Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

Did the world move for you on 1 September 2017? More precisely, did you feel the perfume world move? After all, the most important perfume event of 2017 happened on this day. No, I’m not talking about the launch of Tom Ford Fucking Fabulous, although that was a close second. I’m talking about the worldwide launch of Gabrielle Chanel EDP.  The fragrance industry has perfected the art of hype. And as far as hype goes, the first brand-new Chanel fragrance launch in 15 years (since the highly regarded Chanel Chance EDP in 2002) was fraught with expectation, hubris and debate.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

In the month leading up to the worldwide launch and for the past three weeks, I deliberately avoided reading all reviews about Gabrielle Chanel. So apologies to all those fragrance bloggers whose notification mails I deleted. I didn’t want my thoughts on this fragrance to be influenced in any way by other opinions.

The Eastern Orange Free State
FREE STATE OF MIND: A family road-trip to escape the buzz and hype.

I decided instead to bring Gabrielle Chanel on a family road trip to the eastern Free State. To spend some time with it, on its own terms. I thought the Free State would be a fitting environment to do this, as this province of South Africa captures some of the qualities Chanel herself is renowned for. A pioneering and resilient spirit and an uncompromising style that can only come from suffering and endurance. Although the Chanel aesthetic is often associated with pearls and black dresses, Coco was never a prissy missy.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review - Portrait Of Coco Chanel
PIONEERING SPIRIT: A Man Ray portrait of Coco Chanel. Pic courtesy of Chanel.

So what did I learn about Gabrielle Chanel the fragrance from my relatively secluded time with it? Well, it’s clearly aimed at a new generation of younger women, who might find Chanel No5 “overpowering”, “old-fashioned” and “one of my mother’s favourites”. No doubt about it, this is Chanel’s big push for the “millennial” market.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

The result is a modern scent that has a dominant heart of white florals (jasmine, ylang-ylang, tuberose, orange blossoms). The listed top notes include mandarin, black currant and grapefruit, but I only picked up grapefruit from those. The floral heart is fresh and contemporary, albeit not particularly original, and eventually makes way for a more traditional base of sandalwood and musk notes. I enjoyed this more subdued element after the initial spark of white florals had subsided.

The Eastern Free State
TREE OF LIFE: Gabrielle Chanel’s road trip included this vivid landscape.

While I am both male and 40-something (ahem, clearly not the target market), Gabrielle Chanel is very easy to wear, accessible and undeniably appealing. It will probably appeal to many other non-millennials too. And now for the big question…


Mais non! And it doesn’t have to be. If the brief for Chanel’s in-house perfumer, Olivier Polge, was to create a modern, elegant and luxurious scent, he has succeeded admirably.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

I had no “classic” expectations of Gabrielle Chanel. After all, is it realistic to expect another iconic scent like Chanel No5? I was going to title this post “Keep Calm & Gabrielle Chanel” and perhaps that’s the best way to approach this EDP. If you have unrealistic expectations of it, you’ll probably be disappointed. If you can appreciate it for what it is, then it’s a very pleasurable, well-executed scent.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review

Either way, do expect a roll-out of Gabrielle Chanel flankers over the next five years, as Chanel has invested heavily in this new pillar fragrance and left no details to chance. The luxe packaging and fine-glass bottle alone will tell you that.

Gabrielle Chanel EDP, R1 745 for 50ml and R2 465 for 100ml.

Gabrielle Chanel Fragrance Review - A Portrait of Coco Chanel
VISIONARY: A portrait of a young Coco Chanel, taken in 1909. Pic courtesy of Chanel.




The South African Beauty Connection

South African Beauty Connection - Boss The Scent Intense

Some people collect cars, watches, handbags and art. My fragrance and vintage glass fetish aside, I can’t resist collecting ideas for a theme. As a Johannesburg-based blogger, this theme started out with a focus on top South African beauty/grooming products. It gradually morphed into something more fluid and fascinating the more research I did. I am hoping this round-up – the South African beauty connection – will intrigue and inform you too. Please let me know if I have left anything off this admittedly edited list.

The South African Beauty Connection


Graham Wulff’s anti-ageing product has come a long way from its origins in the 1950s. The Durban-based, ex-Unilever chemist created Oil of Olay Beauty Fluid, using lanolin as one of its main ingredients. Such was its popularity that it found its place on vanity chests worldwide, back in the days when our mothers sat and groomed themselves.

“Olay found its place on vanity chests worldwide, back in the days when our mothers sat and groomed themselves.”

Fast-forward through changes in ownership, a change of name to Olay in 1999 and the brand is now one of American giant Procter & Gamble’s billion-dollar businesses. Mum’s little helper now includes everything from body and eye products to cleansers and moisturisers.

South African Beauty Connection - Olay

Maninka Fruit

I’d never heard of the maninka fruit before Boss The Scent was launched in 2015. I was reminded about this fruit, the heart of the fragrance, when Boss The Scent Intense was recently launched in South Africa. How could I forget with the wall-to-wall advertising that has accompanied this seduction EDP?

