New spice


Undeterred by the fact that some airport authorities viewed the bottle for Flowerbomb with suspicion, Viktor & Rolf have returned to the cheeky grenade shape for their second masculine fragrance, Spicebomb. But although the packaging is striking, the most notable feature of this new release is that it isn’t spicy.

Cardamom, fenugreek, cumin, cinnamon, coriander … all of these are conspicuous by their absence. There is a faint hint of the woody edge peculiar to pink pepper – which conveys warmth rather than spiciness – but that’s about it. Even the official list of notes doesn’t specify an abundance of curry ingredients (how’s that for marketing honesty?), so those hoping for, say, the unusual, vegetal ginger tone of Un Jardin Aprés La Mousson (Hermès) or the precise evocation of an Istanbul souq in Eau d’Épices (Tauer) will be disappointed.

Viktor & RolfViktor & Rolf

Misnomer aside, what we have here is a competent leather scent, with a strong citrus component. Olivier Polge – the man who gave us the superlative Dior Homme – opens the fragrance with a dose of grapefruit that manages to be powerful without making your eyes water. There’s a genuinely interesting – and, for a mainstream product, quite brave – suggestion of sweet floral notes behind the fruit, a whisper of tea and a well-judged marine breeze, before the perfume’s true intentions reveal themselves. The leather note takes centre stage – drier and subtler than the bottle would lead you to expect – bolstered by gentle, smoky tobacco.

Viktor & Rolf Spice Bomb Viktor&Rolf

On paper, the composition does sound a touch old-fashioned, which was probably Polge’s intention. But he’s always been a staunchly modern perfumer, so whilst his work here seems to take its inspiration from the likes of Knize Ten (the archetypal male leather) the somewhat androgynous effect of its composition means it never loses sight of 21st century notions of western masculinity.

Spice Bomb Spice Bomb

Appropriately enough, Viktor & Rolf’s Spring/Summer 2012 Monsieur collection looks back to the past too, and it isn’t at all difficult to imagine Spicebomb being sprayed by a waif-like young guy sporting cornflower blue trousers or a pastel yellow jumper, complete with playful dolphin motif.

Then again, the same collection featured – brace yourselves – models wearing socks with sandals, a crime with which it would be unfair to associate this endearing little number. It should probably have been called Smokebomb (or maybe even Stealthbomb) but it’s well made, inoffensive and not devoid of interest, which makes it the best fragrance yet from V&R.

by Persolaise

Viktor & Rolf Spicebomb is £60 for 90ml eau de toilette, available at Harrods

Persolaise is a three-time Jasmine Award-shortlisted writer and perfume critic. For more of his work, please visit his blog