calvin Klein? Hugo Boss is its equal, but not worse. Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and Dolce & Gabbana also love bland, mainstream formulas and pump out “new” perfumes accompanied by big PR campaigns. These days, Calvin Klein releases one junky scent after another: scents designed to appeal to the easily satisfied “fragrance” customer who cares little about originality or the quality of the ingredients in their “perfumes.” These folks must “need” a bottle of perfume the way they need deodorant and toothpaste; perfume is a product you use every day and you don’t worry too much about it. It’s unfortunate that Calvin Klein perfumes are so mediocre now; in the past, Calvin Klein put out some interesting and (for their time) innovative perfumes: Eternity, Obsession, even Escape and ck one. Over the years the quality of those original perfumes seems to have waned.

Encounter is feeble: a standard-issue, inexpensively made department store fragrance designed to make money. Calvin Klein must think “real men” smell unapologetically cheap.

Calvin Klein Encounter will be available in 30, 50 ($58) and 100 ($72) ml Eau de Toilette and in matching grooming products.

Shop for perfume

Parfums Raffy


Leave a comment, or read more about commenting at Now Smell This. Here's a handy emoticon chart.

  1. Dilana says:

    A home brewer and yarn spinner, who uses a typewriter and the sort of mail which is picked up on a hard copy by a uniformed U.S. employee and through a complex series of trains, plains, automobiles and sorters is delivered on hard copy to someone else, probably by a different uniformed person?
    This seems like an Old Spice, or Habit Rouge man, rather than a new fangled CK guy.

    • Kevin says:

      D: that guy would probably stock up on vintage perfume or wear naturals?

  2. sayitisntso says:

    I knew this would be a huge *yawn* but thanks for the review just the same Kevin. As a side note: Mr. Klein sold off the CK name years ago and these days has nothing to do with the products that bear his name. Sad; if he were still actively involved, I wonder if half these dreadful, anemic juices would ever make it to market.

    • Kevin says:

      Say: no doubt the residuals are a balm of sorts?

      • sayitisntso says:

        As I understand it, he receives nothing now. The apparel arm is wholly owned by Van Heusen and Coty Prestige holds the license for cosmetics/fragrances.

  3. Marjorie Rose says:

    I dunno, I can be a little apologetically feminine, sometimes!

    Although now I write that, it isn’t quite as funny as it could be–since feminine often connotes weakness or lesser-than status already (“runs like a girl,” etc.). :-/

    So, is there a scent that you *would* describe as unapologetically masculine? One that really takes you by the balls and says “HOOooo-aaahh!”?

    (BTW, I always love your reviews the best when they’re the snarkiest–very funny! Thanks!)

    • Kevin says:

      MR: maybe the old Eau d’Hermes…and that had a woman customer in mind! Yatagan?

    • nozknoz says:

      There are some no holds barred MPG masculines. One was so strong I got rid of the sample. Don’t remember the name, though.

      • Kevin says:

        NOZ: Route du Vetiver? My fav. vetiver ever!

  4. Omega says:

    Gosh, doesn’t sound good at all lol. I pretty much left CK when they came out with CK One. But..I do really like Euphoria and Forbidden Euphoria..I own them and enjoy wearing them:).

    • Lys says:

      Hi Omega, Euphoria isn’t my style (even tho I think it’s a well done perfume), but wanted to tell you I had a deluxe sample of the body lotion and by lotion standards it was a REALLY good lotion. Wish I liked the scent better, but recommending the lotion.

  5. Omega says:

    *Euphoria for women…the men’s I just didn’t really get much out of.

    • Kevin says:

      Omega:yes, the men’s version was dull

  6. CedriCeCCentriC says:

    I don’t get how Coty can do great things for brands like Balenciaga, Chloé or Bottega Veneta and yet, choses deliberately to make things that smell like body sprays for CK and Marc Jacobs. Don’t people expect more for their money when they buy designer brands? Or were they all brain washed when they were teens by Ann Gottlieb with her Bath and Body Works and Axe consulting? ;-)

    • Kevin says:

      Cedric: seems CK doesn’t want a hint of originality…as with the jeans and underwear, just keep the cash coming

    • sayitisntso says:

      I suppose the perfumers are at the mercy of the the companies they’re creating the fragrances for…and if CK is miserly with the budget (and clearly, they are stingy), that’s reflected in the final product….and things like Encounter are foisted upon us.

      • Kevin says:

        Say: thankfully, we can ignore them…and move on to the other 100 new releases.

  7. BChant says:

    There is no doubt in my mind this is the reason for stagnating to anemic sales growth in the fragrance market. I’m not surprised, but a little disappointed. When I first read the notes, I was hopeful and the bottle is quite nice. I agree that its a shame that a once innovative house has sunk so low.

    • Kevin says:

      Bchant: let’s hope the powers that be make the connection between boring product and weak sales…but they’ll probably blame it on an over saturated marketplace

  8. peter says:

    I tried it and it was a close encounter of the generic kind.

