Here we are! The first review of 2017! I’ve spent a lot of time trying to work out what to write for my first post of the year (hence why I’ve been on an extended hiatus – lucky me) and I must admit that I was reluctant to start with a review simply because I wanted to kick off with something a little bit different . That said, a review feels like a good place to kick off the year because it’s a good opportunity to see where we will go scent-wise, so that’s exactly what I’m doing. Luckily for me 2017 has already seen a number of launches so I wasn’t short of something to pick for review number one. Even luckier was the fact that the latest launch from my favourite brand appeared on my doorstep just a few days ago!
My love of all things MUGLER has been documented many times. So many times, in fact, that I’ve probably bored you all to tears by banging on about my adoration for Angel et al. So I will spare you the hyperbole this time and instead will say that I very much appreciated the brand’s launch of their exclusive line Les Exceptions last year. With Les Exceptions, MUGLER took on the classics, creating fragrances based on the major olfactory families, serving each with a MUGLER twist. Every one of the Les Exceptions scents felt decidedly un-MUGLER, in the sense that they weren’t overtly daring or challenging, yet at the same time they really did add something innovative to classic French perfumery. In short, Les Exceptions is a phenomenally good collection and one that MUGLER seem to want to explore further.
The latest scent to launch within Les Exceptions is Hot Cologne which, if you haven’t guessed by the name, plays with the themes found within the classic Eau de Cologne. Now, this is MUGLER we’re talking about here so to expect a typical cologne is to underestimate the nature of the brand. MUGLER already have Cologne (launched in 2001), which is highly odd with its notes of steam and ‘S’ (rumoured to be a sperm accord), so Hot Cologne, the eight instalment in the collection, was never going to be a simple cologne in the manner of say 4711 and instead, this cologne, says MUGLER, “breathes fire and ice…and eau de cologne turns torrid”. Intriguing!
TOM FORD has certainly explored the world of his bestselling cologne, Neroli Portofino with undeniable fervour. The range consists of a dazzling array of interpretations, ranging from the original Eau de Parfum to last year’s honeyed Fleur de Portofino, and all that’s in between. This year, TOM FORD is sandwiching the original between two exciting new concentrations, with the lighter Neroli Portofino Acqua to its left and the intense Neroli Portofino Forte on its right. Both take the bold neroli-musk accord of the original and present it as something either more accessible or luxurious, but always interesting.
A week or so ago we took a look at the Acqua, the lighter, less spendy and more accessible take on NP and this week we are throwing caution completely to the wind with Neroli Portofino Forte, which is pretty much the opposite of Acqua in every respect, being stronger, more expensive and less widely distributed. So, how does a more intense take on TOM FORD’s neo-classic cologne fair in the sniff test? Well, there’s only one way to find out: read on.
Neroli Portofino Forte is a bold, exhilarating intensification of the Neroli Portofino Experience. The classic scent is rarified with rich, sublime depth as the amplified concentration of its floral core is lavishly heightened to utmost opulence. With the bold and impassioned introduction of coastal Italian woods and smooth leather in its composition, Neroli Portofino Forte marks an exquisite monument in the Neroli Portofino collection.
TOM FORD’s Neroli Portofino is pretty much legend at this point. Arriving as part of the initial crop of Private Blends in 2007, it has since been repackaged (in a glorious azure blue bottle, I must add) and has spawned its very own line of body products and flankers, scents such as; Costa Azzura, Mandarino di Amalfi and Fleur de Portofino. Neroli Portofino’s success is easy to understand – it is one of the best, if not the best neroli cologne on the market and it does what many fragrances of this ilk fail to do: it presents luxurious, globetrotting cologne nuances in a highly present and long lasting format, all with TOM FORD’s inimitable signature. What’s not to love?
This summer, MR FORD is expanding the Neroli Portofino lineup to include two additional fragrances. The first is Neroli Portofino Acqua, a lighter, more affordable and more widely distributed the fragrance that could be considered as the ‘Eau de Toilette’ version of the scent that we shall be putting to the test today. The second is Neroli Portofino Forte, which is the inverse of Acqua, serving as a more intense, exclusive and expensive take on TOM FORD’s standard bearer cologne, but we’ll get to that later in the week. The brand describes Neroli Portofino Acqua as follows:
“Vibrant. Sparkling. Transportive. Neroli Portofino Acqua is an invitation into the seductive atmosphere of the Italian Riviera from a new perspective afloat in the coastline’s idyllic azure waters, with endless skies overhead and steep, verdant hillsides just within view. A fresher expression of Neroli Portofino’s clear and sparkling facets, it is an irresistibly light way to wear the fragrance’s citrus-and-amber signature.”
