The Grooming Guru Awards 2012. Best Grooming Gadget: The Clarisonic Plus

CLARISONICggawrd12lAlthough there are plenty of great grooming gadgets out there most of them are focussed on shaving. This one, however, is a bit different, improving skin before you actually shave. The Clarisonic Plus uses an exfoliating brush and a sonic frequency of 300 oscillations a second to remove up to twice as much grease and grime as manual cleansing. And though originally a device aimed at women its popularity with men has rocketed, prompting the launch of this new grey version (presumably for those men scared of brandishing the pink version).

Not only is the Clarisonic a fantastic device for giving skin a deep-down cleanse it’s actually a great one for prepping skin in readiness for your daily shave, ridding skin of razor-clogging dead cells and helping prevent ingrown hairs. What tips the balance for me as a bearded guy, however, is how useful it is for getting to the skin beneath facial hair, keeping it clean and free of beard dandruff. My Clarisonic has been, by far, my favourite piece of kit of 2012, hence the Best Grooming Gadget gong. It (quite literally) is the perfect way to brush up on your skincare.

The Clarisonic Plus Grey, which includes a head for the body too, is available from Harrods.

Coming tomorrow… The Grooming Guru’s Dud of The Year Award 

The Grooming Guru Awards 2012. Best New Men’s fragrance: Tom Ford Noir.

TOM FOR NOIRggawrd12lThe moment I tried the latest fragrance from Tom Ford back in July, a few months ahead of its official launch, I knew it was a contender for my Best New Men’s Fragrance award. I knew, though, that there was still time for something else to come along and knock it off its pedestal. But that just didn’t happen.

Sweet, powdery and sexy it’s a delicious blend of bergamot, verbena, violet flower, geranium, amber, patchouli and vetiver (some of my favourite notes ever) and has elicited more compliments than any other fragrance I’ve worn all year. When the PR for a rival luxury brand asked me what I was wearing because they thought it was “amazing” I knew the immaculately groomed Texan had yet again come up with something head and shoulders above his competitors. My favourite fragrance of 2012, not by a mile but a few thousand.

Tom Ford Noir, £60 for 50ml EDP from Harrods.

Coming tomorrow…the award for Best Grooming Range of 2012!

Aramis’ new Perfume Calligraphy – full of Eastern promise

It’s not often a fragrance lands on my desk that both I and my mum could wear. So it’s quite a novelty to be reviewing Aramis’ intriguing new unisex scent Perfume Calligraphy.

A shameless stab at the Middle Eastern fragrance market (it openly claims to have been developed especially for the Arabian consumer) it’s a fantastically rich, heady, supersweet and faintly intoxicating blend of cardamon, myrrh, patchouli, amber, musk and (of course) oud wood.

It’s absolutely not for the fainthearted and has an intensity that will be alien to many a western nose, weaned as we are on a diet of insipid scents where a black pepper note is about as daring as things get. There’s something about it, too, that reminds me of some of perfumier Roja Dove’s muskier moments.

I myself had a surprisingly complex reaction to it. I kind of love it but can’t wear it, being strangely attracted to the muskiness but unable to live with it on my own skin (not at this time of year anyway, maybe in winter). I must say, it’s a reaction I find rather refreshing because I’m terribly black or white when it comes to fragrance, either loving something or recoiling – as I did when I first got a whiff of Dolce Gabbana’s The One Sport – in utter horror.

In what I’ll admit is quite possibly the strangest analogy imaginable for a fragrance review it’s like stumbling across something dead in your garden – you don’t want to look but you simply cannot resist doing so. Basically, compelling.

Available exclusively from Harrods priced £105 for 100ml eau de parfum

Lalique launches Hommage a l’homme

Yesterday I had the pleasure of attending the launch of the Lalique’s new fragrance for men Homme a l’homme at the Lalique shop (if one can call such an establishment a shop) in London’s Conduit Street. I must say, it’s a spectacular venue, full of spectacular things and a place I’ve never ventured into (can’t think why because that £10,000 Lalique sound system looked lovely!). But anyway, if you want a little bit of the Lalique luxury yourself this new fragrance is a good place to start.

Given free-reign to use what ingredients they liked perfumiers Christine Nagel and Mathidle Bijaoui have come up with something deliciously fresh with a spiciness that’s much subtler than you find in most of today’s men’s fragrances (the now ubiquitous black pepper’s there but not overpoweringly so and the addition of saffron is a lovely touch).

It also has a juciness which comes from a violet leaf note (Nagel demonstrated this to me by snapping open a real violet leaf and it has a surprisingly fresh, cactus/cucumber smell that does indeed smell ‘juicy’). All this is finished off with a sexy trio of base notes including cistus, oud and musk.

It’s a pretty good combination and the bottle itself is beautifully simple, having a murder-weapon weightiness I always look for in flacon. But if you really want a bit of luxury check out the £1,000  crystal bottle version! I am rattling my money box as I write.

Homme a l’homme by Lalique is available from Harrods right now and nationwide from May, priced £49 for 50 ml eau de toilette. You can also buy it online from www.lalique-parfums.com

Roja Dove’s new Vetiver fragrance smells like a winner

I’m very fussy about Vetiver fragrances. I’ve tried so many and been disappointed so often (Creed’s Original Vetiver being the one I wear personally), so when I got to sample this new creation from Roja Dove I was bracing myself for yet another let down. I needn’t have worried.

This Vetiver –  a spicy Chypre fragrance lifted by green and citrus notes – has that familiar earthy, smoky vetiver aroma but the whole thing is made more complex by the addition of celery, nutmeg, caraway and oakmoss and – surprise, surprise – is imbued with that base, elemental and animalistic sexiness (what I call the ‘pornographic note’) that runs through so many of Roja’s fragrances.

