Caswell-Massey’s Number Six is a notable fragrance on many levels. First, and most obviously, it’s affordable: only $30 for three ounces. As I’ve said before, a company with such a rich history could easily sell this for twice that. It was first released, the company says, in 1752. Caswell-Massey may be the oldest continuously operating company in the U.S. Presidents George Washington and John Quincy Adams were both fans of Number Six, and President Washington gave a bottle of it to the Marquis de Lafayette as a gift. According to Caswell-Massey, Lafayette liked it enough to buy more later.
Number Six is a light citrus cologne with a pleasant undertone of anise. I smell bergamot and lemon peel in the top notes. In the middle, there’s a faint lavender note under the anise, and some of the citrus miraculously remains.
The official notes listed by the company include bergamot, orange blossoms, rosemary, and narcissus, along with 27 unnamed ingredients.
I’ve worn Number Six for three days straight now. The first day, I wore it because I was in the mood for something light, something that wouldn’t cloy. This didn’t, but I was surprised to find it lasted the whole day. It’s faint, yes, but it doesn’t disappear the way I remember other classic colognes (4711 and D.R. Harris’s Arlington Cologne come to mind) fading to oblivion after about two hours. At the end, my skin smells, well, clean. Number Six, as it dries down, has a quality that isn’t quite warm or cool, but somewhere in the middle.
Caswell-Massey kindly sent me a few bottles of their colognes, along with some soap, after they read the piece I wrote last fall. According to COO Anthony Nichtawitz, they’re making big efforts to make the brand a big name again, including launching lines in Neiman Marcus and Tommy Hilfiger stores. I’d like to see them follow Penhaligon’s lead and hire a great nose and release some new fragrances. Sure, there’s a Number Six cologne now, but what happened to the others? Caswell-Massey mentions Numbers One through Twenty as Dr. William Hunter’s original 18th century fragrance line. Are the recipes still in the archives? What do the original bottles look like? Bring them back. If the old recipes are gone, launch numbers 21 through 25, and make them smell the way they may have 150, 200 years ago.
Caswell-Massey, if they don’t hurry, will miss out on the American heritage trend that companies like Red Wing Shoes, L.L. Bean, Filson, Pendleton and others are enjoying. Young men with disposable income are eager for Americana right now, and it doesn’t get much more American than Caswell-Massey. The company is just a carefully honed marketing blitz away from mainstream rediscovery.