Edge and Elegance : Men’s Fragrances

The men’s side of the perfume aisle can be predictable – citrus, herbs, aquatic notes, woods and musk – but it need not be so. I can list many fragrances marketed to men that aren’t only original, but also can be the perfect fit for anyone. Remember, perfume isn’t a gendered thing intrinsically; it’s whatever you make of it. My new FT column, Edge and Elegance, is devoted to men’s fragrances, tailoring, classics and what makes for an elegant composition.

One of the most memorable fragrances I’ve smelled on a man was created in 1924 for the Viennese bespoke clothing house Knize. Despite being almost 100 years old, it had the timeless aura and the elegance of a perfectly tailored suit. The composition opened up with peppery bergamot, basil and thyme, but also prominent were leather and earthy patchouli, with hints of tobacco and iris. The latter softened the dark and smoky notes of Knize Ten, giving it refinement and flair. Knize Ten was streamlined, but not without a seductive twist. So alluring was it that I placed an order for a bottle, presented it to my husband and have been pilfering it from his collection ever since. To continue reading, please click here.

What fragrances would you have picked?

Image via FT



  • maja: You have picked my absolute favourites (Knize Ten is a masterpiece) plus I would definitely add Terre d’Hermes as I find it timeless. September 7, 2018 at 8:36am Reply

    • Victoria: Agreed! I mentioned it recently in the column, so I need to mix things up a bit. September 7, 2018 at 5:16pm Reply

      • Vetiver: I need to acquire some!! September 20, 2018 at 7:08pm Reply

      • Vetiver: I own Habit Rouge and Vetiver by Guerlain, both of which I love and wear regularly, particularly the latter when flying, since I am a pilot. I was dining out one night, wearing HR (I am a woman) and it sent the Maitre D into extasies…. My favorite perfume house is Guerlain, so I haven’t really done much more exploring, but as I mentioned above, I’d like to try Knize Ten. And of course Vol de Nuit, the perfect aviatrix perfume!! September 20, 2018 at 7:15pm Reply

  • sara: Lovely article! I now want to try all the ones you mention. My favorites (and I do share with my husband!) are: Crown Eau de Quinine, Dior Homme, CdG2 Man, Mugler A*MEN Pure Malt. September 7, 2018 at 9:14am Reply

    • Victoria: Such great choices! September 8, 2018 at 8:54am Reply

  • Silvermoon: Oh Victoria, I did exactly the same with Knize Ten. It is one of the very few instant love at first sight perfumes for me. I bought it for my husband (that way he smelled great, and I could pilfer whenever I wanted some). September 7, 2018 at 9:15am Reply

    • Victoria: We’re in agreement then. 🙂 It’s great stuff. September 8, 2018 at 8:55am Reply

  • Severine: Never sniffed Knize Ten. Galop Hermes leans masculine to my nose. As does Cartier L’envol. That’s unisex perfumes these days. But for a real macho frag: try L by Clive Christian. Very English. Or Aramis, which Daily Mail describes as “scent of a sexagenarian.” Lol! Millenials are unisex. September 7, 2018 at 9:45am Reply

    • Severine: P.s. Whatever happened to your giveaway? September 7, 2018 at 9:51am Reply

      • Victoria: Nothing. Too busy with other things during the week. I will take care of it this weekend. September 8, 2018 at 8:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Aramis is a good perfume, but it’s not the one I’d wear personally. September 8, 2018 at 8:57am Reply

  • John: Wonderful article… I’m trying to limit my collection to just five or six fragrances (I have a few sensitivities, so this is not that hard — I can’t seem to get on with most leathers for instance.) So far the list includes: Caron Pour un Homme (signature & sleep), Le Troisieme Homme (spring), Eau Sauvage (summer), Habit Rouge (anytime I need a lift), Egoïste (still breaking it in, but I guess Autumn/Winter) and Yatagan (Christmas tree decorating)… I still feel like something’s missing, but I rashly gave away my decant of Kouros (I’m always trying to get my son in his 20’s to try new things) before figuring out if it worked for me or not. September 7, 2018 at 10:28am Reply

