Atelier Cologne’s candle collection is addictive

Like drugs, scented candles can be quite addictive if you happen to be a fan. And as is the case with drugs, once you’re hooked you often need a bigger, better hit to get a high. So after a while your bog standard scented candle in a transparent glass simply won’t do – you need something altogether bigger and better. Which is where Atelier Cologne‘s new Collection Maison candles come in. Housed in beautiful Venetian blue, apothecary-style glass bottles they take home fragrance to a whole new level.

Admittedly, the fact that the bottles are 5″ deep does make the candles in this ten piece collection a little trickier to light than regular numbers, which is why they come with a special box of matches (I must confess I used one of those long gas kitchen lighters instead). Trimming the wicks is a bit more complicated, too, if you don’t have a specialist trimmer but don’t let that put you off because the candles diffuse their scent beautifully. In fact, a short burn of 15 minutes or so is all it takes to fragrance a large room. What’s more, they burn cleanly and the glass stoppers mean they’re a cinch to snuff.

Tobacco Texas, the one I’ve been trying, is a delightfully warm and creamy blend of tobacco flower, labdanum and davana –  an aromatic herb which adds a sweet, fruity, slightly boozy, quality. The overall effect is a scent that’s warm and comforting – especially good for this time of year – and the candle really comes into its own when the lights are low and all you can see is the hypnotic glow of the bottle. Like I said, candles are like narcotics to scent lovers. You can tell I’m hooked on this one right?

Atelier Cologne’s Collection Maison Candles are available now priced £55. For more info go to atteliercologne.com.

Kurkdjian’s Christmas candle magic

MFK-Ligne Noël Bougies PArfumées-LDWhen it comes to Christmas few gifts are as nice as scented candles and few scented candles are as nice as this trio of bougies from perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. Presented as a boxed set containing three mini candles (with a burn time of 20 hours each), they look fantastic and smell of gingerbread and iris so have a festive twist but not one so Christmassy they can’t be used beyond December.

Available from Selfridges, Liberty, Harvey Nichols, John Lewis and Les Senteurs.

Jonathan Ward launches diffusion line

JW CANDLEQuite often when I review scented candles or diffusers the reaction I get is “sounds nice but they’re so expensive!” Given that good candles can set you back £35 or more it’s a fair comment, especially in these difficult economic times.  With this in mind Jonathan Ward – a man who’s a true wiz with wax – is to launch a diffusion line of candles offering customers the chance of accessing his luxury brand at slightly lower price point.

The range still has the features Jonathan Ward is famous for (the double wicks, clean burning wax and complex, multi-dimensional fragrances) but the candles cost a mere £16 and the diffusers £20 making them roughly half the price as the mainline collection.

Thoroughly English, the collection of six candles is inspired by all things native (hence names like Dorset Shore, Mightnight Sherwood and Vintage Tweed). Woodstock, above, is a blend of aromatic English woods like oak and birch along with patchouli and forest flowers like bluebell. Inexpensive maybe but certainly not unsophisticated.

The “J” range by Jonathan Ward will be available from www.jonathanwardlondon.com from April 15th.

The Grooming Guru Awards 2011

There are so many grooming awards these days that I thought, what the hell, why not have my own, with a few unique Grooming Guru categories thrown in for good measure? In fairness, I don’t think this year has been a stellar one in terms of new launches and innovative products but amongst the assorted lowlights there have been a few genuine highlights. The great thing is I don’t have advertisers to answer too so can reward who the hell I like and for what I like. So here are my awards, the ‘Gee Gees’ if you will. Who gets the gongs this year? Well, here goes…

MEN’S SKINCARE LAUNCH OF THE YEAR – Him by John Barrowman.

We may sneer at celebrity-endorsed ranges and fragrances but John Barrowman’s Him range for men, launched exclusively on QVC earlier this year, is a genuinely good- quality, well thought out and nicely-formualted range of skincare essentials for blokes. Sure, I suspect the people who are buying it are JB fans wanting to improve their men (or make them look like their idol) but that’s fine right? As John himself said at the launch the more well-groomed men out there the better. For more of my thoughts on the range read this.

BEST AD CAMPAIGN OF THE YEAR – Braun Oral B Pro-Expert Toothpaste


This advert has made me laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh. I simply never tire of watching it. It doesn’t just cross the line where bad becomes good it actually pole-vaults right over it into uncharted territory. As comedy goes, it’s certainly miles funnier than Come Fly With Me, making me think the Beeb should have just shown this instead and saved license payers a fortune in the process. A friend of mine is convinced that, like the cringeworthy Jenson Button Head & Shoulders ad and the laughable Just For Men Luis Figo one, it’s intentionally this awful so that people remember it. If so, it deserves the most fulsome praise I can give it.

NB: Alas Oral B have pulled this ad from YouTube now. They might be known for saving teeth but it looks like in this case they wanted to save face too!

BEST NEW GROOMING GADGET – Panasonic ES-LV61-K Wet/Dry Foil Shaver

Back in the summer, Panasonic launched this, the first wet/dry foil shaver, transforming the lives of guys who prefer foil shavers to rotary ones but who wanted the convenience of shaving with a traditional shaving prep or even in the shower. Losing my beard for a week to give it a whirl I was hugely impressed by the closeness of the shave and how beautiful it felt in the hand. Which is what matters most to us men right? The last bit I mean.

