Dunhill ICON: a fragrance of diminishing returns

I love Dunhill ICON. When it was launched back in 2015 I named it as one of my favourite fragrances of the year, even going so far as to call it a future classic. And if you look at the reviews of it around the time of its release I was not alone – it was almost universally praised, which is no mean feat for a new men’s fragrance these days. Wasting no time in capitalising on this success, a reworked version, Dunhill ICON Absolute, complete with differentiating gold-coloured flacon, was launched that same year. It too, was a pretty good fragrance, though as is often the case with hastily thrown out flankers, it wasn’t quite as good as the original. Then, in 2016, came ICON Elite (are you keeping up?). The original award-winning bottle, jet black this time, was as wonderful as ever – it truly is a work of art  – but the fragrance itself was a little less impressive than both of its predecessors.

Thankfully, we were spared an ICON Elite Absolute but the brand is back this September with yet another ICON variant in the shape of Dunhill ICON Racing (it was originally called Racing Green from what I can gather but the Green bit seems to have been dropped). And, following the downward trajectory of the ICON concept it’s, in my opinion at least, the weakest of the bunch so far. A woody oriental with notes of Volcanic Red Orange (your guess is as good as mine), bergamot, saffron, clary sage, leather, vetiver and patchouli it moves things ever more mainstream and predictable. Whereas the original ICON was one of Dunhill’s most complex and intriguing fragrances ever, Racing revels in blunt, unsophisticated mass-market simplicity. It’s sweet and soapy and although the dry down is pleasantly woody it’s simply not a patch on the fragrance whose DNA it (now only vaguely) shares.

The problem here I think is once facing many fragrance companies at the moment –  Tom Ford and Jo Malone amongst them unfortunately – and that’s that there are simply too many launches in too quick succession. Obsessed by newness (it’s what the customer wants these days I’m told) houses like Dunhill are signed up to a release schedule that feels like it’s on speed and there’s little time to pause for thought or grow loyalty to one particular fragrance or another.

Maybe, pressurised by such a release schedule, the perfumers themselves don’t have the time or creative breathing space to come up with something truly amazing, (though it’s more likely they have soul-destroying mass-market briefs to contend with) but what I do know is that with each successive version, ICON gets weaker and weaker. When you truly love a fragrance – as I do with the original ICON – this is terribly sad to witness and, although I’m sure the company won’t pay a blind bit of notice to what one reviewer like me has to say, my message to them anyway would be to take a deep breath and slow down a little. More haste, less speed – that’s how to create an icon.

Dunhill ICON Racing launches in Harrods next month and nationwide from October 2nd, priced £63 for 50ml EDP

Two great new fragrances for summer ’17

In the last ten years the release of summer-appropriate fragrances has become as much a part of the holiday season as sandals, strawberries and horrifying sartorial slip ups (why are British men so bad at dressing for summer?). In fact, without a clutch of light, crisp and zingy scents summer just wouldn’t be summer. I’ve written about some of those on offer this year for my summer fragrance round up over on fashionbeans.com but new ones seems to pop up every day – like these two new numbers from Tom Ford and Azzaro.

Ford’s offering (and I can barely keep up with the amount of new launches appearing from his Private Blend Collection these days)  Mandarino Di Amalfi Acqua (£139.50 for 100ml EDP from John Lewis) is a reworking of Mandarino Di Amalfi featuring a hint of mint to give it a cool watery freshness. It’s delightfully  fresh, citrusy and herbaceous and as with the aqua version of Neroli Portofino, the frosted blue bottle is about as evocative of summer as it gets. I know several people who actually prefer the aqua versions of Ford’s fragrances to the originals so if you’re mad for Mandarino you certainly might want to give it a try.

