Deep Red Eau de Parfum by Hugo Boss Review
Sometimes a perfume note pyramid looks so interesting on paper, only for it to turn out that the base notes hog the spotlight ninety-eight percent of the time.
Such a case is Hugo Boss’s cult classic, Deep Red.
On me, Deep Red is mostly a mellow, sweet vanilla perfume with hints of sandalwood and musk. Sure, there’s some fruitiness that hangs around for the first few hours, but everything else here is just a whisper in the first few minutes.
Still, it’s a well-executed woody vanilla designer perfume, and one whose array of fruity top notes is unique, light, airy, and well-executed. It’s simpler than I’d expected and is dominated by vanilla the whole way through, but Deep Red is a pleasant and comforting cozy scent to try on a cold December day.
The overall aura of Deep Red is much more… perfume-y than I had anticipated.
I don’t love describing things as perfume-y. It makes me feel a little like Harry Styles in that one interview about his new movie, Don’t Worry Darling:
“My favorite thing about the movie is, like, it feels like a movie. It feels like a real, like, you know, go-to-the-theater-film movie that, you know, kind of the reason why you go to watch something on the big screen.”Harry Styles
That’s basically my take on Deep Red. Here’s what I think Harry would have to say about it:
“My favorite thing about the perfume is, like, it feels like a perfume. It feels like a real, like, you know, going-out-on-the-town-fragrance perfume that, you know, kind of the reason why you spray something on your wrists.”Harry Styles, Probably
Deep Red opens with a warm, slightly sweet, edible sort of vanilla topped with fruit. I mostly get pear, as well as a sparkle of citrus that feels mostly like clementine. I’m told there’s mandarin orange and blood orange in here as well, which I suppose I don’t have qualms with, considering that these are all oranges and really, how diverse can those notes get?
Except, of course, that blood oranges do, in my experience, have a very particular bitter smell to them, and this is not it, and that mandarin oranges are just a type of clementine. So, really, this is a clementine top note. That’s it. No need to extrapolate that into three different oranges.
I don’t get anything I recognize as black currant here, though there’s a bright, fresh sparkle to the opening that I’ll begrudgingly admit might be partly constructed out of some cassis-like molecule. (I grew up growing and preserving black currants and tend to be very picky about all the vaguely fresh fruity scents perfumers have a disgraceful habit of calling “currant.”)
The most prominent fruity note, and the only one that sticks around on me for longer than a few minutes, is, rather unexpectedly, the pear.
Personally, I’m not much a fan of pears, whether in perfume or as food (at least, not of the juicy green variety — bosc and Asian pears and other pears with a similar crunch are delicious).
However, I’ll admit I kind of like this pear note. It’s light, airy, pleasant, not overbearing — or, should I say, not overpearing — and is less about an acrid skin-like greenness or saccharine mush or juicy sparkle than it is a diffuse, atmospheric fresh fruitiness. It’s juicy, sure, but not bursting like a citrus scent. This is a gentle, lingering sort of pear note, softened and made innocent and likable to even the bitterest of pear haters (me).
It feels softer and more evenly dispersed on me than the pear note in something like Burberry’s pink-dollhouse-sweet Burberry Brit. There, the pear feels more like an ephemeral top note with a loud and distinctly pear-y edge. Here, the note feels gentler, perfectly balanced as a light and general fruity note without simply being an annoyingly unrecognizable dose of fructalate or some other such general molecule.
That pear note lingers for a few hours on my skin before it elegantly absconds, leaving the vanilla accord and nothing else for the remainder of Deep Red. It’s a very linear perfume, fading from beginning to end with no major developments or late surprises.
The only other note I can really definitively detect in the opening is just a teeny dash of ginger. This isn’t at all a ginger-focused perfume. It’s not like Comme des Garçons’ bold and glorious Rouge, or even Hermès’ tempered yet undeniably spicy Twilly Eau Ginger. Nope, the ginger here is suitable even for ginger haters. It merely adds a certain bite to the citrus-fruit sparkle of the opening as a level-headed faint spicy note.
When I think of spices, I think of them tapping out rhythms with how long they dance on the tongue or in the nostrils. Some spices crackle on a long while as you breathe in, like a rolled “r” sound that just keeps snapping and popping with piquancy as you inhale. The ginger note in Deep Red is more like a tapped “R,” a single pop of zest, a quiet supporting zing among the clementines in the opening.