South African Beauty Connection - Maninka Fruit
NOT THE USUAL: Maninka fruit, a key ingredient in Boss The Scent and Boss The Scent Intense. Pic courtesy of P&G Prestige.

Anyway, what counts is that maninka comes from South Africa. And apparently Boss The Scent was the first time it had been used in a fragrance. According to a Basenotes interview with Will Andrews, scientist and senior evaluator at P&G Prestige,  maninka fruit (long used by the locals) was discovered by a team looking for unusual ingredients in the Western Cape’s fynbos region. The fruit itself comes from the Oncoba spinosa tree and was chosen for its “dried fruit” and “strawberries and chocolate” qualities.

South African Beauty Connection - Boss The Scent Intense EDP

While I can’t vouch for maninka’s supposed aphrodisiac qualities, I do appreciate a good back-story. The Scent itself? Maninka has been pumped to the max in Boss The Scent Intense. Leather, ginger, vanilla, lavender and cardamom notes all do their best to lend their notice-me-baby support.


German-born chemist, South-Africa-based Dieter Beier launched Bio-Oil in 1987. Little did he know that his cult product would become an international best-seller. Bio-Oil’s new owners, Justin and David Letschert, re-branded Beier’s dry-skin product as a treatment for scars, stretch marks and uneven skin tone in the early 2000s.

South African Beauty Connection - Bio-Oil

Their big investment in marketing and international distribution has paid handsome dividends. The product is a skincare success across the globe. Bio-Oil celebrates 30 years in the beauty biz in September 2017, with new and sleeker packaging. But the formulation – PurCellin oil, vitamins A and E, calendula, rosemary, lavender and camomile oils – remains the same. Proof than even in our high-tech-obsessed world, you can’t beat simplicity.

“Even in our high-tech-obsessed world, you can’t beat simplicity.”

Mark Eisen

What do Dunhill Icon, Montblanc Emblem, Montblanc Lady Emblem and Shanghai Tang have in common? Their flacons (“bottle” sounds too common for these visual beauties) were designed by South Africa’s Mark Eisen.

South African Beauty Connection - Mark Eisen For Montblanc Lady Emblem
MARKSMANSHIP: Mark Eisen’s design for Montblanc Lady Emblem.

The Capetonian had a successful international career as a fashion designer from the late 1980s. He then turned his talents to industrial design, in particular fragrance bottle and wine bottle design.

I shamelessly used the South African connection to attempt to wangle an interview with Mr Eisen for this post, but he politely declined. So I will let his South African Beauty Connection - Mark Eisen flacon design work for Richemont’s luxury fragrance brands speak for itself.

(While I am on the South African beauty connection thing, Dunhill, Montblanc and Shanghai Tang are just some of the luxury brands owned by Richemont, the company founded by South Africa’s Rupert family.)

Exhibit A: Eisen’s cylindrical bottle, metal-encased design for Dunhill Icon. A powerfully functional and stylish statement for this scent that’s sure to become a modern classic. Dunhill Icon bagged the prestigious Fragrance Foundation Award for Best New Male Design & Packaging in 2016.

South African Beauty Connection - Mark Eisen For Dunhill Icon


Better known as South African/African geraniums, pelargoniums are mostly indigenous to South Africa. They are from the same family as geraniums but they are, in fact, very different plants. The scented varieties are an important part of the perfumer’s toolkit.

South African Beauty Connection - Pelargoniums
PERFUMER’S TOOLKIT: Pelargoniums are found in a variety of fragrances. Pic courtesy of

I asked Cape Town-based natural perfumer Agata Karolina (House of Gozdawa) for some info on scented pelargoniums. This is what she had to say: “Pelargoniums are commercially farmed, but still in small amounts at this time. We source our pelargonium oil in the Western Cape from farmers we work closely with developing their crops especially for oil harvest. They hold all of the knowledge about the plants and their best conditions for growth. I bring my nose and knowledge of scent combination and complementary attributes of each plant’s characters.

South African Beauty Connection - Pelargoniums
PELARGONIUM PARFUM: House of Gozdawa Marta contains pelargonium oil.

“Pelargonium is less ‘rosy’ and has a far more green character to its scent. It smells like freshly cut lemongrass, lemon flesh, boiled candy sweets, rose leaves and earth.”

I spotted South African geranium as a key ingredient in Atelier Cologne Sanguine Orange. Superbly summery and uplifting, it’s the debut fragrance from the Paris-based niche fragrance company.

South African Beauty Connection - Atelier Cologne Orange Sanguine


I was a dismal chemistry pupil, so I will keep this one as reader-friendly as possible. South African company Pelchem is the only Southern Hemisphere producer of perfluorodecalin, an active ingredient found in a wide variety of anti-ageing products.

