The Gloss Report: Unisex Fragrances
1 / 14
The Gloss Report: Unisex Fragrances
Can a fragrance really be gender neutral? Absolutely, according to the plethora of beauty brands who have recently brought out unisex scents.
No more does a woman have to smell of delicate florals and a man of leather and wood.
We've tried, tested and given our honest reviews of the latest unisex scents, but which hit the high notes and which did we turn our noses up at?
Click through the gallery to find out our thoughts...
2 / 14
Byredo Unnamed, £90
The promise: “To celebrate its 10th anniversary, Byredo has created a nameless fragrance that leaves the scent open to interpretation.”
We give it: 10/10
Review: “For me, a unisex fragrance is often either heavily masculine or too sweetly feminine - something I would not want my boyfriend to be spraying! However, this new unisex scent from Byredo is light, fresh and incredibly appealing. I am already 100 per cent addicted to the Byredo Gypsy Water, but this latest scent may just make a regular appearance on my beauty shelf. Including notes of pink pepper and gin accord, paired with a base of tree moss, pine and evergreen trees, it's naturally refreshing and invigorating, leaving you to create your own associations with the scent rather than the allowing the name to influence your perception of it. So with that said, I guess it can be as masculine or feminine as you like!
"Super bonus points here too because it includes a set of alphabet transfers that allows you to name your fragrance by transferring your chosen letter selection on to the bottle. Who doesn't want their own customised Byredo bottle on their shelf?”
3 / 14
Jo Malone Lime Basil & Mandarin Cologne, £86
The promise: “Our signature fragrance. Peppery basil and aromatic white thyme bring an unexpected twist to the scent of limes on a Caribbean breeze. A modern classic.”
We give it: 9.5/10
Review: “Jo Malone can do no wrong in the fragrance department in my eyes. From the luxurious packaging through to the incredible quality of the cologne itself and the lasting power of the fragrances - they really are a truly beautiful thing. All of Jo Malone’s colognes are supposed to be unisex, that being said, I think some fragrances are a little more unisex than others and I can see their Lime Basil and Mandarin being perfect for this. I love a citrus scent, but this is a beautiful twist on the kind of fragrance I know and love as it has a beautiful spicy edge. I always gravitate towards a mandarin scent, which is the top note in this fragrance but when complemented with the heart note of basil and base note of amberwood it turns a fresh fruity fragrance into something a little warmer which is perfect for this time of year.”
4 / 14
YSL Tuxedo Le Vestiaire Des Parfums, £195
The promise: “Encapsulates the matte texture of patchouli enlightened by the dusky brightness of spices.”
We give it: 9/10
Review: “The Le Vestiaire Des Parfums range by YSL is inspired by the creations that Saint Laurent is known for and each fragrance in the range interprets a centerpiece of the couturier’s wardrobe. They may be on the higher end of fragrance prices, but this is more than made up in the quality of the fragrance, the luxurious packaging and the amount of product you actually get.
“Tuxedo was the scent that I tried and the quality really was like no other. This fragrance has top notes of violet leaf accord, bergamot oil and coriander seed oil, heart notes of rose oil, lily of the valley accord and black pepper oil and base notes of ambergris accord, patchouli heart and vanilla bourbon. It’s a super smokey scent but also has a hint of spice and floral too. The first smell of the fragrance reveals the more floral and spicy notes but wearing the fragrance is when the smokey scent really comes through. I’ve given this a go, and so has my boyfriend and actually I think it works quite well for the both of us - though a little too smokey for me for everyday wear.”
5 / 14
Penhaligon’s Alizarin Eau de Parfum, £156
The promise: "An intriguing and intense oud inspired by the red dye, Alizarin, cultivated in Egypt since antiquity. "
We give it: 8/10
Review: "On my journey to work, I kept on catching a whiff of fragrance and thinking 'it’s so obnoxious when men wear such intense, eye watering perfumes on public transport!'. You could maaaaybe put that down to early morning, pre-caffeine tube aggression but the initial scent of this unisex fragrance was really quite potent, not dissimilar to the dizzying punch of Selfridges fragrance hall. I have to say, however, that as the day progressed, the scent took on a much more mellow, warm aroma on my skin…a very pleasant key change that left a lingering but very faint trace by the end of the day. The mark of a truly well crafted fragrance is one that evolves over time and Penhaligon’s is no exception to this. At £156 it’s no shrinking violet, but you will find that a little goes a long way. And besides, how else could they afford to make such a snazzy, well dressed bottle, bow tie et al?"
6 / 14
Kiehl’s Musk Eau De Toilette, £39.50
The promise: "A modern version of Kiehl’s signature scent."
