Considering toiletries are the ultimate fall-back Christmas gift for men, relatives tend to get fragrances all wrong. Not to sound ungrateful, but we didn’t appreciate the naff deodorant gift set at 14, and our feelings haven’t changed in the years since.
Everybody wants to smell nice. The problem is, “nice” is the most subjective idea in the world. One man’s oud is another’s rotting carcass. But all is not lost.
Instead of wasting cash on a pungent bodyspray that could knock out an infant hippo, take an olfactory upgrade with a proper fragrance. As in a well-made, artfully-marketed spritz that’s aimed at men above voting age (and one that’ll receive near universal praise). Take a whiff of our recommended eau de awesomes below.
Sure, a proper gentleman never calls himself such. But since it hasn’t been 1823 for quite some time, we’ll let Givenchy’s signature scent slide. First launched in the seventies, this expert blend of honey, cedar and musk hits the right note of masculine without heading into locker room territory.
Ted Baker Sethun Ag Fragrance & Body Wash Set
Less than £50 for a 100ml bottle of eau de toilette is pretty good going. Add a matching body wash into the mix, and you’re laughing all the way to the bank on boxing day – well, you would be if it was open. This fragrance and body wash set from Ted Baker is about as safe a bet as presents come. Plus, you’ll ultimately be buying yourself a better smelling man. Everyone’s a winner.
Jo Malone Myrrh & Tonka
If it was good enough for Baby J in the manger, it’s good enough for us this Christmas, too. Jo Malone’s Myrhh & Tonka may be a unisex fragrance, but it skews very much on the manly side of oriental: lavender top notes, with base notes of almond and the namesake tonka bean. Three wise men have got nothing on this.
Acqua di Parma Colonia Pura
Aqua di Parma lacks the brand recognition of big designers. And that’s a good thing. The Italian label is the go-to scent for those in the nose, making it an informed choice – and all the more covetable for it. Colonia Pura, a fresh blend of bergamot and orange, is no exception.
Coach For Men
It already boasts one of our favourite menswear collections and Coach’s latest fragrance release is going straight into our scent wardrobe, too. A refreshing mix of citrus top notes and smoky, peppery heart notes make this a touch more complex than many of its counterparts. Bargain price for a designer name, too.
Paco Rabanne 1 Million
One of the world’s most popular men’s fragrances is getting a limited-edition release for Christmas. Unashamedly baller, 1 Million is about excess. Filthy, lovely excess. As such, the scent opens with sharp, head-turning fruit notes before settling on something more sensual in the form of leather and tonka bean.
Commes Des Garçons Blackpepper
Many designer brands conjure images of suited (and incredibly successful) city men. Nothing wrong with that. Commes des Garçons, however, does the opposite, channelling art school cool in both its menswear and fragrance lines. It’s a blend of black pepper, cedar and patchouli, proving that hipsters need to smell good, too.
Bleu De Chanel
There’s a reason why Parisians act like they’re better than everyone else. It’s because they are. And for that, we can thank labels like Chanel. Its iconic men’s fragrance is a classic woody mix, with lighter notes of jasmine, grapefruit and mint. You might not be able to pronounce je ne sais quoi, but at least you can smell like it.
Maison Margiela Replica By The Fireplace
A clogged fireplace isn’t the likeliest source of inspiration for a luxury fragrance, but then again, Maison Margiela has made its name on courting the unconventional. The French fashion house, now headed by John Galliano, has combined pink pepper, orange blossom, guaiac wood and Peru balsam to create a scent that’s more roaring blaze than soot-covered firepit. And no, we haven’t heard of any of those ingredients either, but our nostrils approve.
Dunhill Icon Racing
The Dunhill brand speaks to tradition, luxury and being an upstanding, stylish sort of gent. Always has. The latest incarnation of its now-sprawling Icon collection is no different. Woody and musky, it conjures up images of plush wood-panelled rooms and the handsome racing green bottle will smarten up any bathroom shelf.
Bottega Veneta Pour Homme Parfum
Bottega Veneta’s Pour Homme Parfum is actually an update of an update of the label’s first men’s fragrance. This time around, the Italian brand has gone for alpine freshness, along with weightier notes of leathery labdanum and aromatic spices. If you’re hitting the slopes in the new year, this is your perfect après-ski scent.
Carolina Herrera 212
If designer labels are the everyman’s go-to, consider Carolina Herrera a more astute choice for those in the know. The Venezuelan designer has long dressed heads of states and their significant others – experience that bodes well for the brand’s men’s fragrance collection. 212, named after the original area code for Manhattan, is a spicy, luxurious scent that’ll take you from house party to presidential inauguration in one quick spritz.
Ermenegildo Zegna Haitian Vetiver
Ermenegildo Zegna suits are insane. Insanely good, and insanely expensive. So, bring the Italian designer back into budget with Haitian Vetiver: a crisp, bold fragrance made using an extract grown specifically for the label. Razor-sharp three-piece sadly not included, but this is a fitting accessory for one nonetheless.
Ralph Lauren Safari
New is bold but old is gold – something Ralph Lauren’s Safari takes literally. One of the label’s signature fragrances, it has been largely left alone since 1992, resulting in a clean scent of citrus and eucalyptus that’ll serve you well for another 25 years at least.
Sometimes, despite refusing sugar in our tea, we’re not actually sweet enough. Valentino’s Uomo – a fragrance that sits on the more saccharine end of the spectrum – packs a sugar rush, but in a grown-up way, tying together notes of chocolate, leather and cedar without giving anyone toothache.