South African Beauty Connection - Perfluorodecalin
ANTI-AGEING ACTIVE: A 3-D representation of the chemical compound perfluorodecalin. Pic courtesy of Wikipedia.

An article in the Pharmaceutical & Cosmetic Review yielded more insights. “The active ingredient is a fluorocarbon and derivative of decalin, which is used in cosmetics formulations to dissolve and deliver oxygen to the skin. Due to the ability of perfluorodecalin to dissolve oxygen and other gases, it revitalises skin and reduces wrinkles…” I love a good success story, so I’ll wave my small South African flag in recognition of Pelchem’s innovative and patented work.

PS: I have not included South Africa-born Etienne de Swardt, the founder of niche fragrance company Etat Libre d’Orange, in this round-up. You can read my interview with the maverick here:


Finding Your Niche Fragrances

Niche Fragrances - Penhaligon's Much Ado About The Duke

The fragrance market ain’t what it used to be and niche fragrances are on the rise. The steady decline of the celebrity fragrance category is gathering pace. Designer fragrances that used to fly off the shelves are increasingly being discounted.

The numbers below speak for themselves. These figures are for the world’s largest fragrance market, the USA. But these are international trends, according to industry analysts NPD Group, The Business of Fashion and Perfumer & Flavorist. Amid all the number-crunching, there’s a discernible shift to niche fragrances. They have added almost $250 million to the fragrance market since 2014.

66%  the decline of the celebrity fragrance market in department stores from 2011-2014

6% – the drop in overall fragrance sales from 2015 to 2016

 1%  – the sales growth of prestige fragrances

The rise of niche fragrances - Boss Bottled Tonic
RETAIL BLUES: Designer fragrances aren’t the guaranteed hits they used to be.

Even South Africa, a land of mass market and designer fragrances, is not immune to these changes. Hence the recent arrival of Skins Cosmetics, the renowned Dutch niche beauty and fragrances retailer, in Johannesburg ( Skins Cosmetics strikes a good balance between big-name niche fragrances and more experimental niche fragrances. You’ll find everything from Aqua di Parma, Creed, Diptyque, Floris, L’Artisan Parfumeur and Penhaligon’s to Aether, Escentric Molecules and Le Labo at this upmarket store.

While it’s pointless to get bogged down in definitions, it’s always good to know what we mean when we use a buzz-phrase like “niche fragrances”. And why exactly are niche fragrances showing such growth. I asked two of my favourite bloggers for their thoughts on the above and this is what they had to say.


“If I were being really ‘black and white’ about this, the only honest, accurate answer is ‘nothing’. ‘Niche’, as a descriptor, does not signify any particular style or aesthetic. If the term has any value, it is only as a method of describing limited and/or independent production/ distribution. I would concede that the best so-called niche perfumes possess a clear reflection of the visions of their creators.” – Dariush Alavi of Persolaise (

Niche Fragrances - L'Artisan Parfumeur Au Bord de L'Eau
THE ARTISTRY OF NICHE FRAGRANCES: L’Artisan Parfumeur Au Bord de L’Eau, inspired by Claude Monet.

“Niche perfumery is a very creative arm of the industry. Most of the trends that have become prolific in commercial perfumery started in niche. It’s an important place for generating and testing new ideas. Niche is a good incubator for creativity. Its audiences are genuinely interested in unusual or forward-thinking fragrances. They don’t want to smell like every second person on the street.” – Clayton Ilolahia of What Men Should Smell Like (


These insights from Clayton and Dariush pretty much sum up the role and nuances of niche fragrances. I would also like to add that we need to beware the snobbery of niche fragrances. Just because it’s a designer/mainstream/commercial fragrance doesn’t mean it’s inherently crap. I have come across a fair amount of that snootiness online. Equally, just because it’s a niche fragrance doesn’t mean it’s better quality or more deserving of the cash you’re about to splash.

Niche Fragrances - David Liss Fabulous Men
DAVID WHO?: The joy of new fragrance discoveries.

For me, perfumery should always be about the joy of discovery. The joy of discovering the classics of perfumery. The joy of discovering new variations on seemingly exhausted themes. And also the joy of discovering cheap and cheerful bargains. Ultimately, niche fragrances should increase our options, expand our knowledge and pleasure. So yes, be a discerning and savvy consumer, but snobbery is so self-limiting.

“Perfumery should always be about the joy of discovery. So yes, be a discerning and savvy consumer, but snobbery is so self-limiting.”

Niche Fragrances - Budget Buys Have Their Place Too
BARGAIN SHELF: Budget buys have their place too.

Clayton offers very useful advice to those who are just starting their discovery of niche fragrances: “Buy from a retailer who specialises in niche fragrances and let them help guide you in the beginning. With experience, most people will see common threads, maybe an ingredient or note they like, or a perfumer whose work they like, which begins to influence their buying.”

Niche Fragrances - Nasomatto fragrances at Skins Cosmetics
GOING DUTCH: Let Skins Cosmetics introduce you to Nasomatto fragrances.

