New British fragrance brand klaxon. Founded by Michael Donovan and named after the ancient, Central London parish of St Giles - it’s that bit just near Tottenham Court Road station, where the coloured Renzo Piano buildings are - where he was born, this new collection of five fragrances is based on different characters.
Michael has worked in the fragrance business for many years with some of the biggest names and noses. Here, he has teamed up with perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour, and spent the last three years creating the five scents: The Tycoon, The Writer, The Stylist, The Actress and The Mechanic.
TheChicGeek says, “It’s always great to see new British fragrance brands. Especially from somebody with over 20 year’s experience in the business. Michael sent me the three most masculine fragrances to try - The Tycoon, The Writer and The Mechanic.
There’s a lot going on, but it works. I actually found it difficult to choose one standout. I liked all three and underlining it all is quality.
The Tycoon is a classic chypre with notes of patchouli, labdanum and oakmoss augmented with a castoreum.
The Writer opens with fresh ginger, rosemary absolute and the focusing sparkle of aldehydes with castoreum absolute plus sandalwood, cedarwood and driftwood.
The Mechanic has a base of hot rubber, musk, oakmoss and a balsamic, cracked styrax with an earthy geranium and patchouli opening.
The Mechanic is the most interesting as it doesn’t fit in as easily with the other character names. The market for niche fragrances continues to grow and this is definitely a collection worth seeking out. I just wish the branding and labelling had more personality and fully represented the fragrances’ depth of character.”
St Giles Collection - 100ml - £130
Exclusive to Selfridges
The latest edition to the Blu Mediterraneo series is centred around the extremely rare chinotto fruit. Called Chinotto di Liguria - Liguria is a coastal region of north-western Italy. Its capital is Genoa - it is a small orange-type fruit which had been used by the Italians to make fizzy drinks, but had somewhat disappeared.
The top notes of the fragrance are enhanced by the bittersweet notes of the chinotto fruit and the sparkling crispness of mandarin. At its heart, jasmine and geranium bloom with the dynamic and refreshing notes of cardamom and rosemary. It is rounded off with the peace and tranquillity accorded by the base notes of musk and patchouli. A fragrance reminiscent of an early morning stroll along the rocky coastlines of western Liguria.
TheChicGeek says, “Nothing makes you want to book a Summer holiday like the launch of a new Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo scent. The blast of sunshine and the hypnotic blue of the bottle makes you want to rush down to Lunn Poly and take a one way flight to Southern Europe. ANYWHERE.
Left & Right - Acqua di Parma Blu Mediterraneo - Chinotto di Liguria 75ml - £66
This tiny orange had somewhat - or should that be kumquat?! - fallen out of use in Italy. It has a thick skin and the fragrance is extracted by fermenting the entire fruits.
This isn’t your standard sparkling citrus fragrance. It’s more interesting than that. It has a warm spiciness - cardamom - which seems to keep the fragrance in the background, but it has a heat and intensity that keeps it resonating. It's like the heat from coastal rocks after a long day in the sun.
This is the kind of fragrance that would keep people guessing regarding the ingredients and is a welcome addition to the citrus category.”
The first fragrance for men from Nejma, Koeptys - from the latin coeptis, meaning project or endeavour - is a collaboration between the brand, master perfumer, Alice Lavenat, and French rap phenomenon, Booba - no, me neither!
Booba is the most downloaded music artist in French history and is said to have been closely involved with the whole creative process.
Left - Koeptys - 100ml EDP - £130. Exclusive to Selfridges
Koeptys opens with notes of incense, cinnamon and pepper before revealing a floral woody heart. Pure vanilla and patchouli inject power and sensuality to the base of this highly aromatic and addictive scent.
The alternating upper and lower case letters highlight the word ‘key’ and are a reference to the street culture that has been a major influence on Booba’s life and music.
TheChicGeek says, “When I first saw this I wanted to try it. I know nothing about Booba, but the name and font was giving me Egyptian hieroglyphic vibes and I was intrigued.
Nejma is known for centring their fragrances around oud, but it definitely doesn’t feature here. What starts off as something wet and metallic, and what you think could be the same predictable men’s scent, quickly whooshes into something more floral and much more interesting. It has a big feminine slant with the base of vanilla, but isn’t sickly and doesn’t dominate.
The woody floral centre dominates and is warm yet green and this fragrance is definitely something that twists and turns depending on whether it is on your skin, clothes and your mood.”
Right - French Rap Star, Booba, with whom the fragrance is a collaboration
TheChicGeek says, “You’ll be pleased to know this doesn’t smell like the top deck of a double decker bus. If somebody sprayed this and you had to close your eyes, you’d never guess this was called ‘Cannabis’.
Inspired by Andrew Goetz’s time in Amsterdam, the fragrance contains bergamot, black pepper and magnolia with a base of cedarwood, patchouli and sandalwood.
