Brooks Brothers 1818 Cologne: The Smell Of Old Money, 1950s Barbershops, And Buttondown Shirts


When it comes to choosing a fragrance, I steer clear of anything citrusy. Sorry, but I have no intention of  smelling like a fruit salad.

I like heavy fragrances exuding leather, wood and tobacco. Or rum and spice. That I like them is the most important thing, but I think women find them compelling as well. When I was 30 and living in San Francisco, I had just started dating a precociously worldly 20-year-old (who’d intially told me she was 27). We were at a large retro-themed swing dance event held inside the USS Hornet aircraft carrier, and during one number (say, a ballad version of “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You”), she whispered in my ear, “You smell like cologne, sweat, smoke and whiskey.”

She found it a sexy combination, but one person’s olofactory idea of sexy is another’s idea of stuffy. Years ago, when I first founded, I figured I should “smell like Brooks Brothers.” I picked up some of the company’s 1818 cologne, which had something special in it I couldn’t quite define.

Eventually you get tired of smelling the same every day, so I changed things up and dabbled in a dozen more scents. When I’d exhausted them all (save for one pricey eau de parfum Christmas gift that smells like bourbon), I started to thing about adding something new. Only it turned out to be something old, as in old money.

Recently while stopping to hang out at the golf simulator inside Brooks’ Madison Avenue flagship, I started spritzing myself with 1818. After a few times, I was sold and had to have another bottle. There really is something special inside.

What, exactly? Let’s turn to the experts.

If you thought menswear aficionados were geeky, you should get a load of the fragrance guys. is the leading website for colognes and perfumes, and I logged on the site curious what the readership thought of Brooks Brothers 1818. The subjective associations and poetic waxings are pretty entertaining. Here’s a sampling:

If you wear a suit everyday, and you sit in a corner office, this fragrance is for you. If you are an old-school egomaniac, this is for you. I give it a thumbs up because you will get comments that you smell like “old money.”

Upmarket barbershop for the corner office crowd. It opens all boozy and brave but quickly goes vanilla and, frankly, bland. Not that 1818 is a bad scent. It’s perfectly balanced for the office – and as unsexy as button-down shirts.

This is one fine American barbershop fragrance. The aura is of the 1950s and early 60s; the images are of “The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit’ and the drink? The dry martini. I also think of the AMC Movie Channel program “Mad Men” or some of those films with Rock Hudson and Tony Randall, in their Midtown Manhattan jobs and romances.

1818 by Brooks Brothers is instead both the best masculine offering by this brand, and one of the nicest, most compelling “barbershop” scents currently available on the market. Maybe the best one. It is a truly impeccable, rich Bay Rum scent exuding masculinity, self-confidence, a “raw” piratesque exoticism blended with a Western breeze of clean, reassuring warmth – the kind of smooth and comforting soapy warmth evoking a fine robe and a glass of sherry.

This is old school perfection.

You can read more of their purple prose here.

By the way, 1818 is priced at a mere $60, and just might leave you smelling — and feeling — like a million bucks. — CHRISTIAN CHENSVOLD


61 Comments on "Brooks Brothers 1818 Cologne: The Smell Of Old Money, 1950s Barbershops, And Buttondown Shirts"

  1. A former secretary once came into my office and said, “It smells like ‘Mad Men’ in here.” To which I replied, “Cigarette smoke and whiskey?” Thankfully,no, she was referring to the BB “New York” after shave I was wearing. I don’t know if they still even make it: came in a dark blue cube-shaped bottle.

    More to the point (and to continue our recent “regional” theme): I can highly recommend an Old Line State version of that woodsy/leathery/masculine type of scent called “Chesapeake Bay Spyce”( There’s a bottle on my bureau right now: half-empty and going fast!

  2. Speaking of Old Money fragrances, how about Jockey Club by Caswell-Massey? It was said to be a favorite of JFK’s. There’s also CM’s Number 6, which was said to be a favorite of Washington’s. That’s about as Old Money as one can get.

