Tag Archives: Men’s Fragrances

Men’s Cologne — Acqua di Giò Profumo by Giorgio Armani

Just when I think I’ve warmed up to Bleu de Chanel as the best and most versatile of the modern colognes out there I start using Acqua di Giò Profumo by Giorgio Armani. A richer and deeper flanker to the original aquatic classic, which is probably the biggest selling men’s frag ever, the Profumo version was released some twenty years later in 2015. And as nice as that original Eau de Toilette is, the Profumo is a superior juice, a stronger yet minimalist interpretation that ends up highly addictive.

In Acqua di Giò Profumo the original’s massive ingredient list gets pared down but the intensity dialed way up. Instead of the modern interpretation of the classic Italian Mediterranean aftershave experience that the original Giò executes so well with a veritable host of notes, the Profumo augments the signature seaside aquatic note by ditching many of the others and ramping up the herbs, mainly sage and rosemary (and do I get a hint of thyme in there even though it’s not listed officially?). The result is less salad dressing than bracing, almost peppery nose-tickling spices that stimulate the senses. These are listed as heart notes but really they come out to play almost immediately after the first spritz, pushing their way past the hint of bergamot in the open in a pleasingly assertive fashion. This spicey phase lasts a good long time, as befits an Eau de Parfum, and eventually mellows with an overall darkening where a sleek and non-sweet incense emerges to ground the composition beautifully. There is also a non-skanky, quite dry patchouli whispering in the background as well. Like a lot of modern EDTs this can be hard to detect when you’re used to wearing vintage patch powerhouses like Giorgio of Beverly Hills or Givenchy Gentleman but it’s there lending support to the persistent oceanic, incense and spice notes.

Despite or perhaps because of this relatively simple structure, Acqua di Giò really shines as a daily driver that is a cut above most other modern colognes. I guess I prefer it to the very good Bleu, which has definitely grown on me. Despite a general similarity in their use of incense and overall “feel,” that signature grapefruit note in Bleu’s open is more of a hit-or-miss, “in the mood” aroma for me than Giò Profumo’s green spices. And the Profumo retains its structure better over time than the Bleu EDT, which becomes somewhat defuse after 4 hours, though perhaps this is an unfair knock given the ostensible difference in formulated power between the two. Suffice to say there is just something in Acqua di Giò that appeals to my traditional fougere-centric side, despite it being listed as an Aromatic Aquatic. It’s like standing in an herb garden by the sea as briney breezes carry incense from a church service nearby.

It’s undeniably masculine, strong enough to make a statement but versatile and modern enough for daily use and on into the evening. Staying power is very good at about 8 hours, considerably more on clothes, and the composition also hangs together well over time unlike so many modern perfumes, which seem to disintegrate into fragments of their component parts. I see it as a year-rounder, very good in warmer weather like its forebear but also solid in colder months because of that addictive spicey kick and its subtle smokiness. Sillage is moderately strong but be forewarned: like one or two other very “inoffensive” colognes — Creed Green irish Tweed springs to mind — it is so pleasant smelling the temptation is to really lay it on thick. But this handsome obsidian-black and silver flaçoned modern marvel is also a subtle powerhouse. Less is more unless you are comfortable being noticed as cologne guy. However, this Profumo’s strength in moderation is also a good thing because it is far from cheap at nearly 100 bucks for a mere 2.5 ounces. But you get what you pay for with Acqua di Gió Profumo: a quality juice with all around wearability and worthy of signature scent status for the discerning gentleman.

Men’s Cologne — Bleu de Chanel by Chanel

Bleu de Chanel is something of the elephant in the room when it comes to today’s men’s fragrances. Since its release in 2010 by the illustrious House of Chanel, Bleu has been equal part praised and vilified, enormously successful and pilloried for that very mass market appeal, not to mention much imitated by competitors envious of its market share. As the newest in a long line of legendary Chanel offerings for men that includes Pour Monsieur, Allure, Egoiste and my personal favorite, Antaeus, Bleu marked a break from such utterly unique compositions and an attempt at a more modern, mainstream “youthful” juice with wide appeal. Based on its commercial success, there can be no doubt that Chanel succeeded. If Bleu is a little on the dull and boring side it is also made of the highest quality ingredients, as one would expect, and blended beautifully. It’s a very good daily driver for those of us who don’t have the stones to wear Antaeus as a daytime office scent or on a first date. And let’s be honest, that’s probably most of us and with very good reason.


