I wrote “smell good” first, followed by “smell unique.” I settled on “smell distinctive,” because unique is redundant. Everyone already smells unique, thanks to one-of-a-kind DNA.
Distinctive, however, takes research. Patience. Like finding the pair of jeans that were made for you.
Personally, I hate sifting through jean brands. The quest is overwhelming before it begins. I think the same holds for finding a fragrance. Where do you start?
Since I have more experience with scents than I do jeans (only ever wear Diesel, and all mine are 3+ years old), I’ll bequeath some nosy tips, from my vanity to yours…
Before you do anything, don’t go to Sephora. I mean, if you have your heart set on Acqua di Gio, don’t let me stop you. Just know, you won’t smell distinctive. Good, sure. It’s one of the best-selling men’s scents of all time.
But those lines get pushed at every department store, every duty-free shop, in every airport and mall, across the globe.
I suppose it never hurts to have a bottle on hand, for bro-mergencies.
Step into the rarified air of Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, or the like, and you’ll find a different set of brands. Here are some of my favorites:
Jo Malone – known for simple fruit and flower scents. Grapefruit, Freesia & Pear, Pomegranate (there are many). Good choices for singular notes. Casual scents. My choices: 154, Amber & Lavender, Lime Basil & Mandarin. All of Jo’s scents are available in small bottles for only $60, no big commitment necessary.
Tom Ford Private Blends – separate from his other fragrances, these come in jewel-like bottles. Great for sexy, heavy, enveloping scents. My choices: Oud Wood, Santal Blush, Plum Japonais, and Tuscan Leather. For summer, Neroli Portofino.
Acqua di Parma – I’m not terribly versed myself in AdP, but I’m told all of it smells fantastic. Again, a storied brand with tradition at its core.*
As per all of my posts, there is yet another layer of obscurity and niche to uncover.
At Barney’s New York, you can find all kinds of fragrance that is pretty much exclusive to the house. They must have discerning noses armed with lucrative exclusivity agreements.
Two standouts there are:
Editions de Parfum par Frederic Malle – an entire line of collaborations, among many famous noses. I visited the FM store on Madison Avenue in December and had the full experience.
Along the way to $250 bottles, I’ve also picked up some pretty inexpensive scents too. Some of my favorites actually.
Dominica Bay Rum – this smells like dad, because it’s all I remember him ever wearing when I was a kid. Smells wonderful, like the tropics.
Lucky Tiger Head-to-Toe spray – use this for maintaining freshness during exercise or at the beach.**
Don’t let my taste dictate your purchase; research for yourself. I like Fragrantica for crowd-sourced info on new and existing scents.
Ultimately, you will wear something you love. It will be so you, and everyone will be impressed. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it shouldn’t be obvious either.*** A cache of multiple scents, for different days or moods, will keep both your mind and those around you entertained.
*My friend Mike is my main source of Acqua di Parma information, he is a big fan.
**Thanks to my brother for turning me onto this stuff.
***A mother of one of my lifelong friends wears Ciara by Revlon, introduced in 1973. It is so distinctively her to me that I once asked what it was (thinking it was obscure and expensive). Walgreens, $30.