We all want fragrances with a bit of staying power. But the ability to linger on the skin isn’t the only kind of longevity that’s important when it comes to scents; staying power on the shelf is useful, too.
The amount of fragrances that stick around long enough to enter the olfactory hall of fame, however, is pretty small. “Since commercial perfumery began at the end of the 19th century an average of 250 fragrances have been launched globally each year, but less than 0.2 per cent of these have achieved the status of being classed a true classic,” explains acclaimed British perfumer and fragrance historian Roja Dove.
Spotting a future classic is complicated business – even for those behind the launch. When Paco Rabanne came up with 1 Million in 2008, the brand had no idea it would go on to become one of the bestselling men’s fragrances of all time. “We could not have imagined how successful 1 Million would become,” admits Vincent Thilloy, a vice president at fashion and fragrance firm Puig, which owns Paco Rabanne. “I suppose key to its success, though, was the fact that we took a risk with it, especially with the bottle. Few companies are willing to take real risks these days – but the way I look at it, it’s not taking a risk that’s the risk!”
Terre d’Hermes; Bleu de Chanel; Aramis Classic, all fragrances which seem likely to be around in another 10, 20, 30 years’ time, but what launches of the last few seasons have that elusive ‘future classic’ potential? We asked industry experts to put their money where their nose is.
Paco Rabanne 1 Million
Up first up is the aforementioned bling-in-a-bottle from Paco Rabanne. “1 Million is simply too successful for it to not be a modern classic,” says Dove, of the fragrance that now sells a bottle every five seconds and will be 10-years-old in 2018. “The intensity of the formula combined with the striking name and packaging grab the attention and make it an incredibly impactful perfume that is sure to endure for many years to come.”
The gold bullion is also the choice of Thomas Dunckley, founder of award-wining fragrance blog The Candy Perfume Boy: “It’s had the same impact that Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male had in the 1990s, it has become the scent of a generation,” he says.
“In a sea of freshness and sportiness, this smoky apple-pie gourmand reminded men that they could smell sweet and unique, affording them the luxury of something excessive but undeniably masculine.”
Available at John Lewis, priced £52 for 100ml EDT.
Frederic Malle Monsieur
An instant success with the grooming press, Frederic Malle’s Monsieur – the creation of French perfumer Bruno Jovanovic – is one of those niche fragrances that has classic potential spliced into its DNA. Javanovic was the co-creator of Abercrombie & Fitch’s Fierce, but this crisp-yet-sensual mix of mandarin orange, patchouli and musk couldn’t be more different in tone and character.
According to Josephine Fairley, of The Perfume Society, Monsieur owes its future classic potential to the fact it takes a tried-and-tested formula and makes it even better. “Colognes like this are hot news at the moment – but this one truly offers a new spin on that classic structure,” she says. “Suffused with a come-hither musk, I’ve hardly ever met anyone who doesn’t love it, and you can still smell on a chap’s neck 24-hours later.” Staying power in every way then.
Available at Harrods, priced £120 for 50ml EDP.
It may not be a patch on Dior’s Eau Sauvage (a fragrance that’s over 50-years-old and still going strong), but Dior’s behemoth creation Sauvage has to be a future classic contender thanks to its uber-commercial blend of bergamot, lavender, vetiver and ambroxan. Not to mention its (almost inescapable) ad campaign.
“It may have only launched in 2015 but it’s already our number one fragrance for men,” says Hayley Jones, key brand manager at online retailer FeelUnique.
Jones puts the scent’s success down to its wearabilty and versatility: “What gives Sauvage classic potential is the fact that it’s fresh enough for the day but has deeper, woody elements that make it perfect for the evening too.” Having Johnny Depp as the face of its campaign hasn’t exactly harmed its chances either.
Available at John Lewis, priced £67.50 for 100ml EDT.
Naming a fragrance ICON (and spelling it in caps at that) is a bold – some might say foolhardy – move for any company. But instead of inviting ridicule, Dunhill’s confidence in ICON turned out to be well-founded as it garnered almost universally great reviews when it launched just two years ago.
A spicy, leathery and smoky fragrance, it’s as refined and grown-up as the century-old brand and the attention to detail throughout is superb. “What makes this a future classic is the whole package,” says Fairley. “It has one of the most stylish bottles to be unveiled in years (and one that’s hefty, with it), and is a fabulous modern take on the classic, luxurious English gentleman’s scent. It’s one fragrance that will truly live up to its name in years to come.”
Available at House Of Fraser, priced £77 for 100ml EDP.
Christian Dior Leather Oud
“I’ll give my vote to Leather Oud from Dior,” says award-winning fragrance writer, author and blogger Persolaise. Released in 2010 as part of the brand’s initial line-up of Collection Privée scents, it’s one of the most striking examples of what can be achieved when a ubiquitous fragrance note like oud is handled by a talented perfumer – in this case Francois Demachy.
“By linking the central note with an equally dry cypriol facet and combining the lot with honey, cloves and uncompromising animalics, he’s succeeded in creating a masterpiece and one that’s nothing less than a desert storm in a bottle,” Persolaise adds. “I certainly hope it’ll still be in Dior’s range in decades to come.”
Available at Dior, priced £200 for 125ml.
Byredo Super Cedar
With niche fragrance houses producing some of the best scents of late, there’s a strong possibility that lesser-known fragrances like this one from Swedish perfumer Byredo will endure better than fly-by-night flankers from bigger, better-advertised houses.
“As woody as it gets; once the rosiness of Super Cedar has ebbed away, it’s virile without being overwhelming,” says Fairley. “Pencil-shaving perfection, with nothing not to love. Hipster heaven, actually, but destined for survival long after the last beard’s been shaved off in Shoreditch.”
Available at Liberty London, priced £90 for 50ml EDP.
Chanel Allure Homme Sport
Still going strong 13 years after its release, Chanel’s Allure Homme Sport is one of the best-selling (and just one of the best) sport fragrances on the market. “Allure Homme Sport is a modernised variant of a classic vetiver harmony that is successful because it’s quiet,” says Dove. “Like Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofilo, it takes a lot of very classic materials and combines them with interesting modern synthetics one to create something new.”
According to Dove, it’s this spirit of re-invention and innovation that gives many potential classics the edge. “It’s exactly what’s been done with past scents that have endured and become classic,” he says. “They have delivered something innovative and original, which is why they have the potential to be around in 10 years’ time.”
Available at Boots, priced £65 for 100ml EDT.
Do you have a fragrance you think has what it takes to become a future classic?
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An award-winning journalist and former magazine editor, Lee Kynaston is one on the UK’s best known and most experienced male grooming experts.
He writes for The Telegraph, Men’s Health, Harrods Magazine and numerous other publications and websites, is Lifestyle & Grooming Editor of Niven & Joshua, and was voted Best Beauty/Grooming Blogger 2013 at the Fashion Monitor Journalism Awards for his Grooming Guru blog.