There was a time when the world’s best known and most popular fragrances came from one of either two sources: an established fragrance house like Guerlain or Penhaligon’s, or a reputable fashion label like Dior, Chanel or (Yves) Saint Laurent. But, in a similar way to digital TV splintering the monopoly of television’s main terrestrial channels, the proliferation of small boutique brands – and the growth of the niche fragrance sector overall – has in recent years radically changed the face of fragrance.
Men’s desire to express their individuality through harder-to-find, premium scents from less obvious progenitors has seen everyone from shoe designers to Michelin-starred chefs like Jason Atherton release fragrances. (And no, it’s not eau de filet mignon.)
Few, though, do diversification into scents as well as luxury car brands. These days, in fact, a decent bottle of fragrance is just as likely to come from a car manufacturer as it is from Carven – something that doesn’t surprise fragrance aficionado Nick Gilbert of Nick Gilbert Fragrance Expertise. “High-end cars, much like fashion brands, carry a high level of cachet and are entirely aspirational products,” he says.
“There’s instant brand-awareness and this makes them the perfect brands to expand into other categories of products – as long as those products retain the perception of quality.”
For Bentley – an auto brand that’s truly embraced fragrance – this kind of brand extension was a no-brainer. “Extending the spirit of Bentley into the world of fragrances seemed an obvious choice,” says Karin Schilcher, Director of Licensing and Branded Goods Bentley Motors Ltd. “We are a powerful contemporary brand with a history in, and reputation for, luxury and performance, and fragrance provides a rich seam of inspiration for us to explore.”
This, then, goes some way in explaining why luxury auto brands are so perfectly attuned to the eau de toilette avenue, but why are so many of these fragrances – or cash cows, as a more hardened cynic might label them – actually good?
Firstly, Gilbert points out, the consumer for these luxury cars has a profile remarkably similar to that of a consumer interested in high-quality fragrance: affluent Middle Eastern men with taste, hence why so many include oud – an especially popular ingredient in the Middle Eastern market. “These are consumers who are acutely aware of what good quality is all about and so expect that in a fragrance, too,” he points out.
Secondly, the fact scents like Bentley For Men and Ferrari Cedar Essence are produced in smaller quantities – and car brands don’t blow millions on advertising and A-list brand ambassadors to promote them – means they can invest in quality ingredients and that the ‘noses’ who create them aren’t as constrained by commercial pressures.
“As with most exclusive products, where the run is smaller, the risk attached in producing something of higher quality is much lower because you don’t need to sell hundreds of thousands of units to justify the launch,” says Gilbert.
The end result is often a fragrance that’s well developed and much less ubiquitous than something from your average top-tier fashion house – and pound for pound better value for money because of it.
Time to switch gears with your scents? These are the brands leading the race.
“Our aim with Bentley Fragrances was to create luxury fragrances that would embody our values of excellence, craft and quality – the promise of excellence unmatched,” says Schilcher. “Our customers are at the heart of everything we do and we work with the best perfumers in the world to provide them with the promise of Bentley as a sensory experience.”
Since the launch of Bentley For Men and Bentley For Men Intense in 2013, Bentley’s fragrance arm has gone on to release six more scents and another, Infinite Rush, is slated to drop this spring.
The Essential: Bentley For Men
Created by French perfumer Nathalie Lorson (the esteemed nose behind acclaimed scents by the likes of Lalique, Le Labo and Davidoff), Bentley’s first foray into fragrance is inspired by the woods and leather synonymous with the handcrafted interior of a Bentley – hence the presence of cedarwood and a sensual leather accord.
There’s rum, musk and patchouli in there, too, making this an expertly refined, masculine and seductive evening scent. The Intense version revs up the leathery, spicy aspects of the fragrance even more.
Bentley For Men EDT, available at Harrods, priced £60 for 100ml.
Worth A Test Drive
The crisp, citrusy and ozonic Bentley For Men Azure is a summer fragrance in all but name, while Bentley For Men Absolute is a heady, woody evening option that centres around exotic spices and smoky oud.
And, on the off chance your last car clear-out yielded three grand of change languishing under the seats, check out the Lalique for Bentley ‘Flying B’ Crystal Edition, which has to be the last word in luxury.
Ahead of the pack in olfactory brand extensions, Jaguar’s first men’s fragrance, Jaguar for Men, appeared way back in 1988. Now, the British car manufacturer boasts a portfolio of eight scents including the very latest addition to the roster, Jaguar Pace.
The brand’s core values may be “design, dynamism, performance and innovation” but its approach to fragrance is much more mass-market than its rivals and its target customer much younger.
Jaguar’s latest fragrance has a RRP of £29 and most of its previous scents have ended up heavily discounted, meaning you can usually pick them up for under £20.
The Essential: Jaguar Pace
It’s the latest model and, hey, who doesn’t want the latest model? Created to celebrate the launch of the Jaguar F-Pace (the brand’s ‘family sports car’), Pace is a spicy, woody and aromatic blend of black pepper, apple, rosemary and amberwood.
“We imagined the fragrance of warm, damp asphalt after light summer rain: an aromatic and mystical aroma,” say its creators, perfumers Alexandra Monet and Philippe Romano. (Which is, by all accounts, better than a carsick child.)
Jaguar Pace EDT, available from April 2016 at selected retailers, priced £45 for 100ml.
Worth A Test Drive
The very first Jaguar scent, For Men, relaunched 20 years after it first appeared, is also worth a punt. Fresh and spicy, it still retains an old-school this-is-what-we-reckon-a-men’s-fragrance-should-smell-like charm – i.e. it’s herbal, soapy and barbershoppy.
Jaguar Classic, meanwhile, is a more generic aromatic fougère and although not the brand’s finest moment, is perfectly serviceable.
Since its first fragrance launch in 1999, Ferrari’s collection of signature scents has grown at the speed of one of its world-renowned supercars. It kicked off with mass-market Ferrari Black and Ferrari Red fragrances, whose price point pitched it against David Beckham’s teen-friendly selection and, since then, the brand has gone on to launch a further 10 scents, allowing sport and car enthusiasts to easily obtain a piece of the famous Italian racing car company’s DNA.
Both eau de toilettes are okay – as is the latest one, Ferrari Man in Red – but it’s the company’s premium Essence Collection, at around £70 a pop, where the real action is.
The Essential: Ferrari Bright Neroli
If you love Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino, you’ll love this superbly crisp, citrusy and summery fragrance that’s as great for work as it is for world travels.
Ferrari Bright Neroli EDT, available at Harrods, priced £65 for 100ml.
Worth A Test Drive
Vetiver Essence is warm and sensual; Pure Lavender is fresh and soapy; Amber Essence is as sexy as hell, as is Essence Oud. In fact, we’d go as far as to say all the fragrances in the Essence Collection are worth a spin.
Although Rolls Royce has resisted the temptation to release a men’s fragrance itself, if you’re a fan of the brand then there’s Regent Leather – an eau de parfum formulated by luxury fragrance house Thameen in association with the Rolls Royce Enthusiasts Club.
Taking the smell of a Rolls Royce’s luxurious interior as its starting point, this deliciously leathery scent also features creamy vanilla and zingy lemon which create something that, like the car itself, is sleek, sexy and well-crafted.
Although priced at £195 a bottle, it’s probably the nearest most of us get to a real Roller.
Thameen Regent Leather Extrait De Parfum, available at Selfridges, priced £195 for 50ml.
Have you tried any of the fragrances above? Are they worth adding to the fleet? Or are men’s scents best left to the traditional experts?
Have you say below.