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It's time to start a blog, and I'm going big: 100 Fragrances Every Frag-Head Guy Should Try

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I’ve been meaning to start some sort of a blog here, so I hereby give you something crazy, a huge project that’s been brewing in my brain for ages:

100 Fragrances Every Frag-Head Guy Must Try

A while back now, Now Smell This posted a great list of perfumes every perfumista must try. It was a fun read, but very obviously geared towards women. With that in mind, and with all due respect, I’ve always thought it would be fun to do a version for men, or at least focusing on men’s scents or a man’s perspective.

So what qualifies me to do this? Absolutely nothing! I’ve smelled an awful lot of perfumes and raw ingredients and read a lot on the subject, but I don’t claim to be an expert (seriously, I’m no expert – anyone who’s gone sniffing with me can attest to that…), just someone with a slightly informed opinion.

Oh, and I’ll definitely need help, so please please please leave comments! I want this to be a discussion, not just me rambling on…

With that, let’s start at the beginning:

Perfume Pre-History

Here are some centuries-old scents that are still relatively easy to smell today, just to set the mood for the next 95 entries. Keeping this list to 100 perfumes, obviously not everything can make it. I left off Creed’s excellent Royal English Leather for two reasons – First, I’ll be including the quite-similar-smelling Knize Ten in a later entry, and second, I personally doubt Creed’s claims that it was the perfume that invented perfume back in 1781. There are also some obvious ones I’d love to include for historical importance (Houbigant’s original 1800’s Fougere Royale springs to mind), but it’s simply not possible to get samples and smell them, and I have to be at least a little practical with all this. So, here are my first five:

1. 4711 Echt Kölnisch Wasser by 4711

From 1792, this is supposedly the original citrus cologne from Cologne, Germany that the name and the whole concept of cologne come from. Its basic recipe of refreshing citrus over soapy, woody petitgrain and orange flowers has been copied a million times (everyone from Chanel to Creed to Hermés’ legendary Eau d’Orange Verte), and you can still find a bottle cheap. Sure, others have done it better since then (with more realistic citrus notes, for one), but it’s certainly worth smelling the original (or at least a reformulated version of the original…). As a side note, it was originally meant to be drunk as a healthy elixir in addition to being worn on skin – go ahead, I dare you!

2. Number Six by Caswell Massey

Dating back to 1789, Number Six was proof that an American toiletries house could make a barbershop cologne just as well as its British counterparts. It’s lemon with spicy green herbs and cloves, lightly soapy and a little musky. Oh, and it was the cologne George Washington wore. You know you’re curious!

3. Kolnisch Junchten by Parfums Regence

In theory, this formula dates back over 300 years, and has been produced under the Kolnisch Junchten name by a few different companies, Parfums Regence being the company that makes it now. To my nose, it’s almost pure pine tar, smoky and burnt, like someone took an ancient leather tannery in the middle of a forest, set it on fire, and tried to put it out by rubbing that salty European licorice on the burning leather hides. Probably the angriest, manliest, ballsiest scent I’ve ever worn, and utterly brilliant in its defiant attitude. An absolute must-sniff among must-sniffs!

4. Hammam Bouquet by Penhaligon’s

Ah, England! You’d think a British men’s cologne from 1872 would be a stuffy, powdered wig of a smell, all lavender and talc, but that’s forgetting that Victorian aristocracy had a quirky side and a love of all things Eastern, back in a time when international travel was truly a ridiculous luxury that only the most wealthy and brave could afford (and hence, highly fashionable). And so we have Hammam Bouquet, a Victorian fantasy adventure in a bottle - unapologetic roses mixing with jasmine and middle eastern resins and wood notes, under a buzzing umbrella of lavender intended to simulate the smell of hot steam in a Turkish bathhouse. Thoroughly modern-smelling and weird (in a niche way), but perfectly of its own time, this is the grandfather of a long line of quirky aristocratic British scents (Creed’s Windsor springs to mind as one of its obvious protégées).

5. Jicky by Guerlain

From 1889, Jicky is legendary for multiple reasons. Besides being the first truly “important” Guerlain, it remains quite popular with perfume fanatics to this day, and to me it’s a valuable tool to remember just how much perfume (and life itself) has changed in the last 130 years. At its core, Jicky is a study of civet and lavender – meaning that, especially in the topnotes, it basically smells like a filthy diaper mixed with lavender. I personally find it horrifying, while others find it warm and “alive.” Either way, it’s a potent reminder of how much life stank (literally) in the 1800’s that rich people would scent themselves with feces in order to make themselves smell better…

Please discuss and stay tuned for part two!



