In lieu of taking a vacation this summer, I’ll settle for the mental respite provided by The Motley’s new Cyprus cologne. Launched earlier this week, the fragrance is equal parts airy and brisk, green and outdoorsy. When I uncap the bottle, I smell the sweetness of a coastal breeze just as the weather starts to turn.
“The idea for the scent came to us long before the name,” says cofounder Madison Ruggieri, “The name Cyprus comes from the Mediterranean island—and the idea of cool ocean air mingling with the scent of dry fir needles from cypress trees.”
After attempting to parse the blend of dry pine needles, ambergris, ginger, shave cream and cedar (I eventually cheat and read the label), I’m ready to learn more about the cologne’s creation. For a behind-the-scenes look at the process, I catch up with Matt and Madison Ruggieri—and company partner Darren Criss—to talk about their new launch.
Take me through the inspiration behind Cyprus.
Madison Ruggieri: “The original vision for Cyprus was to create a scent that was clean, crisp and the greenest of all of our fragrances. We wanted it to be reminiscent of a forest, but not in a clichéd, pine-scent way. The shave cream and ginger notes really take the scent up a notch and add complexity, while still adhering to the freshness we were looking for.”
How do you go from deciding on the vision to choosing the notes?
Darren Criss: “We surround ourselves with people who we admire and respect, and who make really incredible things. Jacqueline Steele is our perfumer, and she makes—by far—the best scents. Now that we’ve gotten to really know each other as a team, we seem to already know what kinds of scents we’re looking for, and the process moves pretty fast. We give her an idea for a direction, and then we let her run with it. She always impresses us! Somehow she can turn our inspiration photos and thoughts into the perfect fragrance.”
I like the combination of the shave cream with ginger. Why these notes?
Madison Ruggieri: “Traditional shave cream is comprised of notes of tonka bean and lavender. We added the ginger to give it a hint of spiciness. It adds complexity to the clean notes without making it musky.”
Matt Ruggieri: “After Atlas, the goal with each new scent has been to develop a collection of scents that complement each other while providing new, very unique fragrances. There will always be notes that tie each new fragrance back to the line.”
Madison Ruggieri: “It’s a bit like a family; each scent has its own personality, but you can tell that they come from the same place. So now we have a spicy musk, a fresh citrus, a deep wood and a crisp green scent.
Darren Criss: “If you think of a spectrum of scent, we’ve now filled that space between Bergamo and Atlas with Cyprus. It’s fresh and clean. We wanted to create a green fragrance, but something that wasn’t too earthy. There is a simple complexity to it and it’s not overbearing.”
Who do you see wearing Cyprus?
Madison Ruggieri: “We would personify this scent as the modern outdoorsman—someone who goes kayaking or hiking on the weekend, but dons a shirt and tie just as naturally. It’s great for the person who doesn’t typically like cologne because it leaves you with a fresh, out-of-the-shower scent.”
What does it evoke for you?
Darren Criss: “If you were to associate seasons to our colognes, Cyprus would definitely be fall. Winter would be Oud, spring would be Bergamo and summer would be Atlas. Fall is one of my favorite seasons because of the shift. It involves lots of colors, vibrant variance, lots of levels. Winter is cold. Summer is hot. Fall is this beautiful in between. It’s unpredictably variable and complex. Having something like Cyprus matches the aesthetic of what fall feels like.”
Day or night?
Matt Ruggieri: ‘It could easily go day or night, but if I had to choose, I’d say day. It’s clean and fresh enough for the boardroom.”
Splash or spray?
Matt Ruggieri: It’s all personal preference. The splash is great for the more old-fashioned, intimate experience of applying directly to pressure points. The spray is more familiar to most men these days, and it’s quick and easy to apply. Just depends on whether you want to make a ritual out of applying your fragrance, or if you’re going for a quick spritz.”
What’s your favorite thing about working on a new cologne?
Darren Criss: “I really enjoy being part of the creative process. As a person who ‘creates’ for a living, I enjoy the innovating that goes into producing new products. Making a shaving cream isn’t the same as performing a song, but there are certain literal and figurative notes that you want to hit. Making a product that people love is definitely rewarding.”