Review: “Karl Lagerfeld For Men” cologne or vintage “Karl Lagerfeld Classic”

A rave perfume review for one of my old favorites that smells better than I ever remembered: the original, classic, pre-formulation Karl Lagerfeld for Men (now named “Karl Lagerfeld Classic”).

IMAG0022Imagine your boyfriend’s leather jacket, covered with honey, and in an old Russian or Greek Orthodox church filled with smoky incense and the whiff of a passerby in rose and jasmine…. this is better. If there were a honey seller in a stall sandwiched between a musky spice vendor of nutmeg, tarragon and anise, and one who sold sweetly fragrant tobacco that your uncle put in his pipe — all in a giant leather store filled with the finest British leather saddles, which was in a Turkish bazaar… this is better.

 Karl Lagerfeld for Men opens with a sharp burst of super-bright lemon (and a hint of some orange blossom) that vanishes in 45 seconds to be replaced by notes of tarragon, anise, nutmeg and cinnamon on top of pure golden, amber honey. That lasts for about 20 minutes before the leather, smoke and tobacco come out. As time progresses, the leather and honey get stronger, but there starts to be a faint whiff of powdery rose and a touch of jasmine, mixed in with rubbery resin and church-style incense. You almost wonder if you actually smell the flowers because of the power of the leather — which at this point TOTALLY reminds you of your BF’s leather jacket — but now the warmth of some Tonka bean, sandalwood and musk join the parade. No, you say, I do smell jasmine and rose, but is that smoky wood now, too?

Some say that it’s like a male-version of Shalimar and I suppose it’s the faint touch of powder in it. But if Meryl Streep wears Shalimar (and she does), then Tina Turner would wear this. If Shalimar is a Rolls Royce, this is James Bond’s Aston Martin or perhaps a BEAST of a muscle car driven by a Russian Orthodox monk in a leather jacket. That’s it! This is the smell for Rasputin, though one commentator elsewhere said that they thought Robert Redford in the Great Gatsby would wear this. I disagree. This is pure leather smoke covered with honey.

And….. it’s sex on a stick. I’ve worn it for 2 consecutive days and it really lasts and LASTS — 10 hrs plus on me (when almost nothing lasts more than 4-5 hrs).

I urge all you women and men who love spicy, smoky orientals to hunt this down on eBay. Make sure you get a bottle that does NOT have “Karl Lagerfeld Classic” on it. Ask if the writing is not totally visible on the box or bottle from the listing photo. Do NOT get the “Classic” which supposedly smells not just synthetic (post-reformulation) but like Jovan Musk. Get the original because it’s the kind of smell that makes women ask what a complete stranger is wearing (as evidenced by repeated such stories in the Makeupalley reviews), and also because it’s the kind of smell that will make you feel powerful and like ROARRRRRRRRRRING. Just be warned, it’s not for the faint of heart and that, depending on your body chemistry, powder may predominate over leather, tobacco or honey. Also, if you’re not into powerful scents, do not put on more than one spray.

