The Top Ten Male Designer Fragrances Every Beginner Should Sample

If you're newly bitten by the fragrance bug, you are probably reading Basenotes and feeling like the proverbial kid with his nose pressed up against the glass – everyone's talking about their latest niche acquisition, debating the pineapple-ness of Aventus batch codes, and comparing the current Dior Homme with the silver stem one (what is a silverpoint stem?!). It's like everyone's figured out where the good stuff is and you haven't a clue.

Well, don't worry. You can easily get a good grounding in the basics of fragrance by testing the mainstream designer perfumes available to you on your local high street. There's a lot of dross out there, of course, but this article should help you to hone in on the ones that are classics for good reason and the ones that blazed a trail in their category way before niche even turned up to the scene. You might not like them all - but even the ones you think are awful will help you hone your personal taste.

What do I mean by “designer”? Technically, the term “designer” is used to describe any company that also designs clothing, jewelry, and watches. But in more realistic terms, for you, it's going to mean that the fragrance is widely available on your local high street and you don't have to send off for a sample of it via the Internet.

Comme des Garcons 2 Man
For example, although Comme des Garcons is a designer and produces fragrances, they are not widely distributed in high street stores (unless you live in a major city). More importantly, Comme des Garcons employs a sort of “niche” sensibility in their fragrances, meaning that they are more experimental than your typical mainstream choices. So Comme des Garcons the company is designer, but their fragrances are niche.

Chanel, also a designer company, produces a wide range of designer scents that are available in mainstream channels, but they also have a line of exclusive perfumes (called Les Exclusifs de Chanel) that can only be found in Chanel stores or at Chanel booths at big luxury department stores. Therefore Chanel is designer, but they have a niche “department”. Slamming your head against a wall yet?


To make things fair, the top ten fragrances I'm going to be recommending are all fragrances that you can find and test for yourself on the high street of any biggish town. You can then use those ten fragrances as jumping-off points for further exploration of your taste, in both designer and niche categories.

I intended to make this list a unisex one, like the niche list I did here, but in mainstream perfumery there seems to be a bigger gulf between male and female fragrances, not least in the way they are marketed. Strangely, it is the SAs that tend to care deeply about how fragrances are classified, so don't be alarmed if one of them tries to head you off at the pass if you try to visit the women's section. I myself have been cock-blocked more than once when trying to buy Bulgari Black.

A separate list of top female fragrances that every beginner should sample will be coming shortly. But don't feel hemmed in by the label with which companies have chosen to market their fragrances – both men and women should sample everything on both lists and make their own decisions about what they like and can wear. I myself own 5 out of the 10 fragrances listed below and I am definitely maybe a woman.

A word about reformulation. Reformulation happen to all fragrances - some secretly, some publicized - and since they are as inevitable as taxes and death, try not to worry about it too much or let it impede on your enjoyment. The only reformulations that matter are the ones that gut a fragrance of important raw materials or aromachemicals that have either been restricted or replaced, such as Mysore sandalwood, oakmoss, or whatever it was that made that gasoline note in Fahrenheit. Some fragrances relied so heavily on those now-restricted materials that they are now mere shadows of what they once were and are not worth recommending.

So the fragrances I've nominated here all still smell excellent today, are in relatively good shape (if limping a little) after reformulation, and are generally true to the original intent behind the perfume. If you fall in love with one of these choices, then by all means chase down vintage versions if they are supposed to be superior to the current version. But if the current version smells great to you and you are happy with it, then don't ever let anyone make you feel like you have the “wrong” version. Honestly, if you think your girlfriend will take one sniff, wrinkle her nose, and chew you out for wearing the current version of Eau Sauvage instead of the vintage, then YOU ARE CRAZY. Nobody can tell except you. And maybe not even you.

Click through to find out which I've selected as the top ten male designer fragrances every beginner should sample:

[chapter]Egoiste by Chanel[/chapter]

Egoiste by Chanel

Egoiste is (still) almost transcendentally good – a sweet, woody oriental featuring cinnamon, rose, tangerine, and sandalwood that melt together to form a smooth coca-cola sort of darkness. If fruitcake were drinkable, this would be it. If you like Egoiste, then your taste runs to rich and spicy woody orientals, in which case you might want to run the gauntlet into the ladies section and try some Coco (Chanel), which employs a similar dried-fruits orientalism but is ambery rather than woody.

