Six great new fragrances for men in mid-life

Whilst it’s true that fragrances don’t have an age limit as such, it’s also fair to say that some just tend to suit men with a bit more life experience under their belts. What works for a man at 25 (think Diesel Only The Brave or 1 Million) doesn’t necessarily work for him at 45 or 55 – in pretty much the same way that ultra skinny jeans don’t look great on every man over a certain age (and I know about that from experience!). Older, wiser and generally better off, by mid life a man’s taste has often refined and become more focussed. By then, he’s confident enough to experiment with more challenging scents and is able to invest in niche creations that express individuality rather than conformity. So, here’s a selection of grown-up fragrances for grown-up men – each of them brand new for 2021.

Sunspel Neroli Sun

The second fragrance from Sunspel (their first was the lovely Oak Wood), this wonderfully bright, citrus fragrance is like summer in a bottle.

Taking its cues from traditional eau de colognes, it’s a combo of citrus fruits and aromatic herbs (most notably the rosemary and lavender that form the backbone of colognes) but throws in a hint of musky, green angelica, patchouli, sea moss and vetiver to add a warmer, earthier dry down. It’s a great daytime scent but really comes into its own on a warm summer’s night when you’re instantly transported to a Mediterranean clifftop or citrus grove and let’s face it, in these travel-restricted times that kind of olfactory escapism is much in need.

Like Oak Wood, it’s been created for Sunspel by supremely talented perfumer Lyn Harris of Miller Harris fame, which explains why it’s so good. If you like Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino you’ll love this wonderfully simple, elegant fragrance, which I’ve worn consistently since a preview sample landed on my desk back in February.

Malin + Goetz Strawberry

You know how they say ‘never judge a book by its cover’? Well, never judge a Malin+Goetz fragrance by its name, because strawberries are the least obvious thing you get from their latest unisex eau de parfum Strawberry. Sure, there’s a hint of the fruit in there but nowhere near enough to leave you smelling like an Eton Mess. 

Instead, it’s reminiscent of a freshly cut, slightly under ripe fruit, with a hint of cut green stalk which (thankfully) steers it away from super-sweet-and-fruity celebrity scent territory. It’s bright, sharp and has a light, powdery dry down that lasts surprisingly well on my skin. Delicate, understated, quirky and minimalist, it’s not as traditionally masculine as some of the other fragrances here but with the trend for genderless fragrances gathering pace that’s no bad thing. 

Hermes H24

In the same way that a band who creates a best-selling, critically-acclaimed album are always being judged against their past success, every new Hermès men’s launch will inevitably be compared the contemporary classic that is Terre d’Hermès. Does H24, the French fashion house’s latest men’s offering, top its predecessor? Well, no, but then it’s a completely different animal.

Where Terre is ostentatiously masculine, H24 is decidedly gender neutral. Where Terre is earthy, woody and spicy H24 is aromatic, green, powdery and delicately floral – thanks to a prominent narcissus note. There’s a hint of steely, bitter synthetic metal in there too, which, combined with the more natural, familiar notes makes the fragrance seem like some futuristic fusion of the organic and inorganic – like a flower with steel petals. Terre it is not, but then it’s consciously not trying to be. I love it but just keep that in mind if you decide to give it a go. 

Aqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo Bergamotta di Calabria

When it comes to finding a fragrance that suits a mature nose something from Acqua Di Parma is a surefire bet. But don’t just stick to the brand’s classic Colonia – make sure you check out the fragrances in their Blu Mediterraneo range too. Released just in time for summer 2021 (what I tend to think of as The Summer of Hope) this year’s offering is a limited-edition version of Blu Mediterraneo Bergamotta di Calabria, housed in a special porcelain bottle emblazoned with a white and gold pattern featuring – appropriately – bergamot fruit. Speaking of which, the bergamot oil used for this particular fragrance is no ordinary bergamot – it’s hand extracted by placing fruit rinds on sea sponges which absorb the oil and are then squeezed to release their precious content. (Who says artisanal extraction methods are dead?!)

