Welcome to Fragrance Friday, where each week we’ll be keeping you abreast of the newest and most iconic releases in the dynamic world of men’s fragrances. Born out of the desire to showcase one of the most overlooked, yet versatile, elements of any discerning man’s style this weekly column will help you finesse your own signature scent.
I’m not quite sure what to expect when I see pineapple listed as a primary note in a fragrance. The topical fruit’s inclusion is easily as divisive as the exhausting pineapple-on-pizza debate (yes, it belongs on pizza), and yet despite pineapple being prominent in one of the most popular men’s fragrances of all time – Creed Aventus – I hesitate when it’s listed.
I’m not quite sure why. I’m addicted to the sparkling grapefruit in CoSTUME National Homme Parfum, adore the vanilla in Penhaligon’s Babylon and am addicted to the recently released P Frapin & Cie, 1270 Extreme, which also uses pineapple in the top notes. My tastes very much skew gourmand when it comes to perfume. So perhaps it’s because of my expectation. I always expect pineapple to be excessively sweet and juicy in a men’s fragrance, even though in my (albeit limited) experience, this has never been the case.
Niche perfumers seem to have a knack for restraining these ostentatiously fruity scents by adding in plenty of complementary ingredients that would contrast and anchor such notes. Roja Dove, the nose behind Roja Parfums, has done this beautifully with Roja Parfums Apex, a new fragrance that takes a characteristically sophisticated approach to train what is 25 listed notes and distilling that into one very cohesive, alluring scent.
As you could probably already tell by the name, Roja Parfums Apex pays homage to “animal instincts” with a fresh and very fruity Chypré accord that has Dove seemingly trying to get to the dry-down as fast as possible. There are 18 notes in the base, which is incredibly complex without coming across as too dense. You can actually pick apart the layers here, which is a testament to Roja’s solid reputation.
The “animal instincts” vibe may be a thick layer of marketing to try and stick out in an increasingly overcrowded industry. Roja Parfums Apex even ships with 1 of 12 collector’s cards with “spirit animals.”
The perfume is good enough to look beyond that, opening up with a nice little smack of summer-ready citrus, cobbled together by the usual suspects of lemon and bergamot and then elevated with mandarin and orange. Pineapple creeps through shortly after, as well as those really green, floral notes lifted by Jasmin de Grasse and cistus. There’s not really much time between the opening and middle notes; Roja is clearly hurrying towards the animalistic base.
And it’s hard to see why the perfumer would be proud of what he’s achieved here. After rushing through those citrus and floral notes, Roja Parfums Apex turns mossy with earthy, digging down into those really visceral notes like patchouli, fir balsam, galbanum, cypress and oakmoss. We’re deep in the thickets here, almost as if the perfume is taking us on a jungle safari as it dips into the animalic notes of leather, ambergris and musk.
The grassiness reminds me a bit of Hermetica’s recent Lavincense, which I love and is one of the most unique scents I’ve tried this year. However, Roja Parfums Apex has a cleaner, more natural overall profile, which by comparison makes Lavincense smell a bit too synthetic. It’s the contrast that helped me make the most sense of what Roja Dove has set out to do here, concocting a really elegant fragrance that starts out a bit old-world and standard but then morphs into this incredibly luxurious and elegant dry-down that has plenty of presence and a lot of attack.
Apex is an everyday wear for sure, much like a Creed would be, with plenty of versatility that, although heavily dialled into summer, isn’t tethered to any one season. I would have liked the sillage to be a bit strong. This is something I’d want to show off with confidence, but the projection is fine.
Top notes: Lemon, bergamot, mandrain, orange
Middle notes: Jasmin de Grasse, cistus, pineapple
Base notes: Galbanum, elemi, patchouli, oakmoss, rum, tobacco, cypress wood, fir balsam, juniper berry, Casimir wood, sandalwood, benzoin, amber, frankincense, labdanum, leather, ambergris, musk
Roja Parfums Apex Cologne is now available in Australia at $519 for a 100 ml bottle.