Tag Archives: Men’s Fragrance

Discover Your Aha Moment with Scentbird

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I am a firm believe that sampling a fragrance before purchasing it is a necessity. That would seem like a no-brainer but retail isn’t set up to accommodate that. In my experience, often, a quick spritz is all you can expect. It’s likely it’s cost prohibitive but some offer it without hesitation. It’s also likely that some retailers believe if they give you a sample vial, you won’t buy. I was in Sephora once and overheard a guy asking for a sample and inquiring about how long it would last. Was his intention to buy or to wear free samples for as long as he could? Who really knows. The bottom line, don’t buy without sampling is my mantra. Through sampling, you’ll experience your “Aha Moment,” which will determine if you want to own a fragrance or not.

When Scentbird approached me about their sampling program, I said, it’s about time somebody offered this service. As they so eloquently state, Scentbird was designed for the pickiest girl- or boy- to let you date luxury perfumes before marrying them.” Wait, what? With over 450 fragrances to choose from, you can purchase a sample of either designer of niche fragrance for $14.95 a month. The intent here is a subscription service, where you’ll receive a new sample every month but you can cancel at any time or pay as you go. Here’s the added bonus, the samples are more generous than what you’ll find in a store. 30 days worth (8ml.) is how long they estimate the sample will last. If you’re an excessive spritzer, don’t expect it to last that long. You also get a cool carrying case that any of their vials can hold in.

Scentbird really is a win in my book. You’re headed out on vacation in a few months and have been wanting to try the new XYZ scent. Check them out on Scentbird, order a vile or two, throw them in your carry on and by the time you return home, you’ll know if you’re ready for a full bottle.

Head over to Scentbird, check out their FAQs, get to sampling and await your Aha Moment.

Smell Like Bond…James Bond

I remember watching my first James Bond film with my brother and father. I ooh and ahh’d at Bond’s charisma and charm, his ability to get the girl and his slick wardrobe, of course. As entertaining as it was then and has been over the years, I never thought about how Bond smelled…until now. Continue reading

Wordless Wednesdays

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Good Read…

The March issues of your favorite men’s magazines are on newsstands now. Each possesses great style tips but the fragrance coverage was thin, for my taste. The cover of Esquire’s UK edition dared me to pick it up and I’m glad I did. Not only was the fashion on point, but it featured scents from Heeley, Oranges and Lemons Say The Bells of St Clements, Jo Malone, Earl Grey and Cucumber, and a rising fav of mine, Diptyque’s 34 Boulevard Saint Germain. This issue is worth the import price. Continue reading

Sartorial by Penhaligon’s

The very first time I smelled Penhaligon’s Sartorial I thought barbershop and tradition. It opens with a soft powdery smell that reminds me of the Saturday morning/afternoons I waited to get my hair cut, the sound of the clippers, the requests,” let me get X or Y,” those final moments before I got up from the chair; that stinging sensation from the alcohol as my barber went along my hairline and that fresh clean feeling of being a new man. How is it possible to have such details summoned from one smell? That is best answered by something I found on Penhaligon’s website in the “About Us” section and it says, “fragrance is liquid emotion.”

Scents that produced this sort of memory used to turn me off as I felt they leaned too heavily on tradition and the idea that “this is how men are supposed to smell.” But that didn’t happen with Sartorial. Perhaps that can be attributed to my new-found love for LP No 9 or my recent return from Barbados where I spent time with my uncles who are all very traditional in their fragrance and grooming habits and it’s starting to rub off on me. But as I thought deeper about the name and read its supporting press materials that talked about the tailoring tradition that influenced this scent, I began thinking of my own tailor.

