Thursday, December 31, 2015

5 Fragrances from 2015

Over the course of the year I have been lucky enough to receive a few new aftershaves to try, some through samples, but mainly as gifts from friends and family. While I will write them all up individually, what better time to pick out my five favourites from 2015.
5 Fragrances from 2015

While this may be a little late for Christmas gift ideas (er, massively late), the five below are actually perfect and in my opinion timeless, meaning they would be great at any time of the year, and would suit most tastes in one way or the other.

Rather than just picking five fragrances from Creed (they are all lush) I've gone for a considered selection, and there should be something for everyone with prices ranging from £35 to "Holy mother of God". 

So, on with the show, and in no particular order:

Penhaligons No 33
Months and months ago I was lucky enough to be invited to the launch of No33, and even luckier to receive a bottle of my own to try. On the night itself I took one long whiff of this and thought, my, that smells just like Acqa di Parma, but after about thirty minutes realised that it’s much better. Yes, it has those top citrus notes that make it smell like Acqa di Parma but it’s like it’s been on crystal meth for a few days – it has an intensity and lasting power that I’ve yet to experience for something with such light head notes.

The orange and grapefruit really do make this blend into more of a summer fragrance, but it actually varies over the course of an hour from light, to having a rather warm heart to its final fragrance once it has dried down.

Once dried, the Tonka bean provides sweetness not to dissimilar to Eros by Versace but only for a few moments as the amber and tobacco balance it out to leave a stunningly refined fragrance.

Penhaligons No 33
Penhaligons No 33

Head: Bergamot, Orange, Grapefruit, Armoise, Coriander, Clary Sage, Cypress
Heart: Lavender, Black Pepper, Ginger, Geranium, Saffron, Cardamom
Dry-down: Amber, Vetiver, Musk, Moss, Tobacco, Tonka Bean, Vanilla, Cedarwood

At £95 for a 100ml bottle this baby isn’t cheap, in fact it’s nearly double the price of Aqua di Parma but it’s so much better making it actually better value for money.

I wrote about this back in April after receiving a bottle to try. At £35 for a 100ml bottle this is firmly in the budget category for aftershave in my view but price isn’t everything and you can pick up an excellent fragrance for under £50, as Gruhme EDT clearly demonstrates.

The marketing blurb gives an overview of the notes, and like No33, this starts off with light citrus notes, but quickly becomes heavier as the lemon and lavender blend with the peppercorn. You can read the full review of Gruhme herePersonally I have used about half of the bottle as a little goes a long way – and I tend to only wear it when I’m suited and booted in the office.


‘Sensual aromatic woody accord with top notes of juniper berry, organic black peppercorn, bergamot, lemon and lavender, a heart of patchouli and cedar, on a base of oakwood amber musks interlaced with traces of cumin, celery seed and petitgrain.

Go on, at £35, you really can’t argue.

This is another aftershave that I had seen the advertising for, mentioned in passing to my wife that I would like to try before a bottle mysteriously appeared (cheers wife). I actually wrote about this back in March here and sadly, the bottle ran out just a month ago. At just under £50 for 50ml this is a touch on the expensive side, buy hey, it is Chanel and it’s worth every penny.

This and as you’ll read later, Creed Aventus are the two aftershaves I’ve worn this year where strangers have come up to me on public transport (awkward) and in bars (step away, you are slowing down my drinking) and asked what it is because they like it so much.

Bleu de Chanel

Head: Citrus accord, Vetiver, Pink pepper.

Heart: Grapefruit, Dry Cedar notes, Labdanum.

Dry-down: Frankincense, Ginger, Sandalwood

Rather than being light like a citrus this feels almost heavy on the skin and it certainly is invigorating, it's like being punched in the nose by someone holding a bunch of flowers. The Vetiver gives it a floral aroma and the pepper ensures that there is no danger of this being mistaken for a floral perfume. That deep body straight away screams that Bleu de Chanel is a man’s aftershave.

As the dry down starts the grapefruit heart takes the edge off the floral scent, it does become lighter while retaining the sharpness of pepper. It’s lovely, each stage of the process is, and personally I like smelling it evolve.

If you want random strangers wandering behind you and sniffing your neck than this is for you.

Dior Sauvage
What they were thinking when it came to marketing this I don't know - you can imagine the real blue sky thinking - we've got an aftershave to market, what will really bring it to life? I know, lets get Johnny Depp digging holes in the desert.......genius (cough, not)

Crap advertising aside, I only really said I wanted this after someone asked me what it was like (thanks Tom), and so I badgered the other half for a bottle. I have to say, it is rather good, but it started off so, so badly.

