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.

 

DSquared Potion Royal Black: the old black magic is back

potion royal blackMy love affair with DSquared’s POTION is a bit like love affairs in general; I have fallen in love with it, out of love with it and now – I’m pleased to report – I am, at the very least, considering having another fling with it.

I adored the original POTION which launched back in 2011 (as you can see here) but POTION Blue Cadet, its follow up, left me massively underwhelmed  (as you can see here). The latest flanker, POTION Royal Black, however, puts things back on track somewhat.

Warm, woody and spicy, with a touch of oud and tobacco, it’s deliciously intense and punchy, with echoes of Tom Ford’s Tuscan Leather. I’m sure some people will find its initial intensity a bit much and summer seems an odd time for its launch (it very much feels like an Autumnal fragrance to me) but if you’re in the mood for something deep, smoky and sexy it’s well worth a go. My only criticism is to do with its staying power which could be better and which is why it’s a fling for me rather than a full blown affair.

Notes: 

Top: bergamot, incense, pimento

Middle: rose, cedar wood, Balcanic tobacco absolute, oud

Base: leather accord, cahsmere wood, gaiac wood, musk

DSquared’s POTION Royal Black is available from 15th July from Harrods priced £67 for 100ml eau de parfum. 

The Grooming Guru Awards 2012: Dud of The Year: James Bond 007 (the fragrance)

james-bond-007-a-movie-of-action-style-and-no-L-LE2TUcggawrd12lIn the beauty industry – where, by and large everything is fabulous, wonderful and beautiful  – criticising a product is not an act without consequences. So I thought long and hard (for a full 12 seconds) about whether to give out an award for the product that least lived up to expectations this year.

But, hey, I’m a straight-talking northerner and didn’t start this blog to be afraid of giving my opinion. And that’s all it is – my own personal opinion. So…when it comes to picking out a real stinker of a fragrance his year, for me it has to be the James Bond 007 one.

It’s not that this eagerly-anticipated fragrance from Procter & Gamble is particularly pernicious (it’s terminally bland rather than offensive, suffering the fate of most fragrances that probably came into the world with the assistance of that most cack-handed of midwives – the focus group). No, it’s that it should be so much better. This is the James Bond brand we’re talking about here after all. In its 50th year and smashing box office records with Skyfall – a film regarded by many as the best Bond film ever.

The bottom line  – and I’m not the first to say this – is that James Bond himself would never wear this sharp, rather acrid concoction with its signature apple note (who knew 007 was so fond of a Cox’s Pippin?). He might spray it to repel enemies perhaps but certainly not to bed the girl. As someone on one of my favourite fragrance sites basenotes.com said, though, its main crime is of being a wasted opportunity. Another  simply wrote “it’s the cheaper smell of Burberry For Men” but even I wouldn’t be that scathing.

2978749Having said all this I suspect it’ll initially do ok sales-wise. Not least because, with the 50th anniversary celebrations and release of Skyfall,  it’s riding on the crest of a 007 publicity frenzy. It’s also had the advantage of some very shrewd marketing. There’s a rather fetching limited edition gold flacon version (though that to me is a bit like opening the bonnet of your Aston Martin only to find the engine of a 2CV inside) and GQ heavily promoted it as “the most dangerously sophisticated fragrance in the world” earlier this year – an endorsement which one reviewer called “quite a claim” and which I call “quite bonkers”.