Van Gils Strictly for Men: a hand from an old friend

Night Watch

The past three weeks or so were difficult. In all sorts of ways. They have been the last weeks at work before summer holidays, loaded with things to do before August break. I love summer holidays but I hate summer. I hate having to go to work at near 40 degree C temperatures and we have been getting these for the past three weeks non stop in Athens. The political and financial situation do not make things easier for anyone. On top of this I have had to deal with a father who tries to attract attention using the adolescent technique of provocation. And as if all this was not enough I experienced the death of my next door neighbour, a lonely death to end a lonely, uneventful life depraved of friends, relationships and feelings. It probably happened while I was next doors leading a full life, full of relationships, some easy ones, some difficult ones. I realized that complaining about things is better than having nothing to complain about in life. Of course this doesn’t make coping with reality any easier but it somehow serves as a reality check.

All this time I really didn’t feel like wearing perfume. Not even reading about perfume. It couldn’t have been a coincidence. As I felt the pressure building up around me I felt the need to seclude myself in an odourless bubble. Now that I am readjusting myself to reality and starting to sniff around again I cannot help but wonder: has the pressure of reality taken my attention off the perfume world as I needed more energy to cope with it? Or has the fact that I momentarily lost interest in beautiful scents made me cope with reality less efficiently? Is perfume an interest or a distraction? Passion or obsession? I can’t answer the question and I probably won’t. It just feels good to be back.

As I felt the need to wear perfume again I was curious to see what I was going to pick first and I knew I would have to write about it. With the heat wave hanging over my head I expected I would reach for one of my hot weather staples: Mugler Cologne, Infusion d’Homme or Comme des Garcons No3. I let myself free and to my surprise I picked up the bottle of Van Gils. A good old cheapo that smells like the 80’s. I could not find what year it was released in, I suspect in the early 90’s, but it certainly smells like a powerhouse. It opens with bergamot and a floral-fecal note that grabs you by the nose and holds you captive. Nothing in the official note listings justifies the fecal aspect in this but I assure you it is there. I swear I can smell traces of Kouros in this but what is impressing is how early on the development they become apparent. I really cannot say whether civet makes a cameo appearance or what I pick up is a play between patchouli, vetiver and amber. I also get this ghost of white flowers in there that is also not listed officially but gives this perfume a distinct nocturnal aura. After the opening the composition is bitter, mate and earthy. A combination of herbal elements, earthy patchouli and animalic fervour. In the deep drydown a lavender-like note, probably thyme, appears and gives this a more masculine impact. As much as this fits into the powerhouse genre I cannot help but think that it has elements of feminine scents of a previous era. Smells mystical, floral and decadently sensual. I find it slightly ironic that the name implies a very masculine fragrance and it is if examined in the current context. But I am sure that women who enjoy big, ballsy fragrances would find this very wearable.

What I have learned from my withdrawal and resurgence experience, among other things, is that fresh fragrances are not as comfortable to wear at extreme heat conditions as I would have thought. I find it a lot more distracting to wear something big and bold in hot weather. Van Gils was just what I needed to feel immersed into a night garden full of decaying flowers, cold shadows and the sound of steps on hidden pathways. It felt more right than the “just out of shower”scents that I would have chosen had I used my mind instead of my hand to pick up a bottle.

How do you feel about wearing strong scents in hot weather? And ladies, have you found a masculine powerhouse you enjoy wearing?

Notes from Fragrantica: lemon, bergamot and lemon verbena, thyme, cardamom and coriander, cedar, amber, orange, vetiver and patchouli.

Notes from my nose: bergamot, white flowers, civet, patchouli, vetiver, lavender

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. Hi Christos, I am glad you have rejoined the fragrant world. I have missed your presence. I hope your sensory break from perfume has given you some clarity and you can now move on and surround yourself with the things that make you feel happy. Nothing like a bit of a rough patch in life to make you think about the things that matter to you most….hopefully perfume is one of them! I am escaping the Australian winter and heading to the Moroccan summer in a month, so I have also been thinking of what scent I want to wear in the heat. Should I go with something from Lutens or should I create contrast and travel with Chanel’s Eau de Cologne? At this stage I am tending towards the Chanel.

