We men are a very self-conscious lot. Or at least, that’s what marketeers who spend their time butching up traditionally feminine products would have us believe.
After all, how else do you explain the recent boom in men’s-specific cosmetic products and procedures, other than the fact that while we’re all too ready to beautify ourselves, we still live in constant fear of being the butt of jokes because of it? Sorry, did I say cosmetics? I meant grooming. Cosmetics are for girls.
But sometimes there are cases that confound the brand strategists. Like Roja Dove’s Vetiver Extrait, a Chypré fragrance which despite initially being launched in 2012 as unisex (and adorned in – by all accounts – feminine packaging of gold-labelled bottle and diamond-like glass cap), proved a runaway success with men.
So much of a success, in fact, that it’s just been relaunched as a Pour Homme scent as part of Dove’s Parfums line, and bottled in a reassuringly masculine gold-capped bottle with black debossed lettering (phew). But as revelatory as this all might sound, it’s not particularly – and that’s mostly because Vetiver Extrait was never that feminine in the first place.
Dry and smokily warm, vetiver is a note sourced from the root of a tropical grass native to India. It’s earthy, woody and – in fragrance terms at least – masculine. Not puffing-on-a-cigar-in-a-pinstripe-suit kind of masculine, but masculine nonetheless. Despite this, vetiver is, according to Dove, used in up to 40 per cent of women’s fragrances on the market, which goes some way in explaining why perhaps the perfumer initially released it as a unisex scent with all the trappings of a women’s perfume.
But what Vetiver Extrait did, and which other fragrances have often failed to do, is give the ingredient some stage time. So many other scents simply lean on vetiver as a background ingredient, something to make the scent gently hum, rather than star front and centre.
Vetiver Pour Homme – the new, intended-for-men version – builds on that, amping up vetiver’s sultry earthiness even further. Otherwise it’s pretty much business as usual, with the scent’s formula mirroring its unisex predecessor’s: a blend of bergamot and lemon top notes, floral heart notes and green base notes adding a juicily fresh counterpoint to vetiver’s dryness.
If that sounds like a slight, it’s not meant to be: this is one of the best fragrances that’s landed on our desk in months – an earthy and lightly spicy scent that’s light and verdant at the same time. It could come packaged in a hot pink stiletto-shaped bottle, and we’d still wear it.
Available at Selfridges, priced £225 for 50ml eau de parfum.
Bottle: A glass flacon with a cap that looks like cut gold.
Head notes: bergamot, lemon, litsea cubeba;
Heart notes: rose, jasmine;
Base notes: pepper; pink pepper; nutmeg; caraway; celery seed; galbanum; oakmoss; vetiver; cedar needles; cedar wood; guaiacwood; amyris; cistus; labdanum
Best for: Men more thoroughly modern than throwback.