Flight of the living dead… Obsession by Calvin Klein The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter


All of you in regular receipt of The Dandy’s Scented Letters will know that a perfume normally inspires in me images and tales, some drawn from experience, others from the past, a majority from the imagination, others from involuntary emotional response.

I have to tell you that, in all frankness and with great gratitude, The Dandy has never been anywhere lived through anything, experienced any sensation or felt any emotion that fully equates to the current incarnation of Calvin Klein’s Obsession.

I have not imagined, even in my Halloween nightmares, anything that quite equates to this horror.

Nor do I ever wish to.

This rancorous confection explodes into a room like cheap drugstore oriental pot pourri spilling forth from its cellophane gift wrap. Suddenly everywhere is synthetic spices and desiccated, no plasticised fake flower petals all competing for their share of the olfactory action.

At every attempt to get the hideous play perfume stuff back into the bag merely results in the malodorous miasma reaching out further into space.

Have a caution though, dear reader, for it is worse, far worse than that….

The opening is an awful admixture of cheap air freshner and the sickly sweet smell of the vomit of a child who’s been stuffed with too much candy. The stink that the stupid deodorizer was trying to cover up in the first place merely amplified by the artificial presence.

Oh no!

And at this moment The Dandy raises a silk handkerchief to his moist brow, furrowed by painful recollection… I have remembered.

There was a time, a place.

An EgyptAir flight returning to London from Luxor at some unearthly hour.

Nothing by way of inflight entertainment barring a juddering, decades old VHS that desecrates the beauties of this magnificent country with its luridly coloured cheap camera shots and harsh jangling soundtrack turned up way too loud.

It is plays again and again on a loop, every twenty six minutes we re-enter the same circle of hell afresh.

We are recovering from the mandatory fumigation of the cabin courtesy of our none to courteous crew when…


A plume of projectile vomit erupts from a small though rotund child two rows in front and to my left.

It is the boy I had seen eating nougat throughout our four hour delay in the cramped, sweaty, tent-like departure lounge.

It sprays down the aisle and lands with a wet thud on the threadbare carpet and then sits there, glaring at us, challenging us to take it on.

After an initial flurry the stewardesses decide that their manicured hands are no match for this freshly minted monster. They elect to delicately, almost ladylike, lay paper towels over the offending excretion and ignore it.

Well not quite ignore it. After some rattling in the galley and much conversation a massive ancient canister, the size of a small fire extinguisher emerges and the hostesses pull the trigger.


Its vile gas is immersed into the sealed container in which we are now held hostage to these olafactory terrorists.

The first time this happens, dear reader, The Dandy himself is very nearly sick.

I vainly try to distract myself by attempting to pick out the notes of the gas from those of the juvenile puke.

Spices, anonymous and cloying, sweetness, exactly like the regurgitated nougat it is attempting to conceal, assorted over-ripe fruits.

It is a cut price, dayglo, distant cousin to vintage Tabu; produced in great vats and forgotten about in dusty corners until occasions like this arise…


Once more into the breach. For each time the noxious chemical odour subsides out come our faithful fumigators to odorise us once more.

Approximately every 18 minutes.

For the next five hours.

When we land, everyone stands before we are allowed, in truth before we’ve fully touched down.

Cabin fever has set in.

A scramble for luggage and then when the door opens a surge, almost as forceful as the semi-digested fluid from the unfortunate youngster’s mouth.

We have to be released.

In the airport and all the way home The Dandy couldn’t, and not for want of trying friends, remove the stench. Even after bathing and a night’s sleep something horrible in every way, a sickly secretion, seemed to seep from me.

So, I thank you, Obsession.

You have ‘helped’ The Dandy unearth a memory so painful, so vile that I’d buried it so deep to never have to remember it again.

Now, Obsession, all I want to do is forget you.

By way of explanation, chers amis, this recherche was spurred by the Eau de Parfum that is retailing in the United Kingdom at reputable shops and at ludicrously cut prices at some drugstore chains.

