scent and fragrance

What’s that whiff in the air?

So, you’re off out for the evening. You’ve sorted out your wardrobe, chosen the coolest outfit and now you’re looking good. But are you smelling good? What smells good to you might not strike the right note with your date. Maybe you should choose a ‘safe’ premium branded product? Or a more individual, niche fragrance? Choosing a fragrance has always been a dilemma for men and women. But now, it just got even harder to make the right choice…

How would you feel then, about meeting your partner smelling like a night round the campfire, or of a catholic church interior on a hot July day, or of a rumpled bed that’s seen a bit of (ahem) action?


These are just three of the 10 fragrances which feature in a provocative multi-sensory exhibition entitled Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent, currently showing at Somerset House until 17 September. It promises insights into the carefully selected fragrances and their pioneering creators, who, they say, have radically changed our perceptions of fragrance over the last 20 years.

‘Perfume has everything: it’s about our art, and commerce,’ curator Claire Catterall told The Guardian. ‘It’s about intimacy and relationships and our place in the world, it’s about hopes, aspirations, memories and emotion.’

And to underline their thesis, these ‘contemporary perfume provocateurs’ are dispensing with traditional high gloss communication concepts, gender boundaries and conventional notions of good taste.

Sniff these sheets?

One of the exhibition’s installations, Secretions Magnifique, has more than a whiff of Tracey Emin about it. Created by perfumer Antoine Lie, it comprises a rumpled bed on which visitors are invited to sit and, err, sniff the sheets. Fragrance notes apparently include semen, blood, sweat, saliva and breast milk. ‘It’s about the whole journey of love’, Catterill told The Guardian.

A bit too cutting edge for your correspondent, but whatever floats your boat, as they say.

There’s no doubt however that fragrance is strongly bound up with our sense of identity. Or that our sense of what a fragrance should be or do is changing. Catterall asserts that: ‘Gender is irrelevant in modern perfume.’ Smelling nice is no longer the holy grail – it’s more what it says about you apparently.

Although the exhibition raises some interesting questions about the role of scents, I think I’ll stick with the Men Rock fragrances. Try Men Rock Sicilian Lime and Caffeine Awakening Beard Balm with its zesty lime fragrance. Or Men Rock Blues Beard Oil, as full-bodied as the legendary music but with sombre and subtle notes of Vetivert, cypress and cedar wood. Or Men Rock Sandalwood Shave Cream for an enticing woody, spicey and earthy scent.


After all, if you were creating a fragrance with a garden theme you might include the scents or roses, jasmine, hyacinth etc. But would you also throw in a whiff of manure to make it a more authentic olfactory experience?

Rest assured, this kind of fragrance does not figure in our plans.