Characterized as a Woody Aromatic, Bleu Eau de Toilete opens instead with its signature high note of clean grapefruit with a hint of fresh ginger adding a little complexity. This is handled well and comes across as nicely crisp and bracing, a very good way to start the day after a shower. The laundry musk of so many other “fresh” scents is thankfully absent and despite the name this is not really an aquatic scent either, unlike its rather bad competitor from Dior, Sauvage. While I’ve never been able to detect any patchouli, as listed in the notes, and only a bare minimum of vetiver, there is a subtle development away from the somewhat generic citrus beginning as those promised woody notes of mellow sandalwood and crisp cedar begin to assert themselves. This is complemented by peppery accords — pink they say — and a harmonious mint that brings to mind a toned down, more elegant version of Burberry Men. The woods remain deep into the dry down and while still staying very fresh, Bleu EDT softens with its trademark light incense base giving the fragrance a little warmth where before there was mainly a cool, attention-getting crispness to the whole experience.

I say attention-getting because even though Bleu shares aspects of other “modern” compositions favored by younger guys these days it is distinctive enough, as well as definitely a well crafted juice and not a synthetic mess, that it always seems to stand out and get compliments from the fairer sex. It’s taken me a long time to warm up to Bleu de Chanel — at first I was decidedly unimpressed — and my preference for this sort of daytime fragrance still leans more towards old school green classics like Lauder for Men and Tsar. But Bleu has grown on me and the response it gets makes me think that it somehow makes more of an impression on those around me than on my own nose, perhaps due to olfactory fatigue. So yes, its safe, a little less than exciting or bold and somewhat annoyingly au courant in its lack of a forceful personality.

But sometimes safe is a positive quality in a cologne when you’re not trying to make a given experience all about you or what scent you’re wearing. It’s certainly very good in warm weather, a definite daytime stalwart and fine for a casual evening out when you just want to smell good, clean and effortlessly manly. The nearly opaque deep blue flacon (bottle) is handsome, solid and simple and the vaporizer delivers a consistent dose without dripping or leakage. So Bleu is quality all the way and an all around versatile performer with solid but not overpowering sillage and good longevity at around 6 hours until it is a skin scent (more on clothing, of course). You’ll smell good, you’ll smell masculine despite the modern interpretation and no one will ever be offended by what your wearing. The only downside is its popularity, which might mean the guy next to you at the bar or the gym might also be rocking Bleu. But then you don’t really wear Bleu to stand out. It’s a solid addition to any man’s wardrobe precisely because it is so user-friendly and versatile. I can honestly say that the experience of wearing it gets better over time, as the quality of the composition becomes more apparent (and perhaps in-bottle maceration also contributes to this improvement). And when you feel like you simply can’t play it this safe anymore and you’ve got to embrace your ballsy side Chanel still thankfully offers its full throated masculines like Antaeus. So kudos for the great fashion house for keeping its classics in circulation as well as moving forward with the very solid, very reliable Bleu. In this here today, gone tomorrow world of modern perfumery Chanel’s pride and traditionalism amidst undeniable innovation deserves praise. It’s a tribute to their sophistication that they acknowledge that there are many moods to a man and while Bleu might suit some of them, and suit them in style, it certainly shouldn’t be the only one.

Bleu de Chanel is available directly from Chanel.com as an EDT and a Eau de Parfum and in a variety of sizes and affiliated beauty products. Chanel keeps tight control of their distribution and it ain’t cheap but you’ll always know you’re getting genuine Chanel quality.

Men’s Cologne — Dunhill Edition by Dunhill

Dunhill Edition is another older but still excellent Aromatic Fougerie, that ultimate gentlemen’s genre of fragrance that seems to have gone largely out of fashion in recent years. Created in 1984, 50 years after the original Dunhill for Men debuted, Edition is completely different then its legendary forebear. Unlike that pre-War masterpiece, Edition doesn’t emphasize floral notes like iris and jasmine but rather warm spices, wood and the fougere staples oakmoss and vetiver. Dunhill Edition is also a quality fragrance that actually develops as you wear it, unlike so many that promise to do so with an elaborate note pyramids but remain essentially linear, smelling not that much different hours later from when you first sprayed it on. No, Dunhill Edition is a many-layered fragrance in the best traditions of English perfumery, opening with a strong soapy vibe redolent of bergamot, a dry lemon, lavender and oakmoss. The soapiness is definitely less green that that of Van Cleef’s classic Tsar but the two share a similar potent barbershop vibe that can come across as a little heavy on first application. But also like Tsar, Edition begins to soften after the first half hour with a very nice spicey clove note as well as some nutmeg coming to the fore and balanced by refined clary sage, which I always seem to enjoy in my colognes. But Antaeus this is not — the sage is noewhere near as sharp and there are no funky animalic notes in Edition’s composition. Instead, it remains polite and refined, as one might expect from this classy house famed for its fine cigars, with some subtle masculine flowers like carnation and geranium in the mix, as well as tonka bean to sweeten things as it begins to dry down (ironically you’ll find no tobacco in either Dunhill for Men or Edition). In the late stages the vetiver and oakmoss continue to radiate from the base, mingling with a very pleasant fir note that plays off the tonka beautifully.