For me, though, it’s going to be hard to wear anything else for a while.

~~~ Official description from Fragrantica : “In 1978 perfumer Ron Winnegrad created an oriental-woodsy fragrance for prestigious house Karl Lagerfeld, named Lagerfeld Classic. The fragrance opens with aldehydes, bergamot, nutmeg, sweet orange and estragon. The heart is composed of cedarwood, intense and sweet jasmine, iris, patchouli, rose, sandalwood and tobacco. The base reveals amber, musk, oak, Tonka beans and vanilla.”


20 thoughts on “Review: “Karl Lagerfeld For Men” cologne or vintage “Karl Lagerfeld Classic”

  1. Dammit, I so WANT to smell all the rest of this one. But I can’t yet! I did warm up to it more today, and I’m sure my attitude will further evolve. But in spite of that, this is also a great and evocative review. I can see the Orthodox Church comparison though, even though I get dominant powder. There is definitely more complexity to it than simply powder, even though that’s what I smell mostly. DEFINITELY not for the faint of heart, as I felt I was fairly conservative in applying and still felt a cloud wafting off me for a while. 🙂

    • I’m relieved that the sillage is not a problem for you! And hurrah that the church atmosphere was evoked. That’s probably the incense-y smoke and musk elements; a sweet smoke, if you will. But, yes, I wish you could smell the leather. Have you smelled a lot of leathery scents? If you imagine brand new leather gloves or the leather of a stable, perhaps that will help direct your nose a little?

  2. I love the smell of leather, so I wish I could smell it more. Given that I don’t hate Lagerfeld, I tried Prada Amber again today and I enjoyed it a lot more than I have in the past. So maybe I can learn to appreciate powder in moderation? I automatically default to it being sort of a nauseatingly clean scent to my nose, and I suppose it doesn’t have to be like that. Apparently the Exclusif version of Cuir de Russie (I mention Exclusif because I think it’s slightly different than other iterations of Cuir de Russie) from Chanel is supposed to smell extremely leathery, so I am really looking forward to smelling it.

    • I think it really can depend with “powder” notes. The key is what goes along with them. If the perfume has all “clean, fresh” notes, then the addition of powder can seem like Baby Powder, perhaps, or something with a more immature mental and olifactory association. I think powder combined with musk and spicy elements alters that mental association a lot more. Back maybe 80 years or so, powder mixed with spicy oriental elements was pretty much one of the main defaults in fragrances, whether we’re talking Shalimar or L’Heure Bleue from Guerlain, scents from Molinard or Caron, and … lordy, tons of other lines. Leather or tobacco/smoke were another sort of trend, from Cuir de Russie to things like Caron’s Tabac Blond, though not as big as the whole Vetiver/aromatic type of things. I think the Karl Lagerfeld is a subtle head nod at those earliest classic trends which have largely fallen out of favour now in favour of the “Crisp, Clean” style for men or the Sweet/Gourmand trends for women.

  3. Kafkaesque- I must say you have introduced me to a whole another side of fragrances. Thank you for that and for surrender to chance 🙂 Perfume is so subjective, and whenever I head out to perfume counters, the selection is always the same. And with the influx of celebrity perfumes, it’s frustrating to find something new to try and unique. I’m not one of those girls who only has one or two scents….I need to have a good selection!
    Your description of Karl Lagerfeld for men reminds me of how I think men should smell during the winter months. I tend to favour scents that are a little more heavier ( musky, oriental, and spicy) in the winter months. I’m actually quite surprised that I like fragrances that mix in notes of leather and tobacco…who knew. haha

    • I am so touched and happy. Thank you for your very sweet, kind words, Jackie. I really appreciate it! 😀 I just hope your wallet will forgive me for introducing you to Surrender to Chance, because…. lordie, is that site addictive. You know how people say Wikipedia is a time-suck and a rabbit hole that you fall into and can’t quite get out of? That’s Surrender to Chance for me! There are just SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO many choices and temptations. My wish list there is painfully long.

      I think you and I have the exact same tastes, right down to the amber, leather and tobacco. It’s all about something with a little oooomph, an edge, and a little bit different from the generic celebrity perfumes that are cloyingly sweet, super fruity, or just basically identical to each other. Plus, who wants to walk through a shop or a mall and smell like 25 other people there??! There is no identity to it.

  4. My wallet will forgive you but probably not me!lol FYI- it’s too late, I’ve already fallen into the hole but that’s a good thing, trust me…a whole new world of fragrances(much more exciting).

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    • Hello there. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂 I’m afraid I don’t use Twitter but you can always sign up for emails from the blog if you’d like to follow me. All the very best and thank you again.

  6. So, I have to say (as I’ve mentioned to you personally) – I’ve tried this one a number of times since I read this review and I like it exponentially more and more with every wear. It smells dramatically different from me from when I first wore it – so different, than I wonder if maybe the initial sprays were sprays that got weird after being stuck in the stopper for 20 years or whatever! That’s probably not a logical explanation, and my nose (or brain!) must have changed, but it’s that different that it feels like I’m smelling two different things.

    Projection/sillage on this one is amazing on me, especially right after spraying. I can smell a bit of pepperiness, especially if I put my arm up to my face, as well as the honey/leather-ish combo and incense. I think in general, I’ve also cultivated a love for spicy orientals since I first started this journey in earnest, so perhaps I’m more inclined to like it because of that. Either way, so glad I have a bottle of this one. Love it so much more now. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves from me because of my initial impressions (and that it’s physically located in the back of my tray of stuff because the bottle is so tall), but at least this means the bottle will last me for eons. 🙂

    • Hurrah! I’m thrilled that you’re smelling the honey/leather combo as well as the incense. I’m so glad. I suspect that your nose has developed a lot since you first got the bottle, especially for spicy orientals. It’s such a hugely under-rated scent and, imo, a thousand times better than many of the more expensive niche perfumes that I’ve smelled over the past few months. Well worth the effort of hunting down on eBay, especially at those prices!

      Thank you so much for updating your perceptions of it. I hope that will lead others to give it a chance. I really do. xoxox

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  8. This . . . one . . . is . . . WOW. It is just a dream. I have the aftershave and put a tiny drop on one finger and I’m in love. What a beautifully done scent. It’s like you said in your two scenarios Kafka . . . except better. How can it be this yummy? How? Owe you big time for this gem, I would have never suspected.

    • Oh my goodness!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Are you working your way through my favorites??! I’m thrilled. Not only at that possibility, but over the fact that you love Karl Lagerfeld. Utterly THRILLED!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Isn’t it a stunning, gorgeous, utterly seductive scent? Do you know, it was my love for KL which actually started me on this whole blogging thing? My passionate, gushing, raves on Facebook were becoming so long over this fragrance, my friends just said, “Get a blog already!” LOL. I really need to revisit the scent in a full, detailed review to get the Lagerfeld the attention that it deserves, especially given how affordable it is on eBay. I have a friend who didn’t get it at first because he was new to perfumery at the time and thought KL was all about the powder. After 6 months and greater exposure or experience, he came back and said, “Wow.” And he ordered a 2nd, but this time giant, bottle of it from eBay. LOL. I’m SO glad you love it too!

      • Don’t you dare purchase it. You know I have an 8 ounce splash bottle I won’t get through if I live to be 300 years old! 🙂 Just say the world and I’ll send you a sizable decant! And yes, your Gospel of the Word of Lagerfeld seems to be working its magic, slowly but surely! Another convert! 😛

        • You are one of the few who would understand the pure joy I’m feeling right now at having another convert to KL!! *grin* And, no worries, I won’t buy a bottle. I’m set for now, luckily, even though mine is nowhere near the super-sized one that you got. But thank you for your generous offer! I love having the safety net of knowing there is some easily accessible KL somewhere close by if something were to happen! 😀

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