From the quintessential masculinity of vetiver, to arguably the most feminine, delicate fragrances of them all; rose. A divisive note, the scent of rose can evoke two very different images for people. While for some it can be quite an outdated, frumpy fragrance synonymous with matronly old ladies, for others, including myself, it’s a truly magical scent. At the same time it’s complex and transparent; moving fluidly from a clean, fresh, lemony scent, to a luscious, opulent floral. However, more than anything, it is utterly romantic and feminine. So, this begs the question, can a man ever wear a fragrance where rose is not only an ingredient, but the hero? My answer is a resounding yes, yes, yes! There is a long list of beautiful rose based fragrances for men (at the end of the blog post you can find my top 10), however for this entry I will discuss two of my favourites, Noir de Noir by Tom Ford and Indonesian Oud by Zegna.
|Noir de Noir||Indonesian Oud|
Saffron, Rose, Vanilla, Patchouli, Oud, Oak moss, Tuber
Bergamot, Oud, Patchouli, Amber, rose
While neither fragrance would be classified a true floral, they both contain rose as their only floral note, leaving no doubt as to the key player. Similarly, both contain oud and patchouli which add an earthy, woodiness to both scents. However, for all these similarities the scents are vastly different in my opinion and evoke very different emotions in me. Noir de Noir is certainly the bolder of the two and could only be worn by a man who is daring and who likes to be different. Conservative it certainly isn’t, and this one could be too cloying and feminine for those who like more traditional, masculine scents. However, for me it is magical scent. The oak moss, tuber and patchouli give it an earthiness that cuts the sweetness of the vanilla and rose, while the saffron adds an exotic flavour to the scent, reminiscent of spiced, rose flavoured Turkish delight. In this case the name says it all, the scent is dark and luscious and if it was a colour it would be dead rose red.
Conversely Zegna has definitely produced a brighter scent, which doesn’t bring to mind a boudoir, but rather a lush red rose after a rain storm. It too has an earthiness to it provided by the patchouli, however, it’s not the truffle like earthiness of Noir de Noir, but rather a wet, clean dirt. All in all, it is a much more natural, albeit less complex scent. With a monster silage, a little goes a long way with Indonesian Oud, and some people may even find it a little too much at first. But after a few hours, the fragrance settles down to show case the woodier, earthier notes. For me, the name here is completely misleading. If you’re into the heavy, medicinal/anamalic notes of some oud scents, this will be a disappointment, because even though oud is a player, it only has a small role. Rose is the strongest note here and if you dislike rose, this is certainly not the scent for you. Personally, I find both fragrances very unisex even though Indonesian Oud is marketed solely for men. All in all, even if floral scents are not to your taste, there is no denying that these two fragrances have been masterfully blended to showcase both the masculine woody and earthy notes and the dark floral feminine ones. In my opinion it is in this duality where the beauty of these fragrances lie. However, for me it’s Indonesian Oud’s simplicity and elegance that wins the day. This is a timeless scent where less is indeed more. I sincerely hope that this will become a classic. So now I pose my question to you, “can a man ever wear a fragrance where rose is not only an ingredient but the hero?”
Top 10 Rose scents for men:
Indonesian Oud by Zegna
Rose 31 by Le Labo
Rose D’Arabie by Armani
Ambre Nuit by Cristian Dior
Café Rose by Tom Ford
Majestic Rose by Yves Saint Laurent
Noir de Noir by Tom Ford
Les Notes De Lanvin Oud and Rose by Lanvin
Lyric by Amouage
Lumiere Noir by Maison Francis Kurkdijan
to answer the question, “can a man wear a scent where the hero is Rose?” one needs to first fully understand what makes a male fragrance and what makes a female fragrance. As we all know there are vast differences between cultures as to what is masculine and what is feminine. Within our cultural structures, we are taught to identify certain scents to be feminine and others to be masculine. Where these made up “rules” come from is not clearly understood. Could it be that a leader (a king, queen or emperor/ess ) or just a very influential person dictated his or her personal taste on his or her subjects and thus a point of view was adopted. Or, is there something carnal, something intrinsic in us that makes one scent more masculine or feminine than another. In nature, animals use scent to attract the opposite sex or mark their dominance over a territory, so this is very possible. Recently, a study has shown that men and women interpret certain smells differently. This could give a fundamental ruling that some fragrances are more appealing to men than to women and vice versa. Furthermore, these scents could have an innate attraction for a man or a woman. So perhaps floral smells turn men on! And woody scents turn a female on. But sometimes we are so preoccupied with our own thoughts, that we assume, what turns us on is what turns everyone else on (in particular the sex you are trying to attract). In my case, for example: I am attracted to animalic and resiny scents like musk, civet, castorium, cardamom, and labdanum, and I assume these scents have the ethereal aphrodisiac power to temp the bevy of women in my immediate radius. Unfortunately, these scents may be repulsive to the exact market I am targeting. My wife’s reaction, one dark night, is testimony to this as I attempted to convert her to nymphomania by drenching myself with Ermenegildo Zegna’s Musk Gold. Instead of the hot night of carnal pleasure I awaited, I was made to have a cold shower and scrub the odour off with a tuff stone.
It must be understood that we as humans are social beings who crave identity and endeavour to belong to the group we associate with, and it is this that gives rise to categorising what scent belongs to who and how it should be used. It is not necessarily important as to “how” the decision is made but rather that a decision has to be made for us to make sense of our position in the societies we live in. However, in our ever evolving societies, sped up by globalisation, we are constantly accepting different cultures and borrowing diverse points of view. We open our minds up to different approaches to sexuality. But, I believe, what really turns our collective views around is what has been doing so for millennia! And that is: What we are being lead to believe. So the answer to the question is: “Of course men can wear a fragrance where Rose is the hero! Because Tom Ford wants you to!”