  3. Luckily, Caswell-Massey on the less expensive end of gentlemanly colognes. Creed’s Tabarome which is said to smell like “an English gentleman’s club” and cigar tobacco is exorbitantly priced. I tried a sample and it was strong at first but had a lovely, sweet-woody finish. It was said to be made for, or inspired by, Winston Churchill.

  4. Penhaligon’s Blenheim Bouquet

  5. As I recall, last time I sniffed Jockey Club and Blenheim, neither was heavy, leathery and tobacco-like. Fine and legendary fragrances, of course.

  6. Royall Bay Rhum, Caswell Massey No. 6, (Pinaud Virgin Island Bay Rum, Pinaud Clubman after shave -cheap but good)

    Aramis generously applied if your thinking of changing teams.

    Axe products if your a kid who doesn’t know any better.


  7. It’s hard to find Caswell-Massey’s products these days. I’ve seen a few in one drug store, but no where else. Blenheim is more flowery and Jockey is as well, both describes as barber shop scents. Whereas Number Six is a citrus alternative, seems better for spring/summer.

  8. Rodney A Parker | August 8, 2016 at 3:30 pm |

    George Trumper’s Eucris is one of my personal favorites.

  9. Royall Lyme in the summer, Royall Rugby the rest of the year. Easy.

  10. Green Irish Tweed by Creed or D.R. Harris’s Windsor for me. @Paul, you’re right about the B.Bros New York in the square blue bottle. I find myself coming back to it now and then. Very nice stuff.

  11. Just remembered, The Official Preppy Handbook stated that Dior’s Eau Sauvage was the scent of preppy girls and boys.

  12. I believe the scent Paul is referring to is New York for Gentleman –

  13. GS “It’s hard to find Caswell-Massey’s products these days.”

  14. Brooks Brothers did have a smell. I noticed it every time I walked into our local downtown Brooks store in the 1980s. It was mostly a smell of new wool, with fainter notes of leather and wood. Whether you can get that out of a bottle, I don’t know, but it’s one of the things I miss about the old Brooks. Today’s Brooks stores have more of a generic department store smell.

  15. NaturalShoulder | August 8, 2016 at 6:17 pm |

    I remember wearing Eau Savage in the early 90s back when I wore cologne. I am not sure why I stopped but, perhaps, I should consider again. My father has worn the Polo green bottle cologne for ages and as he has gotten older, applies a bit too liberally which is part of reason why I don’t wear any.

  16. @Flo I’m aware of their website, thank you. I meant that they’re hard to find in retail stores. I would like to smell the different colognes before buying them.

  17. Vern Trotter | August 8, 2016 at 6:34 pm |

    I agree with Paul. The Chesapeake Bay Spyce is the best out there in my not so humble opinion, as Taki says. For years I wore Royal Lyme but a friend introduced me to this one maybe 20 years ago.

    Some cretins, such as those in the people’s republic of Massachusetts town meetings, ostracize scent wearers to their own seating sections. And of course, here in NYC, one has to take care not to splash on too much and get into contretemps on the bus, at the opera or at women’s wrestling matches.

  18. @NaturalShoulder Polo cologne is another club-in-a-bottle scent. Very woody and a little too old for myself. As for Eau Sauvage, Dior now has Johnny Depp, with exposed tattoo sleeves, as the cologne’s new face. Immense turn off as it lets you know to whom they’re marketing the cologne.

  19. Pinaud Clubman after shave is, to me, the epitome of the small town barber shop, maybe with a dash of Jeris hair tonic thrown in. Clubman’s pretty cloying, though, and can easily overpower any other scent for a long time.

    If you like Sandalwood, try Caswell Massey: it’s fairly long lasting, and neither cloying nor overly strong to start, and the dry down scent is the same as the initial. I also like L’Occitane’s Eau de Baux.

