With unlikely top notes and complex molecules – smoky wood, chilli, Chinese moss and white florals – today’s colognes are anything but boring. better yet, you can buy them for him and then borrow
Photographs and reviews by Clayton Ilolahia
“The untold story behind a perfume is as fascinating as the perfume itself,” says Clayton Ilolahia the serious-minded author of the fragrance site, What Men Should Smell Like. His obsession with cologne was first ignited in his teens by a bottle of Yves Saint Laurent’s Pour Homme, and today the Sydney-based writer continues to take a romantic yet analytical approach to fragrance saying, “Like any good book, a good perfume will captivate the attention of those who come in contact with it.” Here, the fragrances high on his gift list.
- 1. Poivre Samarcande by Hermès: An oak tree that grew in perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena’s Mediterranean backyard inspired Poivre Samarcande’s mellow woody character. In time the tree grew ill and had to be felled. Ellena says the scent of cut wood was etched in his memory and the soul of the old oak, mixed with pepper, lives on in this fragrance. The name also evokes images of dusty roads followed for centuries by travellers on the eastern spice routes – traces of chilli are used to bring out fire in the composition, while oak, cedar and Chinese moss are the heavier notes that carry the fragrance to its end.
- How to wear it: This is a versatile scent that suits most men and Ellena’s stylistic charm radiates through. Subtle and translucent, it is one I feel confident wearing in every situation.
- 2. Chanel Sycomore: A wonderful collaboration between perfumers, Jacques Polge and Christopher Sheldrake, Sycomore is unusual in the way its scent unfolds: the citrus notes are short-lived giving way to smoke, hazelnut and an abstract composition of green florals, while the bitterness of vetiver is tempered by the presence of vanilla and peppery spices. Sycomore is the 11th release in Chanel’s Les Exclusifs range, available exclusively from the house's boutiques.
- How to wear it: Wearing a Chanel fragrance is similar to wearing a Chanel suit: it’s a sophisticated scent and deserves a sophisticated audience. Reserve it for dinners, special occasions or events.
- 3. Gypsy Water by Byredo Parfums: Byredo fragrances often have a quirky sense of seemingly pixelated notes: a dash of one molecule that represents an entire flower or wood that comparatively contains hundreds of molecules in the natural world. It begins with tart notes of lemon and bergamot, while juniper berry adds a fruity facet leading to a forest of pine needles. Vanilla makes the scent more compatible with skin and milky sandalwood adds character.
- How to wear it: Gypsy Water is softly spoken. For me, it is a great choice for a casual evening out with friends, a weekend stroll or a day in the office; the timber note will give you comfort on a cold day.
- 4. Jonquille de Nuit by Tom Ford: It’s true, jasmine has its share of haters, while tuberose has an even more distinctive signature. Tom Ford clearly wanted to stay ahead of the trend launching four private blends that walk a floral path less taken. For me, Jonquille de Nuit stands above the others in his collection, I love the complexity of its green and white florals. Like most Tom Ford perfumes, this addition aims to be intoxicating, sophisticated and sensual. It's marketed as a unisex fragrance even though it has all of the hallmarks of a classic feminine floral.
- How to wear it: This is a vibrant fresh floral I enjoyed wearing on my recent holiday; it feels carefree and adventurous.