Created in 1993 Basala epitomizes a 90’s men’s fragrance. Translated from Japanese, Basala (sometimes referred to as Basara) means free, unrestrained or unconventional. Although I didn’t buy a bottle until a few years ago I actively sought out a bottle because it was part of a list of fragrances I wrote down that as a teenager I used to enjoy testing but never had money to buy. I grew up in the countryside of New Zealand and on weekends I would go with my mother to a nearby shopping mall. While she was doing the grocery shopping I would go to the chemist and spray fragrances. The sales staff must have all rolled their eyes, “here comes that kid again”. Thankfully as an adult I have slowly accounted for all those bottles I once coveted….well almost all of them. The success of Shiseido fragrances in the 90s was largely due to Serge Lutens, however perfumer Dominique Preyssas created Basala. Preyssas is not a well-known perfumer, has created fragrances for houses such as Balenciaga and worked as a nose for Japanese perfume giant Takasago.
What makes a men’s fragrance 1990’s? It’s a good question. It’s easy to identify music and fashion of different eras. How can you identify fragrance of different eras? I think as people begin to create more dialogue around fragrance these answers become more accessible. I doubt I could have found out who was the nose behind Basala before the advent of the Internet and Google. To answer my own question, I think a male fragrance of the 90’s has a few common elements. As women of the time wore shoulder pads in their business suits, men wore shoulder pads in their fragrances. Beating their chests with a base of musk, vanilla, synthetic and natural woods, a halo of quinolines, conifer and classic fougere notes which said, I’m modern and progressive but I’m not gay, the 90’s male established their presence. All topped off with a splash of synthetic citrus notes including the essential aroma-chemical dihydro myrcenol of Drakkar Noir fame. Basala is really no different with the exception of its pronounced oriental notes (oriental in the geographical sense as opposed to the perfume definition). The fragrance opens with 3 themes. One is toffee and balsamic. A mix of vanilla, spices and amber resin create this first theme. The next theme is dry woods, sandal and vetiver. A lavender and fruity conifer mix is the opening theme that makes this scent so surely a product of the 1990s.
I don’t feel like I can be objective about who is best to wear this scent because of the memories that attach me to this fragrance. I’m sure contemporary males would detest, “this fragrance smells like my Dad!” Still, there is something timeless about Basala. I wouldn’t suggest it as your main scent but if you are lucky enough to find a bottle, as it has since been discontinued, it makes a great scent option for special occasions. Men of all ages and interests can create a statement with a half spritz of Basala. Emphasis on the half!
L’Artisan Timbuktu, Lagerfeld Photo, New West Skinscent For Men, Tom Ford Private Blend Oud Wood, Creed Tabarome, Miller Harris Vetiver Bourbon
Perfumer: Dominique Preyssas (Takasago)
Bottle designer: Marc Newson
Release date: 1993
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woods