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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Scrotum gone South? Maybe it’s time for a ball lift!

Ever wondered what the next big thing in male grooming is? Well, it may well be the ‘ball lift’. And, yes, that is what you think it is. So what kind of man has his scrotum tightened and what does a ‘lift’ actually involve? I take a look at this increasingly common procedure over at Telegraph Men.  Just cross your legs and click on the pic below if you fancy a  read.

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Mr Porter’s 2016 Summer Grooming Kit lands

MR PORTER SUMMER GROOMING KIT (1)Grooming Boxes (collections of skin care and hair care products compiled as kits) are, at best, a bit hit and miss. Many I have encountered are skimpy, over-priced and badly curated. These are criticisms it’s impossible to level at Mr Porter‘s grooming boxes, however, because they’re by far the most artfully edited boxes out there. Their brand new Summer Grooming Kit, for example, features well-known brands like Clinique For Men, Tom Ford and Lab Series alongside cult ones like Bumble & Bumble, Czech & Speake and Baxter Of California and lesser known luxury brands like Patricks, which you may not have heard about but should definitely become acquainted with. All in all the kit features 13 full and travel-sized products (there’s a Perricone MD Cold Plasma sample which isn’t in the pic because I used it straight away) and costs £75. If that seems like a hefty initial outlay, consider this: the Clinique, Lab Series and REN products alone are worth £97. If you fancy getting your hands on one, though, don’t spend too long thinking about it – they tend to sell out faster than tickets to see Adele.

Mr Porter’s Summer Grooming Kit is available now from mrporter.com

 

 

Dunhill ICON (rightfully) wins ‘fragrance Oscar’ for design & packaging

DUNHILL_ICON LR2Like the acting Oscars the annual fragrance Oscars – the FiFi awards – tend to create their own share of controversy when it comes to winners, not to mention the odd WTF?! moment. Occasionally there’s a whiff of the Rita Oras about the bigger winners (i.e they’re absolutely everywhere so they’ve got to be good, right? Which we all know isn’t always true) but I was genuinely thrilled to see that dunhill ICON picked up an award for Best New Male Design & Packaging at last night’s ceremony. Almost every review of this fragrance (my own included) commented on how superb the bottle was. Featuring an engine-turned cylindrical case, with a design first used on dunhill accessories back in 1924, it’s both beautiful to hold and to look at. So huge congrats to dunhill – and to Mark Eisen who designed it – on a thoroughly deserved win.

P.S. The fragrance happens to be pretty good too.

A full list of The Fragrance Foundation Awards winners can be seen here.

Biotherm Homme signs up David Beckham as brand ambassador

David Beckham official shotBiotherm Homme have a bit of a chequered history in the UK. Big on the continent, they made a concerted effort to crack the British male skincare market several years ago before slinking back into the shadows, to the point where a drop down menu of countries on their site doesn’t even include the UK. Which is a great shame because the products are really rather good and sometimes extremely innovative (the Total Recharge range is great). You can still track down the products online  – on Amazon for example – and you might want to investigate them when you’re abroad and the brand is to get a bit of a recognition boost thanks to the addition of none other than David Beckham as their brand ambassador. Check out the video below…

John Varvatos turns things blue with brand new fragrance

JOHN VARVATOS ARTISAN BLUI’m a huge fan of the John Varvatos fragrances and it’s a real shame the designer doesn’t have the same kind of name recognition in the UK as he does over in the States because if he did I’m sure his fragrances would be much more popular than they are. They certainly deserve to be best sellers. The original John Varvatos Artisan fragrance is lovely (see a brief review of it here) and each successive addition to the collection, like Artisan Black and Artisan Acqua, have brought something new to the portfolio.

The latest addition, the limited edition, Artisan Blu, is all about bottling an aquatic, summery vibe so think Mediterranean herbs, summer flowers and the kind of crisp, clean wateriness that evokes summer hols and balmy evenings on the beach  – a very comforting thought as I write this on a cold and grey February afternoon believe me. As ever, the bottle, comes encased in a handcrafted rattan sleeve – in this case deep blue and, appropriately, reminiscent of fishermen’s nets.  One to put on your spring fragrance list for sure.

Top notes: Bergamot, Bitter Orange, Lavender, Chayote, Basil

Heart notes: Palmarosa, Clary Sage, Geranium, Iris, Orange Blossom Absolute

Base notes: Patchouli, cedarwood, parasol pine, tamarisk, pistachio tree resin

John Varvatos Artisan Blu is available from Debenhams from 1st April priced £49 for 75ml eau de toilette.

