The last 12 months have added up to be an impressive year for men’s fragrances. From the uber-commerciality of this year’s biggest launch, Mr. Burberry, to the resurgence of old-school fragrance genres exemplified by Floris 1962, 2016 has proved that although sales growth might be sluggish in the fragrance market, there are still plenty of superbly crafted scents out there.
But with a slew of great launches, it can be hard deciding which ones to add to your rotation. To make things a little easier, we have compiled the top 10 launches of 2016, and so here we present the olfactory Oscars.
L’Envol de Cartier
A firm favourite among the grooming press, Cartier’s sixth major release for men garnered more good reviews than a Frank Ocean album. The reason? A creamy and delicious blend of honey, musk and warm woods that dials down on sweetness to create a juice that’s both light enough for daytime and sexy enough for evening.
The bottle’s cool, too – especially the 100ml refillable version, which features a removable inner resembling an ampoule of nitrous oxide. Which is appropriate really, because wear this on a night out and you’ll be laughing all the way to dating success.
Available at John Lewis, priced £87.30 for 100ml EDP.
Armani Code Profumo
Fragrance flankers (variants of existing fragrances) are a bit like remixes of your favourite bangers: rarely do they equal the original. This one, which builds on the phenomenal success of 2004’s Armani Code, however, is an exception.
A woody-ambery number, it still features the vanillary tonka bean that’s the signature note of Code, but beefed up with the help of leather and tobacco. Like its predecessors, Code Profumo is the perfect evening fragrance: complex, sensual and long-lasting. All you need to provide is suitable company.
Available at Boots, priced £50.20 for 60ml.
Launched in the spring, Mr. Burberry was accompanied by all the trappings of a big bucks mega-launch. A high profile ‘nose’ (Francis Kurkdjian, creator of Jean Paul Gaultier’s iconic Le Male); a big budget ad directed by Academy Award-winning film director Steve McQueen; and a pair of not-exactly-ugly ambassadors in the shape of actor Josh Whitehouse and model and actress Amber Anderson to front the campaign.
As you might expect from Burberry, the scent itself is ferociously commercial, right down to its impossible-to-hate smokiness and woodiness. It might be a fragrance-by-numbers but it’s a fantastically wearable one.
Available at John Lewis, priced £65 for 100ml EDT.
Salvatore Ferragamo Uomo
The trend for foodie fragrances (ones featuring notes like vanilla, chocolate or cinnamon) has dominated the world of men’s fragrance for several years now. But each successive sweet and cake-y scent has somewhat chipped away at the initial appeal. This one, however, is worth having on your menu.
Built around the smell of that most Italian of puddings, tiramisu, it’s a deep, complex and extremely sensual confection that, as you might expect, is big on coffee. It pretty much sneaked out undetected and with scant press attention when it launched back in July, making it arguably this year’s best-kept scent secret.
Available at Ferragamo, priced £66 for 100ml EDT.
Acqua di Parma Note di Colonia III
To mark its 100th anniversary (how’s that for staying power?) Acqua di Parma released three premium fragrances under the Note di Colonia umbrella this year. The third, Acqua di Parma Note di Colonia III, is far removed from the bright, sparkling citrus fragrances for which the legendary Italian house is famous.
Leathery and elegant, without being overpowering, it’s perfect for fragrance connoisseurs as its price (£280 a pop) and limited availability give it a whiff of exclusivity that’s almost as alluring as the vetiver, jasmine and myrrh notes it boasts.
Available at Acqua di Parma, priced £280 for 150ml.
Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze Musk Gold
If you’re a fan of rich, heavy, opulent fragrances then the trio of eau de toilettes that Zegna added to its critically acclaimed Essenze Collection in June is olfactory heaven. Amber Gold and Incense Gold are great in their own right but it’s Musk Gold that’s the deepest, darkest and sexiest of the three.
A ballsy evening scent that’s leathery and musky and features this year’s must-have fragrance ingredient – saffron – it’s grown up, powerful stuff, so not for the faint-hearted.
Available at Harvey Nichols, priced £146 for 125ml EDT.
Comme des Garçons Blackpepper
Another fragrance that impressed critics, this super-spicy concoction proved Comme des Garçons is back on form after so-so fragrances like Blue Cedrat and Blue Santal. To say it’s fiery is an understatement: the black pepper note (one usually tucked away in many other men’s fragrances) is way up in the mix here, providing a nostril-tingling start, middle and end.
Fear not, though, you won’t smell like a pepper-mill. Thanks to cedarwood, patchouli and creamy tonka bean, Blackpepper is much more than just a one note wonder. Sexy and long-lasting, it’s the perfect way to spice up your fragrance wardrobe.
Available at Selfridges, priced £83 for 100ml EDP.
The last 12 months saw a revival of old-school fragrances, reminiscent of what men wore back in the Sixties and Seventies. Unashamedly retro, 1962 from centuries-old perfumer Floris smells how you imagine Sean Connery’s Bond would.
A gentlemanly mix of citrus and wood, it also has a bracing minty coolness and a hint of lily of the valley, which gives it an old-fashioned barbershop freshness. Part of a collection celebrating past decades, it’s great for anyone wanting to plug into the smells of Sixties Soho – the fragrance’s inspiration – with an added dash of old-fashioned elegance.
Available at Floris, priced £140 for 100ml EDP.
Zadig & Voltaire This Is Him!
Like debut albums, first-time fragrances set benchmarks that are difficult to equal with later launches, partly perhaps, because so much love, care and attention goes into getting them right – before shameless greed takes over with subsequent releases.
Zadig & Voltaire’s first male-only scent goes straight into this year’s top ten by virtue of its sexy, punchy and youthful character. A sensual, woody and spicy mix of grapefruit, vanilla, black pepper and sandalwood, it’s perfect for first dates and clubbing when you need a scent that creates an impact. Fingers crossed the Parisian fashion house doesn’t suffer from second album syndrome with any follow-up.
Available at Superdrug, priced £55 for 100ml EDT.
Oliver Sweeney Bosco Selvatico
Oliver Sweeney might be better known for shoes, but the English brogue meister has also launched two exceptionally good fragrances in the last few years. Bosco Selvatico is the follow-up to 2015’s excellent Argento and continues in a similar independently minded, trend-defying vein.
The name means ‘wild wood’ in Italian, but this is actually a vetiver-based fragrance that’s big on galbanum – a note which gives fragrances a leafy green vibe. Inhale deeply as there’s even an unexpected whiff of the sea there.
Available at Oliver Sweeney, priced £99 for 100ml EDP.
Penhaligon’s oudy and leathery Alizarin; Tom Ford’s seventies-inspired Private Blend Vert D’Encens; John Varvatos’ homage to bikers, Dark Rebel Rider; Dior’s reworked version of Fahrenheit, Fahrenheit Cologne, Joop’s spiced-up version of Joop! Homme, Red King; and Beaufort London’s quirky, aromatic green fragrance Fathom V.
Do you have a favourite fragrance that was new for 2016? Why not tell us about it using the comments box below.