Undergreen Black: at last a fragrance with balls

The fragrance industry,when it comes to men’s fragrances at least, is in the doldrums: there I’ve said it. Launch after launch produces generic, nondescript scents aimed at followers rather than leaders. Fragrance by focus group rules.  As I’ve said before, it’s all about bland ambition. Increasingly fragrances rely on fancy bottles to disguise the pedestrian juices inside, like someone masking unwashed hair with a dry shampoo. There are no classics in the making anymore. And I seriously worry for the guy who’s 22 today because his current scent squeeze will be dead and gone by the time he’s 30 (if not 25). He’ll certainly be hard pushed to have anything to reminisce about when he’s 40.

So when I come across something at least having a go I cling to it like a life raft. Which is where Undergreen‘s latest fragrance Black comes in. It actually launched exclusively at Harvey Nichols last month and a sample has been sitting on my desk since then, hidden under a pile of press releases.

Anyway, the upshot is that I love it. Key to its allure is a mega-punchy liquorice note which works beautifully with the black pepper top note and trio of woods at its base. It also has that fusty, churchy smell I absolutely love in fragrances.

Ok, so Undergreen is a niche brand able to take risks and a bottle will set you back three times as much as something from the high street (though you do get a 100ml eau de parfum for your investment) but trust me, it’s worth it. Trust me, right now, niche is where it’s at.

Undergreen Black Classic Edition costs £120 for 100ml eau de parfum. Available from Harvey Nichols.

Grooming Guru essentials: Mark Birley For Men Charles Street – this Autumn’s sexiest new fragrance for men

Though I lead a charmed life (come on, I sniff fragrances and test moisturisers for a living) it’s remarkably rare that I come across products I’d actually use myself and those that I do are documented in the Grooming Guru Essentials part of this blog. It’s rare too that I’m instantly captivated by a product. Yet, this is exactly what happened the other day with Mark Birley’s Charles Street fragrance, which was only recently released.

Birley, founder of clubs like Annabel’s, Harry’s Bar and Mark’s Club (on Charles Street , Mayfair, hence the name) has come up with just the kind of fragrance I love – leathery, smoky, musky and uncompromisingly masculine – and one which includes some of my favourite notes, including patchouli and tuberose. It’s also as sexy as hell (a quick straw poll of my friends revealed that both men and women loved it).

Call me old-fashioned but to my mind, Charles Street is how men should smell. Sure, it’s not the kind of fragrance you’re going to wear if you’re a 23-year-old clubber but if you’re a man of the world and a bit of a fragrance connisseur you should definitely give it a whirl.  In fact, if you’re only buying one fragrance for yourself this Autumn, I’d suggest you make it this one.

Mark Birley for Men: Charles Street is available from Harrods, priced £48.50 for 75ml eau de parfum

Grooming Guru Essentials are the products I genuinely love and have used as part of my own routine.