Sunday, March 14, 2010

Zirh's Ikon

I always, always spell Zirh wrong when I type it. And then I'm flummoxed when my Google and searches turn up nothing related to "zihr".


I'm a proponent of a slightly older-school era of perfumery, the one where guys weren't expected to smell of public pool water, lemon peel, cucumber, fabric softener sheets, or any combination of the above. I have no patience for the very '90s trend of sheer, bland, aquatic, ozonic, "marine" fragrances for men (inspired by Davidoff's blockbuster Cool Water in 1988) that begat an army of faceless clones from every fashion house under the sun; a trend that somehow, against not only reason but the fickle nature of fashion - in one day, out the next - is still with us. I like a masculine fragrance that smells solid, structured, and grounded; affable, preferably unpretentious, with a memorable personality and something interesting to say. Spices are encouraged, as are sharp floral notes and leathery, woodsy bases. If it comes in a cool bottle with a magnetic cap that's fun to play with, great. And if it doesn't cost much, even better. I saw Ikon at my local drugstore without an accompanying tester bottle, but at $19 Canadian for 125 ml, I figured Zirh Ikon was a pretty risk-free blind buy. Even if I don't like a fragrance, I'll usually keep it around for reference, or if it isn't truly horrific, I'll use it as a room spray. Ikon shall suffer neither fate; it is good, wearable stuff.

Zirh is a New York-based men's skincare line, and they released Ikon in 2008. It's a woody oriental, and a bone-dry one at that. The top notes upon spraying are citrusy and slightly herbal, with a smokey background. The citrus soon fades and an incense/cardamom accord takes over, sprinkled lightly with black pepper and a dusting of clove. A slight burning cedar note is at play, too. The overall effect at this point is of clean, dry smoke, which continues on through the drydown as the incense eventually dominates the fragrance, with the cedar singing backup. Vanilla and amber are commonly listed notes in Ikon's profile, as is cinnamon; my nose adores all three, and detects none of them in Ikon. Maybe a bit of cinnamon if I really, really pay attention, and turn my head a certain way while standing on one leg.

The spices are great, the incense is welcome and the smoky woodiness is top-notch, but there's a lack of warmth in Ikon that keeps me from completely loving it. If the supposed amber and vanilla had made a proper showing, with perhaps a bit more cinnamon and pepper, this would have been straight up my alley - smokey and spicy but with a rich, velvet background. As it is, Ikon is well-made and atypical for a mainstream men's fragrance, at least in today's market. If incense and woods are your thing, Ikon is a must-sniff; I just prefer my orientals a bit more plush. (But bonus points to Zihr* for resisting the lure of the aquatic.)

*Dammit, I did it again!

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