    Caswell Massey Greenbrier was my go-to for years, then of course they “reformulated and improved” it

  20. @NCJack you are absolutely correct about Pinaud and Jeris being the stereotypical small-town barber shop. My barber uses both. I love it when certain things stand the test of time.

  21. I recommend Floris #89 for those who haven’t taken a sniff.

  22. The golf club I belong to has about twenty different Pinaud bottles of various strengths and ages. I think some have been there for over twenty years! Plus combs in those glass jars with the blue water for sterilizing.

  23. Floris No.89, Ian Fleming’s cologne of choice. As well as James Bond in the novels. Another woody English club scent.

  24. Mont Blanc for the work week and a little Ogallala Bay Rum on the weekends. Ogallala’s sandalwood is nice too.

  25. I second (third?) Paul and Vern Trotter’s remarks about Chesapeake Bay Spyce. I first bought some while spending time near Chesapeake Bay in 2006. Used it all and just scored a new bottle last week. The product seems OK – far better IMO than today’s Royall Spyce – but I was greatly disappointed that the bottle no longer has an embossed map of Chesapeake Bay molded into the glass.

    I first encountered Eau Sauvage as a premium set of products provided to first class passengers on a Saudia Airline flight from Riyadh to Casablanca in April 1977. I used them during a memorable week in Tangier and thus have kept it in my inventory ever since. Too bad about using Johnny Depp as the current model. Just remember that Eau Sauvage was Steve McQueen’s favorite and score some sealed NOS (not reformulated) bottles on Ebay as I did recently.

  26. If Brooks Brothers 1818 reeks of Old Money, good taste and and sophisticated class then imagine what cologne would reek of nouveau riche, poor taste and boorishness?

    The answer is, I’m not making this up, Success by Trump.

    The most recent (one year ago) Basenotes reviewer says in part: “When I blind bought my slightly used bottle of Success for the relatively low price of $1.65, I confess I was highly skeptical as to whether I would enjoy the composition. That said, even my darkest nightmares couldn’t prepare me for the hideous concoction I am wearing as I write this…”

    Buy reviewers on Amazon, paying a lot more than $1.65, seem to like it: .

    I’m sticking with Cheasapeake Bay Spyce and Eau Sauvage.

  27. Bags' Groove | August 9, 2016 at 2:26 am |

    Comparing the number of comments for aftershave with the number for Cary Grant I can only conclude that my sartorial sensitivity is stratospherically-higher tuned than my olfactory sensitivity.

  28. Mitchell S. | August 9, 2016 at 5:59 am |

    Creed’s Tabarome is rumored to use a distilled extract of Cuban tobacco leaves. Other notes include sandalwood and leather. It is a classic 50’s fragrance, but at $300 per bottle, too expensive for Old Money people.

  29. @Mazama: I’m sorry to hear about the bottle for Chesapeake Bay Spyce – is it now just plain brown glass? I hope it still comes with the pewter cap with the crab on it, at least?

    @Mitchell S.: “too expensive for Old Money people” gave me a smile; a long time ago I worked for a judge who lived in the same house his family had occupied since the Revolution (and was the site of the only Revolutionary battle fought in that particular state); at the Christmas party every year he served boxed wine (before boxed wine was good), and literally cheese-and-crackers. The joke was that, at the beach, he only needed one lime for happy hour because he sliced it with a razor blade.

  30. Mitchell S. | August 9, 2016 at 11:05 am |

    @Paul: I had to laugh at your comment. When I was a college freshman I lived in a dorm next to a bunch of guys with last names like Rockefeller, Dupont, and Dow (literally). The guy across my door was from Connecticut and liberally doused himself with Old Spice aftershave every week-end because cologne was for nouveau riche. He would have laughed at anyone wearing Brooks Brothers 1818 Cologne.

  31. In the sixties and the seventies used to use Brooks Brothers “Woodmoss” aftershave. For some reason, Brooks Brothers stopped selling it. Since then Brooks Brothers has stopped selling almost everything I used to buy there.

