Cardamom, juniper berries, basil, verbena, leather, incense, tonka beans
The Short Story
A fragrance with no reason for existence.
The Long Story
Certain fragrances are made just to keep their companies relevant. If you are Burberry, for example, and Dior, Gucci and Cavalli put a new scent on the market, you have to keep up and release a new one too. This is the case with Burberry Brit Rhythm. It is a fragrance that has no other reason to exist except to keep Burberry’s name relevant on the fragrance counters. Speed to market, tight budgets and risk aversion have shaped Brit Rhythm into what it is: an unmemorable flanker speeding on the highway to oblivion.
Brit Rhythm was conceived as a fragrance inspired by live music. When I watched the commercial I got the idea that this would probably be a leather centered fragrance with some incense to it. The rock band, leather jacket, smoke all suggest of something raw, masculine and interesting. I almost expected a scent similar to LM’s Hard Leather or Michaleff’s Royal Vintage or at least a harder version Creed’s Aventus – all excellent fragrances featuring leather and incense. I got nothing of the sort. I didn’t register a leather note at all and the incense was totally muffled by the sweet styrax and tonka notes. Instead of a hard, raunchy, unapologetic scent, I got a generic middle-of-the-road cologne that tries too hard to be something it is not. Totally uncool.
There are two good reasons why Brit Rhythm is so generic and why it fails to be a good leather-incense fragrance. First, it has to appeal to the masses. The mass appeal means more sales and, after all, this is why Brit Rhythm was released in the first place.
Second, making a good leather-incense fragrance that is mass appeal is very hard. Leather and incense can smell great but they are not universally liked. The best leather fragrances on the market are mostly liked by fragrance connoisseurs and often hated by the general public. Take Aoud Cuir d’Arabie, for example. It has a fantastic leather note in it, however, most people would turn pale when they smell it. Even the most popular leather fragrances (e.g. Tuscan Leather) are seen as too raw and raunchy for the mass market. This is especially true for the tween market, which Brit Rhythm seems to target with the live music idea. Imagine a 22-year old college student rocking Tuscan Leather or Cuir Venenum. You have to have real big balls and a I-don’t-give-a-fuck attitude to do this.
The average guy neither has the balls, nor the attitude and Burberry knows that. Therefore, it delivers an average fragrance – something fresh on top with a sweet drydown, something that would get you noticed in the bar and safe enough to wear in the office on a casual Friday.
As expected, Brit Rhythm opens with slightly fresh with verbena and juniper berries. They’ve also thrown in some cardamom to give it a roundness and a masculine edge. It’s what you call a textbook structure. The verbena is almost non-existent and the berries get smothered into the cardamom. I get them for half a second trying to balance the warm cardamom with their coolness.
From that point on, the tonka bean is king. You get the typical sweet-spicy smell balanced with some synthetic cedar towards the dry-down. I can’t help but shrug my shoulders and go to the bathroom to wash off the scent.