Although often rumored to be discontinued, Dunhill Edition seems readily available and at extremely reasonable prices considering the apparent quality of the ingredients. It can be had for around $30 for 3.4 ounces, a pretty good deal in my book. Along with the original Dunhill for Men, Edition makes a solid addition to any man’s cologne cabinet, particularly those who enjoy timeless classicism rather than chasing trends. Projection is moderate except for that opening blast and sillage is solid but pleasantly diffuse, creating the impression of a well-groomed man not trying too hard to be noticed but nonetheless smelling effortlessly good. You definitely wear this Eau de Toilette-strength juice, it doesn’t wear you. Longevity is a good 6-7 hours depending upon heaviness of application and personally I think the late dry down where you can really smell the woods mingling with the sage and cloves is the best part, which makes Edition a pleasure to wear from beginning to end. I’d say this is more of a daytime wearer, ideal for office or semi-formal social occasions where restraint is appreciated. But if you wore this for an evening out it would’t be the worst thing in the world by a long shot. I also feel like Edition is one of those uncommon true all-year colognes, where the lavender and citrus elements work well in warm weather and the clove and oakmoss shine in colder temps. So if you like the more old school styles of masculine perfumery where there’s not an aquatic, melon or fake ambergris note in sight but you’re not quite in the mood for the knockout 1980s leather power of de la Renta’s Pour Lui or Maxim’s Pour Homme I’d say Dunhill Edition is well worth sampling and perhaps including in your collection. Along with a Saville Row suit and a well-crafted pair of Loake shoes the understated and classy Edition fits right in with any well turned out gentleman’s wardrobe.

Men’s Cologne — Vintage by John Varvatos

Vintage by Varvatos is forever linked in my mind with Burberry for Men because of when I purchased the two just as I began exploring new colognes again after years of only wearing Armani Eau Pour Homme. It’s not that they’re overly similar to each other although they are both solid masculines — there’s no mint in Vintage, which is the dominant note in Burberry for Men, and the lavender accord is also much more pronounced in the latter. The Burberry is a mid-90s creation while Vintage is from 2006. But they both represent an excellent “beginners” men’s cologne. If that sounds like I’m damning them with faint praise or being condescending I can see how it could. But it also reflects my personal evolution and how my tastes have evolved and deepened, to be honest, as I’ve tried dozens of scents since dipping a toe in the water with these two readily available offerings. That Varvatos Vintage, like Burberry Men, smells very good is without question. It’s just that I’ve come to reach for the more imposing and uncompromising men’s fragrances like Antaeus, Balenciaga Pour Homme and De La Renta’s Pour Lui for nighttime use and Dunhill, Gucci Nobile and Lauder for Men in the day. So for me that now leaves Burberry Men and Varvatos Vintage kind of the odd men out.


But if Vintage is not quite up to the level of those aforementioned classics in my opinion (and obviously my old school sensibilities are showing), it is nonetheless more than a solid modern offering and versatile enough for day or evening wear. The flacon itself, a typical design from the house of Varvatos, looks like a rum smuggler’s personal flask with it’s dark brown glass, wide oblong form and textured leather wrap. Mine is a big one at 4.2 ounces (they also make it in 2.5 ozs) and although they’re certainly not giving it away, it still represents very good value for money when taking into account the obviously high quality of the juice itself. Much like the mint in Burberry Men gives that cologne it’s signature note, in Vintage it’s the opening note of quince that grabs your attention upon first spritz. There’s also sweet-spicey rhubarb and herbal basil in that opening and if the those all sound like a strange mix the effect is actually pleasantly boozy. Probably the hint of artemisia/wormwood contributes to that liqueur-like effect, as does the requisite juniper and initially low key cinnamon of this categorized woody chypre. Those unusual but very pleasant top notes are never loud or overpowering but instead swaddle the wearer in a very pleasant cloud of soft leathery sweetness, like new suede jacket.


The brighter top notes tend to dissipate after about an hour, though generally the heart remains consistent with the opening despite promises of jasmine and lavender in the note pyramid that I don’t really detect. I do get those green leafy accords but as for claims of balsam fir and patchouli in the base I don’t really get any of those either. Polo Green or Givenchy Gentleman this ain’t. What this does evolve into in the dry down is a nice tobacco scent, not green and bitter like Quorum, but rich and refined like Cavendish pipe tobacco. For me, that heady, boozy open gently transforms into sweet unlit moist pipe tobacco just like opening a tin of the stuff, with more than a touch of that cinnamon coming back around to spice up the mix.

