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.”

32 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! 😀

          • What a fantastic site you have and may I say how much I have learned but also realized how much I don’t know about the world of fragrance over the past week. Your site is a wealth of information, humour and learning!!
            My problem…I have almost run out of my Lagerfeld that I have had for many years (decades). My wife loves it and was trying to find it again for a present. I was shocked to find out that it had been re-formulated firstly and has since been discontinued. I cannot even find old surplus stock on ebay here.
            Firstly, does anyone know of a reliable source of “vintage” Lagerfeld Cologne or “old” Classic and how can I tell the difference between the ones I have seen on USA ebay? (Original or Re-formulation?)
            Also, can you suggest or recommend similar and worthy fragrances that are comparable to it?
            (I realize it may not be the best fragrance around, but my wife and I have enjoyed it for the past 25 years)
            I have a tester of Knitze Ten and Les Nereides Oppoponax on the way from USA as a possible starting point on my new fragrance journey but do not have access to a wide choice here in Australia and would appreciate any guidance, advice and recommendations you may be able to share with a fragrance minnow.
            Thanks for your time and great site!!

          • First, welcome to the site, Peter, and thank you for your kind words. I wish I had some positive solution for your situation regarding the Lagerfeld. The only option is really eBay USA, since there aren’t any on your Australian one. The key is to examine photos of the bottles and boxes. The bottles have to have the silver ring at top, the boxes/bottles can NOT say “classic” on them, and/or the lettering font on the bottles must be similar that shown in the photo in my review.

            If any bottle says “Classic” on it, then it was obviously made at a time when there was a different, subsequent version of Lagerfeld since, obviously, there was no sequel at the time that the first Lagerfeld initially came out. The real, original Lagerfeld bottle and its lettering/font looks like the one in these photo:


            All the new version bottles look like this:

            Right now, on eBay US, I found this vintage, original version bottle in a 1 oz size offered for $33 ( but the seller only ships to the US. Do you have someone in America whom you know and trust, and who could take the package to forward onto you in Australia?

            Here are two auctions for a 2 oz bottle but both are, again, allowing only US, domestic shipping:


            So, basically, you will either have to find someone in the US who can take the package and forward it onto you — OR — you simply have to be patient and scour one of the international eBay sites to find a seller who ships internationally. One option may be to write to some of the US sellers and say that you would be willing to pay more for International shipping if they were willing to send it.

            I wish I could tell you of some non-eBay sites that offer the vintage Lagerfeld, but I don’t know of any. You’d have to do extensive searching since all of them are likely to carry the “Classic” which is not what you want at all.

            BTW, I don’t think that Knize Ten is very close to the Lagerfeld. Les Nereides Oppoponax may be closer (by a little bit) but please be aware that Les Nereides reformulated all its scents about 2 years ago, including that one. From what I’ve heard, they’re all much, much weaker now, less resinous, less rich and spicy.

            There are a few spicy, citrus-y tobacco/leather orientals that are very nice but nothing really close to the Lagerfeld. One old option was Serge Lutens’ Fumerie Turques, which had parts that did remind me of the Lagerfeld. Unfortunately, that scent also got reformulated (are you seeing a trend here? LOL), and it’s also not the easiest fragrance to obtain because it is a Paris Bell Jar exclusive that regular retailers may not carry. (Serge Lutens is a legendary niche line and some of its best scents are exclusive to the headquarter shop in Paris).

            There is a site in America called Surrender to Chance that I think you should look into. They ship samples (in all sizes) worldwide, for $12.95 flat fee for all orders under $150, and a lot of Australians I know use it to test things out. They frequently have discount sales, like every month, so sign up for the newsletter to receive the codes. The other service that people use is Luckyscent in America, the premiere niche boutique in this country, and they also ship samples worldwide, though they’re not quite as affordable. So, those are some of your options in terms of increasing your access to niche fragrances, many of which are substantially better quality, less synthetic, and more distinctive than the mainstream offerings that you would find in your average department store or mall.

            I hope some of that helps, Peter.

          • Thanks Kafkaesque for your reply!

            I have purchased one on ebay usa, hopefully I get it!

            I will search for Serge Lutens’ Fumerie Turques but failing that, I guess my journey for new fragrances begins and I will get samples of many of your Top 30 to begin my education. Most of your top 10 seem like a great starting point.

            While I am now quite excited to experience the new world ahead, what are some of the other “spicy, citrus-y tobacco/leather orientals” you mentioned that may help broaden my horizons?

            Thanks again for your advice and guidance.

