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June 19, 2006

Top Ten Favorite Men’s Fragrances


The Father’s Day was yesterday, and in keeping with the theme, I would like to offer a list of top ten masculine fragrances that I find simply outstanding, whether I wear them myself or not. Although the line between feminine and masculine can be somewhat arbitrary, the labeling can be useful as shorthand for identifying particular families and styles. By way of example, fougère is a family that for the most part finds its way into the masculine fragrances; therefore, for women who love the aromatic interplay marking the compositions in this genre, the masculine market will offer many interesting options, from the classics like Caron Third Man to the new releases like L’Artisan Fou d’Absinthe. It is also fascinating to observe the emergence of new trends and techniques in the masculine domain. Ultimately, the decision to designate something as pour homme or pour femme must be a personal one.

1. Azzaro Pour Homme by Azzaro

The first time I smelled Azzaro Pour Homme I could not believe that I have never seen it at Sephora alongside Chrome, another wonderful Azzaro fougère. The truth of the matter is that Pour Homme is gorgeous. It can be described as the olfactory fireworks—the initial aromatic explosion is followed by the warm mellow drydown. Although many modern fragrances employ this technique, Azzaro Pour Homme still remains exciting.

2. Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior

One cannot make a list of great masculine fragrances without mentioning Eau Sauvage, for the simple reason that although it was created in 1966, it is still just as modern and fascinating. My bottle of Eau Sauvage is always within a reach should I need a great perfume reference.

3. Équipage by Hermès

Guy Robert’s composition for Hermès does not play along the expected rules of a masculine fragrance. What I love about it the most is the blossoming of a carnation in the heart, which adds an unexpected twist. Overall, it is stunning from the top to the base notes.

4. Fahrenheit by Christian Dior

Fahrenheit is the scent of city in the summer—the hot asphalt, the hazy fog of car exhaust around the concrete buildings, and the unexpected green freshness of chestnut tree leaves. As hard as I try, the vision of Kiev in the summer is what Fahrenheit conjures for me, probably because it is indelibly linked with my memories of the early 1990s, my teenage years spent in Ukraine. The nostalgic recollections aside, it is a great fragrance, maintaining a certain interesting tension that adds to its beauty and intrigue.

5. Fou d’Absinthe by L’Artisan Parfumeur

The newest Olivia Giacobetti creation for L’Artisan Parfumeur is designated as a masculine fragrance, although it should not prevent women from sampling it. This classical fougère offers a resinous and spicy take on the absinthe theme, and it has been quite a welcome addition to my staples this summer.

6. Habit Rouge by Guerlain

Jean-Paul Guerlain beautifully refashions Shalimar’s theme in Habit Rouge, accenting the same exhilarating contrast between the citrusy top and the warm oriental base notes, while marking it with a tinge of incense smoke.

7. Marc Jacobs for Men by Marc Jacobs

An elegant fig accord on a beautiful base of woods and musks, this must be one of my favorite Marc Jacobs fragrances. Out of the numerous fig renditions that have entered the market after the trendsetting L’Artisan Premier Figuier, Ralf Schwieger’s (Lipstick Rose by Frédéric Malle, Eau de Merveilles by Hermès) composition ranks at the top of my list due to its modern, edgy quality.

8. Pour Monsieur by Chanel

I first sought out Pour Monsieur when I heard Michael Edwards, the fragrance expert and author, refer to it as the closest match to Coty Chypre (1917), a fragrance that influenced the entire chypre family marked by the characteristic interplay between the fresh hesperidic top, jasmine and rose embellished heart and patchouli, oakmoss and labdanum enriched base. Indeed, Pour Monsieur is a more elegant version of the roughewn Chypre and a great example of Henri Robert’s talent (Chanel Cristalle, No. 19).

9. Third Man/Le 3ème Homme de Caron

I listed Caron masculines among my favorite discoveries of the last year, and Third Man/Le 3ème Homme de Caron has entered my repertoire on a permanent basis. I find this smoky floral fougère to be irresistible. Another fragrance that offers a similar take on the theme is Nicolaï Pour Homme.

10. Vetiver de Guerlain by Guerlain

What else can be said to recommend this gold standard of vetiver fragrances? It is stunning on a man, remarkably sexy on a woman, and it is just simply excellent. Even a slight reformulation that made Vetiver fresher and airier did not ruin this gem. Vetiver pour Elle is likewise worthy of seeking out for a crystalline floral harmony against a transparent vision of the roots.

11. Yohji Homme by Yohji Yamamoto

Well, the rules are meant to be broken, and I could not resist adding an eleventh favorite.  Yohji Homme's rum and coffee notes set against the luscious woody backdrop endow the entire composition with an abstractly gourmand quality that its creator Jean-Michel Duriez executes remarkably well. 

Even so, this list is hardly exhaustive, and I would like to point out a few more interesting compositions, focusing specifically on the newer releases: Arpège Pour Homme by Lanvin, Be Delicious for Men by Donna Karan, Dior Homme by Christian Dior, Divine L’Homme de Coeur, L’Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme, Terre d’Hermès.

Azzaro Pour Homme ad from Parfum de Pub.



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