Smoky vetiver and spiced woods lie at the heart of Goodman’s, Roja Dove‘s creation for the New York luxury department store, Bergdorf Goodman. It’s a pure parfum that ostensibly embodies the luxury and sophistication of the men’s section of the store. I must say, I can’t see it — and I’ve lived in New York (twice) and am very familiar with Bergdorf Goodman. Not only does Goodman’s not evoke either the store or “sensual,” luxurious richness for me, but I find it to be a deeply disappointing release by the standards I have for Roja Dove.
Goodman’s was released in 2014, along with a parallel version for the women’s section of the store called Bergdorf’s. Both extraits were originally available only from the store itself, but Roja Dove now offers them on his website along with other exclusives like the UAE fragrance that he created solely for the Emirates. Oddly, the colour of the liquid in the Goodman’s bottle he shows on his website is significantly paler than the one shown by Bergdorf Goodman.
On his website, Roja Dove describes Goodman’s and its notes as follows:
“The Exclusive Scent of Goodman’s – Bergdorf Goodman’s Men’s Store”
WARM, DRY, FRESH, SWEET, SPICY, & SENSUAL
“Asked to create a fragrance for Goodman’s, the men’s home of the iconic world-famous store, Bergdorf Goodman, I have tried to capture that special mix of sophistication, excitement, and pure luxury. I hope my Goodman’s fragrance delivers all the hallmarks of the store; exclusive, refined, and very New York”. Roja Dove
TOP: Bergamot, Mandarin
HEART: Jasmine, Neroli, Rose, Ylang Ylang
BASE: Cardamom, Castoreum, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Civet, Coriander, Frankincense, Musk, Patchouli, Vetiver.
On a totally tangential point, the fact that the perfume’s proper name is in possessive form creates a certain grammatical awkwardness; I can hardly say Goodman’s’s or Goodman’s’ in describing some element of its aroma. So I hope you’ll forgive me for avoiding additional possessives, and sticking simply to “Goodman’s” regardless of context. I know you’ll get the point.
Roja Dove classifies Goodman’s as a chypre, but I would call it a quasi-chypre with strong oriental facets. It opens on my skin with bergamot, mandarin, and smokiness, sprinkled with drops of jasmine sweetness, civet, and custardy ylang-ylang, all atop a darkly wooded, smoky base that feels slick with balsamic resins and musky with slightly leathered castoreum. Quickly, the florals retreat to the sidelines to hover in abstract form, and their place is taken by a heavy cloud of spices dominated above all else by cinnamon. It smells multi-faceted: there is the dryness of its wooded bark; the dried powdered sticks that you have in your kitchen cabinet; and there is even a sense of fresh, aromatic cinnamon leaves.
The balance of notes in the opening minutes differs slightly from one of my arms to the next. My right one has a bouquet that is centered predominantly on tart bergamot, cinnamon, dry cinnamon bark, slightly lemon coriander, and dusty, semi-sweet cardamom in a thick blanket atop a bitter, Seville-like orange laced with green neroli, cedar, spicy patchouli, and a resinous, sticky, balsamic sweetness. The castoreum is imperceptible, though it peeks out occasionally from behind the spicy, sweet, orange wall, along with an occasional glimmer of civet. There are no florals, no smokiness, and the woodiness is not strong. The main bouquet is a visual of reds, oranges, and browns that is dominated primarily by the two types of cinnamon and a slightly sticky, bitter orange. I’m constantly reminded of a cinnamon-cardamom bitter marmalade, only this one isn’t cloyingly sweet and is brisk with neroli and lemon, then endlessly spicy, woody, and resinous. It’s wonderful.
On the other arm, however, there is no sense of bitter Seville bigarade, and the focus is less oriental, more traditional, woody, and leathered with a chypre-like bouquet that is centered on citrus-floral accords atop a woody, castoreum base, all infused with smokiness and civet. The spices are quite secondary, if not tertiary, and hazily mixed in an amorphous cloud; there isn’t much sweetness, and almost no juicy mandarin; but the woodiness, smokiness, and leathered castoreum are all substantially stronger. Once the florals retreat to the sidelines — a quick thing that takes only a few minutes — Goodman’s becomes drier. It’s a mix that is strongly woody, masculine, smoky, a touch crisp, but not hugely sweet or spicy. It’s a masculine-skewing scent that briefly conjures images of men in leather jackets and silk scarves, a kind of chic racer, more than a banker, if that makes any sense.
