Molton Brown’s festive box of jewels

Few brands offer the kind of bathroom eye candy that Molton Brown does. Their superb shower gels are the Quality Street of skincare: brightly coloured jewels of deliciousness. Nowhere is this more apparent when they’re brought together, as they are in this 10-piece, limited edition Christmas Gift Collection. The dinky 50ml bottles are perfect for gym and travel bags, as stocking fillers or for crackers, if you’re brave enough to make your own, and come in a gift box that makes wrapping a cinch – or obsolete, given that it comes with a gift ribbon. They’ll last longer than Quality Street too.

Molton Brown’s Limited Edition 10-Piece Shower Gel Stocking Fillers Gift Set is available now priced £30.

Looking for a last minute Christmas gift? Here are five new fragrances worth a sniff.

As someone who writes about male grooming for a living I’m often asked for gift suggestions around this time of year. Fragrance, of course, is one of the best gifts there is, partly because the average bottle will last for months – or years if it’s only worn for special occasions – making it the gift that really does keep on giving. Question is: which fragrance do you buy? 2017 saw some great new launches, some distinctly average ones and a few that I’d happily spray onto a radiator to get rid of the smell of cooking fish but not onto my actual skin. But since nobody’s interested in buying something ‘meh’ and conventional room sprays are available for hiding the honk of your haddock, here are a few fragrance launches I really rated this year. If you’re stuck for a festive gift idea you could certainly do worse than one of these…

Good for grown ups: Gucci Guilty Absolute

Gucci Guilty Absolute shocked me a little when I got a sneak preview of it earlier this year, mainly because it eschews the overt, hyper-commerciality of the other Gucci Guilty fragrances in favour of something altogether more grown up and gentlemanly. The work of perfumer Alberto Morillas (whose track record includes Ck One) and Gucci Creative Director Allessandro Michele, it’s woody, earthy and ludicrously leathery, has been designed to smell the same after a few hours as it does the moment it’s applied, and also has excellent staying power on the skin. The real beauty of Absolute, though, is that you get something akin to a niche creation for a mainstream fragrance price. If that doesn’t convince you to give it a go I can report that, out of all the fragrances I’ve worn this year, it’s the one that has elicited the most ‘oohs’ and ‘ahs’.

The everyday workhorse: Joop! Wow!

The arrival of Joop’s latest fragrance for men earlier this year took industry bods like myself by surprise, mainly because it was so damn good. That isn’t to say that Joop! doesn’t have form in producing great fragrances (1989’s groundbreaking Joop! Homme became one of the most popular men’s fragrances of the 90s) but that the brand had become a little tired, had lost its way and become – let’s be honest here – a little ‘bargain basement’. Wow! however is a genuine return to form, blending woods, spices and creamy vanilla notes with a touch of bourbon to create a boozy, woody and comforting fragrance that’s both commercial and sensual without being pedestrian. Cool bottle too.

The premium perfume: Tom Ford Private Blend Fucking Fabulous

Few fragrances divided beauty world opinion this year quite like Tom Ford’s unisex Fucking Fabulous. Half of the industry thought it was, well, fabulous while the other half thought it was the olfactory equivalent of one of those headline-grabbing pop videos which feature buttocks quivering like jellies and debased and cheapened one of the world’s most famous luxury brands. I must say, I was firmly in the pro camp and can only assume that those who thought it somehow ‘off brand’ had forgotten about all those controversial nude fragrance ads Ford is famous for.  The fragrance, too, has sharply divided opinion: people seem to either love its woody, almondy powderiness and underlying leatheriness or hate it. (One reviewer described it as ‘one of the skankiest perfumes I’ve ever smelled’). Personally, I think it’s well worth a sniff, though do check it out first: at £205 for 50ml it’s a pricey mistake if you don’t think it’s, you know, f-ing fabulous.

