Caran D’Ache pencils – a slightly more interesting way to enjoy fragrance

If you’re a bit of a fragrance junkie chances are that spraying it onto skin isn’t the only way you like to enjoy your scent. But while solid perfumes and scented candles are all very nice there are other, altogether more interesting, ways to enjoy perfume too. Take this super-cool scented pencil collection from fine writing experts Caran d’Ache for example. Featuring four exquisite 4HB graphite pencils, each made of a different precious wood (Western Hemlock, White Oak, Silver Teak and White Ash), the set is heavily scented with a warm, creamy blend of patchouli, incense and tonka bean and each pencil is a real delight to hold and to smell – especially when you pop it into a sharpener.

The fragrance itself, ‘Tibetan Wood’, is the creation of master perfumer Alberto Morillas (the guy who created Armani’s Acqua di Gio and Calvin Klein’s CK One) and is certainly something you’d want to wear if it were bottled. I have to say, I loved these from the moment I clapped eyes on them. Beautiful, stylish and practical – they’ve almost tempted me to take up life drawing classes – they’re the perfect present for perfumistas but also for arty types, dads (Father’s Day is coming up remember) and, well, men who have everything but a set of scented pencils. Don’t get me wrong, they’re not something you necessarily need but trust me, you’ll certainly want them.

Les Crayons de le Maison Caran D’Ache cost £30.00 for a set of four. For stockists go to www.carandache.com

Azzaro Wanted – seriously, what were they thinking?

Azzaro Wanted-1Oh deary, deary me. Let’s talk about Azzaro’s new Wanted fragrance for a moment shall we? The one in the bottle that looks like a fully-loaded gun chamber. Now, the six-shooter bottle design for this fragrance, regardless of bad timing in light of the tragic events in Orlando, is a quite spectacular exercise in clichéd, one-dimensional and outdated hyper-mascuine thinking. I used to think that Davidoff’s The Game, with its casino chip flacon, was terminally naff but this takes things to a whole new level – and a subterranean one at that. Presumably the thinking behind it is that a. men absolutely love guns and b. guns are sexy and street and therefore customers will think the fragrance is masculine and, like, really, really cool.

You can just see the design meeting now: “Right guys, we need an eye-catching bottle – something like Paco Rabanne’s Invictus or that Gaultier one with the massive bulge. What screams ‘men’ then? How about a football? Or a motorbike? Or a big, clunking fist? Oh, no, Diesel did the fist. Wait a minute. I know – how about a gun? What’s more masculine than a gun? It’s cowboy; it’s gangsta; it’s Bond; it’s NRA and man-on-a-rampage. But mostly it’s Bond. Especially if we make it sleek, shiny and gold. What better vessel for our killer fragrance than a killer bottle?”

Well, I’m afraid Azzaro have shot themselves in the foot here (sorry) and I suspect they know this too since the bottle description on their website is a masterclass in obscurification. Avoiding the ‘G’ word altogether and with not a passing mention of bullets the bottle is instead “elegant and precious, with a stunning rugged, mechanical look” (it’s a gun folks) and “a  symbol of freedom and virility” (still a gun). Most bizarrely, it’s also “an embodiment of extreme masculinity tinged with the nostalgia of childhood”. Now, unless your dad was the Son of Sam I’m not entirely sure what childhood nostalgia it’s referring to here but no matter, the bottom line is that, in 2016, Azzaro’s  firearm-inspired Wanted is, to put it bluntly, anything but.

Dior update Eau Sauvage. But is the new Cologne version any good?

DIOR EAU SAUVAGE COLOGNEThere are some things in life – the first Poltergeist movie and Cadbury’s Creme Eggs amongst them – that really shouldn’t be tampered with, if only because the original is about as close to perfection as can be. Dior’s Eau Sauvage – that classic, much-loved fragrance from the Sixties and one of my own all-time favourites  – is one of them.

In a world where it pays big fragrance brands to remind customers of their prized assets, however, it makes sense to throw out a ‘flanker’ – a reworked version on an existing fragrance – every now and again. Not only does it keep the brand fresh and draw in new customers, it reminds everyone just how good the ‘old’ stuff is too. And therein lies the problem because, inevitably, anyone who loves the original will instantly compare it to the newcomer.

dior 2This brand new Cologne version, created by Dior Perfumer François Demachy, still has the characteristic citrusy vibe Eau Sauvage is famous for but some notes have been emphasised while other’s played down. Hedione – a molecule first used in Eau Sauvage and now scientifically proven to trigger a sexual response in women (see my piece here for more on that) – is still very much at the heart of this version and given its newfound reputation why wouldn’t it be? According to Demachy this updated version of hedione has a slightly more floral twist though. Mandarin has been added, as has grapefruit, and there’s a dash of galbanum to give it a ‘green’ edge and there’s a dollop of the now ubiquitous pink pepper in there too.

The result is an Eau Sauvage that’ll be less familiar to fans of the original than you might think and one that’s thoroughly contemporary in feel. It’s fresh, it’s aromatic, it’s spicy and woody but whereas Eau Sauvage is a thoroughly 3D fragrance this Cologne version is thinner and a bit one-dimensional by comparison. Which is not to say it’s bad because it’s not (and you do have to bear in mind that, because of my age, I’m very much the target market for the original fragrance rather than this more youthful incarnation). It’s just…well, different.