All in all it’s rich and sexy and has real staying power. If you’ll forgive the awful pun, I think I smell a winner.

Available from Harrods from April, priced £195 for 50ml eau de parfum.

Viktor & Rolf hope to spice up fragrance market with new fragrance

In the last few years the Holy Grail in terms of men’s fragrance has been to come up with something as successful as Paco Rabanne’s surprise hit 1 Million. I say surprise because, in reality, the fragrance itself is a bit ‘meh’ – its natural home being a Wolverhampton nightclub on a rainy Saturday night. But the bling bling bottle is genius which kind of makes it the ‘all-fur-coat-and-no-knickers’ of the fragrance world. Or ‘all-leather-jeans-and-no-Y-fronts’ if you prefer. But still it sells – by the bucket load.

In a crowded, increasingly competitive, market bottle design really matters (witness Marc Jacobs’ novel Bang flacon) so it’s no surprise that a stand-out bottle was top of mind when creating Viktor & Rolf’s new fragrance for men, Spicebomb.

Designed to resemble a hand grenade (it even has its own pin) it’s certainly eye-catching, though I’d have liked to have seen it a little heavier myself, since a weighty bottle always says quality to me.

And, so, what about the fragrance itself? Well, it’s quite different to the design duo’s first men’s fragrance, Antidote. The brief here was clearly to create something sexy, wearable and very ‘now’ and in this respect it succeeds admirably.

Spicebomb hits you like…well, a bomb really, with one big olfactory wallop. There’s chilli, saffron and pink pepper along with fresh bergamot and grapefruit notes and leather, tobacco and vetiver ones. It’s a more conventional blend than the press bumpf would have you believe and to me it has a headiness akin to fragrances like Mugler’s A*Men and a faint gourmand quality (the cinnamon maybe?).

It doesn’t feel quite as sophisticated, daring or as complex as Antidote, nor as quirky, but because of this it should be able to reach way beyond the former’s narrow customer base. Who knows? It may even go off like a….No, I’ll resist that one.

Viktor & Rolf’s Spicebomb is available exclusively from Harrods now and nationwide from 7th March priced £45 for 50ml eau de toilette.

Candle magic from Sepai

Like a lot of men, I’m a real sucker for a novelty or a gimmick and I’m no different when it comes to skincare. So the moment I clapped eyes on the Cosmetic Candle from luxury Spanish skincare company Sepai I was completely sold.

Free from nasties like paraffin or other potential allergens it’s a three-in-one product that releases a gentle, barely-there room fragrance, provides a nourishing liquid moisturser (it’s enriched with shea butter and ingredients to reinforce the skin’s protective barrier) and turns into a sensual massage oil when warm.  As much as anything, it’s just fun to use. You simply light it, wait for 10 minutes and then apply.  Skin-saving properties aside, it’s potential in the bedroom is huge. If you’re looking for a product to share I can’t think of anything better. Just add matches – and imgination!

The Sepai c1.2 Cosmetic Candle will be available from Urban Retreat at Harrods from October, priced £115 for 50g.

Superdry guy?

With 39 standalone stores in the UK fashion retailer Superdry is certainly a force to be reckoned with and this month sees the launch of its first premium fragrance collection with a trio of scents aimed at men – Dry, Double Dry and Dry Oil.  Clearly the brief for Double Dry was to come up with something very much in the same vein as Abercrombie & Fitch’s distinct, controversial but incredibly popular Fierce and in this it succeeds, thanks to shared woody, spicy and mossy notes. In fact, close your eyes, give it a spritz and you could also be in the flagship A&F store, surrounded by implausibly good looking teens.

And while the scent might be a bit derivative it does at least pick up a few brownie points for its packaging. As well as the quirky  ‘box’,  made from layered sheets of cardboard, the bottle itself comes with an aged leather wrap that can be removed and worn as a wrist strap. Nifty.

The Dry by Superdry Fragrance Collection costs £55 for each 100ml bottle and is available from Harvey Nichols, Harrods, Selfridges, House of Fraser and Superdry stores and concessions nationwide.

Check out The Grooming Guru’s new column in Harrods Magazine

 

Harrods has to be one of the most famous department stores in the world and also happens to be a great destination for all your grooming gear too. And next time you there why not pick up a copy of Harrods Magazine? Yours truly has just started a monthly column for it, featuring some of the very best male grooming products the store has to offer. To see the kind of thing I’ll be doing simply click on the image above.

Roja Dove adds sex to Scandal Pour Homme

Roja Dove is the undisputed King of Fragrance and is one of the most knowledgeable people in the world when it comes to perfume (check out the interview I did with him here). So it’s no surprise that his first ever fragrance for men, Scandal Pour Homme, is a complex, intriguing but eminently wearable affair.

Taking inspiration from the classic Fougère fragrance family (look out for its signature lavender, tonka bean and moss notes) it also has fresh notes of bergamot, lemon and petigrain, along with floral ones (in the shape of jasmine, violet and lily of the valley) and warm spicy ones thanks to sandalwood, nutmeg and cardamon.

But it’s the deep base notes, the ones that develop after some time on your skin, that make the most impression for me. With ambergris (a prized, waxy ingredient that’s regurgitated by sperm whales) and musk, this is where Scandal becomes seriously sexy. And as if to reinforce this fact, opening the beautifully-designed  box itself it like slowly disrobing. The flash of purple you see when the box is closed is just like a teasing hint of flesh and lifting the lid only reveals more! What happens once you get the bottle in your hands is up to you!

Scandal Pour Homme is available from Harrods, priced £175 for 100ml eau de parfum.