  1. Ivory88's Avatar
    This is one blog I'm actually gonna keep up on, rogalal. Great idea. I just hope my beloved AdP Colonia made the cut!
  2. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Great idea for a blog - and you're just the person to do it, too. Honestly, you're one of the most thoughtful, considered, carefully observant, and level-headed noses among our ranks. I also think that your diversity and evenness of taste among the varied genres of perfumes gives you just the right perspective to come up with a list like this - one which will be reflective of perfumery as a whole over time - and not just your personal taste. (My similar effort might be entitled "100 Recent Macy's Masculines and a Few Feminines that a Guy With A Beard Can Pull Off".)

    Excellent start, too!
  3. rogalal's Avatar
    Thanks for the kind words, but I still think I'm in over my head.

    And Ivory88, it's funny. I've kept going back and forth about Colonia - it's like you read my mind. In the end, I kind of used 4711 as a blanket to cover traditional citrus colognes, being the first and all (theoretically). That way, I could leave out Eau d'Orange Vert and Colonia and Eau d'Hadrien, amongst others. Though maybe we need a day of citrus colognes, just to see the differences. I've been surprised how hard it looks like it'll be to keep it to 100. You're making me think - I like that!
  4. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by rogalal
    Thanks for the kind words, but I still think I'm in over my head.
    Keeping it to 100 is going to be very hard. And with the number of classics - not even considering the outrageous growth in the market more recently - not a task for the faint-hearted. I would say that the fact you think you're in too deep may be the most important qualification. Anybody who thought they had a handle on it would be bound to distort the list, IMO. Best to approach this with as much fear as possible.

    So if I'm helping to scare you - so be it!
  5. mr. reasonable's Avatar
    Great idea and you're off to a good start! 4711 was the first 'proper' cologne I wore. It was in the days when music was shifting from prog rock into something a little more concise, the Afhgan Coats and Indian Kurta's were on the way out and Patchouli & Mysore essential oils had to go with them. 4711 (borrowed from my father for a first tentative evening out in a bar having just hit legal age) was a revelation to me - probably part of what led me here decades later.

    And Jicky! Bravo. This series may well sort out the men from the boys
    Updated 5th September 2011 at 12:03 PM by mr. reasonable
  6. Diamondflame's Avatar
    I'm loving it! This is the kinda stuff I'd rather read about in men's fashion & grooming magazines instead of the tired marketing blurbs thinly disguised as objective reviews. I'm intrigued by No.3 to say the least. I'm looking forward to see what the other 95 will be like.
  7. Foustie's Avatar
    You must have put so much time into this blog. I have had a glance and now I really look forward to just relaxing and working my way through it.
  8. lisa16's Avatar
    Thanks for a great blog! This is very well done.

    I will confess to having "borrowed" the 4711 and the Hammam bouquet-- did not know they were "for men" at the time. When something is good, that just doesn't matter. So to all of you souls who are tempted, but shy, to take up Jicky, I say "Wear it in good health!" I personally don't object to the dirty diaper facet-- it is the vanilla that gets me-- but if you adore it, embrace it. Glad to see it here :-)
  9. Surfacing's Avatar
    I'm really looking forward to this blog. Thanks for posting and writing this, R.
  10. lupo's Avatar
    Great idea, mate. I'm just about to read n.2 very well done!
  11. jujy54's Avatar
    Civet will grow on you—trust me. It takes some loosening up from our scrubbed-clean-triclosanitized-purellated social norms to appreciate those reference body-smell notes, but they will get to you. One day. Carry on, I'm loving this.
  12. mikeperez23's Avatar
    Little late to the party - bravo rogalal, I look forward to reading future posts.

    Jicky parfum happens to be very next on my To Buy list. I can't wait to own it. It literally disgusted me the first time I smelled it many years ago...only to rocket to the very front of the line of Best Lavenders. Not sure which one I would grab in a fire first: my Shalimar or my Jicky.

    And I now feel incomplete still never having tested Kolnisch Junchten - I must smell this soon.
  13. rickbr's Avatar
    Great blog idea! I was randomly searching through basenotes and saw the link for the series. There are some at your list that i never tried and i always wanted to - Hammam Bouquet is one, and based on your description it seems that i'll really like it
  14. Melvournis's Avatar
    Essential reading for a beginner like me. I'm in.
  15. leecher88's Avatar
    great idea big up man

    go on


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