The first fragrance for men from Nejma, Koeptys - from the latin coeptis, meaning project or endeavour - is a collaboration between the brand, master perfumer, Alice Lavenat, and French rap phenomenon, Booba - no, me neither!
Booba is the most downloaded music artist in French history and is said to have been closely involved with the whole creative process.
Left - Koeptys - 100ml EDP - £130. Exclusive to Selfridges
Koeptys opens with notes of incense, cinnamon and pepper before revealing a floral woody heart. Pure vanilla and patchouli inject power and sensuality to the base of this highly aromatic and addictive scent.
The alternating upper and lower case letters highlight the word ‘key’ and are a reference to the street culture that has been a major influence on Booba’s life and music.
TheChicGeek says, “When I first saw this I wanted to try it. I know nothing about Booba, but the name and font was giving me Egyptian hieroglyphic vibes and I was intrigued.
Nejma is known for centring their fragrances around oud, but it definitely doesn’t feature here. What starts off as something wet and metallic, and what you think could be the same predictable men’s scent, quickly whooshes into something more floral and much more interesting. It has a big feminine slant with the base of vanilla, but isn’t sickly and doesn’t dominate.
The woody floral centre dominates and is warm yet green and this fragrance is definitely something that twists and turns depending on whether it is on your skin, clothes and your mood.”
Right - French Rap Star, Booba, with whom the fragrance is a collaboration
The classic touch of lavender is altered by noble iris, that master perfumers Nathalie Lorson and Olivier Cresp placed at the heart of the fragrance. Combined with smooth, sweet pear and in a subtle nod to the original 1975 release, a patchouli-leather accord structures this new woody floral fougère fragrance.
Left - Gentleman Givenchy - 100ml - £66
TheChicGeek says, “Off we went to Paris for the launch of this and even after two days it still wasn’t sinking in exactly which way around gentleman and Givenchy were arranged. The new fragrance is called Gentleman Givenchy and not Givenchy Gentleman - do you see what they did there? - which is the original 1975 fragrance and, to many, a classic.
Right - Face - Aaron Taylor-Johnson representing the "Gentle Man"
The new version is getting a lot things right: the face Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a good choice. He looks great in the ad. and the commercial, shot by his artist wife, it sees him dancing and looking hot. The bottle is the classic Givenchy shape and the idea of a “Gentle Man” is modern and reflects the change in masculinity over the 40 years since the original.
The main problem I have is, the fragrance smells like everything else. I’m not getting the original here and it’s certainly not memorable. Again, another fragrance not to dislike, but nothing to get excited about either.
With Givenchy’s pedigree they should have reintroduced the original with all its seventies-ness to a new generation and re-owned one of the great male fragrances. Givenchy is a storied brand and they have a respected history, they just don’t use it enough.
They have a new designer, Clare Weight Keller, and it will be interesting if she has any input into the beauty side of the business which has been neglected under the former Creative Director, Riccardo Tisci.”
Left - TheChicGeek giving good "Gentleman" on the red carpet in Paris
Below - TheChicGeek getting his Gentleman Givenchy on in the Eurostar lounge on the way home from Paris
A new twist on Calvin Klein’s Obsession, the Obsessed For Men fragrance is an oriental woody amber with ‘a compelling heart of black vanilla sophisticatedly structured with dark, dimensional woods, providing the tension between a feminine melodiousness and masculine strength. Ambrox elegantly cuts through all, lending a sleek and contemporaneous edge’.
TheChicGeek says, “The original Obsession was the one major Calvin Klein fragrance that passed me by. Eternity - love, Escape - love, CK One - love. I’m not really sure why I skipped Obsession. I think it felt more feminine, ATM, due to the image of Kate Moss lying on a sofa. The images are a 90s classic and it was the start of Kate Moss’ relationship with the brand.
This new fragrance uses the same shaped bottle of the original while in a super-clean, clear finish.
I’m being pernickety, but i think they should have called it ‘Obsess’ rather than ‘Obsessed’. Obsessed is too pop culture a word, today, like ‘everything’ and ‘love’. It’s chuck away and immature.
They say this is Raf Simons’ first fragrance under his direction and it feels more a tinkering than a fully formed idea. The pictures of Kate are timeless in the truest sense of the word. Sent on holiday in 1993 with her then boyfriend, photographer, Mario Sorrenti, there was no make-up, hair or stylist. A simple setup, where the relationship made for exceptional results and a campaign that still resonates today.
As for the juice, it’s fruity, fresh and feminine. The fresh grapefruit gives it a sticky top while the deep vanilla gives a gourmand finish. It sits in that modern fragrance formation where there is as much top as bottom and it leaves you just wanting something a little bit deeper and more sophisticated."