    • Carla: These are wonderful classic perfumes. I think you just need a modern niche scent to round things out, something from Malle or Nicolai. Try the ones Victoria mentioned! September 7, 2018 at 11:12am Reply

      • John: A great suggestion! The last time I was traveling in a larger city, I did get to sample some of these…I seem to have a lot of luck with Lutens, for example. Unfortunately, there is something in the Malle Vetiver (as there is, much to my chagrin, in Guerlain’s wonderful Vetiver) that I am allergic to… And I miss out on most Jean Claude Ellena compositions because I can’t seem to tolerate ISO-E-Super — It’s quite amazing how many things it shows up in! A shame since I love Declaration, for instance. I somewhat agree with JTD over at scenthurdle, who once suggested that ISO dominates so many contemporary compositions that it is beginning to seem like a perfume category in its own right. September 7, 2018 at 3:00pm Reply

        • Carla: Chergui by Lutens is a wonderful masculine. I like Ambre Sultan sometimes. I know what you mean about ISO E Super. I recently read an article about Amanda Brooks, a mainstay of Vogue and once at the head of Barneys, and she said all she wears is Escentric Molecules. I was so disappointed. Imagine wearing that boring base all the time. How can she enjoy expressing herself through fashion and home decorating etc and then only wear that perfume? I never understand that about fashion types who have the money to Buy lots of beautiful perfume and then wear nothing or one single boring scent. September 7, 2018 at 3:10pm Reply

          • John: Yes, that is a conundrum… It’s kind of like the way some very progressive writers sometimes have conservative taste in visual art — something doesn’t quite add up.

            I am very fond of Chergui, and have also really enjoyed samples of Five O’Clock au Gingembre and Filles en Aiguilles that I have tried. I will look for the others you mention. I’m afraid I do not really trust Turin & Sanchez, although this does not diminish the value of reading them for pleasure… September 7, 2018 at 5:05pm Reply

        • Carla: I also recommend De Profundis by Lutens. Although my recent purchase of the Perfumes the Guide book has Turin giving it one star, Victoria gave it five and I would give it four. (Was it re-done and that’s why Turin didn’t like it? My decant from a few years ago is gorgeous.) September 7, 2018 at 3:12pm Reply

    • maja: You sound like you might like Heritage (edt) by Guerlain, a warm and great classic. September 7, 2018 at 3:25pm Reply

      • John: Heritage is definitely on my list! The older I get, the more I seem to find in sandalwood-oriented compositions. I’m still wrapping my head around Egoïste, which has a wonderful impression of tobacco and sandalwood set apposite rich yet fresh stonefruit and raisin accords. September 7, 2018 at 5:08pm Reply

    • Victoria: Your choices are excellent and span quite a range. You can always return to Kouros. It’s a big fragrance and quite demanding, but it’s great. September 8, 2018 at 9:00am Reply

  • Gina Phelan: I bought for myself, and wear regularly, Timbuktu and Bvlgari Black. I adore both. Back in the ‘90s I wore Grey Flannel. Sadly it’s no longer what it used to be! September 7, 2018 at 10:59am Reply

    • Victoria: Grey Flannel and Fahrenheit were among the first masculines I bought for myself, although I wore Grey Flannel more. September 8, 2018 at 9:01am Reply

  • Carla: I love Knize Ten. It may be my favorite leather. However I haven’t worn it myself since fall 2010. Yes I distinctly remember it, I thought it would be a chilly day in Hamburg but instead the temp rose high and I was suffocating in beautiful leather. My husband has always worn Azzaro, his swooney Clooney, and Habit Rouge. His new love is Vetiver by Guerlain. Now that I got the new Perfumes the Guide book I want to try Azemour Orangers for him. September 7, 2018 at 11:17am Reply

    • maja: Oh, yes, Azemour is fantastic on men! September 7, 2018 at 3:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: Yes, Azemour Orangers seems like a fragrance suitable for anyone, men or women. September 8, 2018 at 9:02am Reply

  • Aurora: I love your choices, Victoria. I remember distinctly smelling Pour Monsieur as a child in a relative’s bathroom. It is one of my very favorites to this day. And I have developped my understanding of Voyage this summer, it really comes into its own in the heat. I think at first it was eclipsed by Terre (which I like very much too), but I find Voyage more original in its gentle spices and so cooling, (Terre is warm to me), and the woody/musky drydown reminds me of Un Jardin sur le Nil. Initially, I fell in love with the EDT but love the parfum equally now.