I sampled Deep Red recently when revisiting my old want-to-sniff list from when I first started getting into fragrance. I hadn’t really known much about my own tastes yet, but I knew I liked ginger and was adding any popular ginger scent I could find to my list of perfumes to try someday.
Thus I ended up sampling Deep Red, hoping with finely bottled and aged unrealistic hope to find a fascinating ginger accord here while now knowing this isn’t that type of perfume. It’s a popular designer scent you’d smell at the mall and smile a little. It isn’t some ground-breaking spicy niche thing.
So, while I’d originally come to Deep Red hoping for ginger, I’m okay with the fact I don’t really get much of it here. The faint spark of it is pleasant enough, and a stronger undercurrent of it would feel challenging within the fruity-vanilla designer perfume context.
Personally, I don’t get anything that’s really floral at all in Deep Red. I don’t explicitly pick out tuberose, freesia, ginger flower, and hibiscus seed here. (Hibiscus seed is really more of a musky scent than a traditional floral anyway.)
In fact, the only place I think I understand the floral association is in the general designer-perfuminess of the scent. Most prominent in the opening and then waning over time, there’s something in Deep Red that immediately made me think “Victoria’s Secret” when I sprayed it on.
Sure, part of it might be the clementine note and red bottle reminding me of Victoria’s Secret’s clunkily-named hit red perfume, Very Sexy. But there’s more to it than that association. This specific sort of sweet-vanilla-juicy-clementine-maybe-floral? scent has just the balance of sweetness, muskiness and general background flower-ish pinkness to make me think of a conventional Victoria’s Secret sort of scent. Burberry’s surprising and lovely Burberry Brit Rhythm for Women is another perfume with these components that feels to me like a VS sort of scent to me despite not being one at all.
Deep Red feels very much like a popular young woman’s scent to wear shopping at the mall. Unlike many very designer-feeling designer perfumes whose floral notes are firmly entrenched in trends of the early 2000s, this doesn’t feel dated in any way. And it certainly has more complexity to it than the perfume-y peony smoke-and-mirrors of something like Twilly Eau Ginger. But it still feels like a pink scent to be sold alongside pretty lacey underwear to popular young women with long nails and straightened-and-curled-again hair who are going clubbing later.
That’s not at all a diss. I am not a Deep Red sort of woman myself, but there’s nothing at all wrong with enjoying that aesthetic, and Deep Red does it well. This is a perfume that feels very conventionally pretty and crowd-pleasing in a way that feels more pink to me than red.
There is something that feels just a little bit tropical to me about the opening. That nuance seems buried somewhere between the fruity notes and the floral ones, perhaps the blood orange and hibiscus seed and ginger flower. It pulls together the unique signature of the fruity opening of Deep Red. Though it’s simple enough, there really isn’t anything exactly like it.
This is a woody vanilla, but it’s not an unorthodox woody vanilla like Diptyque’s Eau Duelle, Atelier Cologne’s Vanille Insensée, and Imaginary Authors’ Memoirs of a Trespasser. This isn’t a bold, edgy, unique woody vanilla with specific woods you can really clearly detect. It’s not a fair fight for dominance between the vanillic and woody sides.
No, this is one of those vanilla perfumes with hints of muskiness and woods around the edges to soften it and keep it from feeling like straight uncut playdough-y vanillin. Nothing in this is woody in a way that is remotely challenging or masculine. I can smell a faint warm, cinnamon-spicy sandalwood in the base of Deep Red throughout its time on my skin, but it’s hiding beneath the vanilla, keeping it warm and softening its edges. This is vanilla first, with just a tiny garnish of background sandalwood.
(There’s also cedar in here. Apparently. Allegedly. I certainly don’t get any. It seems like cedar is often listed in the base notes of random designer scents as an odd obligatory afterthought. I never seem to actually detect the hint of cedar in all these not-primarily-woody perfumes. Does anyone?)
Still, it is a delicious and pleasant enough vanilla accord. Unchallenged by any difficult notes yet expertly balanced with dashes of sandalwood and musk, this feels like a very tasty, yummy, edible vanilla. It doesn’t smell like any particular dessert. Nor does it smell at all like straight kitchen vanilla extract, with its harsh and bitter edge. No, this is a soft, floating, diffuse, atmospheric vanilla, undoubtedly sweet but in a faint and unobtrusive way that leaves you breathing deep for more.