Above - Calvin Klein - Obsessed For Men - 125ml - £57
Below - The original archive of unused Obsession images has been reworked for the new fragrance
A citrus-oriental-woody fragrance, Chrome Pure revisits Azzaro’s original Chrome fragrance’s emblematic freshness, creating a more textured and vibrant feel, with the addition of two new ingredients: the spicy-woody accents akigala wood and tonka bean join the white musks and mate leaves of the original version.
TheChicGeek says, “Released in 1996, I’m not familiar with the original Chrome fragrance. As a brand, Azzaro, has little or no awareness here in the UK and even Googling images only brings up fragrance and no vintage or historical fashion images.
This fragrance follows the typical tonka bean formula that have been popular over the last few years, but it does has a sophistication lacking in many. Created by Jacques Huclier - he was the nose behind the epic Thierry Mugler A*Men - it’s fresh, but wait for the dry down as it's the best bit, where it gets soft, musky and almost gourmandy.
The bottle follows the form of the 1996 original and looks a bit dated, now, particularly the font, but if you’re a fan of this type of fragrance you could do much worse at this decent price”.
Left - Azzaro Pure Chrome - 100ml - £59
Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino collection introduces three new ‘All Over Body Sprays’. Lightly scented, the sprays are said to add a new dimension to experiencing the notes of their eau de parfum counterparts. Packaged in an aerosol bottle, each one is easily transportable. The three include: Costa Azzurra, this evokes the fragrant and sun-baked landscape of coastal and island Mediterranean woods where pines and oaks mingle with wild-growing herbs and salty water. Fleur De Portofino is inspired by the cascades of flowers from the white acacia tree, a beloved shade tree that dots the Mediterranean’s gardens and avenues, this fragrance contains notes of Sicilian lemon, bigarde leaf, violet leaf, jasmine and acacia honey and, finally, Mandarino Di Amalfi, capturing the calm idyll of the whitewashed villas lining the cliff sides of the Amalfi coast, this fresh fragrance contains mandarin oil, lemon sfumatrice, basil spearmint and a duet of jasmine.
TheChicGeek says, “I’m classing these under 'fragrance' as they are ‘All Over Body Sprays”. Gents, not to be wasted on your armpits! And that helps to justify the £44 expense. But, when compared to the fragrances, these are very ‘entry point’ and for the summer why not try one of these instead of committing to an expensive bottle of perfume? Or get all three for the price of the fragrance?
Firstly, these look better than the previous body sprays because of the colours. These feel more of a treat because of the aqua palette and are obviously aimed at summer and something you’d want to take on holiday.
These are all really nice, there's nothing not to like, but if you held a gun to my head, out of the three, I prefer Fleur De Portofino. It smells the most summery and it’s the the white flowers including jasmine that gets me every time and reminds me of warm summer nights.
These are also good for those who find the fragrances too overpowering or heavy and just want a light but 'still there' scent”.
Above - All 150ml - £44
It was at the launch of the new men’s grooming destination, Beast, - more info here - in Covent Garden that I was introduced to Leo Crabtree, the man behind the Beaufort London fragrance brand. There were a few samples of his fragrances in the selection of products to try and I was impressed by the originality of the scents. Historically based, they are a dramatic concoction of rich and smokey scents inspired by Britain’s maritime history. I wanted to know more, so, TheChicGeek asked Leo a few questions:
CG: What’s your background and why and when did you start Beaufort London?
LC: My background is mainly in music and I studied history at university. BeauFort London came about as a vehicle to market some homemade grooming products I was making around 4 years back. I found myself getting bored of the stuff that was available at that time and I thought I could do a better job. This project then developed into something a bit different, particularly when I started to learn about making fragrance. This area really interested me and I’ve kind of followed this path for the last 3 years.
CG: Where does the name come from? 1805 is a special year for you, why is that?
LC: The brand’s name comes from the Beaufort Scale which was thought up in 1805 by Sir Francis Beaufort - a way that sailors could gauge and report the wind strength. It’s still in use today.
This idea of invisible strength resonates and seemed appropriate for a brand that initially was only selling very firm moustache wax. The metaphor works nicely for fragrance too.
Aside from this detail, 1805 was also a pivotal year for British fortunes at sea… following the win at the battle of Trafalgar (October 21st 1805) British sea power was established and continued unchallenged for a century or so… I think these naval events still echo in the way we Brits perceive ourselves. And there’s something about the early 19th century that fascinates us - it seems to pop up a lot in popular culture at the moment.
