Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
As I wrote in Running with the Boys, some fragrance types seem so quintessentially masculine that I find it hard to wear them. The fougère style fragrances combine herbal notes with the rich sweetness of amber, tonka bean and musk and are among the most classical of masculine perfumes (think Calvin Klein Eternity for Men!) I have used words like virile, burly and hair-chested to describe this genre, but it is a gross generalization. Manly though this style is, it can also be elegant and polished. I only need to reach for Tom Ford Lavender Palm and Penhaligon’s Sartorial to find two recent examples.
Sartorial was created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, and it has his distinctive signature. While in keeping with Penhaligon’s classical aesthetic, Sartorial follows the rules of a fougère but the result is modern. It opens up on a multifaceted aromatic chord, with lavender and green leaves setting the tone. The fizz of aldehydes is starchy and metallic at first, but once it subsides, the peppery note gives Sartorial an appealing piquancy. As time goes on, Sartorial loses some of its initial seriousness. The spice and mineral austerity give way to the sweetness of fresh hay and milky almonds.
Duchaufour’s dry mineral notes are similar to those in L’Artisan Fleur de Liane and Eau d’Italie Bois d’Ombrie and these notes give their austere flavor to Sartorial. The contrast between the aromatic verdancy on top and the raspy woody amber on the bottom creates a pleasant freshness; however, it is not the sterile freshness of most run of the mill masculines. The earthy notes of patchouli reinforced by oakmoss and balsams further strengthen the out-of-doors impression. The Sartorial man in his smartly tailored suit could be walking along the beach, kicking sun bleached wood with the tip of his leather loafer.
There are other modern fougère ideas similar to Sartorial. My favorites for some time have been Serge Lutens Encens et Lavande and Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche pour Homme, which is soon to be introduced back to the line. The reorchestrated Houbigant Fougère Royale likewise explores a streamlined modern style. Still, I love the harmony and radiance of Sartorial. I find it too manly for me, but I keep a sample on hand to be reminded of what a well-crafted masculine should be.
Penhaligon’s Sartorial includes notes of neroli, cardamom, ginger, black pepper, violet leaves, aldehydes, metallic accord, cyclamen, lavender, linden blossom, leather, beeswax, myrrh, cedarwood, patchouli, oakmoss, amber, white musk, tonka bean, vanilla, and honey. It is available from Penhaligon’s stores and online at store likes minnewyork.com and fourseasonsproducts.com. $120 for 100ml.
Sample: my own acquisition