Gagging for Gaga
Gagging for Gaga

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.

WILD [Photo: Steven Klein]
WILD [Photo: Steven Klein]
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.”

– Dean and Dan Caten, DSquared²

Jon Kortajarena in Colin Firth & Tom Ford's A Single Man
Sharp Suits & Relaxed Denim – Jon Kortajarena & Colin Firth in Tom Ford’s A Single Man

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….

Desired Constellation - Eau de Merveilles by Hermès
Desired Constellation – Eau des Merveilles by Hermès

“For women who dream with their eyes wide open and see stars in daylight.”

– Hermès

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.

Cooling Fragrances - Because It's Too Hot to Wear Anything Else...
Cooling Fragrances – Because It’s Too Hot to Wear Anything Else…

It’s warm. Very warm. It would be fair to say that I don’t do well in the heat. I enjoy it for a few days, but after a while the relentless mugginess gets me down and I find myself crying out for some relief. Luckily for me, and those who share my difficulties with the warmth, there are a number of fragrances out there that can provide some much-needed olfactory refreshment on those days when the sun reigns supreme in the sky.

For my Escentual column this week, I’ve taken a look at six fragrances to wear when it is simply too hot to wear anything else. They range from straightforward eau de colognes to thirst quenching citrus fragrances, and I’ve even thrown in some ice cold fragrant offerings for when the mercury rises to crisis point. To read the piece, simply click here – make sure to let me know what your favourite cooling scents are!

Also – Don’t forget that you have until 22:00 GMT tonight to enter my fabulous third birthday giveaway to be in with a chance of winning a 60ml bottle of Alien by Thierry Mugler. Click here to enter. Good luck! Competition now closed.

Jamie Dornan
Jamie Dornan – The Sexiest Man on the Planet. Ever (IMHO)

Sex sells, as they say, and the world of perfume is certainly no exception. We are constantly bombarded with hyper-sexualised images of men and women, gently caressing perfume bottles and writhing around in faux wind-machine-assisted ecstasy, all just to spur us to part with cash at our local branch of Debenhams. Some brands go even further and play with the naked form in a deliberately shocking way, like Tom Ford with his verging-on-the-obscene Terry Richardson ad campaign for Tom Ford for Men, for example, or even Yves Saint Laurent and their slightly more tasteful, but still completely full frontal print ad for M7 (both NSFW links courtesy of Mr. Ford’s artistic direction, FYI).

But what makes a perfume sexy? Well, one would think that the answer to this question is entirely subjective, and in reality I think that is most likely to be the case. I imagine our idea of ‘sexiness’ in scent to be similar to the appearance of love potions in the world of Harry Potter (bear with me here), where the smell that each potion exudes is unique to the individual that sniffs it, depending on what they find attractive in a person. To put it another way – one man’s sexy fragrance is another’s olfactory cold shower, and it would be true to say that many supposedly ‘sexy’ scents fail to deliver, whereas the most seductive scents seem to be those that aren’t necessarily billed as such – sexy surprises, if you will.

One fragrance that makes rather bold claims about being ‘hot’ is 4160 Tuesdays’ ‘The Sexiest Scent on the Planet. Ever. (IMHO)‘. Well, that’s what one would think from the name, but in reality this perfume, which was originally created by perfumer Sarah McCartney as a base for her Gin Garden scent and inadvertently named by a Tatler journalist, has a moniker that is served with tongue pressed firmly in cheek. The truth however, is that this fragrance is wonderfully executed, delicious and one of the easiest scents to wear on the planet. Ever.

Magical Botanical
Magical Botanical

In the world of perfumery there is an age-old conflict the natural vs the synthetic. It’s a complicated argument with many different view points, with some asserting that ‘natural’ is better, whereas others believe that a mixture of both the natural stuff and the ‘synthetic’ materials is required to make truly complete compositions. I personally am firmly in the mixed camp and have found many predominately, or all-natural fragrances to feel quite flat and unfinished.

That said, I’m always open to persuasion and it seems that I may have found just the thing to convince me, courtesy of “naturally active skincare” brand, Liz Earle. Up until now, my exposure to this particular brand has been what I’ve seen on QVC and the many bottles of Cleanse & Polish that my mother worked her way through when I was a kid. I therefore know that Liz Earle stands for quality without compromise, and it would be safe to say that her fragrances follow suit.

Liz Earle currently has two perfumes in her lineup; Botanical Essence Nº1 and Botanical Essence Nº15. The former is a 98% natural composition penned by perfumer Jean Charles Niel and is described as being“vibrant and sparkling”, whilst the latter is a 90% natural fragrance composed by perfume Alienor Massenet and billed as “an olfactory jewel, evoking the feeling of elegance and seduction“. Both are surprisingly three-dimensional perfumes that could be enough to convince even the most sceptical of fragrance nerds (i.e. me).

