Czech & Speake’s Oxford & Cambridge Shower Wash & Body Lotion Duo: ridiculously cute

czech & speake lavenderAt £25 for two 65ml bottles Czech & Speake’s Oxford & Cambridge Shower Wash & Body Lotion Duo isn’t cheap but if you’re a lover of luxury and superb fragrance this delightfully dinky travel set is the ultimate addition to your weekend washbag. The cologne spray itself – a finely balanced blend of French lavender, Peppermint, Rosemary and Bergamot essential oils –  is probably my favourite lavender fragrance (it’s one of the few that doesn’t leave you smelling like your nan’s knicker drawer) and I take a travel-sized bottle with me almost everywhere. If you’re already a fan or, once you’ve tried it, about to become one, these additions to the range will be your new grooming essentials. But probably not your nan’s. Which is a relief.

Czech & Speake’s Oxford & Cambridge Shower Wash & Body Lotion Duo is available here.

Bluebeards Revenge beard oils are the biz

beard-oil-combo-glossI’m very fussy about what I put on my beard, especially as so many beard oils eventually end up smelling like something you’d fry chips in. So I’ve grown rather cautious about what I blindly slap on my facial fuzz. Luckily the new beard oils by The Bluebeards Revenge cause no such attack of the nerves. Conditioning without being annoyingly greasy, generously sized (you get 50ml for just £9.99) and lightly scented (my favourite is the Cuban Blend which is a simple combo of vetiver and cedarwood) they’re perfect for ensuring your facial hair always looks fantastic. Simply apply with your fingers or, better still, distribute through your facial hair with a beard or moustache comb. Recommended.

The Bluebeards revenge Beard Oils are available here

New Aramis fragrance keeps brand firmly in the black

ARAMIS BLACK FRAGRANCEIt’ll come as no surprise to anyone who loves and understands the Aramis brand that the latest fragrance in the portfolio, Aramis Black shares many of Aramis Classic‘s ‘core values’ as a fragrance. But although it might be a thoroughly grown up, multi-dimensional and autumnal fragrance Black is a little edgier, darker and spicier than its older brother: think Dynasty‘s Ben Carrington to Blake Carrington or – for the younger folk – Prince Harry living it up in Vegas rather than Prince William politely honouring foreign dignitaries at a state dinner.

Initially oudy and smoky, Black’s core is based around a lively and very noticeable peppery facet, softened and rounded out by smooth and vanillary tonka bean. The Aramis DNA is still very much present, though, in the shape of a lovely underlying leatheriness and a touch of boozy gentleman’s club but Black is altogether more in-your-face and contemporary. The inky juice is a nice touch, too, giving the whole thing a touch of mystery and menace.

I must say, I was a wee bit disappointed by the last Aramis fragrance, Aramis Adventurer, which was a hyperactive and rather brash fragrance in comparison, but Aramis Black puts things firmly back into, well, the black.

Available now from Boots and nationwide from August.

Jax Coco coconut oil – you’d be nuts not to give it a go

jax-coco-extra-virgin-centrifuged-coconut-oil-570-pI’ve been a fan of coconut oil ever since a friend suggested I try some after raving about how good it was good for everything from digestive health to problematic skin complaints. I’ve been adding a tablespoon to my smoothies ever since and have recently been using it for oil pulling (an ancient technique where you swish oil in between your  teeth to remove bacteria and gunk from between the teeth) and have been treating dry skin patches with it too. It certainly makes a great moisturiser and this Extra Virgin Centrifuged Coconut Oil, from Jax Coco, has become my favourite because it’s so rapidly absorbed and never feels greasy.

As with most natural products there are plenty of sceptics out there who’ll knock any claims made by those who use coconut oil (for every person who says they’ve found it beneficial I’m sure you’ll find a scientist ready to shoot them down) but there is some evidence to suggest the lauric acid it contains has antimicrobial properties and that coconut oil can speed up the metabolism. And, of course, there’s plenty of positive anecdotal evidence (always ignored by the scientific community) of its various benefits. Personally, I’m a fan so if you’ve always wondered what all the hype about coconut oil is about why not give it a go yourself?

Available from

Acqua di Parma launch Colonia Club

acquaI think I must have rather annoyed the lovely Acqua Di Parma people at the launch of the company’s latest fragrance Colonia Club the other day by constantly referring to it as a sport fragrance – something they fervently denied each time I mentioned it. I’m not sure why, though, because that’s basically what it is. Oh sure, the inspiration might be that most elegant and refined of activities – dressage – but in character it’s definitely a sport fragrance in character, featuring, as it does, citrus notes like lemon and mandarin alongside the sport scent favourite, mint. Conceptually, the whole thing – including the superb green bottle – fits into the existing Acqua Di Parma portfolio beautifully, filling a gap with something muscular and energetic and, thanks to the addition of galbanum – a note variously described as smelling like cut grass, pea pods or pine needles – something ‘green’ smelling too.

colonia_club_01Of all the Acqua Di Parma fragrances this is the most youthfully commercial too. And by that I mean it does smell a lot like a dozen other men’s fragrances on the market. Now, that can be taken one of two ways: as a bad thing or a good thing. It’s certainly a positive if the objective is to attract a slightly younger customer whose main frame of reference, fragrance-wise, are big-selling fragrances from famous fashion brands like Dolce & Gabbana. In truth, it’s not my favourite Acqua Di Parma offering (there are so many good ones it does have rather stiff competition!) but if you’re looking for something that’s punchy and has a bit of energy to it and which isn’t too polarising a fragrance you might want to give it, you know…a sporting chance.