The proportions of the individual elements may initially vary from one arm to the next, but it only takes 10 minutes for them to align roughly into the same scent. The main reason is due to the vetiver which suddenly surges forth to become one of the key parts of Goodman’s on both arms. It smells a bit minty, but it is primarily very smoky and woody, as though the cedar and smoke had fully merged into it.
Speaking of the smokiness, it never smells to me like “incense,” neither frankincense nor myrrh. Rather, it smells more like the sort of smoke that you’d get from cade or perhaps birch tar. It’s as though a burnt log had been slathered with tarry pitch, drizzled with lemons, and then set on fire. The smoky aroma which ensues has been captured and fully subsumed within Goodman’s vetiver, along with the very dry cedar. It’s true that vetiver can smell smoky in its own right, but the aroma here is woodier in nature and much more like cade. In any event, it’s really impossible to separate out the two elements, but nothing in Goodman’s smells like the “incense” sort of smokiness, and it never did throughout either of my two tests of the perfume.
Other changes occur in tandem on both arms, too. The spices all meld together into an indistinguishable haze and take on a dusty quality. There were times in one of my tests when the spice mix felt so dusty that it evoked images of the dusty residue inside an antique spice cabinet made from centuries-old cedar. Sometimes, the accord smelled like lemony dust (perhaps a side-effect of the coriander); sometimes, it smelled like spiced staleness; but it was generally just a blur of spiced woodiness with nuances of dustiness.
As the spices lose shape and pleasantness, the mandarin disappears, but both the bergamot and civet grow stronger. The latter smells synthetic, thin, lemony, and sharp. The tiniest pops of rose appear in the background once in a blue moon, but the florals are a strange element in Goodman’s. For the most part, they’re really just a ghostly presence, a sweetness that is vaguely floral in nature, possibly like jasmine, but always the smallest of wisps with a character that is very muted, abstract, and impossible to separate out.
All of these things are secondary or tertiary elements to Goodman’s main bouquet which, 20 minutes into its development, is primarily a mix of smoky, cade-infused vetiver with dry, spiced woods and sharp, citrusy bergamot-civet atop a quietly musky base. The three strands make up roughly 85% of Goodman’s scent. My skin frequently amplifies vetiver, in addition to accentuating its minty facets, so it is the vetiver which often dominates the trio but not always. At lot of the times, everything feels melded together, and you could argue that it is a seamless blending but, honestly, it doesn’t feel that way for a good portion of the opening 90 minutes.
To me, Goodman’s feels heavy-handed. The various notes take turns thwacking you in the face from the smokiness to the woods, the vetiver, and sometimes the dusty spice mix. The equation is lopsided, and the main notes don’t feel smoothly integrated. They stick out askew, as though they were at 90-degree angles to the rest of the scent. On both occasions when I tested Goodman’s, I couldn’t shake the impression that it had been hastily cobbled together. There isn’t the sense of fine-tuning and the sure-footed, careful, very deliberate craftsmanship that mark all the other Roja scents. Goodman’s feels more modern than many of those, but the core notes feel clumsy, jarring, and rough — both individually and together.
It is particularly true of the opening phase, but less of an issue for the rest of Goodman’s development because the main three notes become all there is. In essence, the supporting notes fade away after 75 minutes, and the scent turns into a simple mix of very dry, spiced woods and smoky vetiver infused with fluctuating amounts of citrus. Sometimes, the woodiness takes the lead, sometimes it’s the vetiver. Occasionally, the woody note smells smoky as well, but generally it is mixed with an abstract spice accord that bears vestiges of dustiness and staleness. In one of my tests, the start of the 4th hour brought about a streak of harshly synthetic, wooded smokiness in the base that smelled like cypriol with a bit of a chemical-smelling fake “oud.”
For the most part, though, Goodman’s merely smelt of different forms of woodiness mixed with smoky vetiver, abstract spiciness, and a hint of civety citrus. That’s really it for the rest of Goodman’s development on my skin, and it is the most linear, simplistic, and boring of all the Roja Dove fragrances that I’ve tried. As the hours pass, it merely turns woodier and more abstract. In its final moments, it was merely a wisp of dry woodiness with a hint of smokiness.
Goodman’s has good projection that is initially very strong, and good longevity. Using 3 squirts from my atomizer, equal to 2 sprays from an actual bottle, the perfume opened with 4 inches of projection that rapidly grew to about 6 inches after a few minutes and left a definite scent trail. The projection dropped to 3 inches after 2 hours, then to about 1.5 inches after 3.5 hours. It stayed there for a while and Goodman’s only turned into a skin scent on me after 6 hours, though it was still easy to smell up close for a while. All in all, the perfume lasted just a hair over 12.5 hours.
