TSAR by Van Cleef & Arpels – a blast from the guru’s past


My love affair with fragrance began in the mid eighties and by the end of the decade I was hooked. Having a partner who, at the time, sold them as a Saturday job (in a department store not out of a suitcase I hasten to add) helped, of course, because it meant I got an endless supply of dinky samples to try. And so began my love affair with the smelly stuff.

Years on, I’m having much fun re-discovering the fragrances I remember from my youth (and reliving the memories they bring). TSAR by Van Cleef & Arpels is one fragrance I’m amazed I actually wore back then though. Smelling it now, this ballsy fougere is way too grown up a fragrance for a 21-year-old.

It’s strength and boldness really is something to behold. In fact, spraying it is a bit like landing a punch. As a fragrance it’s warm, slightly soapy, a bit leathery and incredibly spicy. This comes, in part, from a pungent pepper note, one that I suspect wasn’t quite so ubiquitous in 1989, when the fragrance launched, as it is now. The base notes – moss, leather and patchouli – give it a distinctly trad flavour which is why I’m more inclined to recommend it for older guys.

If anything, though, it offers a fascinating insight into how fragrance companies saw men in the 1980s. Like a lot of things in that much-maligned decade TSAR it’s decidedly over-blown, bombastic and in-your-face – the giant shoulder pad of men’s fragrances if you like.

2 thoughts on “TSAR by Van Cleef & Arpels – a blast from the guru’s past

  1. I recall trying TSAR when it came out in the 80s but didn’t get on with it at all. Fougere fragrance is not my favourite genre, and at the time TSAR seemed to me to be a throw-back to the 1970s. In fact, I’m amazed that this stuff is still around.

  2. MrVidal

    vintage tsar is great stuff (the one in opaque green marbled bottle). spicy, aromatic fougere which smells really musculine. it could be a bit heavy for pple who prefer lighter scents. something very similar to tsar, but perhaps even better and more wearable is the discontinued baryshnikov pour homme (not the sports version). incredible fragrance…

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