Following the recent post on how to buy fragrance, this is the second installment – the brands I like and some suggestions of ones to look for.

First, though, a reader asked about the difference between molecular and natural ingredients. Natural ingredients are generally but not always better. Molecular ingredients are usually cheaper, so the cheaper perfumes use them almost exclusively. But there are some very good molecules as well – ambroxin, for example, which was created in the 1950s to replace ambergris.

“The best perfumes are a combination of both: molecules give them depth and naturals give them sparkle,” says perfume guru Michael Donovan.

Natural ingredients have become much more expensive in recent years, largely due to farming techniques. Tuberoses, roses, jasmine and other ingredients have become unaffordable for cheaper products – hence my point in the previous post that you have to be paying more than £80 a bottle to give the perfumer a full palette of possibilities.

And of course it is possible to have simple fragrances that are quite beautiful. A lot of the traditional colognes worn by our sartorial heroes in the 1920s and 1930s were simple combinations of citrus and herbs. There is the original cologne, Farina Gegenuber 1709, for instance, and several old Italian scents such as Acqua di Genova.

These are classic, fresh and uncomplicated. As with any area of consumption, however, the connoisseurs tend to favour more complicated creations.

So which brands should you look to? Well, one of the main considerations has to be that the scent will be around for a long time. There’s no point undertaking a long journey of discovery, identifying your four favourite scents after years of joyful experimentation, only to discover that two of them have been discontinued.

So look first to classic houses such as Creed – originally English, now French, going strong after 250 years and with a full range of scents for you to play with. Green Irish Tweed is a perennial favourite; I wear Original Vetiver (so named because it had the original idea of using the top of the grass, not the root). Pour un Homme by Caron is also a classic, a strong-lavender scent that is a favourite of Tom Ford.

Among the more modern houses, two stand out: Frederic Malle (above) and Byredo. Malle’s strength is curating – working with the best noses in the world to create their perfect scents. Byredo is a Swedish house that makes less unusual fragrances, but all with unique touches. Both have been so significant in the evolution of men’s perfume since the dog days of the 1990s that they will certainly be around for decades to come.

Some fashion brands do great scents. The risk is that you are paying a certain amount for advertising, fashion shows and retail stores. Etro has always done wonderful fragrances and Tom Ford is a genuine lover of perfume. His scents, particularly the Private Blends in eau de parfum, are great. Perhaps that means you pay £140 for 50ml rather than £90, but if it’s the scent you love then it may be a price worth paying.

The best place to check out these perfumes (other than Tom Ford) is Liberty’s, or order 2ml samples from Roullier White.
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Interesting post Simon.

What about Floris? What is your view on their products, and how how do they rate compared to the brands mentioned by you above?

My favorite Floris scent is Santal, not so “old mannish” as some of the others 🙂


Lindsay McKee

Agree on no.89.
Pity that Floris don’t do an Eau de Parfums in that one.


very nice post, what do you think about santa maria novella?


Ian Fleming’s favorite


And mine as well. No89 is always right.


Excellent post; especially the tip about 2ml samples.


Hi Simon

Interesting article as always.

I tend to favour geranium but find it almost impossible to source in a strong format. Can you recommend any other than Malle’s Geranium pour monsieur which, i find does not last well nor smell strongly of geranium? Incidentally, a present given to me by a friend of Neroli by Tom Ford at £140.00 for 50ml leaves me thinking that Mr Ford does not quite grasp ‘perfume’. It simply does not last. Perhaps he has too many irons in the fire!

And finally, i have for some time wanted to thank you for the advance warning of the Drakes sale which as you know was not advertised to registered clients for a reason that no-one could supply to me when i visited. Needless to say i went along and spent far too much so perhaps, rather than thank you, i should not!

Renewed thanks


What is the aqua di Parma situation then. Their cologne is more expensive than edt (blue Mediterranean) and last longer?


Great post Simon. I had a long chat with a perfumer in Siena – where my family lives – he informed me that Santa Maria Novella was bought out a while back and the quality has been dropping ever since (and prices increasing). He had some of their stuff from their final old batches but beyond that it was mostly cheaper chemicals and all geared up for their huge global expansion in recent years. The scents are also all the weaker 5%. Nonetheless, I love the fact they keep their scents simple and timeless.

Aqua di Parma is owned by LVMH and is, in fact, as commercial as they come. (Although more elegant than a trip into Boots of course)

For local Tuscan artisanal perfumers I was recommended Lorenzo Villoresi and was particularly impressed with their very locally sourced scent Spezie (see link below)

Also BOIS 1920 is a good perfumer from Florence. The ‘classic’ is a great option and reminds me a bit of Green Irish Tweed and SMN’s Colonia di Russa. The ‘extrema” was also interesting but a bit more musky. Link below.

Some good local Tuscan options beyond the better known ones!


There are some excellent, unusual and grown-up scents for men and women available at Bloom in Spitalfields. I wear Chambre Noir by Olfactive Studio.


Interesting musings on perfume. Not much of a how-to guide but I enjoyed reading it.

I like the recommendation to start with established houses first. Creed is a good place if you need a “workhorse” Green Irish Tweed and Aventus are so versatile that it’s hard to think of an occasion they won’t be appropriate for.


Simon, what are your thoughts on Aqua di Parma? Value for money and quality wise.


Which Frederic Malle perfumes are your favorite, and which perfumes (FM or other) are you wearing nowadays?


Just wanted to add some great options from the designer brands: Chanel Égoïste, Dior Fahrenheit and Dior Homme for example I will always recommend and they are still under the magic 100€/100ml limit.

Lindsay Eric McKee

Have you tried Roja Dove in Burlington Arcade, not to mention The new Salon de Parfums in Harrods with rarer British Names including Boadicea and the exclusive French House Henri Jacques, the latter frightfully expensive?


i’ve been told that on a high level of fragrance there is no distinction of men’s/women’s perfumes. would you agree? for myself i can say that the ones me and my wife own get used by both of us.

Lindsay McKee

What about the Amouage perfumes, has anyone tried them?

Lindsay McKee

I’ll update you here . I’ve tried Amouage Interlude Man and the OUD is too strong for me. Think camp fire with some incense thrown in. Maybe a slightly extreme way to describe it.
Definitely won’t appeal to everyone.