I have to be honest, I’m far more a fan of vintage Bentleys than I am of the contemporary models. I’m lucky enough to have been a frequent passenger in a 1925 version, both as an ordinary road passenger – not that you ever feel ordinary in a Bentley – and as a “bouncer”, literally bouncing up and down on the open back seat, bruising my bum in the wind and rain to help the car gain traction while racing up muddy hills in a Vintage Sports Car Club time trial. I love the smells, the sounds, the joy the old cars bring to everyone who sees them. Alongside brilliant engineering, they have history, real character and personality and, of course, nostalgia. Their black-fingered drivers are gloriously likely to smell of petrol, leather, oil, Swarfega – and ale.
I’m no petrolhead, but new Bentleys seem to me to be a lot slicker, sharper, smoother, larger and harder around the edges – which is probably exactly what most modern, younger drivers require. But what does the modern Bentley driver – or, just as importantly, the aspiring modern Bentley driver – want to smell like? Since 2013, Bentley Fragrances has called on distinguished noses to alchemise refined scents for just such men (sadly, the house doesn’t make any perfumes specifically for women, though read on). The latest fragrance is called Bentley Momentum and comes in eau de toilette and eau de parfum forms – the latter known as Bentley Momentum Intense. Both were created by Nathalie Lorson, the woman behind perfumes for many top brands, including Burberry, Bulgari, Yves Saint Laurent and Paul Smith. Both arrive in pleasingly heavyweight, faceted geometric bottles with the famous winged “B” logo and silver-toned brushed-metal plates front and back – darker, naturally, for the Intense scent – and with a hint of the hipflask about them. The silver-metal stopper is finely ridged, or “knurled”, in Bentley’s signature style. The bottles would look totally at home in any Bentley’s glove compartment.
My neither vintage- nor contemporary-Bentley-driving boyfriend (though I’m sure he’s willing to be either) tested both fragrances. I must confess he usually smells pretty good, tending more towards earthy, warm and oudy odours, such as Yves Saint Laurent’s gorgeous M7. His immediate reaction to the Bentley Momentum eau de toilette was that it was "cool and sharp" (it has top notes of bergamot, green violet and clary sage). To me, it smelt metallic-glassy, and very slightly sweet. Once it settled, more woody notes started to come through: sandalwood, tonka bean, moss and musk, for a more sophisticated vibe. Nice. But, as you’d expect, the Momentum Intense, though very similar, has a stronger, deeper scent and better staying power: on my partner, the base notes of ambery wood, sandalwood and musk finally win out over vibrant green notes of Elemi resin. Perfect for the contemporary man about town with ambition and, yes, drive.
Of course, I had to try it out too. The top lavender and bergamot notes last longer on my skin, sharpening the more woody, aromatic heart and base notes, which I like, and which make for an unusual scent on a woman. (As I’ve said many times before, I’m a perfume slut.) I’ll certainly grab the occasional spritz of Momentum Intense when I feel like a change.
So now my man and I both smell delightful, we must qualify for the car to complement our aromas. Anyone..?
Bentley Momentum Eau de Toilette (£59 for 100ml); Bentley Momentum Intense Eau de Parfum (£49 for 60ml; £69.50 for 100ml) – both available exclusively in Harrods now and nationwide from April.