The word perfume originates from the Latin word perfumare, meaning “to smoke through”. It alludes to the process by which we swiftly extend ourselves into the spaces we choose to occupy. Your choice scent is a nonverbal statement; it defines presence and personality, telling the woman sitting across the bar the things you no longer need to say. But the market is awash with new scents for men, with many more on the way. Plenty of these fragrances smell somewhat familiar, if not completely identical, and that new perfect scent is now the needle in a haystack. The safe road to finding a new fragrance leads back to those favored of men since passed, time-tested and gramps-approved. All of these vintage scents are still in production, proving that some things truly never go out of style.
Santa Maria Novella Patchouli
The beloved products of Santa Maria Novella date back to early 17th century Florentine monasteries. Production remains in Florence, where every fragrance is still bottled and sealed by hand. Their signature cologne, created for Catherine de Medici, is their most famous; but this scent is an elegant alternative, breaking patchouli’s more recent association with your LSD-addled uncle raging to Hendrix at Woodstock. Like vetiver and sandalwood, patchouli refines with age, and will continue to impress for many years to come.
Floris No. 89
Bond enthusiasts claim this fragrance from English perfumer Floris was the preferred scent of 007. No record of No. 89 exists throughout Ian Fleming’s famous novels, but the fragrance is thought to have been used by the author himself as he swooned his way through the Second World War all the way to the coasts of Jamaica, where the GoldenEye estate still stands. The scent’s unique floral complexion may not be what you expected from Bond, but it’s still pretty darn impressive.
Acqua di Parma Colonia
Though Acqua di Parma has much expanded from their singular scent, Colonia remains the standard by which their other products are both inspired and judged. First used to mist the handkerchiefs of Italian men, this unisex fragrance found great commercial success abroad after notable wearers such as Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant were discovered to have used it. On the lighter side of the spectrum, Acqua di Parma Colonia brings to mind the fresh smell of Mediterranean citrus, with herbal notes of rosemary, lavender, and verbena.
Most perfumes on the market stay fresh anywhere between three to five years, though quality ingredients can extend that number. To increase their shelf life, store your scents away from heat, humidity, and direct light; look for dark or opaque bottles to help with this. While some essential oils deteriorate more quickly, vetiver, patchouli, and sandalwood are prized for their ability to develop and mature with age.
No other ingredient has more deeply embedded itself into the fabric of men’s perfumery than vetiver — a grass native to India, but these days mostly cultivated in Haiti. The oils of the plant are known to age incredibly well, deepening the complexity of its grassy, musky odor. The ideal adaptation comes from legendary perfume house Guerlain, who set the benchmark for all subsequent vetivers since its launch in the late ’50s. Rumor has it that both JFK and the Beatles kept bottles in their arsenals.
Dior Eau Sauvage
Originally released in collaboration with master perfumer Edmond Roudnitska in 1966, Eau Sauvage remains one of the true, great titans in classic men’s fragrance. It’s the kind of scent one could imagine Alain Delon wearing while he filmed Melville’s dark noir classic Le Samouraï. Its top notes of bitter citrus zest conclude with a subtle, spicy finish that suggests the wearer has already been somewhere tonight, with many miles to go.
Old Spice Classic
Old Spice has been making babies since 1938 — the year perfumer Albert Hauck defined the brand’s scent. The heart of the fragrance has subtle notes of cinnamon, finished by a woody, vanilla musk. It’s that perfect post-shower smell we’ve grown to love: a whiff of classic Americana. Adored, forgotten, and always rediscovered.