Sillage is moderate making this an OK choice for work if a bit on the sexy side for an office setting. Better yet is nighttime when this warm fragrance shines or in casual day situations where a leather jacket is more appropriate than a blazer like a weekend motorcycle ride or a cigar and some aged rum on the porch. Longevity, despite a lot of griping on the forums, is decent at around 6-7 hours, although very late in the dry down the whole fragrance seems to lose cohesion (much like the modern Burberry for Men actually). It’s then possible to detect some of the chemical alchemy that was used to construct such a traditionally manly fragrance in the age of IFRA restrictions on natural elements like real oakmoss. Nevertheless, this is an unmistakably manly cologne and never fails to get a positive response from my wife even if she can no longer keep up with what I’m wearing on any given day due to my now-extensive collection. She will invariably say “Ooh, what’s that one again? I really like it!” So for that kind of fairly rare compliment factor I’ll probably always keep Vintage in my rotation even as I’ve become ever more enamored of ballsy retro-powerhouses. And really some of those I wear only for my own pleasure, as they are so strong and strange that they go completely against the modern grain (I’m looking at you Lapidus, you beautiful beast). So yes, Varvatos Vintage is a safe pick but also very good and thankfully not boring. It’s effortlessly manly, a people pleaser and also very enjoyable for the wearer. If I now prefer true vintage formulas to this titular Vintage that’s more a reflection on my own idiosyncratic and evolving tastes rather than a judgement on the fragrance itself. Because Varvatos Vintage is more than a merely acceptable scent. It’s a solid modern offering with a distinct masculine persona and I highly recommend it for any man who wants to smell good but not generic, whether they’re a newcomer to men’s colognes or otherwise.

Men’s Cologne — Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior

Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior is one of the grandaddies of men’s cologne, right up there with other classic masculines like Rochas’ Moustache, Chanel’s Pour Monsieur and Guerlain’s Habit Rouge. Created way back in 1966, Eau Sauvage has probably aged better than those others and smells as modern today as when it was created. Like any other perfectly classic architectural or fashion execution it’s timeless. It opens with a refreshing hit of citrus — a very limey bergamot and waves of sweet lemon to be exact — that some people characterize as “fruity.” It’s the ideal way to start the day after a shower and shave but even if you’re growing a beard it’ll still get you going on the right foot. Eau Sauvage is definitely one of the great eye-openers in cologne and an ideal everyday scent. It’s my second favorite daily wearer just behind the great Lauder for Men. But if I’m honest Eau Sauvage is just a little sweeter and user-friendly, a little more smoothly blended, as well, even if I personally prefer the slightly sharper, greener character of the Lauder by just a scosh.


Jumping off from that wonderful fresh citrus opening, classic fougere notes emerge in the heart phase as the scent develops: a wonderfully well balanced melange of rosemary, basil and a subtle but pervasive jasmine in the background (Hedione?). In the current formulation I don’t really get the patchouli or caraway listed in the notes but I don’t miss them at all. If I want real patchouli I’ll reach for Givenchy’s Gentleman and if I feel for spicy caraway there’s always Azzaro. Eau Sauvage is what I reach for when I want to smell impeccably clean and fresh. There are still undertones of good quality sandalwood, coriander, amber and masculine flowers like rose and carnation in the dry down, all held together by gentle orris root. (Orris root is the root of the iris flower and key component in perfumery — it is used as fixative but also brings that distinctive violet-like “powdery” or even waxy “lipstick” accord that is so common in well-made fragrances.) I don’t get a ton of oakmoss in the modern version though I presume it was more pronounced back in the pre-IFRA reformulation days. Again, I don’t really miss that either.


Smell Eau Sauvage once and you will remember it forever and you’ll also swear you’ve always known what it smells like. That’s how unique and plugged in to the olfactory synapses it is. Through its masterful blend of bright fresh citrus and warm herbal-floral notes it evokes an aura of unforced masculinity, pure class in a bottle and very European in the best, most restrained sort of way. It was created by the great Edmond Roudnitska, one of the legendary noses in the perfume business, and was one of the first fragrances to make use of the synthetic fragrance booster Hedione, which purportedly also has pheromone-like powers. Normally I don’t give glassware too much import but the beautifully faceted flaçon (bottle) with magnetic cap is also a minor work of art and will look great on any man’s shelf or medicine cabinet. It too was created by a perfume legend, the great designer Pierre Dinand, which only ads to the sense of holistic excellence surrounding this Eau de Toilette’s execution.