Available now from John Lewis

For foxes’ sake! Let’s not water down The Hunting Act

foxAs anyone who knows me knows I am a huge animal lover. You only have to read this to see that. I absolutely loathe cruelty to animals, particularly when that cruelty masquerades as ‘sport’. Though a townie I spend about 40% of my time in the countryside, my dad grew up in a small village and worked on farms a teenager and my granddad – who took me on long countryside walks as a kid – helped me develop a love and deep respect of everything from hedgehogs to hedgerows.

As a pagan, too, I like to think I’m attuned to the powerful forces of nature and to the complex interaction between all living things. As a supporter of The League Against Cruel Sports it’ll come as no surprise that I abhor the senseless killing of animals (be they foxes, hares, grouse or deer) for human gratification: what some people misguidedly call ‘sport’ or, what the hunting lobby, in a linguistic sleight of hand, now terms ‘wildlife management’.

On Wednesday, the British government will attempt to appease a tiny but politically influential minority in our country by amending The Hunting Act of 2004. The debate around the Act is not one about Countryside vs City or Animal Lovers vs Farmers it’s one that’s essentially about values, humanity and common decency.

During the recent debate about foxhunting the thing that resonated with me most was a comment made by Queen guitarist and animal rights campaigner Brian May in his appearance on This Week alongside ex-MP Michael Portillo. When, during a heated discussion, the latter said he made a distinction between the soul of an animal and that of a human being as a justification for hunting May instinctively replied that he didn’t. Not everyone will agree with that, obviously (and Portillo uses his Catholic upbringing as his excuse not to) but I certainly do. Maybe that’s the pagan in me. Or maybe it’s just the human.

So why am I using the forum of a blog about male grooming to air my views on foxhunting? Well, partly because I can. It’s why I started blogging back in 2009. And before anyone says I should stick to writing about moisturiser and aftershave (and I’ve had that suggestion hurled at me before whenever I stray ‘off topic’) I should point out that there is a legitimate link. Tough not the biggest fan of Lush cosmetics (I like the products but not the smell on the high street!) they have won me over with their principled stand when it comes to animal rights and in particular their work fighting against both the badger cull and foxhunting. In an industry where most cosmetic companies are terrified to poke their heads above the parapet for fear of flack their campaigning has been truly exemplary and their staff have been amazing in their support of both causes. That, then, is my ‘reason’ for writing about foxhunting on this blog.

So, Wednesday is a big day for wildlife in our country. And a big day for us as human beings too. If, like me, you want the current Hunting Act to stay as is, there’s still time to make your voice heard. You can write to your MP so they know your views, sign the petition, which currently has over half a million signatories,  or simply take to Twitter using the hashtag #KeepTheBan. Wildlife in our country doesn’t have a voice so those of us who care about it have to provide the voice box. Let’s just hope that those who decide our laws have the ears to hear the message.

Jean Paul Gaultier’s Ultra Male: welcome to the dark side

gaultier ultra maleIt’s hard to believe but Jean Paul Gaultier’s iconic Le Male fragrance is 20 years old this year. In fragrance years that makes it practically a pensioner since so many modern era men’s fragrances are lucky to make it past their third birthday. So popular has it become that a bottle is sold every six seconds and to date over 80 million products have been sold. Like all great contemporary classics, though, it’s an intensely polarising scent, with some people loving it and others finding it sickly, cloying and overpowering. Personally, I’ve always liked it and respected its boldness but have never actually been able to wear it.

And though Gaultier has never been able to replicate its success fragrance-wise (remember Gaultier² or Kokorico?) Le Male, housed in its memorable flacon, has guaranteed him a place in the fragrance hall of fame. Over the years it has spawned numerous “flankers” (i.e. variations thereof) and this anniversary year sees the arrival of yet another, in the shape of Ultra Male. As I pointed out in my review of it for Men’s Health it’s still a gourmand fragrance but not nearly as sweet as the original, opening it up to a whole new audience.

“I worked on this new version by reinterpreting the sensuality of the original fragrance with the codes of our modern era,” says its creator, acclaimed perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. “Gourmand effects, which Mr Gaultier loves so much, interplay with modern woody notes and lavender aromatic notes, the heart of the original fragrance that was composed in 1995.” Unlike most ‘reinterpretations’, however, Ultra Male isn’t afraid to veer away from the original in its construction. In fact, you’d barely recognise it as a sibling of Le Male, which is why it’s worth checking out, even if you’re not a fan of the  original.

Jean-Paul-Gaultier-Ultra-Male-Fragrance-Campaign-Jarrod-ScottTo my nose Ultra Male is deeper, rougher, darker and altogether more muscular than Le Male and more grown up too. It’s spicer, fruitier and woodier and not quite so sexually ambiguous. Le Male, of course, is now famous for the use of sailor imagery in its ad campaigns and if the original is the sailor who waves to his loved ones from the deck of a departing ship, Ultra Male is more like the sailor lurking in a dark back alley, waiting to press-gang you into joining the navy. And I mean that in a good way. So why resist?