Calvin Klein Dark Obsession ~ fragrance review

Calvin Klein Dark Obsession advert

Maybe it’s because I have a stomach ache as I write this, but reading the ingredients of Calvin Klein Dark Obsession makes me queasy. There’s unripe mandarin, super-caffeinated guarana, green, sticky absinthe, herb-y sage, fir balsam!, vanilla and vetiver, labdanum and suede. I need to burp. A dark obsession should sound better than this, shouldn’t it?

On skin, Dark Obsession is even worse than “on paper”; it smells like women’s hairspray from the 1980s — cheap, harsh, and loaded with synthetic aroma-chemicals. How to describe such stuff as nightmares are made on* (forgive me, Shakespeare). I have a scent memory of my little sister, a true slob as a child: she is playing with her dolls, and scents as varied as plastic, soda pop, waxy “chocolate” lip gloss from the Dollar Store, and bundles of artificially-flavored “spaghetti” licorice come to mind (this licorice was often wrapped around my sister’s fingers and wrists like jewelry, staining her skin pink, while awaiting de-tangling; she seemed to always have a strand of this candy dangling from her mouth). Oh, and there’s the scents of Pucker “Puck-Puck” Bud, our Lab, who sat at my sister’s side, licking (or chewing) her doll-babies -- when he wasn’t eating licorice himself. The dry-down of Dark Obsession smells like Bud’s dog shampoo: a mix of penny lollipops and a barbershop — its air hazy with discount talcum powder.

Dark Obsession is a mess. The only good thing I can say about it is that it smells better from far away than up close.

Calvin Klein Dark Obsession

Whoever runs the Calvin Klein men’s perfume division has obsessions alright, but they must be centered on the half-naked men in the perfume advertisements. I’m getting tired of the same old dark photography, the six packs, shaved chests…the serious expressions (the models seem to be thinking “If I frown or look worried or mean, I’ll be mysterious and sexy!” Wrong!) The Calvin Klein men’s fragrances franchise has a dated, “vacant,” and worse still, inexpensive, vibe; it needs a jolt, a new aesthetic — in the ads and especially inside the bottles. Bring on the sunshine, “happiness,” a smile or two — and, most importantly, high-quality juice.

Calvin Klein Dark Obsession is available in body spray ($15) or Eau de Toilette ($55-69).

*Our revels now are ended. These our actors/As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air, into thin air;/And, like the baseless fabric of this vision/The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces/The solemn temples, the great globe itself/Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve;/And, like this insubstantial pageant faded/Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff/As dreams are made on, and our little life/Is rounded with a sleep.
— 
The Tempest, IV.i.148–158.

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56 Comments

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  1. Subhuman says:

    “Calvin Klein Dark Obsession is available in body spray…” Hah! Of course it is.

    I’ve given up on the Calvin Klein fragrance line. They were my gateway into perfumes, but nothing they’ve made since, oh, Truth or Contradiction (2000-2001) has interested me at all beyond a cursory department store sniff. “Dated” is exactly right, and vacuous, too. Whatever spark they used to have – in fragrance, in advertising, in “vibe” – fizzled out years hence, and now they’re just coasting. Disappointing, actually. My first-ever fragrance was a CK One knockoff, and I remember the intangibly cool cachet the Calvin Klein brand carried in my mid-’90s youth.

    • Kevin says:

      Subhuman: yeah…I don’t think there’s any “cool” associated with Calvin Klein these days. They are like Perry Ellis…Liz Claiborne…brands that fizzled long ago.

      • Rictor07 says:

        Speaking of Perry Ellis fizzling, i was at macys the other day and the SA told me that Spirited is already taken off the market due to bad sales. That one was only released a few months ago.

        • Kevin says:

          Rictor: yep…this stuff comes and goes so FAST these days. And did Perry Ellis EVER have a perfume “hit”? Can’t remember it, if so.

          • pyramus says:

            I think the first Perry Ellis men’s scent in 1985 was a pretty big deal: it was all over the place, at least in Canada, and was still available until at least a couple of years ago (Basenotes says it’s discontinued now, though). And I think the original 360º for Women in 1993 made a splash, although it wasn’t a runaway hit on the order of say Bulgari Thé Vert or Gaultier Classique (both released the same year).

            Perry Ellis hasn’t released anything worth a damn since Reserve in 1997. That one is a really, truly excellent men’s scent, though. (2006’s 360º Black for Men wasn’t a complete atrocity, although it smelled better on the blotter in the store than it did at home on your skin.)