Or it might be Egoiste's creamy, rosy sandalwood that has you hooked. Once upon a time, Egoiste and other sandalwood-heavy perfumes used to contain real Mysore sandalwood, but those days are long gone. So, content yourself with the best of the modern interpretations or Mysore sandalwood or learn to love the drier, less refined Australian sort – either way, you are sure to find something that speaks to you. If you don't mind making the trek to a major city to visit a Chanel store, then make it a priority to try Bois des Iles (Chanel Les Exclusifs), which is the sister to Egoiste and even creamier.


If you decide to use Egoiste as the springboard into single focus sandalwood perfumes, then it's off into niche we must go, I'm afraid. Tam Dao EDP (Diptyque) is a good, modern take on what real Mysore sandalwood actually smells like (without actually containing any). Santal Noble (Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier) is a butch, aromatic take on sandalwood, and although the current version now only contains Australian sandalwood, it still smells excellent – and has the same “mature”, gentlemanly feel to it as Egoiste does. Sandalo (Etro) is an easy-going, European take on it.

[chapter]Dior Homme by Christian Dior[/chapter]

Dior Homme

Dior Homme is a plush iris suede wrapped in dusty vanilla and cocoa, and scientifically proven to be attractive to every man, woman, and child on this planet. It can't be bettered, except, yes it can, and it's called Dior Homme Intense. If you love Dior Homme (and really, how could you not?), then you have a plethora of Dior Homme-related choices from which to choose to suit your different needs, like Dior Homme Cologne for hot weather, and Dior Homme Parfum for when you want your leather amped up and orientalized. It seems to come in as many variations as Aventus, so it should be easy to find one that you like.

You might find, like many men do, that Dior Homme reminds you of lipstick. That's because iris is the main note used to scent women's cosmetics. If you have a problem with the lipstick note, then try iris fragrances that focus more on the rooty, citrusy, or woody aspects of iris, like Infusion D'Iris (Prada), both the women's and the men's versions, No. 19 EDT (Chanel), 28 La Pausa (Chanel Les Exclusifs) or in niche, the sinister Iris Silver Mist (Serge Lutens), Iris Bleu Gris (Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier), and L'Homme de Coeur (Divine). These are all stiff-upper-lip irises that won't hesitate to slap you across the face with a pair of gloves, should the need arise.

But if you prefer velvet to a steely rod, look into iris fragrances that wrap the iris in soft, sweet woods and gourmand notes, such as Valentino Uomo (Valentino), Bois d'Iris (Van Cleef & Arpels), Cuir Ottoman & Equistrius (Parfum D'Empire), 1996 (Byredo), and D600 (Carner Barcelona).


If you have a preference for tempering the bitter with the sweet in general, then you will probably also like L'Instant de Guerlain Pour Homme Extreme (Guerlain), which softens a fresh-bitter anisic top note with a powdery cocoa, sandalwood, and patchouli blend, resulting in a chocolate velvet texture that is close to that of Dior Homme. LIDGE doesn't smell like Dior Homme or Dior Homme Intense, but it is in the same general ballpark. I am going to stick my neck out here and suggest that if you like one, you'll like the other.

Oh, and I don't want to alarm you or anything, but if you like Dior Homme, then you like florals. Try not to panic.

[chapter]Azzaro Pour Homme by Azzaro[/chapter]

Azzaro pour Homme

Every beginner should smell Azzaro Pour Homme because it is a great example of an aromatic fougere. Fougeres always contain three specific notes: lavender (fresh, anisic, herbal), coumarin (sweet, hay, grass), and oakmoss (bitter, green, inky). A bare-bones representation of the fougere accord is Brut (Faberge), but since I find that one to be Brut-ally (sorry) reminiscent of teenage boys' rooms, I'm going with the aromatic fougere, which enlivens the basic fougere structure with aromatics such as sage, rosemary, clove, cardamom, basil, or anise. Azzaro Pour Homme features a bright, herbaceous anise leading into a dark woody, musky barbershop dry down that goes on forever. It is incontrovertibly masculine (and beautiful).