In the UK we’re all walking around in a daze. The sun is out, it’s warm and there hasn’t been any rain in at least 48 hours. People are whispering to each other; “could it be?”, they ask; “I’m not sure”, they say. The ‘s’ word is on everybody’s lips but no-one dare say it. Could it really be summer? Maybe. The sun is out and the temperature is rising, but we did have rain, snow and hail last week, so perhaps we should wait before cracking out the shorts and sunscreen. I’m not ready to call it quite yet, folks, but I have an inkling that ‘s’ may be on its way…
For me, the summer season mean one thing: cologne. There is nothing better on a hot day than a generous spritz of a refreshing eau de cologne, except a water fight perhaps, but those are harder to come by in one’s old age. As far as colognes go, there is no beating Cologne Indélébile, the everlasting cyber-cologne created by perfumer Dominique Ropion for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. Cologne Indélébile squeezes lemons the size of the sun into its bottle, boasting metallic freshness, hay-like neroli and a whirlwind of technical musks to keep it going up & up, and on & on. It’s a marvel of perfumery and now there’s a new way to make it last even longer.
This summer Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle are launching an accompanying Body Wash and Body Milk to the Cologne Indélébile, promoting the idea that to make your cologne truly everlasting, it’s best to layer up! So before spritzing on twenty sprays of Cologne Indélébile (something I am often guilty of), one can lather up in a deluge of delicately soft bubbles scented with Malle’s neo-cologne, before then smoothing on a moisturising layer of the Body Milk and then finally, spraying on the fragrance to finish. By building layers of the scent on the skin, one can dial back on the sprayer a bit so that Cologne Indélébile really can last longer than the average British summer.
Sometimes I look at the present state of masculine perfumes in the mainstream and I let out a big sigh of despair. Many are reminiscent of Lynx-soaked (or Axe-soaked if you are a US reader) school changing rooms, often capturing the same fresh and sporty nature that has been done to death, and is as far from the high end as physically possible. The perfume loving men of the world, or just the perfume wearing gents of this good, green Earth deserve better than that, even if they don’t know it just yet!
Of course I am tarring everybody with the same brush here and for every two or three naff mainstream masculines there is one tremendous one, but these greats certainly aren’t in the majority. With this in mind, it’s always refreshing when a designer brand offers up a masculine fragrance that is elevated above the hoi polloi, and offers something unique, high quality and dare I say, beautiful. I mention all of this because Bottega Veneta’s latest masculine offering, Pour Homme Essence Aromatique is one such fragrance: a scent from the mainstream but leagues above it.
Created by perfumer, Amandine Marie (Mugler’s Angel Eau de Toilette), Essence Aromatique is technically a flanker to Bottega Veneta Pour Homme from 2013, joining their Essence Aromatique Pour Femme as a counterpart. It’s a strange hybrid of a fragrance, somewhere between a classic cologne and a modern fougère, playing with bracing freshness and supple softness to create something that is well, strikingly pretty for a masculine fragrance. Bottega Veneta state that Essence Aromatique PH exudes a “relaxed masculine elegance” describing it as an “unexpected take on a classic cologne”. That pretty much sums it up for me, but let’s take a closer look!
Passport, pants and perfume, that’s all you need in your luggage when travelling. Of course, when brining the essentials you want to make sure that you pack the right things, which means it pays to select the right fragrances for that trip away. I always pack something from Acqua di Parma because they offer such beautifully easy to wear scents that sing under the sun and their latest, Cedro di Taormina is no exception. In fact, it’s the perfect thing to kick start your summer. Check out my full review over at Escentual by clicking here.
I have a test for masculine fragrances to identify whether they meet the mark or not. I call it ‘The Nigel Test’. Nigel, as you may be aware is my husband and he, in his very discerning way only wears masculine scents, and only ones that he deems to smell rather luxurious. The test always starts the same way. I spray on a scent to test it. The other Mr. Dunckley quickly appears to enquire as to what I am wearing. “It’s so and so”, I say “do you like it”. “It’s ok”, he says. Cut to a few days later and the bottle is missing. Some scented sleuthing will unearth the fact that the crime was committed by Mr. Dunckley in the living room, with 10 sprays to the chest.
I give you this back story because this was exactly the case with Gruhme No.14, which landed on my doorstep recently and was quickly snapped away by Nigel, who wore the heck out of it for a good week. I let him get away with his crimes for two reasons; 1) he puts up with me, so a degree of leniency with light fingered endeavours is only fair; and 2) it gives me the chance to smell a scent on someone else, which usually gives me a good idea of the sillage and signature. So, in short, in the case of Gruhme No.14 (or The People vs Nigel Dunckley), the fragrance receives approval from Messrs Dunckley in unison.
The Gruhme brand is the passion project of corporate lawyer, Rob Hallmark who, after spending a number of years working in law, decided to build his own business of men’s products having not been able to find a “strong male brand” to identify with. Gruhme is the result and they now have two fragrances, the second of which, the aforementioned (and Beauty Shortlist Award Winner for ‘Best Masculine Fragrance’) No.14 is a more highly concentrated version (14% as opposed to 10%) of their debut scent. Gruhme describes No.14 as an “evening variant” of their “sensual and aromatic” flagship fragrance. It’s passed the ‘Nigel Test’, but let’s see how it fairs in the ‘Smell Test’.