There aren’t many reviews for Goodman’s. The perfume has no Fragrantica page, and a Basenotes thread on the scent has not a single description of how it smells. The only review I’ve found comes from The Scented Hound who generally likes it. He writes:
Goodman’s opens with a rich and deep bergamot and cedar, quickly followed by a spiced mandarin. The cedar retreats quickly to make room for this incredible jasmine. It’s warm and lush and it feels like you’re walking (or should I say sinking in) on deep piled carpet. The florals are heady while still maintaining a masculine edge of rounded and achingly beautiful thickness. I love my florals and this bouquet meets all my standards of what a good floral mix should be comprised of; rounded, voluminous, mixed and blended to perfection so that you can’t see distinguish one floral note from another. There’s also a rather buttery tone that the florals rest on which after around 10 minutes lightens and retreats as do the heady aspects of the florals. [¶]
This makes way for a more woody timbre with the vetiver taking center stage in concert with an herbal and slightly peppery finish. Soon enough, as if a fog has started to creep in, the frankincense starts to appear very lightly from below. What started off as full on traditional floral is now taking a more exotic turn as the frankincense then becomes front and center. The woody and dry patchouli mixed with the incense renders the fragrance to an almost powdery consistency. I am amazed by the fragrance’s transformation; it feels as if you are making the descent from a temperate and fertile elevation down to a more dramatically arid zone in the space of 30 minutes. Goodman’s then takes on a more sober and formal turn as the fragrance settles into quiet dignity with a warmish patchouli and vetiver with streams of incense weaving throughout. That, combined with just an ever so slight sweetness and a bite of civet, lets you know that although the perfume is dignified, there’s still a bit of mischief that abounds. [Paragraph formatting break added by me.]
Well, I agree on how Goodman’s changes sharply 30 minutes after the opening, and on the “dramatically arid” quality that arrives along with the vetiver and “incense” for the main part of the scent. On the rest, I have to part ways with my friend.
I’ve reviewed quite a number of Roja Dove scents by now, and generally write that the brand’s high price becomes a question of individual valuation because all the scents have complexity, character, high-quality, luxuriousness, depth, and nuance. When you have those requisite elements, then whether or not something is “worth it” will depend on the person. In the case of Goodman’s, I strongly believe most of those requisites are absent and the perfume is whoppingly over-priced for what it is. It costs $545 or £395 for 50 ml of parfum.
This perfume is not good enough to be $545, in my opinion, either in terms of its character, its development, or its quality. It devolves quickly into a simplistic, uninteresting, generic bouquet and it doesn’t feel like high-end luxury to me. The Roja Parfums signature of graceful elegance with seamless, masterful blending and complex development is woefully absent. Goodman’s feels clumsy and rough, like a bull in the proverbial china shop or, in this case, in Bergdorf Goodman. I cannot help but feel it was hastily cobbled together. It is a whispered rumour in the perfume world that Roja Parfums are secretly created by a Robertet nose, not actually Roja Dove, but whomever made this scent, it does not feel like the same hand who created things like Enigma (Creation E), Risqué (Creation R), M, Danger, Fetish, Diaghilev, (pre-reformulation) Nuwa, or the others.
Perhaps it’s simply a question of the brand putting out too many perfumes a year. In 2014, Fragrantica says Roja Dove released Nuwa, H Aoud (the Harrods exclusive), at least two extraits (Lily, Amber), and the UAE exclusive, in addition to Bergdorf’s and Goodman’s. That’s 7 fragrances in one year. Out of those, I’ve only tried Nuwa which I loved (and which I’m saddened to hear has been dramatically altered for the worse), but Goodman’s feels like it suffered from production demands and insufficient development time.
Whatever the precise reason for its clumsy, cloddish nature and its rapid dissolution into an overly simplified, generic bouquet, the bottom line is that it’s a dull fragrance. Sure, a man could enjoy its masculine woodiness and perhaps feel elegant in it, but I expect more from Roja Parfums for $545. There are any number of elegant scents that are substantially more interesting and nuanced for significantly less. Yet, even if Goodman’s cost a fraction of the amount, the simple truth is that I wouldn’t want to smell of it. It had some unpleasant parts, it was mediocre, and it also bored me into a state of apathetic disinterest where I kept thinking of all the other fragrances I could be wearing. Being boring may be the worst sin of them all.