Eau Sauvage is one of the very best of the classic male scents and as good or better than anything made today 50+ years on. It’s certainly one that every man should own and use regularly. There are a lot of complaints that it lacks longevity but I get a good 6 hours out of it and certainly longer on clothing, although it is never going to be mistaken for a powerhouse. It sits close to the skin in a dignified and alluring way with always moderate sillage, inviting others in and never pushing them away with any sort of brashness or aggression. Not to be confused with its more recently released flanker, the gorgeous myrrh bomb that is Eau Sauvage Parfum, or the brand new Sauvage, Dior’s attempt to match the mass-market success of Chanel’s Bleu, I can’t think of an environment where the original Eau Sauvage wouldn’t be appropriate. It’s great for work, family functions and first dates when you just want to smell like a classy guy and not a horndog on the make, which you would if you wore something like Aramis. It’s especially good in warm weather and is so good and flawlessly appealing I’d say that if you’re getting married Eau Sauvage should be a serious contender for the big day. It won’t upstage you but always enhances your better qualities. Simply put, if you had to choose only one cologne, Eau Sauvage would be all you’d need. It might be a bit conservative for the true frag head but it never puts a foot wrong and it’s really all a man needs to smell good, confident and, well, manly. Eau Sauvage is essentially the perfect cologne and I can’t recommend it highly enough. Even though I often enjoy stronger, ballsier scents, I’ll still never be without a bottle of this Dior masterpiece. And neither should you.

Men’s Cologne — Antaeus Pour Homme by Chanel

It’s rather funny that the great house of Chanel feels the need to label Antaeus, one of their foremost masculine fragrances, “Pour Homme.” There is no female version of Antaeus and never has been as far as I can tell. One sniff tells you that you are dealing with some serious vintage man juice, not a modern unisex concoction.

Created by the great Jacques Polge way back in 1981, the dawn of the powerhouse era, Antaeus is one of the key colognes in that period of “more is more” in fragrance construction. Auspiciously named after a Greek demigod who fought Hercules, this powerful potion is so beautiful it could well be something an immortal deity might choose to wear. A classic woody chypre, Antaeus opens with an unmistakable blast of castoreum (aka beaver musk), pleasantly sharp and stimulating but never Anchorman-like. Coming forward to join that heady, animalic vibe are healthy doses of labdanum, slightly fermented citrus and a very deep rose, as well as some spicy notes of coriander and precious myrrh. The overall effect is intoxicating like the smell of a church in the Mediterranean when it s very hot, the flowers, orange and lemon groves are ripening and incense is burning on the dais. The dry down is just as lovely as the sharper notes recede but don’t disappear and warm oakmoss, deep green sage and basil and a subtle but insistent jasmine begin to play their parts. And throughout there is the most elegant and opulent patchouli note running through the whole thing, much lusher and less dry than the one that is the centerpiece of Givenchy Gentleman. One of the true masterpieces of masculine perfumery, the first time you try Antaeus you will know its transformative and devastating power. If you’ve got the stones to pull it off, you’ll be a changed man going forward.


If that sounds a bit like a religious experience that’s because Anateus is just that sort of trip for the uninitiated. It is totally old school and unlike anything that has been created in the last 15 years or so. And yet it is still being produced, thankfully, which must mean there is a market for it above and beyond aging Gen Xers. As with many classics, I’ve heard a lot of complaining that it’s not as good as it used to be, that it’s been watered down and is thin. Especially a few years back there was a despairing chorus that under strict new regulations issued by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA, the controlling body for perfumery worldwide), which banned certain previously widely used organic and chemical ingredients due to conservation and allergy & health concerns, Antaeus had been completely neutered along with some of its other contemporaries like Kouros and Bel Ami. But I honestly feel that perfumers have now come to grips with these limitations and after an undoubted rough patch and are now recreating their classics as well or better than ever. Continue reading

Men’s Cologne — Burberry for Men

Sometimes when you’re picking a fragrance for the day you’re just looking for something that smells good but isn’t earth-shattering in terms of power or complexity. You could call it a daily driver, the kind you wear to the office or for casual occasions with friends but not the scent you reach for when you’re trying to really stand out and make a major impression. Burberry for Men is that kind of plug-and-play, user friendly cologne.

Created way back in 1995 and originally called Burberry London, this one was Burberry’s first masculine and has been definitively shuffled aside by the company in favor of their newer, trendier scents like Brit, Rhythm and Mr. Burberry. They don’t even advertise it anymore really. But thankfully this old standby still remains in production. Burberry for Men is somewhat atypical of that Aquatics-infused 90s era in that it strives to be more of a classic gentlemen’s Woody Aromatic fragrance, with warm notes of cedar and sandalwood in the heart and a touch of amber and vanilla in the base. But there’s an unmistakable hybrid Fougère feel, as well, because what really makes Burberry for Men stand out (as much as it’s ever going to) is the big blast of mint in the top notes when you first spray it on. Yes, there is also some lavender and bergamot there in the open, along with thyme throughout the drydown, creating a very nice herbal/citric boost. But it’s really the mint that grabs your attention. This is why I feel that Burberry for Men is probably one of the best eye-openers in the cologne world. This Eau de Toilette-strength juice is ideal for mornings to accompany your cup of coffee after getting out of the shower. It smells good and manly and is definitely stimulating to the senses, a refreshing but sophisticated way to start your day.


