They might not be as obvious as runway trends, but there are subtle shifts in what’s hot in perfumery happening all the time. And if you’re the kind of guy who likes to keep his wardrobe up-to-date, why wouldn’t you freshen up your fragrance line-up too?
“Fragrance trends tend to be less noticeable compared to trends in clothes, purely because clothes are more noticeable than perfume – but there are trends,” says award-winning fragrance writer, author and blogger Persolaise. “Not only does the fragrance world look to the catwalk for inspiration, perfume designers are always trying to find new olfactory territories to explore,” he says.
“When one avenue of creativity – like the recent oud craze, for example – reaches a dead end, they try to seek out another and as with fashion […] many of them inadvertently end up going down the same road, which results in the appearance of a trend.”
So what trends are worth paying attention to right now? Here are five to get your nostrils into.
From cool cardamom and zingy ginger to piquant black pepper and red hot chilli, spices are everywhere this season, challenging the sweet gourmand and oud trends of the last few years for dominance in the male fragrance market.
“The spice facet in fragrance is roughly split into two – fresh spices like ginger, pink pepper and cardamom; and hot spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, clove and saffron,” explains British perfumer Roja Dove.
Spicy scents are to your fragrance wardrobe what jumpers are to your clothing one – warm and comforting. But sexier too. To spice up your life this winter try Joop! Red King (chilli pepper); Aramis Voyager (ginger); Penhaligon’s Endymion Concentré (nutmeg); Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male Essence de Parfum (cardamom); and Commes des Garçons’ BLACKPEPPER (the clue’s in the name).
“Patchouli is back in a big way, as are aromatic herbs and green notes, all of which were key features of seventies scents,” says Persolaise. “They’re not retro clichés though: they’re lighter and more translucent than their seventies counterparts: their trousers aren’t quite as flared and their lapels not quite as wide.”
Notable examples are Bracken Man from Amouage, Él from Arquiste, L’Envol de Cartier from Cartier and Tom Ford’s recent green quartet of ‘Vert’ fragrances.
Also tapping the old-school gentlemanly vibe are Oliver Sweeney’s new lime, sage and oak moss combo Bosco Selvatico; Penhaligon’s The Tragedy of Lord George, which smells of brandy and shaving soap; and Floris’ 1962 – a retro mix of mandarin, jasmine and musk that captures a distinctly sixties Sean Connery-esque masculinity.
“There’s definitely a trend right now for woody, musky fougère fragrances with barbershop floral notes of lavender and jasmine, which [all] suggest elegance and confidence and hark back to a time of traditional values and etiquette, of chivalry and [an] elegant, sophisticated masculinity,” says Edward Bodenham, Floris’ perfumery director.
Perfect for grown-ups, these scents are also great for younger guys wanting to kick back against generic, mass-market fragrances laced with sweet, foodie notes or bitter aquatic ones.
In the same way menswear homes in on a particular colour or cut each season, every now and then certain fragrance notes rise to prominence in perfumery. In recent years, everything from smoky oud to the piquant pink pepper have found themselves flavour (or smell) of the month.
But this autumn it’s saffron’s turn – often dubbed the King of Spices due to its scarcity and price. “Saffron is one of the most expensive of all perfumery ingredients but is worth its weight as it lends an incredibly elegant, warm spiciness to fragrances and provides a bridge between the fresh top notes and the more lingering base notes,” says Dove.
Sweet, earthy and slightly leathery, saffron blends especially well with woody notes giving them extra depth, so look out for it if you like your fragrances, warm, sexy and spicy.
New offerings that put saffron at their heart this season include Givenchy Gentlemen Only Absolute, Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme Noir Ambré, Ermenegildo Zegna’s Musk Gold and Roberto Cavalli’s smouldering Uomo.
The fragrance industry is famous for using colour as a signpost to a scent’s mood or character. Red, for example, says fiery and hot; yellow is citrusy and summery; and blue aquatic. So as you might expect, black – this season’s favoured colour for fragrance packaging – signifies scents that are dark, intense, sensual and a bit mysterious.
The antithesis of bright, daytime fragrances, new launches like John Varvatos’ Dark Rebel Rider, Joop! Homme Black King, and Comme des Garçon’s BLACKPEPPER are meant to be worn in the evening. Keep them for special occasions, apply if you’re out partying or team with a tux for black tie events.
“In truth this is a marketing trend rather than an olfactory one,” says Persolaise, warning that not all fragrances with dark in the title or housed in a black bottle are particularly dark in character. “BLACKPEPPER is a notable exception though, because it genuinely tries to bring together the concepts of olfactory ‘blackness’ with pepper,” he says.
If you want proof that niche or ‘boutique’ fragrances (those scents produced on a smaller scale, by an independent perfume house and usually touting a higher price tag) are where it’s at right now, you only need to look at the stats.
Sales of boutique fragrances costing more than £200 a bottle have quadrupled in the last five years and according to trend analysis company NPD Group, there’s been a 36 per cent increase in the number of niche fragrances on the market since 2011. Thanks to men getting increasingly discerning in their fragrance buying habits, it’s this sector of the market where growth is happening.
“The modern gent wants to be individual,” says Bodenham. “In today’s throwaway society where few products are made to stand the test of time, we have noticed a trend in men seeking out traditionally crafted clothes, shoes and, yes, fragrances, where the best quality ingredients are being used and where attention to detail is being adhered to.”
Perfect for guys who value individuality are fragrances like Beaufort London’s Fathom V (which takes the notion of an aquatic fragrance and turns it into something mossy and green); Byredo’s unnamed Eau De parfum (you’re free to call it what you like – how’s that for individuality?); and S&X, perfume designer Azzi Glasser’s unisex collaboration with photographer Rankin – all of which will set you apart from the crowd and, as a bonus, keep you bang on trend too.
Got one eye on what might be just around the corner in the world of fragrance?
“I’d say we’ve got a tobacco trend on the horizon,” says Persolaise. “Nostalgia for smoke-filled cafés and cinemas anyone?”