scent of a man

A recent shopping trip presented a new dilemma…what to gift a guy that seemingly has everything, and also knows his “notes”. Fragrance notes, that is. He just knows…he can pick up citrus, bergamot and woody notes, yet has no true favorite scent.

Soon after, I found myself in coversation with Lionel Brousseau, a New York City-based fragrance industry veteran. Lionel has worked with the best of the best across the fragrance and beauty industries around the world. Today he manages a number of men’s lines at a well known luxury house on New York’s 5th Avenue. Over lunch at The Plaza Food Hall (yes, again), we discussed what men want, need and shouldn’t live without when it comes to their “scents”.

Here’s the scoop, as well as his ‘Top 5″ scents for Spring/Summer 2011.

When choosing a scent for a man, what should one keep in mind?

Lionel Brousseau: I often ask men up-front what fragrances they like, simply because men DO tend to be creatures of habit, and I want to work within their comfort zone. This zone may be encompassed by old “stand-by’s”, what the significant “other” likes, or some sense of a “signature” they entertain for themselves.  In each case, I offer my best suggestion to match their m.o. I do take the signature issue deeper when I ask them about their lifestyle, and how they perceive fragrance to augment them. I often suggest a collection of scents to allow flexibility for season, occasion, “night and day.”

From your decades of experience in the industry, what notes and scents have you found to be the most popular among men?

LB: I find that certain elements are familiar enough to make choosing any scent easy and comforting. They are citrus of many sorts, woods like santal and cedar, herbs like lavender and bergamot, and spices like cinnamon and clove. The introduction of elements like patchouli, tonka, oud or a perfume complex is usually addressed as a matter of giving a “new twist” to classics so that one re-visits scent from a personal perspective rather than one from marketing and advertising, which the contemporary customer can misinterpret as a scam to sell more. These elements add dimension to fragrance the way condiments add dimension to food.

Does the ‘layering’ effect bode well with men? Is it really necessary  for them to do aftershave, scented lotion and cologne to keep the scent on all day?

LB: I believe that men are more often affronted by terms like “layering”, “wardrobing” and “complementing and clashing,” than not. These terms are from a marketing primer which men consider demeaning and silly at least. Although the intent is clear for each term, the simplicity of approach which many men take regarding fragrance and skincare overrides any concern for matching up the pieces, even when the “significant other” is trying to shake up a man’s habits. Fragrance, like skincare, is a matter of functionality and ease. No fussin’ here.

What are your top fragrance picks for Spring/Summer 2011?

Parma in a bottle: Acqua di Parma's Colonia Essenza.

LB: I can say confidently that my top picks are:

Aventus by CREED,

Reflection for Men by AMOUAGE,


Aqua Universalis by FRANCIS KURKDJIAN

Neroli Portofino by TOM FORD

Is there one fragrance in particular you think every man should own?

LB: I have to say “yes.” It is Eau Imperiale by GUERLAIN because it has history. It usually refers to someone like “my dad” or “my grandfather”, and it initiates a tradition which men respect and wish to incorporate into their lives. It can be said that using fragrance satisfies many needs, some obvious and some quite undefined. It is my job to help those who seek, to find familiarity and comfort in one of life’s finer pleasures. However fragrance is used, it is likely to immerse the user in the larger human enterprise we call “life.”

Contact Lionel at: [email protected] for tips, trends and the latest on the world of fragrance and luxury goods.


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