Burberry for Men has moderate sillage & projection, strong enough for someone else to notice for sure but always polite. It smells very good for about 5 hours, with the minty-herbal quality lingering but mellowing and blending with the woody accords as they come to the front and hints of dry carnation also peaking through. I don’t really get the jasmine that’s listed in the notes pyramid, but there is definitely unobtrusive musk, amber and tonka in the base, with any “oakmoss” more of a whisper in the current formulation. At the end of its life on the skin, around 6 hours, it starts to come apart and smell a little stale verging on slightly sour, probably a result of the current construction relying more on synthetics than in the old days. But that’s OK because by then you’ll most likely be ready for something else for the evening hours anyway, a scent that stands out a little more and has a bit more of an aggressive personality than this pleasant but essentially anodyne fragrance.

In short, Burberry for Men is indeed manly in a slightly old-school fashion, good for daily wear during the daylight hours at the office and in casual settings and is a great eye-opener to get you going in the morning. If it’s not really an all-time great men’s cologne with huge balls and projection it is still quite solid on its own terms. Because sometimes you’re just looking to smell good while you go about your business, not draw a lot of attention to yourself like you would if you were wearing a powerhouse like Antaeus or Oscar de la Renta’s Pour Lui. So Burberry for Men is a fine pick for when you don’t want to to think too much about what you’re wearing but still be secure in the knowledge that you’re putting something really nice out there to the world. In fact, people of both sexes, especially the ladies, seem to really like it, however much I might be damning it with faint praise. So reach for this one with confidence for daily use — Burberry for Men is still a winner.

Men’s Cologne — Terre d’Hermès Parfum

Terre d’Hermès is a strange creation in several respects. This nouveau Woody Chypre is both very popular and highly regarded yet also has a lot of detractors, particularly among the more elite bloggers and taste makers. A thoroughly modern fragrance originally designed in 2006 by Hermès’s in house superstar nose, Jean-Claude Elena, Terre enjoyed a meteoric rise both critically and in terms of high end sales, particularly with guys in their 20s and 30s. And as with so many super successful fragrances, I think that likely led to a lot of blowback from the self-appointed cognoscenti, a la Bleu de Chanel. Purposely designed to be a world away from the then-reigning sweet and aquatic creations, Terre was meant to be a return to something like the citrus-forward/woody-based masculine qualities of Dior’s original Eau Sauvage, only amped up on 21st century steroids. And at least for the Parfum version that is pretty much what you get (full disclosure: I haven’t tried the original Eau de Toilette so there may be more nuance to that version).

The Parfum, which I feel is really more of an Eau de Parfum in terms of actual strength, does come on like gangbusters with a mighty waft of oily orange peel. Some have described a “rotten orange” quality but I don’t get that. For me the orange comes across as fresh, a trifle sweet but really heavily like a big chunk of peel that you’ve just wrung out to drop into your Old Fashioned. The note pyramid states there is grapefruit there at the top, as well, but I feel like the orange is so strong that I don’t really get any of that, which is a good thing in my book because grapefruit in cologne is definitely hit or miss. Almost immediately after this big opening a heavy duty balsamic (as in pine not vinegar) quality muscles its way into the action. It’s green and sharp and plays off the citrus with a bracing effect. Now there’s no evergreen notes listed so perhaps this is a trick of the professed “shiso” and “flint accords,” which I take to mean sort of minty/herbal for the shiso and a sharp high note for the flint, mingling with the cedar-infused “woody notes” in the base. But to my nose I get a definite “pine grove” sharpness commingling with that orange. And maybe that’s just the limitation of my nose… or at least how I perceive the massive amounts of Iso-E Super in Terre, that omnipresent modern chemical stand-in for sandalwood.

And then… well, then it pretty much just stays like that for the duration, which for a Parfum is not overwhelming at around 6-8 hours (there could well be olfactory fatigue at play in that perceived modest longevity — others may well smell it on you longer after your nose has been fried). Now the Parfum pyramid, while still a simple one, claims additional notes of oakmoss and benzoin (a sweet smelling resin of the styrax tree). But aside from vague whispers amidst the shouting of the top notes I don’t really get a lot of those. To my nose, Terre d’Hermès is an extremely linear fragrance, meaning that it essentially stays the same from the time you apply it until far into the dry down. The smell is nothing so much as one of those homemade holiday crafts projects where you stick a whole orange full of cloves, only in Terre’s case you’ve stuck the orange full of pine sprigs and cedar chips.