Terre d'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche
Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche

I don’t wear masculine fragrances that often but when I do, I like to think that I choose pretty well. One of my all-time favourites is Terre d’Hermès, a glorious olfactory representation of orange-coloured earth created by master perfumer (and Hermès’ nose-in-residence) Jean-Claude Ellena. I’m not the only one to love it either and since its launch way back in 2006 this most modern masculine fragrance has become a cult perfume amongst fragrance lovers and general consumers of the male species alike.

Hermès is a house that is always respectful of its heritage and unlike many brands they have resisted the urge to dilute the Terre d’Hermès signature by releasing flanker-upon-flanker and including the subject of this review they have only revisited the fragrance twice to launch new interpretations, one of which was simply a Parfum concentration. So it’s safe to say that when Hermès do ‘mess’ with their line of fragrances, they do so in a respectful and tasteful manner.

Which leads me nicely on to my subject of today, ‘Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche’ -the latest fragrance in the Terre d’Hermès lineup and a perfume that is billed as a “new crossing of the elements” where the water, sky and earth all meet. It pays homage to Terre d’Hermès but instead of capturing the idea of dry earth, it intends to create the vision of water springing from the soil in a lighter, more lively and refreshing rendition of Jean-Claude Ellena’s phenomenal and undeniably classic masculine.

“Terre d’Hermès Eau Très Fraîche is a dot above an i. The line is the man on earth, the dot is his spirit. Inseperable.”

The World of Cédrat Envirant
The World of Cédrat Enivrant

When I first started exploring the world of perfume I only really had time for scents that were loud, proud and downright fabulous. But now, as I get older and my approach to perfume is increasingly more seasoned, I find myself appreciating the art of subtlety and the application of a ‘dab hand’. Now that’s not to say that I no longer enjoy scents that are loud, attention-grabbing, weird and even confrontational, but it does mean that a perfume doesn’t have to possess these characteristics for me to sit up and pay attention. In short: as long as it smells good it’s on my radar!

One particular genre this shift in focus has allowed me to appreciate is cologne. When done right, colognes and citrus scents can be infinitely beautifully as well as having the added benefits of being refreshing, undemanding and thirst quenching. French perfume house Atelier Cologne is one brand that gets the idea of colognes spot on, having created the ‘Cologne Absolue’ – concentrated colognes that “celebrates the elegance of citruses” and possess the perfect trifecta of; longevity, freshness and intensity.

The latest addition to Atelier Cologne’s ‘Collection Originale’ is Cédrat Enivrant (‘Intoxicating Citrus’) – a cologne that takes inspiration from the French 75 cocktail and merges the world of perfume and mixology in a haze of mouthwatering citrus. Created by perfumer Ralf Schweiger (Frederic Malle’s Lipstick Rose and Etat Libre d’Orange’s Fils de Dieu and The Afternoon of a Faun) in a Cologne Absolue concentration of 15%, Cédrant Enivrant is described by the brand as being for lovers of “lemon and gin notes”. Count me in as one of those!

“As the sun set on the beach, they were all together again. Full of emotions, they could not stop talking. Had it really been so long? They shared many memories and another round of French 75s with laugher and tears in their eyes. No one wanted the night to end. As the sun rose, it was a sparkling moment of absolue friendship.”

Extract of Limes
Extract of Limes

Tis the last day of Movember and so ends a month of mighty moustache cultivation and manly celebrations. More importantly than the mo-growing and showcasing of masculine fragrances however, is the money raised for an important cause that supports the research and awareness of men’s health issues. This month I have raised £207 for Movember and my team – #TeamPenhaligons – have raised a staggering £2,000, with the total continuing to rise. [On that note, should you wish to make a donation, please do so here]

In tribute to my awesome Mo Bros and Mo Sisters in #TeamPenhaligons and as a final nod to the masculine fragrances of Movember, today I’m reviewing one of my favourite masculine scents from Penhaligon’s, the most quintessentially British of perfume brands. That scent is Extract of Limes, and whilst it technically counts as a unisex scent (I’m allowed to cheat a little) I definitely feel that it is one of Penhaligon’s most enjoyable fragrances and is a great scent for dapper and fashionable gents to wear.

Originally launched in 1963 and currently residing within Penhaligon’s Anthology Collection, Extract of Limes is a fusion of mouthwatering citrus and clean floral notes that is both bracing and surprisingly contemporary. Having been resurrected in 2009 by perfumer Mike Parrott, this lime-centric scent is one of the more overlooked scents in the brand’s stable, but it’s also one of the most delectable and is very much worth a sniff for anyone who wants a unique citrus fragrance.