It was my great pleasure to talk to the Harvey Nichols team recently about all things fragrance. If you want to know what my favourite eau de toilettes are and want a few tips about how to buy and wear fragrance check out my Q&A with them here.
The fragrance industry,when it comes to men’s fragrances at least, is in the doldrums: there I’ve said it. Launch after launch produces generic, nondescript scents aimed at followers rather than leaders. Fragrance by focus group rules. As I’ve said before, it’s all about bland ambition. Increasingly fragrances rely on fancy bottles to disguise the pedestrian juices inside, like someone masking unwashed hair with a dry shampoo. There are no classics in the making anymore. And I seriously worry for the guy who’s 22 today because his current scent squeeze will be dead and gone by the time he’s 30 (if not 25). He’ll certainly be hard pushed to have anything to reminisce about when he’s 40.
So when I come across something at least having a go I cling to it like a life raft. Which is where Undergreen‘s latest fragrance Black comes in. It actually launched exclusively at Harvey Nichols last month and a sample has been sitting on my desk since then, hidden under a pile of press releases.
Anyway, the upshot is that I love it. Key to its allure is a mega-punchy liquorice note which works beautifully with the black pepper top note and trio of woods at its base. It also has that fusty, churchy smell I absolutely love in fragrances.
Ok, so Undergreen is a niche brand able to take risks and a bottle will set you back three times as much as something from the high street (though you do get a 100ml eau de parfum for your investment) but trust me, it’s worth it. Trust me, right now, niche is where it’s at.
Undergreen Black Classic Edition costs £120 for 100ml eau de parfum. Available from Harvey Nichols.
The other day I had the pleasure of meeting Givaudan’s Shyamala Maisondieu, the nose behind the brand new Lanvin men’s fragrance. What struck me whilst talking to her was her obvious passion for her creation and how clear an image of the ‘Lanvin Man’ she had in her mind (she painted such an evocative picture of a busy, sophisticated, well-travelled man kicking back in front of a roaring fire I nearly asked if I should pop out and get some more logs!).
In an age of fragrance-by-focus-group it was great to see something created with genuine art and passion (she very kindly helped me unravel the secrets of my own fragrance collection, too, but more about that another time).
Avant Garde itself is an oriental woody fragrance, bursting with exotic spices (as a child Shyamala loved the smell of cardamon so it’s included here), along with woody and tobacco notes and a hint of beeswax, which gives it a sweet, edible honey inflection.
So is it any good? Well, it’s much gentler and warmer than I expected and sweet in an Mugler A*Men kinda way (but not nearly as pungent obviously). With evidence to suggest women are especially attracted to sensual woody oriental fragrances and to sweet notes it’s very much a fragrance they’ll love to smell on men. Which is no bad thing right?
P.S. The bottle is amazing and feels like a smooth and sensual black pebble!
Lanvin Avant Garde is available from Harvey Nichols, priced £49 for 100ml eau de toilette.
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.