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!
It can’t be easy being a Poison flanker in 2016, I mean, talk about some heavy shoes to fill. We all know that Poison (Edouard Flechier; 1985) and even Hypnotic Poison (Annick Menardo; 1998) are two of mainstream perfumery’s greatest feminine fragrances, so to bear the Poison name comes with a certain amount of expectation and baggage. PoisonGirl, the latest in the series, makes a very sensible choice and opts to be completely on trend following the La Petite Robe Noire school of fruity gourmand thinking. It is essentially a Poison for 2016 and I’m sure that, if the original were made today, it would smell something like this. Click here to check out my full review over at Escentual.com.
The legendary house of Mugler does not create fragrances, they birth legends and raise celestial beings. As a couturier, Thierry Mugler crafted clothing that released the inner goddess or demon of the Mugler woman, turning them into vast Glamazons and Dominatrixes. His fragrances are no different: they are the strength, the passion, the beauty and the force of women, with each one, Angel, Alien and Womanity, possessing a bold character that celebrates the unending beauty of fascinating and strong women.
These three idiosyncratic icons, Angel, Alien and Womanity, cast large, Amazonian shadows that dim the lights of most things around them, so I’d like to shed a little light on a Mugler that doesn’t always get the attention that it deserves. I’m referring to Innocent, which is currently exclusive to Mugler online and some travel retail locations (let’s say thanks to the brand for still making it rather than discontinuing it, as many would). Innocent shines brightly in its own way and it deserves a little attention every now and then because it celebrates all that is Mugler but approaches this spirit from an entirely more dressed down place.
Innocent was launched in 1998 as ‘Angel Innocent‘ and was created by perfumers Laurent Bruyère and Dominique Ropion. As Luca Turin says in Perfumes : The A-Z Guide, it was the first “authorised clone” of Angel, working as a less confrontational and challenging version of Mugler’s flagship fragrance for those people that couldn’t quite handle all of Angel’s angular volumes. Essentially, the fragrance takes the DNA of Angel, retaining its fruity and gourmand facets in a lighter way, but dialling right down on the butch patchouli that makes Angel so, well, Angel! The result is a delightfully bright and cheerful version of Angel that definitely feels like her spawn, but is different enough to craft its own niche. Just as Mugler describes, Innocent is a mischievous and flirtatious take on a legend.
I like vetiver but I don’t own many vetiver fragrances. A brief sweep of my collection highlights the truth that I only own four vetiver-centric scents; Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford in Eau de Parfum and Eau de Toilette concentrations, Carven’s reissued Vetiver and a bottle of Guerlain’s Vetiver (a must for any card carrying perfume nut). In fact, that’s not the truth at all because all four of these technically belong to my husband who, for the record, does enjoy a good vetiver. So why the vetiver snubbing at Candy Perfume Towers? In all honesty, I do not know. Perhaps I’m too busy focusing on my florals and macerating over my Muglers to really allowed vetiver to show me its veritas. Who knows?!
There is a new vetiver in town though, that may just sway my opinion. Well, I say new, but once again I am being creative with the truth. This vetiver is a flanker to a cult vetiver and I have to admit that it’s rather blinking good. Most of you will be familiar with Lalique’s famous Encre Noire (Nathalie Lorson; 2006), a dark and brooding vetiver that is often regarded as one of the very best the genre has to offer. Well now, Encre Noire has spawned a child – an intense and more raw version of itself that has one mission, and one mission only: to smell damn good.
The scent is called Encre Noire À L’Extrême and it is pretty much what you would expect from a fragrance boasting that sort of name: a richer, more intense and more extreme version of the original. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of Encre Noire, perfumer Nathalie Lorson has reinterpreted the iconic vetiver fragrance, or as Lalique put it Lorson pens “a new chapter in the saga”. Pushing the signature of the original “to its limits”, Encre Noire À L’Extrême is a fragrance that “plays on contrasts to express every facet of masculinity through powerful, seductive accords.” I’d say that it does a pretty good job of it too!
I’m starting to really get into Acqua di Parma as a fragrance brand. Their classic Colonia is an iconic eau de cologne that’s difficult not to love and last year’s Rosa Nobile has quickly made its way into my regular rotation. There’s an effortless simplicity to all things Acqua di Parma that appeals to my calmer and more refined sides. Of course, they may be a paired-back brand, but that doesn’t mean that Acqua di Parma is exempt from releasing lots of flankers, and their famous Colonia is available in a number of interpretations, ranging from intense versions to oud and leather fusions.
This summer, Acqua di Parma are extending their fragrant wardrobe by launching Colonia Club, a new twist on Colonia that is inspired by the idea of an private members sports club. The result is a surprisingly complex eau de cologne that is somewhere between a salty marine scent and a minty fougére. I think its great and it also proves that sporty fragrances don’t have to smell like sweaty Lynx-soaked boys (or Axe-soaked for my American buddies). Click here to head over to Escentual to check out my full review.
An army of amorous brides chase a practically terrified Jon Kortajarena through city streets in the advert for Guerlain’s latest fragrance, L’Homme Idéal Cologne, and who can blame them? After all, Kortajarena isn’t exactly harsh on the eyes now, is he? But these ladies (who are all Guerlain employees, FYI, and include a few Guerlain gents in the mix too because marriage equality is real, people) aren’t really chasing the handsome model, they are after the ideal husband and, more importantly, his fragrance.
