The new British grooming brands you need on your radar

I’ve wanted to write a piece focusing on the amazing British skin and haircare brands that launched during the pandemic for, well, pretty much the whole of the pandemic, so it was great to be able to do so for GQ recently.

As I say at the start of the piece, launching a brand is hard enough at the best of times but to launch one at the worst of times – with the threat of Covid hanging over us – well, that takes real guts.

I’m not remotely Brexity as a person (quite the opposite as it happens) but now that the U.K. has left the European Union I strongly believe in supporting home-grown talent where possible – and, trust me, there’s plenty of that in the list I’ve compiled for the piece.

So, do lend your support to the brands featured if you’re based in Britain. Even if you’re a reader from outside of the U.K. I urge you to check them out – many offer international shipping and all represent the very best of British!

To read the article click here.

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]