Fresh is dead, long live fresh: The Anatomy of the Discriminating Manís Summer Scent
by, 8th June 2009 at 06:07 PM (3619 Views)
Before I actually tackle the matter at hand, Iíd like to thank Nukapai at Basenotes for putting the question to me, on Twitter (where else?). When I commented that most of my wardrobe was for cool to cold weather and I needed more summer variety, she wanted to know what I thought made a good summery scent. I think the answer deserves a bit more than the 140 characters than I wouldíve been limited to there.
I believe different people have different criteria they subconsciously rate fragrance on (or consciously rate, in instances such as these where I have to consider them). For me, these criteria include, but are not limited to:
- How well it captures the spirit of summer.
- Projection is above average.
- It flourishes in hot weather, becoming more open and vibrant instead of cloying or stifling.
- Price is reasonable enough that I donít feel bad wearing it any old summer day or night.
- Is, at the very least, unique enough that you donít smell like a fresh-faced 19 year-old trying to get lucky at a South Beach club.
There are some intangibles that Iím leaving out because theyíre basically the byproduct of synesthesia (we werenít really going to critique fragrances on the color or shape they evoke, were we?) Youíll note longevity isnít on here, mainly because I consider these to be for only a few hours of fun, and sometimes thatís all you really want out of your selection.
Now, there are tons of fragrances that hit 3 to 4 of these criteria. A good example of 4 out of 5 would be Juicy Couture Dirty English (review coming soon). Good projection, very reasonably priced (especially now that gift sets are hitting TJ Maxx for $50 and that includes a 100mL bottle), and undermarketed, at least in my area, so youíll end up with a very unique cedar creation. But, to me, cedar isnít really a summer-inspiring note, and on the whole itís not quite what most people are looking for in a summer scent.
Itís that first qualifier, the spirit of summer, thatís fairly vague and largely subjective. What stirs up nostalgia for you? Summers for me meant going to the beach, but for someone that lived inland it could mean barbecues and grilling out, going fishing, fresh-cut grass, nighttime bonfires and fireflies, cranking the A/C trying to stay cool, the list is endless. Iím going to touch on a few common experiences most of us share, and see if we can find an ideal fragrance.
Fresh-cut grass is one most of us will have in common, with my apologies to those in the desert regions (Mowing grass is overrated, I promise). Fortunately this is a note that has been examined from every angle, and there are gobs and gobs of vetiver-centric scents. Vetiver, by the way, is a grass native to India and cultivated around the world, and is used in roughly 90 percent of all fragrances in the western market. Much like nearly every established house has an Amber scent, nearly all of them have a Vetiver scent. I do not consider myself an expert on the note by any means, but Iíve had occasion to try a few. The long-established champion in the market is Guerlain Vetiver, and quite honestly I donít much care for it. Itís a bit dated-smelling, a bit too reserved and professional for my inner cynic to bear. Instead, I prefer the up-and-coming Thierry Mugler Cologne. Still vetiver-centric, but lighter and it adds a spicy note that becomes more prominent in the heat (flourishing in heat, check). It is an unabashed sillage monster, requiring a steady hand, a training permit and three days of safety instruction before you actually get to take the thing home. (Is it obvious Iím in a good mood tonight? My hyperbole hits overdrive when that happens.) Thierry Mugler still has a fair amount of exclusivity in my region, so youíll be as different as you can hope to be in the crowded vetiver market. And, Iím happy to report, it can be found at rock-bottom prices on eBay and the typical online retailers.
Summer for me meant a lot of time at Hollywood and Hallandale Beach, lots of sunshine, lots of sand castles, and lots of suntan lotion (For the family, mind, not me. I can tan by the light of a fridge, and basically never burn.) The next time I go somewhere that has a beach, that list will expand to ďlots of margaritasĒ. Immediately Iím going to recommend Creedís Virgin Island Water as being a near-perfect scent memory to those times. Coconut oil, lime, light woods, sugar, rum notes, whispers of citrus, whispers of sunshine, itís one I could wear every day during those hot months without issue. Well, with only one issue, and thatís price. I ended up with 50mL of the stuff from a flacon split, and that still amounted to about $60. If youíre buying your own bottle itís not cheap, and eBay isnít a great idea because there are so many fakes of Creed products out there. Iíve previously reviewed Tommy Bahama Set Sail St. Barts and itís close but no cigar, where Virgin Island Water is well-defined and realistic, SSSB is chemical and artificial. Recently I came across another fragrance in the same vein, and it shows a lot of promise. Iím referring to Burberry Summer for Men, which was released in 2007 along with Virgin Island Water, and was slightly more heavy on lemon but was still very pleasant, as well as being much more accessible and reasonably priced. If youíre in a position to try Virgin Island Water donít pass up the chance, but if youíre not go give Burberry Summer a try. Iíve also heard many wonderful things about Aramis Bermuda Tonic, but havenít been able to track down a sample.
The other constant for me in the dog days is staying inside trying to cool off, and sometimes a cold-smelling cologne is just a little more reinforcement. My collection is admittedly low on these, I have one that I use consistently and one niche creation that Iíd be using a lot if money was no object. The one I use the most in this category would be Bath and Body Works Mountain Frost. This one is sadly discontinued but can be found with only modest searching. It projects well and is hard to overapply, does well in hot weather, and is fairly unique thanks to itís now discontinued status, and I believe I paid $24 retail for a 4.0 oz bottle. It has a definite barbershop vibe, if thatís not your thing this will probably not fare you well. One niche creation that I absolutely loved in the hot summer months was CdG x Monocle Scent One: Hinoki. Downright chilling, this oneís likely my next high-end purchase. Words donít really do this one justice so I wonít belabor the point.
So weíve come up with 5 fragrances: Mugler Cologne, Virgin Island Water, Burberry Summer, Bath and Body Works Mountain Frost, and Monocle Scent One: Hinoki. For my personal experiences, I could bounce between Mugler Cologne and Virgin Island Water all summer long and be content; I think theyíre both ideal representations of what I want in a summer scent, each by their own means but sharing the same ends; theyíre modern, they Ďfití with no thought required, theyíre both laid-back, and they both take to hot weather like they were born for the job. I encourage you guys to write me with your experiences and insight to summer scents, and what is ideal for you as well.
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