It’s fresh, fragrant and warm. There isn’t any smoke or that pungent odour associated with cannabis and is definitely an easy-wearer. This would make a good, everyday fragrance and I think the 420 fans will be disappointed if they smell this. Maybe they should have called it 'Amsterdam'?"
Left - Malin + Goetz Cannabis EDP 100ml - £125
See more grooming products containing cannabis here
The classic touch of lavender is altered by noble iris, that master perfumers Nathalie Lorson and Olivier Cresp placed at the heart of the fragrance. Combined with smooth, sweet pear and in a subtle nod to the original 1975 release, a patchouli-leather accord structures this new woody floral fougère fragrance.
Left - Gentleman Givenchy - 100ml - £66
TheChicGeek says, “Off we went to Paris for the launch of this and even after two days it still wasn’t sinking in exactly which way around gentleman and Givenchy were arranged. The new fragrance is called Gentleman Givenchy and not Givenchy Gentleman - do you see what they did there? - which is the original 1975 fragrance and, to many, a classic.
Right - Face - Aaron Taylor-Johnson representing the "Gentle Man"
The new version is getting a lot things right: the face Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a good choice. He looks great in the ad. and the commercial, shot by his artist wife, it sees him dancing and looking hot. The bottle is the classic Givenchy shape and the idea of a “Gentle Man” is modern and reflects the change in masculinity over the 40 years since the original.
The main problem I have is, the fragrance smells like everything else. I’m not getting the original here and it’s certainly not memorable. Again, another fragrance not to dislike, but nothing to get excited about either.
With Givenchy’s pedigree they should have reintroduced the original with all its seventies-ness to a new generation and re-owned one of the great male fragrances. Givenchy is a storied brand and they have a respected history, they just don’t use it enough.
They have a new designer, Clare Weight Keller, and it will be interesting if she has any input into the beauty side of the business which has been neglected under the former Creative Director, Riccardo Tisci.”
Left - TheChicGeek giving good "Gentleman" on the red carpet in Paris
Below - TheChicGeek getting his Gentleman Givenchy on in the Eurostar lounge on the way home from Paris
While the image of Davidoff Cool Water has always been a sparkling, aqua blue wave somewhere exotic like Hawaii or Malibu, you don’t have to go that far to experience the addictive draw of the sea.
Davidoff kindly took me to Cornwall to experience the latest edition to the Cool Water franchise - Wave. TheChicGeek and water don’t usually mix, but there’s something about Cornwall that when the sun comes out, it’s magical.
Famous for its ‘oceanic’ aquatic scent, Davidoff asked renowned perfumers, Francis Kurkdjian, Antoine Lie, and Jean Jacques to collaborate to create Wave. It begins with a bracing surge of the energising, signature marine splash accord and grapefruit notes that mingle with stimulating Sichuan pepper. The middle features birch leaf and juniper, on a masculine base of patchouli and sandalwood.
TheChicGeek says, “This is an easy wearer and that’s why the original Cool Water has remained so popular. A nice update, segue way, call it what you will, I particularly like the botanicals in it. The original ‘marine splash’ is there and while the rest balances around it, it remains a classic aqua cologne. It has a greenish feeling to it that continues the fresh theme without making it feel immature or unsophisticated. Cool Water Wave brings back the memories of the beach, so I'm diving in!”
Below - Surfer Geek
A new men’s scent from French jewellery house, Cartier, the name ‘L’Envol' means ‘take flight’, and plays around with the idea of the Cartier timepieces developed for the first aviators.
An oriental woody fragrance, it contains musk blended with the powerful and masculine gaiac wood with honey notes and balmy facets.
TheChicGeek says, “Tell me, who doesn’t like the smell of honey? But, would you want to smell of it?
This smells like a jar of clear honey - maybe it’s the colour of the juice - made from white flowers. Close your my eyes, lie back and think of all those busy bees buzzing around jasmine and orange blossoms and you basically have L”Envol.
Left - The fragrance bottle is a refillable glass bulb inside a plastic sleeve
This is a very feminine ‘masculine’ fragrance and one I’m sure woman will wear just as much as men. It smells of honey, but without the stickiness you often get with cheaper fragrance ingredients and has a dash of patchouli while drying to a warm, comforting wood.
The bottle is interesting, it’s a glass bulb surrounded by a plastic case (*I've been corrected, the outer case is also glass) with a metal stopper that twists to reveal the opening. The glass bulb looks fairly delicate, so not one for the bathroom floor, and reminds me of one of those fancy oil/vinegar bottles.
It’s refillable, which does reduce the cost, but at £97 for 100ml, it’s really pushing that psychological £100 barrier. The £100 fragrance market is a tough one to crack, especially if this is sitting on a shelf next to cheaper fragrances. I understand that Cartier is a luxury brand, but if they’re going to introduce themselves to a younger, newer audience it still needs to be accessible.
The ingredients do smell of quality though and it’s certainly different.