Welcome to our series, My Life in Perfume. We’re asking our favourite fragrance fans to reveal all – from their first perfume purchase to their signature aroma; here are their scent stories…
Haydn is a fragrance enthusiast who writes about all things scent and men’s grooming on his website, You Smell Great! What Is It? and Grazia. He has an incredible knack for describing aromas so that everyone can understand, no matter their fragrance knowledge, which is why he’s one of our favourites!
Haydn loves all things fragrance; it’s his biggest passion that he fits around his full-time career in the music industry. Let’s take a look back over this life in perfume…
My First Perfume
My first perfume was more of an ‘aftershave lotion’. It was a brand called Insignia in the late-80s. I was around 16 at the time and making my first forays into the world of shaving. It was a glass bottle with a blue plastic lid (classy) and the range encompassed deodorant, balm, colognes – and a deep blue shower gel!
I vividly remember the TV advert with a great jingle (as ALL good 80s adverts did!). “It’s new Insignia – and it’s all over now” – to the tune of The Rolling Stones’ song It’s All Over Now. I don’t remember much about what the smell was like, but I’m sure it wasn’t exactly subtle. As I recall, it was citrus and pine – the sweet smell of nostalgia.
My First Perfume Purchase
The original dunhill was my first purchase (or maybe it was a Christmas present?). It seemed impossibly glamorous and mature due to its associations with cigars, gentlemen’s clubs and ‘luxe’ living. I remember this one being different from the brands some of my mates were choosing (Kouros, Jazz, etc.), but it appealed to me. I think I was slightly old before my time, and this fragrance was perhaps a symptom. I don’t own a bottle anymore, but I still have a soft spot for it!
My First Mind-Blowing Fragrance
Black Tea from Murdock of London was the first fragrance that properly got me more engaged with perfume. Murdock is a high-end barber brand with a few branches in London. I went for a haircut in their Covent Garden shop, and they offered a spritz of Black Tea, one of their colognes. I immediately loved it and bought a bottle; this was only a few years ago, but it opened my eyes to brands that maybe sit slightly outside mainstream designer brands.
Before that, I thought I’d got a bit bored of perfume/aftershave and (wrongly) felt that they were all pretty similar and generic. Black Tea seemed different. It had a distinctly warm, spicy allure, plus it got loads of compliments when I wore it! It made me think about actual notes and raw materials instead of just designer names and started me on the path to learning more about perfume.
My All-Time Favourite
It’s tricky because different moods, seasons and occasions lead me to different bottles. If I had just one as an all-time favourite, I think it would be Vetiver from Perfumer H. For me, it’s just the perfect fragrance that can take me anywhere. It’s not overpowering; it’s beautifully balanced with the sharpness of grapefruit leading on to the star of the show, the complex woody, earthy Haitian vetiver. It’s addictive.
My Everyday Scent
If I look at my shelf and can’t decide, I will invariably reach for Essenza from Acqua Di Parma. It’s my favourite from the range. The classic clean, soapy barbershop profile is redefined with more neroli, bergamot, and aromatics. One spray, and I’m transported to the Italian Riviera. It’s classy, fresh and easygoing, the classic well-tailored blazer of the perfume world. It’s basically George Clooney in perfume form!
My Most Sentimental Perfume
Cedarwood Heart from Ostens is a fragrance with an old school elegance and charm. It’s woody, enveloping and smoky. For some reason, it reminds me of my late grandad smoking his pipe – and going through the peculiar rituals associated with it. It’s reassuring and strangely emotional – so much so that I bought a bottle for my Dad!
My Favourite Brands
Acqua Di Parma – I think they rarely put a foot wrong. I love that classic ‘barbershop’ profile, so ADP classics like ‘Colonia’ and ‘Essenza’ really hit the spot for me. I love the Barbiere range too. It’s such a luxurious treat to carry the iconic scent into toiletries and grooming. The shampoo, face wash and hair cream are now part of my bathroom staples.
Perfumer H – Lyn Harris is a perfumer whose work I greatly admire. Her shop/studio in Marylebone is like a mecca for me, and her compositions seem to chime with the kind of perfume I like. They are not particularly loud or ‘showy’, with minimal branding or promotion, just beautifully put together with the ingredients as the main event – precisely as it should be.
Maya Njie – Maya is an indie perfumer from London who makes some of my favourite fragrances. She approaches perfume from a visual and artistic point of view, often using photography as her inspiration. Her latest release, ‘Voyeur Verde’, is well worth checking out. A gorgeous sparkly citrus opening then warmed through with patchouli, leather and cedarwood. It’s incredible!
My Perfume Collection
I’ve only really started what might be called a ‘collection’ over the last few years. It’s a combination of bottles I’ve bought and ones I’ve been lucky enough to be given to review for Grazia and other publications. I try to keep it tightly edited to ones I really like and will continue to wear, so I guess there are about 40 bottles. It’s definitely a bigger collection than some – but nowhere near some that I’ve seen on social media with multiple shelves or even a dedicated room! In terms of brands that feature heavily, there are a fair few from Diptyque, Acqua Di Parma and Perfumer H. All the bottles are on the second shelf above my desk. It’s a good place for them but not the best way to display them. Maybe if the collection expands further, I’ll have to find a new place.