If you like Azzaro Pour Homme and want to explore further in the fougere category, then the range of flavors on offer is bewilderingly large. I have no hope of covering them all here, but there are a few great examples you should definitely try.


Jicky (Guerlain) is considered an oriental fougere (even though it lacks quite a few of the qualifying notes), fusing a fresh bergamot and lavender with vanilla over quite a dirty spicy-woody base. Mouchoir de Monsieur (Guerlain) is similar to Jicky, but more morose - Victor Meldrew to Jicky's Fred Astaire. Equipage (Hermes) is a spicy leather fougere that reeks of refined masculinity and horse saddles. Le Male (Jean-Paul Gaultier) is an oriental-floral fougere, dousing the fougere structure in sweet orange blossom soap, vanilla, and slightly dirty cinnamon – it is perhaps not quite as hairy-balled as the other fougeres mentioned here, but if you're a real man, you can pull it off.

Le Troisieme Homme (Caron) is a fougere filtered through a silk cloth – powdery, refined, and more floral than aromatic (even with the lavender). Le Troisieme Homme will delight a modern Dandy and break the heart of someone who's just shelled out €120 for Masculin Pluriel (Maison Francis Kurkdijan) and realized they could have something similar for €20. But Masculin Pluriel is great too. Try both.

Since we are talking about the soft, refined gentlemen's side of things, if your fougere preference lies in that direction, then you might want to invest in samples of Invasion Barbare (Parfums MDCI), 1725 Casanova (Histoires de Parfums), and Sartorial (Penhaligon's). They are very civilized fougeres.

YSL's Kouros
But no talk of fougeres can be complete without mention of the Great Kouros (Yves Saint Laurent), which features honey, leather, and civet over a fougere base. Many accuse it of smelling like a neglected bathroom stall in high tourist season, but you might find it has just the right amount of funk in its trunk for you. If you like Kouros, then you might also like to explore the equally underpantsy Ungaro II (Ungaro) and Gold for Man (Amouage).

[chapter]Encre Noir by Lalique[/chapter]

Encre Noir by Lalique

Encre Noir is a dark vetiver fragrance with an inky, matte black feel to it. I recommend you try this for several reasons. First of all, it is cheap and easy to find. Second, since it's basically a vetiver soliflore, it will tell you how you feel about vetiver, one of the notes most traditionally associated with male perfumery. Third, since Encre Noir contains a massive amount (45%) of Iso E Super, an aromachemical that amplifies the woodiness and radiance of a fragrance, it might be a good barometer for your level of tolerance or even liking for it.

Molecule 01
If you are able to isolate the Iso E Super effect in the scent and like its cedary, peppery airiness, then sample Molecule 01 (Escentric Molecules), which is almost entirely made up of Iso E Super. Also seek out any fragrance composed by Geza Schoen, who is particularly well known for his use of the aromachemical.

If you like vetiver, then you have plenty of great options to explore, both in designer and niche categories. Great designer options include Grey Vetiver by Tom Ford (fresh, sheer, summery), Guerlain Vetiver (classic, dry, soapy), and Givenchy Vetyver (austere, elegant).

But there are two other mainstream fragrances that, while not focusing on vetiver as the dominant note, are truly beautiful examples of how the material can be used thoughtfully, namely; Terre d'Hermes (Hermes), which I feature further down on this list, and Bel Ami Vetiver (Hermes). Bel Ami Vetiver takes the now sadly thinned down leather of the original Bel Ami and adds a rich, smoky vetiver that restores much of the complexity that had been lost to the original through reformulation. If you like your leather with a shot of vetiver on the side, then this is a must-try.