I can’t comment on vintage or other formulations, my memories of them are of over powering and overwhelming scents, of which my mother and other female friends took a very dim view.

Such is my devotion to you that I tried no fewer than six examples at which my will, indeed my will to live evaporated.

Oh but that the perfume had so quickly done the same.

The Dandy could describe the notes in more detail but, please, I beg you no more torture. Suffice it to say this is a journey into the twilight and beyond.

As for silage, too long, way too long, like a bout of recurrent nausea.

Now, I must rest.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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24 responses to “Flight of the living dead… Obsession by Calvin Klein The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. Lilybelle

    Oh, poor Mr. Dandy! 😦 I hope it all goes away forever. Soon.

    • Dearest Lily
      Fortunately this horrible event was some time ago… the review has just been waiting for the right time of year to make it’s ghoulish appearance….
      But even reading my own words a shiver of fear goes through me.
      Never again!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  2. rosestrang

    Aaargh, I feel a bit ill but that was hilarious! I applaud your courage Sir! I’ve never worn it,only experienced its sillage on others, but yes indeed your description is both hilarious and 100% accurate – the general impression of musty shag-pile carpet doused in who knows what! Thank God it’s not still at its height of popularity and we’ve just got Coco M to deal with, which is somewhat less bad.
    Did you ever try Secret Obsession? I sort of liked it, definitely more than S.O. though it’s also flawed and a bit strange

    • Dearest Rose
      This would be a musty shag pile carpet in a low rent bordello frequented by men who’ve had rather too much to drink.
      Oh, it doesn’t bear thinking about…
      But Secret Obsession that’s another matter entirely… and there’s a review to come on that little surprise before too long!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  3. rosestrang

    Inspired choice of images too!

  4. Cheryl

    Yikes! I didn’t wear Obsession back in the day, and now wonder what Jean Guichard must have been thinking. Many thanks for the high hilarity!

    • Dearest Cheryl
      I’m so glad I’ve managed to raise a smile with this one.. as it is the first of my Halloween Olfactory Horrors.
      I can’t vouch for the vintage, which could well have been a masterwork, but the current stuff… well I’ve literally smelt better floor cleaner.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  5. batkitty

    My God, it’s the attack of FRANKENFUME!!! A nightmare of horrifying depth–what you have described is my personal ninth circle of hell. I never liked Obsession and definitely don’t want to be anywhere near it now!

    But you have made this year’s Halloween experience complete…. And I hope the fumes release their death grip on you very soon and permanently!

    • Dearest Batkitty
      Oh, my dear, avoid it like a atomic power station in final stages of meltdown. I swear this stuff is truly radio-active.
      I just hope I’ve saved a few souls form going to meet their perfumed maker with this review.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. Miss Misty

    Poor Dandy, I can only imagine the horror of this situation. Sounds like an olfactory trauma. But you know talking about it is the first step to overcame it.
    BTW, I was eating some chocolate dragees while reading this…
    … off to get me some peppermint tea now!

    • Dearest Miss Misty
      You are right, talking about it is the only way I will ever move on or get even a degree of closure.
      I feel I’ve made a step towards that goal today.
      Now mind you don;t have too many dragees or you know what might happen…
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  7. This may be my favorite ever of your splendid reviews, Dandy. A bit of Schadenfreude on my part, perhaps? 😉

    I had a bottle of the original Calvin Klein Obsession bath oil (bestowed upon me by a sister, who must not have liked it…). It sat for years in a corner beckoning me, no, daring me to touch it. I never did. Even sealed, the scent emanated menacingly from the bottle. Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction’s signature scent, I’d have to say…

    Thank you for the laughs and merriment, Perfumed Dandy. I wish for you nothing more than a long, hot bath!

  8. Oh… I feel…please pass the air sickness bag….. ?
    Perfection as always my dear friend. I love it when you let it rip as only you can. Bravo.

