You may have noticed that our fragrance reviews are always accompanied by a distinctive review sheet. The Bespoke Unit Fragrance Formula or “BUFF” was developed by founder Paul Anthony in 2013 to help him keep track of his fragrance collection.
Over the years, it was refined by both Paul Anthony and Charles-Philippe before being published in 2017. The Fragrance Formula was designed to facilitate reviews by providing a clear methodology. Furthermore, it clearly breaks down how a fragrance is reviewed to make marking criteria precise and understandable.
In this guide, you will learn the following:
Simply click one of the above to jump straight to it or keep reading below.
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Before we continue, we’ll provide you with one of our earliest completed fragrance formulas as an example. You can use this as a reference as you continue reading the guide:
If you want something in a larger resolution, we always make a PDF version of the formula available, which you can also use.
How Does The Fragrance Formula Work?
Firstly, the matrix works by scoring each fragrance out of a possible 100 points. Each category was tailored to the different properties of a fragrance’s performance. These were then allocated points in terms of their importance.
Thanks to BUFF, we have been able to provide some of the most accurate lists of the best men’s fragrances. Each entry has been reviewed and tested by us using the formula for accurate rankings.
The Fragrance Formula’s categories and possible points are the following:
- Introducing The Fragrance
- Composition [40 Points]
- Seasonality [0 Points]
- Wake & Strength [15 Points]
- 3rd Party Feedback [30 Points]
- Presentation [10 Points]
- Impressions [5 Points]
- Scoring & Conclusion
1. Introducing The Fragrance
The perfumery, their concoction and year of release are listed at the top of the sheet. Directly below is a brief description of what to expect from the fragrance. The introduction usually serves as a prelude to the fragrance’s composition listed below.
2. Composition [40 Points]
A fragrance’s composition tells us what to expect from it when applied. Nevertheless, be aware that when presenting it, we are not talking about its ingredients.
Instead, we explore the perceived aromas in during the fragrance’s sensual journey. In short, they are the different smells that come from a perfume referred to as notes. Therefore, we are presenting these notes rather than its literal contents.
The composition is presented as a traditional three-tiered fragrance pyramid. If you are unfamiliar with this concept, read our full guide on fragrance pyramids that explores notes, life-cycles and accords.
In short, the head, heart and base notes represent how a fragrance’s smell evolves over time. Each note group is attributed up to four individual notes and then scored out of 10 points.
The points are attributed to each note group according pleasantness, complexity and how they interact with each other as accords.
In parallel, the Life Cycle evaluates the fragrance’s full accord and how well it transitions between its note levels when drying down.
3. Seasonality [0 Points]
The seasonality wheel demonstrates how well a fragrance performs or suits during any particular season. This has been made except from scoring as it cannot be objectively evaluated.
For example, a fragrance can be praised for excelling during a particular season. However, it could also be penalised for lacking any year-round versatility. Both certainly have their advantages as well as their drawbacks.
4. Wake & Strength [15 Points]
The wake and strength of a perfume assesses its overall performance when worn. This is broken down into sillage, projection and longevity, which are each attributed 5 points.
Sillage is the French for “wake” as left behind a boat in water. It is pronounced “see-yhage” and is used to describe the way a fragrance leaves a trail behind the wearer.
A fragrance’s sillage is a double-edge sword. Wearer’s usually want a faint trail behind them but a fragrance leaving the room several minutes after you do is often undesirable.
The sillage is evaluated purely according to performance. A fragrance with a strong wake will be praised. Likewise, a fragrance lacking any trail will lose points.
If the trail is unpleasant, this will be reflected in the fragrance’s composition rather than in its performance.
A fragrance’s projection is quite simply how it radiates from the wearer over time. If a fragrance emits strongly, it will be well-received.
However, if the nose needs to be pressed against the skin to smell it, it will be marked down.
Fragrances with a particularly zealous projection won’t generally be penalised. This will up to the wearer to ensure that it isn’t over-applied.
That said, if the strength is truly uncontrollable even with most application, the fragrance risks losing points.
A fragrance’s longevity is how long it lasts over the day. In other words, this evaluates its lifespan and how well it lingers on the wearer’s skin.
Longevity varies between fragrances. However, you can get an idea of how long a fragrance will last according to its concentration.
Fragrance concentrations are usually indicated on the bottle with terms like “eau de toilette” or “eau de cologne”. You can learn more about these with our fragrance concentration guide.
You will soon realise that some concentrations like eau de cologne are weaker. Yet they are sold at lower price tags compared to eau de parfums. Extra points are awarded to fragrances that surpass these expectations and offer superior strength.
5. 3rd Party Feedback [30 Points]
The subjective nature of fragrance reviews means that external opinions are of vital importance. For this reason, 30% of a fragrance formula’s score depends on the feedback from others.
The result is a more balanced score that is partly established from a general consensus.
A total of 10 people are asked for their opinion on the fragrance, which consist of 5 men and 5 women from a diverse age demographic.
Two separate quotes are picked out from their assessments in order to justify the result provided. Ideally, these are polarising opinions to provide a true spectrum of opinions.
The opinions given are from either strangers or acquaintances of any age range or gender. They are rarely experts so the score seeks to reflect the general public’s opinion rather than a studied evaluation.
6. Presentation [10 Points]
The presentation of a fragrance may not have any direct effect on the quality of its contents. However, it plays an important role in the quality of its experience. This category explores a fragrance’s material considerations such as the atomizer and packaging as well as value for money.
The thought gone into designing a fragrance bottle always deserves merit if well-executed. Bottles can score out of a possible 2 based on their attractiveness, ergonomics and style.
If a bottle is bland, fonctions poorly or quite simply ugly, it will be reflected here. However, the points lost won’t be so much to penalise the fragrance if it’s of good quality.
Not all atomizers are created equal. Some provide a healthy and decisive vapour cloud when pressed.
However, there are others that feature weak buttons or discharge like a water gun. The atomizer’s quality will be properly reviewed and rated in this section.
Note that some perfumes come in splash bottles or dab stoppers.
If this is the case, their pour or distribution quality will be properly evaluated here instead. For example, whilst some fragrances pour evenly, others are uncontrollable and run freely.
Decidedly superficial, the cardboard packaging may decide the fate of many perfumes before even being tested.
A well-designed packaging or thoughtful presentation will render the perfume more attractive and promise a better experience.
These are definite factors worth considering when giving the fragrance as a gift and 2 points have been allocated accordingly.
Value for money is a hugely important factor in fragrances as many don’t come cheap. Nevertheless, a high price tag can be perfectly justifiable for a high-quality fragrance with a well-designed composition.
Alternatively, an expensive eau de parfum may offer exceptional longevity with smaller amounts than a cheaper eau de toilette.
Although the bottle is more expensive on paper, requiring less for the same effect may provide better value.
Conversely, inexpensive fragrances can offer superior quality compared to luxury brands. Therefore, these also deserve high praise for giving consumers similar experiences at a fraction of the price.
7. Impressions [5 Points]
The general impressions of a fragrance take evaluates the fragrance’s usability and versatility in day-to-day use. Impressions are a relatively personal and subjective area that is only allocated a total of 5 possible points overall. However, impressions provide an insight into the fragrance’s properties and how they may have an impact in the real world.
Furthermore, the impressions categories aren’t scored independently but given a total depending on the fragrance’s usage as a whole. Each of the different factors interact with one another to create a bigger picture. A fragrance will be looked at unfavourably if is rarely usable. Likewise, fragrances with a particular use or versatility will rate highly here.
Fragrances can feel youthful or mature. Some classic aromatic fougères, for example, clash when worn by young adults in their early twenties. Meanwhile, older men will struggle with fresh aquatic or fruity colognes.