Fat Electrician
Niche tends to cater to a wider variety of quirks, so if you have a specific hankering for something beyond a fresh, basic vetiver, sample strategically. If you want a salty vetiver that recalls sea air, then put Sel de Vetiver (The Different Company), Fleurs de Sel (Miller Harris), and Vetiver (Annick Goutal) on the list. If you like your vetiver mossy and green, try Vetiver Extraordinaire (Frederic Malle). If you like the edge taken off with a bit of gourmand sweetness, try Vetiver Tonka (Hermes Hermessences) and Vetiver Oriental (Serge Lutens). If you like the smell of singed electrical sockets, try Fat Electrician (Etat Libre d'Orange). If you prefer your vetiver to come at you like the four horsemen of the apocalypse, except only slightly more sinister, then by all means get yourself some Route du Vetiver (Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier). Shudders

If you like the smell of Encre Noire but have the money to upgrade, then get Sycomore (Chanel). They are brothers from another mother, only Sycomore's daddy invested well.

Last but not least, if you are vetiver-averse (vetiverse?) like me, you might be interested in what my good friend Alfarom calls “bullshit vetivers” - fragrances that don't claim to be single-note vetivers but are still amazing fragrances that feature the note heavily. These would include: Onda extrait (Vero Profumo), Lampblack (Bruno Fazzolari), Palais Jamais (ETRO), Kinski (Kinski), Shaal Nur (ETRO), Konig (Yosh), 2 Man (Comme des Garcons), Forever Now (Gucci), Theseus (Lorenzo Villoresi), and Timbuktu (L'Artisan Parfumeur).

[chapter]Eau des Baux by L'Occitane[/chapter]


Eau des Baux is a good place to start if you want to explore oriental fragrances. This mix of cypress, dry vanilla, incense, tobacco, and spices smells wonderful and doesn't cost a bomb. Better yet, it's accessible. There's barely a mall or high street in the Western world that doesn't have either a L'Occitane store or a concession selling its products. If you're not in the Western world, sorry for the exclusionary nature of that last sentence (and for your lack of L'Occitane stores).

Eau des Baux is technically a woody oriental. Woody oriental fragrances fuse aromatic woods with heavier base notes of amber, vanilla, sandalwood, patchouli, and resins. In general, their character is warm, spicy, opulent, sweet, and sometimes smoky. You may stop your search at Eau des Baux, because it's great. But if you feel you need something heavier on the spice, then try Spicebomb (Victor & Rolf) and Man in Black (Bvlgari). For a richer, nostalgic tobacco and leather, sample London (Burberry) – the piney lavender in it lends a cozy Christmas tree feel to it.

If you decide that you definitely like the opulence and weight of orientals (as opposed to light and fresh, for example), then also try Opium Pour Homme EDP (Yves Saint Laurent) and Obsession for Men (Calvin Klein). Jaipur Homme (Boucheron), Pure Havane (Thierry Mugler), and Habit Rouge EDT (Guerlain) are other designer orientals for men that combine aromatic, spicy wood notes with a warm, voluptuous vanilla base.

Somewhere, some place, there will be a sharp intake of breath that I've dared to skim over Habit Rouge like this, but time's a wasting and I still haven't gotten to A*Men.


If the cool, smoky incense in Eau des Baux is what appeals to you the most, then seek out other fragrances that mix frankincense with fir and pine resins to suggest incense smoke. Some good examples are Fille en Aiguilles (Serge Lutens), Encens Flamboyant (Annick Goutal), and Zagorsk (Comme des Garcons). Or go for the great vetiver and incense mix in 2 Man (Comme des Garcons) with its inimitable “snuffed-out-candles” accord.

Eau des Baux is also a great introduction to vanilla. The one featured here is very dry and mixed with a cherry tobacco note that keeps it on the woody side. In the niche sector, Tobacco Vanille (Tom Ford), Eau Duelle (Diptyque), and Spiritueuse Double Vanille (Guerlain) are extensions of the same idea in Eau des Baux, with varying levels of sweetness and smoke. If you prefer a more ambery base to your orientals, look into trying Ambre Sultan (Serge Lutens), L'Air du Desert Marocain (Tauer Perfumes), and Jubilation XXV (Amouage).

A*Men / Angel Men

Of course, no beginner should pass over the most famous woody oriental of all time, A*Men (Thierry Mugler). A*Men is one of the most subtle scents on the market, and its barely discernable sillage makes it a perfect choice for when you know you'll be in crowded quarters with other people, like in a doctor's waiting room or a library. It's rather sheer, so press down hard on that nozzle.

