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.”
It honestly does not take much convincing to get me on board with a fragrance called ‘The Orchid Man’. I am, after all, a well-documented lover of all things floral and I always feel encouraged by a modern launch that gears a floral towards men. As a man, or a boy (The Candy Perfume Man just sounds a bit creepy, doesn’t it?), whichever fits, I get tired of the industry’s attempts to encourage me to wear brutish things with burly ingredients, solid things like cedarwood, amber and oud. I like all of these things, but sometimes a guy wants to sissy things up with a great big whack of indolic jasmine, do you feel me? I am confident enough in my sexuality to not care about labels so a masculine floral, or a floral of any kind for that matter, is a no-brainer.
So yes, I was very intrigued when a bottle of Frapin’s latest fragrance, ‘The Orchid Man’, arrived on my doorstep, partly due to the fact that I’ve never really tried anything from the brand before. Without giving too much away, I must say that after spending some time with The Orchid Man, I certainly feel motivated to spend more the with the brand. Inspired by the life and fashions of French boxer, Georges Carpentier, The Orchid Man takes its name from his nickname, which is a reference to the orchid corsage he often wore with his suits. As a man of many talents, Carpentier was than just a boxer, he also was a star of stage and in film, a dabbler with the sport of Rugby and even the proprietor of the first cocktail bar in Paris. It’s no wonder then, that Frapin’s The Orchid Man is a complex and nuanced perfume.
Created by perfumer Jérôme Epinette (Byredo M/Mink & Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme etc.), The Orchid Man strives to capture both the “elegance” and “violence” found within the spirit of such a contrasting man. Jérôme Epinette took inspiration from a boxing gym, centring the fragrance around “an animal leather accord that gives the scent its signature, power, elegance and the iconic aspects of boxing gloves” adding patchouli, which “brings the hot and humid tones that conjure up the atmosphere in a boxing gym”. The result is a kinetic spritz of energy full of juxtapositions that speaks of contact sport as much as it does gentlemanly elegance.
Summer may be but a distant memory now, but that doesn’t mean that we should forget about it entirely! With the mercury heading downwards and the knitwear usage on the up, it’s a good time to be a little bit nostalgic about summer or, if that’s not the case for you, it’s at least a perfect opportunity to rock something warm and delightful. Amouage’s tremendously delightful lavender, Sunshine Man is just the scent and it’s certainly got my olfactory senses running in overdrive. Check out my review on Escentual.com here.