The press release points out – correctly – that when Eau Sauvage burst onto the scene in 1966 it shifted everything in its wake. Will this Cologne version do the same? Well no, but if it helps people rediscover the absolute joy of the original then it’s ‘job done’ in my book.

The library is open…

library of fragrance paperbackI love The Library of Fragrance. They really do have what you might call a ‘scents’ of fun (sorry). Fireplace, Thunderstorm and Play-Doh are on my desk at all times. They’re just so…entertaining. Anyway, just about to become available in the UK is Paperback – a unisex cologne that’s all vanilla, violets and, yes, the familiar smell of musty old bookshops. Don’t panic – you’re not going to smell like a well-fingered copy of Fifty Shades of Grey – it’s a little more complex than that – but it certainly does have a whiff of years-old paperbacks. In a good way, you understand.

Available from thelibraryoffragrance.com from 21st November.

Looking for a new fragrance? Then bring on the Artillery!

As much as I love vetiver fragrances I’m very funny about them too. I find the dry down of a lot of them (including Guerlian’s Vetiver) a bit sickly. In fact, the only one I truly love is Creed’s Original Vetiver but that uses the leaves rather than the root of the plant so it comes across as fresher and greener than most vetivers.

And so it was with some trepidation that I removed the lid of Angela Flanders Vetivert from her Artillery range for men and gave it a spray. Slightly leathery but not heady or overly-earthy it’s tempered by lavender and bergamot which give is a light, fresh, barbershop soapiness. Sure, it doesn’t have the punchiness or longevity of the Creed fragrance but I’ve been wearing it all week and have had nothing but compliments, so if you’re looking for a new fragrance for winter give it a go.

Angela Flanders Artillery No 4 Vetivert costs £50 for 50ml eau de toieltte. For more info go to www.angelaflanders-perfumer.com

Original Penguin’s first men’s fragrance is decidedly…un-Original

On paper the first fragrance from iconic fashion brand Penguin sounds promising: the press release describes Original Penguin For Men as being “an oriental fragrance with a distinguished combination of juicy gold apples, purple sage, Mediterranean neroli and a punch of black pepper, along with fresh acords of fir needle, lavender provence and a seductive mix of vanilla noir, tonka bean and dark musk.”

The reality, though, is decidedly un-Original. Like so many fragrances today is has a slightly bitter, acrid smell  and a predictability that makes my heart sink. With fragrances like this I often bring up my Plasticine analogy. You start off with lots of wonderfully vibrant individual colours but the more you mix them the more they’re destined to become an unappealing, nondescript, sludgy brown.

The fact is, this is a fragrance that could have originated from any number of houses where the prime objective in creating a fragrance is not to offend rather than to impress. What results, then, is a scent that could equally be a Beckham or a Boss. Or both. Either way it’s decidedly meh. Nice bottle though.

Original Penguin For Men is available from Debenhams, priced £33 for 50 ml eau de toilette

Tom Ford’s Lavender Palm – hitting the right note?

I love lavender. I grow my own (English of course) and at the end of the summer harvest it and hang bunches of it on the back of my doors or make lavender bags for my wardrobe (brilliant for deterring clothes moths).

Strangely, however, I’ve yet to find a lavender fragrance I can actually wear. This one, though stunning, is no different. It features two types of lavender to give it a real floral ‘hit’  and throws in a little lime blossom, vetiver, cedar and green moss for good measure but is spoilt, for me, by the addition of tonka bean which gives it a cloying sweetness that gives the lavender a slight sickliness.

Mr Ford himself, I believe, is a big fan of Caron’s Pour un Homme De Caron, a fragrance that launched back in 1934 and one characterised by its punchy lavender note. Again, it’s a fragrance I just can’t wear but this time because I find it sharp and abrasive.

It’s possible, of course, that as much as I love the smell of lavender, I’m simply not destined to wear it. But if you do know of a fragrance I might like let me know! In the meantime, my search for lavender lushness continues….

Tom Ford’s Private Blend Collection Lavender Palm is available now, priced £125 for 50 ml 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.

Anna Friel clearly has good taste!

I’m not normally one to name drop. In my career as a journalist I’ve met lots of famous types and non-famous types and the latter are generally by far the most interesting. But when it’s fragrance-related, I can’t resist sharing. And I hope she doesn’t mind the indiscretion (and I can live with the naffness of divulging).

Last night some pals and I got talking to actress Anna Friel in a restaurant and at the end of the evening she briefly came over to our table to share with us her current favourite fragrance, one she’d recently purchased from Liberty.

Spraying it on my pal I think she expected its identity to remain an enigmatic mystery. Alas, spoilsport Kynaston here recognised it immediately as Le Labo Patchouli 24.

One of my favourite fragrances, this unisex delight is instantly recognisable and possibly one of the longest-lasting fragrances I’ve ever come across (as my pal observed for himself this morning).

It’s a wonderfully earthy, sexy scent and I wrote about it here back in 2009. If you fancy  discovering why it’s so great for yourself you can find it here.