Fragrance is such a personal and mood-influenced choice, so I hope niche fragrances bring you much joy. These are are some of my favourite niche fragrances:

Penhaligon’s Much Ado About The Duke EDP (2016)

British heritage brand Penhaligon’s has been in the fragrance biz since the 1870s and is one of the most celebrated companies in niche fragrances. From its recent Portraits collection, Much Ado About The Duke is an unapologetically sparkling rose, with notes of pepper, leather, wood, gin and tonic adding to its irreverent appeal. It was created by Daphne Bugey, the nose behind Jean Paul Gaultier Scandal, Le Labo Bergamote 22, Mugler Aura and Valentino Valentina Pink.

Niche Fragrances - Penhaligon's Much Ado About The Duke

Etat Libre d’Orange Like This EDP (2010)

While the company founded by South Africa-born Etienne de Swardt is sometimes better known for its shock-and-awe tactics, it also produces top-notch niche fragrances. You can read my interview with Etienne de Swardt here ( This collaboration with Tilda Swinton captures the English actress’s idea of home, with cosy and comforting notes of ginger, immortelle, pumpkin, tangerine, vetiver and heliotrope. Created by Mathilde Bijaoui, it won the Fragrance Foundation France Award for Best Niche Fragrance in 2011.

Niche Fragrances - Etat Libre d'Orange Like this

L’Artisan Parfumeur Tea For Two EDT (2000)

One of the best tea fragrances around. It conjures up spicy-aromatic intimacy with notes of tea, tobacco, cinnamon, honey, ginger, star anise, gingerbread and vanilla. This treat from L’Artisan Parfumeur, one of the pioneers of niche fragrances since the 1970s, was created by Olivia Giacobetti. This nose also created Diptyque Philosykos, Frédéric Malle en Passant, Hermès Hiris and several other L’Artisan Parfumeur beauties. This is a vintage bottle below. So if you’re looking for Tea For Tea, it’s to be found in the company’s newish grey bottles.

Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal (2012)

Founded in 2009, this Paris-based company has made its mark in the niche fragrances industry with its cologne absolues. These cologne absolues combine the traditional citrus character of eau de colognes with longer-lasting natural materials. I am a big fan of vetiver fragrances and Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal is a gentler interpretation of the usually earthy theme. It features notes of Calabrian bergamot, Sicilian lemon, Tunisian orange blossom absolue, fig, Grasse violet leaves and Texan cedarwood. A super-fresh summer in a bottle!

Niche Fragrances - Atelier Cologne Vetiver Fatal


Stolen Goods: 6 Top Beauty Products To Pinch From The Women In Your Life

Beauty Products For Men - L'Oreal Pure Clay Detox Mask

Men today have so many more grooming product choices compared to, say, five years ago when shopping at the local pharmacy yielded the bare minimum. But even with the growth in the male grooming market, there are certain female products that you just can’t beat. While I am not condoning day-light robbery, I am certainly recommending that you “borrow” these items from the women (partner/mother/sister) in your life. After all, we men have a fine tradition of using women’s products. Think of these beauty products for men as valuable market research.

Beauty Products For Men - Mugler Alien Essence Absolue
ALIENATION: Are you brave enough to wear this fragrance?
Lancôme Advanced Genifique Youth Activating Concentrate

If you’re serious about anti-ageing, serums are the way to go. They offer a concentrated form of active ingredients (the goodies that do the real work) to deliver smoother, brighter skin. Yip, this product is on the pricey side. But then it’s packed with the skincare science the French are renowned for. R1 060 for 50ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Lancome Advanced Genifique Youth Activating Serum

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant

Created by Ms Arden almost 90 years ago, this is one of the best beauty products for men around. Dry skin, sunburn, chapped lips, scratches – it’s all in an honest day’s work for this multi-skiller. Because I am a slacker when it comes to foot-care, I am using it on my cracked heels, with impressive results so far. R285 for 50g.

Beauty Products For Men - Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant

Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner

Basically, a toner completes the cleansing process, especially if you have oily skin, and prepares it for moisturisation. While many of us are going to find the three steps – cleanse, tone, moisturise – too time-consuming, this spray product is a nifty way to refresh and hydrate your skin when needed. R640 for 250ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Dermalogica Multi-Active Toner

L’Oreal Pure Clay Detox Mask

This combo of three pure clays and charcoal is the answer to dirty, dull and drained-looking skin. We boys like to get messy. So slap it on, feel the tingle (that means it’s working), wash off after 10 minutes and a cleaner, brighter complexion is yours. Mask and ye shall receive… R150 for 50ml.

