Donna Karan Fuel for Men: Dressing up, stepping out!


Most fumeheads have a pivotal moment in their lives, a point of no return. Mine was July 25 2006. Starting a time honoured (since then) tradition I was looking to buy me a birthday present, a replacement bottle of one of my favourite perfumes: Donna Karan for Men aka Fuel. Initially launched in 1994, it was created under Donna Karan’s guidance as a personal fragrance for her husband, the sculptor Stephan Weiss. In 2006 it was already discontinued. Googling eventually brought me to Basenotes. The rest is history as they say. The damage was done.

DK for Men had one of the most beautiful (in my eyes) and ridiculed (by most people) bottles I have ever seen. Likened to a gear stick, a phaser gun, a dolphin, it was designed by Stephan Weiss as a symbol for power. He had also designed the amazing bottle of Donna Karan for Women. Although it looks ready to tip over it is remarkably stable.  A sign of very good design. It manages to convey a sense of compressed energy, like a coil ready to be released.

The perfume itself is the embodiment of masculine 90’s perfume tradition done in the classiest way. It opens with a citric acidity that soon fades down to an energizing coolness. It took me years to pin down the pineapple note that I had been reading about but I finally did. Partly because it is short lived and partly because it is so elegantly blended that it just steps in the background adding a cool vibe, not a fruity note. The heart is an amalgamation of contradicting notes living together in perfect harmony. The star of the show is leather. Not a traditional leather but a very expensive, soft, shiny, black leather Donna Karan jacket. A note inspired by 90’s fashion lookbooks. As in a cinematic fade-in, the spotlight falls on a man sitting on a couch, sipping whiskey. Of course he is wearing a black leather jacket. The angle of the camera opens to show the room he lives in: dark brown lacquered walls, clean lines, gilded surfaces, big shiny black ornamental elements, B&O sound system. Pure early 90’s. We ‘ve seen better. But we ‘ve also seen much worse.   The fragrance itself is strangely textured. Velvety thanks to leather but with a mineral, petroleum note. Warm spice and old wood. Cool fruit and sweet amber. It evokes the image of bodies moving under black satin sheets. Always restless, never revealing. It keeps you guessing. Multifaceted, dense, cosy.

Back on my birthday in 2006 I had no luck finding a replacement bottle. I had stopped wearing it, saving what little I had left for special moments. That’s what we all do when our favourite potion gets discontinued. Once in a blue moon discontinued treasures come back to life. So in 2008 my heart raced when I read that DK for Men was to be brought back from the dead in a limited circulation edition, housed in a minimal, cylindrical black bottle and named Fuel for Men. I marked the day it was going to be available online and the place: On the first day I logged in and ordered two bottles. The bottles arrived, I knew I had my lifetime supply, it couldn’t get any better. But it could! A few days later I read in discussions that it was only available in the UK through Harrods so I went back and checked. And yes, the option of ordering this outside the UK was locked. My impatience and loyalty to this gem helped me order my bottles through a small window of error, where the option of shipping this outside the UK remained open. I couldn’t get any luckier.

To this day I cherish my old bottle and its contents. The new edition is almost identical. And I always want to have a reminder of how I got hooked on perfume. To this day it is my go-to bottle for dressing up and stepping out, full of confidence and suave.

Notes from Fragrantica: pineapple, apricot, orange blossom, green notes, osmanthus, peach, bergamot, carnation, lily, cassia, orchid, jasmine, heliotrope, ylang-ylang, rose, amber, sandalwood, tonka, patchouli, musk, benzoin, vanilla, vetiver, citruses, incense, cedar, suede

Notes from my nose: green orange, pineapple, leather, petroleum, peach, green sap


About Christos

Scientifically minded but obsessed with the subjective aspect of things. Photos copyright of MemoryOfScent, with special thanks to Pantelis Makkas You are welcome to link to my blog but you are definitely not allowed to copy text or use the photos without my permission. All text and main photos are originals and property of MemoryOfScent All perfumes are from my collection unless stated otherwise.


  1. NikosP

    A masterpiece imo. Full of contradictions and mystery : velvety but masculine, leather oriented but so fragile, skin scent quality but with good projection. I d like to know the perfumer (Annick Menardo could match this kind of blend). And a tip i was told from a D.Karan’s salesman in London: works great layered over Wenge (in the same line).

  2. I know it was commissioned to IFF so it could be a whole team of perfumers responsible for this. My guess is that it would layer beautifully with Labdanum as well for a more rustic leather vibe.

  3. Only tried this once, but loved it! Gonna head back to Harrods soon to spray again & hopefully nab a sample.

  4. GeM

    Pure early 90′s? I missed this launch in that moment!
    I wish I could try this. Anytime soon!
    It sounds perfect to my taste for male scents. Is it rough, wild and almost disturbing?

  5. GeM

    I’m afraid not.
    In fact, with my partner it’s complicated to take risks, and he likes ‘non-perfumey’ type of fragrances. Last time I gave him a perfume as a gift was Heeley’s Cuir Pleine Fleur, and as I expected, he likes it a lot. To my taste sometimes it lacks some depth, is a little bit too balanced and too elegant and a bit unisex, but it’s an excellent stuff. (And it was my fault haha!) 🙂 I wish he liked things like Bvlgari Black, Muscs Ravageurs and so on, but I’m not sure at all, it is too much risk for his amateur nose.

    Wishing you a merry Christmas holiday and all the best Scent Memories!!!

    • I think your partner has excellent taste. Cuir Pleine Fleur is a masterpiece! Based on this there is a good chance that he might actually enjoy Fuel. It is very balanced and sophisticated.

      Merry Christmas GeM

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