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

 

Azzaro Wanted – seriously, what were they thinking?

Azzaro Wanted-1Oh deary, deary me. Let’s talk about Azzaro’s new Wanted fragrance for a moment shall we? The one in the bottle that looks like a fully-loaded gun chamber. Now, the six-shooter bottle design for this fragrance, regardless of bad timing in light of the tragic events in Orlando, is a quite spectacular exercise in clichéd, one-dimensional and outdated hyper-mascuine thinking. I used to think that Davidoff’s The Game, with its casino chip flacon, was terminally naff but this takes things to a whole new level – and a subterranean one at that. Presumably the thinking behind it is that a. men absolutely love guns and b. guns are sexy and street and therefore customers will think the fragrance is masculine and, like, really, really cool.

You can just see the design meeting now: “Right guys, we need an eye-catching bottle – something like Paco Rabanne’s Invictus or that Gaultier one with the massive bulge. What screams ‘men’ then? How about a football? Or a motorbike? Or a big, clunking fist? Oh, no, Diesel did the fist. Wait a minute. I know – how about a gun? What’s more masculine than a gun? It’s cowboy; it’s gangsta; it’s Bond; it’s NRA and man-on-a-rampage. But mostly it’s Bond. Especially if we make it sleek, shiny and gold. What better vessel for our killer fragrance than a killer bottle?”

Well, I’m afraid Azzaro have shot themselves in the foot here (sorry) and I suspect they know this too since the bottle description on their website is a masterclass in obscurification. Avoiding the ‘G’ word altogether and with not a passing mention of bullets the bottle is instead “elegant and precious, with a stunning rugged, mechanical look” (it’s a gun folks) and “a  symbol of freedom and virility” (still a gun). Most bizarrely, it’s also “an embodiment of extreme masculinity tinged with the nostalgia of childhood”. Now, unless your dad was the Son of Sam I’m not entirely sure what childhood nostalgia it’s referring to here but no matter, the bottom line is that, in 2016, Azzaro’s  firearm-inspired Wanted is, to put it bluntly, anything but.

Profumo Affair

3614270581670_Code-Profumo-3,7_01Of the raft of new men’s fragrances that have landed on my desk of late (most of which copy each other in what amounts to olfactory cannibalism) one – Armani Code Profumo – has leapt out at me. As well as being housed in one of the most ridiculously sensual bottles you’ll ever come across it happens to pretty decent fragrance too. It takes its cues, of course, from the other Armani Code bottles but feels more premium thanks to heavier, thicker glass and there’s a grained collar at the top of the bottle that’s supposed to resemble a cummerbund. And the fragrance itself? Well, it’s a woody-ambery number that’s intensely balsamic and vanillary, with creamy tonka bean (the signature note of the Code fragrances) supported by hints of leather, tobacco and styrax (included to bolster the tonka since it also has a vanillary vibe). The result is an exceptionally sensual fragrance that’s gourmandy without being sickly or cakey and one that’s perfect for warm summer evenings. Recommended.

Available now priced £62 for 6oml eau de parfum

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.

Burberry unveils steamy campaign for Mr. Burberry fragrance

The launch of Mr. Burberry, the latest fragrance from the iconic British fashion house Burberry, is, without doubt, the biggest thing to hit the male fragrance industry this year (read my review of it here), not least because there’s some serious money behind its launch.

2016_MR_BURBERRY_BTS_GENERAL_RGB_CROPPED_11For proof take a look at the campaign film above which is directed by Turner Prize winner Steve McQueen, features a soundtrack by Benjamin Clementine and stars British actor and musician Josh Whitehouse and model and actress Amber Anderson. “I wanted to convey the idea of two people who are passionately in love, and go off on a dirty weekend,” says the director. “It’s that moment in a relationship where all you are thinking about is each other, and all you want is to be with each other.” He certainly succeeded. And if Whitehouse is wearing the fragrance it’s obviously doing something very right.