          • Kevin says:

            Thanks, R: I guess Perry Ellis wasn’t on my radar perfume-wise.

      • ockeghem says:

        Oh, but Liz Claiborne! I’m going to date myself here, but that was probably my first “adult” perfume…granted, it was about 1988. That red plastic triangle bottle! (I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m going to say Jean Nate and Lady Stetson and the Primo knockoff of Giorgio…and the lilac roll-on perfume in a plastic doll bottle I got from St. Nikolaus one year…are not adult perfumes, though I have fond memories of the lilac.) But I laughed, reading this, because by 1990 I was SO over Liz Claiborne! And yeah, Calvin Klein has been totally cheapened over the last decade+ — clothes and perfumes.

  2. Kelly Red says:

    That is one of the funniest reviews I’ve read in ages! LOL Little sister scent memory will stick in my mind way past its due. Thanks.

    • Kevin says:

      Kelly Red: you’re welcome!

  3. ladymurasaki says:

    Oh dear… sorry about your indigestion, Kevin lol. I’ve been bored and disappointed by CK fumes for years, your review doesn’t surprise me.

    • Kevin says:

      Lady M: I know…sometimes I wonder: “Why bother?” when it comes to the CK men’s fragrances.

  4. Tiara says:

    Who wouldn’t want a scent that “smells like Bud’s dog shampoo: a mix of penny lollipops and a barbershop — its air hazy with discount talcum powder”? And the model in the photo looks as if he, too, may have indigestion.

    • Kevin says:

      Tiara: HA! He does…those tortured abs!

      • Sajini says:

        Just looking at those abs is giving me IBS

    • AmyT says:

      I was thinking constipation, myself.

  5. Rictor07 says:

    Kevin, i agree with you about everything. This stuff was horrible to behold. I cant remember the last CK i had a positive reaction to.

    • Kevin says:

      Rictor: I think I’d have to go back to the NINETIES to find one I liked…maybe CKOne when it first came out…the women’s Escape (which smelled “new” for its time)….

  6. irisfreak says:

    Hilarious review. You had me at the dog licking doll-babies. Has anyone put out a scent called Wet Dog?

    • Kevin says:

      IrisFreak: I don’t think so…but there’s a plant that grows in the woods here in Washington state that smells exactly like wet dog. Since I don’t have a dog now…I find that scent comforting.

  7. Dilana says:

    I think it is becoming imposible to tell our faux fragrance write ups from those now offered by the real companies.

    ” There’s unripe mandarin, super-caffeinated guarana, green, sticky absinthe, herb-y sage, fir balsam!, vanilla and vetiver, labdanum and suede.” That sounds like those restaurant menus from the 90s (or was it the 80’s?”) that listed every single ingredient and flavoring in the hope that there would be one which a diner could not resist.
    However, even that list sounds like ingestion. “Unripe mandarin?” Is there anyone out there who smells o(r eats) unripe oranges. Does “super caffeniaed guarana” smelll different than lightly cafinated? Does anyone care about caffeine levels in their fragrance anyway?

    I have always found Calvin Klien photographs of models particularly unappealing. At least that gentlemen appears to be over the age of 13. Unfortunately, he also looks like that what he really needs is a laxative. To be honest, it sounds like your poor dog may have had digestive problems too, if he kept eating your sister’s candy.

    • Kevin says:

      Dilana: Bud had a cast-iron stomach. No doubt gained by eating my grandmother’s cooking and my sister’s candy (he lived a long time, by the way…15 years!)

      • Dilana says:

        15 years of digestive happiness on licorice and your grandma’s cooking? Maybe your family ought to start a pet food business.

    • nancyg says:

      Dilana, I thought maybe Kevin was having us on and quoting from a piece in the Onion…

  8. annemarie says:

    I wonder who the perfumer was for this one? Whoever s/he is, they are keeping low. Was it your sister?

    • Kevin says:

      annemarie: HAHAHAHAHA! I hope not!

  9. RavynG says:

    hey Kev! what does your sister wear now? (and after that cameo she deserves a big bottle of it for her birthday this year!)

    • Kevin says:

      Ravyng: she doesn’t wear perfume!

  10. AmyT says:

    Black, white, six pack, ho hum. I swear ads for Obsession looked like that 25 years ago.

    I think the fact that I regularly see Calvin Klein fragrances on the $19.99 shelf at the local drugmart says something about their current cachet.

    • Kevin says:

      AmyT: the company is in a rut it seems.