With last year’s L’Homme Idéal, Guerlain presented their idea of the ideal man – a cheeky yet suave woody gourmand that boasted more than a small nod to the house’s extremely successful La Petite Robe Noire. This time around, and for L’Homme Ideal’s first flanker, that naughty little scamp of a man has grown up a bit, gone on a diet and switched out his black tux for white linen. The result is a lighter version of the original that still maintains the almond signature that is integral to ‘L’Homme Idéal’. Click here to check out my review over at Escentual.
Thierry Mugler’s annual reimagining of their flagship masculine fragrance, A*Men (the counterpart to the iconic Angel) is pretty much a tradition at this point. Each and every year the brand treats us to the signature of Angel Men zhuzzed up into something new and exciting. So far, we’ve seen our mate, A*Men; smoke tobacco (Pure Havane), drink whisky (Pure Malt), chase some chilli (A*Men Le Goût du Parfum) and even dabble in the world of lumberjackery (Pure Wood). The A*Men family is made up of a bunch of fraternal twins that all have a different sense of style – and what a great bunch they are.
For 2015, Mugler is doing something a little bit different with A*Men by putting it into a citrus setting. The bottle has been dyed a fabulous shade of neon orange, as has the fragrance for that matter. This new edition (penned by Jacques Huclier and Quentin Bisch) is entitled A*Men Ultra Zest, and as the name would suggest, it focuses on an array of mouthwatering citrus notes to accentuate A*Men’s cosmic cocktail of gourmand treats. Unlike many other citrus fragrances, Ultra Zest is bold and daring. What else could we expect from Mugler?
“A*Men brings you a new twist on the original: Ultra Zest. Shaken, not stirred, this new male fragrance will tantalise the senses as it burst with fresh, citrus, spicy and woody notes. This refreshing cocktail dares you to stand out from the crowd, be bold and go where most won’t dare to go”
Cast your mind back to 2012 when Italian fashion label Marni launched their first and eponymous fragrance, ‘Marni‘. Created by perfumer Daniela Andrier, the nose behind many of Prada’s most recent offerings, this debut fragrance opted to be a little bit subversive and create something that was both playful and practical, capturing the spirit of the brand whilst remaining relatively commercial. The result is a vibrant, spicy rose scent that stands out amongst the many others of its kind, due to its quality and effervescence.
Now, bring yourself back to the present day and let’s discuss ‘Marni Spice‘ the latest addition to the Marni fragrance collection, which includes the original scent and one other flanker called ‘Marni Rose‘. Much like the Marni Rose that precedes it, this latest edition has been created as a “new interpretation of the original bouquet”, this time showcasing the spicier facets of the Marni signature. The brand describe the fragrance as a “lively and spontaneous dialogue between strength and delicacy”, and that seems fitting to me. Marni Spice displays a different kind of vibrancy to the original, hinting at an exciting kind of androgyny.
“Just like Consuelo Castiglioni, as a designer, plays with classical elements, producing unexpected results through an unprecedented balance of proportions, colours, prints and materials, perfumes play with classic elements in unexpected ways. The starting point is the ingredients: sophisticated and precious. Consuelo Castiglioni follows every aspect of the process, editing each fragrance as she would do with the collection for a fashion show”
I’ve always been a big fan of Guerlain’s La Petite Robe Noire. When it originally launched as a boutique exclusive way back in 2009, I remember saying that the esteemed French house was missing a trick by not releasing the scent as a mainstream launch. It’s such a fun, fruity and frivolous scent, with oodles of depth and character, that it was almost a shame for it not to have a wider audience. Guerlain obviously felt the same, and in 2012 they remixed the juice slightly (giving it a bit more fizz) and unleashed La Petite Robe Noire all over the globe. It has been a huge success.
Of course, with huge success comes flankering, and lots of it. Since 2012, we’ve seen the launch of Eau de Toilette, Extrait and Couture versions of Guerlain’s famous garment, and all have been pretty good (especially the Extrait and Couture). This summer, Guerlain are extending their wardrobe of fragrant black dresses even further with La Petite Robe Noire Eau Fraîche (subtitled as ‘Ma Robe Pétales’), a much fresher and greener take on the cherry-rose signature of the original. Click here to read my review of this latest flanker in my Escentual column this week.
“The sickness of making flankers every five minutes is very upsetting, but if I don’t want to get kicked out for not doing my job, I have to do it”
– Thierry Wasser ¹
Thierry Wasser, in-house perfumer at Guerlain, recently likened the penchant brands have for creating numerous flankers to a “sickness” and when looking at the numerous incarnatons of the house’s flagship fragrance, Shalimar, it’s easy to see why. In the last five years we’ve seen seven, that’s right, seven new Shalimar flankers ranging from the sublime Parfum Initial and Ode à la Vanille to the less interesting Parfum Initial L’Eau, and on occasions the brand has stretched the Shalimar association pretty thin.
With their latest flanker, Shalimar Souffle de Parfum, the link has become so emaciated it may have finally snapped. Sniffing the flanker, it’s pretty difficult to pick out exactly how the two fragrances are alike. Shalimar is a grand dame of the oriental world, showcasing bubbling bergamot, smoky-sweet vanilla powder and tons of heavy resins. Souffle de Parfum on the other hand is, well, the complete opposite of that. It may not be worthy of the Shalimar name, but does that mean that it’s a bad fragrance?
Guerlain describe Souffle de Parfum as a “gently perfumed caress” ² and a “breath of extreme sensuality” ², with the ‘Souffle’ here referring to the French word for breath, as opposed to anything culinary-related. It has been designed to celebrate the lighter facets of Shalimar, specifically focus on the shining citrus that famously graces the Oriental Queen’s top notes, and the plush vanilla that sits at her core. In that respect, Souffle de Parfum succeeds, merging these two themes together to create something that may, or may not be Shalimar, depending on how one looks at it.