Dior Sauvage

This is the other guff they come up with at the Dior site:

'A radically fresh composition, dictated by a name that has the ring of a manifesto. That was the way Fran├žois Demachy, Dior Perfumer-Creator, wanted it: raw and noble all at once. Natural ingredients, selected with extreme care, prevail in excessive doses. Radiant top notes burst with the juicy freshness of Reggio di Calabria Bergamot. Ambroxan, derived from precious ambergris, unleashes a powerfully woody trail. Sauvage is an act of creation inspired by wide-open spaces. An ozone blue sky sprawled above a rocky landscape, white-hot beneath the desert sun.'

My first experience with this was slightly weird, after removing the lid I thought it smelt a bit like cat wee.....yes, fragrant, but not in a good way. Being persistent as I am, I continued and am thankful that I did. Personally I don't think this has a 'radically fresh composition', actually to me it is light, but fresh isn't a word I would use to describe it. 

It has a deep, warm body that seems to come through from the head through to the dry down, that sweeps between woody and then an oriental spice. It's rather strange that it manages to continue to pump out a warm fragrance while being very subtle to the wearer. 

While not an aftershave for all occasions I do like this a lot for daywear during the autumn and winter for long nights out. It has staying power that few aftershaves can match and smells lovely ten minutes in, and the same ten hours later. 

It isn't cheap though, and you can expect to pay upwards of £50 for a 60ml bottle. That said, it's worth it.

Creed Aventus
I think I have probably saved the best (and most expensive to last). While it is simply the best aftershave I've ever wrapped my nostrils around, to buy a 120 ml bottle will require a defibrillator on standby for your wallet - that'll be £215 (f*****g how much?).

That said, for the price you are getting one of the most exquisite fragrances around in my opinion. From the moment it leaves the bottle to some ten hours later this oozes class and sophistication, with a subtle fragrance that will have people stopping and asking what it is. This has happened to me at work, on the train to work and in the pub. It seems to catch people from early twenties through to their fifties. 

Creed Aventus
Creed Aventus

However, every time I spray this on I get the (rather tired now) comment "that's another £10 gone".

So, what does it smell like? Apart from heaven, the notes to this fairly old (it was released in 2010) aftershave are:

Head: Bergamot, Blackcurrant, Apple, Pineapple
Heart: Juniper Berries, Birch, Patchouli, Jasmine
Dry-down: Musk, Oak Moss, Ambergris, Vanilla

If I had been asked to describe the smell without the notes, I would easily pull out the blackcurrant and bergamot as they give it a rather tart, fruity aroma almost immediately, and the jasmine is clearly identifiable but I could have sworn this had a base of tonka bean for the sweet lingering aroma it leaves, but alas no, that is all down to the vanilla.

After learning what was actually in it I have tried so much to try and identify the notes but some simply blend in to give this an incredibly unique fragrance.

So, it smells so nice you'll want to lick yourself, it has the staying power of an unwanted guest at Christmas but costs the earth. Well boo hoo, you can't have everything and if I could, I'd have a bottle of this constantly on the go - it's perfect for every occasion.

These all come highly recommended from me, and if you get the chance, expand your collection in 2016 and give one, or all of them a try.


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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

I Just Love It - Personalised Gifts

I do like a good personalised gift, and despite being completely stumped on what to buy as gifts this year, when offered me the chance to pick a few gifts I rather selfishly opted to buy myself some things, and then in a pang of guilt changed the order so it was 50/50 between I and BeautyqueenUK.

So, what was on offer?

Well, I have to say I was impressed with the sheer range of gifts available, and the range of personalisation that could be added to each one. The website was easy to navigate, the gifts were sorted into relevant categories brilliantly (for a lazy bloke like me simply clicking on ‘gifts for her’ narrowed down my browsing time) and it’s rare that I say this, but the site seems to have something for everyone, from personalised whiskey, cufflinks to candles, and all for a very reasonable price.

Sooooo, what did I opt for?

Engraved Men's Leather Clasp Bracelet £19.99

2015 has seen me really get into accessorising – and bracelets have been a bit of a feature for me throughout the year. This engraved men's leather clasp bracelet features a brushed stainless steel tag which I personalised with my initials and year of birth. I did consider using my old numberplate off my car ‘666 SJS’ but thought better of it.

