I feel like we’re going from the ridiculous to the sublime with fragrance reviews on The Candy Perfume Boy this week. We started with Frédéric Malle’s Monsieur., which whilst fabulously composed is almost comically butch (which in my world is a compliment, of course) and yet we finish with Ruth Mastenbroek’s Oxford which is an entirely more refined and subtle affair. The two fragrances are so different in fact, that a comparison would be silly, so let’s move on and focus solely on Oxford.
Oxford is Ruth Mastenbroek’s third fragrance and it’s a unisex scent inspired by the perfumer’s time spent studying at Oxford University. It’s classified as an oriental, but as one would expect from a fragrance inspired by an established British institution, this is far from an East-looking perfume, in fact it takes the familiar notes of this fragrance family and spins them into something hopeful and free-spirited, just like one’s university days. The official description of Oxford is as follows:
“…inspired by my experiences at Oxford University, where I studied chemistry at Lady Margaret Hall. The scent of the French cigarette brand Gitanes, with its connotations of other-worldly chic and sophistication, was new to me as an innocent undergraduate. It came to embody for me the moment of discovery- when you realise you can make your own mistakes, your own choices, and discover life’s extraordinary adventure. I describe Oxford as the scent of an awakening.”
– Ruth Mastenbroek
Top: Bergamot, Basil and Galbanum
Heart: Clary Sage, Rosemary and Jasmine
Base: Amber, Vetiver, Vanilla and Oudh
How Does it Smell?
Oxford opens handsome and herbal with a distinct lavender-like impression. It feels super smart, almost as if its back is perfectly straightened and its shirt impeccably ironed. There is a bright citrus note that adds an athletic edge, but most notably the opening presents an unsweetened chocolate-like note that flirts with the savoury to inflect warmth and darkness. What I enjoy about Oxford’s initial impression is its multi-faceted nature. Sniffing it, one gets a real sense of understandable complexity, with lots going on but with enough clarity to make each element distinct enough to enjoy.
The herbal thread continues throughout the majority of Oxford’s development, becoming richer at each turn. As we head into the core of the fragrance, the salty pine-like tones of rosemary really shine, cutting through some of the sacchariferous notes that push up sweetness from the base. There is a floral edge too, but its incredibly subtle, adding a rosy tint to Oxford’s transparent warmth.
In the base, Oxford brings out its bigger guns, specifically; vanilla, amber, oudh and vetiver. Together, these notes allow for a solid, aromatic foundation, but they never create a feeling of hugeness. Remember that refinement is the theme here, so all the way through to the very end Oxford gives off a sort of solid subtlety, meaning that it’s present with good, personality-filled ingredients that manage to be bold without overbearing or dominating. In fact, I think its the lightness that gives Oxford such a wonderful, free-spirited and relaxed personality.
Oxford is a smart perfume, in terms of both appearance and intellect. It’s refined and elegant, but also smart enough to not overcomplicate things, giving off a kind air. In short it’s an approachable and friendly fragrance that shouldn’t be overlooked. In the event that you need any further encouragement to seek it out, I should tell you that, whilst spraying Oxford for this review, Nigel (my long-suffering husband) enquired what I was smelling, before nicking my sample, spritzing it upon himself and declaring that he could “get behind this perfume”. From the man that is as fussy with perfumes as a toddler is with vegetables, that’s quite the compliment. I haven’t seen my sample since.
Oxford is available in 50ml (£60) & 100ml (£80) Eau de Parfum.
Giveaway! I have a 50ml bottle of Oxford to give away to one lucky reader. To enter, all you need to do is leave a comment telling me what time or place you would like to capture in a perfume and I will use random.org to pick a winner. This is a UK only giveaway. The full T&Cs can be found below.