  9. FragrantWitch says:

    Ha. Sounds like the complete opposite of what I imagine Alexander Skargard to smell like. (Is it weird that I have imagined what he smells like?) He needs to smell like glaciers and cold greenery, sunlight dappled forest floors and with leather and suede. Mind you, looking like he does he could wear any scent couldn’t he?
    Okay, fan-girl shutting up now!

    • Kevin says:

      FW: you HAVE given it much thought!

    • Lys says:

      Fragrantwitch, your description sounds like a dream Lutens mash-up!

    • sayitisntso says:

      That’s too funny….I often wonder….”Hmm, I wonder what he/she smells like.” I’ve got way too much free time on my hands!

    • Merlin says:

      I just tried JP Gaultier’s Le Male yesterday (well it was only yesterday that I tried it, ‘got it’ and promptly fell in love with it) and I can actually see Eric, if not Alexander wearing it. A sort of spicy-fresh, ironic scent – strong, distinct and airy, all at once! Did I mention flamboyant?

      • Kevin says:

        Merlin: how did you avoid it so long?????

        • Merlin says:

          Well, I think I actually did smell it before, but just didn’t like it. I may have tried Fleur du Male straight after or straight before and have received a really bad impression as I’m often quite aversive to orange flower (dominant in FdM, though not in Le’ Male). Also, now that I am accustomed to so many more notes I am no longer repelled by strong scents my brain just can’t process! Lavender is a note I really didn’t like, but which I can now take – in very small doses; and I love both cinnamon and spearmint. So when I realised I loved it I checked up on your review and was glad to get professional confirmation!
          How did I miss smelling it on others over the last two decades? I have a really blunt nose and tend not to register scent? I’v only started paying attention in the last couple of years-

    • Elena says:

      I haven’t thought about it before, but I am very much enjoying thinking about what he smells like. I would add an animalic note, which would not really improve your well thought out list, but boy howdy would I like to get sweaty with that man! Playing tennis of course… ; )

    • damselfly says:

      Yes, I would expect him to wear something with a little more “bite” to it ;)

  10. Lys says:

    Sounds like Encounter is doing the apologizing for the unapologetic man who’s supposedly wearing it.

  11. pam says:

    We now know the reason for the existence of this fragrance: To have Kevin write a review of it! Priceless!
    I am always interested in your point of view, and this was so fun to read. Thanks!

    • ami says:

      Pam, could not agree with you more :)))
      thanks Kevin, I will sniff it to remind me of this hilarious writing and keep laughing :)

      • Kevin says:

        ami: don’t know if the perfume will inspire laughter when you sniff it, but glad I did.

    • Kevin says:

      Pam: you’re welcome!

    • Morgan says:

      yes, i loved how you pointed out how stupid their ad copy was, those ad people love to use words like “unapologetically masculine” because they know that gender anxiety can be exploited for big bucks. Hope this one is a failure!

      • Kevin says:

        Morgan: ad copy always provides me with amusement or infuriation…both at the same time often. Plus, quoting it is like having others write my “jokes.”

  12. Rappleyea says:

    I agree with Marjorie Rose above – the snarkier your reviews are, the better! But inquiring minds want to know… just what do you do with your home dyed yarn??

    • Kevin says:

      R: oh. That is just a fantasy but I could imagine knitting myself some fingerless gloves for outdoor typing? Making capes for the hens?

  13. AnnS says:

    I think my husbands t-shirts are, very regularly, unapologetically masculine :-) The only mass market men’s fragrance I’ve been impressed with lately is Spicebomb.

    • Kevin says:

      Ann: that’s a good one but certainly not nearly as “mass” as CK

      • Lys says:

        You think not? Spicebomb strikes me as very mass except for the distribution which began as single-store exclusive, but packaging, bottle design, “manly” quotient, print ad with Axe-looking model, all very mass, and very well done. Flowerbomb is as mass as they come, maybe if you give Spicebomb some time?

  14. Eva S says:

    And to think Pierre Negrin recently made the gorgeous Amouage Interlude Man! Talk about contrast…

    • Kevin says:

      Eva: sometimes you’re given money to work with!

  15. Alana R says:

    I couldn’t agree more, CK’s men’s fragrances have been lacking to say the least in recent years. I haven’t tested Encounter yet but I doubt I will. I think the last Ck perfume I bought was One, years ago now..