  11. Arielle says:

    Thanks for the warning, Kevin. Your review was most entertaining – pity the juice isn’t.

  12. cologneluvr says:

    OK, odd man out here, but I actually like this cologne. I do agree that CK has not had a good fragrance since the Nineties, but I do enjoy this one. Furthermore, I also agree that CK has lost it’s cool factor and appeal and has gone the way of the dinosaur brands aforementioned.

    • Kevin says:

      CologneLuvR: thanks for steppin’ up! CK should thank you too. It seems when I hear people talking about CK these days…or buying CK stuff…it’s SHEETS of all things!

  13. cologneluvr says:

    Thank you Kevin. Yeah, when I was younger, I couldn’t wait to have something from CK and would cherish it when possible, but now, it’s like, “Well it’s nice, but doesn’t have that WOW! factor.”

    I miss the days of Brooke Shields and nothing coming between her and her Calvins!…lol.

  14. nancyg says:

    This review had me laughing out loud – thanks, Kevin. And the model looks like he’s having some kind of intestinal problem or perhaps acute appendicitis…
    The notes sound like they were cleaning out the refrigerator and mixing all the leftovers together.

  15. Poppie says:

    Loved this review. So much truth about the current state of mass produced and marketed global fragrance production and advertising. Too much dreamy escape, it is getting boring.

  16. bookwyrmsmith says:

    I liked the scent on a card (was saving skin for testing Chanel Coco Noir that day with work right after -so I didn’t want a crazy mixture going on at the mandatory store meeting-well maybe I SHOULD have they all KNOW I’m nuts anyway.).I may get some (mini sze at least) when it hits the discounters .I like the men’s Eternity Aqua better than the Femme version that would be targeted at me. I think that both original Obsessions are very nice (am planning on getting the men’s eventually).

    • Kevin says:

      Book: yes, I still like the Obsessions (the originals)

  17. stinker_kit says:

    I enjoy and wear Calvin Klein Truth. It is a little known gem and not as easy or as cheap to acquire as some of the others. CK One has a permanent home on the refrigerator door as a few spritzs of this are quite reviving on oppressive summer days and during hot flashes. Pretty much everything else is abysmal. The scent of your candy eating, plastic doll wielding, with dog companion, sister could have a future!

    • Kevin says:

      Stinker: maybe one of those companies in Japan would be interested…I know there’s a stinky sock cologne!

  18. Omega says:

    I thought I got a Hypnotic Poison note in this..therefore..it seemed almost unisex.

    • Kevin says:

      Omega, a woman could wear it…but can’t imagine one doing so unless under duress!

  19. Dusan says:

    Kevin, I love you for the second paragraph alone! :-D
    I haven’t loved anything CK since Truth and the truth is I don’t think I ever will, not at the rate they’re churning out these bug sprays, anyway. Thanks for the hearty laugh, though :-)

    • Kevin says:

      Hello, Dusan! (and thanks). CK apparently can’t be stopped

  20. poodle says:

    That was a great review. I have a good idea of what it smells like now and I won’t be rushing to try it. CK used to be so big. Sad how the mighty have fallen. I was never a big fan of any of their stuff (original Obsession was okay I guess) but they’ve really had some clunkers.

    • Kevin says:

      Thanks, Poodle: Ck did have a long run…all things peter out!

  21. pigoletto says:

    ‘Super-caffeinated guarana’? People care what that smells like? Or what it is? If there ever was a focus-group scent, this is it.

    • Kevin says:

      Pigoletto, CK always adds’exotic’ ingredients (in theory) to its perfumes. I’ve had a guarana soft drink….

  22. eminere says:

    I wonder why it is so difficult for the folks at CK to come up with a decent fragrance.

    • Kevin says:

      Eminere…they must want to spend almost nothing on ingredients?

  23. helenviolette says:

    This review cracked me up and gave me a lovely dose of Shakespeare- thanks Kevin!

    • Kevin says:

      Helen…glad you enjoyed it. I didn’t realize it was Shakespeare’s birthday, too.

  24. Kartoon says:

    hm… there are so many professionals here don’t really like CK’s … just make me wonder what the other professionals are really having in mind to create this ?! For those newbies never try a real juice before ??? … haha

  25. Nile Goddess says:

    Kevin, this is by far your most enjoyable review that I’ve read. Ever! Really and truly savoured every word.

    Now the fragrance … if I was a man, after reading this I’d rather wear Drakkar Noir, a least it’s tried and tested :-D

    Have a Tums

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