Grooming Guru Essentials: the August edit.

GROOMING GURU ESSENTIALS-1Since it’s nearly the end of the month I thought I’d round-up some of the best products to have landed on my desk in the past few weeks. After all, when it comes to stocking your bathroom cabinet it’s all about the edit. So here are my picks from August…

Elemis Pro-Collagen Marine Cream For Men, £55 from elemis.com

Elemis’ award-winning Pro-Collagen Marine Cream is a legendary beauty product and it always puzzled me why there hadn’t been a version in their men’s range. Well, now there is. Resisting the urge to simply repackage the original formula this men’s version includes an extra ingredient called Abyssine which is a soothing oil that helps calm the skin and reduces the irritation caused by shaving. The cream itself is intensely hydrating and silky but, crucially for me, doesn’t leave a shiny residue on the skin.

Oliver Sweeney Argento Eau De Parfum, £95 from oliversweeney.com

Regular readers will know how disappointed I am with a lot of new men’s fragrances but here’s one I love (I know, hang out the bunting!). The first fragrance from luxury shoe and accessories designer Oliver Sweeney, Argento is a delightfully woody, slightly leathery fragrance that smells reassuringly traditional without being boring. What’s more, unlike most of today’s new men’s launches it doesn’t smell like a cake shop and for this reason alone it’s currently my favourite new fragrance.

Philips Bodygroom Series 1000, £20 from amazon.co.uk

Remarkably, it’s been 10 years now since the launch of the first Philips Bodygroom – a tool that changed how men manscaped and one which pretty much created a brand new category in male grooming. This latest version is slimmer, sleeker and has a new ‘skin protector’ not found on previous models, allowing a nick-free trim, particularly if you’re using it ‘down below’. It doesn’t go as close as the other models (it’s a trimmer rather than a down-to-skin-level shaver) but is much easier – and safer –  to use. The price point is excellent too.

Rose of No Man’s Land, £88 from Liberty, from 10th September

I’m a big fan of rose fragrances and whilst they do scare a lot of men they don’t all leave you smelling like  a hanky-brandishing dowager aunt. This one, from Swedish fragrance house Byredo, is a perfect example of a rose fragrance a man can rock since the overly floral aspects are tempered by a lovely warm woodiness and a slight spiciness. Be brave and give it a try.

Root Vanish By Kazumi, £30 from Boots.

Though essentially a hair product some enterprising PR realised this temporary tinting brush by Japanese company Kazumi actually works wonders on facial hair too. Available in different shades (I’ve been using the light brown) it’s brilliant at disguising any little grey bits  you have and is useful where you have patches too. It stays on throughout the day but washes of when you shower, too, giving you total control over the effect. I don’t leave the house without touching up now!

What will make the edit next month? Watch this space to find out.

Dior’s Sauvage: an opportunity missed?

Sauvage-Dior-Fragrance-Art-e1440003132406-800x805Given the size of this launch (it has A-lister Johnny Depp attached to the ad campaign) and the amount of secrecy that surrounded it (it was subject to an exceptionally strict embargo) I was expecting great things from Sauvage – Dior’s latest fragrance and their biggest launch in a decade. I mean, Dior’s portfolio contains fragrances  –  like Eau Sauvage, Fahrenheit and Dior Homme – which pretty much set the standard when it comes to ‘classics’. And I’m sure the hope was that Sauvage would join this illustrious list. But (you sensed there was a ‘but’ coming right?) in truth, it’s not a patch on its predecessors.

Johnny-Depp-Sauvage-Dior-Fragrance-Campaign-800x519Given Dior’s past boldness (Fahrenheit shouldn’t have worked but is amazing and Eau Sauvage was genuinely groundbreaking when it launched in 1966) I very much hoped they’d pull something original, maybe even something left-field, out of the bag for this major launch but alas, Sauvage is just another generic modern men’s fragrance – all citrus, lavender, wood and amber and blah-blah-blah. I’m not saying it’s bad – it’s not – just that it’s safer, more pedestrian and certainly more ‘familiar’ than I would have imagined. Like so many contemporary fragrances it tries terribly hard not to offend or polarise which is a great way to shift units (it worked for Chanel Bleu after all) but not necessarily a great way to create a classic in the same league as, say, Eau Sauvage.

For those of you wondering whether it’s a variant of that particular fragrance, it’s not; it merely trades on the name, presumably hoping for a bit of that classic fragrance’s gold dust to rub off on it. Look, the last thing I wanted to do was savage Sauvage but, hey, it’s just my opinion and there’s still the possibility that Dior’s next big launch will be an absolute stonker.

Dior Sauvage is available nationwide from 2nd September, priced £50 for 60ml eau de toilette. 

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.

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?

Dior update Eau Sauvage. But is the new Cologne version any good?

DIOR EAU SAUVAGE COLOGNEThere are some things in life – the first Poltergeist movie and Cadbury’s Creme Eggs amongst them – that really shouldn’t be tampered with, if only because the original is about as close to perfection as can be. Dior’s Eau Sauvage – that classic, much-loved fragrance from the Sixties and one of my own all-time favourites  – is one of them.

In a world where it pays big fragrance brands to remind customers of their prized assets, however, it makes sense to throw out a ‘flanker’ – a reworked version on an existing fragrance – every now and again. Not only does it keep the brand fresh and draw in new customers, it reminds everyone just how good the ‘old’ stuff is too. And therein lies the problem because, inevitably, anyone who loves the original will instantly compare it to the newcomer.

dior 2This brand new Cologne version, created by Dior Perfumer François Demachy, still has the characteristic citrusy vibe Eau Sauvage is famous for but some notes have been emphasised while other’s played down. Hedione – a molecule first used in Eau Sauvage and now scientifically proven to trigger a sexual response in women (see my piece here for more on that) – is still very much at the heart of this version and given its newfound reputation why wouldn’t it be? According to Demachy this updated version of hedione has a slightly more floral twist though. Mandarin has been added, as has grapefruit, and there’s a dash of galbanum to give it a ‘green’ edge and there’s a dollop of the now ubiquitous pink pepper in there too.

The result is an Eau Sauvage that’ll be less familiar to fans of the original than you might think and one that’s thoroughly contemporary in feel. It’s fresh, it’s aromatic, it’s spicy and woody but whereas Eau Sauvage is a thoroughly 3D fragrance this Cologne version is thinner and a bit one-dimensional by comparison. Which is not to say it’s bad because it’s not (and you do have to bear in mind that, because of my age, I’m very much the target market for the original fragrance rather than this more youthful incarnation). It’s just…well, different.

The press release points out – correctly – that when Eau Sauvage burst onto the scene in 1966 it shifted everything in its wake. Will this Cologne version do the same? Well no, but if it helps people rediscover the absolute joy of the original then it’s ‘job done’ in my book.

Paco Rabanne lighten up with 1 Million Cologne

PACO RABANNE_ 1 MILLION COLOGNE_ PACKSHOTS_2Love it or loathe it Paco Rabanne’s 1 Million is a fragrance phenomenon. It’s a heady cocktail, though, so if it’s a little bit too ‘in-your-face’ for you maybe you should check out 1 Million Cologne. Sharper and fresher than its best-selling brother it has a slightly bitter, cocktail feel (the result of mandarin orange and a fresh marine accord) which makes it a much better option for summer. It’s spikier and not quite as rounded and creamy as the original 1 Million fragrance but is just as ferociously commercial and has lost non of its tenacity – when I tested it out on my skin I could still smell it 12 hours later.

Paco Rabanne 1 Million Cologne is available now.