Friday, June 19, 2009

Top 10 Memorable Masculine Fragrances

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 and with Claudia Cardinale in El Gatopardo via Burt Lancaster pic via armyfamilyok.files.wordpress


  1. Petals11:35

    Great Post! My own favourite on men

    Guerlain vintage Vetiver
    Old Spice
    Boucheron Jaipur
    Yohji Homme
    Chanel Egoiste
    Gucci Envy
    Dior Homme
    PdN New York
    (would like to squeeze in Guerlain Heritage and Mouchoir somewhere!)

  2. Hi T!!

    Love your list!!
    I had great trouble trying to limiti myself to only 10 (and trying to keep them memorable too instead of "groundbreaking" or "classic"), but I would have liked to include Kouros (although I opted for MKK instead) and Egoiste (but opted for HR instead). Heritage is another one I really love, but I already had two Guerlains listed, it seemed much.

    HOpe you're well! :-)

  3. Alexandra12:30

    I would add Jacomo by Jacomo (my father wears Jacomo and Yatagan). Jil Sander Woman III is one great masculine cologne.

  4. Fiordiligi12:35

    Lovely idea for a post, dear E!

    I am glad you have included my beloved Guerlains but I have to add Pour un Homme de Caron, Hermes Equipage and Knize Ten, all of which Mr F wears beautifully!

    Eau Sauvage also belongs in the list of greats, I believe.

  5. A,

    thanks! Taking in mind I love acomo's Silences, I think I should retest Jacomo by Jacomo. Highly ironic that JS named it thus! :-)

  6. D,

    thank you honey for your personally memorable scents!
    To make myself a little clearer on this, I opted not to do a list of "greats", but rather a list of personal "memorables" (to me, to us, to them) on purpose. (Otherwise it would be a rehash of every classic in existence in which list of course ES features prominently!).

  7. Oh and D,

    got that something special in the mail, thanks! (haven't checked it out yet, but will do so at home in the evening)


  8. Fiordiligi13:32

    Ooops sorry E - got carried away with the idea of gorgeous scents for men!

    By the way thank you for the gorgeous photo of Alain Delon, too...

    Glad you got the DVD - enjoy!

  9. ooh how lovely. I'm going to join in- my tastes in men's scents are much traditional than in women's.

    Amongst those I love

    CDG Avignon
    CDG Kyoto
    Penhaligon's Blenheim Bouquet and Castille
    Monsieur Balmain
    Acqua Di Parma colonia
    Creed Green Irish Tweed
    Armani Code (I know but it smells amazing!!)
    Rosine Pour Homme
    Guerlain vetiver (of course)
    Sel de vetiver (very good on a man)

  10. Wonderful lists! I was pleased to see Aramis, which was worn by my favorite HS teacher, so it has nice memories for me.

    Two more I love from long acquaintance: Chanel pour Monsieur and Givenchy Gentleman.

  11. Mike Perez15:18

    I pondered for a while about adding Eau Savage to my list Fiordiligi - but alas, it's one masculine classic that I do not own and that no male in my family wore.

    Nonetheless it's a Dior/Roudnitska classic.

    One big one that I wanted to add was Ambre Sultan by Serge Lutens. But, you know, a list of Ten must be a list of Ten. :)

  12. Hi, E -- What a fun post. Your list of memorables is almost identical to my personal list of favourites, so now I must seek out the one I haven't tried (Pontevecchio Colonia Maxima).

    My dad wore Old Spice for years, and I loved it. At some point, however, he switched to Brut, which I hated. I never convinced him to switch back, but recently, I got him to start wearing Hermès Eau d'Orange Verte.

  13. Great list! I got a few there even though I'm still in my early 20's! If I could find good low prices on Derby, Chanel PM, Equipage and Bel-Ami I'd get them!

  14. D,

    no need to apologise. I get carried away myself so often!

    HUgs!! :-)

  15. K,

    lovely choices!
    I have ommited lots of the usual suspects, like CDG, PG, FM etc because they're marketed as unisex. I like the two incenses and find Monsieur Balmain sadly underappreciated: perhaps I should review it one of these days!

  16. M,

    thanks darling!
    I think we (at least those of the right age-frame) all know of someone who wore Aramis with applomb! Hoe lovely for you.

    I was this close to including Givenchy Gentleman which was for years my grandfather's (and for a shorter while my SO's) scent: it's VERY alluring, but they have changed it a while ago.... :-(

  17. M,

    good reasoning.

    It's surprising neither of us included a big old amber there. I was about to mention Obsession for Men (which I have fond associations of) yet didn't people overdo this one? Perhaps PdE Ambre Russe might do!

  18. Hi J!

    Thanks for your kind words. I like to think that these lists should be a little fun and plenty of personal. :-)
    Glad we have so many in common and I think you'd like the POntevecchio, it's a very classic, refined masculine lightly done, fit for all seasons.

    Old Spice is fabulous, I don't know why it's looked down upon. It's plain and simple good stuff! Brut used to be....well, brutish, but I sort of liked it in that 70s-ladden sort of way (rugged, longish hair, open shirts and jeans with big buckles). Then they changed it irrevocably and poof! the dare was gone.
    Your choice for your dad is tasteful and very pretty: I can't think of anyone objecting to such a happy, zingy smell.

  19. Juan,

    welcome and glad you enjoyed the list!
    Yeah, ain't that the truth...High prices are really rather annoying when they keep young people with good taste from acquiring and actually wearing fine scents. But I think you're on the good way anyway! :-)

  20. Old Old Spice would definitely figure on my own list of male "memorables," thanks to Dad, and Aramis, thanks to that first fabulous kiss. ;) An American childhood and coming of age, but of course.

