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”
Hermès have to be admired for their consistency. Since installing the inimitable Jean-Claude Ellena as their in-house perfumer (he is soon set to retire and step down from his post), the house has regularly turned out fascinating, beautiful and nature-inspired fragrances in a cohesive style. Ellena’s perfumes for Hermès are not grand dames or challenging experiments, they are landscape paintings in pastel-coloured chalks or water colours. Their transparency and weightlessness are what sets them apart from the crowd, and whilst they follow a distinct style, they never fall into the trap of being too similar. There is variety in this extensive oeuvre as well as beauty.
One of Hermès more popular collection of fragrances is the ‘Les Jardin’ series. The five fragrances from this series are designed as fragrant tales of lengthy strolls through glorious gardens in various locations around the globe. Whether they be set on a roof top in Paris or along the Nile in Egypt, these are transportive scents that fit somewhere between abstraction and reality. Their delicate and translucent style gives the impression that air from each location has simply been bottled, and as one sprays this scented oxygen, the garden comes to life right in front of their eyes (or should I say, ‘nose’).
For 2015, Hermès has launched ‘Le Jardin de Monsieur Li’. Following a visit it to China, Jean-Claude Ellena pieced together this imaginary idea of a Chinese garden, that is designed as a retreat – a contemplative place for the visitor to take solace in and seek tranquility, and peace. “We all have something in us of Mr Li” says Hermès, and we all need a safe haven to run off to when the stresses of life take hold – Le Jardin Monsieur Li is that very place, and in it one can seek both happiness and a true sense of calm.
“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.
If there is any pop icon that has suffered badly from over exposure, it’s Lady Gaga. Bursting onto the scene, in a haze of wild couture, progressive synths and disco sticks, she has quickly gone from the wild child hailed as the new Madonna, to a spectacular fall from pop grace (let’s not talk about ARTPOP…) straight into the arms of a lacklustre jazz album. Now, I’m positive that Gaga will get back on her feet soon enough, after all she is a talented songwriter, singer and musician, not to mention a pop visionary that pushes the boundaries and champions the underdog. I have every faith in her continued success, she just needs to take some time out and reevaluate.
Anyway, on to perfume. As you will be aware, Lady Gaga released her first perfume, Fame in 2012. The fragrance launched with about as much fanfare as the singer’s career did, if not more, and it sold like hot cakes, despite the fact that, in my humble opinion it was all style over substance. A visual masterpiece but an olfactory dud, to say the least. This autumn, Gaga has launched her second fragrance, Eau de Gaga and it would be safe to say that the entire mood of the scent, and its launch has shifted somewhat. Gone are the lavish launch parties and ridiculously over the top tv campaigns, and in with a more paired back approach to vision and smell.
Eau de Gaga is billed as a unisex fragrance that has been created for “the adventurous woman and the man who loves her”, and that’s it, there appears to be absolutely no gimmicks associated with the scent – no special black liquid that sprays clear, no alleged semen note, nothing. So Eau de Gaga is just a unisex fragrance from a fresh-faced Lady Gaga who appears to be comfortable in her own skin, despite the failures or successes of her current standing as pop’s new darling.
Recently, whilst putting together my guide to masculine fragrance for MANFACE, I realised that I quite like manly perfumes. This may not sound like much of a revelation, I am a man after all (well, at least I was last time I checked), and it would therefore make sense that I was a fan of those fragrances which sit on the masculine side of the aisle, but the truth is that I’ve always thought I found solace in the world of feminine perfumery. That said, a quick look at the number of masculine offerings in my list favourite fragrances contradicts this, so when it comes down to it, I guess my love for perfume spans all gender barriers.
The problem I have with masculine perfumery is that is often boring and clichéd. As a general rule of thumb, us gents are less adventurous with perfume. Add this to the fact that many mainstream masculine fragrances are dull, synthetic and obnoxious, and you don’t exactly have a recipe for success. This isn’t always the case though, and as you’ll see in my masculine fragrance guide (link above), there are more than a good few masculines out there that are generally interesting and beautiful, and I always feel a sense of joy when I encounter a new fragrance for men that simply smells very good.
