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Class in scents (part 1)

  • Published at 07:50 pm August 25th, 2016
  • Last updated at 06:15 pm September 9th, 2016
Class in scents (part 1)

Gentlemen, let’s first state the obvious. We live in a very smelly city, and that is never fun. With that in mind, men make a big mistake of showering themselves with cologne or body spray. Remember, one spray behind each ear, another spray where your throat meets your chest, and finally one spray for the wrist. Applying a fragrance is one thing, but to actually understand what you’re putting on yourself is a completely different lesson. Educating yourself in the world of fragrances will bring more benefits than not. Getting to know the main ingredients will determine your likes and dislikes, and when to apply a certain scent on a given occasion.

Whether it’s something you are familiar and comfortable with or something new you’d like to try, let’s get to know the driving force behind the most popular men’s fragrances from around the world.

Ambergris

Found in fragrances like Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue, Acqua di Parma colonia range and Giorgio Armani’s Acqua Di Gio Essenza.

One of the rawest materials in perfumery, ambergris is not of the soft, rosy bunch. This might shock you, so read with caution. This ingredient is actually found in sperm whale vomit. Has your jaw dropped yet? It comes in dull grey, blackish waxy lumps that consists of squid beaks or other parts of giant squid, which happens to be a sperm whale’s favourite meal. This substance can last out in sea for about 30 years until it washes up.

In other words, ambergris is used to add longevity for a fragrance, lasting much longer than any other perfume. It’s best described as a marine scent, animal and sweet. Because of its rarity, it’s very expensive. Hence, the high-end price tag for some perfumes. But not too high of a price, as today’s technology has replaced most of it with synthetic elements. You’re still getting the genuine article, but in doses.

Bergamot

Found in fragrances like Tom Ford’s Venetian Bergamot, Bergamotto Di Postitano by Floris and Acqua Di Bergamotto by Ermenegildo Zegna.

This just sounds and looks sophisticated, with the pure zest of life. Found mainly in the Calabria region of Southern Italy, the history of this inedible, bitter orange is interesting. The name itself is derived from the Turkish bey armudu, which roughly translates to “the Lord’s pear”. The scent itself came onto the scene in the 16th century, around the time of King Louis XIV. The main extract comes from the rind of the fruit, the same exact rind that gives Earl Grey tea the distinctive smell and flavour.

It is to no surprise that the bergamot is the finest of all the citrus notes in fragrances. It smells incredibly fresh, richer and just well-rounded than the majority.

Neroli

Found in fragrances like Chanel’s Eau De Cologne, Ermenegildo Zegna’s Mediterranean Neroli and Neroli Portofino by Tom Ford.

We’d like to think this would be Poseidon’s preferred scent on his evening out underneath the moon light with his mermaid squad. Neroli’s signature is found in most Mediterranean inspired fragrances; the history actually goes as deep as the sea it represents. Modern fragrances can be attributed and traced back to the 18th century in Germany by an Italian-born perfumer by the name of (Giovanni) Johann Maria Farina. He created the world’s first eau de cologne, naming it after his adopted home city. The fragrance consisted of dominate mixtures of citrus oils, alongside herbal oils such as lavender and rosemary.

Those same citrus oils still dominate most scents found today. Although it may not be as simple as it was back then, the range of different ingredients from the same inedible orange are still in the spotlight, including bergamot, petitgrain and neroli. Neroli is one of the finest to come from the same bitter orange, which is a native fruit of Vietnam. It was actually introduced to Europe by 11th century crusaders. It was named after honouring the Princess of Nerola, Anne Marie Orisini, from a small town in 17th century near Rome, as she used to scent her gloves.

The fragrance is usually described as sweet, honeyed with a slight stinging tang and blends well with any citrus oil.

Oud

Found in fragrances like Dolce & Gabbana’s Velvet Desert Oud, Acqua Di Parma Colonia Oud and Oud Noir for Men by Versace.

Something a bit closer to home. The Middle East takes their oud very seriously, but it has become quite popular in the Western world over the past few years. This ingredient actually comes from the tropical agar tree, which is believed to originally from Assam, India. The agar tree is actually grown all over South Asia, prominently in India and Bangladesh. Believe it or not, agar wood is said to be the most expensive timber in the entire world. The process may not be as expensive, but it is a very intriguing one.

The tree first has to be infected by a mould called Phialophora parasitica, which reacts with the natural contents of the tree, producing a dark, dense and fragrant resin in order to protect itself. In turn, the resin-embedded heartwood of the agar tree is the source of the oud. There is a reason why oud is a very expensive element in fragrances because the agar tree is now registered under CITES as a threatened species. Again, there should be no surprise in knowing the global agar wood market is worth over $6.5 billion annually.

The scent is described as warm, woody (obviously), with a slight hint of dampness and rot. Some varieties are also described as smoky and sweet, depending on the wood used based on where the tree is grown and the weather it is exposed to.