The fresh alternative: John Varvatos Artisan Pure

Discovering John Varvatos’ fragrances through his latest one is like stumbling on a rock star via their latest album and realising they have a whole back catalogue of wonderfulness. Unusually for a fragrance released at the back-end of the year (it popped up as a Selfridges exclusive last month and won’t go nationwide until January) it’s a deliciously light and sparkling citrus floral affair (lemon, orange, bergamot, petigrain, coffee tree flower and jasmine are some of the notes) with a piquant spiciness and a solid cedarwood base. Perfect for those who don’t like sickly sweet, cloying gourmand fragrances or heavy oriental ones it’s a breath of fresh air and the bottle –  a reworking of the hand-woven bottles for which the Arisan range is now known – is fab. Try it, and then explore Varvatos’ other fragrances – you won’t be disappointed.

For the connoisseur: Etro ManRose

After mandles and manbags it was inevitable that perfume would eventually be subject to a masculine portmanteau in order to butch it up a little, which is the case with Etro’s ManRose – a masculine floral launched in the spring. All fragrances are essentially genderless, of course –  and more men than ever are thinking out of the box and beyond the usual woody affairs – but for those who are just dipping their toe into florals this one if perfect. Delicate, commercial and suedey, with the almost edible Turkish rose note dirtied up a little by patchouli, pepper and leather, it’s a delight. A man still needs a certain amount of confidence to carry off a distinctly floral fragrance like this but for the bold and daring it’d make the perfect Christmas present.

 

eBay launch dedicated Men’s Grooming Hub

Whether you’re logging on to buy a brand new bike, source the one football programme missing from your collection or are trying to track down a mid-century sideboard eBay.co.uk is a shopping experience like no other. And now you can kit yourself out with all the latest grooming gear there, too, thanks to the company’s brand new Men’s Grooming Hub.

Offering everything from moisturiser and moustache wax to state-of-the-art electric shavers, the hub is a one-stop destination for everything grooming, featuring a mind-boggling array of products from well-known brands like L’Oréal Men Expert (who announced their partnership with eBay earlier this year), electrical giants Phillips and masters of facial hair maintenance Mo Bros. As well as offering products at great prices, the hub is a cinch to navigate and everything is covered by the usual buyer assurances the online marketplace is famous for.

Perusing some of the 230,000 items on offer (yep, 230,000!) I came across everything from my favourite fragrances to one of my favourite face washes – L’Oreal Men Expert’s Purifying Face Wash For Skin & Stubble – along with a raft of bathroom cabinet basics like deodorants, shower gels and dental products. What’s more, there are some great statement-making gift sets, too, just in case you’re looking for the perfect pressie for someone.

The hub isn’t just a great place to buy your grooming gear though: thanks to fantastic ‘how to’ guides on everything from achieving a barber-worthy shave to how to adjust your routine to suit the season and a host of tip-packed videos, it’s also a superb source of information for anyone interested in maximising their looks.

So whether you’re after something for yourself or are looking for the perfect Father’s Day present, eBay’s new Men’s Grooming Hub is one bookmark you’ll definitely want in your browser.

To explore eBay’s new Men’s Grooming Hub click here.

An eBay/Grooming Guru promotion. 

New Personalised David Bowie ‘Life Book’ is a fantastic voyage through the legend’s life.

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Although a year has passed since his death, for many the loss of David Bowie is a wound yet to heal. Indeed, it may never heal. Since he left us I, along with many other fans, have taken solace in his back catalogue, in the numerous books celebrating his life and in productions like Lazarus – the thought-provoking musical he completed just before his passing.

Adding to the ways in which fans can celebrate his life and work this month is Historic Newspapers’ Personalised David Bowie: A Newspaper History (or a ‘Life Book’ as they’ve dubbed it). A 130-page, leather-bound, large format (31cm x 38cm) collection of news articles dating back to 1971, it’s an absolute treasure trove of rare stories, pictures, interviews and (occasionally totally bonkers) tabloid gossip.

bowie-vintageCulled from the world’s largest Original Newspaper archive, Historic-Newspapers.co.uk, the stories and pictures here come from the Daily Mirror and cover everything from Bowie’s addictions and fashion choices (“Back in stiletto heels!” screams one headline from ’73) to his thoughts on films and fatherhood. Beautifully produced on quality, off-white paper to give everything a suitably vintage feel, it brings together a superb selection of stories and images, from early ones about alter-ego Ziggy Stardust to those surrounding his untimely death last year, while the Mirror‘s original  pull-out tributes, published after he died, are included in full.

