A perfect example of a fully deserved hype, and I’m surprised this doesn’t get more. Alongside Richard James Savile Row, probably the best British contemporary fragrance for men I’ve smelled in years, although the nose is French. Ironically, given Fredéric Malle is involved (with what role, precisely?), I think that in some way Mark Birley for Men smells “more Malle” than most of his own label’s scents. Many of them are in fact way cheaper and duller than this, which on the contrary is just stunning, both quality, refinement and creativity wise. “Nicher” than most of niche. Citrus, lime, black pepper, crisp smoky woods, some peculiar sort of breezy and “grey” powdery violet notes: actually a seemingly simple structure, but smelling completely unusual, modern, unique and somehow very “dimensional” in the way the notes unravel and evolve. On paper it may seem just another violet-woody cologne with some fresh top, while it isn’t really. It’s just totally different from what you may expect, and briefly put, I have not the slightest idea of how to describe it. It’s just “new” and very unique as a whole.
Probably a sort of “metallic sparkling” aura would define the most immediate of its peculiar features, followed by a sort of aldehydic-musky “dry clean laundry” nuance (due to violet, musk and woods, I guess) which for example you also find, in a similar but way bolder incarnation, in Penhaligon’s Sartorial – and finally a sort of subtle saltiness providing a delightful, very realistic watery-sea feel. But it’s actually the way they work together which is just brilliant. It’s distinguished yet very casual and informal. The citrus-lime top accord alone has some very interesting features as well, as it smells very tangy, fresh, but somehow very robust, bold and very long-lasting, still without smelling like everlasting mosquito repellent. It’s very natural, bright, vibrant and almost kind of fizzy, with a bright freshness that seems always about to fade away, and yet it lasts for hours. It’s very substantial but totally weightless and bright. And the middle and base notes are just great as well, the way violent and woods blend is so effortless and mellow – probably incense has a key role in smoothening the accord and making it smell just as a sophisticated nondescript “mist” of grey-purple nuances. To cut it short, Birley for Men has them all: it’s very unique yet completely versatile and un-challenging to wear, it’s very pleasant, the quality is outstanding and it performs surprisingly well (I disagree with the lack of longevity complaints, it’s very discreet but quite long-lasting). It’s a joy both to explore and to just spray liberally and forget about it. Brilliant.