Beauty Products For Men - L'Oreal Pure Clay Detox Mask

Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Super Firming Serum

The name of this product sums up the beauty of this anti-ageing serum. Formulated with an Advanced Amino-Peptide Complex to stimulate collagen production, it hydrates, firms and smoothes the skin. Non-greasy and easily absorbed, you will never look at mother’s little helper the same way again. R299.95 for 50ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Olay Regenerist Micro-Sculpting Super Firming Serum

Mugler Alien Essence Absolue EDP INTENSE

The notes alone – jasmine, cashmere wood, orris root, vanilla, amber, myrrh and incense – will tell you that this EDP is not for sissies. It’s a seductive gem with top longevity and projection, so best not used in open-plan offices or stuffy boardrooms. But when the sun goes down, let it rip, big boy. R925 for 30ml and R1 270 for 60ml.

Beauty Products For Men - Mugler Alien Essence Absolue


Private Fragrance Collections: Worth Every Scent

Private Fragrance Collections

Designer brands have dominated the fragrance market for the last few decades with a succession of blockbusters. But the problem with massive commercial success is that it often creates a relentless cycle of crowd-pleasing smell-a-likes. And the art of perfumery, a luxury in itself, is compromised by a focus on rapid merchandise-shifting.

Private Fragrance Collections

This is not to say that designer fragrances are on their way out. Far from it. But that the big-name fashion brands have realised that while their best-sellers have made the idea of luxury seemingly accessible to the masses, they may have compromised on quality and their heritage in the process. Of course, they would not put it so bluntly.

Private Fragrance Collections
THE PRICE OF SUCCESS: Has your favourite designer fragrance become a victim of its own success?

With the shift to niche fragrances, designer-brand private fragrance collections offer increasingly savvy and discerning consumers the experience of exclusivity, quality and service – at a price.

This is reflected in:

  • The packaging – solid glass bottles and ornate boxes speak the language of style, substance and brand story.
  • The quality and concentration of the juice – only the best ingredients and EDPs please.
  • The below-the-radar marketing – after all, not everyone should know about these fragrances.
Private Fragrance Collections
TOP(S) OF THE RANGE: Dolce & Gabbana, Bulgari and Yves Saint Laurent.

La Collection Privée Christian Dior, Les Exclusifs de Chanel, Herrera Confidential, Ermenegildo Zegna Essenze and Mugler Les Exceptions are just some of the private fragrance collections you’ll now find in select upmarket retailers. And, of course, then there’s Mr Tom Ford, whose Private Blends have become a perfume phenomenon.

The big question: Do these private fragrance collections offer value for money? That’s a purchasing decision you will have to make, depending on how you cost your perfume pleasure. For myself, I have sometimes found better value further down the chain when comparing some of the private fragrance collections with their more widely available scent siblings. But then there are the truly exceptional stand-outs in private fragrance collections that are worth every cent.

“The big question: Do these private fragrance collections offer value for money?”


Launched in 2004, Armani Prive was one of the first private fragrance collections. Originally created for his own personal pleasure and those of his closest friends, it set the standard for others to follow. Armani Prive Vetiver Babylone and Armani Prive Ambre Soie are highly rated classics of the genre. The Italian maestro also spotted the lucrative Middle Eastern market before it became de rigueur. With its emphasis on exotic and heavier ingredients, the Armani Prive La Collection Des Mille Et Une Nuits was launched in 2010.

Private Fragrance Collections: Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste

Fragroom’s Choice: I have not been able to keep up with all the launches, but Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste is a superb interpretation of leather. Its notes of bergamot, rose, violet, birch, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla and bourbon create the best kind of luxurious indulgence.

Armani Prive EDPs, from R2 550 to R3 520 for 100ml, Giorgio Armani Sandton City and V&A Waterfront, Luminance. 

Private Fragrance Collections: Armani Prive Cuir Amethyste


I will leave it to Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana to sum up their contribution to private fragrance collections. “We have put our memories and our roots into the Velvet Fragrance Collection, which have the same vibrant, hedonistic heart as Sicily and Italy. With each one, we invite you into our world,” they say. Originally launched in 2011, the sensual range now features 17 fragrances. These include Velvet Vetiver, Velvet Tender Oud and Velvet Exotic Leather.

Private Fragrance Collections: Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Cypress

Fragroom’s Choice: One of this year’s launches, Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Cypress, hits the woody-aromatic spot. It’s fresh and crisp, with notes of cypress, bergamot, lemon, galbanum and clary sage absolute. A surprisingly reserved D&G fragrance.

Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Collection EDPs, R3 505 for 50ml and R5 050 for 150ml, Edgars Sandton City, V&A Waterfront, Gateway, Clearwater and Rosebank.

Private Fragrance Collections: Dolce & Gabbana Velvet Cypress


Thanks to the juggernaut of its more commercial fragrances, there are certain perceptions of Boss fragrances. That changed when I was first introduced to Boss The Collection about two years ago. It includes six EDPs: Wool Musk, Cotton Verbena, Cashmere Patchouli, Velvet Amber, Damask Oud and Silk Jasmine. Inspired by the key materials used in Boss’s sharp suits, the fragrances in the collection have very simple note structures. Although primarily aimed at men, women will also love the fragrances in this complete collection. Launched in 2011, it’s one of the best and most surprising private fragrance collections I have come across.