For the love of Grey Flannel

GREY FLANNEL FRAGRANCEGiven that today is National Fragrance Day it seemed appropriate to post something about the importance of the smelly stuff. Certainly, the relationship it’s possible to have with your favourite fragrance can be complex and surprisingly intimate. I have known my signature scent, Geoffrey Beene’s Grey Flannel, for example, longer than I have known most of my friends or my other half.

It has been my favourite fragrance for nearly 30 years (yes, I am that old) and has been there on my skin when I have laughed, cried, worked, travelled, fallen in love and – on occasion – fallen over blind drunk. It was there when I went to University in the mid Eighties, when I secured my first journalism job in the Nineties and when I tied the knot in the Noughties. And I’m still wearing it now, in whatever the current decade we’re in happens to be called.

Acquaintances have come and gone but Grey Flannel, like the most steadfast and loyal of friends, has stuck by me through thick and thin – literally and figuratively as it happens since I was once considerably slighter than I am now. Frankly, I only hope that someone has the decency to spritz my lifeless cadaver with it when I eventually pop my clogs/favourite pair of Tricker’s boots.

Oh, I’ll admit here and now that there have been times when I’ve been, you know, less than faithful to Grey Flannel: other fragrances have entered my life and caused me to stray occasionally. What can I say? I write about fragrance for a living so the temptation is there on a plate – and in a bottle. But though I do have a fondness for Givenchy Gentleman, Helmut Lang Cologne, Roja Parfum’s Vetiver Extrait and Lagerfeld Classic, Grey Flannel is the fragrance I always come home to after a dalliance of the eau de toilette kind.

grey copyAlthough launched in the mid Seventies, I first discovered GF though an ad in Eighties’ style bible Blitz magazine which featured a naked James Dean lookalike (or was it Dean himself?) and instantly fell in love with its quirky grey flannel pouch and intoxicating (if polarising) mix of galbanum, geranium, rose, oakmoss, tonka bean and violet. And especially the violet.

People who smell it on me often say it reminds them of the Parma Violet sweets they sucked on as kids. A oriental woody scent with green, powdery and slightly soapy vibes, it’s a lot more complex than that, of course, but I get where they’re coming from and, like the smell of the childhood sweets they refer to, it’s a concoction I find strangely comforting. So much so, in fact, that it’s my lucky charm when I need a little good fortune and in times of crisis I’ve been known to spray a little of it on my pillow. Yep, Linus from Charlie Brown has his security blanket and I have my bottle of Grey Flannel. But that’s how it is with a fragrance that you fall in love with: it’s always there for you.

The truth is, Grey Flannel is not the coolest of fragrances to wear (though the perfumers I know seem to rate it highly) nor is it a particularly expensive one.  But don’t be fooled by the lack of street cred or disrespectful discounting; there’s nothing bargain basement about this award-winning fragrance (it won a prestigious FiFi  –  the equivalent of a fragrance Oscar – in 1976).

Naturally, over the years the formula has changed a bit (pesky new ingredient rules have seen to that) but it’s still pretty faithful to the fragrance I remember back  when I was in my student digs so I’m not complaining. My only concern these days is that Grey Flannel will be discontinued before I am  – which explains why I have a small, nuclear holocaust-style stockpile – but it must be doing something right to be here 40 years after it launched – not to mention to still be in my life after all these years. Franky, I count myself very lucky indeed to have picked a fragrance that has lasted so long. Many young guys I know are falling in love with fragrances that will have vanished off the shelves in three years time once the company that produces them decides to replace them – modern record company stylee – with a younger, fresher, more aggressively commercial model.

So, on the day we’re celebrating all that the fragrance industry has given us my message is this:  if you find a fragrance that means as much to you as Grey Flannel means to me enjoy it, cherish it and keep it close: it’s much more than something that can make you smell nice – it really can be your very best friend.

A version of this post originally appeared on scentmemories.org