Fragrance, Reviews

Safari by Ralph Lauren (Review): A trip down memory lane

  This isn’t as much a review as a walk back through time to a slightly different period and an ever-so-slightly different piece from the […]

This isn’t as much a review as a walk back through time to a slightly different period and an ever-so-slightly different piece from the period.  After some research and reading, I acquired Safari for Men by Ralph Lauren, one of their pieces from the early 1990′s.  And my search was about more than 90′s vintage mass-market fragrances, especially ones not in wide distribution any longer.

This was about finding more of a gentleman’s scent based on the base notes of leather, amber and musk. Something a bit more throwback and slightly out of character for that slice of time, even though it’s not completely the odd duck in the mix.

RL safari men Safari by Ralph Lauren (Review): A trip down memory laneSafari for Men by Ralph Lauren (1992): The trend of the 90′s was to lighten all of the heavy fragrances we knew from the 80′s and prior, showing scent in a different perspective. Gone for that time were the cloying and heavy aromas, replaced largely by citrus, florals, green notes and (dare I say it) aquatics. Where did that leave everyone wanting something that walked a very fine middle line?

Here. Looking at a fragrance much like Safari.  The notes were a very wide and varied range, which when you see them will leave you a bit aghast and curious as to what outcome this could have.

Top notes began with aldehydes, artemisia, bergamot, coriander, green notes, lavender, lemon and neroli. There’s your recommended and required bow to the 90′s citrus and green trends.  Heart notes were composed of cyclamen, carnation, cinnamon, jasmine, rose and tarragon — the requisite bow to florals, but with enough spice and depth lent to the mix to not simply be a caricature of the period. The difference with Safari for Men came in the base notes: amber, cedar, leather, musk, oak moss, patchouli and sandalwood.

Leather in a lighter combination? Believe it. It’s there, as are the woody and musky notes that make this a somewhat more complete composition, not simply a clone of everything bad we experienced about overly-light-and-fresh scents from the decade that gave us Bill Clinton and grunge. And like Polo before it, there was a market ready-made for this little gem: All of those who’d now tired of the heavier scent of Polo and its pine/geranium/jasmine/oakmoss accords. This was different enough for it to be viewed on its own versus being derided as out of step with the times. It still had the right notes, albeit in a somewhat less suffocating arrangement.

Did it work? Surprisingly, yes. But it also had a demographic that skewed older — as I mentioned, there was an audience already waiting for the next creation, one that wouldn’t simply be marketed with a version of the Polo name and a much different composition (anyone who recalls Polo Sport will understand that it shares nothing in common with its namesake original, despite it sharing quite a few components with Safari). It was an older man’s fragrance, and it truly still is.

The longevity meets typical expectations for an EDT from that period — between 6 to 8 hours, give or take. Projection is mild but noticeable. The opening here, however, is part of the single concession it makes to its period: If you loved the 90′s, you’ll cherish the very sharp citrus and green introduction, which dissipates in about 30 minutes. What is left is a more refined and subtle heart, offset slightly with the pitch points of carnation, jasmine and tarragon, all noticeable.  The base is the reward here, and it’s remarkably well composed provided you can endure the sharp entrance.

Rating: 3.75/5. Recommended, but try-before-you-buy.

Bottom-line: This is a wonderful mass-market fragrance that is slightly skewed by its 90′s heritage. Forgiving that, it’s civilized and tailor made for a gentleman with a nicely varied composition. The melange of the notes is one that could never be considered entirely linear, and it only improves as it dries down. Safari is a fragrance that grows on the wearer and tends to become a favorite before you’ve realized.

The challenge — at least for now — is finding availability in the normal retail channels since this was not a completely easy search. was my eventual landing point to locate an authentic copy. As I understand, it is slowly being returned to the market after a hiatus and mild reformulation that changes very little from the original composition. was also among the most reasonable sources for pricing, shipping, and retailing an authentic product.

Is it what I remembered from that period? It was all that and more. If absence makes the heart grow fonder, I still recall this with very positive memories.

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