When I first started getting into perfume, and if you have read my column regularly, you will know that I am really into perfume; I was all about the wacky, weird and wonderful. For a fragrance to hold my interest, it had to be different – different from anything I’d smelled before but also different from what everyone else was wearing.
This, dear reader, I like to refer as my ‘scent snobbery’ phase and it’s one many of us go through. You see, when the door to the rabbit hole of perfume is opened, one is overwhelmed by an overflowing sweet shop of scent, and it’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of wearing things that the hoi polloi haven’t even heard of.
But now? Well now, scent for me is all about smelling good above all else. I still love my weird and wacky fragrances, but I can appreciate an innovative, avant-garde niche just as much as I can the simplest of Eau de Colognes. So this piece, in a way, is a celebration of both these things: of colognes, but the subversive and quirky too. I’ve collected four fragrances, some new, some old, some that I like to throw on as liberally as a cologne to bring me an air of sophistication and freshness. These are my colognes in spirit!
#1 GUERLAIN L’Homme Ideal Cool
Let’s start with something new and exciting. L’Homme Ideal, GUERLAIN’s ideal man is a punky and sexy blend of almond and woods that is about as much fun one can have in a fragrance. It’s been a big hit for the brand and has inspired several flankers, the latest of which is L’Homme Ideal Cool – officially the suavest cat on the block.
L’Homme Ideal Cool boasts coolness in the form of a prominent mint accord that is sweet and bracing. This mingles excitedly with bergamot and orange, which creates a tart, fizzy freshness. Neroli, a staple of the classic Eau de Cologne, is given volume and lift by a swooping aquatic accord, together creating an energetic, weightless quality as accents of almond, vetiver and patchouli bring the signature core of the original into play. It’s THE perfect scent for summer 2019, especially if you’re the kind of guy who knows how to have a good time…
#2 Juliette Has a Gun Gentlewoman
Gentlewoman is the perfect upside down cologne for this topsy-turvy. Inspired by masculine colognes, this bold fragrance by Juliette Has a Gun (a subversive outfit if there ever was one) plays on the idea of androgyny by taking something associated with men – the classic eau de cologne – and twisting it so that the lines between male and female blur beautifully.
In Gentlewoman, the neroli and orange blossom notes are dialled-up to a riotous 9. They become powdery and feminine, while notes of lavender and coumarin ground them into masculine territory. Musk makes the whole thing large and diffusive, grabbing attention with a big, white cloud. Is it a cologne? Is it a fougere? Is it for men or is it for women? Does that matter? My advice: don’t try to define it, just enjoy the ride and the fact that you will leave everybody guessing.
#3 Prada Amber Pour Homme
So, objectively speaking, this one is not a cologne in any way, shape or form, which may lead one to wonder why it has been included in a round-up of Eau de Colognes. But remember, this is a quirky and mystifying look at colognes so just go with it…
Despite its fougere-like barbershopness, Prada’s debut masculine is a scent that one can spritz on as liberally as a cologne, acting as a more luxurious, more suave alternative. It’s been a staple of mine for many years, and as far as I am concerned, that is enough endorsement.
I’d classify this fragrance as a light barbershop amber. It’s a dandy-esque fragrance that evokes the image of a man with delicate, porcelain features and an annoyingly-suave sense of style. It smells fresh, with zesty bergamot and cooling geranium. Orange blossom, vetiver, amber and sandalwood create a velvet-like plushness that is cashmere in texture and pale violet in colour. It’s truly beautiful and serves a reminder that very few fashion brands do things quite as breathtaking as Prada.
#4 Calvin Klein CK One
What more can anyone say about CK One that hasn’t been said already? Hundreds of people will have already talked about how it put unisex fragrances on the map (it wasn’t the first, but it was the first to really break through). They’ve also talked at length about the innovative way synthetic materials were used to create a new type of cologne – a cologne that did not smell natural, and they’ve certainly waxed lyrical about how it was the perfect representation of 90s blaze “I don’t give a… you know what” culture.
So yeah, what else is there to say about CK One? Just that it’s great and everybody should have a bottle, I guess. Best leave it there…
#5 YSL Jazz
We started our subversive cologne journey with something brand new and exciting, so it makes sense to end with something classic but just as interesting: Jazz by YSL. I adore Jazz, and to me, it is the smell of well-kept men – of guys who look after themselves and give off that very French carefree vibe. They are the guys who don’t have to try hard to look good – they just do. I’m equal parts jealous of them and enraptured by them if I’m honest.
Jazz launched in 1988, and while it may have had many contemporaries, it has stood the test of time where similar scents have fallen by the wayside. It’s essentially a fresh fougere with delightful citrus notes and a sexy, herbaceous grin. I like Jazz because it feels effortless – it doesn’t have to be gimmicky to be good, it just is, and wearing it is like humming a catchy tune – fun, fashionable and friendly. Just like the music from which it takes its name, YSL’s Jazz will never go out of style.