Exclusive: Oliver Sweeney launch second luxury fragrance – and it’s every bit as good as the first.

FullSizeRender 30You know how bands often struggle with that ‘difficult’ second album? Well, it happens in the fragrance industry too sometimes. After launching an eye-catching and original scent many companies pull back with their second launch, following an altogether safer, more pedestrian path. Not so Oliver Sweeney, who’ve successfully dodged the difficult second fragrance syndrome with their latest launch Bosco Selvatico. 

Created by Claudine Roublot – the same nose responsible for Sweeney’s first fragrance, Argento – it consciously distances itself from today’s homogenous, gourmandy mass-market offerings, starting off with a beautifully vibrant citrus burst of bergamot and lime before showing off a spicy, herbaceous side and finally revealing a beautifully warm, green, woody and slightly smoky finish that works so well on the skin you’d think it’s oozing from it rather than sitting on it.

FullSizeRender 31Like Argento (one of my favourite launches of 2015) Bosco Selvatico is uncompromising in the sense that it sits outside of current trends – which is very much to its benefit. A companion fragrance to its predecessor (it’s  a little more ‘daytime’ than Argento) it’s elegantly old-skool, reminding me of the way men used to smell before those sickly-sweet foody notes crept into almost everything and turned us into walking patisseries. Even its name, Bosco Selvatico, is uncompromising in a way. After all, how tempting must it have been to have called it by the English translation “Wild Wood” instead?

Reading through my fragrance reviews on this blog it’s tempting to conclude that I like very little and that I’m critical of almost everything that comes to market. I’m not, of course, but I know what I like and hope that those honest, critical reviews add weight to the ones where I genuinely rave about something. Bosco Selvatico is one of my favourite fragrance launches this year and is, without doubt, one of the best. Recommended.

Bosco Selvatico costs £99 for 100ml eau de parfum and is available from Oilver Sweeney stores and online at oliversweeney.com


Versace’s Dylan Blue delivers a knockout blow to decent fragrance advertising

versace (1)Creating the story and campaign for a new fragrance is never easy. Having helped create a few of them myself in the past I know this all too well. When they succeed they do so because of clarity of thought and of message and because they tap into the current zeitgeist. So how well the new Versace fragrance Dylan Blue campaign will fare remains to be seen because messages there are aplenty. And none of them are all that great.

Looking at the campaign as a whole (one lovingly shot by Bruce Weber, in a masturbatory style that’s steadfastly Nineties) it’s a bag of contradictions: on one hand we have the ‘modernity’ of a same-sex kiss (the inclusion of which we’re  either supposed to shocked by or grateful for, I’m not sure which) and on the other some woefully archaic views about women (“As dad always used to say… you can’t live with women and you can’t live without them”). There are a couple of corkers about men too, including the cringeworthy “I learned at a young age not to show any weakness”. The video meanwhile lacks but one thing: the kitchen sink. It’s hetero yet homo; violent yet tender; old-fashioned yet throughly modern. It has girls, it has boys. It has boxers, it has bikes. It has… oh well, you get the picture.

Personally, I find much of this mind-numbingly naff and I’m at a loss as to why a campaign for a fragrance ever needs to show a woman kicking a man down a flight of stairs or feels the need to use the words “she doesn’t seem to know I exist except when she’s kicking me in the head”. But just in case this woman –  called Gigi – has men quaking in their boots/slingbacks the campaign takes pains to reassure them she has her limitations. “She can out kick-box any of the smaller guys,” says the blurb (the bigger ones clearly being too much of a challenge of her).  Billie Jean King would not be pleased.

