Forget one signature scent. Toronto-based writer Anne T. Donahue is…
Former bartender turned fragrance specialist Adam Vaughn stumbled into the fragrance industry by chance but soon realized he had a nose for the business.
“What I do today is very similar to what I did when I was bartending,” Vaughn says, “It’s about service and personalization—figuring out a customer’s taste and getting into his mind. Bartenders are renown for being good listeners, psychologists. Now I bring that skillset with me to the fragrance bar.”
QUESTION: What is your favourite scent memory of childhood?
ADAM VAUGHN: The ocean, vacation, my pet dog, and, to be honest, the scent of the skin of the women in my life; these are the scents that define my earliest memories.
Q: Who is the person or persons in your life who turned you on to fragrance?
VAUGHN: I have to say the person was me.
I wasn’t always a fragrance person. I mean, if someone gives you a bottle of Polo Sport in Grade 7 you’re going to wear it because it’s cool. But now it’s more of a personal thing.
I stumbled into this industry and soon realized I was a sommelier of the nose. I appreciate and relate to the psychology of scent—how it makes you feel, what it does to your confidence, all the emotions that are attached to scent.
Q: What was the first scent you bought yourself and why did you buy it?
VAUGHN: I didn’t buy my first fragrance until 2009 after I had been working in the business. It was Neroli Portofino by Tom Ford. I fell in love with it right away and you know what they say about first loves…
Tom Ford Neroli Portofino, $345 (100 ml), www.harryrosen.com
VAUGHN: I associate Portofino with happy emotions. It was my wedding fragrance. I wore it on my honeymoon in Hawaii. It’s a transportative scent: When I smell it, I’m in my happy place.
Q: What makes you want to try a new fragrance?
VAUGHN: Sampling new fragrances is my business. I do it to be able to romance the product for others. I’m looking for longevity, edginess, uniqueness and quality.
Q: Which fragrances do you regularly wear?
VAUGHN: Funny enough, I rarely wear fragrance. If I’m smelling like one scent, the five in my hand that I’m demo’ing to clients are less effective.
Q: What do you smell like?
VAUGHN: I smell like a clean man—that’s it.
Q: What are your feelings on having a signature scent? Should one have one and wear it like a uniform?
VAUGHN: Absolutely. I believe a man should have a signature scent. It goes deep in people’s minds and they will associate him with that smell. He should wear it like a piece of clothing. It’s empowering. It’s attached to confidence and comfort.
Men are creatures of habit. In my experience I would say 60 per cent of the men I see have a preferred scent, the other 40 per cent are either looking for theirs or just enjoy playing around.
Q: How do think men’s attitude to fragrance has changed in the last couple of years? The last 10 years? The last 20?
VAUGHN: I’ve been in the fragrance business for 7 years. I can tell you that it’s become more popular for men to indulge in multiple fragrances. But they do so quietly.
Men don’t admit to buying cosmetics [either] but they do.
I think Tom Ford has really brought it to the table and allowed men to more openly enjoy the experience. They are willing to spend more. The business is expected to boom again over the next few years.
Q: Who is the best smelling person you’ve ever met?
VAUGHN: For me it’s a scent memory that strikes an early emotion. I would probably have to say my first girlfriend.
Q: If you could bottle the scent of a favourite place/city/memory/moment what would it be and please describe it.
VAUGHN: I would love to bottle the scent of a vacation in the tropics. It smells like freedom. If you could bottle it up, that mix of the ocean and vacation, you could sell it all day.
Q: What cologne pairs best with a James Bond-style suit?
VAUGHN: If I was working with James Bond, I’d probably put him in Oud Wood by Tom Ford. Timeless and masculine.
Q: Do you have any advice for one wishing to buy a scent for the favourite man in their life?
VAUGHN: When I’m working with a client who’s purchasing for their partner, my intent is to understand the man first. From there, it’s about dissecting the intended use. Is it for day or night? Do they want it to be sexy? I suggest you start by understanding the occasion you are buying the fragrance for.
Q: What piece of fragrance advice or wisdom do you want to pass on to next generation?
VAUGHN: My advice is to find your favourite fragrance—the one that makes you happy. It will come to you.
Proper application is also important. Some guys will shower a scent over their clothes. In time the oils build up on the fabric and go stale.
I always encourage a gentleman to apply a scent before he puts his clothes on. Spray it on the pulse points of the body—neck and forearms—and allow it to dry down and settle in before getting dressed. To me, that’s the truest application.
Q: How important is fragrance to your life, to your sense of style?
VAUGHN: I wear fragrance more for my happiness than my style. That’s what’s important to me.
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