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.

 

Versace’s Dylan Blue delivers a knockout blow to decent fragrance advertising

versace (1)Creating the story and campaign for a new fragrance is never easy. Having helped create a few of them myself in the past I know this all too well. When they succeed they do so because of clarity of thought and of message and because they tap into the current zeitgeist. So how well the new Versace fragrance Dylan Blue campaign will fare remains to be seen because messages there are aplenty. And none of them are all that great.

Looking at the campaign as a whole (one lovingly shot by Bruce Weber, in a masturbatory style that’s steadfastly Nineties) it’s a bag of contradictions: on one hand we have the ‘modernity’ of a same-sex kiss (the inclusion of which we’re  either supposed to shocked by or grateful for, I’m not sure which) and on the other some woefully archaic views about women (“As dad always used to say… you can’t live with women and you can’t live without them”). There are a couple of corkers about men too, including the cringeworthy “I learned at a young age not to show any weakness”. The video meanwhile lacks but one thing: the kitchen sink. It’s hetero yet homo; violent yet tender; old-fashioned yet throughly modern. It has girls, it has boys. It has boxers, it has bikes. It has… oh well, you get the picture.

Personally, I find much of this mind-numbingly naff and I’m at a loss as to why a campaign for a fragrance ever needs to show a woman kicking a man down a flight of stairs or feels the need to use the words “she doesn’t seem to know I exist except when she’s kicking me in the head”. But just in case this woman –  called Gigi – has men quaking in their boots/slingbacks the campaign takes pains to reassure them she has her limitations. “She can out kick-box any of the smaller guys,” says the blurb (the bigger ones clearly being too much of a challenge of her).  Billie Jean King would not be pleased.

To me, the apparent “kiss and make up” theme of the campaign also has uncomfortable associations with the destructive hit me/kiss me cycle in much domestic violence (the boxer kisses his opponent before delivering a knock out blow and Gigi can kiss as good as she can kick). Am I’m being over sensitive? A bit too PC for my own good? Perhaps, but  following on the heels of the appalling marketing of Azzaro Wanted I’m seriously beginning to wonder where fragrance advertising is heading right now. “Dylan Blue is the essence of the Versace Man today,” says Donatella Versace. Well, if that’s the man of today I’m truly fearful about what the one tomorrow will look like if he buys into this particular kind of advertising.

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