One decent (and recent) example is ‘WILD’, the latest fragrance from fashion brand DSquared². Created by perfumers Daphné Bugey and Annick Menardo, WILD is a woody aromatic fragrance that is described by the brand as being “an overwhelming perfume that announces a free and wild soul”. Housed within the fetishistic confines of a leather-strapped bottle, and accompanied by a provocative ad campaign shot by fashion photographer, Stephen Klein (a NSFW example can be seen below the jump), WILD certainly makes a statement – one that surprisingly focuses on the idea of freedom, rather than sexual provocation.
“For us fragrance has an emotional connection to who we are, it uncovers a long-held desire or dream, which is why the concept of WILD has such an intrinsic link to us and the ideaology of DSquared2. The ultimate authentic expression of self is to live with complete freedom of speech and mind – we are fascinated with this concept, especially in today’s society.”
The debut fragrance from new perfume and skincare brand, Alford & Hoff would have escaped my notice completely if it weren’t for the presence of venerable perfumer, Rodrigo Flores-Roux’s name on the ticket. Flores-Roux is responsible for some exceptional work on behalf of the likes of Tom Ford (Fleur de Chine, for example) and Arquiste (Boutonierre no.7 and Flor y Canto etc.), amongst many others. So it was with a keen sense of interest that I approached this oh-so-masculine-sounding fragrance penned by Flores-Roux, for an entirely new brand.
Alford & Hoff is the brainchild of athletes, Barry Alford and Jefferson Hoff. They aim to create luxurious fragrances and skincare products for “a new generation of men”, positioning their wares at the higher end of the designer market and at the lower end of niche. Their first fragrance, Alford & Hoff Eau de Toilette is described as being “confident, passionate, stylish, successful, [and] masculine in a modern way”, and reportedly contains “95 of the finest ingredients.”
That’s all well and good, but how does this modern ode to masculinity, created by one of the industry’s most exciting perfumers, smell? Well, it’s described as being a “fresh, woody” fragrance, and it most certainly lives up to the standards expected by the genre. Will it be a defining scent for the modern generation of men, or does it ultimately fail to break through the cliches of its style? You’ll have to read on to find out….
“For women who dream with their eyes wide open and see stars in daylight.”
Yesterday I shared the news that Hermès are launching a limited collector’s edition bottle for Eau des Merveilles to celebrate its 10th anniversary. This got me thinking about the scent itself and the fact that I had never taken the time to sit down and review it in full – a truth that is absolutely criminal seeing as it is one of my all-time favourites. So today, rather than focusing on something ‘brand new’, I’d like to give a brief nod to a beautiful fragrance on its 10th birthday.
Eau des Merveilles was created for Hermès by perfumers Nathalie Feisthauer (Gardénia Pétale and Putain des Palaces) and Ralf Schweiger (Fils de Dieu, The Afternoon of a Faun and Cédrat Enivrant) in 2004 as a topsy-turvy perfume that displays no top, middle and base notes, instead opting for an “unusual revolving structure” consisting of three accords; “The Spirit of Wood”, “The Memory of the Ocean” and “The Sparkle of a Constellation”. The result is something entirely unconventional, yet incredibly familiar, evoking the feel of a well-know melody caught on the breeze – recognisable, yes, but difficult to identify.
Since its launch, Eau des Merveilles has been through the Hermès flanker-mill a number of times. To date, the family consists of; an Extrait version (Parfum des Merveilles), a richer and more gourmand interpretation (Elixir des Merveilles), a version that displays more transparency (Eau Claire des Merveilles) and even one flanker that is full of edible amber (L’Ambre des Merveilles). As with all things Hermès, these familial fragrances are all brilliantly executed, but it is the original that remains the most striking and even ten years down the line, Eau des Merveilles is still the star of the collection.