It was Tom Ford that said “good manners and good cologne is what transforms the man into a gentleman,” and while that may be simplifying the complexity of the modern male, there is truth to the maxim.
Scent of any sort is the finishing touch to most outfits, adding a breath of whimsy, masculinity or sensuality to your character.
It's a final accessory, invisible to the naked eye.
In summer, that accessory really comes into its own. That romantic ideology of summer is best captured in scent, which transport us to other places.
And that feels quite necessary at the moment, particularly when our summer plans have all been stalled (thank you Covid-19). When home becomes the holiday, fragrance might be one of the few things that sedate our wanderlust.
These scents, an indulgent mix of strong, soft and deeply sensual, do just that. You might find yourself in calming Sardinia during June, heady Mykonos in July or intoxicating Ibiza in August. With fragrance, the world is really your playground – something we all need at the moment.
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Maison Francis Kurkdjian grand soir
Smells of: Moroccan evenings
If you could bottle seduction, Grand Soir would be the scent. Its rich aroma reminds us of summer nights in Sardinia or warm Moroccan evenings, evoking a feeling of hedonism and relaxation all at once.
It is no surprise the fragrance inspires ideas of travel as the notes include benzoin from Siam, cistus from Spain and tonka from Brazil, which is rooted in a base of vanilla and amber. We found this fragrance to be one of few that merge sweetness and strength well. A real winner, particularly for anything after sunset.
Byredo eleventh hour
Smells of: Nepalese nights
Inspired by the zones that we would find refuge when oceans rise (hence the name), founder of the brand, Ben Gorham, draws upon the spiritual and sensual smells native to the Himalayas. A mixture of ban timber, carrot seed and wild fig are merged with a base of cashmere woods and tonka.
The real standout note, however, is rum; it just warms the wearer and grounds the smell, leaving behind just a hint of the native floral and fruit. For another seductive (but this time spicy) scent, Eleventh Hour is your man.
Frederick malle musc ravageur
Smells of: Dusk on the silk road
Now 20 years old, the longevity and love of this fragrance has surely earnt it a place in the fragrance hall of fame. The scent is dramatic, containing a blend of everyone’s favourite notes; amber, bergamot, mandarin, lavender, vanilla and sandalwood, and it is a beautifully balanced mix of all of them, making it easy to wear.
By Kilian a taste of heaven
Smells of: Liaisons in the countryside
If you had a party in an English garden, one filled with liquor and cigars, you might get a whiff of the notes that make up this scent. The floral burst of geranium, lavender and rose merge with the quintessentially English bergamot for the greenest of scents.
Grounded by wormwood, patchouli and oak moss that conjures a musky, wet forest at night, this fragrance is the signature scent of someone who likes to party. Titillating and temperate in equal measure.
Malin & Goetz dark rum
Smells of: Barbadian sunsets
It’s the brand's best-selling scent and for good reason; the modern interpretation of traditional rum feels warm, sensual and – pardon the pun – intoxicating. It is one of those scents you can’t stop smelling, which might be down to underlying notes of plum, leather and amber.
For those of us who enjoy a spicy spritz or deeply aromatic quality in a parfum, this one should be your cocktail of choice.
Hermes terre d’hermes eau intense vetiver
Smells of: Parisian soirees
A classic scent has had a contemporary update, which always sounds ominous and unnecessary. Why mess with perfection? In Hermes’ case (never one to put a hair out of line), the cult-favourite terre d’hermes has been infused with vetiver for a more woody, mineral aroma.
The result is a citrus-based scent that feels deeper and fresher than the original, almost as if intense vetiver is the naughtier version of its older brother. For those that favour lightness that lingers, add to cart.
Laboratory perfumes amber
Smells of: The English dusk
Scents that focus on single notes have come in and out of fashion, with many brands building an entire range on the concept. There is a simplicity and strength to such a confident statement which appeals to the minimalist in all of us.
While the eponymous note of amber does lie at the forefront, the brand backs the warmth with a rich greenness from grasses, spices and wood. A must for an elegant introvert.
Sunspel oak wood
Smells of: The Highlands at dawn
Another English knockout, Sunspel enlisted perfumer extraordinaire Lyn Harris to capture the essence of Britain – think countryside woodland and wet moss. What is so wonderful about the scent is the light way in which woodiness is captured, a category of notes that normally falls into the heavy and haughty.
