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.

 

Ahoy there! There’s a new limited edition of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male on the horizon!

JPG_LE MALE_2015 Ltd Ed_IMAGE 6BGenerally speaking I’m very suspicious of limited edition versions of popular fragrances (at the end of the day they’re essentially a way of shifting more units) but I’m always rather excited whenever there’s a new edition of Jean Paul Gaultier’s iconic Le Male because they’re always such fun and so well executed. And since a new one emerges every spring I can’t be the only one who enjoys them. This year, the fragrance takes on a pirate theme, with a crimson skull and a pair of crossed sabres emblazoned on a sailor’s jersey. If you’re a collector you’ll no doubt want to add it to your swag but if you’re just a fan of Le Male and are running low this is the perfect time to replenish your stock. And I know it has a pirate theme but do me a favour and pay for it rather than just ‘appropriate’ it, ok?

Available from Feb 2nd while stocks last.

Avant Garde – Lanvin’s new fragrance for men

The other day I had the pleasure of meeting Givaudan’s Shyamala Maisondieu, the nose behind the brand new Lanvin men’s fragrance. What struck me whilst talking to her was her obvious passion for her creation and how clear an image of the ‘Lanvin Man’ she had in her mind (she painted such an evocative picture of a busy, sophisticated, well-travelled man kicking back in front of a roaring fire I nearly asked if I should pop out and get some more logs!).

In an age of fragrance-by-focus-group it was great to see something created with genuine art and passion (she very kindly helped me unravel the secrets of my own fragrance collection, too, but more about that another time).

Avant Garde itself is an oriental woody fragrance, bursting with exotic spices (as a child Shyamala loved the smell of cardamon so it’s included here), along with woody and tobacco notes and a hint of beeswax, which gives it a sweet, edible honey inflection.

So is it any good? Well, it’s much gentler and warmer than I expected and sweet in an Mugler A*Men kinda way (but not nearly as pungent obviously). With evidence to suggest women are especially attracted to sensual woody oriental fragrances and to sweet notes it’s very much a fragrance they’ll love to smell on men. Which is no bad thing right?

P.S. The bottle is amazing and feels like a smooth and sensual black pebble!

Lanvin Avant Garde is available from Harvey Nichols, priced £49 for 100ml eau de toilette.

Le Labo – a real fragrance find

aw07lela795005198-nocolourIf, like me, you’re bored senseless by the generic men’s fragrances churned out by the big fashion houses then here’s a suggestion for you – check out Le Labo. A bespoke fragrance emporium tucked away on Elizabeth Street in New York’s terminally hip NoLita, it’s chock full of wonderfully ballsy, characterful fragrances that smell like nothing else out there and which epitomise modern luxury.

I stumbled upon the uber-cool shop whilst pounding the streets in search of David Bowie’s New York abode (which I don’t think I found – unless he’s chosen to live above a Kebab shop). Anyway, not only is Le Labo worth checking out just for its cool decor, all the fragrances are ‘compounded’ in front of your very eyes and you can even have the label personalised to include you name.

My fragrance is 'compounded' and personalised while I wait
My fragrance is 'compounded' and personalised while I wait

Of the scents on offer, Ood 27 knocks your socks off and the Neroli is to die for but the one I fell for is Patchouli 24, a fantastically sexy, smoky number with an unabashed viagra-like staying power.

Don’t worry if you don’t fancy schlepping all the way to NY to get hold of a bottle though – Liberty stock much of the ready-made range. It’s not cheap (a 100 ml bottle of perfume strength fragrance is £120 but it’s worth every penny).

To visit Le Labo’s site click here.

The writing on the wall (literally) explaining the Le Labo ethos
The writing on the wall (literally) explaining the Le Labo ethos

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