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Fresh is dead, long live fresh: The Anatomy of the Discriminating Manís Summer Scent

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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.


  1. Redneck Perfumisto's Avatar
    I agree completely about Mugler Cologne, Virgin Island Water, and Burberry Summer. I think those would be great summer scents. They have that fresh, aquatic, cool and clear thing that just makes me want to pour them on. In fact, I think I may finally get that bottle of VIW I keep putting off. We'll see. It also has that tropical drink & suntan lotion vibe that is just so great when it gets hot. Mmmmmm!

    For me, Hinoki is more of a fall scent, but that's just because I associate its woody aspects with autumn. Personally, I think it's great all year long, but for me it just brings thoughts of falling leaves.

    I'm still waiting to try that sample of BBW Mountain Frost - we'll just have to see. First things first, like the classics... (forever grateful over Havana!)

    Another two summer scents I enjoyed last summer were (less so) Very Irresistible Givenchy Summer Limited Edition (kind of like this year's model) and (more so) Issey Miyake L'Eau d'Issey Summer Pour Homme (Sephora's web page here). I think that both of these fall into the same general class that you're recommending, along with VIW, MC, and the Burberry scent. If I don't get VIW, I would be getting the Issey Miyake scent. It's like the regular one, but cooler and mintier. Just wonderful, and my wife loved it, too.

    Yup, summer's here! The green late spring of Guerlain Homme needs to give way to something that's beach-ready! Thanks for putting me in the mood!
  2. neo_angel's Avatar
    great idea to start this theme that it needs to Be discussed

    when we talk aBout summer fragrances, we have to take in consideration how hot the city you live gets when its summer/spring
    i started to get into this fragrance comunity through youtuBe reviewers, then i found Basenotes and other phorums.
    i've realized that most of reviewers that recommend or make a top 10 list summer/spring fragrances, they actually live in places where weather its very fresh at summer
    only thing, mayBe gets more sunny than fall/winter, But temperature doesnt go crazily high as it does in the city where i live

    here in my city , weather is 36c+, high humidity
    im not the type of person that sweats a lot, even with very intense workouts at the gym i don't sweat too much
    But heat here is such that i'd start to get a lil Bit sweaty if air conditioner is turned off

    these are a few fragrances that i've seen they are recommended a lot for summer:
    -acqua di gio (popular as hell, everywhere i go im breathing it, it doesn't really work at high heat, it has certain sweatness and actually certain "sticky" quality, i dont know how to descriBe it, But it gets unconfortaBle)
    -issey miyaki (there it is a time Back in the days Before getting into fragrances that i really loved this fragrance, But now im not feeling it, it is very synthetic and thick, its not really suitaBle for hot weather,works much Better at cold weather)
    -allure homme sports (this one is good, it is really potent and fresh, opening is off putting thou' and people will think you have acqua di gio on, so im not really sure of spending the g on this fragrance when people is going to smell you and think you are wearing adg)
    -versace - eau fraiche (this fragrance is very generic, i dont find it unique at all, it smells cheap to me, its fresh , But its not enuff unique and it doesnt have enuff quality to Be a part of my collection)
    -ysl - live jazz (Before i Blind Bought this fragrance i read a lot of positive reviews so i was hoping this one to Be a good one, But i wasn't really feeling it, i mean it smells good, opening is very nice, lemony, fresh and get sweeter as it dries down it is reminiscent of tooth paste, But its just so close to the skin that no matter if i pour the whole Bottle on me, even applying on clothes, people wont smell me and most important i can't smell me!!, same thing happen with chanel pour monsieur and eau savage, so im trying to sell this now)
    -platinum egoiste and dior homme sports (i dont find nothing special on this fragrances except for the name of the Brand, Both are citric, they are close to the skin, they last But doesn't project, have to Bury the nose to the skin just to realize they there and they not dead, But it seems like they dying and aBout to leave your skin at any second, to me they are like very overpriced versions of nautica - competions, not even as the original version which i used to own and it was very good, But the reformulated relaunched crap in the yellow Bottle )
    -creed - millesime imperial (sean joh - unforgivaBle smells Better, mayBe the one i tried it was a Bad Batch, Bcus i didnt get no watermelon, i just got the saltyness through all the life of the scent)
    and some other i don't rememBer

