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Can we get real for a second? Most modern mainstream masculine fragrances are pretty terrible. I’m sorry, but it’s true. Yes, of course there exceptions and some mainstream masculines are absolute masterpieces, but the truth is that most of the time, gents are simply offered more of the same. Things are always fresh and sporty, citrussy and woody. If that’s not the case then we’re talking “noir” and amber. It’s all very uninspired, very safe, and not very exciting.

“But not always” I hear you cry and you’re right. There are one or two mainstream brands out there who do actually give a hoot about what they’re making, balancing innovation with accessibility. Surprisingly, one of these brands is dunhill London, who are quietly making incredibly affable masculine fragrances that are a few steps above the hoi polloi. They’re not weird or challenging – they’re easy to get on with, made with good materials and with unique, intriguing facets. I’m a fan.

dunhill London’s latest is Century. They describe it as “a fresh new signature”, saying that it is “embracing the future” with “a new clarity”. Created by legendary perfumer Carlos Benaïm (Eau de Magnolia and Music for a While), who was also responsible for dunhill London’s remarkable ICON, Century is a transparent masculine fragrance that, like the concave, clear shapes found within its striking flacon, reflects a multi-faceted core – a heart of sandalwood. “Make your mark on the future” says dunhill London, and if they have anything to do with it, the future of mainstream masculine perfumery looks very promising.

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I’ve always been a firm believer that first and foremost, a perfume must smell good. It can come in whatever bottle it wants with any back story it fancies, but if it’s not enjoyable to wear then what’s the point? So often us consumers are courted with gimmicks – perfumes that promise us all sorts of weird and wonderful things, and whilst this allows for the art of olfaction to be pushed forward, it doesn’t necessarily result in fragrances that translate for everyday wear. It’s a balance between making artistic statements and making wearable accessories and when done right, the results are utterly magical.

One brand that perfectly fulfils the ethos of smelling good is Jo Malone London and since the brand’s inception in 1983, they have brought us a wealth of accessible colognes that above all else, smell good. Jo Malone London is a brand that celebrates the luxury of simplicity with fragrances that usually focus on the contrast and harmony of two notes but are always served with a touch of British eccentricity. The idea is that the fragrances themselves are complex enough to excite the nose when worn alone but also have enough of a paired-back simplicity to allow them to be combined with other scents in the collection (following the brand’s Fragrance Combining suggestions). With Jo Malone London one builds a wardrobe of fragrances for each occasion, layering them to unlock new and exciting facets. To put it simply: they do what they do very well.

L'Envol de Cartier Eau de Toilette
L’Envol de Cartier Eau de Toilette

There are so many fragrance launches each year it’s difficult to write about them all. Speed Sniffs is a way to bring you to the point reviews fragrances that are quick and easy to digest. After all, sometimes all one needs is a few lines to capture the essence of a scent. Speed Sniffs are perfume reviews without all of the faff and tell you whether the subject is something you want to sniff or not. So hurry up and read, because we don’t have much time…

I reviewed L’Envol de Cartier in its original Eau de Parfum concentration last year so I am designating this Eau de Toilette as a speed sniff, mainly because the differences between the concentrations are not huge – but they are notable, which is why L’Envol Eau de Toilette is worthy of a review. The first flanker to L’Envol presents a fresher signature, taking the honey, mead and iris notes of the original and making them weightless with citrus and gaiac wood. The result is a fresh oriental that gives wings to the complex richness of the original.