Private Fragrance Collections: Boss The Collection Velvet Amber

Fragroom’s Choice: Boss The Collection Velvet Amber, with notes of amber, vanilla and resin. The result is an eminently wearable composition that feels warm, cosy and tailor-made.

Boss The Collection EDPs, R3 050 for 50ml, Edgars Sandton City, V&A Waterfront, Gateway, Clearwater and Rosebank.

Private Fragrance Collections: Boss The Collection Velvet Amber


The grand name says it all. Inspired by the classics from YSL’s venerable fashion history, Le Vestiaire (le French for “wardrobe”) is a luxury perfume wardrobe. Launched in 2015, the collection includes Caban, Caftan, Tuxedo, Saharienne and Trench. It was recently expanded with the Oriental and De Nuit collections.

Private Fragrance Collections: Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire Trench

Fragroom’s Choice: All of the fragrances in the launch collection are très chic. But the woody-citrus Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire Trench, created by Amandine Clerc-Marie, is the one to sniff out. Tangerine, bergamot, neroli and cedar feature in the notes structure, but it’s the iris that takes prominence in this beauty.

Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire des Parfums, R3 500 for 125ml, YSL Boutique Sandton City.

Private Fragrance Collections: Yves Saint Laurent Le Vestiaire Trench


Tapping into its luxe jewellery heritage, the Le Gemme collection takes inspiration from precious gems. Bulgari Le Gemme launched in 2014 with six fragrances for women. All with suitably exotic names and, some might say, over-the-top packaging. Amarena, Ashlemah, Calaluna, Lilaia, Maravilla and Noorah were created by Daniela Roche Andrier. Men were given the luxury treatment with the launch of their own Bulgari Le Gemme collection in 2016. Master perfumer Jacques Cavallier created all of these men’s fragrances. So you know Bulgari is taking private fragrance collections very seriously.

Private Fragrance Collections: Bulgari Le Gemme Amarena

Fragroom’s Choice: I have not been able to sample all of the above fragrances. But Bulgari Le Gemme Amarena is a gorgeous hit of cherry, rose, tuberose, pomegranate and powdery notes.

Bulgari Le Gemme, R2 245 for 30ml and R4 485 for 100ml, Edgars Sandton City and Edgars Mall of Africa.

Private Fragrance Collections: Bulgari Le Gemme Amarena

What’s So Expert About L’Oreal Men Expert?

L'Oreal Men Expert.

The male skincare shelves at my local pharmacy are becoming increasingly busy with new arrivals. But even among all the clutter, the L’Oreal Men Expert range manages to stand out with its overtly masculine and you-can’t-ignore-me packaging that speaks to modern, active and successful men.

It also helps that the French beauty giant has pumped big bucks into its visibility by using F1 champ Lewis Hamilton as its global ambassador. Whether Mr H actually uses L’Oreal Men Expert is a moot point. I recently used some of the products from the ever-growing range that even includes a tattoo reviver. Unfortunately, that particular product is not available in South Africa.

Lewis Hamilton for L'Oreal Men Expert.
WINNING FORMULA: Lewis Hamilton for L’Oreal Men Expert.

These are my quick impressions of the following L’Oreal Men Expert products:

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash

Don’t know about you, but it’s not only my brain that needs a kick-start in the a.m. My face could do with some assistance too. L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash does the trick with its soap-free, pH neutral formula. It contains the very snazzy-sounding Cryo-Tonic and Active Defence System (ADS). These mean it refreshes, cleanses and reinforces the skin, without leaving it drier than a Cape Town drought.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash, R89.95 for 150ml.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Ice Cool Face Wash.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash

Activated charcoal is known for its purifying properties. It attracts all the nasty stuff our skins are exposed to through the process of adsorption. Everyone from Clinique to Tom Ford now has a charcoal-based product of some sort. L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash is the best mass-market charcoal product I have come across so far. This product takes on shine, blackheads, stickiness, dullness and enlarged pores with voomah. I love how the black gel transforms into a white lather. You only need a tiny amount of this high-performance baby to do the job, so best squeeze the tube g-e-n-t-l-y.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash, R89.95 for 150ml.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Black Charcoal Wash.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion

With vitamin C, anti-oxidant, the above-mentioned ADS and SP15, L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion combats a variety of skin issues. These include dryness, dullness and sun exposure. I used it in the morning and evening, and noticed how easily it is absorbed. However, as I need a higher SPF for my, ahem, mature skin, I wouldn’t continue to use this product. I would recommend this one for gents in their 30s, though, as it’s a good all-rounder.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion, R129 for 50ml.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Daily Moisturising Lotion.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser

No doubt you’ve heard of creatine as a nutritional supplement. How about in a skincare product? Some studies suggest that when applied topically, it perks up the skin. And I could always do with some of that. The headline ingredient in L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser is this organic acid. This product promises to revitalise and moisturise lacklustre skin when used morning and night. It’s no-nonsense stuff that works a charm. Cool packaging too!

