As a suburban Gen X punk rocker who began to shed his Doc Marten’s and ratty flannel shirts as Grunge music took hold of the nation, my early history with fragrances was limited to patchouli oils and the occasional waft from whatever hair product I was using to master my “just rolled out of bed” look.
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Once I recognised the value of dressing well and portraying an air of confidence and competence, I began to gravitate toward colognes. These were mostly freshies and aquatics.
They were bright, clean and at times ozonic, but as my wardrobe and career continued to expand, I yearned for the scents I remembered from my youth.
The kind worn by my Dad or my Uncle, or by anyone in my life who evoked a sense of knowledge, experience and accomplishment.
These were elegant and timeless scents that radiated an air of sophistication, smelling clean, but with recognizable notes of citrus and herbaceous aromatics.
A departure from the electro-synthetic colognes I had been wearing, which tore through my sinuses and left a trail of oceanic notes where no true sea dwelling creature could survive.
The market was awash with “freshies” and I wondered if those classic scents were still available, so I began to search them out and soon fell into the rabbit hole of classic old- school gentlemanly scents that had origins in from the 1950’s through the ‘70’s.
Many of these have been in production since that time, so some have fallen victim to reformulation for various reasons, and others were conceived more recently and evoke the finest aspects of this timeless style.
So if you’re ready to begin your journey to the world of classic gentlemanly fragrances, then let’s dive in.
Where to Start
Christian Dior – Eau Sauvage
If you’re not sure where to start your exploration of these citrus aromatic gems, then why not begin with the one that set a “new” standard for this style.
Though not the first elegant masculine citrus, Edmond Roudnitska set the fragrance world on its head when Dior launched his 1966 creation Eau Sauvage (not to be confused with the 2015 Sauvage, which ushered in the era of “blue” fragrances).
By enhancing the standard citrus notes of lemon and bergamot with layers of rosemary, lavender and oakmoss, Roudnitska also enhanced this classic blend with notes of jasmine and hedione that lends an uplifting airy quality to the fragrance.
Some have criticized the current formulation stating that it is not the powerhouse it once was, but many who have worn the fragrance for years confirm that it still represents the same classic characteristics.
Spraying a bit heavier and more frequently will ensure that you are still experiencing the marvel of this creation.
Givenchy – Monsieur de Givenchy
Released in 1959, this Citrus Aromatic has been the signature scent of countless men throughout the years due to its magical blend of citrus, floral and herbaceous notes on a bed of oakmoss, sandalwood and musk.
The initial blast of vivacious lemon notes evoke the experience of a fresh lemon tree branch broken off – leaves, fruit, wood and all, crushed together releasing a lovely spicy fresh citrus blast which then goes fresh and floral with rich carnation notes and wafts of lavender.
High quality ingredients and still available at a reasonable price, this classic is a foundational representation of the genre.
Boucheron – Pour Homme
A “new kid on the block”, this EDT formulation was released in 1991 and does a masterful job of recreating the classic citrus aromatic fragrance style, while adding layers of complexity, projection and staying power.
There is a subtle note of spice that warms the accompanying citrus opening, which soon after evolves into a fresh, soapy spicy, elegant and gentlemanly scent.
This modern classic is the perfect signature scent for someone who works long hours and would prefer to apply their fragrance once in the morning and feel confident that it will last and evolve throughout the rest of the day. A hidden gem.
Taking it to The Next Level
So now that you have a few foundational options to start your collection of classic gentlemanly fragrances, the following scents will help you take your experience to the next level and add some variety to your daily selections.
Chanel – Pour Monsieur EDP
This modernized take on the original Pour Monsieur EDT, which came out in 1955 was updated as an EDP in 2016 and takes this fragrance style into new territory.
Adding layers of nutmeg, vanilla and vetiver to the traditional lemon /lavender notes, the EDP introduces a warm cozy aspect to the classic masculine citrus aromatic.
A perfect date night fragrance that will prompt your significant other to cozy up to you as the evening progresses. A great option to retain your signature scent style, while shifting gears to your more romantic side.
