I have written, re-written, deleted, and started over this review so many times I've lost count. How can I be expected to describe a cologne that captures everything I ever wanted in a fragrance, and then throws in a healthy dose of leather and beaver glands-just because? I could describe the notes, but it wouldn't come close to evoking what Portos does on the body. If you were looking for a classic example of something that doesn't sound appealing on paper but is mind blowing in person, this is it.
Just look at the marketing in the advertisement above. Even in 1980 he'd have looked like a complete twat. I might be projecting because I grew up around people like that (Thanks, Highland Park!) but I know if I'd seen the ad before buying the bottle, I might not have. I guess it was just lucky that I blind bought it without any preconceptions.
Oh what a bottle of magic this is. There's leather, and then there's, Leather. This is the latter. The magic is how it starts off biker jacket and finishes Hermes handbag, or at least what I imagine an Hermes handbag smells like because they don't let people like me shove their noses inside expensive handbags. Maybe an Hermes handbag that carries around a pet beaver instead of one of those fashionable teacup Chihuahuas. Yeah, that's probably closer because as great as the leather notes in Portos are, there's no getting around the beaver in the
Portos was launched in 1980 but if you're expecting Kouros or similar, forget it. Portos would be better classed with the 1970s. Despite the heavy-hitting notes like leather, castoreum and patchouli, there's enough vetiver, carnation and cedar to keep it elegant. By the 80s that sort of finesse gave way to throwing everything in the lab at a perfume. Portos is intense in the first few minutes, but it settles in and becomes better behaved, though don't expect it to go anywhere. At a minimum this one is sticking around for 8 hours-days if you sprayed it on clothing. Sprayed it on synthetic material? You'll be smelling it through several washes. I have a vintage silky men's Dior dressing gown (bought it for Danny but he said he wouldn't be caught dead in it, so I kept it) that positively reeks in Portos now as it is my evening fragrance of choice. I'm guessing no amount of laundering will ever liberate it from the fibres and that seems appropriate.
A little goes a very long way, kids. I'm not kidding. Don't even think of wearing this splashed on your palms and applied like an aftershave. Really, don't. If you think a teenaged boy over-applying Axe/Lynx is the worst possible thing you could endure, Portos can go from magical to maniacal in one drop too many. Treat it cautiously, and you'll be rewarded with one of the greatest fragrances ever created. I warned you.
I understand why Portos was marketed as a men's fragrance, but I do think today it is perfectly unisex, provided you're not a fan of sweet, fruity, candy floss fragrances. If you wear La Vie est Belle, Portos isn't going to be something you'll enjoy. If you like Bandit, Cabochard, or Azuree, it will be a better match. Again, apply it lightly the first time as it is hard to scrub off. What kind of man could wear Portos? Probably every single one except Hamptons Hal in the ad who would probably want something more expensive to impress people.
Notes according to Fragrantica:
Galbanum, artesmisia, coriander, bergamot, caraway, vetiver, carnation, jasmine, geranium, cedar, patchouli, labdanum, musk, oakmoss, incense, myrhh, castoreum, and leather.
Notes according to Goody:
Studio 54, Expensive handbag, large dam-building rodent, and my rodeo-loving uncle (whose cowboy boots were always peeking out from under his judge's robes)- I'm pretty sure he didn't wear Portos, but could have.
As it is now discontinued and difficult to find, I would encourage you to get a decant before spending a small fortune on it as there's a good chance you might find it too strong. For me, Portos was instant love, and is easily one of a handful of fragrances I couldn't bear the thought of being without. I wish they'd bring it back, but I know it will never happen.
* Castoreum is used to scent tobacco, and is also found in artificial flavourings like vanillan and strawberry. It is often listed as, "Natural flavouring" for obvious reasons. We're all probably consuming beaver glands without knowing it. Makes drinking a coffee brewed from civet shit a lot less awful sounding. Well, maybe not.