There’s that brilliant song by The Courteeners with the line that goes, “You’re not nineteen forever, pull yourselves together”. This is true of course, with one exception, and that’s with family. Everyone has that one relative who refuses to believe you’ve aged a day – since you were nine, or nineteen – and who typically arrives at this time of year bearing a wildly inappropriate gift for your actual age or status.
You’re as old as you feel, they say, but under no circumstances should grown men be receiving ‘fragranced’ body spray, or boxes of ‘smellies’. We require sophisticated, signature scents that will set us apart from the crowd, make us feel like we’re walking an inch taller, and turn heads when we enter the room. Not the kind of stuff that reminds anyone, anywhere, of the pungency of the boy’s changing room at school.
With that in mind, meet 23 of the best signature men’s fragrances that we’ve sniffed all year.
Brioni Eau de Parfum Essentiel
The Brioni scent library continues to grow with Eau de Parfum Essentiel. This green edition contains sparkling top notes of bergamot and cardamom, with a fresh injection of tomato leaves, over a heart of earthy patchouli, an exclusive tonka bean variety, with an enveloping dry down of amber, frankincense and sandalwood.
It’s as well-crafted as a Brioni suit and brings eco-credentials as a 100% natural origin fragrance, housed in a green lacquered glass bottle decorated using water-based, environmentally friendly raw materials in an FSC-certified box.
Brunello Cucinelli Pour Homme
Brunello Cucinelli, the stealth wealth label that dresses the real Logan Roys of the world, was a favoured designer on the set of Succession. Pour Homme marks the label’s first signature scent for men that’s inspired by the rolling hills and natural landscape of the label’s motherland in Umbria, Italy.
Fragrance is that rare occasion where luxury brands release an ‘entry-level’ product that us mere mortals can afford, and the execution here is reassuringly expensive. The bottle is nicely made, with pleasing, contrasting textures of ribbed glass, cool metal and smoothed edges.
Meanwhile the amber liquid within holds aromatic and woody notes of Madagascan black pepper, Calabrian bergamot, Nigerian ginger, juniper berries, cypress, clary sage and Angelica seeds, over base notes of Ambrox Super – a woody, musky amber – and award-winning Clearwood®, a sustainable version of patchouli made from sugar cane.
It’s effortless, Italian sophistication – just like the clothes.
Lalique Encre Indigo
We’re very fond of Encre Noir by master glass artisans Lalique, so the new Encre Indigo is a welcome ‘blue’ addition to our collection. Top notes of juniper berry oil, pink peppercorn and Calabrian bergamot give way to Korean Jukro black tea, saffron and bay oil from Madagascar, underpinned by vetiver oil, patchouli Sulawesi, ambergris and mossy earth.
It’s fresh and a little bit spicy, with a lovely smoky dry down that can take you from day to night and back again.
Bentley Beyond The Collection Magnetic Amber
Swankily packaged in a faux leather box replete with a wood effect-inlay, Bentley always screams luxury – and that’s before we’ve put our grubby mitts on the cut crystal flaçon that’s laid to rest inside.
Magnetic Amber is a very seductive scent that opens with Italian bergamot and rosemary, reveals olibanum oil and cardamom oil in the heart, over base notes of Virginian cedarwood, labdanum, vanilla, tonka bean and white amber.
It looks smarter than anything we have in our drinks cabinet and smells pretty magnificent too.
Savile Row tailor Hackett has tapped legendary Formula One racing driver Jenson Button as the face of its new scent, Hackett Absolute.
Now a trio of fine fragrances, Absolute joins Hackett Essential, a woody fougère with a clean, fresh blend of spices, citrus and amber; and Hackett Bespoke, a woody amber with notes of oak-aged rum, leather and tobacco.
Created by perfumers Jordi Fernández and Marion Costero, Hackett Absolute is a warm woody aromatic juice with fruity, citrus top notes of lemon, lavender, pink pepper and apple; a floral, spicy heart of violet leaves, iris, geranium and cardamon; and a rich base of cedarwood, dry amber, vanilla and a Royal Oak accord.
We particularly like the dry down on the skin – it’s powdery and musky and an all-round great scent for any occasion.
L’Objet Côté Maquis
The first fragrance collection from L’Objet comes from a collaboration between creative director, Elad Yifrach, and perfumer Yann Vasnier. The bottle, unsurprisingly, is an object worthy of our admiration – much like the distinctive homewares the brand is known for. Each perfume is adorned with a spherical, crackle-glazed cap and contained in a simple black glass bottle adorned with white lettering. It’s one to be left proudly on display and not hidden in a bathroom cabinet.