[chapter]Terre d'Hermès by Hermes[/chapter]

Terre d'Hermes

Terre d'Hermès is a citrusy, woodsy fragrance with the significantly peppery undertone of Iso E Super. Composed by Jean-Claude Ellena in 2006, it has risen through the ranks of designer perfumery to become a modern classic seated beside Dior Homme and Fahrenheit. Beginners should smell Terre d'Hermès not because it is excellent (although it is) but because it typifies a certain style that has become very popular among men today, namely a crisp mix of citrus and spicy woods - the olfactory equivalent of a white dress shirt.

If you like the Ellena style, then try Bel Ami Vetiver (discussed above), Voyage (cardamom, citrus, summery), and Equipage Geranium (an update on the Guy Robert 1970's classic, spicy Equipage –all Hermes and all showcasing Ellena's signature woodsy transparency. While you're at it, also test Un Jardin en Méditerranée or Un Jardin sur le Nil (Hermes), because they feature another side of Ellena's trademark style, namely vegetal garden accords fused with citrus and woods. In the more exclusive Hermessence line, you might also like Poivre Samarcande and Vetiver Tonka.

It might be the spicy woods part that you appreciate the most about Terre D'Hermès, in which case there are loads of great ones out there to explore. Spicy woods in the same vein as Terre D'Hermès include the wonderful Declaration (Cartier) – also done by Ellena, Quorum Silver (Antonio Puig), Grey Vetiver (Tom Ford), and S.T. Dupont Pour Homme (S.T. Dupont).


If it's the refreshing, aromatic citrus side of Terre d'Hermes that you respond to, then consider traditional and modern eaux de colognes. Some of the best traditional examples include L'Eau de Guerlain (Guerlain), 4711 Original Eau de Cologne (Maurer & Wirtz), Concentre d`Orange Verte (Hermes), and Original Colonia & Colonia Assoluta (Acqua di Parma). Excellent modern interpretations include Azemour les Orangers (Parfum d'Empire), L'Eau de Tarocco (Diptyque), Eau de Cologne (Chanel Les Exclusifs), and Cologne Indelible (Frederic Malle).

In general, testing Terre d'Hermès will tell you whether your taste falls on the fresher, citrusy side of things or on the heavier, more opulent side. If you find it's the former, then the house of Creed (niche) is tailor-made for you, because they specialize in very fresh, sparkling scents that never feel oppressive – try Original Vetiver, Green Irish Tweed, and Silver Mountain Water. On the designer side, for something similar, try Cool Water (Davidoff) and Light Blue Pour Homme (Dolce & Gabbana).

[chapter]Bvlgari Black[/chapter]

Black by Bulgari

Bvlgari Black by perfumer Annick Menardo is a marvel of rubber, leather, exhaust fuel, and vanilla – an urbane leather for what Katie Puckrick so memorably called “sexy astronauts”. Unisex? Without a shadow of a doubt. But since it is universally found in the men's aisle, so onto the male list it goes. The black rubber component of Black is created through the use of lapsang souchong tea, which you'll realize if you've ever drunk it smells like leather being dry-roasted over a campfire.

If you like the tea note in Black, then explore further in the house of Bvlgari – they are the masters of tea. Au Thé Vert is a fresh, citrusy green tea fragrance that works well in summer and Au Thé Rouge is the classic cup of English tea with milk. In the niche sector, try Tea for Two (L'Artisan Parfumeur), a smoky, almost ashy lapsong souchang tea scent with honey, vanilla, and gingerbread, 5 O'Clock Au Gingembre (Serge Lutens), a spicy ginger tea and cocoa blend that is both lighter and simpler than most other Serge Lutens fragrances, and Russian Tea (Masque Fragranze), an austere, leathery Russian tea with mint and smoke.