I Just Love It - Personalised Gifts
I Just Love It - Personalised Gifts

The bracelet is handmade with three strong leather cords and is finished with an alloy clasp. The clasp is a bit fiddly, but it is solidly made and looks the business. Personally, it’s now my favourite.

Personalised to the Moon and Back Candle £8.99

My wife is candle obsessed, and when I say obsessed I’m not joking. You cannot move in our living room for the bloody things, so in a moment of madness I thought, that’s what she needs, another candle!

I Just Love It - Personalised Gifts

Ideal for giving to someone special on Valentine's Day or to your partner on your anniversary, this lovely candle is presented in cellophane and tied with a pretty ribbon for the perfect finishing touch. It has an impressive 150 hours burn time and looks the business. Winner!

Happily Ever After Hanging Heart £16.99

My missus and I got married on Christmas Day back in 2004 (insert joke about getting less jail time had I murdered her). Joking aside, trying to find an anniversary present was a bit of a pain – I did find something in the end in a shop in Wales (possibly the most racist shop ever) so this turned into just a surprise, aren’t I lovely gift.

I Just Love It - Personalised Gifts

First of all – it’s bloody huge – I expected something quite small but oh now – it’s the same size as my head (which is big). It is solidly made though and it has been personalised with our names and the date we got married – all together now awwwwww (pass the sick bucket).

Personalised Map Cufflinks £24.99

Now these really caught my eye – being a Manchester native living (read existing) in London I really liked these cufflinks with maps built into them. Well, actually they are digitally printed maps in round silver plating settings covered with a glass dome to stop them being damaged. They really are a chic gift (for myself). Rather predictably I opted for, yes, Manchester and London and I have to say, I can’t wait to get them on.

I Just Love It - Personalised Gifts
I Just Love It - Personalised Gifts

At £25 for a pair of cufflinks I think they would make a really brilliant gift for him. Sod Christmas, these would make a great gift idea for birthdays, anniversaries or just for a man who is a nightmare to buy for!

So, was everything great? Well from a product perspective, yes, the products are all of a great quality but I found the delivery to be slightly strange. After ordering four products together they then arrived on a kind of drip, drip, drip basis over the course of seven days. It would have been much more cost efficient for them to send all at once, but they did all arrive and arrive undamaged so in theory I should just shut the **** up.

Great quality gifts that will show that you’ve put a little thought into the person you are buying for, and even better, it won’t break the bank. I highly recommend using this site and have bookmarked it for use for every special occasion coming up in the future (family you have been warned lol). Personalised gifts – priceless.


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Tuesday, December 22, 2015

My biggest fear of all.....

If there is one fear I have in life, as trivial as this might sound, it is losing my hair. It’s not a resigning issue for me (In the Loop reference there) it’s actually a Dignitas issue. I truly dread the thought of losing my hair.

Regular readers of this here blog might have noticed that I put a lot of hair styling products on, and rarely go a day without some form of gunk being rubbed, massaged or sprayed onto my locks. But, that said, I do look after my hair, it is regularly cleansed, and once a week I use a special shampoo to strip out all of the product build up.

So what would I do if I started to go bald (apart from book a one way ticket to Switzerland)? Well wearing a wig or a toupee are definitely not the answer for me – Christ, I’d make Donald Trump hair look stylish and short of stock piling Alpecin shampoo I wouldn't rule out other methods to ensure my hair remains full bodied and healthy.

Regaine Foam - I make jokes about stockpiling Alpecin, but in all seriousness, I am glad there are treatments available. Regaine comes in the form of a foam which claims to be the first and only clinically proven foam hair loss treatment for men. It works by increasing the blood supply to the hair follicles, which helps to strengthen existing hair and stimulate secondary hair growth. The easy-to-use foam takes very little time to apply, meaning it seamlessly fits into your daily grooming routine.

Harley Street offers a new treatment called Fue Treatment which is relatively new to the UK. This is a non-invasive, non-surgical procedure so you will remain fully conscious the whole time. During the FUE transplant, a highly experienced doctor extracts hair follicles from a donor area, which is said to typically be the back of the neck, follicles are then transferred to the recipient area on your scalp and implanted using a powerful microscope in groups of one to four hairs, just as they grow naturally.

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Vitamins and Supplements - Again, one little Google search gives endless hints and tips when it comes hair care.  Viviscal® Man supplements are designed for men who want to maintain normal healthy hair growth. They are scientifically formulated with the important nutrient Zinc, which helps maintain normal healthy hair growth from within and the proprietary marine protein complex AminoMar C™.

