A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, but ironically in this one, and not that long ago actually... I didn't appreciate this one for what it was. The simple fact was that my skin and incense didn't get along. They still don't, but I just stopped caring. I've heard that's the mark of a true fragrance enthusiast. Hate what everyone else loves and learn to love what you hate. Or, you know, just stop hating. That'll do too.
Anyway, when L'eau d'Issey Intense hit my skin the first 5 times, all I got was the smell of a dry potato covered in spice, sitting patiently in the waiting room of a dentist's office, waiting for its turn to get a root canal. To put it plainly, it was harsh, chemically and generally unpleasant. True, a whisper of the original was still in there somewhere (the part I enjoyed), but markedly overshadowed by the strong and piercing spices, camphorous notes and earthy tones. Ostensibly, the mind sees what it wants; and surprise surprise, a moderately virgin nose didn't "get it."
But I wasn't the only one. Every time I passed the giant box on the discount rack, it appeared to be the only one people didn't want. A stack of about 4 or 5 waited in vain for a new home, like a sad lineup of ugly or misbehaved orphans in grey garb, cold, ashen faces, and an air of general despair. So like any other sensible person, I left them alone. But they kept showing up, and every time I went back for a sniff, the same thing happened - I pulled back in apparent revulsion, not knowing that, in time, my subconsious would gradually become accustomed to the experience...
And then one day, I couldn't help myself. The discount rack became discounted once more and I capitulated. Full bottle. Spray on the arm, spray on the other arm. And what did I smell?? The same goddamn thing. But what's this? A thin underlying sweetness in the background? A clear yuzu rind and cardamom? A stack of papery cardboard? Somehow, it seems that my mind became bored with the 'same old' and began searching for something new. And boy did it find it.
Shortly thereafter, I hit the gym for a proper test and what transpired was a revelation. Of sorts. As my body began to heat up, the sweetness came out more and more, eventually balancing the incense note perfectly, to where, in the drydown, the sense of a honeydewed yuzu was rather prominent, dancing to the tune of a quasi-oriental.....aquatic? Yes indeed, the density of the composition was unmistakable. Compared with other citrus-heavy fragrances, this stuff is a cinderblock that crushes toes. And funnily enough, some people pick up on that piercing cement-like quality rather early on. To me, it's the sweetness from the benzoin that saves it. It seems that JCB knew what he was doing after all.
But the bottom line is that L'eau d'Issey Intense is simply more interesting than most freshies out there; and for an intellectual who suffers from chronic boredom, it's a breath of spicy air - with decent longevity and projection to boot! Sure, it may have taken me over a year to understand the stuff, but from what I've read, that seems to be par for the course. Unless you adore spicy potatoes that is. And I don't. But apparently I'm learning.
So all in all, I'd say that by today's standards, L'eau d'Issey Intense is a wonderfully crafted fragrance. Dense, honeyed yuzu and incense to stand apart from the crowd in virtually all occassions, joining the ranks of two of my favourite flankers - Sport and L'eau Bleue d'Issey, both of which feature distinctly unique twists on the original. And one more important thing - the sillage is far more appealing than smelling it up close - something that us enthusiasts have difficulty grasping with our incessant nose digging. It's no shame by the way. We all get there in the end. It just took me a bit longer than most. Hashtag girlfriend approved. May the force be with you.