    Now I have to try Knize Ten after this glowing review. Did your husband like it as much as you? September 7, 2018 at 1:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: He didn’t. His favorite fragrances are sweeter and he likes sandalwood, incense, amber, spices, but leather, citrus or anything too dry doesn’t appeal to him. No problem, though. More left for me! September 8, 2018 at 9:03am Reply

  • Eudora: Dear Victoria, good timing. I’ve been paying attention to the “old” men’s side of the aisle and enjoying the journey. Already mentioned Pour un homme and Declaration are favs. I discovered Farenheit and I like it a lot but the one I loved the most is Egoiste. It surprised me and I find it very classy and elegant with an edge. September 7, 2018 at 3:38pm Reply

    • John: Yes, as I noted above, I was really surprised by Egoïste! I still kind of marvel at it every time I put it on. Very few perfumes I’ve worn have demanded my attention so much throughout a wearing because of their sheer beauty. September 7, 2018 at 5:11pm Reply

    • Victoria: Egoiste is another gem, and I love the combination of sandalwood and the dark plum notes. September 8, 2018 at 9:04am Reply

  • Brainfodder: Great post, and yes to the above, and a huge yes to purchasing them for my hubbie with utterly transparent ulterior motives!

    Many of my favourite and most adaptable fragrances could be considered to have a more masculine bent, in particular VE, Encre Noir and L’Homme de Coeur. I absolutely adore VE and a full bottle has been on my wish list for years… one day! September 8, 2018 at 6:09am Reply

    • Victoria: Ha, I see that I’m not the only one. 🙂

      Oh, Encre Noire is another all time favorite. I bought it for myself, though, without going through the pretense of giving it to my husband, mostly because he doesn’t care for vetiver or anything too smoky or too dry. September 8, 2018 at 9:07am Reply

      • Brainfodder: So affordable – it’s such a steal and it wears so well. For me, it’s one of those that never really feels out of place… but crisp, loosely worn shirts worn with EN or VE are just perfect. September 8, 2018 at 12:08pm Reply

  • Natalie: I am a woman and have worn Vetiver Extraordinaire in the summer. Victoria, I’d be interested if you wrote about perfumes that don’t have florals or obvious florals that may appeal to women, but don’t come across just as a men’s cologne type scent. I have been more intolerant to floral scents in perfume for some reason lately and I was not like that before. I guess tastes change. I can still do some orange blossom, tuberose, and mimosa, because I still wear my Hermès Twilly, Jo Malone Miimosa & Cardamom, and Bottega Veneta Knot. However, I have been enjoying scents without florals like Jo Malone Wood Sage & Sea Salt and Blackberry & Bay, Atelier Cologne scents like Orange Sanguine, and I have to a Commodity Fragrance sampler and I seem to gravitate to their non-floral scents like Book(this one I like for cool rainy autumn and early spring weather). September 8, 2018 at 12:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: Basically, look for anything with a vetiver. It’s the ultimate perfume note to capture what you describe. September 8, 2018 at 3:06pm Reply

    • Mariann: I have and like the ones you mention too and one note/category i absolutely adore is incense. September 8, 2018 at 9:21pm Reply

    • Robert: I use my dwindling vintage Carven Vetiver aftershave for its very grassy smell, grassier than Guerlain, also delicious.

      As an extremely cheap but good alternative, I’m presently enjoying St. John Bay Rum West Indian Lime Hurricane Series aftershave and EDC. Limes come on +strong+ but fade quickly to a really agreeable vetiver base. Did I say cheap?☺

      I use Annick Goutal Vetiver at present as a cologne. July 1, 2019 at 6:29am Reply

      • Robert: Knize 10 I wear, ditto Aramis, though I consider the latter a men-only scent. Grès Cabochard I wear, but it’s less aggressive than the other leathers. July 1, 2019 at 6:36am Reply

  • Klaas: Hey Victoria, so nice of you to cover mens fragrances! Chanel pour Monsieur was the first perfume I ever bought and I still love it. A great, great classic indeed.

