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Monday, May 11, 2009

Scent of a Man

By Haidee Findlay-Levin...

I realize my taste in fragrance is not very commercial or mainstream. I know this from my first unofficial experience reviewing a new scent. Early in my fashion career, I happened to be in Paris at a casual lunch with friends who worked for Azzedine Alaïa. Also at the lunch was their friend and designer, Thierry Mugler. I was mid-conversation when someone passed a small unlabeled vial under my nose to smell. I took one whiff, grimaced at the sickly sweet smell and exclaimed, “Ooh, that's disgusting. It smells like candy.” A silence descended on the table. The unlabeled fragrance was the prototype for Thierry Mugler’s Angel, now among the best-selling fragrances in the world.

My first experience with Byredo fragrances was entirely different. It was during my stay at the Berns Hotel in Stockholm, where the subtle scent of a Byredo candle permeated the hotel in the best possible way, and is now permanently attached to my memory of the city. Memory seems inseparable from the experience of scent and was a constant source of inspiration for Ben Gorham, founder of Byredo, as he created his new gentleman's fragrance in collaboration with the editors of Fantastic Man, Jop Van Bennekom and Gert Jonkers.

How do you capture the essence of a magazine in a fragrance? Jonkers describes the experience as "super virtual" and the process "like walking around in the dark, looking for the light switch." Perhaps that's why, at its Paris launch this spring, the scent could be experienced by sniffing a blindfolded man. But as I was not in Paris for this particularly evocative inauguration, they sent me an elegantly packaged bottle to sample it myself. Like the magazine, it has an old-fashioned quality reminiscent of Tabac and Old Spice, yet with a lingering aroma that's very modern. In the end, the result is a super normal fragrance with a lovely edge. As Jonkers puts it: "It's as inclusively niche as the magazine itself.”

Fantastic Man Eau de Cologne, $195 for 100 ml at Byredo

Read Hint's first review of Byredo in Beauty Duty.

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