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100 Fragrances Every Frag-Head Guy Should Try, part 31: Basenotes Darlings - Designer Scents

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The Basenotes Darlings Ė Designer Scents

92. A*Men Pure Malt by Theiry Mugler

The malty beer smell of a microbrewery mixed with chocolate, Pure Malt is easily one of the most distinctive and creative scents to come out lately, especially in the ďwoody amberĒ aquatic-obsessed mass market of menís scents. It spawned so many threads on Basenotes that the admins jokingly created a special forum for it, but that only stoked the fire. With reformulation rumors and readers comparing batch codes, Pure Malt was a textbook Basenotes obsession. But it deserved it. Seriously, there hasnít been a mass release as artful and unique as Pure Malt in years. If youíve been living under a rock and havenít smelled it yet, it really is worth a sniff.

93. Dior Homme by Christian Dior

Dior Homme, with its chocolate-dusted iris under a sprinkle of deep green pollen, is easily one of the most distinguished modern mass-market masculine frags currently available. It makes a fantastic first step into unisex or downright feminine scents, but it feels safe because of the ďHommeĒ on the bottle and its comfortable placement on the menís counter. As such, itís often the first fine iris perfume many guys have tried on, and it can seem really weird at first. Iris is an advanced note, rich and soapy and vegetal, with undertones of bleu cheese and powder, and it doesnít help that a lot of expensive makeup is scented with iris, so it has that connotation, too. It can take a while to grow familiar, but once you fall in love with iris as a note, Dior Homme shines even more brightly as one of the best iris perfumes out there.

In the last couple of months since I started writing this list, Dior Homme Intense has arguable replaced the original as the official Basenotes obsession, complete with large-scale reformulation panic (the sure sign of a Basenotes darling!). But Iím sticking with the original Dior Homme as my must-sniff, partly because itís way easier to find, and because itís practically perfect as is.

94. Encre Noire by Lalique

Encre Noire is another perennial Basenotes favorite. Itís also one of the few prominent vetiver scents that arenít based on the Guerlain formula. Instead of using the traditional summer verbena and nutmeg, Encre Noire goes dark and autumnal by pairing its vetiver with smoke and a heavy dose of rose geranium leaves. Rose geranium is one of the more misunderstood notes in perfumery, largely because itís the smell of the leaves and not the flowers, and because it only slightly smells like roses. Instead, rose geranium smells like a weird mix of dark licorice, green leaves, and the round sweetness of roses. As such, itís a genius pairing with vetiver, giving enormous depth.

95. M7 by Yves Saint Laurent

Under the creative direction of Tom Ford, YSLís M7 was certainly different from the other things going on in the mainstream menís fragrance community. Mostly, it was the first time most cologne collectors from outside the middle east smelled oud, albeit a toned down version.

M7 is a dense, resinous, rubbery wood scent, obviously influenced by a middle eastern aesthetic, aside from the just the oud. It pairs its oud with smoky, saw-dusty oak over a thick, rich bottom of benzoin and sandalwood, with green, almost plastic-smelling opoponax and a background leathery smell giving a subtle sharpness to the middle. Meanwhile, in a nod to western tastes, itís got a nice cherry note on top, keeping all of this foreign-smelling weirdness under an umbrella of sweet familiarity.

As such, M7 is clearly the father to much of what Tom Ford would do under his own name, and often for way higher prices. If you like it, check out Tomís Oud Wood and Tom Ford Extreme, though I'll happily go on record as saying that I personally think M7 is the best of the bunch.

96. Terre díHermes by Hermes

Aside from its status as a Basenotes favorite, Terre díHermes (or TDH, as itís known to its friends) is also required sniffing as one of the most artful and interesting scents thatís relatively easy to track down and sniff. Itís based on the interplay between almost obscenely juicy citrus and a dense artful smell thatís kind of like rocks or wet cement or a hot road in a parched desert. It almost smells like heat (or some sort of hot natural place) more than anything specific Ė somehow the citrus is there more to give something recognizable, because that just serves to make everything else even more disorienting.

Itís a brain-melter of a perfume, a conceptual art piece disguised as an orange cologne, and another reason people hold its nose Jean Claude Ellena in such high esteem.



  1. Geldachron's Avatar
    It's a shame they no longer produce Pure Malt. I would loved to have a sniff of this. Not that I'm a whiskey expert but I'm sure I would enjoy this fragrance. I know it's still sold on eBay and so on but I don't think it's worth that price for a blind-buy.
    Updated 9th December 2011 at 12:32 PM by Geldachron


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