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser, R124.95.

L’Oreal Men Expert Hydra Energetic Recharging Moisturiser.

Fragrance Review: L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade EDT

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade

Before I share my thoughts on L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade, let me ’fess up. I have a soft spot for L’Occitane en Provence fragrances. Not just because the company (now owned by Austrian billionaire Reinold Geiger) still uses many traditional Provençal methods and ingredients in its products. But because last year, when I was man-down for almost a month in a clinic, L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat was my fragrance companion. I had to pack super-light, so I grabbed Eau de Cedrat, which I had not yet worn properly.

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat

With its notes of cedrat (citron) bark, bergamot, nutmeg, ginger and cashmere wood, L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat became my fragrance pick-me-up during that tricky time. So I will always associate healing and upliftment with this special scent.


Coincidentally, there’s also a healing angle to L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade. Of course, juniper berries (actually, seed cones) are best-known for the flavour they give to gin and their antiseptic properties. But that’s not the reason why I really like this EDT.

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade

There’s an unmistakable pink peppercorn note whenever I first apply this fragrance. As I love a pink peppercorn note, L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade’s initial sharpness does it for me. Give it time to develop… And the juniper berry, bergamot, cedar wood and cade (the oil of the wood of the juniper berry shrub) come through. And then there’s iris and labdanum to soften the effect.

Karine Debreuil – the nose behind Gucci Pour Homme II, Yves Saint Laurent Vice Versa, Lalique Chypre Silver, Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Grosellina and the classic L’Occitane en Provence Eau des Baux – created L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade.

L'Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade

Respect to her for creating such a simply constructed, yet distinctive fragrance, with a most appealing woody, smoky character.

L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cade EDT and L’Occitane en Provence Eau de Cedrat EDT, both R890 for 100ml.

PS: L’Occitane en Provence has several collections, including Baux, Cade and Cedrat. These feature body and skincare products that I have yet to try.

Beauty In The Strangest Of Places

Beauty - Jasmine.

Firstly, credit where it’s due, plus an apology if I am bastardising its original meaning. The title of this blog post is a paraphrasing of a quote about beauty from designer Alexander McQueen.

“Beauty can come from the strangest of places, even the most disgusting of places. It’s the ugly things I notice more, because other people tend to ignore the ugly things.”

It comes from the book Savage Beauty by Andrew Bolton (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). I did not get to see the retrospective show of McQueen’s creations. However, I do get intense, visceral pleasure paging through this book, which highlights the Scottish designer’s maverick approach.

Beauty - Savage Beauty.
SHOW AND TELL: An image from the book Savage Beauty.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I have not had a proper holiday for years (workaholic, moi?) and I am yearning for some travel / escape / change of scenery / passport-stamping.

The good news is that I have a family road-trip coming up in mid-August. In the meantime, I explore the idea of beauty as a tonic. These are just some of the things in my immediate vicinity that do the trick.


Can a leaf lift your spirits? Oh yes, if it’s a lime leaf. I get a kick from rubbing lime leaves between my fingers. This releases a fresh, crisp, citrus scent that never fails to captivate me. And the lime itself calls for a mojito.

Beauty - Lime Leaves.


While the Amalfi vacation will have to wait, Tom Ford Sole di Positano will do for now. There’s a veritable citrus and floral cocktail in this EDP, including notes of Calabrian bergamot, bitter orange, lemon, shiso leaf, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, jasmine, lily of the valley and neroli. Alas, on my skin, it dissipates very quickly. A case of fleeting beauty…

Beauty - Tom Ford Sole di Positano.


We are having a very warm winter here in Johannesburg, with day-time temperatures averaging above 20ºC. As a result, the jasmine is out even earlier than usual. I am not complaining. Its rich scent is my imaginary olfactory ticket to an Indian summer.

Beauty - Jasmine.


There’s something very re-assuring about a vintage treasure. I adore this kit, a gift from my sister. The leather case contains two functional glass bottles and glass containers. There’s no company or brand name on it, so I can’t trace its origins. And, you know what, it doesn’t matter.

Beauty - Vintage.

Stranger Things: Weird & Wonderful Beauty Ingredients

Unusual Ingredients: Creed Millesime Imperial

From civet musk (extracted from the animal’s anal glands) to caviar extract, the beauty industry has often used some pretty bizarre ingredients. All in the quest to create the ultimate perfume or skincare product.  With their exotic and out-of-the-world ingredients, the following three products rank high on the weird-o-meter.

The Ambergris Effect

Ambergris is one of the most sought-after ingredients in perfumery, fetching anything from $100 000 upwards for 1,5kg of the precious stuff. Contrary to popular belief, ambergris is not sperm whale vomit. It’s a by-product of the sperm whale’s digestive system and is excreted by these creatures. This may float in the ocean for decades before being washed up on the shore in solid form. It then becomes highly prized by perfumers for its musky (some would say fishy) quality.

Unusual Ingredients: Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme Atlantique

As it is very expensive and rare, ambergris is not used in perfumes such as Chanel No5 anymore.  Ambrox or ambroxan is now widely used in many best-selling fragrances. Christian Dior Sauvage, Versace Dylan Blue, Giorgio Armani Si and Bulgari Aqua Pour Homme Atlantique all owe their character to this synthetic compound.

However, for customers willing to splash their cash, ambergris can still be found in premium perfumes. These include many of the highly rated Creed fragrances such as Aventus.

Unusual Ingredients: Creed Millesime Imperial

Ambergris is very distinctive in Creed Millésime Imperial. This EDP was launched in 1995 to mark the Paris-based perfume house’s 150th anniversary as the fragrance of choice by European royalty.  It’s somewhat of an acquired smell

Creed Millésime Imperial EDP, R4 850 for 120ml.

The Snail’s Pace

If I told you that I have used a snail-gel skincare product would you think less of me? Journalistic curiosity got the better of me when I heard that Celltone products contain this ingredient. Apparently snail gel is packed with glycolic acid, allantoin, protein and vitamin E. These are all very useful in the fight against ageing. One might even say they are highly effective in slowing the pace of ageing. Sorry, couldn’t help myself.

Now, for the big question? Are any snails harmed in the making of this product? Yes. I used it for two weeks and then felt very guilty about it, even though I had started noticing a tightening of my skin.

Celltone Snail Extract Gel, R399.90 for 50ml,

Unusual Ingredients: Celltone Snail Extract Gel

Meteoritic Impact

Lab Series is one of my favourite male skincare brands. So I was very excited to read about its new high-tech range, Maxellence, which contains meteorite extract. Unfortunately, I was brought down to earth when I found out that this range is not available in South Africa.

Then a friend told me that Anesi Man Secret Serum had just landed in the country. This anti-ageing skincare product from the renowned Spanish spa professional range also utilises meteoritic extract. Talk about sci-fa (science fact).

Unusual Ingredients: Anesi Man Secret Serum

So why is meteorite extract such a big deal? It’s rich in minerals such as calcium, iron and magnesium. This makes it a potent anti-ageing weapon, with deep-penetrating, firming and plumping properties.

I used Anesi Man Secret Serum for a month and enjoyed its light, non-greasy texture.  I noticed a definite improvement in the condition of my skin. Was this due to meteorite extract? Or any of this product’s other exotic ingredients (including mineral extracts from precious mineral stones)? While I read up more on that, I must explore Anesi some more.

Anesi Man Secret Serum, R750 for 50ml,

Product Review: Schick Hydro 5

Schick Hydro 5

When a product bags an award, I want to know WHY? and HOW?. So when I saw on Instagram that the Schick Hydro 5 had won Product of the Year in the Male Grooming category, of course, I had to try it out myself.


While I am not a certified xyrophobe, the prospect of shaving daily fills me with dread. I share this dread with many other hirsute men. Fortunately, I work in an industry where stubble is not an issue and the ongoing beard trend has given me some relief too.

Shaving dread

As I am not one for a full-on beard, I know that by day five of not shaving, I have crossed the line between hopefully rugged to definitely ragged. And it’s time for the shave…


So would the award-winning Schick Hydro 5 make shaving more bearable and a lot less irritation free? Well, before I tell you about that, let me first list the Schick Hydro 5’s key features (courtesy of the website):

  • A hydrating gel reservoir to deliver hydration throughout the shave and for up to an hour afterwards.
  • Ultra-Glide Blades with advanced skin guards to reduce friction.
  • A flip trimmer for those tricky areas.
  • A newly developed handle for better grip.
Schick Hydro 5
BLADES OF GLORY: Into battle we go…

Over the last three weeks, I have given the Schick Hydro 5 several shaving challenges. A day four of major stubble when I usually shave. A day five of ragged stubble. And a seven-day major growth when I look like I have taken leave of my senses.

Thanks to its hydrating gel reservoir (not a lube strip, the packaging emphasises), the Schick Hydro 5 handled all these shaving tests with impressive ease. When there were some unfinished bits under my nose and near my lips, that’s because I was in a rush to get to work. Slow down, mister…

Schick Hydro 5
SUPER SLICK: The Schick Hydro 5 is up for all challenges.

I still have my Gillette Sensor Excel (sadly discontinued a few years ago) and some blades. This trusty razor didn’t cost me a fortune (under R100 for a five-pack of blades) when it was still on the market. And we know what an expensive business shaving is for us men. The recommended price for the Schick Hydro 5 is R119.99 and R194.95 for a four-pack of blades at my local Dis-Chem. So not cheap, for sure, but it certainly does the job.