I’ve known the London tailor George Dyer for over 25 years now. He’s made suits of all shapes and colours for me and many many others and I have worked for him on the PR front for a good 15 years now. Every now and then, when it geos quiet between us and to be fair, that isn’t all that often, he’ll say ‘I bought another bottle of Brut the other day, more in hope really, but nah, sadly it’s true. They really have lost that original smell…’
I should explain. George is a connoisseur of ‘smells’, which is what he calls perfume or aftershave. He’s a very keen student of what is new on the market, and he also loves the classics. But in all the time we’ve been conversing, his love and search for the original smell of Brut is second to none.
George, Jamaican by birth, but a Peckham boy to his shoelaces, loved, and wore, most of the late original Mod look and the styles of the original skinheads and suededheads. He’s often told me that it was around then that he first caught a whiff of the original fragrance. I have since read it was popular with the original skinheads, and that the girls on skinhead scene also wore it, trying their best to smell like the boys.
So, I guess for George its nostalgia in a bottle. For me, as I’m a few years younger than George, my memories are more 1970s based and the mention of Brut to my generation generally brings up memories of ‘Our ‘Enry’ Cooper ‘splashing it all over’, alongside other sporting stars of the day like Kevin Keegan and his perm, motorcyclist Barry Sheene, Olympic champion hurdler David Hemery and bizarrely, show jumper Harvey ‘V Sign’ Smith. Cooper also had a soap on a rope in the shape of red boxing glove called ‘enry’s ‘ammer’ added to his personal range and Keegan, a football boot soap, called ‘Keegan’s Kicker.’ Later, Gazza was signed up to promote Brut, but that all ended when he was going through one of ‘phases’ of drink and domestic abuse.
It turns out there has been many a tie in with Brut and the world of sport. In Europe, Franz Beckenbauer was a brand ambassador, and in the States, where it had the catchphrase ‘the essence of a man’ Muhammad Ali, American football star ‘Broadway Joe ‘Namath, tennis player Jimmy Connors, along with legendary basketball star Wilt Chamberlain took the Brut dollar and doused themselves liberally in the stuff. Not only that lot, but it is also said, that Elvis declared it to be his favourite male fragrance.
But what of the history of this product then Bax, I hear you cry….
Here goes. Brut de Paris was launched by Faberge in 1964, and going by the photos I’ve seen, originally came in a squat glass bottle with the eau de toilette being more of an mustardy/orange in tone.
The ‘nose’ that developed the fragrance was of perfumer Karl Mann and it appears to have been very popular from the kick off and a popularity ‘cash in’ began. In 1968, ‘Brut 33’ was launched, which was more of a budget range and contained only 33% of the fragrance compared to the original. Packaged in glass bottles for a while, it later became more familiar in a long necked green plastic container, complete with silver chain.
I found the following description of its smell described as…’both versions give the same general vibe of lavender and citrus opening with a slow dry down to classic fougere base notes like tonka, moss, and vanilla. The only key difference between Brut and older fougeres is the moving of heart notes and base notes to give Brut its characteristic ‘green floral’ accord. Patchouli is pushed down into the base instead of being in the middle, with ylang ylang and jasmine taking it’s place. Vetiver and sandalwood seem to join the crowded base notes to keep it from being too round or sweet, and the whole thing just sets itself up as zesty, powdery, and fresh.’ Further more, post 1980 ‘they removed the nitromusk (Musk Ambrette) which makes all the difference when comparing the old and the new.’
Who knew so much was going on? No wonder George’s nose is confused…
In 1989, Unilever took over Fabergé and introduced many other Brut products with soaps, shower gels, talc’s, and deodorants hitting the market. Nearly 60s years since its launch, its fair to say that Brut is now looked down upon, and its allure has certainly faded. But it still has its fans.
It must have, to still be in production, whether in Europe, or Australia or Brazil and it can still be seen in chemists here in the UK up and down the country. There are those who maintain it is a classic fragrance and will defend it to their dying day.
Of course after writing this, I had to buy some and I got a bottle for £3.99 the other day. It has bit of a kick to it and it certainly lingered for a while, but to be honest, I’ve had no complaints from anyone so far who has been in my company with me wearing it.
I have also bought a bottle of ‘original’ from eBay that comes in the glass bottle in the hope that George finally finds his beloved king of ‘smells.’
I’ll get back to you on that…
The Mumper of SE5
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