Anatomy of a Scent: Mr. Burberry

Valero Doval

What does a trench coat smell like? 

As the company’s new eau de toilette, Mr. Burberry, launches—“inspired by our iconic trench,” says chief creative officer Christopher Bailey—we break down the scent’s notes with cocreator (and nose) Francis Kurkdjian.  

Grapefruit 

“It’s uplifting,” says Francis Kurkdjian, 46, who also created My Burberry for women, as well as fragrances for Jean Paul Gaultier and Narciso Rodriguez. “Like a crisp white shirt.” Kurkdjian was inspired by the rise of barbershops in 19th-century London. “They were filled with aromatic and citric notes, renowned for their antiseptic properties, and used to groom the facial hair of Victorian gentlemen. The atmosphere of barbershops and these specific notes became closely linked to male fragrances. Grapefruit brings a tart and masculine freshness.” 

Tarragon

The culinary herb provides a bridge between the grapefruit-cardamom blend and lavender, which is a base note. “Tarragon is the bow,” says Kurkdjian, who is based in Paris and also creates bespoke fragrances for private clients. “As an aromatic note, it ties up with the lavender. It is a very typical aroma that enhances the masculinity of the top notes and gives a shoulder to the herbal notes.” 

Cardamom 

“The introduction of cardamom contributes complexity and sophistication with its spicy facet,” says Kurkdjian. The nutty addition, which smells slightly like eucalyptus, further establishes the link to London barbershops as “a contemporary translation.” It also gives the bottle a hit of olfactory testosterone: “The cardamom establishes a halo of masculinity that permeates the fragrance.” 

Lavender

“The name comes from the Latin word lavare, which means ‘to wash,’” says Kurkdjian. “It is the core element of the fougère class of fragrances.” Other notable scents in the fougère (French for “fern-like”) school include Eternity, by Calvin Klein, and Platinum Égoïste, by Chanel. “Lavender is the key element that is reminiscent of the barbershop. Lavender and herbal notes, such as thyme and rosemary, have antiseptic virtues.” 

Mr. Burberry eau de toilette, $115; burberry.com.