And while some use this consistently limited two-note quality to bash Terre, I won’t. It is a fairly unique scent and the Parfum version is powerful without being offensive (there are zero animalic notes). The sillage is quite significant but not that of a real divisive powerhouse-type fragrance. I don’t really see how any man could offend while wearing Terre d’Hermès Parfum, particularly a few minutes after the somewhat riotous initial blast upon application dries down. That may also be why it receives its fair share of disdain from the connoisseurs — it has the feel of something designed scientifically rather than a fragrance that has been born of inspiration or passion. As mentioned above, Terre has a massive amount of Iso E Super in it, a chemical that is used to boost woodsy notes. And you do get that in spades, in this case for me it’s like a freshly cut conifer sapling (and the brighter side of a much danker effect that Iso E Super creates in the vetiver-heavy Encre Noire from Lalique. With its very recent creation, it makes sense that rather than using something like organic sandalwood or cedar Mr. Elena would use his modern-day perfumer’s tools to achieve a similar effect in heightened form. I don’t begrudge him or Hermès that even if Terre is nonetheless quite a pricey juice for such a clearly artificial creation (the Parfum lists for $115 for a 2.5 oz bottle though can be had for cheaper on Amazon). But then I also don’t feel like Terre d’Hermès, at least in Parfum form, is all that brilliant a creation, either. More like a chemically clever one.

Once you get past its seeming daring and boldness in mixing orange and woods into such a relatively potent cocktail then you are left wondering just what exactly are you trying to convey when you wear it? Again, I think it is consummately inoffensive, fresh without being sweet or cloying and certainly somewhat elegant. But I don’t feel its very sexy in and of itself. If you’ve already got a significant other, chances are they will like it on you when you cuddle up. But I don’t see this one as mating call juice at the local bar. It’s a bit too perplexing to be sexy. Yes, you’ll smell good but probably not hot and steamy good, just “nice” with all that entails. But maybe its “safe,” non-threatening quality can work to one’s advantage more than I’m giving it credit for. I do think this one works well at any age and probably best in fall and spring, where the cool but not cold weather allows the heady citrus to float off the body in an appealing way. I can see how this could come across as a bit too heavy in the summer and there is something about genuinely cold weather, despite the likely Christmas connotations of its profile, that seems to choke off Terre, stunting its power (unlike, say, Eau Sauvage Parfum, which thrives in frigid temperatures). So that’s it really. I guess I feel like Terre d’Hermès neither deserves the fawning praise of the masses or the scorn of the elites. It’s good, it’s a little weird but it’s never freaky or funky. A solid pick for daytime, especially causal rather than office use, or a night out with friends or a committed partner. You’ll smell good, you’ll smell like a piney orange and you’ll smell classy. But if you’re like me, you won’t want to smell like this all the time. Terre d’Hermès will likely be a solid addition to your collection for occasional use — it is definitely distinctive! — but not a signature fragrance. Frankly, the world of cologne is much more interesting and far ranging than this simple, straightforward beast.

Men’s Cologne — Lauder for Men

My renewed interest in exploring men’s fragrance began after I had been wearing Armani Eau Pour Homme for over a decade as essentially my signature scent. I always felt that if I had my cologne figured out why bother changing it up too much? Eventually, though, I found myself increasingly bored wearing the Armani day in and day out, craving a bit more variety to my scent life. More than that, while always pleasant it started to go missing after about an hour. Yes, it still remained present as a skin scent (something you really have to put your nose close to to smell) but I wondered if continual reformulation through the years hadn’t neutered it, a common problem with classic colognes. Most of all, though, I came to realize I was looking for something to break the monotony and break out of my olfactory ennui. So I started doing some research, going to the local Sephora for samples, reading Fragrantica and looking at some opinionated men’s perfume blogs like Pour Monsieur and From Pyrgos. That piqued my curiosity to try new things, change it up and give several other colognes a chance. And one of the pleasures of this new scent journey has been finding out just how much variety there is in good men’s cologne these days, as well as how much wearing different fragrances for different occasions and circumstances can give you both personal enjoyment and a leg up in terms of confidence and polish to one’s sense of style.

So let’s talk about one of my new favorites, Estée Lauder’s Lauder for Men. Now, Lauder for Men is not a new scent at all, just new to me. It was created way back in 1985, in what some consider the golden age of power fragrances. But Lauder for Men is not a typical 80s badass like Drakkar Noir, Kouros or Lapidus. In fact, it seems to harken further back to more restrained, less spicy aromatic fougéres of the 60s and 70s. There is nothing ballsy, hairy chested or in your face about Lauder for Men. It opens crisp and green with pleasingly bracing notes of juniper and clary sage. This is freshness in a bottle, a classic cologne smell with the longevity of an Eau de Toilette. There’s also a pleasant hint of sweeter citrus — lemon and mandarin orange peel — to balance out the galbanum, though I don’t really get the cardamon or coriander listed in the notes in my modern formulation.

Not just for your gin Martini!

Not just for your gin Martini!

