‘Uomo’ is easily becoming the new ‘Homme’ with each Italian designer brand rocking their own version. So far Valentino has one, Roberto Cavalli has one and now, Salvatore Ferragamo has their very own Uomo too. Ferragamo’s Uomo is a wonderfully versatile masculine that is soft & creamy enough to rock with jersey athleisurewear and suave & deep enough to pair with a black bow tie. In essence, it’s a scent for any man, any time and any place. Click here to head on over to Escentual to read my full review of Salvatore Ferragamo’s Uomo.
MUGLER may only have one masculine fragrance on the market, the astronomically excessive A*Men (or Angel Men as it’s also known), but they’ve certainly made up for a lack of diversity in their male lineup with a prolific number of flankers. Since its launch in 1996, A*Men has been boozed up, sexed up and made to sit down with a hot cup of coffee to recover. It’s a fragrance that lends itself very well to enhancements and MUGLER have been incredibly savvy with their many interpretations of the scent’s chocolate cacophony, always taking its signature and teasing out an entirely new and exciting facet in the way that a good flanker should.
20 years on and the latest olfactory twist in the A*Men lineup is Pure Tonka an “exhilarating fragrance for a man no one can resist” that sees a “searing fusion between the sensuality of tonka beans and the purity of lavender”. The tonka bean is a staple of masculine perfumery due to its high content of coumarin, which is a key part of the fougére accord. It has a vast and complex odour profile that ranges from hay, vanilla and marzipan to sour cherry, liquorice and clove. In the original A*Men, the tonka bean was merely a small cog within a much larger wheel, which also consisted of other moving parts such as; lavender, mint, coffee, patchouli, tar, vanilla and caramel. In A*Men Pure Tonka, the tonka bean is pulled right into the forefront and centre, and the volume is dialled way up to extreme levels to create a MUGLER fragrance that is really quite something to behold, even by their standards.
I was a big fan of Guerlain’s L’Homme Idéal when in launched in 2014, mainly because it was a cheekily masculine interpretation of the effervescent cherry accord that made La Petite Robe Noire so popular, albeit with a woody 80s vibe. I was even quite fond of 2015’s L’Homme Idéal Cologne which was all grapefruit and almond in a molecular cocktail that was wonderfully zingy. This year we are treated to L’Homme Idéal Eau de Parfum, which I’d describe as being a little bit more refined, suave and addictive than the original. Oh, and it has the vanilla dry down to end all vanilla dry downs too. Check out my Escentual review here.
Every time I look at one of those masculine Carven bottles I smile. They really are the most handsome flacons housing mainstream masculine fragrances on the market today and the scents themselves, Carven Pour Homme and Vétiver, are a delight to sniff. Carven’s fragrances don’t follow trends, they do their own thing, whether that be the revival of a classic or an entirely new take on a well-versed ingredient. They may not be cutting edge, but they are not sheep either.
This year, Carven added a brand new masculine fragrance to their line up: ‘L’Eau Intense’, this time in a white bottle evocative of a masculine fashion staple. The scent was composed by Francis Kurkdjian (he who needs no introduction nowadays) and Jérôme Di Marino. It’s described as an “oxymoron” because it is “as refreshing as mint leaf-infused water, yet brimming with intensely spicy and woody notes”. So how does this olfactory oxymoron stand up to the sniff test? Let’s see…
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!
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’.
“Monsieur., your chest rug is peeking through your shirt.”
“Monsieur., would you like the bear skin rug dry cleaned before you lie seductively upon it?”
“Monsieur., the 1970s called and they would like their headshop back.”
“Monsieur., is that an afro comb in the pocket of your flares or are you just pleased to see me?”
These were my initial thoughts when smelling ‘Monsieur.‘ the latest release from Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle. As you may be able to tell, it’s somewhat of a retro macho bomb and style wise, it certainly comes across as somewhat of a departure from Malle’s ultra-modern aesthetic. That said, I find it to be fabulously retro, which is to say that it celebrates a moment in time and a certain type of machismo that is utterly classic: that of the hairy chested, suave yet roguish animal of a man, or in this case a slightly older man. Wait, is Monsieur. a DILF?!
Monsieur is the second outing at Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle for perfumer Bruno Jovanovic, the man behind the delightfully subversive Dries Van Noten par Frederic Malle and designer scents such as Calvin Klein Reveal. With Monsieur., Jovanovic tackles patchouli, a staple ingredient within the world of perfumery that has made many a fragrance a classic. The thing with patchouli though, is the fact that it feels a bit old fashioned. It’s still used in perfumery today, of course, but most examples of the note today show it as sanitised to nothing but a dark fuzz that adds texture to the composition. Gone is that dirty, earthy and oily melange that we knew as patchouli in the 1970s and 1980s. Monsieur. however, aims to pay homage to the multi-faceted and complex nature of this ingredient and the perfumes of yesteryear, with over 50% of its composition comprising of patchouli sourced through molecular distillation. As the brand puts it; “Monsieur. is to patchouli what Carnal Flower is to tuberose”.
So Monsieur. is a patchouli weapon – a tool for seduction for the man suave enough to wield its powers responsibly. As Persolaise noted in his review, it’s also a fragrance that looks backwards rather than forwards, making it an interesting step in the Editions de Parfums oeuvre. Although evocative, I’m sure my description of Monsieur. as a somewhat-attractive paternal figure may not be what the brand intended, I shall therefore, refer you to the official description as per Editions de Parfums Frédéric Malle:
“Although seemingly simple, this formula evokes for Frédéric Malle, since its genesis, remorseless seducers such as Alfonso de Portago, Mark Birley, Jose-Luis de Villalonga or Gianni Agnelli. Their manly and timeless elegance has relentlessly guided the development of this empowering perfume. Monsieur., a neo-classical perfume, manly and utterly elegant. Monsieur.”