BY Clive Christian
I pondered over the most appropriate way to write a review for “the world’s most expensive perfume” for quite some time. On one hand, Clive Christian’s No. 1 Perfume Spray for Men confronts one with its off-putting and shamelessly ostentatious title. Still, I am willing to overlook the marketing tactics at play and assess the scent on its own merits. The context around the 2001 launch of No. 1 involves a celebrated heritage that extends all the way back to 1872. In 1999, the British perfume house acquired the Crown Perfumery, which allowed the label to use the likeness of the royal crown (the heavy golden crown topper). The tradition of creating luxury perfumes from the most exotic and natural ingredients continues today at Clive Christian, with No. 1 being its most outstanding example of sated decadence, wealth, and curiosity.
No. 1 Perfume Spray for Men (mine is the 50ml bottle, not the 30ml pure perfume) is widely recognized as the world’s most expensive perfume. Whether or not it actually is the priciest fragrance on the market, this slogan has been trumpeted far and wide and there is no turning back now. The company’s own selling-points aside, the fragrance is actually quite sensual and intimate. At its core, No. 1 is an oriental as well as an amber fragrance. While one may immediately think of several dozen fragrances that fit this genre, No. 1 adds some unique twists that are easy on the nose. However, it may not be the twists that make No. 1 so special—to me, it seems to be the way in which the notes are blended into consummate symmetry.
The top notes in No. 1 consist of bergamot, lime, Sicilian mandarin, cardamom, nutmeg, and thyme. The heart notes consist of lily of the valley, rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, and heliotrope. Finally, the base notes consist of cedarwood, sandalwood, vetiver, ambery woods, and vanilla. While the caliber of the component ingredients may be of the utmost quality (in terms of rarity, the jury is still out), it is up to the consumer to decide if a 50ml bottle is worth the $865.00 price tag. Indeed, I have fraternized with my share of people who are quick to purchase something simply for sheer fact that it is the most expensive of its kind available, but I still have a difficult time wrapping my head around how this concept of such expressive opulence would translate to No. 1.
The only other Clive Christian scent I own is 1872 Perfume Spray for Men, which is a spicy-citrus fragrance. Compared to 1872, No. 1 is much more dimensional and much more versatile. My first impressions of No. 1 were, as the marketing team likely intended, wrought with considerable feelings of confidence (perhaps a little danger) and a soupçon of intrigue. At the first whiff of this frag, a characteristically feminine quality emerges (perhaps even an older feminine quality), but not one that would dissuade even the most manly of men from wearing No. 1. The powdery and floral aroma lingers lightly (but with a sense of constancy and resolve that I find charming), but as the scent begins to dry down, the composition melds into a softly blended floral with a touch of vetiver, amber, and spice. Unfortunately, the sillage is nothing short of languorous, but No. 1 remains tight to the skin for many hours, which adds to its intimate ‘come-hither’ quality.
Onto the daunting (but legitimate) question of whether or not Clive Christian’s No. 1 is ‘worth’ the splurge. In my mind, the answer will come down to one’s own dogma concerning ‘value.’ Perhaps to the most sophisticated of noses, one could fear being exposed in the midst of attempting to dupe No. 1 with one of Prada’s (very) similar scents, but this seems like an unlikely scenario. In the real world, however, I cannot help but relegate Clive Christian fragrances to a world in which mega millionaires have become unapologetically blasé toward the value of the dollar. Still, for those who have the funds to play hard, I would bet that a gentleman who is confident in his own skin would put the $800+ toward a new car or a new boat (or personal aircraft or luxury timepiece…). In other words, it would be hard to envision No. 1 awakening an effect so enticing that the surrender of one’s plastic would turn imminent. Customers in this luxury market have seen it all and have done it all. While the draw of the fragrance may be quite deep, soothing, and sensual, No. 1 may very well lack the star power to appeal to those beyond the few who yearn to commemorate their wealth and flaunt their earthly successes.
1.6 oz. -- $865.00