As for Azzaro Chrome Pure, well, if you read this blog regularly you’ll be aware of my views about Azzaro’s (somewhat controversial)  last fragrance Azzaro Wanted. If not you can read them here). Thankfully, Chrome Pure (£43 for 50ml EDT from Debenhams) sees the brand on safer – and slightly more sophisticated – ground. The bottle is simple, yet elegant, and the fragrance itself is a ferociously commercial blend of bergamot, mandarin,  akigala wood (a note created by fragrance company Givaudan which has its origins in patchouli) and tonka bean. Okay, it’s not a blend that’s likely to win any awards for originality but it is guaranteed to win some fans for its sheer wearability. Almost as refreshing as the fragrance, though, is the ad campaign. As with the ads for the original Chrome fragrance, it eschews the barely-clothed male/female clichés that have been a staple of fragrance advertising for so long, for a gentle, in-the-moment father/son thing instead. In character, it couldn’t be further away from Azzaro Wanted and for that alone it’s worthy of praise.

 

 

Caran D’Ache pencils – a slightly more interesting way to enjoy fragrance

If you’re a bit of a fragrance junkie chances are that spraying it onto skin isn’t the only way you like to enjoy your scent. But while solid perfumes and scented candles are all very nice there are other, altogether more interesting, ways to enjoy perfume too. Take this super-cool scented pencil collection from fine writing experts Caran d’Ache for example. Featuring four exquisite 4HB graphite pencils, each made of a different precious wood (Western Hemlock, White Oak, Silver Teak and White Ash), the set is heavily scented with a warm, creamy blend of patchouli, incense and tonka bean and each pencil is a real delight to hold and to smell – especially when you pop it into a sharpener.

The fragrance itself, ‘Tibetan Wood’, is the creation of master perfumer Alberto Morillas (the guy who created Armani’s Acqua di Gio and Calvin Klein’s CK One) and is certainly something you’d want to wear if it were bottled. I have to say, I loved these from the moment I clapped eyes on them. Beautiful, stylish and practical – they’ve almost tempted me to take up life drawing classes – they’re the perfect present for perfumistas but also for arty types, dads (Father’s Day is coming up remember) and, well, men who have everything but a set of scented pencils. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not something you necessarily need but trust me, you’ll certainly want them.

Les Crayons de le Maison Caran D’Ache cost £30.00 for a set of four. For stockists go to www.carandache.com

Etro’s ManRose – a floral fragrance for men, in case you were wondering.

The unmistakable scent of rose has long been a mainstay of men’s fragrances, though in most cases it’s tucked away deep in the composition and the general ‘rosiness’ is dialled down so as not to make it seem overly feminine. Which is a shame in my book because men smell fantastic when rocking a rose fragrance. I myself am partial to Serge Lutens’  ludicrously sexy Tubéreuse Criminelle, which is the kind of scent you imagine the Marquis de Sade wearing whilst brandishing a riding crop, but even I have to be in the right frame of mind to wear it because rose-based fragrances are never for the faint-hearted.

Many men, of course, are still terrified about anything floral, which is presumably the kind of customer Etro is after with ManRose   their latest fragrance and one whose very name suggests it’s aimed at the kind of guy who can’t smell the nation’s favourite flower without instantly thinking of a diaphanously dressed, soft-focus Jayne Seymour wafting through an English walled garden.

Daft name aside (do we really need to be so blunt in 2017?) it’s actually a great starter fragrance for any man  interested in trying florals as a change to the usual woody, smoky or leathery fare. What makes ManRose so accessible is the fact that, though the rose is there, it’s intensity is dialed down somewhat allowing the fragrance to have a delicate, powdery and slightly suedey edge which gives it a commerciality some punchier rose fragrances lack. So if you’ve always wanted to try something flagrantly floral but were always nervous to try this might well be the perfect introduction to the genre.

The notes:

Top: Bergamot, Sichuan pepper, cardamon, elemi

Heart: Turkish rose, geranium, incense

Base: patchouli, vetiver, musk, leather, ember, woods

Etro’s ManRose is available now from Liberty, priced £118 for 100ml eau de parfum.

 

Beaufort London’s new Discovery Kit has Christmas all wrapped up

beaufortlondondec16-57-cropBeaufort London is, without doubt, one of my favourite boutique fragrance brands. Everything they do is so carefully considered and artfully approached I defy any fragrance lover not to fall in love with them. Each fragrance has a backstory as interesting and complex as the juice itself and they’re delightfully and defiantly unconventional,  existing completely outside fickle fads or trends.

