Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Uncommon Scents: Men and fragrances—the battle is on.

Ryan Spahr

What’s that smell?

If you’re a guy, that question should be an admirable one—not embarrassing. Men usually fumble when it comes to olfactory fashion and, honestly, it shouldn’t be our fault.

As we come of age (so to speak), we’re thrown an array of teenage essence that is more like smelling salts. Axe Body Spray, in my opinion, should be akin to Mace. “It stings the nostrils,” much like Sex Panther in “Anchorman.” Late ‘90s fragrances of Tommy and Curve for Him are gassed into my memory of failed first dances.

Our role models aren’t much better. My grandfather lathered up with Old Spice from a jar that looked like a bottle of hot sauce. Every gym locker room my nose has been in reeks of Aqua Velva and Barbicide. What’s my point? We generally stink at trying to smell good.

Have you ever heard of Cologne, Germany? That is where an Italian-born fella developed citrus-scented water in 1708 because it reminded him of an “Italian spring morning, of mountain daffodils and orange blossoms after the rain.” Romantical. He hawked it as the first-ever men’s fragrance, to much popularity at the time.

His philosophy of a man’s cologne was to invoke or create a positive memory. Brain anatomy studies have shown that smells are closely linked to memory and emotions. So, when choosing your signature scent, think of how you would like to be remembered.

Both my grandfather and dad have passed away, and I can remember the Old Spice and Issy Miyake, respectively. Which is why your invisible cloak could be perhaps the most important thing you wear daily.

First, there are three main ingredients to a fragrance: top, middle and base. Top scents are what hits your nose immediately—citrus zest, herbs and sweet notes. These should be light to lure you closer. The middle note is basically the bulk of the scent. These are smells of tobacco, leather, nutmeg and ocean. And the base is usually the category you may be asked what you personally are drawn to—woodsy, musk or clean.

Instead of rubbing magazine inserts on your neck, it would be best to go to a professional shop to try on different scents. Not just smell alone, but how your body reacts to the fragrance also matters. Head to a department store or big box fragrance shop to get an idea of the designer brands. Take a pal or significant other with you, because, honestly, the scent isn’t really for you. My wife digs my Burberry Touch and baby powder concoction. Proper application is vital. It should be a hint ‘o you—not a Glade plug-in. Take the spray bottle at arm’s length and spray once to the upper chest and neck area where nuzzling happens most.

With anything in life, there is an upper echelon of eau de Colognes. Chops Barbershop in Midtown crafts handmade scented aftershaves that you could slap on. The pièce de résistance of olfactory opulence is just north of us in Scranton. NOTE Fragrances on Spruce Street has infinite combinations of oils and extracts to help you tailor a signature scent. Book an appointment and tell them I sent you. They’ll say, “who?”

Dave’s Cocktail of the Month
Sip on this fragrant cocktail, which will help draw someone in to stop and smell the roses.

Herbal Es-scents
• 1 ounce Cachaça or Caribbean rum
• 4 kumquats, halved
• 3 lime wedges
• 2 sprigs rosemary
• 1 teaspoon cane sugar

Muddle kumquats, sugar, 1 sprig rosemary needles and 2 limes wedges in a shaker, pour in the liquor and shake over ice. Strain into glass and garnish with remaining lime wedge and sprig of rosemary. Breathe it in before each sip.

Dave Marcheskie, a former reporter and anchor for abc27 News, is our Sharp Press Man.

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