It is whimsical but with real weight behind it, a combination which seems to be what makes a successful fragrance these days.
Creed virgin island water
Smells of: Sailing in St Vincent
If the name alone doesn’t make you feel sunned and salty, the scent will instantly transport you to a good anchorage in the Caribbean. Inspired by nautical trips around the tropical waters of the Virgin Islands, the scent has often been described as “paradise in a bottle”.
Put it down to the nectarous blend of base notes (tropical woods, coconut and musk) and citrus top of lime and mandarin, which smells fresh, exotic and completely irresistible all at once. Definitely a must to compliment any sun-drenched destination.
Chanel blue de chanel parfum
Smells of: A weekend at Wimbledon
Such a classic it's almost contemporary, blue de chanel parfum is the last in the trilogy of blue’s (the EDT and EDP launching before it) which is more powerful and precise than the two that came before it.
It is certainly spirited and warm, a blend of aromatic woodiness and lingering sandalwood that is quite heavily undercut with a citrus freshness. It is this freshness, a mix of lemon, mint, pink pepper and grapefruit, that lends a sporty sensibility to the scent. It really conjures visions of a luxury athlete like Roger Federer – one that mixes a gentle masculinity with an active lifestyle.
Votary feels sensual aromatherapy roll-on: desire
Smellx of: Warm summer mornings
Scent doesn’t always need to be a spray; in fact, many of the best are roll-ons. As oils (particularly aromatic oils) they can sit on the skin and emanate smell in line with your body heat. In this case, desire sends out a sweet floral blend of wild rose, almond blossom and orange.
It sounds feminine, but it has a deeper, more calming quality that really does help breath work and mental clarity. If you are staying at home (and who isn’t right now) skip the spray and give this a go. Apply on the pulse points to get the most out of it.
Thierry mugler a*men
Smells like: An alpine evening
A personal favourite of ours, a*men is as elegant as it is intense. The scent – now a cult-favourite among fragrance fanatics – blends wooden notes of sandalwood, patchouli and atlas cedar with the calming qualities of lavender and mint.
It has an almost caramel quality to it, smoothing over the energetic coffee and deep benzoin to feel simultaneously strong and soft. If it’s a day to night smell you are after, a*men is A-star.
19-69 Chinese tobacco
Smells like: A nightclub in Shanghai (the good kind)
It is just impossible to stop smelling this – it is borderline intoxicating. Drawing upon Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, Chinese tobacco includes everything you would want it too. Tobacco, oud and ginger give it the distinctly eastern sensibility while vanilla, vetiver and bergamot assuage anything too overwhelming from the first trio.
Like the opium scene it was inspired by, 19-69 has created a euphoric scent. Spritz lightly if you are heading into a social setting as can teeter on the heavy.
Dior ambre nuit
Smells like: Istanbul at night
There is a hedonism to Dior’s ambre nuit that keeps you coming back. The scent, like so many on this list, merges the sweet with the strong – in this case, amber with the velvety Turkish rose.
The fragrance is spicy after it hits the skin, warming up to full effect after an hour and really turning heads. If you really want to set the mood at home too, then the ambre nuit candle is just as rousing.
Louis Vuitton ombre nomade
Smells like: Paris, Morocco and Abu Dhabi all at once
Ouds of any sort are more suited to winter – their dark, deep olfactory just feels too heavy for summer. Always the subverters, Louis Vuitton has thrown in the most unexpected and stirring notes to soften that darkness. Think raspberry, geranium and saffron – all delicious floral notes that take that heaviness in a lighter direction.
Each of these notes are taken from different areas of the world (hence the name Nomade) which lends itself to Vuitton’s philosophy of travel. Just make sure to keep it encased in one of their beautiful leather bottle holders, as one spray goes a long, long way.
The verdict: Men’s summer fragrances
Even reduced to 15 greats, perfume can be a bit paralyzing. There are just so many to choose from, but that is also the beauty in them; how boring would it be if every dude smelled the same?
Instead use your wonderlust to select your summer scent. Is it the mountains you miss? A*men by Theirry Mugler will get you there. The caribbean you are craving? Creed’s virgin island water does the trick.
All are stellar scents, but for us at The Independent we just cant put down Maison Francis Kurkdjian grand soir, which is everything you want summer to be in one sleek bottle.
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