John Varvatos produces a respectable range of fragrances; they smell high quality, the packaging is fun and the collection is cohesive and "adult" (nothing Axe-like) — I don't feel most Varvatos fragrances are made to feed (or succumb to) a market trend. From the moment I smelled Dark Rebel,* I liked it. A lot. It didn't take long to realize WHY I liked it so much...more on that later.
Dark Rebel begins with a sweet (but assertive) leather aroma, mildly boozy and spiced with peppery notes and cardamom. In mid-development, Dark Rebel's leather is smoother and its character softens as silky benzoin becomes apparent (vanillic at first, smoky later). On my skin, I don't really detect strong tobacco or castoreum notes, but Dark Rebel's patchouli is abundant (although not dark or rebellious in the least). In Dark Rebel's base, I smell a background evergreen note, indistinct woods, vanilla/benzoin "ashes" and light musk. Dark Rebel is a well-blended, rich-smelling perfume, and it arrives on the shelves at a perfect time: autumn.
I realized quickly why I enjoy Dark Rebel so much. It's a very close relative of one of my all-time favorite perfumes: Hermès Bel Ami. During Dark Rebel's mid-development and finale, the resemblances were so striking I got my bottle of Bel Ami and did a side-by-side comparison. Dark Rebel is sweeter and smokier than Bel Ami (not as clear/pungent or resinous) but at times the two perfumes were difficult to tell apart. Is Dark Rebel an homage or rip-off...or an "accident"? We all know near-duplication of popular perfumes is often the goal — think of the slew of candy-sweet, fruity-florals or fresh ozone/white musk monsters that arrive by the dozens each year and are hard to tell apart — but I doubt Bel Ami is a huge seller so that type of duplication is unlikely. Maybe John Varvatos, or his perfumer, loves Bel Ami? But do we need Dark Rebel? Bel Ami is still on the shelves. Why not explore new territory?
If any of you "almost" like Bel Ami but wish it were a tad milder, give Dark Rebel a try. Me? I'm sticking with Bel Ami.
Question: Name a recent perfume that smells almost identical to an older, famous fragrance.
John Varvatos Dark Rebel Eau de Toilette is available in 75 ($66) and 125 ml ($86). It was developed by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux.
*Fragrance notes include rum absolute, sugarcane accord, davana, cardamom, clary sage, black leather, fir balsam, nutmeg, black pepper, styrax, akigalawood (patchouli fraction), cade, tobacco leaf, blackened vanilla bean, castoreum and balsawood.