CG: How many fragrances are in the range?
LC: The ‘Come Hell or High Water’ Collection consists of 5 Eau De Parfum each representing a different aspect of our relationship with the sea: Tonnerre (Trafalgar/warfare), Coeur De Noir (adventure stories / tattoos), Vi Et Armis (The opium / sea trade), Lignum Vitae (ships clocks / time) and Fathom V (The Tempest - weather). We are launching a 6th later this year too and we recently released a leather discovery set of the whole collection - refillable 7.5ml vials of each which is really popular.
CG: What is the idea behind the packaging?
LC: Well the caps were at one point going to be made out of pieces of old ships, but this didn’t work all that well. So, now, they are made from ash, which is a bit more stable and safer to reproduce.
The boxes ended up becoming almost like books or possibly sarcophagi - this is a pretty important thread in all this. The past, history, books, it’s all in here. I like to include snippets of things I’ve read, pictures inspired by the events that inform the fragrances. Each box is embossed with a little latin phrase which I found on a medal that was given to those who fought at the battle of Trafalgar. All these little things build a coherent picture of the brand I think.
CG: I like Tonnerre, which is inspired by the battle of Trafalgar, how do you get that smokey effect?
LC: Lots and lots of birch tar. This is an intensely smokey material made by boiling birch sap. This has been used a lot in the past to create a ‘leather’ effect (Famously in Chanel’s 'Cuir De Russie’ - historically Russian soldiers used Birch tar to waterproof their boots). In the case of Tonnerre the perfumer uses it in far far higher concentration than anyone has before to produce a gunpowder effect. I love the intensity of it… and the smell of tar immediately reminds me of boats.
CG: Any highlights from the others? What is the most popular and why do you think that is?
LC: We actually use birch tar in a lot of our fragrances. That smokey tar effect is almost our signature so if you’re looking for fresh you’re in the wrong place…
Vi Et Armis is really popular, I think because it’s so ‘in your face’ and unusual - dark as all hell. And Fathom V is an intensely strange aquatic fragrance which seems to be doing well too. We use a lot of strong materials, a lot of wood, tobacco, spice and booze. I think people like our brand because we offer something very different to traditional fragrances.
CG: You also sell other products like candles and moustache wax, how did these come about?
LC: The candles were due to popular demand, we had a lot of people who loved the scents asking if we could make them, so we tried it, and it seemed to work. Again, it hasn’t really been about planning these products, they just seem to make sense, and so we do them. I like experimenting with ideas.
CG: Has it been easy to produce in the UK?
LC: The perfume industry is rooted in mainland Europe for sure, but there’s a rich history of British perfumery and some really interesting newer British brands.
It was always a key aspect of this project that we would only work with British companies, and that has made things tricky (and almost certainly more expensive) at times. But it can be done, and I’m proud of it.
Our perfumers are based just outside of London, our boxes are made by hand in Sheffield, our bottles are filled and packed in the Cotswolds, the candles are made in Derbyshire and the moustache wax cases were made in Coventry.
CG: What do you think about the current perfume industry? Is it welcoming to niche producers? Is there too much product?
LC: When I first launched the range we went to Paris fashion week to have a look around. I was talking to a guy who works for a very long established French perfume house and he said to me quite unequivocally, “now this is war”, which seemed pretty ridiculous at the time. However, as time has passed, I think he’s right. There’s so many brands all trying to get a piece of the pie and the pie isn’t all that big in the first place. New launches happen all the time and it seems like (as with everything else) attention spans are short and the temptation is to churn out ’newness’ (a word I particularly hate) to grab attention fleetingly.
In the next few years, we may see some of these brands falling away as saturation point is reached. In my mind, starting a brand is the easy bit. Establishing longevity and maintaining engagement with your customer over a significant period of time is much harder… Time will tell.
CG: Is there any advice you would give to men about choosing fragrance or how they apply or use it?
LC: As with anything, the most rewarding experiences are those you invest some time in… do some research, get some samples of things that intrigue you. Spend a bit of time getting to know the fragrance in different environments as the best fragrances can develop massively throughout a day. Don’t rush… I’ve always said that YOU should wear the fragrance, don’t let IT wear you which is particularly important with these strong, heavy fragrances. There just too much for some people… they should blend with your character somehow rather than take over.
CG: What’s next for Beaufort London?
LC: Put it this way, we have been researching Georgian vices… I can’t say much more than that but it’s going to be an interesting couple of years!
