Golden Greats: four new fragrances worth gifting this Christmas

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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.

 

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.

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.

Grooming Guru Essentials: Heyland & Whittle Olive & Fig Soap

HEYLAND & WHITTLEI make no excuses for the fact that I am faintly obsessed by body soaps. And I’m very fussy about what graces the side of my bath. Anyway, this wonderful, palm-sized Heyland & Whittle Olive & Fig Organic Soap is what you might call my latest squeeze – if a slippery squeeze. Made from 100% organic ingredients it’s figgy, slightly peppery and very, very ‘green’ smelling. In fact, it really reminds me of the wonderful cut stem aroma that hits you whenever you walk into a decent florists. At £6 it isn’t ridiculously expensive either and it’s Made in England. Recommended.

For more info go to heylandandwhittle.co.uk

Grooming Guru Essentials: Shiseido Men Total Revitalizer Eye cream

Shiseido eye creamHaving been a little under the weather this past week I’ve also been looking decidedly below par. A little like Uncle Fester in fact. So it’s a blessed relief I have this new eye cream from Shiseido to hand. Lovely and light it’s quickly absorbed, leaves no shine on the skin and is great for tackling annoying ocular occurrences such as eye bags and dark circles. It also has a special “Damage Defense Complex” which features a raft of ingredients to reinforce the skin’s natural barrier and keep the skin around the eye firm and hydrated. Anyway, it’s certainly helped make me look half-human again and for that reason alone I can heartily recommend it.

Available now from House of Fraser.

dermalogica’s daily defense block SPF15 – my summer skincare hero

Daily Defense Block SPF15Several things have seen me through the summer this year. Not least a sense of humour, given the sweltering heat and torrential downpours. But on the skincare side it’s this non-greasy daily defender from dermalogica that’s been my hero. It’s been with me halfway around the world and now I wouldn’t be without it.

Designed for men (it can be used after shaving and contains ingredients to combat ingrown hairs and breakouts) it has a barely-there fragrance and is quickly absorbed, leaving skin with a matt finish.

The best thing about it though? Unlike many products that also offer a built in UV sunscreen there’s no white residue so you don’t look like someone’s splashed your face with a base coat of emulsion. If you care about the damaging effects of the sun this is a must-have. Absolutely one of the best daily skin defenders I’ve come across.

For more information go to dermalogica.co.uk

In-flight essentials

TRAVELIf you’re wondering why I’ve been quiet for the last few weeks it’s because I’ve been on holiday in the US. But I’m back now (if heavily jet-lagged) and over the next few days I’ll have a few special travel-themed posts.

I have to confess, I’m not known for travelling light (my grooming essentials alone could fill a small suitcase and I’ll post about some of those in the next few days) but I’m remarkably economical with what I take onto planes. As you can see from the pic above I travelled exceptionally light this time, taking just two little lifesavers onto my Virgin Atlantic flight to Boston.

The first was a dinky 15ml Elemis Pro-Radiance Illuminating Flash Balm which is great for moisturising skin but which also gives it a bit of lift – useful when you look like you’ve been up all night (which I had been). I usually take their fantastic Time For Men S.O.S Survival Cream – which is super hydrating – but this sample sized Flash Balm seemed perfect the journey. I also popped a retaW Lip Balm in my liquids bag as my lips are always the first thing to feel the effects of dry cabin air.

Anyway, if you have any essentials you like to take on planes, let me know. Would love to hear what your must-haves are.