  32. @Mazaman, I recall Eau Savauge in each F/C restroom on TWA’s International flights. Caps screwed off which pursers kept so one wouldn’t run off with the bottle!

  33. @GS – The scent that Dior is marketing with images of Johnny Depp is Sauvage, a new product which is not to confused with Eau Sauvage.

  34. I bought my first bottle of Pinaud Virgin Island Bay Rum in 1966, at age 14. I’ve been using PInaud, along with Aqua Velva, since.

    Never really wanted any of the expensive stuff.

  35. The original Polo green since it’s beginnings and Royal Bay Rum. For both drive to work with windows open.
    High School was Gravel and Canoe.
    Junior high was stolen Old Spice from my father’s dresser.

  36. Should have wrote,” High school and University was Gravel and Canoe”.

  37. Should have wrote “should have written.”

  38. A. Nonny Mouse | August 9, 2016 at 3:23 pm |

    @Wifebeater Will

    Which do you find best covers the stench of peanut butter and poor grammar?

  39. And should have written “…since its (to it’s) beginnings….).

  40. Where did that last ) come from? Should have been “. I’m going back to sleep.

  41. @Mouse

    The sweet smell of success.


  42. A. Nonny Mouse | August 9, 2016 at 3:55 pm |

    @Wifebeater Will

    The aforementioned Donald Trump fragrance? How very lower middle class. Do you wear his shirts as well?

    • Mouse,

      West coast jazz themed film noir from 1957. Pretty good Chico Hamilton music. Burt Lancaster character, JJ Hunsecker kind of reminds me of Donald Trump but with style. Good idea to stay away from anything Trump, wouldn’t you agree?


  43. @Sam

    I had occasion to visit a local store today for a Leather Man nautical belt and sampled the Royall Rugby. Six hours later, the scent is as pronounced as when applied. I will be sticking to the Royall Bay Rhum, which mellows considerably during the day. Incidentally, has Leather Man leather on the embroidered belts always been top grain leather of a somewhat cardboard quality?


  44. I used to work at BB when in college and the different store managers used to take the floor sample bottles of the 1818 and spray it all over the damn place. 1818 just smells like an old shoe in the lost and found basket at a mall.

  45. Paul asks. re Chesapeake Bay Spyce: “…is it now just plain brown glass? I hope it still comes with the pewter cap with the crab on it, at least?”

    Paul, the bottle is, as you feared, “just plain brown glass” although it’s a somewhat heavy plain brown glass with the only adornment a seemingly not-too-durable paper label on the front.

    But the pewter cap with the Chesapeake blue crab remains for now!

    Your questions caused me to remember that I bought my first embossed and pewter capped bottle of CBS at an art gallery in Fredericksburg, VA which was owned by a bronze artist who specialized in casting a signature blue crab design and was also casting the caps for the Easton, MD-based cologne maker.

    The scent of the product inside my new bottle seems to be as I recall the original one although maybe slightly less “artisinal” in that it lacks the bits of natural sediment that floated around in my original purchase.

    Overall this may be another case of something that’s “not as good as it was but better than it will be” so perhaps we should build up inventory before the original charm that beguiled us is “improved” much more…

  46. @cameron thank you for clarifying. Makes perfect sense seeing as Johnny Depp looks like a sauvage.

  47. Bags' Groove | August 10, 2016 at 2:12 am |

    Wow! The list just keeps getting longer, 46 versus 6 (excluding my comments), proving what a crucially important component the right aftershave is of an Ivy-Trad ensemble. Who’d have guessed?

