Over the course of his distinguished career, Givaudan senior perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux has handled some pretty strange requests, but nothing quite as strange as Barry Alford’s: to create a fragrance reminiscent of surgical bone cement for the brand Alford & Hoff.
“I really like industrial smells. I like WD-40, and I like Scotch tape. I even like the smell of gasoline,” explained Alford, who works selling medical devices at the same time as he’s building Alford & Hoff. “I talked to Rodrigo about incorporating industrial scents and tapping into the medical device industry to duplicate the bone cement I have experienced in the operating room. It has a hint of acrylic like you’d smell at a nail salon, but softer.”
Flabbergasted about how to execute upon Alford’s crazy concept — “I really had to use my imagination,” Flores-Roux said — vetivert came to mind. “To me, it’s shiny, smooth, masculine and has a physical edge, a perfumed scalpel of sorts. The metallic glimmer had to be geranium, cool, even cold [and] also healthily squeaky clean,” he reasoned. Ultimately, the fragrance — Alford & Hoff’s third that’s simply called No. 3 — would go on to include a trio of refined vetivert extracts.
Adding a more unfamiliar element to the fragrance, Flores-Roux then turned to the ingredient Rosyrane. Describing it as “an unexpected, rusty, steely mini monster,” he said Rosyrane is a “rarely used synthetic raw material [that’s] secretive, shunned by perfumers as it’s deemed too strange, too uncomfortable, too alien, just like a blade.” In other words, it was perfect to realize Alford’s envelope-pushing vision.
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It sounds outlandish, but the resulting men’s fragrance, which contains notes of rhubarb, absinthe, black leather, Guaiac wood, Virginian cedar wood, Angelica root, geranium, Jamaican nutmeg, Kadota fig and clary sage as well as vetivert and Rosyrane, isn’t as out there as would be presumed. Alford labeled it Alford & Hoff’s “everyday sexy fragrance” that injects a different dimension into the brand’s assortment, contrasting its initial special-occasion scent and the sporty sophomore effort. Flores-Roux said No. 3 “ushers in a new masculinity anchored in the idea of sharp edges bringing enormous ease, pleasure and comfort.”
No. 3 is currently rolling out to Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor and Nordstrom doors as well as the retailers’ web sites. It’s priced at $100 for a 3.4-oz. eau de toilette and is packaged in a translucent black bottle topped with a hematite-colored cap. Industry sources estimate the fragrance will generate $5 million in first-year retail sales.
As the inspiration for No. 3 illustrates, Alford & Hoff is determined to make a statement at fragrance counters. “I hate when someone says this smells like something else. When people spray our fragrance, they say it doesn’t smell like anything else, and that’s the best compliment,” said Alford. “The fragrance market is so flooded with sameness, and we are trying to separate ourselves.”
The brand, started nine years ago by former Arizona State University football teammates Alford and Jefferson Hoffman, has branched beyond fragrance into accessories that could account for 10 percent of its business this year. No matter the product, Alford & Hoff sets out to appeal to confident men not willing to throw just anything on their bodies. “He’s an accomplished businessman. He has an understanding of who he is and taking care of himself, and is attuned to the athlete inside,” said Alford of the customer for his brand. “He’s looking for something different.”