The dry down is equally lovely, the green vibe lingering  for certain but opening up with pleasant notes of masculine flowers like carnation, jasmine, lily of the valley and rose. Continue reading

New feature — Men’s Cologne (Introduction)

Because looking good is only half the battle we’re starting a new feature here on MFL: Men’s Cologne. After all, when you’re suited & booted for work or play you want to smell just as fine as your outift, don’t you? Now, we don’t claim to be the world’s greatest experts on men’s scents or be the biggest noses (that’s perfume speak for “connoisseur”). But we know what smells good to us. We don’t really mess around with unisex scents or go in much for stuff that smells like a fudge browny. We’re also not afraid to go back in time to pick something classic from the 70s or the 80s or even older. Who says you can’t wear something your dad rocked back in the day? On rare occasions sometimes we may even go hunting an old vintage or discontinued frag. But we’re definitely not afraid to try something new or popular.

That said, we also don’t want to be identified as “Cologne Guy.” A man’s fragrance should certainly be noticed in a positive fashion, maybe even complimented, but it shouldn’t speak louder than he does or try too hard. When you’ve got the right cologne on it compliments but doesn’t drown out your other positive qualities. In other words, you don’t want people saying “Nice suit but what the hell was that smell?” In short, we want to smell manly and good, just as a guy should, and from here on out we’ll be sharing our favorite and not so favorite colognes with you and our honest opinions of them. If you’re then tempted to try one or two on our recommendation then have at it. Keep in mind that smell is a very personal sense and you may not always agree with what we choose to wear. But we think that more often than not you’ll like what we’re spritzing on, as well as our advice on how and where to use it. It’s a big wide world out there and smell is one of the most subliminal and effective ways to communicate your own personal cool — might as well try out some new fragrances to help you feel your best and put the finishing touches on your style.

Alain Delon of the past helps sell Dior's new Eau Sauvage Parfum today

Alain Delon of the past helps sell Dior’s new Eau Sauvage Parfum today

Before we get to the reviews, here are a few basics on terminology that will make the discussion easier.

Basic concentrations of cologne by strength:

  • Eau de Cologne (EDC) — Generally a lighter grade of scent, perhaps a little stronger than aftershave but doesn’t last long and generally is not that powerful smelling, though some may start out strong/loud. Most EDC’s are sort of eye openers to start the day before graduating to something more substantial.
  • Eau de Toillette (EDT) — The most common strength for most premium men’s fragrances — you & I may refer to it as “cologne” but chances are any given fragrance off the shelf with any lasting power is going to be an Eau de Toilette. Can be strong and long lasting depending on the scent but generally reasonably moderate in both departments.
  • Eau de Parfum (EDP) —  A stronger concentration than an EDT, an Eau de Parfum allows the perfumer to enhance the depth and lasting power of a fragrance generally speaking. While it should always smell similar to the EDP version, an EDP (often marketed as “intense” these days) can also take some liberties that essentially turn it into an entirely new scent (for example the differences between the classic Eau Sauvage by Dior and the modern EDP version). Generally powerful and long lasting and for guys who are comfortable wearing something with a lot of strength behind it. When in doubt, start with the Eau de Toilette then graduate to the Eau de Parfum.
  • Parfum — Also called simply Perfume or extrait de parfum/perfume extract, this is the least diluted strength of a fragrance and therefore the most powerful. This doesn’t really come up that often for men’s scents unless you are deep into intense fragrance and are a niche fan or serious scent head. Only for the very brave, ballsy and experienced.

Important Qualities for a Fragrance:

  • Longevity: Self-explanitory, this is how long a fragrance lasts. This can vary from person to person depending on skin type and other factors like the weather like temperature and relative humidity. This is not directly connected to the power of the fragrance per se, as even when your cologne is no longer making an impression on anyone more than a foot away, if you can still smell it on your skin (“skin scent”) then that still represents longevity. And more often than not, fragrances linger longer on clothing than on one’s skin.
  • Sillage: A French word (pronounced see-yazh) that refers to your personal vapor trail while wearing a fragrance. It essentially defines the way your cologne wafts in the air and can be detected by others. Generally speaking, if you are wearing something pleasant and that you like, sillage is desirable in that you are making a statement with your cologne so other people should be able to detect it in a subtle but perceptible manner.
  • Projection: Sometimes used interchangeably with sillage, projection is slightly different in that it refers to the sort of radius that your chosen scent throws off. Does your cologne enter the room before you do? That’s projection. If you gesture with your hands a few hours after applying your cologne and a pleasant waft of it is newly stirred up, that is more like sillage. Some people love colognes with a lot of projection and some prefer to keep it a bit closer to the body. Depends on what kind of guy you are, the social setting you’re in — maybe what you wear to a nightclub is not so appropriate for the office — and how much of a statement you want to make.

Continue reading