With Father's Day around the corner, I was contemplating about those formative scents that marked my budding route to the position I am now: The fragrances my parents wore were a constant olfactory homeland, shaping my tastes and creating the desire to at once emulate and differentiate myself from. So today in collaboration with my guest writer Mike Perez and on a joint project with Gaia of The Non Blonde we're listing the top 10 masculine colognes (classic, modern, niche or mainstream) that we feel can fondle the imagination and create a halo of cherished, unforgetable memories to those that come in contact with their wake. And hopefully make the person wearing them seem a little closer even in absentia...
The female perspective: Elena's top 10 list
Aramis for Men by Aramis
Suave name that belies its intentions opening on a crisp note of artemisia and bergamot with intense woodiness, thanks to sandalwood. Composed by Bernand Chant and the male version of Cabochard, Aramis made it OK to leave a bombastic luxurious sillage announcing itself in Wagnerian ouvertures that demanded their own Brunhilde following yet still smells distinguished after all the Polo and the Drakkar Noir.
Bel Ami by Hermès
The most refined and smooth leather scent imaginable, this "beautiful friend" was recently reformulated with more lemony top notes.
Déclaration By Cartier
Modernised version of both Eau d'Hermès and classic Eau Sauvage, Déclaration successfully juxtaposes fresh tonalities with more risqué animal magnetism in an idiosyncratic mix. A slightly cocky chap in pressed chinos enjoys his aromatized inky tea taken in long, sensuous sips while checking the attractive passersby’s. [review link]
Derby by Guerlain
Leather notes rest atop moss and minty herbs, with a thick, spicy clove introduction. Later a floral phase of carnation and jasmine peek through a smooth richness that goes into the forest floor of a traditional men’s fougère. The leather note of a battered jacket has withstood the elements in a battle at some far away place.
Dior Homme by Christian Dior
An iris fragrance for men sounded like an oxymoron a few years back but the grace of Dior Homme shattered preconceptions about what is feminine and what is masculine leaving the choice to us.
Habit Rouge by Guerlain
My father used to wear this one and his tender nature has stayed with me. Named after the red riding jacket of men for going hunting on horses in the english countryside this is both class and comfort in a bottle. It opens with citrus, then meanders along a slightly spicy path to some cinnamon paired with patchouli, finally leaving a subtly leathery, vanillic caress.
Muscs Kublaï Khan by Serge Lutens
Do you hide a man from the souk in your heart? All khol-ed eyes and heavy languorous lips that tell a thousand tales of musk? I'd love to smell this on a man...
Pontevecchio Colonia Maxima by Nobile 1942
A hint of frankincense lends a cool and mysterious tonality to what is essentially a neoclassical masculine composition that recalls silver-screen heroes and their infinite grace. [review link]
Sycomore by Chanel
From the delicately smoky, citrusy trail emphasizing its aristocratic dryness and the subtly cooling, clean muguet notes that complement the Haitian vetiver variety, to the earthy, almost chocolate & licorice-like lasting impression, Sycomore is an object of beauty that speaks without words. [review link]
Vie de Château by Patricia de Nicolaï
So often men searching for an Eau Fraîche fall into the trap of buying a bestseller off Sephora like Cool Water, Aqua di Gio or Kenzo Homme. Go one (OK, three) better and create memories with this unusual choice: posing as an Eau de Cologne (with its grapefruit and herbs), but it's so much more!
The male perspective: Mike Perez's List
1.British Sterling by Dana (My Dad wore this when I was a kid and somehow the scent is inextricably tied to him and the scented handkerchiefs he always kept in his pocket. I’m sure it’s been reformulated, the last time I sneaked a sniff at the pharmacy it smelled weak, pungently metallic and empty. Back then it reeked of warmth, woods and a small whiff of tobacco – the smell of my Dad)
2. Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene (The signature violet leaf fougere – you either love it or you don’t. Affordable classy exuberance. My late grandfather wore this and while I don’t own a bottle of this, just a whiff of GF on someone else makes me melancholic and wistful)
3. Rive Gauche Pour Homme by Yves St. Laurent (When I was growing up, my dad shaved with Barbasol brand shaving foam. RGPH incorporates that retro, barbershop component and adds an extremely compliment gathering, anise prominent, fougère glimmer. One of those scents that I can wear to the gym or the office and it always works)
4. Vetiver by Guerlain (Is any Top 10 list of masculine scents complete, without Guerlain’s Vetiver? I personally wear the harder-to-find vintage Eau de Cologne formula [rectangular non-frosted/striped smooth glass bottle, gold color juice, green label edged in gold]. The salty, crisp vetiver has a more toned down and integrated tobacco note than the ‘new’ EdT. You can splash on liberally – perfect for all climates and occasions. The only fragrance that I own two bottles of)
5. Fumidus by Profumum (Almost an exercise on vetiver: single malt scotch-like top notes, woods, extremely harsh and smoky. An over-the-top masculine that commands attention - yet it dries down to a plush soft and tender peat-wood, creosote aroma. The only drawback is the luxury pricing ($240/100ml) – making it, then, the perfect Father’s Day gift to receive!)
6. Habit Rouge by Guerlain (There are seven different versions: Eau de Cologne, Eau de Toilette, Light [Legere], Eau de Parfum, After Shave, Parfum [Extrait] and the newly released Sport. My favorite is definitely the vintage Eau de Cologne. The animalic-dusty-lemon-vanilla pastry aura is only matched by the equally brilliant feminine counterpart, Shalimar. Essential)
7. Nostalgia by Santa Maria Novella (A list of scents for fathers must include a leather scent, no? Well this one smells like the car engine [under the hood specifically], the leather interior, the leather wrapped steering wheel – winding up with a silky and elegant vanilla finish.)
8. Devin by Aramis (A dash of green galbanum atop a healthy dose of castoreum give this a virile, lived-in-favorite-pair-of-jeans feel. I prefer this masculine chypre over the more formal ones like Derby by Guerlain and Bel Ami by Hermès, and Devin is more affordable & easier to source too.
9. Yatagan by Caron (Resinous, woody, dry, strong, dirty and distinctive enough to smell like nothing you currently own. Enough said: just get a bottle. When you do try to source a vintage bottle from the 1970’s or 80’s: the black capped vintage bottles – the pungent, celery seed top notes are less strident in the vintage bottles)
10. Mouchoir de Monsieur by Guerlain (A quiet, animalic lavender scent that I have recently fallen in love with. This one just reeks of quality ingredients and masterful blending. A subtle scent that speaks in hushed tones, but with a commanding respect. I, myself, am not a father, but if I had children I would want them to remember me with a fragrance that smells like Mouchoir de Monsieur)
Please check The Non Blonde for more memorable masculines!
Related reading on PerfumeShrine: Top 25 of current fragrances we can still enjoy
Pic of Alain Delon in Rocco e i suoi Fratelli via teegardennash.com and with Claudia Cardinale in El Gatopardo via calidoscopio.net. Burt Lancaster pic via armyfamilyok.files.wordpress