Bleu de Chanel range expands with addition of two new shave products

Bleu de Chanel Shaving Cream 100 mlFebruary 5th sees the launch of two brand new, limited edition shave products from BLEU DE CHANEL: a low-foaming, transparent Shaving Cream (above) and a soothing and moisturising Hydrating After Shave Gel. Both lightly scented with the wildly successful Bleu de Chanel fragrance, they’re the perfect way to bolster the effect of the fragrance itself and the transparent nature of the gel means it’s great for guys with facial hair to navigate too. If you’re a Bleu boy then these new products are definitely worth adding to your fragrance armoury.

Available nationwide priced £38 each. 

Five grooming resolutions worth keeping – with the help of FIT skincare for men

FIT SKINCARE FOR MEN
We all make resolutions at this time of year.  Some of them are easy to keep: others (usually anything involving food, drink or exercise!) are a bit harder to adhere to. Thankfully, resolutions about improving your looks are relatively simple to keep. So if you want to end 2016 looking better than when you started it (and who doesn’t?) here are a few worth keeping – along with the products to ensure that those resolutions become reality…

FIT_30ml_Moisturiser_Box-Bottle_SQUARE_JOINT_72dpi_V1_1024x10241. I will moisturise – twice a day. 

If you only make one grooming resolution this year, make sure it’s this one. Why? Well, not only does moisturising keep skin supple and healthy-looking it also acts as an insurance policy against future wrinkles because the drier skin the more prone to premature ageing it is. FIT’s quickly-absorbed, non-greasy Moisturising Ultra Serum is the perfect way to hydrate skin and is packed with antioxidant vitamins and amino acids to strengthen skin’s natural defences and keep it looking its best. Simply apply twice daily, morning and night, after cleansing. The evening application is especially important because this is when skin is best able to absorb moisturisers.

FIT_250ml_Shampoo_Box-Bottle_SQUARE_JOINT_72dpi_V1_1024x10242. I won’t be obsessed by my thinning thatch.

It’s thought that up to 40% of men will experience some thinning of the hair by the time they’re 35 (I was one of them) but instead of fretting over the fact  – something that can potentially make things worse – why not give your hair some support this year with the help of FIT’s Active Shampoo? A ‘smart’ shampoo that adjusts to your own hair’s needs, it’s fortified with vitamins and caffeine to strengthen and thicken your thatch and minimise hair fallout and breakage in the process. Result.

FIT_20ml_Eyedrate_Box-Bottle_SQUARE_JOINT_72dpi_V1_1024x10243.  I will expand my grooming repertoire.

As with most things – food and exercise included –  it generally pays to think beyond the basics. It’s the same with your grooming regime. Top marks if you’re using a cleanser instead of soap and are moisturising every day but if that’s the extent of your regime, 2016 might be the year to add an eye product like FIT Eyedrate+ to your grooming kit. Why? Well, the skin around the eyes isn’t just thinner than the stuff on the rest of your face, it tends to be more sensitive, too, so needs a specialist product to keep it hydrated, tackle dark circles and reduce puffiness. Eyedrate + does all three of these things and is a cinch incorporate into your existing regime. Simply apply a tiny amount to the skin around your eye sockets with your fingertip, using gentle patting motions.

LIP SERUM4. I won’t let my lips let me down.

You’d be amazed at how many well-groomed men pay great attention to skin and haircare but then let themselves down by neglecting to look after their lips.  With no oil glands of their own lips often need a little TLC to prevent them from chapping and feeling rough, particularly in the first few months of the year when the weather is at its harshest, so make sure you’re never without a FIT Lip Serum. Taste and shine-free (so you won’t look like you’re wearing gloss or be tempted to lick it off) it’s designed to keep lips hydrated and repair any damage caused by icy winds. Make it your pocket essential for 2016.

FIT_100ml_Pec-Ab_Box-Bottle_SQUARE_JOINT_72dpi_V1_1024x10245. I will get fit.

Okay, so we all have this resolution at this time of year (I know I do, every January) but if 2016 is the year you’ve decided to aim for perfect pecs and ideal abs then why not help things along a little with Pec & Ab Sculpt? With artichoke leaf to break down stored fat and plant-based ingredients to tighten skin it’s a great way to show off the results of your hard work down the gym.

So there you have it:  five simple and achievable grooming resolutions for 2016. Adopt them now and you might just have your best-looking year ever!

FIT Skincare For Men is available from fitskincare.co.uk.

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