Côté Maquis, is our seasonal pick of the four covetable scents. Côté Maquis carries notes of salty air, incense, cashmere woods and golden labdanum, and with shades of pine and churches, it smells very fitting for this time of year.
The quartet is also available in bath salts, and hand and body lotion for the full body experience.
Blaze a memorable trail across the bar in this heavy hitter from Byredo. Powerful and deep, Animalique takes inspiration from primal instincts and spirit animals – think less cutesy, fluffy bunny and more wilder, growling types.
The fresh top notes of bergamot and lemon quickly give way to a warm heart of mimosa, violet and white suede, before it gets a little dirty and feral with amber, sandalwood and tobacco leaves. Despite its bestial undertones, it’s suitable for vegans.
Jo Malone Special-Edition Cypress & Grapevine Cologne Intense
No one can fault Jo Malone’s ability to bring on the seasonal cheer, however this special striped edition of Cypress & Grapevine is a rather elegant alternative to festive favourites, Ginger Biscuit and Orange Bitters.
With resinous notes of cypress, vetiver, warm amber and earthy moss, it’s a very green, aromatic and masculine scent.
Valentino Uomo Born in Roma Rockstud Noir
We love the original Valentino Uomo, and this punky iteration gets a full matte black makeover. The juice is laden with Italian bergamot and sage heart Provence over an ambergris accord in the base.
It’s an aromatic citrus, which isn’t really what the name or the look suggests, but this is distinctly fresh and clean, as opposed to dirty or grungey.
Buly 1803 Eau Triple Les Jardins Français
Seeds are important: the presence of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway should convey the importance of collecting and preserving the genetic heritage of our flora and fauna. In a similar vein, French apothecary Buly has plundered the archives of heirloom seeds and seedlings of 18th- and 19th-century botanists to create Les Jardins Français de L’Officine.
The collection takes inspiration from antique varieties of fruit, herbs, florals and vegetables in six, milky water-based fragrances offering top-line pairings: Iraqi Beetroot and Egyptian Rhubarb, Oriental Watercress and Sardinian Parsley, Scandinavian Redcurrant and Peruvian Tomato, Caribbean Sweet Potato and Afghan Carrot, and Andean Verbena and Ulu Basil.
The fragrances read like an appetising menu of global flavours, which translate into tantalising scents that transport the wearer to a lush, bountiful vegetable garden. In the dead of the approaching winter, this collection feels like a seed vault sent with love from the southern hemisphere.
Gucci Guilty Elixir De Parfum Pour Homme
Looking for something a little different? This woody, amber leather scent devised by perfumers Quentin Bisch and Natalie Cetto opens with tangy notes of orange flower absolute, pimento and nutmeg over a heart of smooth orris butter, orange flower absolute and osmanthus before ending in a dizzying dry down of special notes: ambrofix, benzoin resinoid from Laos, vanillin and patchouli.
So, how does it smell? It’s more adventurous than your classic men’s scent, managing to walk the line of not being too floral or too sweet. It also has impressive staying power on the skin, so it’s worth the extra pennies for the parfum version.
Men’s fragrances are dripping in incense and patchouli these days, so of course BOSS has added both to its warm and spicy Elixir. Like the camel coat worn by Chris Hemsworth in the campaign, it lends itself perfectly to the colder weather.
Elixir combines incense essence and cardamom in the opening, patchouli and vetiver essence in the heart, while base notes of labdanum and cedarwood essence give off long-lasting sweet, smoky vibes and hints of whisky that keep us coming back for more.
Rabanne Phantom Parfum
Fronted by Charlie Heaton of Stranger Things fame, the ad campaign sees the actor cutting some shapes to David Bowie. Rabanne’s Phantom robot certainly has a playful appeal, and who says fragrance can’t be fun anyway?
This refillable, matte black Phantom Parfum is made with notes of cardamom, lemon, bergamot and rhubarb, lavender, patchouli, geranium and cedar wood over a sweet, resinous base of vanilla, tolu balsam and vetiver.
Being a grown-up is fine and all that, but this satisfies our inner teen as well.
Jean Paul Gaultier Le Male Collector Edition
Like a wintry Village People ornament, the iconic Le Male torso receives a frosted finish for the festive season, dressed in a silver shearling effect jacket and encased in an icy scene.
It’s the same best-selling, award-winning fragrance that’s been warming hearts the world over.
Caroline Herrera Bad Boy Extreme
Another brand that really goes for it on the packaging front is American fashion label Carolina Herrera. Like a lightning bolt from a Greek god, Bad Boy Extreme brings a little fiery drama to the proceedings, with a warm, spicy and aromatic accord with notes of fresh ginger, vetiver de sables, cocoa absolute and woody patchouli.