Mr. Henry is a Trinidadian tailor I’ve been going to for well over a decade now. He’s old school, he knows my parents, is genuinely interested in how I’m doing, but more importantly, schools me on the finer details of menswear. But that last point needs qualifying. There’s an old adage that says, “rules are meant to be broken.” Mr. Henry is the first to tell me, “no cuff on flat front slacks, but the choice is yours, or the break in your slacks should be here but they are wearing it shorter these day so you tell me where you want them. He allowed me to make a choice that made me comfortable. His willingness to strike that balance, which is an update from the tailors of yesteryear, compliments my feelings toward Sartorial. While the dry down beckons tradition, woody and earthy, it opens with a softness that shaves off the overly masculine edge of tradition. A beautiful balance that speaks to the modern man.

Sartorial is inspired by the scents of the workroom at Norton & Sons, Bespoke Tailors at No. 16 Savile Row. Mr. Henry’s shop didn’t smell like that. It was old, filled with scraps of material; lose pins, chalk, measuring tape, a sewing machine and an old radio that cranked out soca music. But Mr. Henry smelled of a deodorant mirroring Old Spice, Brut or Right Guard. For him that was how a man was supposed to smell, fresh and clean but not frilly. Sartorial embodies the masculinity of today’s man and I think Mr. Henry would say, “Young fella, a man is supposed to smell like that.”

Sartorial by Penhaligon’s will be in stores October 11, 2010.

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Arlington Cologne and the Quest for Hungary Water

Whenever I ask fragrance people if they’ve heard of Hungary Water, I get blank stares and the same question: “Hungry water?” No, I correct them, Hung-gare-ee, as in Hungarian.

Wikipedia, ever the reliable resource, says that Elisabeth, the fourteenth century Hungarian queen, commissioned the world’s first alcohol-based perfume. Or it may have been Elisabeth of Poland. Or Saint Elisabeth of Hungary. No matter. Suffice it to say that Hungary Water, or Queen of Hungary Water, is a very old concoction of herbs in alcohol, usually some variation of rosemary, thyme, lavender, mint, sage, marjoram, orange blossom and lemon. It was probably worn as a fragrance and drank as an herbal remedy.

Today, herbalists and natural skincare firms market versions of Hungary Water as face-cleaning astringents and toners, like complicated versions of rosewater or witch hazel.

The Internet offers a few modern recipes (here, here and here), but my experience with Hungary Water comes from Crabtree & Evelyn, which produced a version of it starting in 1975. I had it in a shower/bath gel years ago, but I’ve never smelled the cologne. When I used my bottle up, I discovered that it had been discontinued. Fortunately, I found a bottle of shower gel on eBay, overstock from a London fragrance shop. It smells amazing and fresh, citrusy and deeply herbal—like nothing else I have.

Finding a suitable replacement for Crabtree & Evelyn’s Hungary Water has been a years-long process. After realizing that classic colognes most closely resemble it, I struggled to find one that had the herbal depth of Hungary Water. Was it the rosemary? I wish I knew for sure.

Colonia Russa, a scent created by Santa Maria Novella around the turn of the 19th century, came close, as did Guerlain’s Eau de Cologne Impériale from 1853. And 4711 Echt Kölnisch Wasser, a true cologne in the most literal sense (created in Cologne, Germany in 1792), comes close too; it’s a steal at about $20 for 2 oz.

But all three of these are citrus scents that have very little staying power. Within an hour or two, almost every trace of them is gone on the skin.

The closest I’ve come to Hungary Water yet is D.R. Harris’s Arlington Cologne, another bargain at about $45 for a 1.7 oz. spray. It’s got fresh citrus top notes with the pungent herbal edge that I was looking for. D.R. Harris calls it a citrus with fern, but more than one commenter on fragrance forums have complained of multiple reformulations (a constant problem for those of us seeking old scents).

Arlington has a strong lime-citrus top note, very clean-smelling, but the rest is hard to pin down. There may be some subtle rosemary, possibly sage, maybe basil?—I don’t know. The notes in colognes are very hard to separate. Many colognes claim to dry down to musk notes. I’ve found that most dry down to nothing. Which brings me to my next quest: the search for the lasting citrus cologne. —Harry Sheff

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