Yves Saint Laurent – Pour Homme
This 1971 release by YSL takes the citrus aromatic style deeper into woody aromatic territory. The fresh creamy lemon opening quickly expands to a fragrant, spicy lavender with notes of vetiver, cedar and rosewood commandeering the scent into darker heady territory.
The base notes begin to emit an earthy geranium/carnation note which eventually warms up to a smooth tonka- amber. It has a velveteen grip that emits strength, without ever crushing your spirit. Genius construction, but discontinued and getting difficult to find.
Acqua di Parma – Colonia
A mainstay of this legendary Italian house, Colonia’s origins go back to the start of the 20th century. First released in 1916, this fragrance can be considered the first modern day “celebrity” fragrance, having been the signature scent for countless entertainers, both male and female.
Never overbearing and always emitting a sense of class while still being playful, this legendary scent is the perfect signature option due to its ability to wear well with any attire in any season. I consider it the “swiss army knife” in my fragrance collection.
Going Down the Rabbit Hole
Although these Citrus Aromatics are the foundational components of a solid fragrance collection, some of the scents I’ve described cross into other classic gentlemanly fragrance styles like the fougere, barbershop and chypre fragrances.
These are all foundational styles for classic male-targeted fragrances and, while I subscribe to the idea that any gender can wear any fragrance, many of these have been historically marketed to men and hence the association.
Adding a few of these crossover genres to your citrus aromatic collection will ensure you are prepared for any season, situation or current frame of mind.
Maison Francis Kurkdjian – Masculin Pluriel
Francis Kurkdjian, whose first male targeted creation was the best selling and legendary Le Male, quickly developed a reputation as an innovative and legendary perfumer.
Currently the Creative Director for Christian Dior’s fragrance division, his namesake house MFK, once again rocked the fragrance world with the release of Baccarat Rouge 540 in 2015, but the year before releasing that unisex blockbuster, MFK created Masculin Pluriel, which embraces the lavender based barbershop scents of the past.
A classic fougere with notes of vetiver, patchouli and soft cedar, Masculin Pluriel is a breezy, airy take on the classic fougere.
Rogue – Bon Monsieur
After spending the previous 14 years as a Chef, Manuel Cross began his fragrance journey in 2007. He studied the process of perfume construction for a decade and developed a deep affection for the classic scents of yesteryear.
He decried the loss of classic fragrance construction, so he started Rogue Perfumery which has been devoted to re-establishing these classic genres into unique modern day interpretations.
He has released an extraordinary number of fantastic perfumes that resurrect these bygone techniques. One of these is Bon Monsieur – a barbershop citrus with notes of lavender, oakmoss, geranium and fir. Incredibly beautiful, long lasting and packaged in a stunning art-deco bottle, Bon Monsieur sets the standard for a modern take on this classic genre.
MDCI – Invasion Barbare
This rich, deep, modern take on a retro-barbershop theme uses violet leaf at the top to initiate a slight airy fresh opening, which develops into a warm spicy, complex amber fougere as the scent develops.
Notes of lavender, thyme and cardamom increase the complexity and depth of this fragrance that elevates the wearer and exudes a sense of class and sophistication.
A Stephanie Bakouche composition that clearly uses high quality ingredients and sets a new standard for top shelf classic perfumery.
Known for her work with other great niche houses like Maison Crivelli and L’Artisan Parfumeur. She also recently created Masque Milano’s Slight of Fern which also belongs on this list of classically inspired modern fougeres.
Now that you have a basic introduction to these classic gentlemanly fragrances, I encourage you to seek them out and add them to your wardrobe.
Just like a well-tailored suit, an elegant dress shirt and a pair of borgues, these fragrances will demonstrate your attention to detail and style while evoking an appreciation for tradition.
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Ron Pitt is a winemaker who developed a passion for fragrance while studying the olfactory relationship between smell and taste. After producing and marketing wines that focus on complex aromatics along with flavor, Ron altered his attention from the tasting room to the perfume lab. In addition to his passion for both wine and fragrance, Ron and his wife have been rescuing beagles for over 20 years.