That vanilla accord gets progressively muskier as time goes on. After a certain point, it reminds me a little of a chocolate sort of smell, maybe milk chocolate with no actual cocoa in it. It’s silky-smooth and a little musky, comforting and tasty but not too saccharine. Though simple, it’s quite a pleasant vanilla scent.
Is it deep? I don’t think so. This is a simple, linear perfume of few layers: a soft sweet vanilla, a splash of clementines and pears, a warm dash of sandalwood. All encapsulated in a very designer-perfume-y floral-ish wrapper. It’s pleasant, yes, but deep and complex it is not.
Is it red? Not to me. As I’d mentioned, this honestly feels more like pink to me than red, save that culturally pink brings up associations of overwhelming candy sweetness and flowers, and that isn’t at all what this is.
If Deep Red is red, it’s not a red that’s deep or rich or bold, but rather a candy-apple-bright splash of color on a poster advertising a holiday sale on lacy bralettes.
To me, Deep Red is underwhelming and simple. But it is a pleasant scent to smell, universally likable, and executes its popular-twentysomething-bar-hopping-scent aesthetic impeccably. Composed in 2001, this has stood the test of time and still feels fresh and modern today — if anything, refreshing in a sea of overwhelmingly sweet new perfumes.
If you’re looking for a vanilla-based designer perfume that’s sure to please but you’re wary of extraneous sweetness, Deep Red is a good choice. It’s simple enough to enjoy, but not so simple as to fall entirely flat or get annoying over time. It’s mostly a yummy, cuddly vanilla, which artfully sidesteps becoming cloying or playdough-y and keeps you sniffing your wrists for more until it’s gone. The opening is a fresh splash of fruit that’s refreshingly light and natural instead of being candy-sweet or reminiscent of drug store body sprays.
The performance is phenomenal, with Deep Red staying strong for over fourteen hours on me before I took a shower and washed it off. Its projection is slightly quieter and more intimate than I had expected for a designer perfume of its caliber, but I much prefer that over it clobbering me over the head and giving me a headache. It’s enough to smell on yourself and feel like a cool girl going about your day, and it’s enough for friends and lovers to smell it on you and compliment you on what you’re wearing.
Speaking of which, numerous reviewers say there’s something particularly sexy to them about Deep Red. While I don’t feel that way about it myself, I do see it: this is the sort of pretty vanilla perfume that’s very easy to enjoy, and that, stereotypically, men seem to love smelling on women most. I’d felt like I was cosplaying a woman I could never be when wearing Deep Red, and had expected my boyfriend to laugh or say he doesn’t care for it, but in reality, he quite liked it. And why wouldn’t he? Soft vanilla with a splash of fruit juice is a crowd-pleasing recipe. It’s slightly sweet, but still unobtrusive and unlikely to bother anyone.
Regardless of how much sex appeal you assign to soft, diffuse vanilla, this is an exquisitely cozy scent that’s great for winter. If designer perfumes with a splash of fruit and flowers are your thing, but you want something that’s cozy without being a full-on super warm gourmand or amber scent, this is a great choice.
There’s great balance here between the warm and slightly musky vanilla base and the fresh and modern fruity top notes, making Deep Red an interesting and unique property that sits squarely between the worlds of comforting vanilla scents and juicy fruity ones.
Deep Red feels suitable enough to everyday wear on me. I can most clearly see it on a girl going out, going shopping, to the mall, to the bars, out on the town, but it’s a versatile designer scent that isn’t too loud and could be acceptable for most occasions. Noses Alain Astori and Beatrice Piquet have developed a comforting, simple-yet-unique, versatile designer classic.
While it’s not for me, Deep Red is quite pleasant, and it’s a solid, unique offering on the designer market. If a unique designer vanilla scent topped with an ephemeral melange of fruit sounds like your sort of thing, don’t miss this one.
If you’re hoping for a lot of complexity out of it, though, or a prominent ginger note or floral bouquet at the heart, take a leaf out of Bo Burnham’s book and lower your expectations.
Where to Find Deep Red Eau de Parfum by Hugo Boss
You can find samples and decants of Deep Red EdP at Scent Decant.
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