The International Fragrance Association may have caused an uproar among the perfumers and enthusiasts alike (when it imposed restrictions) on the use of several natural ingredients in perfume making, such as ylang ylang and oakmass, due to their allergenic nature; It forced fragrance houses to use synthetics and revise old formulas. But synthetic or natural, these perfumes have braved the test of time to reach an untouchable status.
Dior Eau Sauvage
Dior’s first men’s fragrance is an evergreen symphony of bergamot, vetiver, myrrh, roots and amber, and is named after Christian Dior’s friend Percy Savage, the Australian fashion publicist and all-round bon viveur. Like the man it shares the name with, the legendary perfume is instantly recognisable for its effortless elegance. The signature airy, luminous quality of the fragrance has since inspired many copycats.
The brand’s first “shared scent” (read: unisex), it’s the epitome of the counter-establishment sensibilities of the 1990s. Along with grunge, ck one defines the 1990s idea of cool. Perfume snobs might dismiss this as a pop-scent for the masses, but in its heyday, it was quite the groundbreaker; it’s one of the first fragrances to use green tea accord in its heart, paving way for what has become the norm in unisex fragrances today.
Jicky is a fragrance of many firsts: upon its creation in 1889, Jicky was anointed “the first modern perfume” thanks to its conceptdriven formula — a departure from mimicking floral scents, which was de rigueur for perfumery at the time. It’s also credited by historians as the first unisex fragrance to have hit the shelves and is one of the first to use synthetic compounds in its formulation (then, considered cutting edge). Inspired by the story of the perfumer Aime Guerlain’s unrequited love for an English girl, it’s been in manufacture longer than any other fragrance.
Yves Saint Laurent M7
Tom Ford’s first male perfume when he took over the helm at Yves Saint Laurent, the fragrance grabbed attention as did its very provocative campaign. Created to embody the new male sensuality, the fragrance is fronted by the aikido world champion, Samuel de Cubber, naked and astride a strategically placed bottle of M7. Like its ad, the fragrance is unapologetically masculine, raw and dark. Unlike its contemporary tuxedo-friendly scents, M7 caused a stir in 2002 with its use of raw notes and odorous plants in an earthy accord.
Thierry Mugler Angel Men
It’s a tough act to follow on its love-it-or-hate-it female counterpart Angel, but Thierry Mugler’s Angel Men stands on its own and created a splash when it debuted in 1996. Unapologetically gourmand-oriental (with notes of chocolate, coffee, caramel, peppermint and vanilla), it stays true to the concept of a man that transcend the archetypes of past, present and future. Sticking to the fragrance-as-seduction formula, perfumer Jacques Huclier created a composition that evokes childhood memories, subtly suggesting its wearer is a dreamy, new-age lothario.
Originally created as Bois Noir, the limited edition fragrance was sold strictly in Chanel boutiques with no promotions, and no intention for it to be a cash cow. But it became a sleeper hit that took Chanel by surprise. In April 1990, the fragrance got a new name – Egoiste – and was sold in department stores with big budget campaigns, the largest ever (at the time) for a men’s fragrance. The perfume was a marked departure from the fougere fragrances of the time, and while it may have suffered a few stumbles over the years, it remains a cult classic among the enthusiasts for its unique woody-fruity notes that is reminiscent of spicy stewed fruits.
Yves Saint Laurent Kouros
If there ever was a fragrance created for brutes (assuming they wear fragrances), Kouros would be a perfect fit. The FiFi award winner in 1982 (the Oscars for perfume ndustry), it remains a best-seller since its launch. Like its namesake, Kouros (Greek for male effigies and statues), is the epitome of the raw masculinity of the Greek hero archetype. Not for the faint-hearted, a spritz creates a cloud of incense and camphorous accord (civet musk, leather, oakmoss, cloves, patchouli, tonka wood, honey and geranium) with some describing it as “a mixture of body odour and semen.”
Even during its launch in the 1980s where bold colours and even bolder fashion were the norm, Joop! Homme was quite an odd beast. The fragrance’s pink bottle, box and liquid, together with its sweet cherry notes, confused a lot of men at its debut. But perhaps due to its uniqueness, it picked up traction to become a cult classic among the fashion crowd for the past three decades. Lighthandedness is advised because of its strong sillage. On the right man, the scent gives off a comforting gourmand accord that is reputed to be an aphrodisiac for the ladies.