Fresh and citrusy, with a gently soothing woody base, this wonderfully uplifting scent is characterised by a warm, spicy ginger note which cuts through the bergamot’s zestiness to give it a delightful piquancy (my nose also picks up hints of burnt rubber – a smell I’m not averse to – too but maybe that’s just me). A superb summer fragrance if you love fresh, crisp, invigorating scents.

Penhaligon’s Racquets Eau de parfum

Few fragrance houses offer as much to a man in mid life as Penhaligon’s. From classic, conservative, gentlemanly fragrances that refuse to date to striking niche creations with a thoroughly contemporary edge, they have it all (I particularly love Blenheim Bouquet and The Tragedy of Lord George). As with most Penhaligon’s creations, their latest launch Raquets is playful, surprising and intriguing.  

A re-invention of the fragrance house’s original Raquets Formula fragrance it’s a really clever fusion of crisp, sparkling lemon and warm, sexy leather, with a touch of guaiac wood lending a vibe reminiscent of warm summer tarmac. Simple in structure yet complex in character it’s one of my favourite launches this year and like a good summer novel, is full of twists and turns as it unfolds. Imagine leather rubbed with fresh lemon peel and you’re halfway there.

Brioni Eau de Parfum

Created by Michel Almairac, the talented nose behind fragrances like Dior’s Fahrenheit, Gucci Pour Homme, Joop! Pour Homme and Burberry Men (how’s that for a back catalogue?) this new offering from luxury Italian menswear house Brioni, was always going to be interesting. Placing one of my favourite notes – violet leaf – at its heart, while adding a little spice, a breezy ozonic accord and a distinctive green apple note, it’s fresh, crisp and nose-tinglingly spicy until the warmer cedarwood and tonka bean base emerges. 

There are faint echoes of Fahrenheit (one of my all-time favourite fragrances) and DKNY’s Be Delicious Men there and though clearly constructed to have broad appeal, like the other fragrances here it avoids being pedestrian and generic so is great for men who like fragrances with both style and substance. 

 [Gifted review samples of all the products mentioned here were provided for review purposes.]

Terre d’Hermès 2019 Limited Edition: showing that bottles can be beautiful

It’s a conundrum all successful fragrance brands have to contend with these days: how do you maintain interest in your product, especially if that product has been around for a while and hasn’t actually changed for yonks?

Thirty years ago this wasn’t a consideration in the same way it is today. For one thing, there weren’t as many brands competing for the same shelf space as there are now. There certainly weren’t as many launches and there were far fewer ‘flankers’ (variations on particularly successful fragrances) too. Most significantly, though, people didn’t have such short attention spans back then. We didn’t crave newness in quite the same way as we do now but, hey, that’s marketing and the mind-altering effects of social media for you.

Anyway, given that keeping interest going in your brand is so essential today you can see why many fragrance houses look to special limited editions to keep things fresh and dynamic and to grab a few column inches or, given the industry’s current obsession, Instagram stories. A few brands are masters of this (Gaultier and Dunhill to name two) but this year’s Limited Edition bottle of Terre d’Hermès is a masterclass in how to make an old bottle look both irresistible and collectible with just a few simple tweaks.

The work of English designer and illustrator Liubov Edwards, the bottle design features a raft of small metallic squares and diamonds positioned on transparent glass. Only half of the bottle is printed on each side giving a clever three-dimensional aspect to the design and, if you look carefully, forming a letter H. It’s brilliantly thought out and executed (the  fragrance is all about the elements and the diamonds are meant to represent squares distorted by the wind) and, for me at least, is reminiscent of the early work of iconic graphic designer Peter Saville, particularly his work on early OMD record sleeves.

The fragrance itself, of course, is amazing (it’s one of the few contemporary fragrances worthy of the label ‘classic’) so the limited edition bottle is really just the icing on the cake, making it the perfect purchase for existing Terre fans whose current bottle is running a little low, or for those with slightly shorter attention spans just looking for something eye-catching to grace their bedroom dressing table. Influencers will be pleased to know it’s a dream to photograph too.

 

The 2019 Limited Edition version of Terre d’Hermès is available from February as both an eau de toilette and eau de parfum. 

Note: all products are sent to me as review samples from brands and PR agencies unless otherwise stated.