To me, the apparent “kiss and make up” theme of the campaign also has uncomfortable associations with the destructive hit me/kiss me cycle in much domestic violence (the boxer kisses his opponent before delivering a knock out blow and Gigi can kiss as good as she can kick). Am I’m being over sensitive? A bit too PC for my own good? Perhaps, but  following on the heels of the appalling marketing of Azzaro Wanted I’m seriously beginning to wonder where fragrance advertising is heading right now. “Dylan Blue is the essence of the Versace Man today,” says Donatella Versace. Well, if that’s the man of today I’m truly fearful about what the one tomorrow will look like if he buys into this particular kind of advertising.

versace dylan blue (1)

Bentley to launch Bentley For Men Azure

Bentley Azure 1The first two fragrances from luxury British car manufacturer Bentley, released in 2013, were some of my favourite fragrances of last year (for proof of that see this) but whilst those fragrances were warm and heady, this new release, called Azure, is fresh and sparkling. Combining Mediterranean herbs with violet leaves (the new must-have note in men’s fragrances) and a touch of tea it’s deliciously light and crisp making it the perfect fragrance for summer holidays or for work, when you don’t want to smell like a try-hard lothario. The bottle alone, with its beautiful curves and diamond cut lid is a thing of absolute beauty.

Available from Harrods in March and nationwide from April.

Scents of despair!

As we gear up for another Christmas my thoughts have enevitably turned to the annual fragrance onslaught that begins right about…now. In an effort to prise our hard-earned pennies from us, fragrance houses around the world unleash their new scents in time for the gift bonanza that is the festive season. And what have we in store for us this year? Well, let me be frank here folks – not much.

It’s a constant source of disappointment to me that fragrance houses find it almost impossible to come up with anything decent, distinctive or vaguely original these days. Instead, consumed by greed, seduced by celebrity endorsement and appealing to the lowest common denominator, they rush collectively for generic, inoffensive fragrances that reek of nothing more than the average provincial nightclub.

Inverse For Men: a big hit in Austria one suspects.
Inverse For Men: a big hit in Austria one suspects.

It’s a strategy I call ‘Bland Ambition’ – one which is all about shifting as many units as possible in order to fund the next lacklustre launch and to keep the brand bandwagon rolling. In my more cynical moments I convince myself that there’s a giant vat marked ‘generic men’s fragrance’  located somewhere in the depths of Eastern Europe where all the fragrance houses go to get their juices. I can see a giant factory where huge workforces spend days combining notes of  black pepper, cedarwood and bergamot and doing unspeakable things with (excuse me while I yawn)  tonka beans.

So where’s the evidence for this bland ambition? Well, of the most recent contenders we have Calvin Klein’s new fragrance CK Free (about as memorable as that bloke in the suit who won 2007’s X-Factor), Banana Republic’s Republic Of Men (which sure as hell ain’t gonna start any revolutions of its own) and Kylie’s Inverse For Men, a men’s fragrance (and I use the term loosely) which could only have been created with one man in mind and his name’s Bruno.

What amazes me is how so many different notes, in so many fragrances, can be combined only to emerge smelling exactly the same. It’s a bit like playing with Plasticine. You start off with some truly lovely colours but however you mix them the result is always… boring brown.

There are exceptions of course. Roger & Gallet’s L’Homme is delightfully masculine, Davidoff’s Hot Water is a first-class (and sexy) new evening fragrance, Paul Smith Man is (like the designer’s  clothing) fantastically wearable  if not entirely envelope-pushing, and Tom Ford’s Grey Vetiver is about as good as masculine fragrance gets. You pay a little more for the latter but trust me, it’s head and shoulders above anything else around at the moment.

The Aramis Collection: oldies but goodies
The Aramis Collection: oldies but goodies

Thank God, too, for  Aramis’ Gentleman’s Collection – the relaunch of six classic fragrances where every one’s a winner. Oldies, yes, but goodies one-and-all and still capable of giving most new launches a run for their money. If ever you wanted evidence that they don’t make ’em like they used to the Aramis Collection is it.

If you think I’m being snobbish here  (Mr Ford’s fragrance is up to three times the price as your average bottle of Hugo Boss) I assure you I’m not. And just to prove it, I can tell you that in all honestly, one of the most interesting fragrances I’ve smelt all year is Flame – the fragrance launched by ‘The House of Burger King’ and fronted not by a shirtless Josh Holloway but by the man we all love to hate, Piers Morgan. Whether this is a reflection on its surprising excellence or on the quality of the competition is for you to decide.

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