If you like the sexy, worn leather aspects of Black, then it's likely you'll also like Dzing! (L'Artisan Parfumeur), which ups the raunch factor by adding a soft dung-like note and a none too clean musk. If you like the smokiness that the tea note brings but would like it to be more campus fire than campfire, then up the ante with Patchouli 24 (Le Labo), also done by Annick Menardo, an incredibly smoky leather scent that piles on the birch tar and dials back the vanilla.


I've chosen Black as a good designer reference for leather, but twenty years ago, I might have easily have chosen Fahrenheit (Christian Dior). I don't need to tell you what Fahrenheit smells like, because it is such a famous smell. Unfortunately, its distinctiveness has been worn away through reformulation and although it still smells great, it is not what it once was. That's why Black takes pole position in the designer leather category here.

But still – smell Fahrenheit, and what's more smell all its flankers, because many people these days prefer the Fahrenheit Absolute, Fahrenheit 32, or Fahrenheit Parfum to the original, and some people even say that Aqua Fahrenheit actually smells like the old Fahrenheit, albeit a tiny bit lighter and fresher. Personally, I find a little of the old spirit of Fahrenheit still lives on in the violet leaf-leather of Cuir Pleine Fleur (Heeley Parfums), so not all hope is lost.

[chapter]Kiehl's Original Musk[/chapter]

Kiehl's Original Musk

Kiehl's Original Musk is a modern classic – a clean-dirty soapy musk with a subtle floral undertone – and can be found for a very good price at all Kiehl's stores. Smell this one because it will tell you where your personal musk line in the sand lies. Depending on your ability to perceive the musk particles used in this, it might strike you as laundry-clean or it might you think of men's underwear that's been turned inside out and worn again over the course of one long, sweaty week.

If even reading that last sentence made you shudder, then assume your musk preferences lie with the laundry-fresh type, and safely proceed on to Mugler Cologne (Thierry Mugler), a clean citrusy musk that smells like a bar of green soap, White Musk for Men (Jovan), Pour Homme Soir (Bvlgari), Eau de Cologne (Helmut Lang), Eau de Parfum (Helmut Lang), For Him Eau de Parfum Intense (Narciso Rodriguez), and For Him Musc (Narciso Rodriguez). In the niche sector, try Muschio Bianco (Acca Kappa), Lumiere Noire Pour Homme (Maison Francis Kurkdijan), and Musc (Mona di Orio).


If you like it dirty, then explore the clean-dirty feel of classics such as Kouros (Yves Saint Laurent), Jules (Christian Dior), and the truly stinky La Nuit (Paco Rabanne). I'm cheating slightly here because La Nuit has long been discontinued, but it is still available quite cheaply on eBay and it really is quite phenomenally filthy, so it's worth hunting down.

In the niche sector, they've made it a point of pride to see how dirty they can make a musk, so throw a stone and you'll hit one – try the Dirty Sanchez that is Muscs Koublai Khan (Serge Lutens), the metallic goat fat musk of Musc Tonkin (Parfum d'Empire), and the terrifying Musk Reinvention (CB I Hate Perfume), memorably described on the perfume blog Perfume Posse by a reader as “dried sourish sweat in cracks you don't want to think about.” Musc Ravageur (Frederic Malle) is kind of dirty too, but only briefly, before it turns into a cinnamon-glazed doughnut with whipped cream on top.

[chapter]Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior[/chapter]

Eau Sauvage

A classic marriage of citrus fruit, radiant jasmine, vetiver and woods, Eau Sauvage smells as crisp and as refreshingly sour as it always has since 1966. Smell it to know what a timeless classic smells like. Composed by the great Edmond Roudnitska, Eau Sauvage bears his signature style of smelling chic in that insouciant French way, but also a bit corrupt at heart. Diorella (Dior), another Roudnitska mainstream (unisex) masterpiece takes this idea further and adds a gassy melon note to hint at approaching decay. Cristalle (Chanel) does much the same thing, but is icier.

