Suzanne's Perfume Journal

Gucci Pour Homme and Larry Paul: Gone but Not Forgotten

The original Gucci Pour Homme came out in 2003 (later versions came out under similar-sounding names: so similar that it can be confusing if you go searching for this scent on Ebay or some of the online perfume discounters, at least one of which still carries this scent). My review is based on a decant sent to me by a reader, the wonderful “Karen of British Columbia,” as I fondly call her.


Photo of Robert Downey Jr. and Calista Flockhart in Ally MacBeal is from tumblr.com; photo of Gucci Pour Homme bottle is from Fragrantica.com.

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This weekend I find myself feeling exhausted. Not that I’m complaining, because the things that exhausted me were all of my own choosing—a trip to New York City last weekend to take in the Picasso exhibit at the Guggenheim; a grueling thirteen-mile run on Tuesday that I can now check off as the farthest distance I’ve ever run; and my annual hosting of the Thanksgiving meal on Thursday, which most people think of as a one-day event but which rarely is when you’re the one preparing it. Those were the highlights, and though they were all gratifying, they nevertheless have left me feeling spent. Right now, all my bone-tired body wants is the comfort of hot tea and the softness of my living room sofa. My mind seems to want to take it easy, too: it is craving familiarity and easy entertainments, and that’s precisely what I’m feeding it. A comforting masculine perfume and episodes from the more than a decade-old television series, Ally McBeal. I haven’t watched Ally McBeal since back-in-the-day, but yesterday morning, when I came in from a short run and the snowflakes were flying about and my house looked so cozy, I found myself thinking about Robert Downey Jr. and that all-too-brief season where he played Ally’s boyfriend, and in particular, an episode where he played the piano and sang Christmas songs to Ally (even though his character, Larry Paul, was not a fan of Christmas, which is really what makes those songs and that episode stand out all the more). I’m not someone who likes holiday movies, and half the time I’m not even sure I like Christmas itself, but I like romance, and meaningful messages that arrive in an off-kilter way, and men who know how to step up to the plate. And all of that happens in this episode—not just via Robert Downey Jr.’s character, but through Peter MacNicol’s character, John “the Biscuit” Cage. I won’t get into the full particulars, but if you ever find yourself wearying of Christmas, watch it (‘Tis the Season is the episode title).

The fragrance that is keeping me company on the couch as I re-watch all of season four—or what I think of as the Larry Paul season—is the original Gucci pour Homme (now discontinued), and let me tell you, it’s sooo good, I feel like I am watching Larry Paul in smell-a-vision. This scent is the perfect balance of golden, honeyed sweetness and bone-dry woodiness, with just a touch of that musky male-armpit smell that when used deftly, as it is here, makes my toes curl over and over again. While the overall theme of this scent is often described in reviews as being woody, this is an urbane wood scent (as one would expect from a fragrance bearing the Gucci name), one that conjures up the feeling of a small fireplace that has just enough of a fire going in it to create a sense of romantic ambience rather than mitten-drying heat. I know that there are a number of men who recoil when they hear the word “sweet” connected to a scent, but if Gucci pour Homme did not possess the suave amount of nectar that it does, the resultant fragrance would not smell urbane—it would in olfactory terms resemble a campfire or a woodshop and send up an image of a very different kind of man. The gentle but distinct sweetness in this fragrance is an important component because of the way it offsets the very austere smell of papyrus wood, cedar, sandalwood and vetiver; in other words, it is a tempering influence, one that adds a layer of richness and refinement rather than air of anything confectionery. And, too, it’s what makes me say that wearing Gucci pour Homme is like watching Larry Paul on smell-a-vision: Larry Paul is smart as a whip, and has that wonderfully dry sense of humor that might more often be deployed as a weapon if Larry Paul wasn’t also sweet.

So now that I’ve gotten that bit of business out of the way, here’s a more detailed description of how Gucci pour Homme wears on my skin. It starts off with the saliva-inducing scent of what I call lemon-honey: a combo that smells piquant and goldenly sweet in equally measure and which somewhat resembles the opening salvo of three other fragrances I can think of: vintage Lanvin My Sin, Amouage Jubilation 25, and Montale Boisé Vanillé. How it differs from the top notes of those three is that there is also a brisk amount of black pepper and ginger in Gucci pour Homme’s opening accord, and they lend a raspy quality as well as an air of assertiveness, both of which establish early on that this is a masculine-leaning fragrance. Within ten minutes of wear, the scent’s very arid wood notes arrive, smelling like a combination of pencil shavings (making me again think of Larry Paul, scribbling down his lawyerly observations on a legal pad) and firewood that is ever so lightly smoky, as if it is just beginning to catch fire around its bark but hasn’t fully been engulfed in flames.

And then … when does it arrive? I can’t say for sure, because it has a peek-a-boo effect, but there is that soft-focus armpit smell that sends me round the bend and is the pièce de résistance of this fragrance, no matter how small a portion of the scent it occupies. It offers up not just a whiff of virility but speaks of closeness and intimacy, for it is the scent of a flesh-and-blood male body—a body that seems within reach rather than one admired from a distance. It’s an olfactory mirror of the hopes any of us have at the beginning of a relationship—of sexual attraction married to the promise of comfort.


Of course, Larry Paul eventually left Ally McBeal. The original Gucci pour Homme is a thing of the past, too. Maybe that says something about the elusiveness of the good things in life, but I have never had a grudge with that aspect of living (not even when I was Ally McBeal’s age). All things come and go, as they must: love and beauty, heartaches and pains, we cycle through them. Yesterday I was feeling exhausted, and this morning I was still pretty tired. But now I have written a little, and I am feeling better.

November 25, 2012: