Weekly Fume: Mark Birley Charles Street Eau de Parfum

John Preston

South London based music obsessive with strong opinions about most things. Doubts Madonna has another good record in her but would love more than anything to be proved wrong.
John Preston

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Mark Birley Charles Street is a cigar-smoking butch with Scotch on his breath who has survived mobile phones the size of cereal boxes and a credit crisis or two. Beneath all of the brutish pride there is also a more sensitive element which has made this leather-oriental scent a sophisticated and nuanced occasional favourite of mine but I have to feel appropriately confident to carry off its boardroom-style of doing business.

Charles Street goes on with a boozy, whisky-like punch, but the only beverage note listed here, alcoholic or otherwise, is coffee which may indeed be there somewhere but is not obvious to me. The most grandstanding and persistent accord, however, is a smooth and slightly sweet (and I guess that’ll be the vanilla) smoky leather. It’s elegant and it’s conservative but the lovely twist which comes into play within the next hour of wearing is what sets it apart from its contemporaries.

At its heart, Charles Street holds a bouquet consisting of roses, lily of the valley, jasmine and tuberose, and it’s the tuberose in particular that leaves its floral blueprint all over the fragrance. It’s this combination – heightened alpha male and alpha female notes of leather and tuberose respectively – which makes the scent powerful but also slightly old fashioned; it was actually launched in 2011 but suits a period that predates it by about 20 years. The leather and tuberose are so smoothly blended that this scent could never be considered edgy or odd, and the dry down reveals a warm and very soft amber patchouli.

Having said all of this, I still enjoy Mirk Birley when I’m in a white shirt and tie frame of mind (admittedly this is not often), and in the cooler months it’s wonderfully reassuring and smells luxurious. Charles Street lasts all day, sillage is good and women should absolutely not shy away from wearing it.

Mark Birley Charles Street 75ml £49

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