    • Kevin says:

      Alana…me too, and it was AGES ago

  16. Anne from Makeupwoot says:

    While I’m sorry you had a bad experience, I have to say… I LOVE it when you HATE something! The “unapologetic” (and well deserved) snark often has me in stitches. ^_^

    • Kevin says:

      Anne: best to laugh

  17. Ericgmd says:

    Kevin, nice review thank you.
    You have earned yet another pin in that voodoo doll shaped after you and that they have hanging in those big buildings in Manhattan.
    You know what struck me? It’s the fact that when a super niche fragrance (think Arquiste or Vero Kern) is reviewed on NowSmellThis, at least one comment from a reader indicates that someone else smelled it. And here’s a mass market release that sounds so distasteful but where not a single comment posted shows that anyone else even tried it!
    Whether they liked it or disliked it, I don’t care…
    Do we need to start thinking that perhaps “true perfumistas” like most readers of this blog are a breed apart?
    A corollary of this would be that Encounter could potentially turn out to be a huge hit with non-perfumistas.
    If it does, we should all drink some grape flavored Kool Aid and end it since this world would become intolerable.
    Don’t you think?

    • Kevin says:

      Eric: THAT explains my chronic back pain!!! A little male voodoo doll hanging upside down from a hot lightbulb somewhere in manhattan or NJ! I can’t believe Encounter will be a huge hit, but who knows. If it IS. Lets console ourselves with champagne instead of grape Kool-Aid!

  18. RusticDove says:

    And the commercial for Encounter is unapologetically melodramatic!

    • Kevin says:

      Rustic…indeed…murder or lust; it was hard to tell at first

      • Omega says:

        Murder..that was my thought. Like..he’s going to go up there to kill her, lol. Not really the kind of encounter I would like. Who on earth directed that? lol. Makes me really not want to sniff this one even more. lol

  19. RobWales says:

    I bought a bottle of “Encounter” without first trying it. The notes described in the press release sounded so promising.
    Big mistake.
    It’s not inoffensive, just totally bland and pointless.

    • KateReed says:

      Wow, that’s awful, when it’s too bland even to rise to the level of inoffensive!

      • Kevin says:

        Kate: HA! I think he meant “it’s not offensive.”

        • Kevin says:

          Kate Part Deux: nevermind…I see what you mean!

    • Kevin says:

      Rob: I was about to crack your knuckles for buying unsniffed but did the same thing last week with another perfume. Thankfully, it worked out better! HA!

  20. olenska says:

    I read your opening paragraph and immediately thought of Dylan, the Victrola-toting anti-modern hipster played by David Cross on Mr. Show. JUPITER’S THUNDERS!

    • Kevin says:

      Olenska: I’ll have to check it out.

  21. nozknoz says:

    Unapologetically masculine calls to mind Charles Bronson in Mandom – NOT a skinny blond guy who doesn’t look like he’s having much fun!

  22. Ayala says:

    Though I thoroughly enjoyed reading the review, I doubt I would bother trying this on… Unless it has something objectionable and intriguing in it.

    • Kevin says:

      Ayala: nothing one bit “interesting” in this one.

  23. Merlin says:

    Another Skarsgard fan here – though I do prefer him with long blonde hair! I agree with Fragrantwitch about how he OUGHT to smell – at least in his viking guise.
    By the way I do know at least one person who sees uses his perfume much like his toothpaste and soap. And, he uses Boss. But, I cant remember which, but it happens to be the ONLY Boss which actually smell really good (there really is one – I promise). And so, it all works out well…(also its kind of nice thats its all so totally UN-self conscious!)

    • Kevin says:

      Merlin: I’d love to know the GOOD Boss!

      • Merlin says:

        Huh! I’ll check up on it and get back to you!

  24. eminere says:

    Not surprised.

  25. pennypencil says:

    Wonderfully bitchy review – and probably very deserving! Sometimes you need to just let rip! I enjoyed reading this, thank you!

    • Kevin says:

      penny: you’re welcome

  26. Omega says:

    I smelled this yesterday…and it’s crap. lol.

  27. lilyboy says:

    it’s been a while since i last purchased perfume.. good thing this sounds like another pass :) happy is my wallet

    i just dont get why Alexander Skarsgård was chosen, i dont see him as a representation of ‘unapologetically masculine’.. and i dont mean that as a negative to him

    i like the ad & video on their own.. but again the tag ‘unapologetically masculine’? is it because of the blue tint?.. not so for me.. dark and nice, yes..

    anyway, lara stone looks ravishing though

  28. cologniano says:

    I tried some on yesterday, and uh, came home and washed it off. I had a Calvin Klein MAN flashback.

  29. cologneluvr says:

    I have this new from Calvin and wore it today…I do like it. Encounter is very generic and you can definitely smell the family resemblance. It is very marine, until it starts to dry down; the marine never leaves, but the oud is soft which makes this a warm, inviting fragrance without being loud.

    I am one guy who actually really likes this fragrance and most of Calvin’s. Yes they are very generic but different enough to like. I also really like Euphoria Intense for Men as well…LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Obsession and Eternity!

    But fragrance is art, it’s all in the perception of the wearer! Kevin DID NOT like this new offering, however, I very much did…yes, I do agree with his review, but still enjoy it nonetheless.

Leave a reply