THE “I DON’T THINK SO” AWARD OF THE YEAR – Guylashes

Guylashes. Please. A couple of years ago the big story was men and makeup. I bigged it up myself. Did men buy it? Did they buggery. In fact, many companies launched cosmetic products for men only to quietly ‘retire’ them within a matter of months.  And if men aren’t going to use concealer (a genuinely useful product and one I heartedly recommend) do you really think they’re going to be fluttering fake eyelashes? Eylure, kindly collect your gong! If I was being cynical I’d give you another one for ‘Best way to generate publicity for your company by grabbing a headline in The Daily Mail award’ too. If I was being cynical.

BEST NEW FRAGRANCE – Potion by DSquared2

I have been to so many fragrance launches this year you’d think it would be hard for me to pick my favourite. Not so. Most left me decidedly cold with their tiresome top notes  bland basenotes. This one, woody and sexy with notes of amber and a host of ingredients actually used in magic, like angelica and gentian, is one I wear regularly. It’s not as long-lasting as I might like but that’s a minor flaw. Being the only fragrance that really cast a spell on me this year (sorry!) I’m proud to give it a ‘Gee Gee’ for Best New Fragrance.

BEST BUDGET GROOMING BUY – Montagne Jeunesse’s face packs for men

Sure I like a bit of luxury but like all good working-class lads I can do cheap-as-chips grooming products too and my favourites this year were these face masks for men. Costing just over a pound each (except for the eye one which is wallet-busting £1.99) they’re practical, effective and (best of all) great fun to use. I challenge any man not to enjoy using the peel off one.

BEST INDUSTRY BLOG – British Beauty Blogger

Okay, I’m slightly biased because British Beauty Blogger is what you might call my ‘Twitterwife’ but even if I didn’t happen to know the person behind it I would still give it my vote as Best Industry Blog. I read it religiously –  and I have absolutely no interest in make-up or the beauty side of the industry whatsoever. And yet, it’s still utterly compelling.

In terms of providing an honest insight into the (sometimes ludicrous) workings of the industry it’s unrivaled and as a window onto the turbulent and much-maligned art of blogging it’s an absolute must-read. If you’re a blogger, journalist, PR or just a beauty junkie who wants to know what shade of blusher is hot this season it should be your very first port of call. Best of all it’s a BS-free zone. To check it out click here.

MOST GOBSMACKINGLY DESIRABLE THING  – Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino Collection

When I first clapped eyes on Tom Ford’s Neroil Portofino Collection in its entirety I had a glimpse into how Howard Carter must have felt when he first peered into Tutankhamun’s tomb. Revealed to me in Claridges by the PR, the range, when seen in its entirely, is gobsmackingly lovely.  It costs over £500 – well out of the reach of most of us – but thankfully we can all buy into a small piece of its delicious luxury. Oh and it smells bloody fantastic too.

BEST NEW MASS MARKET SKINCARE PRODUCT FOR MEN WITH BEARDS OR STUBBLE – Nivea For Men Sensitive Hydro Gel

Okay, so it’s quite a specialised award buy hey, it’s my blog so I can do what I like. This inexpensive non-stick moisturiser (for want of a better description) is just brilliant for beards. Why? Because it’s lightweight and hydrating but doesn’t make your facial fur all sticky like some things can. It’s also great for preventing beard dandruff so for that reason alone I am giving it a much-deserved award.

Best Home Fragrance – Jonathan Ward Russia Collection

I’ve been on something of a mission this year to get men to invest in scented candles for their homes. There’s nothing girly about it. Scented candles rock. As does having a house or flat that doesn’t smell of last night’s curry. Jonathan Ward’s Russia Collection, launched late this year, impressed me for being decidedly man-friendly, delightfully complex, beautifully conceived and reasonably priced to boot. Besides, two wicks are always better than one in my book.

Cire Trudon – a must-visit destination for fragrance lovers

I’ve never been a fan of destination shopping. Good exercise it may be but schlepping halfway around town to one shop and then having to hoof it three miles to the next isn’t my idea of retail heaven. But some shops are worth the extra walk and the new Cire Trudon boutique, hidden away on up-and-coming Chiltern Street in Marylebone, is certainly one of them. It may have only been open a matter of weeks but the boutique, selling some of the best scented candles in the world, has already been visited by the likes of Kylie Minogue.

Cire Trudon itself has been around since 1643, making it the oldest candle maker in the world, so you can safely say it’s doing something very right. For me, their longevity probably has something to do with the fact that the scented candles burn beautifully and every one of them has an enchanting story behind it.

The brief for Roi Soleil, for example, had its creator nose-to-the-vast-wooden-floor in Versailles attempting to capture the smell of  the famous Mirrored Gallery. To be honest, it’s worth visiting the shop just to have a smell of Odeur de Lune, based on the smell of, you guessed it, the moon. Not some romanticised idea of the moon, though, but the actual way the moon might smell, based on Nasa reports and its mineral compostion. It’s truly extraordinary (and delightfully bonkers) although in fairness its pungent metal-meets-burnt-tyres aroma won’t be to everyone’s taste. The fact that it exists at all is still rather fabulous in my book.

My own personal favourite, though, is Empire – a great candle for men who want their homes to smell good but not like the Tuileries Garden. A warm, smoky and herby fragrance it has notes of pine, sage, thyme and rosemary along with laurel, juniper and grassy hay. Cire Trudon themselves succinctly describe it as the scent of ‘burning bushes’ – bringing it right back down to earth but making it no less magical.

Cire Trudon can be found at 36 Chiltern Street, London W1U 7QL. Tel 0207 486 7590