Scents of awareness 
– Glass looks at fragrances for men

 

Mainstream masculine perfumery remains in the doldrums. Women’s scents could do with an injection of creativity as well, but men have especially strong grounds for complaint. A vast proportion of new fragrances made for gents are composed of uninspiring, painfully familiar creations which appear determined not to stand out in any way whatsoever.

It’s all very well blaming fragrance brands for this depressing state of affairs, but perhaps men have to take their share of the responsibility too. Look at the world of clothing, for instance. Menswear departments currently offer more colours and designs than the average 1950s bloke would have seen in his most psychedelic daydreams. But what does the majority of 21st Century European men seem to end up wearing? Jeans and attention-deflecting t-shirts …

It’s not surprising that gigantic, multi-national brands decide to play it safe when it comes to masculine scents. They realise that it’s very difficult to do battle with the paradox that lies at the core of the male psyche – generally, men want to be both leader and one of the boys at the same time – and so they give up and churn out a string of unremarkable, cardboard cut-out compositions.

Hommage à l’Homme by Lalique Hommage à l’Homme by Lalique

Thankfully, some brands are braver than others. For instance, Lalique deserves praise for its new Hommage À l’Homme. Fans of Dior’s Fahrenheit will immediately recognise the woody, violet leaf accord at the centre of this scent’s creation, the very particular scent profile that simultaneously manages to be outdoorsy, sophisticated, refreshing and elegant.

Lalique’s take is unquestionably sweeter and more gourmand-oriented than Dior’s – it starts with an edge of coffee and liquorice – but it projects a similar sense of intrepid refinement. It also attracts an almost worryingly large number of compliments, so don’t wear it if you need to be incognito for some reason.

DiptyqueVolutes by Diptyque

 

Although Diptyque doesn’t yet count as a mainstream brand, its wares are becoming a more common sight in shops, which is why it’s worth mentioning their new scent, Volutes. Inspired by a sea journey undertaken in the 1930s by one of the firm’s founders, it supposedly contains notes to represent each of the ship’s stops as it sailed from Marseille to Saigon.

Fortunately, this doesn’t result in a confused soup: Volutes is an extremely clear-sighted, honeyed, tobacco iris scent, with a well-judged saffron facet. There is a segment in its development when it comes across as overly synthetic, and it does reach its final, vanillic phase a touch too soon, but in its finest moments, it is a gracefully evocative piece of work. The honey note stays comfortingly close to the skin, whereas the tobacco drifts into the air, very much like the coils of smoke alluded to by the name. Be sure to experiment with both the eau de toilette and eau de parfum versions: the latter is quieter, but far more intimate.

 A*Men Pure Leather by Thierry Mugler  A*Men Pure Leather by Thierry Mugler

 

Finally, we have Thierry Mugler. After the disappointing A*Men Pure Shot released earlier this year, the edgiest mainstream perfume house gives us yet another edition of its signature male scent, dubbed A*Men Pure Leather (part of a must-try quartet of leather-inflected limited editions, which includes Womanity, Alien and, of course, Angel). In short, this stuff has cojones. It presents one of the filthiest openings of any mainstream perfume I’ve smelt for ages, and just in case anyone’s in any doubt, I should clarify that I mean this as a compliment.

Yes, the coffee-plus-patchouli combination of the original is intact, but here, it’s been dragged through a barnyard and left to wallow in its own sweat for hours. And then, with devilish ingenuity, an incense note appears, taking us from the profane to the sacred in one delightful move. Angels and devils cavort around a raging bonfire. The flames reach up into the heavens. And the soil thrums to the beat of their feverish dancing.

If all male scents were as gutsy as this, trips to the high street wouldn’t be anywhere near as soul-destroying as they are at the moment.

by Persolaise



Persolaise is a Jasmine Award-winning writer and fragrance critic. His new perfume guide, Le Snob: Perfume, is published by Hardie Grant and is available on Amazon.co.uk. For more of his writing, please visit his site.