In the UK we’re all walking around in a daze. The sun is out, it’s warm and there hasn’t been any rain in at least 48 hours. People are whispering to each other; “could it be?”, they ask; “I’m not sure”, they say. The ‘s’ word is on everybody’s lips but no-one dare say it. Could it really be summer? Maybe. The sun is out and the temperature is rising, but we did have rain, snow and hail last week, so perhaps we should wait before cracking out the shorts and sunscreen. I’m not ready to call it quite yet, folks, but I have an inkling that ‘s’ may be on its way…
For me, the summer season mean one thing: cologne. There is nothing better on a hot day than a generous spritz of a refreshing eau de cologne, except a water fight perhaps, but those are harder to come by in one’s old age. As far as colognes go, there is no beating Cologne Indélébile, the everlasting cyber-cologne created by perfumer Dominique Ropion for Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. Cologne Indélébile squeezes lemons the size of the sun into its bottle, boasting metallic freshness, hay-like neroli and a whirlwind of technical musks to keep it going up & up, and on & on. It’s a marvel of perfumery and now there’s a new way to make it last even longer.
This summer Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle are launching an accompanying Body Wash and Body Milk to the Cologne Indélébile, promoting the idea that to make your cologne truly everlasting, it’s best to layer up! So before spritzing on twenty sprays of Cologne Indélébile (something I am often guilty of), one can lather up in a deluge of delicately soft bubbles scented with Malle’s neo-cologne, before then smoothing on a moisturising layer of the Body Milk and then finally, spraying on the fragrance to finish. By building layers of the scent on the skin, one can dial back on the sprayer a bit so that Cologne Indélébile really can last longer than the average British summer.
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…
I’m just going to come right and say that I am hugely impressed with the many offerings of The Perfume Society. Having read the many issues of The Scented Letter, attended two marvellous events (Tea With Turin and An Evening with Le Galion), played with their innately intelligent fragrance finder FR.ed and now, having received one of their Discovery Boxes, I feel as if they are quickly becoming one of the best fragrance resources, not only on the web, but in real life too.
So what are these Discovery Boxes I speak of? Well, I’m glad you asked. Essentially, The Perfume Society offer a monthly themed box of perfume samples, including new launches and not-so-new favourites, along with tasting notes and a generous helping of blotters to boot. The idea is to give you a themed collection of fragrances to sniff in your own home at your own leisure, providing you with the tools to really sink your teeth, or should I say nostrils, into some intriguing samples. Without spoiling too much of this review in advance (I know this is a habit of mine), I’d say that they succeed!
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’.
I feel like we’re going from the ridiculous to the sublime with fragrance reviews on The Candy Perfume Boy this week. We started with Frédéric Malle’s Monsieur., which whilst fabulously composed is almost comically butch (which in my world is a compliment, of course) and yet we finish with Ruth Mastenbroek’s Oxford which is an entirely more refined and subtle affair. The two fragrances are so different in fact, that a comparison would be silly, so let’s move on and focus solely on Oxford.
Oxford is Ruth Mastenbroek’s third fragrance and it’s a unisex scent inspired by the perfumer’s time spent studying at Oxford University. It’s classified as an oriental, but as one would expect from a fragrance inspired by an established British institution, this is far from an East-looking perfume, in fact it takes the familiar notes of this fragrance family and spins them into something hopeful and free-spirited, just like one’s university days. The official description of Oxford is as follows:
“…inspired by my experiences at Oxford University, where I studied chemistry at Lady Margaret Hall. The scent of the French cigarette brand Gitanes, with its connotations of other-worldly chic and sophistication, was new to me as an innocent undergraduate. It came to embody for me the moment of discovery- when you realise you can make your own mistakes, your own choices, and discover life’s extraordinary adventure. I describe Oxford as the scent of an awakening.”
“Think of a famous French perfume from the previous century and it will undoubtedly a chypre”
No perfume genre has had a harder time assimilating into the 21st century than the chypre. Often seen as the steely-eyed, stoic bastions of complex perfume personalities, the chypres of the world, take time to love. Established in 1917 by François Coty, the chypre genre has long been associated with the classics of French perfumery but can now seem dated, harsh and too complicated to understand. Personally I love a chypre. I adore their often standoffish nature and on the flip side, their sometimes cuddly, fuzzy hearts.
The problem with chypres is not that they are old fashioned, far from it in fact, the classic chypres are positively wonderful, no, the problem is that perfume houses don’t want to make them any more and when they do, we end up with something that is too sanitised, too pretty and ultimately not a chypre. The 20th century was the domain of Guerlain’s Mitsouko and Carven’s Ma Griffe whereas in the 21st century we have Idylle…
For his latest launch, Chypre 21, perfumer James Heeley intends to drag the chypre into the 21st century whilst paying homage to the classics of the genre. He wanted to create “an ode to Parisian chic” in the form of a “contemporary unisex fragrance” that takes all of the requisite building blocks of a chypre – bergamot, rose, patchouli, oak moss and sandalwood – but modernises them into something altogether more befitting of today. The result is both nostalgic and forward thinking.
Facial hair is, and always has been, one of man’s many fashion statements. Over the years styles may have changed, with more men today rocking wild lumberjack beards that display impressive growth over handlebar moustaches, but the necessity for fastidious facial grooming is more prominent than ever. A good shave therefore, is incredibly important. Now, there are many steps to a good shave and a plethora of grooming products to aid each step of the way, but for the act itself one at least needs a decent shaving cream or foam and a soothing moisturiser of sorts to calm the inevitable burn. Oh and a razor too, that always helps.
In February, legendary luxury house CHANEL will launch two such things as limited editions within their BLEU DE CHANEL line. Now, regular readers of my blog will know that I’m more likely to spritz on some Nº5 than I am BLEU DE CHANEL (I do love a floral, after all), but that’s not going to stop me from exploring all that the line has to offer. With their SHAVE IN STYLE collection, which consists of the BLEU DE CHANEL Shave Cream and BLEU DE CHANEL Hydrating After Shave Gel, the iconic Parisian house are utilising the familiar scent of BLEU to fragrance two products that “ensure a perfect shave and an elegant and sophisticated trail”. As with all things CHANEL, the quality is top notch and without offering too many spoilers, I found them to make for a very enjoyable shave. Shaving is a ritual – a time to take care on oneself, and let’s face it, if you’re going to shave, and shave properly, why not do it with CHANEL?