Like many men of a certain age, watching Netflix’s Halston reminded me of the designer’s incredible men’s fragrances – especially the wonderful Z-14 which, though it launched in the mid-seventies, was still very much in the public consciousness in the eighties.
On the back of that I immediately ordered a bottle online and quickly discovered when talking to friends that I wasn’t the only one who had (its current distributors must be thrilled). Like many fragrances that have fallen from favour it is still remembered fondly – and is still hugely wearable. It’s also encouraging to see guys who weren’t even born when it launched – and in some cases whose parents weren’t even born – curious about its worth. But Z-14 isn’t the only ‘forgotten’ fragrance worth rediscovering – there are lots. So, for my first piece for luxury site Robb Report I take a look at Halston’s Z-14 and some other forgotten fragrances worth rediscovering in 2021. Is one of your favourites amongst them? Find out by clicking here.
Whilst it’s true that fragrances don’t have an age limit as such, it’s also fair to say that some just tend to suit men with a bit more life experience under their belts. What works for a man at 25 (think Diesel Only The Brave or 1 Million) doesn’t necessarily work for him at 45 or 55 – in pretty much the same way that ultra skinny jeans don’t look great on every man over a certain age (and I know about that from experience!). Older, wiser and generally better off, by mid life a man’s taste has often refined and become more focussed. By then, he’s confident enough to experiment with more challenging scents and is able to invest in niche creations that express individuality rather than conformity. So, here’s a selection of grown-up fragrances for grown-up men – each of them brand new for 2021.
Sunspel Neroli Sun
The second fragrance from Sunspel (their first was the lovely Oak Wood), this wonderfully bright, citrus fragrance is like summer in a bottle.
Taking its cues from traditional eau de colognes, it’s a combo of citrus fruits and aromatic herbs (most notably the rosemary and lavender that form the backbone of colognes) but throws in a hint of musky, green angelica, patchouli, sea moss and vetiver to add a warmer, earthier dry down. It’s a great daytime scent but really comes into its own on a warm summer’s night when you’re instantly transported to a Mediterranean clifftop or citrus grove and let’s face it, in these travel-restricted times that kind of olfactory escapism is much in need.
Like Oak Wood, it’s been created for Sunspel by supremely talented perfumer Lyn Harris of Miller Harris fame, which explains why it’s so good. If you like Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino you’ll love this wonderfully simple, elegant fragrance, which I’ve worn consistently since a preview sample landed on my desk back in February.
Malin + Goetz Strawberry
You know how they say ‘never judge a book by its cover’? Well, never judge a Malin+Goetz fragrance by its name, because strawberries are the least obvious thing you get from their latest unisex eau de parfum Strawberry. Sure, there’s a hint of the fruit in there but nowhere near enough to leave you smelling like an Eton Mess.
Instead, it’s reminiscent of a freshly cut, slightly under ripe fruit, with a hint of cut green stalk which (thankfully) steers it away from super-sweet-and-fruity celebrity scent territory. It’s bright, sharp and has a light, powdery dry down that lasts surprisingly well on my skin. Delicate, understated, quirky and minimalist, it’s not as traditionally masculine as some of the other fragrances here but with the trend for genderless fragrances gathering pace that’s no bad thing.
In the same way that a band who creates a best-selling, critically-acclaimed album are always being judged against their past success, every new Hermès men’s launch will inevitably be compared the contemporary classic that is Terre d’Hermès. Does H24, the French fashion house’s latest men’s offering, top its predecessor? Well, no, but then it’s a completely different animal.
Where Terre is ostentatiously masculine, H24 is decidedly gender neutral. Where Terre is earthy, woody and spicy H24 is aromatic, green, powdery and delicately floral – thanks to a prominent narcissus note. There’s a hint of steely, bitter synthetic metal in there too, which, combined with the more natural, familiar notes makes the fragrance seem like some futuristic fusion of the organic and inorganic – like a flower with steel petals. Terre it is not, but then it’s consciously not trying to be. I love it but just keep that in mind if you decide to give it a go.
Aqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Bergamotta di Calabria
When it comes to finding a fragrance that suits a mature nose something from Acqua Di Parma is a surefire bet. But don’t just stick to the brand’s classic Colonia – make sure you check out the fragrances in their Blu Mediterraneo range too. Released just in time for summer 2021 (what I tend to think of as The Summer of Hope) this year’s offering is a limited-edition version of Blu Mediterraneo Bergamotta di Calabria, housed in a special porcelain bottle emblazoned with a white and gold pattern featuring – appropriately – bergamot fruit. Speaking of which, the bergamot oil used for this particular fragrance is no ordinary bergamot – it’s hand extracted by placing fruit rinds on sea sponges which absorb the oil and are then squeezed to release their precious content. (Who says artisanal extraction methods are dead?!)
Fresh and citrusy, with a gently soothing woody base, this wonderfully uplifting scent is characterised by a warm, spicy ginger note which cuts through the bergamot’s zestiness to give it a delightful piquancy (my nose also picks up hints of burnt rubber – a smell I’m not averse to – too but maybe that’s just me). A superb summer fragrance if you love fresh, crisp, invigorating scents.
Penhaligon’s Racquets Eau de parfum
Few fragrance houses offer as much to a man in mid life as Penhaligon’s. From classic, conservative, gentlemanly fragrances that refuse to date to striking niche creations with a thoroughly contemporary edge, they have it all (I particularly love Blenheim Bouquet and The Tragedy of Lord George). As with most Penhaligon’s creations, their latest launch Raquets is playful, surprising and intriguing.
A re-invention of the fragrance house’s original Raquets Formula fragrance it’s a really clever fusion of crisp, sparkling lemon and warm, sexy leather, with a touch of guaiac wood lending a vibe reminiscent of warm summer tarmac. Simple in structure yet complex in character it’s one of my favourite launches this year and like a good summer novel, is full of twists and turns as it unfolds. Imagine leather rubbed with fresh lemon peel and you’re halfway there.
Brioni Eau de Parfum
Created by Michel Almairac, the talented nose behind fragrances like Dior’s Fahrenheit, Gucci Pour Homme, Joop! Pour Homme and Burberry Men (how’s that for a back catalogue?) this new offering from luxury Italian menswear house Brioni, was always going to be interesting. Placing one of my favourite notes – violet leaf – at its heart, while adding a little spice, a breezy ozonic accord and a distinctive green apple note, it’s fresh, crisp and nose-tinglingly spicy until the warmer cedarwood and tonka bean base emerges.
There are faint echoes of Fahrenheit (one of my all-time favourite fragrances) and DKNY’s Be Delicious Men there and though clearly constructed to have broad appeal, like the other fragrances here it avoids being pedestrian and generic so is great for men who like fragrances with both style and substance.
[Gifted review samples of all the products mentioned here were provided for review purposes.]