    • Dearest Lanier
      So pleased it made you laugh dear friend… it’s not that often I have the opportunity to truly attack something, for the overwhelming majority of the perfumes my dear readers pick are so perfectly lovely.
      But it”s so good for the should every once in a while to let the venom surge forth… gosh, perhaps that means I’m turning to the dark side!
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  9. Dear Mr Dandy

    How I chuckled whilst reading the Dandy at his most acerbic! I do wish you’d learn to form an opinion- don’t sit on the fence!

    I confess to wearing Obsession in the mid 90s when I lived in London. I wouldn’t wear it today as I think it’s too big for the Twenteens (I can’t think what else to call this decade). Besides, when I want a spicy Oriental these days, I have more choice at my disposal.

    I did enjoy your review though! Most entertaining!

    Your friend

    • Dearest Iscent
      I know, I’m such a diplomat, never one to express an opinion, ever there with an emollient word a conciliatory gesture. The UN Peacekeeper of Perfume!
      I’m so pleased someone has owned up to wearing this one under the ‘ancien regime’ I have a sense it must have been better then… really, it must have been better then, for these really has the feel of something truly lousy that I can’t imagine you, dear friend, dousing yourself in.
      As for alternative Orientals there are so many… but I recall Shalimar’s not for you? Does that rule out Cinnabar and Must too?
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Dear Mr Dandy,

        You are quite right, Shalimar smells like petrol on me. I rather like Cinnabar, until it goes a bit Shield Soap on me. Opium is fine but has been done to death. However, I will try anything with Patchouli or Amber in, especially in this weather.

        Your friend

  10. I laughed, and laughed, then laughed some more. If you put a gun to my head and ordered me to choose my favorite bit, I couldn’t do it. So incredibly funny. Your horror was palpable, reaching out through the monitor in waves.

    As someone who normally loves many of the big ’80s powerhouses, and wore a good chunk of them back in the day, only 2 left me with a furrowed brow or total revulsion. For the former: original (now vintage) Obsession. For the latter: Dior’s Poison. At first, I didn’t mind Obsession initially, once in a blue moon, and in small doses, but it soon became so ubiquitous that I hated it on that basis alone. You couldn’t go to a store or open a magazine without being assaulted by it. The frequency was matched by over-spraying, turning it into a cloying mess that, yes, you’re right, was impossible to stuff back into the bottle. It just went on, and on, and on — wafting from every nook and cranny in nuclear strength and with the tenacity of a cockroach.

    To think that there is a reformulated, primarily synthetic version now makes me……. gulp.

    Is it very terrible that I’m laughing all over again that you experienced the latter not once but SIX different times to ensure an accurate assessment? Six! Hahahaha, my poor, poor Beau. I hope you rectified the injury to your sanity with some serious scotch or port!

  11. Dearest Kafka
    Nothing ruins a perfume as much as over-exposure, over-spraying and reformulation and I’m afeard that Obsession has been treated handsomely to all three.
    I have no objection to a powerhouse per se, I’ve loved Coco, defended Cinnabar and even Youth Dew for heaven’s sake, but whatever this one had, it definitely doesn’t have it anymore.
    As for my six separate tests (I know there must be some S&M bone somewhere in my body), I just had to be sure that it wasn’t just a bad batch, or run, or factory! In the end though I could only conclude it was wretched
    and get on with the scrubbing!
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  12. Obsession for Men has always been the superior scent.

  13. Funnyboy

    The most hilarious review I have ever read.
    Being ex cabin crew I can relate to every word.Sometimes on a flight we could still smell the remnants of an incident such as this ,2 or 3 days following!!
    The men’s version is now equally as vile, not what it used to be however I do still wear CK Be and Truth for Ladies.You could add these 2 to your
    to try list.
    Hope you are keeping busy!!

  14. fleurdelys

    I had to pick myself up off the floor, where I fell laughing, to sit back in my chair and type this comment. HILARIOUS! I never wore Obsession, nor do I remember smelling it on anyone back in the day (although I must have), but this corroborates descriptions I have heard from others.

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