    so what im looking for in a fragrance for summer it is
    1. i agree with you, it gotta capture the spirit of summer, and also it has to have a fresh aroma, fresh forest like, fresh herBs, i used to always pass on soapy scents, But now after trying a lot of stuff searching for the most suitaBle scent for high heat, i've come to love them, fresh and clean are some qualities a fragrance has to have when temperature and humidity is high and every other odor are intensified Bcus of it, seriously, this fall the gym doesnt smell as it used to smell Back in summer.
    2.projection gotta Be aBove average, you are right on that, and let me add that it actually has to Be pretty potent stuff to survive the sweat, not every fragrance gets improved with it, sweat kill a lot of fragrances, there are just a few ones that gets their projection/sillage/longevity increased with high humidity/temperature/perspiration
    3.price, yeah, its very hard find, try or Buy niches here, so if im spending the g it has to have awsome scent, sillage and longevity
    4.uniqueness, of course, noBody here wants to smell like an average joe wearing 360 red,nautica-Blue,d&g - light Blue, hugo Boss as everyBody else does

    *dolce&gaBanna - pour homme (this came as unexpected for me, after dolce&gaBanna-light Blue ph's disapointment i automaticly disqualified dolce&gaBana fragrances, But this one d&g - ph is awsome, works wonderfully Believe me , even when it has certain sweetness, it is very clean and fresh)
    *acqua di parma - colonia essenza (awsome, i love this one, it is very foresty like, i can't help But think of an afternoon at a forest, aBout 6-7pm when its not night yet, is still sunny, shadows of the threes fill the whole place and keep the sun from Burning your Back, so the forest is fresh and you can smell the green leaves and herBs really alive. this fragrance it is not as simple as it seems to Be, yeah it is soapy, But especial, deep, classy, fresh, its incrediBle i love it, i just wish it had Better longevity)
    *virgin island waters (of course , used a lot of juice last summer)
    *hermes - un jardin sur le nil (fruity, green , fresh , deep, complex, a jean claude ellena composition, longevity is good on me 8hours , and projects well, uniquenes? you will Be the only person wearing this)
    *terre d' hermes pp and edt (we all know this)
    *chanell - allure edition Blance (citrusy, creamy, sweet, fresh, last a long time, a Better choice than ahs imo)
    *prada - amBer (soapy, clean, a lil sweeat, awsome longevity and projection)
    *guy laroche - drakkar noir (soapy, very fresh, clean , great projection and longevity, smell very nice, its not too popular now)
    *guerlain - homme (this is not a casual scents, people here try this as the guerlain's summer fragrance to increase sells, so it is kind of invalidated as a worthy fragrance, But this one is a good one, longevity is not monster and sillage is close to the skin, and on the real this fragrances works awsome as a work scent, suit and tie, fresh, clean, classy, even especial ocassion , and for its citrusy quality , great for summer)
    *dior dunne (it is pretty short lived, sillage is Below average, But it smells really good, smells like the Beach, it is unique and not too popular you won't see too much people rocking this)
    *yves saint laurent - jazz (i've heard its reformulated, But i still have the vintage version since aBout 4-5 years ago, smell awsome, citrusy-leathery-smoky-woody, for real, this has to Be the most underated fragrance, it works good for summer it doesn't get cloying even tho its dence)
    *cartier declaration essence (seriously i dont get B.O. in here)
    *versace - pour homme (i prefer this over allure homme sport, it is fresher less sweat version, works Better in high heat)
    *creed - silver montain water (short lived , But the smell of it is wow!, and also suitaBle for high heat, checked, By myself)
    *creed - original vetiver (i haven't tried mugler cologne, But ov its very good i like it, and i also think it very good for fall and winter, i find it very dark and dense)
    *lacoste - essentials (you really need to have this, it is leafy, green, kind of sweet BuBBlegummy, clean , smells really really similar to herBal essence shampoo, this is a totally casual /gym scent, But it smells so good, even tho longevity and projection on my skin is low, just cant miss this one)
    *calvin klein - eternity (sweet , soapy, fresh, clean , projects and last well, Best of calvin's klein house imo, shock is also good But it is for winter)
    *swiss army classic (really popular, But it just works really good summer, just cannot miss this one either, theres a lot of pseudo-summer scent, and just a few are really summer scents when 75% of the year is hot,,you just gotta have ALL the good ones)

    d&g - the one and sean john - unforgivaBle for summer nights

    thats an amazing collecion for the summer
    also these are ones i haven't tried But have heard and read a lot of good things
    and i have good hopes on them:
    ysl - ph haute concentration
    atelier - orange sanguine
    tom ford - neroli portofino


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