Legends are born and not made, they say, but when it comes to perfume the icons of scent are most definitely crafted by someone, somewhere. Whether they become a classic or not however, is solely down to time, popularity and more often than not, quality. We may say something is iconic upon launch, but only when a scent has spent time circulating the necks and wrists of the perfume-hungry public, can one tell whether it is destined to survive or not. Many do not.
I speak of iconic fragrances because luxury goods brand, Dunhill’s latest launch, the optimistically named ‘ICON‘, is being positioned as a “signature masculine scent” for the brand and courts with the idea of being a modern classic within the genre. Created by perfumer Carlos Benaïm (click here to read my recent interview with Carlos re ICON) in conjunction with Dunhill’s Creative Director, John Ray, ICON is designed to portray “an integrally refined style that reflects the dunhill ethos of a self-assured, sophisticated urban gentleman”, capturing the ethos of the brand and the man who partakes in its offerings. Does that make the scent iconic? Only time will tell!
Top: Italian Bergamot, Neroli Absolute and Black Pepper
Heart: Cardamom and Lavender de Provence
Base: Oud Wood, Orris-Leather Accord, Oak Moss and Vetiver
How Does it Smell?
ICON opens with a mouthwatering blend of citruses and spice. The bergamot that dominates the initial impression is fresh, lush and glisteningly drinkable. It feels far removed from the stale, pale citrus openings found in many a mainstream masculine. There’s depth in the opening too, and as the the initial brilliance of the bergamot subdues, ICON starts to reveal a sticky cardamom syrup that thickens and intensifies the composition. Remarkably, this spicy glaze isn’t particularly sweet, and instead adds a thickness that extends the brightness of the citrus notes.
The caramelised lavender at ICON’s heart plays nicely into the hands of the citrus and cardamom syrup of the opening. Things become sweeter at this point and there’s also a powdery iris inflection that feels decidedly feminine. In fact, things don’t feel particularly ‘masculine’ until ICON starts to dry down, at which point it reveals a robust foundation of woods, leather and oud smoke. The base is bold and dry, but isn’t without softness and the tension between these opposing forces makes for an interesting experience. The whole thing feels like a contemporary take on the classic and bold masculine fragrances of yesteryear.
ICON has struck me as high quality launch. The bottle feels solid and heavy, and the fragrance takes the familiar threads of masculine perfumery and weaves them into something new and modern. Amongst the tide of sub-par designer department store masculines, the whole thing feels utterly refreshing. I’ll say now that it’s not a fragrance that I think I will wear, but that’s more a case of style than substance (I’d take a blousy floral over a woody masculine any day, but that’s just me) – and substance is something that ICON has plenty of.
ICON is incredibly well done. As previously mentioned, it plays with a number of familiar masculine themes, both classic and modern, but avoids cliché whilst doing so. The lavender is sticky-sweet and herbaceous, rather than barbershop-esque. The initial blast of spice is zesty and effervescent, and not dry and moody in any way. Even the oud and leather fails to fall into the trap of being overtly smoky and medicinal. All this means that ICON smells new and unusual, despite its somewhat familiar stock of materials. I don’t know if ICON will become a modern classic, but I do hope it sets the standard for mainstream masculine scents to come, encouraging them to become more unique and higher quality. It deserves to do very well.
ICON is available in 50ml (£55) and 100ml (£73) Eau de Parfum.
Sample, images, notes and quotes via Dunhill.