10 of the best men’s fragrances of 2021

Looking for a new fragrance for yourself or want to gift someone something grown up and sophisticated but not sure what to opt for? Here 10 new launches that caught my eye  – and impressed my nose –  in 2021. 

Illustrations: The Shaman’s Horse

Louis Vuitton Imagination 

I’ve worn this new men’s fragrance from Louis Vuitton off and on all year and part of the reason for that lies in the fact that it’s such an easy fragrance to wear and is suitable for pretty much any situation.

Initially sharp, citrusy and soapy, the key note here is sweet, slightly musky Ambrox which, after the initial citrus burst has burnt itself out, provides a lingering velvety finish that’s sensual but subtle and oddly calming too. For me, though, it’s the distinctive black tea note that gives this fragrance much of its character.

At £200 a pop there’s bound to be debate as to whether Louis Vuitton fragrances are worth the outlay but don’t knock them until you’ve given them a go. This particular one is lovely.

Loewe 7 Cobalt 

I love Loewe’s fragrances. They’re complex, intriguing, beautifully packaged and reasonably priced given their niche, artisanal status.  Cobalt, part of the Loewe 7 series, which takes inspiration from ‘the furthest reaches of outer space’, crash landed this year, leaving a big old crater in my own olfactory consciousness. 

Fresh, spicy, delicately fruity and woody, with notes of blackcurrant, incense, clove and sage, it’s delightfully minimalist on the skin and quirky and understated in the way a Comme des Garçons fragrance might be. More a daytime fragrance than a sexy evening scent it’s perfect for work, travel or après gym. The simple slimline bottle is a winner too.

Bamford Woodland Moss

Although touted as a woody fragrance, this delightfully piquant eau de parfum from British brand Bamford has an intriguing, aromatic, almost medicinal vibe I find oddly addictive. (I’m repeatedly smelling my inner arm, where I applied, it as I write.)

There’s bergamot, patchouli, sage, angelica, sandalwood and a delicate hint of rose in there which fuse together to creature something with a decidedly old school, gentlemanly elegance and for me there’s a touch of a classic fougère hiding in there somewhere too. It’s one of my favourite launches this year and uses natural fragrance and 80% organic alcohol too. 

Creed Viking Cologne

It’s rare than a spin-off of anything is better than the original but for me this version of Creed’s Viking definitely outshines the original – possibly because it’s so different from it (Viking isn’t my favourite Creed creation if I’m honest). Viking Cologne is certainly more versatile and reflects the venerable fragrance house’s increasingly commercial trajectory. 

It opens with a huge – a really huge – hit of lemon but that’s quickly replaced by an aromatic spiciness reminiscent of many of today’s more mainstream designer fragrances. 

There’s a very ‘traditionally masculine’, barbershop-y vibe to this punchy fougère which makes it feel a little out of time, given the gender neutrality of most of the fragrances on this list, but that’s more an observation than a criticism. Not Valhalla-level fabulous, perhaps, but pretty good all the same.

Kilian L’Heure Verte

As someone with a penchant for Absinthe and a love of liquorice I guess I was always going to love this quirky addition to Kilian’s boozy Liquors collection. Absinthe is the top note (and authentically aniseedy it is too), liquorice is at its heart, while violet leaf adds a lovely crisp greenness. Patchouli – along with a host of woody base notes – meanwhile, give it a warm, long-lasting grounding.

Vetiver fans (and I’m one of them) will love how it finishes too. It’ll be out of a lot of people’s comfort zone, for sure, but if you you’re after something a bit different and unexpected you’ll love it. I do wish they’d made the juice bright Absinthe green though!

Sunspel Neroli Sun

I wasn’t sure whether Sunspel’s sophomore fragrance launch would be able to match the impressive debut that was Oak Wood but if anything, it surpasses it. Delightfully fresh and citrussy, it shares DNA with fragrances like Tom Ford’s sublime Neroli Portofino and Czech & Speake’s beautiful Neroli, but for me is a little more rounded and has a little more depth, allowing it to work just as well at night as during the day. 

The work of perfumer Lyn Harris (of Miller Harris fame), this fusion of citrus fruits, aromatic herbs and musky, green angelica, patchouli and vetiver was never going to be a dud and like Sunspel clothing, wearing it automatically makes you feel good and comfortable in your own skin. A bottle has been on my desk throughout 2021, offering a perfect olfactory uplift when times were grim.

Diptyque Eau Rihla

When talking about grown up fragrances it’s hard not to talk about Diptyque. (The complex and superbly monastical L’eau Trois is one of my all-time favourite winter scents.) Their latest creation, Eau Rihla (Rihla means ‘journey’ in Arabic) was originally available exclusively in the Middle East but whilst it has the strength and opulence of the kind fragrance popular in that part of the world it’s also perfect for, well, just about anyone who likes warm, heavy scents.

It’s especially good for those who love leathery fragrances because leather is what this number is all about (the leather accord used was specially developed for Diptyque). Reminiscent of Tom Ford’s much loved Tuscan Leather, it’s woody, powdery and thanks to the addition of a little musk, sexy as hell too.  This is your evening fragrance.

Miller Harris Rêverie de Bergamote

I wrote a guest post about why Miller Harris fragrances make great gift ideas for men on their website this year and included this aromatic, unisex, woody citrusy fragrance as it has only recently launched. 

Although the name and bright yellow bottle suggest it’s a citrus big hitter it’s actually far more practical than a straight-forward summer cologne thanks to the fact that the citrus fruits and aromatic herbs are bolstered by sandalwood, patchouli, leather and vetiver. 

In the same way a bright summer day morphs into something quite different once sun goes down, this new fragrance for 2021 takes on a whole new life after a few hours on the akin. The zingy, slightly bitter opening retreats like a sunset and an altogether greener, creamier, woodier vibe emerges showing it’s a scent of two sides and one of considerable versatility. 

Moncler Pour Homme

How do you create a splash when you’re a luxury brand launching your first fragrance?  Well, you could do what Moncler did and launch it in a bottle that features an LED screen that displays personalised messages you create with the help of an app for your phone. 

There’s a rather amusing disclaimer about using offensive messages and expletives which I’m sure the more prurient amongst us – me included – will ignore, but even if you keep it clean it’s great fun and it’s surely only a matter of time before someone uses it to propose. 

And the fragrance? Woody, aromatic and piney, it’s outdoorsy and more of a crowd pleaser than one might have expected, though Interparfum – the fragrance company who created it – are masters at creating uber-commercial best-sellers. Yes, the LED version is pricey but it is refillable and the novelty of the LED makes it perfect for gifting, combining as it does fragrance and geeky gadget.  A fragrance bottle will never give you as much fun that’s for sure.

Frederic Malle Synthetic Jungle

An homage to cult perfumes of the Seventies, perfumer Anne Flipo’s redefines what it means for a fragrance to smell ‘green’ with this melange of natural and synthetic notes. A unisex modern chypre, it’s (very) verdant and rhubarb-y at the top, floral at the heart and faintly earthy at the base thanks to basil, galbanum, hyacinth, lily of the valley, jasmine and ylang ylang, oakmoss and patchouli. A faint – and fleeting – whiff of balloons (or maybe that’s just me) gives it a wonderfully quirky, synthetic modernity. It’s intriguing and challenging rather than sexy and like many fragrances under the Malle umbrella will be polarising. Frankly, for that alone, I love it.   

[Complimentary press samples of all of the products featured here were provided for review purposes]

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.]