There’s a delicate balance between immediate and gradual enjoyment. Some pieces of art delight us at once but become boring quickly while others reveal their beauty too slowly to engage us. There’s a common phenomenon among perfumes where a beautiful opening dries down to something flat or even off-putting, and it’s dangerous in that it can trick unassuming customers into buying something they ultimately dislike.
The first perfume that tricked me in such a way was Viktor & Rolf’s Spicebomb. Spicebomb followed in the footsteps of Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million by opening with a spicy-woody blast backed by bubblegum sweetness; however, Spicebomb pared back 1 Million’s fruitiness in favor of a darker, leathery aspect. This makes for a very convincing first few hours on the skin. However, Spicebomb begins to fall apart almost as soon as it’s sprayed. It ultimately lands in a muddled dry-down of semi-sweet leather and tobacco.
When I first came into contact with 1899 Hemingway by Histoires de Parfums, my mind immediately went to Spicebomb. The openings of these two perfumes are so close as to be nearly indistinguishable. This begs the question – which is better? Or are the two merely redundant?
1899 Hemingway Notes
Top Notes: Italian Bergamot, Juniper, Black Pepper
Heart Notes: Orange Blossom, Florentine Iris, Cinnamon
Base Notes: Vanilla, Vetiver, Amber
Histoires de Parfums fragrances – with some exceptions – have a signature airiness. The compositions are elegant, even minimalist, which could strike a nose either as balanced or underwhelming. Unsurprisingly, 1899 is lighter than the bombastic Spicebomb, lacking the tobacco and leather that form that fragrance’s base. In their place are the sweeter, yet lighter, notes of vanilla and amber.
This is the first hint that 1899 provides an upgrade to Spicebomb’s formula. Spicebomb’s weakness lies in its drydown, and 1899 takes a decidedly more tempered approach to its own base. This paring back certainly subtracts from the more aggressively masculine aspects that Spicebomb offers, but it somehow allows the rest of the fragrance – most importantly its sweet-spicy heart – to blossom without becoming muddled over time.
There’s also something to be said about the fragrance’s topnotes and heart notes. Juniper, iris and orange blossom serve as replacements for Spicebomb’s paprika, saffron and grapefruit; in almost every case, 1899 offers a less dramatic alternative for Spicebomb’s notes. It might seem that removing the ‘bomb’ aspect from Spicebomb would leave a husk of a fragrance. Instead, the perfume thrives with its construction under a more measured hand.
1899 is ultimately a sweet-spicy perfume with universal appeal that also bears herbal and floral elements. It fixes the problems of its predecessor in most every way while stepping into a new identity of its own. Firmly unisex, 1899 might lose some noses who prefer the darker elements of Spicebomb, but its also likely to pull in new wearers who wish Viktor & Rolf’s creation was a bit more light on its feet. One thing’s for certain – this is a perfume that’s as likely to cause love at first sniff as it is to romance its wearer deep into the dry down.
Affordable samples, as well as a range of bottle sizes, are available directly through Histoires de Parfums’ website.
The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated.
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