We give it: 9/10
Review: "When I hear the word ‘musk’, it always conjures up an overpowering (slightly oud-y) scent. But having doused myself in Kiehl’s Musk Eau De Toilette for a week and cast my thoughts back to some of my other favourite musky fragrances (who could forget The Body Shop’s 90s' classic White Musk?), that is not really true. Instead, musk is a more gentle scent, but one that never fades - so rather than being overpowering, it's more long-lasting. I did not realise however, that musk is traditionally extracted from the glands of deer (errr…?) but thankfully Kiehl’s is very happy to point out that this scent does not contain any animal products. Phew!
"Kiehl’s Musk proves that musk is not a heavy fragrance; it is gloriously refreshing, almost as if you have slathered yourself in the freshest, creamiest and richest shea butter - Kiehl’s signature fragrance. This gives out a very neutral scent that I absolutely adore and one which can be easily shared between men and women. This neutral scent I believe is ideal for casual meetings out - it might not be the fragrance you choose for a special occasion, but for me, it’s ideal for occasions with friends where a floral or sweeter scent might be too intense.
"If you like the smell of Kiehl’s signature scent all day long, this is the perfect fragrance to own and wear."
7 / 14
Malin + Goetz Vetiver, £125
The promise: “Our Vetiver eau de parfum highlights the dual nature of the grassy plant, delivering an unexpectedly clean scent with a hint of smoke.”
We give it: 7/10
Review: “I am quite partial to a fresh, citrus fragrance but somehow as the days get shorter, the mornings darker and one piles on yet another layer, these can feel a bit too summery and frivolous against a rather more sombre winter setting. I crave warm, immersive fragrances that linger a little longer and leave a sensory reminder on big woolly jumpers. Malin + Goetz have managed to create a unisex fragrance that is both warm and bright. The earthy white iris and celery seed counterbalance the lighter, fresher tones from the fresh cardamom, bergamot and grapefruit peel, leaving a fragrance that is not too overwhelming and something that one could wear all year round.”
8 / 14
TOM FORD Ombré Leather 16 EDP, £345
The promise: "Textured. Sleek. Enveloping."
We give it: 9/10
Review: "A diehard fan of my regular fruity-chypre, I was somewhat sceptical about the prospect of converting to a heavier, more masculine eau de parfum for this report. My initial reservations were quickly forgotten however, when I sprayed this full-bodied aroma onto my skin and was completely enveloped in a warm, leathery glamour which, all of a sudden, made me feel very grown up. My husband noticed immediately, asking why I smelt so 'different' though sheepishly now seems to prefer this new smell on me. Perhaps it’s because we are now a little more grown up and I’m actually better suited to a heavier, more sensual scent. Either way, I’m loving the liberty that’s come with discovering a new side to my fragrance forte and still feeling very feminine even in this more masculine guise. A very solid 9 out of 10 for this one (it’s just the price that will keep me from converting every day)!"
9 / 14
Aesop Marrakech Intense, £60
The promise: "A raw, unorthodox fragrance for men and women."
We give it: 7/10
Review: "If you like a deep, musky and intense style fragrance then this is for you. Combining a woody oriental blend with fresh floral top notes evoking the unique feeling of the Moroccan bazaars, I would say that it's definitely on the more masculine side, so probably not for those who prefer a lighter, floral or citrus fragrance. Initially hitting with a potent and uplifting blend of orange flower, ylang ylang and bergamot, mixed with a hint of neroli, it begins to settle into musky, lingering notes of sandalwood and cardamom, which perfectly balance each other out and leave you with a warming and intense scent that lingers all day - perfect as the days get colder."
10 / 14
Givenchy Iris Harmonique EDP, £150
The promise: “This woody powdery floriental fragrance creates an enigmatic and addictive aroma."
We give it: 10/10
Review: “I’ve been an iris obsessive ever since I first doused myself with Prada Infusion D’Iris in duty free (my go-to pre-flight fragrance), so I had big expectations for Givenchy’s new take on the subtly sexy but not sickly white iris. As you can probably gauge from my generous scoring, Iris Harmonique was right up my street. The perfect fusion between a floral and an oriental, it’s intriguing and ever so slightly spicy without being heavy or obvious. Any scent that veers too intensely towards a particular fragrance family tends to turn me off, but this clever blend criss crosses floral, woody and oriental to create an ambery yet fresh and light sensual scent that lingers and pops up in different guises throughout the day.
"Sometimes neroli comes up to say hello, at other points oud wood is most definitely in evidence, but overall this complex EDP smells as I’d want a unisex fragrance to smell - sophisticated and difficult to pin down, rather than veering disproportionately towards the masculine end of the scent scale. It’s an investment, but its unique impact and generously sized bottle make it a very worthwhile one if fragrance lights your fire."
