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Fragrance Review: Versace Eros, or the Fragrant Appeal of Apples

Is Versace Eros the forbidden fruit? Or something less exotic?

Sweet, fresh, bursting with vanilla, and… masculine? Forget what you thought you knew about men’s fragrance. Mannscents by Barrister and Mann breaks down the history and composition of Versace Eros cologne so that it’s accessible to everyone.

Versace Eros was designed by Aurélien Guichard and released in 2012, positioned as one of those “erotic, unrestrained, passionate” fragrances that the haute couture fashion houses seem to love to throw out every so often. Per the Versace website:

“Eros is the fragrance that interprets the sublime masculinity through a luminous aura with an intense, vibrant and glowing freshness obtained from the combination of mint leaves, Italian lemon zest and green apple. An addictive sensuality delivered by Oriental, intriguing and enveloping notes like Tonka Beans, Amber, Geranium Flower and Vanilla. A racy virility symbolized by woods such as Cedarwood from Atlas and Virginia, Vetyver and Oak Moss, providing intensity and power.”

A picture of the man in the Versace Eros ad with a caption about how ridiculous he looks without pants.
Let’s call Versace’s marketing for this one “a little over the top” and save some embarrassment.

“Addictive” might be a bit strong. Eros is pleasant enough, in a synthetically mainstream sort of way, but it’s not really what I think of when I think “sexy enough that I never want to smell like anything else.”

What does Versace Eros smell like?

It opens with a big hit of vanilla, tonka bean, and the synthetic compound ethyl maltol, which smells like nothing so much as fresh cotton candy. It’s pretty sweet when it first starts out, likely due to the fact that creative directors these days seem to be convinced that sweet = sexy. Fairly overwhelming at first, but, thankfully, the sweetness burns off early, allowing the rest of the fragrance to come forward.

Once the vanilla/tonka/maltol opening quiets down, you can smell some of the mint accord beneath, which lends a touch of fresh greenness to the opening. I wouldn’t really call it a “minty” fragrance so much as one that happens to feature certain facets of the smell of common garden mint. Despite Versace’s description, I get absolutely nothing recognizable as lemon from Eros, and it doesn’t strike me as a citrusy fragrance overall. Honestly, a good lemon accord would have evened it out a bit, so I’m rather confused as to why Monsieur Guichard chose to incorporate it at such a low level. Maybe the creative director believes in a “less is more” philosophy when it comes to citrus. Whatever.

I’m not necessarily sure that they did it on purpose, but Versace actually managed to create a perfect example of “transparent” perfumery for the apple note in Eros. Transparent colognes and perfumes are basically the equivalent of olfactory mosaics: they’re greater than the sum of their parts, and, while you can smell the individual notes, the cologne gives an overall picture as soon as you stop focusing on the particular pieces. Eros accomplishes this quite well, and I find the apple note most apparent when I stop paying attention to any specific bit of the structure. Truth be told, I didn’t actually recognize it as apple at first, and I don’t think it’s especially obvious that apple is supposed to be part of the design, but I can see how the overall scent might give that impression. It smells kind of like apple pie a la mode at some points, and remains very sweet for several hours.

Eventually, a touch of ozonic freshness starts to work its way through the sugar, in this case courtesy of the synthetic compound norlimbanol. Norlimbanol is one of those things that you have to smell to believe; the scent of dryness, of absolute desiccation, it’s used to cut the sweetness of many masculine fragrances these days. It’s harsh and sticks at the back of your throat when smelled at full strength, but it works really well when used in trace amounts, as it is here. It’s kind of a tired trope, though, and I wish that perfumers would start using other methods to cut sweetness (or, better yet, just stop making sickeningly sweet colognes). The use in Versace Eros is a little bit obnoxious, permeated with a feeling of “Haven’t I smelled this already, in, like, a dozen other places?” (Edit: See the author’s note below regarding norlimbanol)

As the scent starts to fade, you can smell the geranium a little better too. If you’ve never smelled synthetic geranium, it’s usually made up of several different molecules (particularly geraniol and geranyl acetate), and buttressed with little shots of licorice and mint. That’s especially obvious here, and Eros starts to pick up a mossy, licorice-mint character as it goes. It’s not obviously geranium, but it does work pretty well to close out the scent, which otherwise fades to a nondescript sweet muskiness by the end of its run.

How well does it project and how long does it last?

Versace Eros is pretty long-lived, even as designer fragrances go. I get about 8 hours on my skin, which is quite respectable.

The projection (how well people around you can smell it) is remarkably balanced; not so little that it hangs on to your skin and no one around you can smell it, but not so much that people can smell you coming from 50 feet off.

When you should and shouldn’t wear it

I’d wear Versace Eros as an evening scent or during a casual day at the office, but it’s really not appropriate for a business meeting or a formal event. It’s good for date nights, and a little will go a long way. One or two sprays is enough that you will smell good, but your date will still want to get closer.

Where to buy it

I got my sample at Sephora and, honestly, the best thing you can do is check out your local Sephora, Macy’s, Nordstrom, or whatever other store you can find that will let you smell it, and give this juice a sniff. If you wear it for a day or so and really like it (and if other people like it on you), then pick up a bottle from FragranceNet or some other online fragrance retailer for much cheaper.

Except Amazon. Never buy fragrances from Amazon. More on that in a future article.

Versace Eros packaging
This is what it looks like in the wild.
Final verdict

Eros smells good, and lasts awhile, but it’s kind of generic, and some of the marketing/note list is nonsense. It’s also not really the sort of scent you’d want to wear to work (unless you work in a very casual office). It’s sexy in a bland, very sweet kind of way, but, if you’re looking for something with a bit more sophistication, I’d look elsewhere. Still, you could do a lot worse these days, and guys who are just starting out can wear it without any trouble.

Edit: Author’s Note

I had originally thought that the slight ozone character was the result of the inclusion of norlimbanol, but, upon further reflection, I think it’s actually a feature of International Flavor & Fragrance’s (IFF) Amber X-Treme, a captive perfume molecule that imparts a warm, fresh, amber-y character to fragrances in which it’s included. It’s less harsh than norlimbanol, but has a similar effect.

Knowing how popular it has become in modern masculine fragrances, my guess is that Amber X-Treme is the actual source of the characteristic.

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