  2. Thanks for the warm welcome back Clayton!

    I am exploring the heavily scented side of summer after my experience with this and I am really impressed at how refreshed I feel wearing heavy perfume in heat. I still don’t know how this work. As a matter of fact I have taken some of my Serge Lutens bottles for a test drive in the Athens concrete desert heat and they are slightly different than what I remembered in winter. Muscs Koublai Khan is a favourite of mine for the summer and Santal de Mysore is more spicy, much closer to Arabie. Right now I am wearing Equistrius which is on the sweeter end of my the spectrum of bottles I own and I am finding it lighter than I remembered it from last winter. I guess you can take a couple of your heaviest fragrances in sample vials to check them out. And since you are going to Morocco a couple of Serge Lutens’s are imperative 🙂

    • Good advice! I might decant a little Cuir Mauresque to take with my lighter cologne. I’m keen to try the new Lutens Santal but I will have to wait until I get to Paris after Morocco (unless I find it in Marrakech). I understand your pleasure in wearing heavier scents in summer. I seem to fluctuate between wanting fresh colognes and heavier orientals and spices. For summer months, heavier scents I have worn in the past are Miller Harris’ Feuilles de Tabac and Hermes Bel Ami.

      Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

  3. I am in love with this sentence of yours!: “Van Gils was just what I needed to feel immersed into a night garden full of decaying flowers, cold shadows and the sound of steps on hidden pathways.” Thank you for that imagery.

    I seem to prefer something with a citrus note that really hangs in there during hot weather–OJ Frangipani and SL Fleurs de Citronnier especially, though they are very different. I don’t think I’d like an 80s powerhouse during the summer, but I do enjoy wearing big white florals in the heat! I haven’t had a chance to try much in the way of masculines yet; I’m still fairly new to perfumes.

    • Hello and welcome to MoS. Instinctively that’s the kind of perfume I would also go for but it seems that heavier fragrances autotune themselves for hot weather. Two summers ago I was at Doha airport for a stop over and I couldn’t believe how beautifully many of the Arab passengers smelled. Lots of oud oils and heavy blends that worked perfectly in the air conditioned halls but let us not forget that heavy scents are part of a centuries old perfume making tradition in these countries. Just something to explore… As masculine fragrances are. It is somehow expected by male perfume lovers to test and wear feminine scents but women bloggers easily dismiss masculine fragrances as too simple. A lot of them, especially older ones, are amazingly well suited for ladies.

      • Thank you! You have inspired me to start trying heavier perfumes in hot weather now. I am definitely planning on checking out masculines, too–there is so much to try out there! And it certainly sounds like many perfumes work very well for more than just one gender. I live in a rural area so I don’t have as much access to samples as a lot of you do, though Surrender to Chance and the Posh Peasant have been wonderful online sources for me. What would you recommend for masculines to try? [My favorite perfumes are Vero Rubj edp (passionfruit and cumin), OJ Ta’if (rose and saffron), Malle Lys Mediterranee (lily, ginger, saltwater), OJ Frangipani (lime & frangipani), and Lutens A la Nuit, Fleurs d’Oranger, and Fleurs de Citronnier.]

        • Big OJ fan yourself! I love them too. The great thing about classic masculines is that they are incredibly cheap compared to niche and feminine classics. I would definitely recommend trying Chanel Egoiste (not the Platinum flanker), a creamy rose and sandalwood masterpiece. I think it is a little hard to find in the Sates though. Chanel pour Monsieur is also a must try, switches from intense citrus to warm chypre. And of course the classic Aramis.

  4. What a great post! You know, it’s not just about perfume. It’s about life… and your neighbour’s story touched me. In Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World, it stays that Van Gils was launched in 1985… so you’re not far off. Last summer I wore Encre Noire almost exclusively… but this year, I tend to reach for Guerlain’s Pamplelune a lot. You have a knack of making me go out and sample something I’ve never heard about… always so beautifully written!

    I’ve often had the same experience. During really stressful times in my life, I can’t seem to deal with perfume. Welcome back!

  5. I think you will like this Normand, at least the opening phase. Is actually strictly for men released before classic? Those two are quite easy to confuse and I couldn’t find a release date for SfM. It makes sense though because SfM smells really like the 80’s.

