Have you ever smelled Manny Pacquiao? You can. The Filipino boxer has an official fragrance now. It does not, as some people believe, contain droplets of his sweat or extracts of his testosterone or blood. Nor does it smell like gym socks.
"It smells not how a boxer smells, but how he wants to smell," said Neal Harris, Pacquiao's perfumier. And in the view of people who know such things, that smell would be citrusy on top, woody with hints of lavender and nutmeg, sage for spiciness in the middle, and sweet, rich, and musky with a touch of vanilla, amber and cedar at the base.
While waiting for Pacquiao to come over to cut the ribbon at the grand opening of his new all-Manny-all-the-time merchandise store in Hollywood, Harris and Pacquiao's lawyers discussed the cologne.
"Manny made the scent himself," Harris said. "He didn't just say 'do it' and give you a check. No, this is really his. This is his creation. We had 15 different directions, and he smelled them and narrowed it down. The way he can focus on something is unbelievable."
Above all, Harris said, Pacquiao wanted freshness.
The process of creating the fragrance began in January. Harris and Pacquiao met at the boxer's Los Angeles condominium on Sundays after church to sniff their way through many little glass vials of scents. (Pacquiao, apparently, has not only a good chin, but a good nose. Like the rest of him, it does not get tired.)
He whittled the field down to two, then one. Then the project went on hiatus for a bit because Pacquiao had other things to do — train for a fight, win it, pick up his award as fighter of the decade, win a congressional election back home against an entrenched incumbent in a district rife with corruption. That kind of stuff.
Then came the truly hard work of finding scientists to whip up a batch of cologne.
"There was an urban legend that there were two Filipino chemists who were behind all these high-end American scents. You know, it was gossip in the community," said the lawyer, Marsha Dungog. "It turns out the legends were true. Boy, it was an effort to find these two women. I call them the Chemical Sisters, but they're not really sisters. They're professors. They're the best of the best.
"And you know how Pacquiao loves working with Filipinos. That's basically how the scent came about. He chose the scent, and the Chemical Sisters manufactured it in their lab."
As the perfumier and the lawyers and the chemists and the marketing contingent of Team Pacquiao see it, the "Scent of the Champion" will have various applications ranging from the expected (body lotion) to the unexpected (hand sanitizers) to the sublimely odd (car fresheners).
Manny Pacquiao's fragrance is called MP7. The reigning champion of the perfume world, Chanel No. 5, or "le monstre," a bottle of which sells every 55 seconds, is said to have gotten its name from being the fifth sample Coco Chanel chose. The seven in MP7, however, is much less conceptual. It refers to Pacquiao's seven world boxing titles.
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Harris is not sure yet how much each bottle will cost, or whether it will be carried at places like Macy's and Sephora. One can only hope.
For a few, the scent was pleasant but overpowering. It permeated the new store, threatening to knock you out. Wafting from special fans equipped with pouches of cologne-infused ceramic beads, it settled into the molecular structure of T-shirts and posters and other boxing memorabilia. It was rather a lot of Pacquiao for one small space.
To two young girls who failed to get the champ's autograph, it smelled like disappointment. Sweet and bitter. Research suggests that scent memory is the strongest kind of memory, so maybe at a distant point in the future, when some hunk walks by wearing a spritz of Manny Pacquiao, those girls will be instantly transported back to this wonderful but woeful day when they came so near, yet remained so far.
To others, it just smelled like lemon. But the majority seemed to like it. Mostly, it smells like money. Or Manny. Same difference.