But who am I to be so negative? When my 17-year-old niece spotted the (rather beautiful) bottle on my desk, she asked if she could smell the scent. I told her I wouldn't inflict such an experience on anyone - not even Creed's most ardent followers - but she pays little attention to what her uncle says, and she went ahead and sprayed it anyway. After several minutes of intense sniffing, she agreed that Azure is just like the million-and-one other concoctions she encounters on a daily basis at her college. "But," she said, "there's nothing wrong with that. I really like it."
When I prised my jaw off the floor, I asked her how on earth she could possibly find anything to enjoy in a fragrance that was so shamefully intent on avoiding the faintest semblance of refinement, quality or originality.
"It just smells lush!" she answered. "All the ones you like are the same anyway. They all end up smelling like soap. This is clean and happy and bright... and it's just lush!"
I confess, I could think of nothing to say in response. In my niece's olfactory databank, the vile cheapness of these sorts of perfumes - amongst which you can also count the brand new Karl Lagerfeld Pour Homme - has become associated with cleanliness, happiness and brightness. If her response to Azure were peculiar to her, I wouldn't be worried. But I know that vast swathes of the adolescent population feel as she does, which means, of course, that the vicious cycle will continue and that fragrance houses will keep accosting us with more of this dreck. Do we just roll over and take it? Or do we start lobbying for a GCSE in Perfume Appreciation?
On the other end of the spectrum, we have the gorgeous, soon-to-be-released Bentley For Men Absolute. Despite its name, it isn't a re-working of Nathalie Lorson's Bentley For Men eau de toilette from 2013. But it does owe allegiance to the past. I nearly jumped out of my skin when I first tried it, convinced the Fragrance Fairy had just answered my most fervent prayers. The pink pepper, the incense, the burst of cedar... they jolted me back in time, straight to my wedding day, when I was covered from head to foot in one of the most sensuous masculines of time, Michel Almairac's discontinued Gucci Pour Homme. I examined the Bentley press release and was filled with what can only be described as geeky glee when I discovered that, sure enough, this new creation has been signed by none other than the venerable Monsieur Almairac.
The execs at Gucci made the idiotic decision to ditch Pour Homme years ago, leaving the door wide open for Almairac to revisit it. However, seasoned master that he is, he hasn't simply re-submitted the formula to Bentley. He's taken the same central axis, but he's reduced the sweet amber, turned down the volume and heightened the woody dryness. The press release would have us believe that this husky aspect of the scent's construction comes from oud, but just ignore that: this is not the sort of fragrance which needs to jump on tired bandwagons to win respect. Yes, it makes a slight nod to the Gulf by incorporating a dose of cypriol (a leathery, woody material often used as an oud stand-in), but its primary objective is to remain true to itself, which it does with finesse, restraint and an elegant adjustment of the silk handkerchief in its suit pocket. The only downsides to this charmer are that it'll be a limited edition (exclusive to Harrods in the UK) and that it'll cost £110 for 100 ml. That said, it won't be out until June, which means there's plenty of time to save up your pennies. Just one question remains: dare I ask my niece what she thinks of it?
[Review of Azure based on a sample of eau de toilette; review of Bentley For Men Absolute based on a sample of eau de parfum; samples provided by Bentley in 2014.]