Ermengildo Zegna’s Acqua Di Iris takes on a splashy transparency from the high-quality, citrus freshness of Zegna Bergamot - they grow their own - and dewy violet leaves. Elements of spice serve to drive the immediacy of the signature and invigorate the top. Sleek woods and cistus labdanum absolute power the signature with strength in order to zero in on the iris’ masculine heart. All are lightly softened by musk.
TheChicGeek says, “When I first saw ‘Iris’ on the label I was pleased as these is one of my favourite ingredients. Often called orris and derived from the root of the iris, it is mega expensive and as such is very much prized in perfumery. It’s also very Italian, which works with a brand like Zegna.
Orris is said to smell like violets and this is where I have the problem. By adding violet leaves they are taking the fragrance in that direction and it’s too dominant. The woods and musk softens it, but ultimately reminds me that Zegna also do a fragrance called ‘Florentine Iris’, in their pricier Essenze Collection, which I prefer”.
Left - Ermenegildo Zegna - Acqua Di Iris - 100ml - £82 Exclusive to John Lewis
JOOP! WOW! awakens all the senses with captivating top notes of bergamot, cardamom and violet-leaf. A blend of rich absolutes: irresistibly sensual fir balsam, darkly masculine tonka bean and dangerously warm vanilla surabsolute. The foundation is the supremely woody base, noble combination of distinctive woods, vetiver and cashmeran, a memorable signature, full of masculinity, intensity and texture.
TheChicGeek says, “Joop fragrances became synonymous with toilet attendants in dodgy night spots and as such the brand was tinged with the dreaded ‘naff’ label. It’s never really resonated as a fashion brand here, unlike in Europe, and as such doesn’t have much identity.
Pronounced Joop with a J here, or with a Y on the continent, it wasn’t cool enough for people to look pretentious by saying it properly.
Left - JOOP! WOW - 60ml EDT - £39
Time for a clean slate then. Coty, the brand license owner for fragrance, has made an effort with this one. The scent is good. It’s warm, woody and amber-like without being sticky which often happens at this price point.
There’s masculine favourites of vetiver and tonka bean in there and a few gourmand ingredients such as vanilla and green notes such as geranium.
I just think there’s a disconnect between the name, the fragrance and the imagery and bottle. The image is of a mature (gentle)man, the fragrance is quite grown-up and the bottle looks likes a miniature of whisky, while the name ‘WOW!’ seems more immature, fun and for the younger, social media generation.
I actually like the name WOW! it’s quite pop, but it seems more suited to maybe a Marc Jacobs fragrance then something with the serious and old-fashioned hashtag #thescentthatmakestheman
The simple bottle design doesn’t have any shelf appeal and isn’t gimmicky enough. I think they want the One Million crowd with this one.
The fragrance isn’t wow, but then what is? But, it’s good.”
Inspired by the sweat of a horse after its gallop, Liquides Imaginaires’ ‘Peau De Bête’ contains heads notes of chamomile blue, cumin seed, Madagascar black pepper and parsley seed.
Left - Liquides Imaginaires - Peau De Bête - 100ml - £230
The base features cade wood, guaiac wood, Atlas cedarwood, Texas cedarwood, Indonesian patchouli, patchouli absolute, Indian cypriol, Dominican Republic amyris, ambrarome absolute, castoreum base, civet base and skatole.
TheChicGeek says, “I like a curve ball, when it comes to fragrance, as much as the next person, but, a curve ball through a shitty stable and around the sweaty backside of a horse, may just be pushing it. Translated as animal hide, Peau De Bête, isn’t for the faint hearted.
The base ingredients include skatole, which appears naturally in faeces and civet base which is the natural byproduct of the anal glands of exotic civet cats.
The initial spray certainly hits you, it has something you can’t quite put your finger on! Scarily, on a second visit, it starts to normalise and smells like a really deep and smoky leather. It has that dirty, hairy, animalic musk and warmth that you would get from a horse’s neck. And the more you visualise it the more it smells like it.
You’ll be pleased to know it does dry down to something more incense-like with the potent animalic hit disappearing to a background of strong yet attractive leather”.
Part of Jo Malone’s Cologne Intense range, Orris & Sandalwood, centres around orris, the name for the dried root of the iris. One of the most expensive ingredients in perfumery it is grown in Tuscany and takes many years to dry out.
Here it is combined her with top notes of violet, and a base of sandalwood.
TheChicGeek says, “This is the dirty side of orris. The initial burst of fragrant violet doesn’t stop this from quickly drying down to an earthy, woody and almost animalic base. This would appeal to those fans of oud or incense type fragrances. It has a strong beginning which does lighten with time”.
Left - Jo Malone - Cologne Intense - 100ml - £105