Go out and try it at the first opportunity because there’s a high chance you will love it. Available online and from the new Sephora.
Moncler Sunrise Pour Homme
Ski season is almost here, so get in the mood with this new scent from Moncler, inspired by the romanticism of dawn breaking over the mountain ridge.
Aromatic and woody, it’s as fresh as the mountain air, with an opening blast of pink peppercorn, clary sage and suede accord over a base of Haitian vetiver and patchouli.
Warm, yet cool, it nails the contrast between alpine freshness and the rays of the rising sun.
Creed Absolu Aventus
Olivier Creed has beautiful handwriting. How do we know? His autograph is etched onto the top of the box of this special edition Aventus.
Composed of dry woods, fresh and fruity Absolu opens with a zingy burst of bergamot, lemon, blackcurrant, grapefruit and ginger in the top notes; a punch of pineapple, patchouli, pink pepper, cardamom, and cinnamon in the heart; and then brings it down with vetiver, cashmeran wood, labdanum, ambrosian, musk and oakmoss at the base.
Which notes are the most prominent? To our nose, it’s a delightful grapefruit, pineapple and pepper kick that’s warmer and fruitier than the original Aventus.
Props to Creed for giving it such a high price tag in this economy. Is it worth it? Creed devotées will always say yes.
Jaguar ERA Reloaded
There’s Paris, Milan and, now, er, Coventry. Bigging up the Midlands home of the luxe automobile maker, Jaguar ERA Reloaded has an appetising ingredients list: mouth-watering Brazilian orange, Sicilian lemon, apple, Jasmine water, melon, peppermint, pineapple, caramel, tonka bean and vanilla, mixed with woods, musk and amber.
Creators of dream cars, it’s a sweet scent for a sweet ride.
Jöklalykt 66º North by Fischersund
Looking for the perfect whiff to match your Gorpcore outfits? How about Jöklalykt, a scent inspired by the rugged, melting beauty of Iceland?
Made by outdoor experts 66º North, and Fischersund, a family-run perfumery and art collective from Reykjavik, the fragrance takes inspiration from the ancient landscape that’s being exposed by the rapid loss of glacial ice caused by rising global temperatures.
Hand-poured and hand-crafted, Jöklalykt captures the unique smell of long-dormant earth, cold air, wet dirt, petrified wood and geosmin, a smell humans easily recognise as damp, earthy, fresh water.
It’s a mineral-infused, icy blast that will suit your multi-pocketed, weatherproof gear, right down to the rain-soaked ground.
Louis Vuitton Pacific Chill
Escaping the northern hemisphere for some winter sun? Take us with you, please, and be sure to pack this perfectly suited scent for warmer climes.
Pacific Chill from Louis Vuitton comes from the Californian-inspired collection composed by perfumer Jacques Cavallier and artist Alex Israel, who creates bespoke imagery for the outer packaging.
With a cool, purifying vibe inspired by West Coast wellness culture, this delectable fruity cocktail contains blackcurrant, carrot seed and aromatic herbs, with accents of apricot, date and fig and a hint of May rose. Pacific Chill is such a revitalising tonic for the senses that it’s tempting to drink it.
Yves Saint Laurent MYSLF
Elvis star, Austin Butler is fashion’s new muse and the new face of Yves Saint Laurent. The mood here is all about being MYSLF, so has Butler finally given up the husky drawl he adopted to play the legendary Memphis singer?
Going full method obviously suits the young actor; for everyone else, it’s better to be YRSLF. The refillable scent is composed of not one, but two, types of fresh, vibrant bergamot in the opening, orange blossom absolute in the heart and woody base notes of Ambrofix and patchouli.
Ralph’s Club Elixir
Another ‘elixir’ on the scene is from Ralph’s Club, so called because it uses the strongest concentration of compounds (typically around 20%), and also because it suggests a kind of mysterious, intoxicating substance.
This effort from Ralph Lauren is certainly the latter, with an amber woody scent composed of cardamom oil, grapefruit oil and green mandarin in the top; sage heart, lavandin heart, geranium heart and orris butter pallida in the heart; and patchouli oil, balsam absolute, leather accord and olibanum in the base.
It’s an elegant combination that lasts.
Tom Ford Private Blend Myrrh Mystère
‘Tis the season to gift thyself, so if you’re in the mood for a rich, indulgent scent with a price tag to match, get your hands on Tom Ford’s latest release, Myrrh Mystère.
Taking the biblical ingredient of myrrh essence and myrrh resinoid absolute, with sandalwood and musk underpinned by an ultra-vanille accord, this is a luxurious woody amber scent.