Joking aside, if I did start to go bald I’d be on the phone to a hair replacement clinic in a flash and buying up every known product that even remotely claims to cure baldness. Thankfully, and unlike my dad and older brother, I’m not thinning, balding or developing runways (the bald bits up either side of forehead).

Rejoice, just rejoice people, for I still have my hair!

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What has 2015 taught us about being a gentleman?

Tick, tick, tick, can you hear it? That's 2015 counting down and as we enter the tail end of December it's safe to say that this year I personally have learnt a few things (I've probably forgotten quite a lot as well) and stepping back and watching the hipsters and other assorted creatures who inhabit King's Cross in London it wouldn't be out of place to say we are a culture hungry generation. Many trends have come and gone in this time, the wackiest in my view has to be those people (for some unexplainable reason) who opted to go in for the craze of spiralled vegetables (yes, apparently it's been a craze). This is all well and good, but when it comes to a truly universal and timeless style that is free from the pre-notion of fads and populist perception, being a gentleman never goes out of trend.

So what exactly constitutes being a gentleman? Foremost is setting the trend yourself, and letting others follow. A gentleman takes good care of himself with good clothing, grooming, and an overall good attitude that helps others improve themselves based on his awesome example.

I would dare say that 2015 was the year of the gentleman, with an increase in various fashions, trends and self-care rituals that made scrubbing up well an achievable option for the average man - if I can do it, anyone can! So before the year is out let’s review what we’ve learnt, and Christmas shoppers should take notes as we’ll be going through some great gifts for men this year.
Being a gentleman
Source: Lan Phantastic
Watches are back - The traditional wristwatch experienced a period out of favour with the stylish man, who at this time was getting to grips with the first generation of smartphones. These phones introduced a range of features; touch screens, wireless connectivity, easier internet browsing, and to the detriment of the watch, lock screen digital time. However, time has progressed and as people have become more acclimatised to their phones, the watch has experienced an impressive resurgence as a must-have accessory for any gentleman. 

Personally, I stick with three trusty watches - I have the massively expensive watch from Bvlgari that comes out once in a blue moon (for fear of someone hacking my arm off for it), my Armani AX number and a nice Jord Wooden number that actually makes me look far more eco-friendly than I really am.

As my migraines get worse, I have tried to shun my purely electronic existence, such as being constantly glued to my phone, in favour of living partly in the real world (I like neither so retreat into my head). As such, many gentlemen have embraced the traditional watch as a reminder of the aesthetical and technical wonder of horology. Putting together a serious watch collection should also require quality watch boxes and winders to ensure your kinetically powered watches are never a minute behind.

The beard and the bun constitute two very important 2015 trends in the world of a well-groomed gentleman. For those who can, growing a beard has become a significant fashion statement for a wide range of modern men - I've spent most of the year with a bit of a grizzler, shaved only in the interest of reviewing razors and the assortment of lotions and potions that arrive on a near daily basis. 2015 saw the majority of men choose the wild, long and rugged facial hair style over the tightly trimmed, shorter style. There’s no doubt about it; the average beard is getting longer and longer, more reminiscent of a Viking warrior, but with the added gentlemanly touch of subtle trimming and shaping for a neater and more natural look.

The popularity of the beard has also brought to prominence the man-bun (for shame). Long hair is fun, I just wish I could get my hair instantly back to being long without the fiddly period from spikes to flowing locks. Oh how I miss having my long hair that could be knocked into so many different styles, but 2015 saw an overwhelming lean towards the man-bun; similar to the lady-bun, but more suited toward the masculine jawline and facial features. Nonetheless, the man-bun is considered a gentlemanly fashion pursuit due to its historical and cultural significance; one only needs to look at photos of the Meiji period samurai to see how far the style has come since its ancient origins.

Such is the expansion of male hair and beard care that beard oils, waxes, conditioners and other bespoke grooming products for men have grown significantly in popularity over 2015. This has encouraged many men to ditch the 2 in 1 shampoo and go for something more tailored to their grooming needs.

A suit for every occasion - Need to look smart? Wear a suit. Need a more casual look? Still wear a suit. This is an attitude that has certainly surfaced in 2015, with men of different backgrounds choosing the blazer, shirt, and trousers combo as their go to style selection for both professional and more laid-back environments. This has also led to a rise in accessorising for men, allowing for various combinations and fits which can spice up a blazer and suit-trousers combo with relative ease, as well as ties and shoes to match.