  6. Aahhh… it’s called Strictly for Men. Sorry, Christos, I misunderstood. Doh! I guess my morning coffee hadn’t kicked in yet. I can’t seem to find a release date either… only 1 reference to it being a typical 80s scent. That opening sounds spectacular!

    • This is really confusing Normand because the name “Strictly for Men” is nowhere on the bottle as well as “Classic”. The only difference is in the amount of metal decorating the bottle. I still haven’t tried Classic yet but from the note listing it seems like an introduction to SfM

  7. Don’t you just love perfume marketing! But the real winners are Dior… Miss Dior Chérie is now named Miss Dior. And Miss Dior is now named Miss Dior Originale. And, how about Van Gils’ 1997 fougère… “Between Sheets”. Cute name!

    • And let’s not forget the myriads of Allure pour Homme 🙂
      As far as “Between the Sheets”, do you know of a single 80’s glam brand that managed to make a successful transition to the 90’s? I don’t.

  8. No. The criteria for beauty changed. The pendulum swung back in the opposite direction. Those 80s perfumes just seem to be incompatible with the times.

  9. Dear Christos – I’m so sorry that you have had such emotional troubles – I know personally when that happens to me, scent is one of the last things I think about. I hermit away, unscented, until I can come out of my bubble. I think that it is because the scents I love best ARE emotional – and I don’t need that on top of all the other things that are troubling.


  10. I really enjoyed your reveiw and the fact that you wrote about your life in context with the world of scent. Welcome back and I do hope your holiday.

    • Thank you for stopping by. Perfume is so important for me that all my favourite scents have a little story to go with. When I feel confident enough I try to share them here. I did it with my first ever post about Cuir Ottoman and I admit that haven’t gone back to re-read it for fear of feeling too exposed.

      I am leaving on Wednesday for the island of Leros. While I am there I plan to publish short flash reviews of samples that I have put away in boxes. I plan to grab a few and let fate guide me through my holidays.

      • Sharing part of you and your experience within a review makes it much more interesting and personal. It gives depth and personality to what could otherwise be dry and clinical.
        Leros looks very beautiful. I look forward to seeing how the fates guide you through the holiday and to what you have stashed away in those little boxes.

  11. Christos, sweetling! I’m so glad that you are back, writing in your lovely and unique style, but I also understand exactly how you felt over the last few weeks. When I have a lot of drama going on in real life I often feel that I don’t want additional drama in the form of perfume or anything else. Plus, you were dealing with filing your taxes, yes? That in itself is headache enough to make one want to simplify for awhile.

    But it thrills me that the perfume you chose to write about after your break was a big, complex perfume because it makes me feel like we’re on the same page on that subject. I love big, heavy-hitting perfumes in the heat. I’ve never heard of Van Gils, let alone sniffed it, but it sounds hypnotic in every regard. Beautiful review!!!

    I’m at the beach right now and wore Caron Tabac Blond on the long ride down here, and when I arrived, my sister asked me what I had on, it smelled so good to her. Maybe I’ll wear it again on Wednesday, when you arrive in Leros, and will wave to you from across the ocean. 🙂

    • Oh, the taxes… thank god this is over! The filing part, not the paying part of course.

      Van Gils is the most well known men’s clothing house of the Netherlands. It was founded in the 40′s and became international in the 80′s. SfM is an amazing fragrance that I seem to keep turning to as a favourite when it comes to rich, thick, fragrances with a twist. The twist here is this vague floral and fecal note that make a direct reference to classic feminine scents.

      I think I will mess a little with fate and throw in my little box of treasures your decant of Tabac Blond. Time to pin the little devil down.

  12. Welcome back, Christos! I noticed that you were away but for some reason I assumed you were on a vacation already. I hope everything comes back to your “normal” (but still eventful enough! 😉 )

    Just yesterday I was wearing Coco and thinking how it didn’t fit right the warmer weather – and it’s not even a real summer in here!

    • I will be leaving the day after tomorrow and I am counting the minutes! There is something unexpectedly uplifting in wearing thick fragrances in hot weather. Some notes stand out in a different way.

      • I can imagine – I wore some perfumes to Bikram Yoga and really enjoyed some of them (I had a post on the topic – Body Heat: Perfumes under Extreme Temperatures in December of last year, if you’re curious).

        Enjoy your vacation! Enjoy your perfumes while you’re on that vacation! 🙂

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