  21. Rappleyea22:45

    My list would be identical to ScentScelf above, but both Old Spice and later Aramis attributed to my great Dad.

    It took me a few minutes to recall first kiss and then of all things what he smelled like, but I think it was Canoe or British Sterling.

    Fun post!

  22. Anonymous23:14

    My first thought when checking Gaia's list and the ones here was -- gasp! No Eau Sauvage?!! Definitely my top men's fragrance of all time. No Old Spice?! (my dad's!!) But I have been beaten to it!

    Next, I would add FM's French Lover and Bigarade, followed by Yatagan and Habit Rouge.

    Personally, I cannot get enough of Let Me Play the Lion, Voleur des Roses, and Timbuktu. Habit Rouge.

    The last spot goes to a vetiver, which is a toss-up between FM's Vetiver Extraordinaire and Encre Noire.

  23. PhinClio05:16

    I would include Eau d'Hermes--mentioned in passing by Helg--in my Top 10 list. Others bearing mention would include: Chanel Pour Monsieur (the original, not Concentree) and Caron's Third Man.

  24. S,

    hi there, hope you're very well, darling! (missed your entries)

    An American childhood and coming of age sounds pretty good to me! (love those two scents)

  25. D,

    now, there you have me: I have never smelled Canoe or British Sterling! (Is it a US thing? Never saw it in the UK)
    Cultural shortcomings...

  26. Anon,

    indeed we have both decided to be a little uncinventional and unexpected! We figured what would a top 10 masculine fragrances list include? The usual suspects: Eau Sauvage, Guerlain's Vetiver, Caron pour un Homme (and maybe the 3eme Homme, excellent choice on your part!), Azzaro pour Homme perhaps, Green Irish Tweed due to popularity maybe. And then decided to be...unusual.

    Love your choices, though! Perhaps the only reason I left out L'artisan, Malle, Les Nez etc. is because they don't market their scents as gender-specific (then neither does SL and I included one, but that was because I have always wanted to smell MMK on a man).
    It's amazing how a good vetiver scent makes for an excellent masculine cologne: instant elegance and some rugged masculinity.

  27. PC,

    those are great scents too! (btw, I think EdH would make for more memories than the other two, due to its unconventional and distinct nature that resembles nothing.)

  28. Oh Helg, my husband just won't wear after shave!! Yeah - and married to me , a perfume lover! LOL
    Its a waste of time buying him some (daughter and I have done this along time ago- goes in a cupboard and goes "off") but I do love Eau Savage!

  29. Rappleyea15:14

    This is certainly a red letter date (Summer Solstice I guess!) if I can tell YOU something about a fragrance. LOL!!!

    Canoe was created by Jean Carles for Dana in 1935. I always thought the later Ambush by Dana (for women) was a dead ringer for it. Also, both smelled quite a lot like the later Obsession. Nothing new under the sun. From what I can gather, Dana went off the market and was re-released in 1996.

    British Sterling was another Dana men's cologne, released in 1965. Both of these are available from the online discounters.

  30. D,

    LOL!! I'm sure you know things I don't know, don't underestimate yourself.
    What I meant is I have no idea how these smelled/smell like apart from having read about them.
    I live in hope though! :-)

  31. Elena & Mike: Oh how I love lists, although they only serve to make my own "must try" list even longer. And there are so many of yours I haven't tried!

    E, I was lucky to recently get in on a split of Sycomore -- if it's not being marketed overtly to men it certainly should be. I haven't tried the original Aramis, but I once loved Tuscany and still own the better part of a very large bottle; a classic, IMO.

    Mike, you mention the melancholy aspect of Grey Flannel; I wore it in my very early twenties and I grow wistful thinking of that much more innocent, long-ago period of my life.

    Some personal favorites: Terre d'Hermes and the famous/infamous Kouros. A recent discovery and love (and I don't know if the line is considered totally unisex) is Profumum Victrix: delicious!

  32. J,

    thanks for chimming in!!

    Sycomore is definitely the more "obviously" masculine in the line although I wear it very comfortably.
    Tuscany.....what you're reminding me of. I remember those two, the men's and the women's. Are they still around?

    Terre d'Hermes is a very solidly built modern classic in my opinion and Kouros is one of my personal favourites for years (review).
    I haven't tested Victrix yet: how exciting, you gave me desire to now!

  33. Hi, Thanks for the list, But all Guerlain Fragrances are now banned from my home. I have poured what I had down the toilet in response to the mauling of Octavian...

  34. Great to hear about British Sterling. I remember when colognes had a rich mix of flowers and herbs and were unapologetically masculine.

    I enjoy a lot of modern scents but I'm still drawn to the richly fragrant scents developed in the 80s and before. I also really like colognes with lavender and oakmoss as a base, fragrant fougeres.

  35. Cologne Lover,

    thanks for chimming in!
    Some of the older fragrances had a more direct approach, one that wasn't shy or aiming not to offend. Too much effort not to offend and one ends up with limpid things...
    I believe you should be enjoying Azzaro, Paco Rabanne, perhaps Kouros, Pour un Homme. Do you?

  36. Paul Kiler,

    oh, sorry about that. It is a waste of good juice, although I can understand how you feel bad about it. (On the other hand, I am suspecting this was generated by someone working for the giant corporation, and quite, overeager, who might NOT be specifically employed by GUerlain! Worth a thought...)

  37. Anonymous17:42

    Congratolations! Where did You find those women eager to smell MKK? (smell of faeces!!!) Wow, congrats once more!

  38. Anon,

    you must be joking right? :-P


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