A Proper Gentleman’s Fragrance Wardrobe
By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
Ask most women what their fragrance wardrobe consists of, and you will probably get a list of five to 10 difference perfumes that make up her portfolio of favorite scents.
Ask a man the same question, and he is likely to give you the name of a single aroma, sadly, often that same stodgy English Leather or Old Spice aftershave that his granddad introduced him to when he was 14 years old.
But Mexican perfume historian and attar connoisseur Eduardo García is out to change that olfactive misfortune and teach men how to choose a variety of fragrances that can express who they are in any given setting with an appropriate range of essences.
“You wouldn’t wear the same clothing to your office or to a formal dinner that you wear to the sports club, and you shouldn’t be wearing the same scent to each of these places,” García explained during a master class on masculine scents sponsored by the British fragrance house Atkinsons at Palacio de Hierro’s Palacio Cantina in Coyoacán on Thursday, March 23.
“A well-groomed gentleman will have at least three or four scents in his fragrance wardrobe, and while they may have similar base aromas, they will reflect the time, place and objective of where and when he is wearing them.”
García, whose master class was part of Atkinsons’ official reintroduction into the Mexican market — now available exclusively at Palacio de Hierro Coyoacán, Palacio de Hierro Polanco and Palacio de Hierro Guadalajara — made a point of noting that Atkinsons currently has a portfolio of 22 different fragrances, mostly for men, but also many that smell fantastic on women. (The brand is slated to add another fragrance in July of this year.)
“The first step in finding your fragrances is to determine what types of smells you prefer,” García said.
To that end, he divided a selection of 13 different Atkinsons eau de colognes and parfums into three groups — fresh scents, gentleman classics and intense aromas — which he then proceeded to introduce during the master class.
Atkinsons, by the way, has been producing luxury fragrances from its London base since 1799, and in the mid-1820s, George IV gave the brand the much-coveted title of royal warrant purveyor to the king.
Relaunched in 2013 after a long dormant period off the market, Atkinsons is known as a “gentleman’s range of fragrances,” having had among its customers the likes of the Duke of Wellington, Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson and the erstwhile arbiter of British men’s fashion George Bryan “Beau” Brummell in the 1840s.
The first scent García presented, Scily Nerolli, was a light, airy blend of bergamot and tangerines with a subtle hint of ocean salt that was intended to capture the ambience of a day along the Sicilian coast.
This scent, he said, is one of the easiest for unindoctrinated men (and women) to assimilate into their perfume collections because it is so light and refreshing, with a deep citric base.
And like all the fresh fragrances on his list, García said that Scilly Nerolli is ideal for casual wear and informal settings, although its light redolence can easily segue into a more formal environment or even an impromptu night on the town.
Next, García presented Atkinson’s 24 Old Bond Triple Extract, an epigrammatic and tart blend of citric rinds that was far more masculine and imperious than the Scilly Neroli.
It was this fragrance, García said, that made the brand’s founder, John Atkinsons, an (upper-class) household name in England and it is also this fragrance that has become the flagship of the company today.
For those seeking a more pastoral scent, García presented Atkinsons’ Mint & Tonic, a lively bouquet of English garden bouquets with a still-citric base, accentuated by the bracing aroma of fresh-cut mint.
44 Gerrard Street, the fourth fragrance presented, was all about wood, with a strong cedar base and a gentle mix of musks at the close — definitely a manly scent.
The final fragrance in García’s fresh category was a delightful Nuptial Bouquet, designed by Atkinsons especially for Queen Victoria’s wedding in 1840.
Although there was definitely a floral base to this seductive scent, it was composed mostly of myrtle and other English wild flowers, which meant it was not at all florid or girly.
This scent — my personal favorite of the collection — was easily wearable for both men and women, and its lingering after-balm created a vaporous aura that lasted for hours.
García’s second group of scents, his gentlemen classics, were, as the name implies, strongly masculine in nature and intended for serious and more formal occasions.
The first fragrance in this collection, Big Bad Cedar, was just what you would expect from a cologne with that label: a monosyllabic burst of Scottish cedar (Atkinson’s ode to novelist Emily Brontë) that kicked like a lumberjack and didn’t look back.
Unlike the rest of the perfumes presented, this fragrance had no opening or closing notes and zero subtleties or nuances.
Next came Posh on the Green, a glorious blend of grassy aromas and earthy leathers that enveloped a day at Wimbledon.
British Bouquet, the final gentleman classics’ presentation, was a complex mix of earthy leathers, tobacco, whiskeys and musks overlaid on a background of raw citrics and masculine spices.
This highly tailored scent had a lush lavender close that captured its true British pedigree.
García then introduced his final five fragrances, starting with His Majesty the Oud.
As a sidebar, it is worth noting that Atkinsons was a pioneer in the use of oud, a hauntingly dark, woody, incense-like oil derived from fungus-altered tree resin.
Once known as “black gold” among Middle East perfumeries, oud is one of the most prized ingredients in the fragrance industry. It doesn’t come cheap and is still referred to as “the wood of the gods” throughout that region and the rest of Asia.
Oud gives fragrances an enigmatic and seductive smoky scent, and, most certainly, its unmistakable bouquet is one that is best suited for special occasions.
So back to His Majesty the Oud: This fragrance was, not surprisingly, anything but understated.
First launched by the fragrance house in 2016, this forceful cologne was a nonapologetic amalgam of Laotian oud, Indian sandalwood, cedar, balsam, vanilla and leather heralded in by a rush of smoldering Tibetan lapsang souchong tea and aromatic cloves.
The caliginous scent of the lapsang tea and the commanding presence of the Madagascar cloves helped to heighten the smokiness of the oud base, giving this fragrance a majestic quality.
Next came 41 Burlington, a haughty merger of spicy woods, grapefruit, white pepper, cardamom, nutmeg, amber and musk designed for the newly minted “old money” crowd that frequents the trendy London shopping arcade by that same name.
Tulipe Noire, the 11th fragrance presented, had a black tulip and musk foundation, enhanced by notes of sandalwood, rhubarb, coriander and bergamot, wrapped in an ethereal veil of jasmine and tuberose.
Pirates-Grande Reserve was essentially an odoriferous epode to “Pirates of the Caribbean” (although Atkinsons could not directly mention this, what with Johnny Depp owing fidelity to Christian Dior).
The notes were typical pirate fare: musk, old wood, leather, ocean scents, cacao, patchouli and rum — couldn’t forget the rum! Sir Francis Drake couldn’t be prouder.
The final fragrance presented by García was the Other Side of the Oud, a rather pungent flurry of warm kitchen spices (Atkinsons’ premiere entrée into the contemporary gourmand scent category), oud and ambered wood.
The medley of cardamom, cinnamon, roasted coffee and ginger on top of the oud was a bit overpowering on first whiff and when perceived on the cardboard tester strip, but during the master class, I had the good fortune of sitting next to the Atkinsons’ brand ambassador in Mexico, Adolfo de la Fuente.
It turns out that, mixed with the pH and chemistry of De la Fuente, the Other Side of the Oud took on an entirely different scent, transforming into a delightful, elegant, sophisticated bouquet that was both intriguing and captivating.
The difference was that of night and day.
All of which goes to prove the final message of García’s presentation: Try before you buy.
“Every scent smells differently on different people,” he said.
“When you are thinking of buying a fragrance, try it out first, and wear it for a while, because the scents changes as the top notes give way to the heart and closing notes.”