  48. Charlottesville | August 10, 2016 at 10:50 am |

    On a different topic, I received an e-mail from the good folks at J. Press alerting me to a sale on Tattersall shirts. The pictures looked great, and the fabric looked like the classics I remember: . Even the pocket flap is there. However, when I looked at the size chart, I saw why the $110 shirts are on sale for $33: A small has a 15 1/2 inch collar and 34 1/2 inch sleeve. Sounds like a bigger than standard collar for a Small, but it should fit me well enough. However, it is a “Blue Label ” shirt, and the description says that they fit tight, and one should order up a size. The Medium (my usual for alpha sizing) has a 16 3/8″ neck and 35″ sleeves. The Large has a 17 1/8″ neck and sleeves just short of a yard long. Who are these things being made for? Apparently fat-necked men with the waist size of a ferret and the arms of a gorilla. I note that a lot of the Blue label stuff, much of which looks good in the pictures, seems to be on sale at steep markdowns. I can only think it is the sizing. Just like at Brooks, where the Tom Browne suits were consistently half price or less, and every size was still available because most men can’t fit into this stuff. Having to dump ridiculously sized items at less than the cost of their manufacture does not sound like a profitable business plan. Hopefully our much-loved friends at J. Press will figure this out.

  49. After a morning workout and shave, I generally put a dab of whatever is laying out in the locker room of my downtown city club. Sometimes its Old Spice, sometimes Bay Rum, sometimes it’s the bright lime green Pinauld (?) stuff.

  50. Since college I’ve been a fairly consistent Old Spice customer. sure, I’ve experimented with other, more expensive, scents but I always keep coming back to the drug store classic. When used (sparingly) it reminds me of when I was a kid working at the Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor…it’s what a man should be; non-fussy, in-charge, and slightly intoxicated.

  51. Ryan, I like Old Spice a lot actually. It’s a decent after shave and doesn’t reek up any room you walk into.

  52. Vern Trotter | August 10, 2016 at 1:46 pm |

    I guess I can re-use the vintage bottles of Chesapeake Bay Spyce when I have to re-order; just grab a funnel from the kitchen drawer. The news nowadays is always “becoming unbecoming.”

  53. Travis Parsons | August 10, 2016 at 4:13 pm |

    Hey Vern, Good article and great comments about Chesapeake Bay Spyce especially since you are a long time Brooks Brothers supporter. I am trying to remember when I bought my first bottle of Chesapeake Bay. They were based in MD and the bottle came with a moving story about the founder. I may not be the first customer but damn close. I bought the first at a store in Annapolis in the mid to late 1990’s. They have since moved to FL to market a total of nine Coastal Fragrances. All are the same fragrance except for the name which also includes Gulf Coast, Florida Spyce, Cayman Islands, Sea Island, Navy Wings (comes with a gold cap), Smokey Mountain Spyce, Seaport and Hateras Spyce. I have bought all over the years and multiple bottles of some. Many still have the embossed bottles and pewter caps. I display the bottles on a bathroom window ledge with the caps. There are multiple sources on the Internet. Coastal Fragrance, Gulf Coast and Angel’s Garden

    Keep Splashing

  54. I have a large bottle of Eau Sauvage on my counter and it smells and looks nothing like the nouveau sauvage.

  55. So, if Brooks 1818 smells like old money for men, what’s the equivalent scent for the fairer sex? What do the winsome WASPy women wear?

  56. Bill Timmins | December 2, 2016 at 10:36 am |

    My original favorite was Brooks Brothers 1818 Sandalwood which has not been available for a long time. I also liked Cassey Massey’s Tricorn which has been discontinued, and Greenbriar which has been “reformulated”. I next moved onto Creed’s original Tabarome Prive, it was very expensive, but an incredible fragrance. This too has become incredibly difficult to procure and the Tabarome Millesime is just gross.

    I still swear by the Original Dunhill and also have come to like the L’Occitane products.

  57. Crabtree & Evelyn for the WASPy woman. My grandmother’s favorite.

  58. elder prep | June 29, 2020 at 2:41 pm |

    For me its Truefitt & Hill’s “West Indian Limes” for summer wear, Penhaligon’s “Endymion” in the winter, and Dior’s Eau Sauvage whenever I feel like being especially preppy.

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