If you’re looking to buy a quality suit, consider it an investment and be prepared to spend a sizeable amount on something good - think upwards of £700 for a half decent tailored number. If you’re willing to put the money in, you’ll have something which will last you for years and that you can create a wide variety of looks and styles with. Do your research and learn more about the cut, shape, and colour you’d most be interested in, and keep in mind how the suit will look with the rest of your clothing such as shirts, shoes, and other accessories.

Be the best you can be Perhaps the most important part of being a gentleman is self-improvement. Strive to be the best version of yourself in every aspect of your life and the rest should follow. Use fashion to reinforce and personify this success, so that you can look in the mirror and feel confident about yourself.

Conduct yourself using your own style, but with manners, good grace and do at least one good deed a day, trust me, it does make you feel warm and fuzzy inside.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Bulldog Skincare For Men Gift Collection

A Bulldog is not just for Christmas…but it’s a great start. That's what the marketing blurb for the Bulldog Skincare for Men Christmas Gift Collection shouts out straight away, and after receiving two to try out, I'm inclined to agree, they're not just for Christmas but all year round. 

Bulldog Skincare For Men Gift Collection

Bulldog Skincare For Men Gift Collection

I'm a bit of a Bulldog Skincare freak, I love their moisturiser (still puzzled why I've never written about it) so when these two gift sets popped through the door (read wife walked to the sorting office to pick up) it really was like Christmas morning, and I still have a wry smile now, some weeks later.

So, award winning skincare brand Bulldog Skincare For Men has launched five new gift sets that will bring seasonal cheer. With a brilliant selection of their products available in each gift, and at what I would call massively affordable prices you can do a lot, and I do mean a lot worse when weighing up what to buy the bloke in your life this year.

Available from Boots, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, the range offers a choice of stocking fillers, secret Santa gifts and ‘proper presents’.

Man Up (£6, yes, just £6 from Boots)

Now this is by far and away a great little gift and would be perfect for Secret Santa - not too pricey, but actually not just a great grooming product, but the tin is also a money box with a nice opening in the lid.

Bulldog Skincare For Men Gift Collection

This is what the marketing blurb says about this gift set:

'The Bulldog Man Up Sensitive Moisturiser Tin is a great man’s gift this Christmas. This set contains Bulldog Sensitive Moisturiser, which is specially formulated with 2 essential oils, green tea, green algae, konjac mannan and vitamin E to help rehydrate sensitive skin. These powerful ingredients can help revive and rehydrate the skin. Plus, this moisturiser absorbs quickly and won't leave your face and hands oily or greasy after use.'

I really do have affection for this moisturiser, it is brilliant when i shave regularly and it doesn't inflame my skin further, even if I shave in a rush and have razor burn. It smells wonderful to boot - fresh, clean with a bit of bite from the tea notes, this ticks all the right boxes.

It's absorbed into the face quickly, doesn't leave the face looking greasy and best of all, after I started using this, after a week my skin did feel softer, smoother and looked incredibly hydrated.

Pardon the pun, but this is the dog's b******s.....

‘The Kennel’ (£12) 

In a neat, and clean looking presentation box, and with a budget price tag this is the perfect alternative to the usual Lynx guff gift sets that get thrown around at this time of the year (in laws, family and friends take note, I despise Lynx gift sets)

Bulldog Skincare For Men Gift Collection

Bulldog Skincare For Men Gift Collection

This is what they say about this gift set in the marketing blurb: 

'The Kennel contains a trio of Bulldog products; Original Face Wash, Original Face Scrub and Original Moisturiser bedded down in a fun presentation box. The recipient of this gift is guaranteed to love the superb skincare results of the products as well as the iconic bulldog ‘at one with nature’ on the box.'

Again, while I can't argue with the benefits that come from using the moisturiser, my personal favourite from this gift set has to be the face scrub. It smells lovely, not a hint of any chemical aroma and the scrub is really gentle and feels so natural as it grinds off the daily build up of free radicals (ooh, check me out, I do of course mean dirt and pollution).

Combining the face wash, scrub and moisturiser for the last five days and I seem to have developed a glow. Now that has nothing to do with me entering into the Christmas spirit early, and everything to do with these great products.

So, considering the price these gift sets represent excellent value for money. They are well presented, do what they say they will do, and do so with no fuss or drama. For this I am eternally grateful. Still not convinced? Well, I give up! 

Need a gift for your fella this Christmas? These would make great stocking fillers and you get to support a British business in the process. It's a win all around.


Finally, Hector wants to know why you haven't already gone off to pick up your own Bulldog Gift Set!

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