Niche Fragrance Magazine

Finding a Signature Cologne – Method or Madness?

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Convinced that I was in desperate need of a ‘signature scent cologne’, something that I could grab at a moment’s notice when professional responsibilities required that I enter other person’s ‘scent circles’, I decided that rather than make a choice in the way I normally would – visit my local supplier and be overwhelmed by the typical perfume prose and return home with bottles that I didn’t really like – which were perceived differently on paper than on my skin or did not fit my personal style –  in short, buying ‘dumb’ as opposed to what I often do – ‘buying blind’ (another one of my perpetual weaknesses, but that is another story), I decided to introduce two principles that might help me make a more objective decision.


Wine tasting wisdom: Having wasted money chasing flowery wine bottle labels, listening to purple prose, focusing on romantic reputations and a host of other mesmerizing nonsense, I eventually discovered the value of blind wine tasting. This removes the marketing haze, and allows one to make decisions based upon taste and smell alone. Hey, I can apply this method to perfume too!


Allergy wisdom: When I was a child, I was suffering terrible allergies from heaven knows what. My parents carted me off to an allergy specialist, who then pricked the forearms of both of my hands with literally a hundred possible offenders… dust…pollen…alcohol…rocket fuel…molybdenum… name it.  I recall looking at my pin-cushion arms, covered with delineating circles outlining each potential irritant, numbered ‘1’ to ‘100’, each invader waiting to glow bright fuchsia on my innocent skin. Unfortunately for our beloved house pet, it turned out to be cat hair, but no matter, this is also a principle that I could introduce to determine my professional signature ‘dumb grab’ work scent.

So, having ordered a wide range of possible candidates from a very reliable supplier, I numbered the plastic sample vials (which counter-referenced a list of potential perfume choices), removing any trace of names on the vials. This was going to be a truly blind process. I then introduced circles on my arm and started dipping their contents on my arms, ensuring that no one individual scent would permeate into its neighboring circle.  Who were the contenders?  In no particular order, they are as follows:

Carthusia Uomo from Carthusia

Moon of Baroda from Thameen

Bergamotto di Positano from Floris London

Sandalo Nobile from Nobile 1942

Cologne Intense from Houbigant

Endymion by Penhaligon

Rudis from Nobile 1942

Cologne 352 by Ex Nihlo

8 Mars 1764 by Pogo di Borso

Derby by Guerlain

Sandalwood Cologne by Geo F. Trumper

Eau de Monsieur by Annick Goutal

Ormande Man by Ormande Jayne

Mediterraneo by Carthusia

Colonia Intensa by Acqua di Parma

Acqua Nobile by Nobile 1942

Why this selection in particular? I had heard of or read something interesting about these offerings and had wondered if they would be the kind of thing that would be appropriate in a daily professional setting.

The process of trying them all together on my arms would probably eliminate any ability to test top notes – but I was in this for the long haul, waiting for a dry down that would last the day, smelling interesting to me and being suitable for a business environment.

After 10 minutes I started to write down the numbers of those scents that were becoming interesting to me. Then another wait of 15 minutes, and again a recording of those numbers that were attractive and appropriate for my goal. After another 2 hours another selection, finalized by another test at 6 hours. It was interesting to see how they would play off each other, contrasting their various notes in the close proximity of their neighbors.

There were many that were very attractive to me, and to be certain, I found none of them revolting (OK, to be honest, the Rudis was not my cup of tea). After 2 hours, four were definitely my favorites, and after 6 hours, three emerged in particular. There was something interesting in each of those last three (keeping in mind that I was looking for something that would be suitable for a professional environment and not necessarily something that would even be on my desert island perfume list). Here are the final winners:

Number 3:  Endymion by Penhaligon

A nice fresh balance of citrus and lavender (no overwhelming lavender bomb like a Caron pour Homme) with a spicy base. Smells very professional but not ‘old mannish’. James Bond could wear this and I will definitely recommend it to him. Unfortunately, this was not able to last very long against the competition in terms of performance, and petered out before the 2 hour mark.

Number 2: Moon of Baroda from Thameen

Nice sandalwood. Very nice Mysore sandalwood. Something else there that keeps grabbing my interest. A rose? A very balanced rose indeed – not feminine nor flirtatious…a very serious scent – even meditative.  Subtle – no blow out projection, which is not appropriate anyway in a professional atmosphere, but great longevity. Six hours and going strong. A little two-dimensional – not much development. Something tells me that this emanates an aura of luxury rather than projecting sober business scents (forgive the pun).

….so, the winner is…..

Cologne 352 by Ex Nihlo

So fresh, with the sparkling lemon saying ‘I am alive’ but never ‘look at me’, accented by a great, fresh juniper berry, and underpinned by clean air infused woods and delicate florals and a touch of white musk. Perfectly blended. Professional, clean, invigorating, but not boring or staid. Definitely my ‘go to cologne’. I have since bought a full bottle (OK, I had to sell a few of my organs to buy it, but it was worth it).

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