    I’m so happy that more and more fragrances are marketed as unisex. Just wear what you like! One of my best friends (male) wears Coco Chanel and A La Nuit! This summer I got myself a small bottle of Basilico & Fellini (Vilhelm Parfumerie), one of the most fun (green!) scents I’ve smelt in a long time. I’m sure it will put a smile on any man or woman who wears it (that is, after they’d had a good cry over the price tag…..it is ridiculously expensive! Is it me, or are prices for niche scents going through the roof these days?) September 9, 2018 at 8:27am Reply

    • Victoria: You’re correct. The prices have been increasing rapidly over the past few years. Some of it reflects the economic situation (higher costs for the raw materials, for instance), but there is also a lot of aspirational pricing. September 13, 2018 at 3:52am Reply

  • Kathy: I will certainly add Knize Ten to my test list! I agree with the many who think fragrances are for men and women who like fragrance – didn’t M. Lutens say that? I think I will put in good word for John Varvatos Dark Rebel Rider. It is one of the few scents that I followed up on due to a paper strip in an ad insert, not for my husband but for me. I was not disappointed, especially given the online price, and I am amused by the over-the-top-campy bottle! September 9, 2018 at 3:42pm Reply

    • Victoria: That sounds like something he would say. One should wear whatever one likes! September 13, 2018 at 3:53am Reply

  • Alice: I love Pour Monsieur too. Classic but still attractive September 10, 2018 at 3:53am Reply

  • Monika: I came to wearing men’s fragrances via Idole Lubin. I got a test vial, didn’t care for it at first and little by little, fell for it. And then realized, that many men’s perfumes have notes or “aura” that I like. So far I’ve enjoyed wearing M7, Carbon by Balmain, Burberry London, 7 Loewe . However, it was always smaller or bigger decants, I liked them but not enough to want a full bottle of my own.

    I also love my husband’s choices: Prada Amber pour homme, Cerruti Image, Acqua di Gio but somehow they are not the perfumes I’d like to try on myself. I wonder if anyone sees a common thread about them – I’d love to give him something new to test. I can only see that they are all rather fresh but quite complex and all are Italian 🙂 September 10, 2018 at 6:14am Reply

    • Victoria: It always surprises me how resistant sales associates can be when it comes to women trying men’s fragrances. The division is pure marketing. Of course, certain scents do smell masculine or feminine to us, because we are used to smelling them on men or women, but if one likes the smell of cedarwood or moss or smoke, chances are that they can be found more readily among the fragrances marketed to men. And well, it’s not as if you’ll start sprouting a beard if you wear them.

      Same for men. I find that many floral orientals smell terrific on guys. September 13, 2018 at 3:58am Reply

  • Alessandra: As it happens, I am buying Pour Monsieur for my dad’s birthday again, next week. What a wonderful classic. September 13, 2018 at 6:58pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I love Pour Monsieur and Voyage, and admire Knze Ten. However my most favourite masculines are New York and Pour un Homme! September 18, 2018 at 5:00pm Reply

  • Alicia: i wear many so called masculine fragrances. Guerlain, Vetiver and Habit Rouge; Caron: Pour un home and Yatagan, Lalique: Encre Noire. Dior:Eau Sauvage;Chanel: Egoiste;Cartier: Declaration, an Annick Goutal which smells of immortelle, whose name I have forgotten, but it is a unique scent. Really, if I like it, I wear it with no second thoughts. The feminine and masculine distinction is quite modern in the long history of perfumes, perhaps not earlier than the 19th century. Of course in the East men and women perfumed themselves lavishly for thousands of years, making no distinction, as far as I read. The only distinction I have noticed was that some odorous substances were considered sacred, and devoted to gods. September 27, 2018 at 11:45am Reply

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