A Man for all Scents

The scent of things to come: this season’s most alluring aromas

Words by Luke Singleton

Images by David Newton

With each year, an expanding number of niche brands are hitting the fragrance counter: stacked up in Liberty’s mock-Tudor passageways, running riot in the marbled concourse at Selfridge’s, or springing up in your recommendations from Mr. Porter.  Tempting, as it may be, to stick simply to what is familiar, the perfume industry is always evolving, principally for the better but simultaneous to our sliding tastes and lifestyles.  The result is this: brands that felt current before have reached saturation level and now seem cliquish and boring.  We are in dichotomous times anyway- why would we all want to smell the same?  The current rotary of bestsellers lie in men breaking with convention to embrace botanical scents and derivative florals, whilst across binary lines, women are wiping off their make-up to march Washington, smelling of Tobacco Noir and Colonia Leather!  Yes, unisex is the new norm- no big whoop.  However, some brands are capitalizing on this nonconformity and the effect feels forced and unfashionable.  Here is the actual truth: the most proficient way to deliberate fragrance is not by gender at all; it should be done objectively, through the variety and quality of ingredients.  Cue the flood of artisan perfumes (all with seasonal variations!) a lot of which get it right.  Today our dilemma is too much choice.  So I have searched for smells that feel contemporary for now- not forgetting the classics. Here are a few options, for the timeless or the au courant, for the new or the established… and why.


D.S. & Durga - Rose Atlantic

Uber-cool D.S. & Durga offer unique smells for those with offbeat tastes; inspirations span from cowboys to folksongs and Russian novel characters.  Founded by Brooklynites Kavi andDavid Seth Moltz, the brand began its trajectory from the front room of their Bushwick apartment- early shipments were delivered in personalized hand-stamped boxes.  Today’s stockists include Net-a-Porter and Liberty’s and Vogue covered the opening of their first Brooklyn Atelier last year.  The runaway favourite is Rose Atlantic, with its wonderfully rich full-bloom Rose top note; this floral bouquet combines hydrophytic essences of Dune Grass, salt water and White Moss.  Favourably light-bodied, the result is as cool as Oceanic air but dizzy with romance.


Maison Francis Kurkdjian - APOM pour homme

Unbeatable always in elegance, Francis Kurkdjian’s suave perfumes balance rare and pure essential oils with aplomb and distinction. Launched in France in 2009, one of the first perfumes for Kurkdjian’s eponymous house was APOM, which stands for “A Piece Of Me” and is a reflection on his pilgrimage to Lebanon.  The refined sensibility of this perfume, however, lies in the genteel culture of Paris; there is composure in this palette of bold aromas.  Opulent Amber blends with Cedar with fiery exoticism, re-interpreting an Oriental classic, whilst Fresh Orange Flower spikes its brooding heart.  The only gender-specific perfume on this list, every woman I know tells me they want this for themselves when they smell it on me. 


Frederic Malle - Cologne Bigarade

Within a legion of virtuosos crafting smells for this historic perfume house, Jean-Claude Ellena is an inimitable name.  This signature scent became a classic upon its release in 2001, indomitable in its evocation of minimalism and simplicity.  Ellena is a modern master; the molecular distillation of organic citrus fruits in Bigarade was pioneering for its time and much imitated.  Enclosed within an unfolding flora of Rose, Bigarade has a bitter, citric heart of ripened orange rind, producing a marmalade confection of aromas.  Accords of Cedarwood, grass and hay, clean the nose and provide luscious green enrichment- all within the contemporary allure of Frederic Malle’s mastery.


Jusbox - Black Powder

Rock Music is the ethos behind Jusbox, a new brand from band-mad Milanese siblings the ‘V-Monkeys’, who collaborate with expert noses to create smells inspired by their musical icons.  Riffing on the turbulent power of Kurt Cobain, the agitator-in-chief of American Grunge, their latest offering is Black Powder, a dark medley of exceptional ingredients drummed up by French perfumer Julien Rasquinet.  A smoky heart of suede, frankincense and tobacco is ruptured by the piquancy of patchouli, blackcurrant, pimento and apple, with the knockout effect of a resounding base note.  This perfume evokes the provocative spirit of a wild night out on the tiles.