Help For Heroes XTREME The Fragrance: a good scent for a good cause

help for heroesWith fragrance one of the top gift ideas at this time of year it’s often all to easy to reach for a big brand name or the latest concoction from a huge fashion house. Which is all very well if you’re ok with lining the pockets of Chanel, Dior or Hugo Boss but if you want to do some good with your gift giving then maybe you should think about XTREME The Fragrance by Help For Heroes – the charity which offers support to servicemen and women injured in the line of duty.

A creamy, spicy and gourmandy fragrance, with lemon, black pepper, basil, amber and vanilla, it easily holds its own against this year’s biggest designer launches and a minimum of £3 from every sale goes direct to the charity. Five ex-servicemen worked alongside perfumer and lecturer Marianne Martin to come up with the fragrance and their stories are truly inspirational (you can read about the guys  involved here). So if you’re looking for a fragrance that helps people, as well as your chances, you might want to put XTREME on your wish list.

Help For Heroes XTREME The Fragrance is available from Debenhams and www.helpforheroesfragrance.com priced £30.

Perfume: A Century of Scents

LIZZIE OSTROMI love books. It’s why I ended up doing an English Literature degree way back in the Stone Age. Problem is, I don’t get nearly as much time as I’d like to actually read them – which explains this embarrassingly tardy review of Lizzie Ostrom’s new book, Perfume: A Century of Scents.  Lizzie, aka Odette Toilette, is one of the perfume industry’s top notes, fizzing with a passion for (and a knowledge of) perfume that’s made her an established voice in the fragrance firmament. Her true talent, however, is in bringing the subject of fragrance alive with character, interesting stories and a writing style that’s knowledgable but fun and accessible too.

The book itself – clearly a labour of love – is a pacy, hugely readable walk through all the key fragrances of the last hundred years or so, starting in 1900 and ending at the end of the Nineties, with a final chapter looking at where fragrance is now and where it might be heading. The bulk of it is about female fragrances (what are traditionally classed as female fragrances, anyway, since perfume is pretty much gender fluid) but there’s plenty of discussion about men’s fragrances  too – from classics like Old Spice and Eau Sauvage to Guerlain’s Vetiver and Joop! Homme.

Unlike the bulk of books written about perfume  – and I’ve read a lot  – it’s delightfully unstuffy and unpretentious (she describes Tabac, one of my personal favourites,  as being “the string vest of aftershaves” for example), making it as good a read for people with just a passing interest in fragrance as it is for perfumistas or  those who write about fragrance for a living. All in all a thoroughly enjoyable read and a fantastic gift for Christmas too. Recommended.

Perfume A Century of Scents by Lizzie Ostrom is available now from odettetoilette.com

Yankee Candle’s new barbershop collection – the perfect gift for the well-groomed man

YANKEE CANDLE BARBERSHOPFew names in the scented candle business are as recognisable as Yankee Candle.  I personally can’t pass a stockist without spending at least ten minutes having a sniff at what’s new to their burgeoning range. Some scents I’m enthralled by; others totally repel me. A couple have had me running for the door. Which, in a way, is the secret to Yankee Candle’s success because when a brand polarises people (take Marmite for example) it is at least avoiding indifference.

Anyway, Yankee now have a whole range based around male grooming and five familiar smells associated with it: Barbershop (above), Aftershave, Hot Towel, Chrome and Hair Tonic. Squarely aimed at men – and as gifts for men – the candles come in sleek black tumbler jars with brushed metal lids. Barbershop, burning away in my living room as I write this, is a delightfully clean-smelling blend of eucalyptus, lavender and amber and smells fresh and powdery without being overpowering.

Yankee Candles have been almost as long as I have (no mean feat for both) and are famous for the excellent diffusion of their scents so if you’re looking for a sure-fire way to fragrance your pad this particular range might be right up your street.

Yankee Candle’s Barbershop glass tumbler candle costs £12.99

How to be well “Gruhmed”

GRUHMEAs a consumer it’s often all too easy to go for the most obvious choice when it comes to fragrance, especially when the big fashion houses and cosmetic companies throw so much money at celebrity endorsement and in-your-face advertising. However, sometimes it’s worth looking a bit further afield for an interesting eau de toilette. This one, by British brand Gruhume being a good example.

Delightfully fresh, crisp and spicy –  with lemon, bergamot, lavender, juniper berry, black peppercorns, patchouli and petitgrain – it’s as good as any of the fragrances you’ll find in your local department store and considerably better than many of them. Plus, in buying a bottle you’re supporting British entrepreneurialism at its very best. Worth investigating.

Gruhme For Him No 14 is a available from gruhme.co.uk priced £45 for 100ml eau de toilette.

Tom Ford to launch ultimate Oud Wood set

TOM FORD OUD WOOD MACCASSAR SETIf, like me, you’re a huge fan of Tom Ford’s ridiculously sexy Oud Wood fragrance you’ll probably salivating just looking at the pic of their forthcoming Oud Wood collection. And I wouldn’t blame you. Bringing together all the products in the range, except the scented beard oil (which kind of belongs to his grooming range anyway), it’s presented in a beautiful Makassar box. Looking at it, I really can’t think of a more luxurious addition to a gentleman’s bedroom dresser. You may need to give that piggy bank of yours a bit of a shake though…

The Tom Ford Oud Wood Collection Set will be available from Harrods Salon de Parfum from 5th October priced £850

Paul Smith Essential puts affordability at its heart

paul smith essentialThe history of Paul Smith fragrances is a bit of a chequered one and I must confess, I have a nasty habit of liking the less succesful ones like Story (a fragrance that was ahead of its time in terms of its bookish, geek chic imagery) and Portrait which, alas, was more of a critical success than a commercial one.

PAUL-01Coming two years after Portrait and a year after Extreme Sport, Essential is an altogether safer fragrance that leaves nothing to chance by covering all the commercial bases: it’s woody, it’s spicy and it’s aromatic, making it familiar, inoffensive and versatile. Slightly reminiscent of Gucci’s Guilty Pour Homme, with which it shares several key notes, it’s probably not going to set the world alight in terms of originality, but with its low price point (under £30 for 50ml) and wearability I suspect it will do pretty well commercially.

Paul Smith Essential is available now from boots.com