bowie-2As a teenager I used to keep scrapbooks on my favourite artists (I still did as an adult to be truthful) and sourcing everything was a laborious, painstaking and, in later life, an expensive business but thankfully Historic Newspapers have done all the hard work for fans like me with this artfully edited anthology. What actually makes this collection of newspaper clippings even more interesting reading is the fact that many of the Bowie pieces are presented with the news and ads that surrounded them. You could be forgiven for thinking that this robs the book of valuable Bowie-centric space but, if anything, it actually enhances them – helping frame the stories, both literally and contextually. In truth, discovering that a chicken cost 23p per lb back in 1975 is almost as fascinating as reading that Young Americans was tentatively called Somebody Up There Likes Me.

img_4573I have to be admit, I was worried that this collection would be some poorly produced, first anniversary cash-in but it’s not: it’s lovingly complied with superb attention to detail and the fact that you can have it personalised with your name embossed on the front cover and have a bespoke dedication added inside makes it a covetable gift for any Bowie fan. It’s a fantastic read but a sad one in places too. Perhaps the most poignant piece comes from July 1982 when he was promoting The Hunger. “The Immortal David Bowie” says the headline. If only.

Historic Newspapers’ Personalised David Bowie Newspaper Book is available from historic-newspapers.co.uk, priced £69.99.

 

Historic Newspapers kindly provided a review copy of the book but did not sponsor this post in any way and all opinions are my own.

Golden Greats: four new fragrances worth gifting this Christmas

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Every year, right about now, I’m asked by numerous pals what fragrances I’d recommend as gifts for Christmas. Over the past year I’ve sampled scores of new launches (some excellent, others mediocre and a few truly dire) but a handful have stood out. And here are four that I really rate. Like everyone, I have my own particular taste in fragrance, so make sure you try before you buy but do check them out because, in my book, every one of them is a winner.

alizarinPenhaligon’s Alizarin.  When I wrote about what to wear for a party in my Stella magazine column recently this new number from Penhaligon’s was my automatic fragrance of choice. Oudy and leathery, with touches of powdery orris, it’s an exceptionally grown up, sexy, slighty sherbety fragrance and has excellent longevity on the skin – which is exactly what you want from a party fragrance.

view_image-5kcx-01-fErmenegildo Zegna Essenze Musk Gold. Though I’m not a huge fan of Zegna’s mass-market fragrances their more luxe Essenze fragrances are, almost without exception, absolutely superb. This one is practically pornographic in nature: opulent and rich and with a kinky, leather-meets-musk base, it’s a ballsy, truly muscular statement scent and one of my favourite launches this year.

1962-edp-100ml-1200px_rgb-1Floris 1962. Part of Floris’ new Fragrance Journals Collection, 1962 takes bohemian Soho of the sixties as its inspiration and is intentionally retro in feel and character. I absolutely fell in love with it the minute I got a whiff of it at its press launch back in the summer and still can’t get enough of it. Citrusy and woody, with delightful touches of clove, spearmint and lily of the valley, it’s ludicrously old-skool in character and is the smell of men before the fragrance industry turned them into cake shops. A fragrance I’ve worn incessantly this year.

3432240501141_t1_1200x1200L’envol de Cartier Read the reviews of this brand new fragrance from Cartier and you’ll notice straight away that they’re almost universally positive. And it’s not just the juice – a not-too-overpowering blend of warm woods, honey and musk – that’s received plaudits – the bottle has too. If you can afford the extra moolah, go for the 100ml refillable version (pictured above) which is suspended in a kind of bell jar and looks ridiculously stylish.

 

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).

Looking for the perfect Father’s Day gift? How about a personalised bottle of Mr. Burberry?

Mr BurberryFragrance has always made a great Father’s Day gift but if you want to add a little icing to the cake this year how about personalising the bottle? Burberry offer a complimentary monogramming service for their Mr. Burberry fragrance that accommodates up to three initials (you could even have ‘DAD’ if you like) at selected stores and via burberry.com. I had my own bottle personalised a while back as you can see.  In a world where little touches matter and bespoke is where it’s at it’s well worth making the extra effort. You only have one dad after all.