Dunhill ICON: a fragrance of diminishing returns

I love Dunhill ICON. When it was launched back in 2015 I named it as one of my favourite fragrances of the year, even going so far as to call it a future classic. And if you look at the reviews of it around the time of its release I was not alone – it was almost universally praised, which is no mean feat for a new men’s fragrance these days. Wasting no time in capitalising on this success, a reworked version, Dunhill ICON Absolute, complete with differentiating gold-coloured flacon, was launched that same year. It too, was a pretty good fragrance, though as is often the case with hastily thrown out flankers, it wasn’t quite as good as the original. Then, in 2016, came ICON Elite (are you keeping up?). The original award-winning bottle, jet black this time, was as wonderful as ever – it truly is a work of art  – but the fragrance itself was a little less impressive than both of its predecessors.

Thankfully, we were spared an ICON Elite Absolute but the brand is back this September with yet another ICON variant in the shape of Dunhill ICON Racing (it was originally called Racing Green from what I can gather but the Green bit seems to have been dropped). And, following the downward trajectory of the ICON concept it’s, in my opinion at least, the weakest of the bunch so far. A woody oriental with notes of Volcanic Red Orange (your guess is as good as mine), bergamot, saffron, clary sage, leather, vetiver and patchouli it moves things ever more mainstream and predictable. Whereas the original ICON was one of Dunhill’s most complex and intriguing fragrances ever, Racing revels in blunt, unsophisticated mass-market simplicity. It’s sweet and soapy and although the dry down is pleasantly woody it’s simply not a patch on the fragrance whose DNA it (now only vaguely) shares.

The problem here I think is once facing many fragrance companies at the moment –  Tom Ford and Jo Malone amongst them unfortunately – and that’s that there are simply too many launches in too quick succession. Obsessed by newness (it’s what the customer wants these days I’m told) houses like Dunhill are signed up to a release schedule that feels like it’s on speed and there’s little time to pause for thought or grow loyalty to one particular fragrance or another.

Maybe, pressurised by such a release schedule, the perfumers themselves don’t have the time or creative breathing space to come up with something truly amazing, (though it’s more likely they have soul-destroying mass-market briefs to contend with) but what I do know is that with each successive version, ICON gets weaker and weaker. When you truly love a fragrance – as I do with the original ICON – this is terribly sad to witness and, although I’m sure the company won’t pay a blind bit of notice to what one reviewer like me has to say, my message to them anyway would be to take a deep breath and slow down a little. More haste, less speed – that’s how to create an icon.

Dunhill ICON Racing launches in Harrods next month and nationwide from October 2nd, priced £63 for 50ml EDP

Etro’s ManRose – a floral fragrance for men, in case you were wondering.

The unmistakable scent of rose has long been a mainstay of men’s fragrances, though in most cases it’s tucked away deep in the composition and the general ‘rosiness’ is dialled down so as not to make it seem overly feminine. Which is a shame in my book because men smell fantastic when rocking a rose fragrance. I myself am partial to Serge Lutens’  ludicrously sexy Tubéreuse Criminelle, which is the kind of scent you imagine the Marquis de Sade wearing whilst brandishing a riding crop, but even I have to be in the right frame of mind to wear it because rose-based fragrances are never for the faint-hearted.

Many men, of course, are still terrified about anything floral, which is presumably the kind of customer Etro is after with ManRose   their latest fragrance and one whose very name suggests it’s aimed at the kind of guy who can’t smell the nation’s favourite flower without instantly thinking of a diaphanously dressed, soft-focus Jayne Seymour wafting through an English walled garden.

Daft name aside (do we really need to be so blunt in 2017?) it’s actually a great starter fragrance for any man  interested in trying florals as a change to the usual woody, smoky or leathery fare. What makes ManRose so accessible is the fact that, though the rose is there, it’s intensity is dialed down somewhat allowing the fragrance to have a delicate, powdery and slightly suedey edge which gives it a commerciality some punchier rose fragrances lack. So if you’ve always wanted to try something flagrantly floral but were always nervous to try this might well be the perfect introduction to the genre.

The notes:

Top: Bergamot, Sichuan pepper, cardamon, elemi

Heart: Turkish rose, geranium, incense

Base: patchouli, vetiver, musk, leather, ember, woods

Etro’s ManRose is available now from Liberty, priced £118 for 100ml eau de parfum.

 

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it’s just Jean Paul Gaultier’s new Superman edition of Le Male Eaux Fraîche

gaultier-superman-1

The arrival of a new Limited Edition bottle of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male Eaux Fraîche each spring is one I always eagerly anticipate – mainly because you never quite know what they’re going to do with the bottle next. This year, they’ve teamed up with DC Comics for a superhero theme, with Superman adorning the men’s fragrance and Wonder Woman emblazoned on Le Male’s female counterpart, Classique. As ever, it’s eye-catching, collectible and huge fun and is guaranteed to fly off the shelves:  Superman style.

Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male Eaux Fraiche will be available from March 27th priced £58 for 125ml Eau Fraîche Natural Spray.

Beaufort London’s new Discovery Kit has Christmas all wrapped up

beaufortlondondec16-57-cropBeaufort London is, without doubt, one of my favourite boutique fragrance brands. Everything they do is so carefully considered and artfully approached I defy any fragrance lover not to fall in love with them. Each fragrance has a backstory as interesting and complex as the juice itself and they’re delightfully and defiantly unconventional,  existing completely outside fickle fads or trends.

If you fancy trying them out for yourself they’ve just launched a new discovery kit, featuring five 7.5ml travel-sized fragrances from the ‘Come Hell or High Water’ collection which is inspired by Britain’s nautical history. Each fragrance is a corker (my personal fave is Fathom V which completely turns the concept of a ‘marine’ fragrance on its head) and each spray is refillable from a full-sized bottle of fragrance.

beaufortlondondec16-11-cropWhat takes this ‘taster’ collection to another level, though, is the presentation since the sprays come in their own beautiful leather wrap. Again, it’s this kind of attention to detail that marks Beaufort London out from many other niche brands and proves that, as with gift buying, when it comes to creating something truly special, it’s very much the thought that counts.

Beaufort London’s Come Hell Or High Water Discovery Set costs £85 and is available from beaufortlondon.com

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

 

The Perfume Society launches second ‘Scent of a Gent’ discovery box

the-perfume-societyWhen I was an impoverished student, back before the dawn of time, one of the few ways to get hold of fragrance without blowing a fortnight’s food budget was to coax free samples from (sometimes) generous department store sales assistants. It was a harder task than one might think and my storytelling skills probably originated from the yarns I used to conjure up to get them to part with their goods. I was always ‘looking for gift ideas for my (non-existent) brother’ whose birthday was only ever a week away and I always required a few different samples to compare against each other because he was ‘really fussy when it came to fragrance’. Once I even made out I had a house-bound relative who was looking for a new fragrance and couldn’t get to the shops (I know. God forgive me).  Then, when I got home, I’d study my haul of fragrance phials as if they were diamonds I’d found in the street.

I’ve no idea how difficult it is to get samples today (still tricky I suspect) but thankfully The Perfume Society has made things a whole lot easier with their men’s fragrance boxes – the second of which has just been released. Their ‘Scent of a Gent’ discovery box is the perfect way for the fragrance lover to sample some of the best new releases without having to resort to desperate ruses like mine.

Featuring a mix of big-name commercial fragrances like Davidoff Horizon and Azzaro Wanted and more boutique offerings from the likes of Miller Harris and Shay & Blue, it’s a great way to road-test what’s out there in your own time and without enduring the hard sell. The big plus of this particular discovery box, though, is that you also get a few other enticing little extras, such as a sample of Molton Brown’s Bushukan Body Wash and a Refinery Hydrating Refreshing Eye Gel, which by itself would set you back £31. Result? A better-smelling you and, potentially, a better-looking one too – and no begging required.

The Perfume Society’s ‘Scent of a Gent’ discovery box is available while stocks last from perfumesociety.org priced £19 + P&P (£15 + P&P to Perfume Society VIP subscribers).

GT Shopping: a one-stop destination for all your style and grooming gear

gt-shoppingWhen it comes to looking good and dressing well we all know that it’s all about the edit: about choosing just the right products for your skin, a fragrance that reflects your personality and clothes that suit your very personal sense of style. But with so much out there to choose from it’s sometimes difficult to know where to begin when picking out the perfect moisturiser, fragrance or new winter jacket. Which is where GT Shopping comes in handy. A new site in partnership with Gay Times Magazine, it helpfully points you in the direction of the very best fragrances, skincare products and grooming gadgets on the market (along with some of the most stylish menswear picks and a whole lot more)  so you don’t have to go trawling  the internet to find just the product you’re after.

gt-page-1A lot of the products I mention in my monthly male grooming column in GT can be found there but that’s just the tip of the iceberg and you don’t have to be a reader to use the site, though there is an option on there to subscribe to the mag and get regular (very useful) style updates if you wish.

So whether you’re looking the perfect new fragrance for yourself  (bottle of Tom Ford  For Men anyone?), something to wear for an upcoming party or are looking for the perfect gift for a loved one GT Shopping is the place to head. To see what’s on offer go to shopping.gaytimes.co.uk.

 

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