          • That’s a hard question to answer, Peter, for a number of reasons. First, I don’t know your specific tastes well enough, what notes you dislike or struggle with, and, just as important, how your skin handles fragrances. Does it amplify sweetness or base notes? What do you think about animalics and just what is your exposure to animalic elements (civet, castoreum, skanky raunchy notes like hyraceum, etc.)? For example, did you ever love Kouros? What about the sort of animalics created by honey?

            More questions: Do you like aromatic fougère notes like lavender? What sort of fruit tolerance do you have, beyond just citrus or bergamot? How much sweetness to do put up with? Do you know what a “boozy” scent is, and if so, do you like rum, cognac or brandy notes in your fragrances? Are you looking for the idea of leather, or actual leather like the sort created typically in fragrances through things like birch tar (and Lagerfeld is more the “idea” of leather than an actual birch tar, real one, in my opinion). Have you ever tried anything with birch tar to know that sort of smoky, leatheriness? Lagerfeld is more the sort of leatheriness created by resinous elements like styrax with labdanum amber. Also, are you looking for a tobacco and leather mix, or would you also be interested in finding some tobacco fragrances or some separate leathers without tobacco?

            Since I don’t know your taste or how experienced you are with niche (which is a WORLD apart in aesthetics, style, and challenge from mainstream, department store fragrances), I can give you a few suggestions that are more approachable and that fall into a few separate categories, some broader than what you initially outlined to me:
            – Spicy woods oriental: Tom Ford Oud Wood
            – Spicy tobacco oriental with mixed elements, including some leather: Parfums de Nicolai Cuir Cuba Intense
            – Honey, spiced tobacco with some animalics but also a classic style: O’Drui’s Peety
            – Citrus, Spicy Oriental: Bois 1920’s Sushi Imperiale (no, nothing like sushi, but more like YSL’s Opium for Men)
            – Luxury citrus Leather with some animalics: SHL 777’s Soleil de Jeddah (fantastic if you love intense citrus sunniness with smoldering leather)
            – Leather Amber Oriental: Puredistance’s M (this is one of the best fragrances in the world in this category, imo, and very beloved, but it is also very expensive and I don’t know your budget. However, getting a small sample is WELL worth the effort and cost, just to experience it. It was inspired by Hermes’ Bel Ami, but it’s richer, deeper, and smoother, imo. Simply superb.)

            So, those are a few names to start you off with. I’m blanking out on other leathers or tobacco’s for some reason. And, until I know your views on sweetness, plummy jamminess, cognac booziness, or strong vanilla undertones, I won’t suggest some obvious choices like Roja Dove’s Enigma Pour Homme (Creation-E), Tom Ford’s famous Tobacco Vanille, or things in that vein. That said, I think you’d probably enjoy both of those scents as well.

          • Thank you so much Kafkaesque for your informative reply!

            Wow, you have really given me such a great starting point and so much to consider in terms of my nasal education!! I now need to go away and do some serious learning!!!!

            As you probably have guessed, I am new to this diverse world that I am just starting journey within but hope to become a knowledgeable student, even at this stage of my life.

            I have ordered many of the samples from your top 30 list and of those you have suggested above to find out what I like, don’t like and of course what work well with my skin.

            I don’t unfortunately have a limitless budget as life, children and mortgage all take priority but I do hope that through the advice you have given me, my broad range of samples and a true willingness to learn and understand, you have guided me towards a new path of understanding about this previously little understood world for me and I can find a range of good fragrances that work for me but are not priced out of my range. I guess I just lucked it with the original Lagerfeld and only began this journey because of its’ discontinuation, so some good has come of it and I will become wiser as a result!!

            I will read your blogs with great enthusiasm as well as whatever other information I can find and truly thank you for all your time and patience in helping foster the seed of learning and eventual knowledge, in a true beginner of this world of scent and fragrance.

            Thanks again…


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  12. Lagerfeld “Cologne” not “Classic” is, in my opinion, the finest male fragrance of all time, with vintage Habit Rouge and Egoiste close behind. Lagerfeld Cologne is magical. There is a distinct soapy accord ala Kouros/Paco Rabanne in the heart that is most unique and distinctive. Must be rose, herbs and honey with some sort of musk that’s not available anymore. It’s surrounded by sweet woods, amber, opoponax and tobacco. This leaves a mesmerizing scent trail. Totally unique scent with no equal.

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  14. Interparfums reformulation of Lagerfeld Classic is really good. I find it more wearable and modern (less powdery). If you want to try it search for 50ml or 100ml bottles only (30-60-125ml are Coty version which is nasty)

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