Certain fragrances bring to mind an image of class, wealth, and sophistication. For me, these scents are simple, usually modeled after the eau de cologne, and impeccable in both quality and design. Some of my favorite examples are the great Acqua di Parma Colonia, Creed’s exquisite Pure White Cologne, and the elegant Roja Parfums Danger Pour Homme. Put on a nice pair of slacks, shoes, and a tailored shirt, then spritz on one of those fragrances—you’ll see exactly what I mean, as they will lift the spirit and perhaps the ego (but hopefully not too much). Another fragrance in this style is Oxford & Cambridge by Czech & Speake.
I can’t fail to notice that naming those two great educational institutions together is a form of blasphemy. Nevertheless, moving right along, this classic scent by Czech & Speake manages to capture certain aspects of patrician aesthetic that simply must be experienced in order to be understood. Using the olfactory sense, this aesthetic expresses itself in an appeal to traditional, often common notes, so that a symphony may be created without any appearance of effort.
So they used lavender, and a heck of a lot of it. Not surprising I must say, as lavender is a timeless masculine note that has also been heavily used by Acqua di Parma and many others. But here, it isn’t the sort of soft, powdery lavender that has defined the genre of aromatic fougere. Nope. This lavender hits you in the face with its leather-clad glove, walks over you with expensive brogues, and casually pokes you with its umbrella on the way past. It’s strong and very forceful, with sporty and medicinal elements, but somehow still manages to smell expensive.
Alongside the lavender is a fresh mint note. Many great men’s fragrances incorporating mint tend to smell like actual mint leaf (Xerjoff’s 1861 comes to mind), but here the mint doesn’t smell particularly authentic nor distinctly herbaceous. Instead, you get the airy feel of mint, which has the cool texture and clean scent of an exhale after consuming minted candy. Together with the mint and lavender, the whole composition sits on what smells like vanilla or sandalwood, which is sweet and subtly tinged with additional herbs (rosemary?) and oakmoss. The scent is linear, and the fresher notes fade into the background as the sweeter elements and lavender remain.
This isn’t a particularly strong fragrance in terms of projection or sillage, but it definitely has a thickness to it, and longevity is decent. Like an old aftershave (incidentally, Czech & Speake produces spectacular ancillary products for wet shavers in this scent, including both shaving soap and aftershave), Oxford & Cambridge can be a bit oppressive in its austerity. In short, Oxford & Cambridge is basically a high end sporty lavender aftershave made into a fragrance. But it’s a great one, and it shouldn’t be missed.