[[quote6]]Any mention of Diorella and Cristalle moves us further in the direction of citrus chypre, which is after all only an evolution of the aromatic citrus that is Eau Sauvage. If you like the slightly mossy feel that the vetiver creates in Eau Sauvage, then you might just be a chypre man. Try the standard bearer for oakmoss in mainstream masculine perfumery, which is Pour Monsieur (Chanel), a gentlemanly blend of citrus, oakmoss, and spice that smells a bit thinner than it used to due to oakmoss restrictions, but still pretty good. Monsieur de Givenchy (Givenchy) is a chypre along the same lines, but personally I prefer Givenchy III (Givenchy), an earthy green chypre that, although marketed to women, is also wonderful on a man. While you're over in the ladies section, sneak a spritz of Mitsouko (Guerlain) too – although more fruity than green, its dark moss, leather, and wax/dust aspects make it a perfectly unisex choice.

Eau Sauvage has some great flankers, by the way, so do check them out. Eau Sauvage Parfum adds a super turbo-charged vetiver and myrrh to the basic Eau Sauvage skeleton, creating a warm, balsamic, almost smoky fragrance that is wonderful in winter. Eau Sauvage Fraicheur Cuir – recently discontinued but still available in some dusty little perfume shops where there is not much stock turnover – adds leather but it also accomplishes something similar to Bel Ami Vetiver in that it also restores much of the fullness of the original fragrance that had been whittled down through reformulation. If you love the current Eau Sauvage, then the Fraicheur Cuir would be worth hunting down for this reason alone. There is also a Dior fragrance called, simply, Sauvage. On the pain of death, do not try that one.

[chapter]M7 / M7 Oud Absolu by Yves Saint Laurent[/chapter]

M7 Oud Absolu

M7 (2002) was the second fragrance done by Tom Ford while he was at Yves Saint Laurent, and one of the first commercial fragrances in the west to feature oud wood as a note. Perhaps its sweet, earthy, almost medicinal character was just too much for the mainstream palate back then, because it was a commercial flop and quickly pulled from the shelves. Now, of course, oud is everywhere. We have been penetrated by Montale, and even our laundry detergent comes in an oud flavor. You can smell the basic structure of M7 in the relaunched version, called M7 Oud Absolu, now back on the shelves. It is much the same, albeit a bit smoother, balmier, and less powdery. If you've never smelled oud before (or you think you haven't), then start with M7 Oud Absolu, because it is a solid modern version.

If you like the oud note, then there are several really good options on the designer side these days. Habit Rouge EDP (Guerlain) contains an oud wood note, as does Fahrenheit Absolute (Dior), Boss Bottled Oud (Hugo Boss), Oud Noir (Versace), Polo Supreme Oud (Ralph Lauren), and Indonesian Oud (Ermenegildo Zegna).


Leather Oud by Dior

But if you can make the hike to a major city that carries the Dior Privée line, then really, you need to get your nose on Leather Oud (Dior Privée) – rich, smoky, and animalic, it is the oud to beat in both designer and niche circles. If you want to limit your sampling of oud to designers, then every company these days from Ferrari to Pino Silvestre does an oud, so your options are almost infinite. Despite the great Luca Turin declaring recently that “We can talk about oud now that it's over”, oud fragrances still seem to be multiplying like rabbits out there.

On the niche side, try Oud Wood (Tom Ford), Royal Oud (Creed), and Oud (Maison Francis Kurkdijan) – all examples of where the oud note has been used subtly, as one woody note against the backdrop of other woody notes. If you like your oud to be loud and proud, then Montale has you covered – Original Aoud, Black Aoud, Aoud Cuir d'Arabie, and Aoud Musk are good places for a beginner to dip their toes into the water because they represent a barebones oud, a rose oud, a leathery oud, and a musky oud respectively, and are all very masculine to boot. I'm just slicing off the tip of the iceberg here, but as a starting point, these will do the job.


So, what do you think? Would you add anything to this list or take something off? If you are an old hand at this, then I'm curious to know what are the ten masculines you yourself would recommend that a newcomer smells.
About the author
Claire Vukcevic is a Basenotes contributor, two-time Jasmine Award winner, and author of the blog Currently, she is serializing her book, The Attar Guide, on Takeonethingoff – a must-read if you are interested exploring the world of oil-based perfumery, i.e., attars, mukhallats, oud oil, sandalwood oil, or concentrated perfume oils (CPOs).

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