Lee Kynaston talks Fragrance

Lee Kynaston is a man that knows a thing or two about fragrance. A industry-recognised expert, Lee has worked with some of the biggest scent brands in the world. We caught up with him as part of our grooming guide to help put us on the scent to finding the perfect fragrance.

1. Tell us more about The Grooming Guru

As a journalist I’ve been writing about fragrance and male grooming for 16 years now and I set up the The Grooming blog in 2009 as a way for me to be able write about all the stuff I couldn’t cover in the articles I was working on. Plus, I wanted to be able to write about what I wanted, when I wanted and, crucially, to be able to say what I wanted! I like to think it’s characterised by its frankness, honestly and humour (I’m a Northerner after all) and I don’t always praise things – quite the opposite in fact! I hope this means that when I rave about something readers know I really mean it. I’d like to think that over the years it’s become a good resource for men researching all things male grooming.

2. What is it about fragrance that you love?

Fragrance is like an olfactory Tardis – instantly transporting you to any time and place. One small whiff of a fragrance and you can be 18 again, or falling in love again, or in Paris, Stockholm or New York. Fragrance is like that – it bonds to memories like glue, bolstering them and making them last much longer in the mind. In fact, there are studies to show we can recall smells better than visual images. This is why I always recommend grooms think carefully about the fragrance they wear on their wedding day (go for a timeless classic rather than something new in case that flavour-of-the-month fragrance isn’t around in ten years time!) and I think it’s why a lot of men instinctively have ‘special occasion’ scents.

3. For a man who doesn’t wear fragrance, where should he start?

Men should approach buying fragrance like they would a plasma screen TV or new mobile – do the research before narrowing down the field. Read up about what’s new or highly rated then go in store and get sniffing! I think the best time to do this is in the morning – partly because the air in the store is fresher and there are less competing smells in the air. Some people find their sense of smell is more acute in the morning too.

It’s important too to give the counter assistant and idea of what you’re after. Are you looking for something for work? Or something that’s going to make a big impact on a date? Or something that’s versatile perhaps? Mention, too, if you prefer big ballsy fragrances or light, fresh ones. This will help them narrow down the field. Smell a few on blotters first, and try your two favourites on your skin. You can freshen your sense of smell between sniffs by smelling the crook of your arm which has a fairly neutral smell (trust me it works). If possible, allow your two favourites to ‘develop’ on your skin for a while (carry on shopping or have a cup of coffee and and smell them again before deciding which is best). This gives the ‘base’ notes – the one that give fragrance depth and staying power – time to come to the fore. This is important because they’re the notes you’ll be living with the longest and giver a truer impression of what the fragrance is like than the fleeting ‘top’ notes that you smell first.

In the same way you update your wardrobe with new items each season it’s worth creating fragrance wardrobe too. Mix things up: buy something fresh and new for summer and so on. I admire people who stick to just one fragrance for their single-mindedness but they’re missing out on so many amazing alternatives if they do. Besides, your absolute favourite fragrance might well be the next one you try!

4. Where should you spray fragrance?

The conventional wisdom is that you should apply it to the pulse points on either the skin behind the ears or the wrists but there are actually sound reasons not to do this. For starters, they’re areas very exposed to the air so the fragrance can evaporate faster. A much better option, in my book, is to apply fragrance to the chest. That way the fragrance will be trapped between the skin and your clothes and will last longer but will still waft upwards as you move. It works particularly well with an unbuttoned shirt for example. Having said that, everyone will have their own favourite spot – mine is the crook of my back! One place not to spray fragrance is on your clothes – it can damage and stain some fabrics.

5. What are your favourite fragrances and why?

My all time favourite fragrance is Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene – something I’ve been wearing for nearly 30 years now. I might flirt with other eau de toilettes but always come back to this green, slightly powdery number that smells a bit like Parma Violets. It’s the fragrance I wear when I want to be ‘me’. You know how some men have lucky pants? Well, Grey Flannel is my lucky scent.

For a night out when I’m feeling a bit decadent I wear Tom Ford Noir (another fragrance big on violet) and for daytime I often wear Balmain’s Monsieur Balmain or Tom Ford’s Neroli Portofino, both of which are fantastically fresh and light. When I’m in a grown-up, gentlemanly mood it’s Creed’s Original Vetiver, my favourite ever vetiver fragrance; it has real gravitas and unbeatable staying power – you can apply it at 9am and it’s still there at midnight.

6. What’s your top fragrance tip?

My life tip is ‘first thought, best thought’. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve made a gut decision, changed my mind and discovered my initial instincts were right! Where as Fragrances are the exception because the way they’re constructed means that first impressions can be often be misleading but everything else in life? First thought!

Read more from Lee over at The Grooming Guru and don’t forget to follow him on Instagram and Twitter.