If you fancy trying them out for yourself they’ve just launched a new discovery kit, featuring five 7.5ml travel-sized fragrances from the ‘Come Hell or High Water’ collection which is inspired by Britain’s nautical history. Each fragrance is a corker (my personal fave is Fathom V which completely turns the concept of a ‘marine’ fragrance on its head) and each spray is refillable from a full-sized bottle of fragrance.

beaufortlondondec16-11-cropWhat takes this ‘taster’ collection to another level, though, is the presentation since the sprays come in their own beautiful leather wrap. Again, it’s this kind of attention to detail that marks Beaufort London out from many other niche brands and proves that, as with gift buying, when it comes to creating something truly special, it’s very much the thought that counts.

Beaufort London’s Come Hell Or High Water Discovery Set costs £85 and is available from beaufortlondon.com

This Christmas’ blockbuster gift for Aramis lovers

aramis-1-open-med-resI have always loved Aramis. In fact, I’ve loved it since I was teenager (a mighty long time ago). Its warm, woody, leatheriness is irresistible. Elegant but muscular, it has a bit of a reputation as being a fragrance for dads but whilst it’s certainly a fragrance for grown ups (it’s often described as ‘authoritative’) its timeless appeal means every man should try it once – regardless of his age.

And whether you’re a hardcore fan like me or an Aramis virgin this new (and aptly named) ‘Blockbuster Set’ is a real treat. Featuring five products from the range housed in a swanky gift box, it makes a fantastic pressie for fragrance lovers. At £85 it’s great value, too, because buying all the products individually would set you back over £170. The only downer is that it doesn’t include one of my favourite bath products ever – the classic Aramis soap on a rope  – so the set isn’t quiet as ‘authoritative’ as the fragrance but don’t let that put you off: this is still one of the best Christmas gift sets out there.

You can read more about the fragrance itself here

 

Golden Greats: four new fragrances worth gifting this Christmas

img_3499

Every year, right about now, I’m asked by numerous pals what fragrances I’d recommend as gifts for Christmas. Over the past year I’ve sampled scores of new launches (some excellent, others mediocre and a few truly dire) but a handful have stood out. And here are four that I really rate. Like everyone, I have my own particular taste in fragrance, so make sure you try before you buy but do check them out because, in my book, every one of them is a winner.

alizarinPenhaligon’s Alizarin.  When I wrote about what to wear for a party in my Stella magazine column recently this new number from Penhaligon’s was my automatic fragrance of choice. Oudy and leathery, with touches of powdery orris, it’s an exceptionally grown up, sexy, slighty sherbety fragrance and has excellent longevity on the skin – which is exactly what you want from a party fragrance.

view_image-5kcx-01-fErmenegildo Zegna Essenze Musk Gold. Though I’m not a huge fan of Zegna’s mass-market fragrances their more luxe Essenze fragrances are, almost without exception, absolutely superb. This one is practically pornographic in nature: opulent and rich and with a kinky, leather-meets-musk base, it’s a ballsy, truly muscular statement scent and one of my favourite launches this year.

1962-edp-100ml-1200px_rgb-1Floris 1962. Part of Floris’ new Fragrance Journals Collection, 1962 takes bohemian Soho of the sixties as its inspiration and is intentionally retro in feel and character. I absolutely fell in love with it the minute I got a whiff of it at its press launch back in the summer and still can’t get enough of it. Citrusy and woody, with delightful touches of clove, spearmint and lily of the valley, it’s ludicrously old-skool in character and is the smell of men before the fragrance industry turned them into cake shops. A fragrance I’ve worn incessantly this year.

3432240501141_t1_1200x1200L’envol de Cartier Read the reviews of this brand new fragrance from Cartier and you’ll notice straight away that they’re almost universally positive. And it’s not just the juice – a not-too-overpowering blend of warm woods, honey and musk – that’s received plaudits – the bottle has too. If you can afford the extra moolah, go for the 100ml refillable version (pictured above) which is suspended in a kind of bell jar and looks ridiculously stylish.