The possible age groups are:
- 19 years or younger
- 20 – 29 years old
- 30 – 39 years old
- 40 years or older
The age range is a useful indicator whether a perfume is appropriate for potential wearers. If a fragrance leans too far into either young or old extremity, it may risk being penalised for alienating a demographic. However, if it excels in representing men of a particular age, it may find merit.
Time Of Day
Different hours of the day come with their own smells and sensations. Certain fragrances may seem rightfully appropriate or even feel totally out of place during a particular time of day. A fragrance may fit into one of the following periods:
- All Day
If a fragrance is particularly limited, it may be marked down in extreme conditions. However, as long as its used properly, every fragrance has its place.
Many fragrances may feel only particularly suitable for notable occasions. Moreover, particular fragrances may even feel out of place in certain environments. The Formula takes into account the following yet broad settings:
- Office: Best worn on a daily basis at the workplace or similar.
- Romantic: Effective for dates or other amorous adventures.
- Formal: Appropriate for special or stately occasions.
- Casual: Suitable when dressed down or laid-back environments.
If a fragrance is best reserved for formal occasions, this by no means implies that it will be marked down. However, it’s worth taking into account how a fragrance may be best exploited. If a fragrance provides only limited exposure when compared with the best time of day or age range, it may find itself lacking.
Although the masculinity of men’s colognes has always been an important factor, the rules have greatly evolved in the last few decades.
There once was a time when men’s fragrance had to be particularly viril lest it be disparaged as an effeminate “perfume”. However, masculine identity and its desired traits have grown to become more liberal and individual.
Furthermore, even if unisex eau de colognes have existed for centuries, couples sharing fragrances has become a growing trend. “Gender bender” fragrances are becoming more popular and sought after by certain enthusiasts who seek shareable experiences.
Nevertheless, reviewed fragrances are classed within the following categories:
- Feminine: a fragrance whose composition borders on what is traditionally considered feminine.
- Unisex: A perfectly shareable “gender bender” fragrance.
- Faint: A fragrance that could still be feasibly shared by both sexes but leans slightly towards a masculine composition.
- Moderate: Noticeably masculine but not overly potent.
- Strong: Decidedly manly and traditional viril.
- El Macho: An exceptionally beefcake cologne. 60% of the time, it works every time.
Note that a fragrance’s masculinity serves purely as an indicator for those seeking a particular experience. The classes listed above do not function as a scale that is awarded or withheld points.
8. Scoring & Conclusion
The fragrance review’s final thoughts are noted in this space. The results and their reasoning are summarised with any added notable comments.
The scoring system itself has been devised to provide a fair and impartial evaluation. Wide ranges have been carefully assigned to compensate for minor misgivings that can have a large impact on the results:
- 81-100: Outstanding. An instant classic if not an established one.
- 61-80: Good. A solid and highly recommendable fragrance.
- 41-60: Average. By no means a bad fragrance but better can be found elsewhere.
- -40: Mediocre. Best avoided and alternatives considered.
Remember that no fragrance review is objective. Subjectivity is inevitable despite the best efforts to do otherwise. Nevertheless, we strive to provide unbiased and informed assessments for both our enjoyment and the benefit of our readers.
Using The Fragrance Formula At Home
Whether you’re passionate about fragrances or just interested in how yours will fare, you can download your own Fragrance Formula. Furthermore, the Fragrance Formula is available as either an interactive or printable PDF.
So nobody feels left out, we have made both an A4 and US letter version of the printable fragrance formula. Therefore, simply choose the format best suited to your printer at home!
Finally, if you filled out a formula, tell us the results by commenting below with a link or share your copy by emailing it to us. Yours might be featured in our next fragrance review!
If you enjoyed reading about the Bespoke Unit Fragrance Formula, why don’t you check out some more content?
- Best Men’s Fragrances For All Occasions & Seasons
- How To Properly Apply Fragrances
- How To Try & Test Fragrances Yourself
- Discover The Bespoke Unit Fragrance Wheel
"This fragrance formula is really fantastic! I’ve printed out a couple to use on my next purchases!"Rating: 5.0 ★★★★★