Brut is one of the most iconic colognes of the 1960s that was developed by Karl Mann and first launched by Fabergé in 1964. Although it is today owned by Unilever, little has changed since its hey-day. In the review below, we will explore the fragrance’s structure, seasonality and versatility as well as its value for money.
Brut is to continental Europe as what Old Spice is to the USA and the UK. That said, this iconic fragrance is just as popular on both sides of the Atlantic. Brut is a hallmark of men’s 1960s personal grooming culture and has stood firm against 50 years of fashion trends.
In 1989, Unilever took over Fabergé. However, the household name was kept on its eau de toilettes until recently as a mark of authenticity and quality.
Aside from the classic original aftershave and eau de toilette, the Brut name hosts a huge spectrum of grooming products. A plethora of Brut deodorants and shower gels are staples of men’s bathroom cabinets.
Furthermore, over the last 15 years the label diversified into different fragrances such as Oceans, Musk and Attraction Totale.
Although there is now a range to suit most male palates, the original cologne remains its greatest success and one of the most familiar fragrances to men of all ages.
Brut Original has a diverse palate that above all denotes cleanliness whilst edging slightly beyond its Aromatic Fougere fragrance family.
Although a decidedly aromatic fragrance, Brut’s head is exceedingly heaving on citrus. This is the fragrance’s infamous drawback that has received the most criticism over the years. The sickly sweet lemon and bergamot clash with the anise undertones that create a nose-curling bitterness. Fortunately, the lavender conceals this until it quickly dissipates without a trace and reveals the fragrance’s heart.
Brut’s surprisingly floral heart is a welcome relief following the chaotic head. A bouquet of jasmine and geranium complement the citrus aftermath with a hint of bergamot. As the floral blossom dwindles, it draws out dry and soft vanilla notes before transitioning to the base.
Brut’s base is probably the most familiar component of the fragrance laden with whimsical nostalgia. The vanilla heart opens up to overarching sweet tonka bean notes that intertwine with a patchouli accord.
The powdery foundation of sandalwood and vetiver is reminiscent of talcum powder, which can bring out vivid childhood memories. Many wearers of Brut often comment on the comforting and familiar imagery provoked by the fragrance.
Although this is likely one of the secrets to its success, the base’s structure denotes cleanliness and freshness. Despite a complexity of two intertwined layers of accords, the base is a simple and effective component of the fragrance.
Furthermore, the combination of a well-groomed and soap-clean floral fragrance with strong masculine father figure connotations has proved to be attractive to women.
The Lifecycle of Brut Original
Brut’s rocky opening may let its lifecycle down but fortunately doesn’t penalise it entirely. Interestingly, it’s citrus-heavy head functions particularly well as an aftershave due to the higher alcohol content.
Nevertheless, the head is fortunately very brief and leads to a fanciful yet short-lived floral heart. Although we only get a glimpse of the bouquet, it counteracts the head’s traumatic opening before introducing us to the long drawn-out base.
Wake & Strength
Upon application, Brut is a deceptively strong fragrance. As soon as the overpowering head fades, only a glimmer remains and longevity is consequently poor. Wearers are unlikely to get more than one or two hours of fragrances before it expires entirely.
To overcome this, the fragrance needs to be over-applied in large quantities to be able to survive beyond the morning commute.
This may feel like a fatal mistake at first but within minutes the fragrance will still seem faint. As boxer Henry Cooper would say in Brut’s 1970s advertising campaign, “splash it all over.”
Whilst the fragrance still lingers, it leaves a mild projection behind the wearer that stays within a comfortable radius of about 1 metre. Similarly, sillage is present but not overbearing and leaves only a minor trail that quickly dissipates.
Brut will likely need applying more than once during the day unless accompanied by the brand’s deodorant. As the two complement each other well, it will create a mild projection that will require touching up maybe once during the lunch hour.
Aside from criticism for its bitter citrus head, general feedback with Brut is largely positive.
Compliments are often directed towards its cleanliness and sweet aromatic aura as well as its nostalgic value. As many adults above 25 may have had fathers that wore Brut at least once in their lives, the fragrance is often greeted with enthusiasm.
Consensus has shown this to be particularly effective among women as the scent likely chimes with the notions of a strong father figure.
Its clean and aromatic properties make the fragrance ideal for most daytime office environments. However, being something of a budget and fleeting fragrance, evening activities and special occasions may require something more prestigious.
Otherwise, this is a very masculine fragrance that is ideal for men approaching on well into their thirties and beyond.
Brut’s broad spectrum of aromatic notes renders this fragrance particularly versatile throughout the year. Its effectiveness may dwindle during the winter as the notes are green and floral.
However, it can be worn during the colder months at a push thanks to the presence of anise and sandalwood. Nevertheless, this is a fragrance that shines during late spring as its aromatic notes denote freshness with a slight gourmand warmth from the vanilla and tonka bean.
Presentation and Value For Money
Although the logo still looks excellent with art nouveau vibes reminiscent of early bottles of Couty’s Chypre, packaging is unlikely to win prizes. In the USA, plastic long-bottle necks with a metallic medallion appear to still be the norm but weren’t available in Europe.
The European market instead favours wide glass bottles, which come with an atomiser for the eau de toilette and a splash bottle for the aftershave. The glass bottle is by no means bad and reflects the price range but it lacks the prestige and quality of more luxurious fragrances. However, although Brut as a brand is associated with green colours, the eau de toilette is actually a mustard yellow.
The atomiser and cap appear to be a cheap plastic, which is unsurprising for the price. However, the atomiser functions exceedingly well with decisive sprays and hearty clouds.
Pricing seems to vary drastically between countries. However, the product can change too. Unfortunately, the European version reviewed here isn’t on sale in the USA anymore. However, the American version can be found on Amazon from $6 or even from $9 on FragranceX.
However, in France a bottle can be picked up for just over $6 at most drug stores. It’s a small comfort given that usually similar classic fragrances are much more expensive in Europe than America.
Nevertheless, this puts it at a very good value fragrance, which is a relief given that so much is needed to last the day.
Hurt by an overbearingly bitter citrus head and weak longevity, Brut is an otherwise excellent choice. It’s not only ideal for frugal and vintage-minded fragrance enthusiasts but still a force to be reckoned with despite fluctuating trends and forever evolving fragrances.
High praise not only comes from its nostalgia value but the complex notes that give way to minimalist accords. With such a low price tag, a bottle of Brut belongs on every man’s bathroom shelf.
Enjoyed reading our review? You can also watch the video to see our first impressions below:
Charles-Philippe's work has covered a broad range of subjects from cigars and fragrances to wine and spirits. Fascinated by how history and culture together form the unique contemporary identities of alcoholic beverages, his articles follow an in-depth exploration of their development through a combination of tradition and innovation.