11 / 14
Diptyque L’Ombre Dans L’Eau, £95
The promise: ‘This sensual fragrance evokes the voluptuous damask rose with grey amber and musk’
We give it: 6/10
Review: "If ever there were typical feminine and masculine scents, they're rose and musk – and this fragrance has them both. It manages to smell sweet with a heavy base - two qualities that I studiously avoid in a perfume (but I quite like in a scented candle).
"This felt much more of a floral feminine scent than unisex. My husband (who admittedly never wears fragrance of any kind) starting making coughing and wafting gestures as I sprayed it on and throughout the day I found myself wondering what the funny smell was and realising it was me.
"Sadly this fragrance hasn’t converted this die hard green/citrus/freshness fan - but then I didn’t warm to any of the unisex scents my colleagues tested either, so I think the whole unisex vibe is just not my thing. On the plus side, it smelled expensive, lasted well and the smokey bottle would sit well on anyone’s dressing table. I'm sure the other members of the Glossy Posse will be biting my hand off for it.
"Definitely worth a try if you are a Diptyque fan. For me, I’d spend the money on a Diptyque candle any day."
12 / 14
Le Labo The Noir 29, £115
The promise: "The Noir 29 combines depth and freshness, softness and strength through permanent oscillation between the light of bergamot, fig and bay leaves and the depth of cedar wood, vetiver and musk. A special extraction of black tea leaves wraps up the composition by bringing to the formula a dry, leafy, hay, tobacco feeling in the dry down to transform this creation into a sensuous and addictive essence."
We give it: 7.5/10
Review: “As far as fragrances go, you’d be hard-pressed to beat Le Labo’s field of infamous fragrances. I had high hopes for The Noir 29, especially after spraying it in the office - it was fresh yet interesting and different enough to my usual signature scents to push me out of my perfume comfort zone. I so wanted to grow to like it, and while I can appreciate its complexity of notes, they unfortunately didn’t sing when left to develop on my skin. As far as comfort zones go, it was a step too far, with my penchant for more floral numbers proving a pivotal factor. I would probably be more inclined to layer it with another fragrance to tailor it to my tastes.”
“Perfume is so personal though and finding a way to score this beauty category is one of the hardest to do. So while the actual scent was a no from me, the more objective things I can score it on are its longevity, quality and value for money. For the first two, it scores particularly highly on. Its price tag places it more on the splurge rather than save side of the shopping scale, but the concentrations and high quality of its ingredients mean that it serves as a true investment piece once you’re sure it’s for you. Pop to the counter, spritz onto your arms and allow to air dry (never rub as it destroys the components), and come back the next day after seeing how it has developed on your skin. If it provides that unmistakable quality that turns it from spritz to signature scent, it could be worth every penny.”
13 / 14
CK One Gold, £40
The promise: "A new edition which 'fuses the energy' of both the sexes."
We give it: 9/10
Review: "Of all the fragrances out there, for a girl who grew up in the 90s nothing is more nostalgic than a spritz of CK One. It's the most recognisable and iconic of the unisex perfumes and just one sniff takes me back to sneaking into my sister's bedroom to steal it (sorry sis) and to watch her little TV while I was at it. But nostalgia aside, it's always been a please-all scent; genderless fragrance is a tough brief to fulfil but there is something very inoffensive and neutral about this gentle perfume. The new Gold version is said to be all about youth, for those who 'can do no wrong'. Fittingly, it seems Calvin Klein can do no wrong either, as the light combination of fig and neroli atop the base of perfumers' classic favourite vetiver creates an altogether fresh, memorable scent (finished off in a beautiful bottle that seems to drip with liquid gold). I know for some CK One has had its day, but for me this is a modern icon brought back to life."
14 / 14
Atelier Cologne Camilia Intrepide, £160
The promise: "A bright and delicate cologne absolue. A perfect choice to live up to your desire for freedom and extraordinary adventures."
We give it: 8/10
Review: "Established in 2009, Atelier Cologne is the first Maison de Parfum dedicated entirely to cologne, and in creating the brand the creators Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel gave birth to a new olfactive family, 'Cologne Absolue'. Each fragrance is built around citrus notes which are the traditional ingredients in cologne but each has a stunning modern twist and comes in beautiful modern packaging.
I'm not normally a huge fan of unisex scents (although my husband stole Molecule off me) but this fragrance in particular has just been on holiday with me for a week and both my husband and I wore it. It's a zesty mix of lemon from Sicily and camellia leaves from China, with base notes of iris butter from Morocco, white leather and warm amber. I would say that the floral element of this fragrance and the lack of any real musky notes means that it errs more on the feminine side than the masculine which is unusual but quite different for a unisex scent. Very slightly fruity, my husband loves it and my friends have complimented him this week on how good he smells."