I have mentioned how I believe Atelier Cologne has done one of the best jobs at building a brand of any of their contemporaries. I have also believed a key part of that was the use of only two perfumers on nearly all of the previous thirty releases. Perfumers Jerome Epinette and Ralf Schwieger have provided the olfactory DNA which has define Atelier Cologne. Particularly over the last year I began to wonder if there was room for a new collaborator who could also add a different genetic makeup to this brand.
When I received my five press samples of Collection Orient I have become so used to the styles of M. Epinette and Hr. Schwieger that I felt like four out of the five felt like M. Epinette’s work. When I sent off the e-mail to Atelier Cologne to get confirmation I asked if the fifth perfume, Poivre Electrique, was maybe a new perfumer. When I received my response I was delighted to find out it was Bruno Jovanovic.
Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel
M. Jovanovic was the one perfumer outside of Atelier Cologne who I admired for also working on modernizing the cologne architecture. In 2012-2013 he made five fragrances which showed his version of contemporary cologne. The three releases he did for Thirdman, A Lab on Fire Almost Transparent Blue, and Dries van Noten for Frederic Malle. If there was a signature to his style of cologne it came in the more transparent use of woody notes in the base accord. The five fragrances I named above sit in the same space as all of my Atelier Cologne bottles because that is where I feel the future of cologne exists. I don’t know the story behind M. Jovanovic being brought in to the Atelier Cologne Perfume fold. I can say that I am delighted that creative directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel reached out to him.
For M. Jovanovic’s first brief he was tasked with using black pepper as a keynote in Poivre Electrique. Black pepper has been a fantastic note in perfume when used correctly. It has been an overbearing presence when used inappropriately. There are more examples of the latter. M. Jovanovic I believe recognized this. He uses black pepper as the replacement for the traditional herbal component of the cologne top accord. It is a beautiful beginning to what turns in to a spectacular new cologne.
Poivre Electrique opens with the black pepper front and center. It holds all of my initial attention until bitter orange eventually adds in the citrus piece of the cologne design. M. Jovanovic keeps this pepper set at a steady burn without crossing over into searing. The pepper continues as the heart notes begin to become more apparent. Rose and incense make up the duet along with pimento carrying on with the fading pepper in adjacent to it. In a set of perfumes dubbed as from the Orient this is the one phase where I felt like I was in a Pasha’s Palace. Myrrh warms the incense. Then M. Jovanovic provides his signature as sandalwood and cedar provide the translucent woody veil over the heart accord.
Poivre Electrique has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
Poivre Electrique is my favorite of the new Collection Orient. I admire much of the risk taking evident in the other four releases but Poivre Electrique combines that adventurousness with a set of incredibly pleasing accords. I suppose it could just be that The Return of Bruno to making new cologne in a place where it feels like he should always have been, being a match made in Heaven.
Disclosure; This review is based on a press sample provided by Atelier Cologne.
Cumin is one of the more divisive materials used in perfumery. To some it smells strongly of unwashed perspiration. To others it is a vital piece of depth and texture as part of a whole composition adding in a level of spice only cumin can bring to a fragrance. Two of the new Collection Orient from Atelier Cologne, Tobacco Nuit and Philtre Ceylan, contain prominent cumin notes. It is an interesting evolution of the brand. Creative directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel take Atelier Cologne to a whole different scent space than they have in all of the previous releases. One smart thing to do is to take along a collaborator in perfumer Jerome Epinette with whom you’ve had a long fruitful relationship. Together this creative team successfully takes some risks.
Tobacco Nuit is an example of when the Cologne Absolue design is pushed to its limits because of the use of more intense ingredients. I have always enjoyed where M. Epinette chooses to alter his interpretation of cologne. With Tobacco Nuit this really does feel like a night inspired cologne.
M. Epinette starts with a true original take on the citrus-herbal traditional opening of cologne. He combines the intense tartness of clementine with coriander and cumin. This is a fabulous variation as the cumin and coriander provide a rough-hewn quality to press against the clementine. The nice thing is if it isn’t something you enjoy as much as I do it moves along quickly into the heart of tobacco flower, incense, and labdanum. Again the conventions of cologne are being stretched. The tobacco flower, instead of a full tobacco leaf accord, keeps the tobacco from being that rich narcotic version. It is a shade or two lighter. Which allows the silvery incense and the earthy labdanum an opportunity to form a heart accord which goes very deep but also stays quite opaque. Patchouli picks up on the earthiness of the olibanum, cedar adds a subtle complement to the incense and vanilla sweetens the tobacco flower for the final phase of development. Tobacco Nuit has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
Philtre Ceylan actually is the first Atelier Cologne release which feels like it has truly reinvented the form. There are the very sketchy outlines of cologne present. Philtre Ceylan is much more interested in being a spicy tea fragrance than in being a cologne. Vive la difference!
If there is any part of Philtre Ceylan that feels cologne-like it is the opening where bergamot and cardamom are first to impress. No sooner do you get a handle on that than M. Epinette twists the screw by inserting a fresh spearmint. It blows up that opening completely. What reassembles starts with a rich strong tea accord equal parts black tea and green tea. Again M. Epinette adds in a note to impose itself upon that accord as a powdery iris forms a veil over the tea. It comes together surprisingly well. The cumin shows up in the base and in Philtre Ceylan it sticks around for a long time. It forms a foundation for the heart accord adding particular contrast to the iris. The light woodiness of gaiac and the similarly weighted green of papyrus round out Philtre Ceylan. Philtre Ceylan has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
There has been no shortage of darker versions of cologne in the Atelier Cologne collection. Tobacco Nuit and Philtre Ceylan provide the deepest nights yet all through the use of cumin.
Disclosure: This review was based on press samples provided by Atelier Cologne.
Atelier Cologne is one of my favorite brands because they continue to test the boundaries of what can be accomplished with a cologne architecture. For this latest five fragrance collection the creative directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel have looked Eastward for inspiration to result in the Collection Orient. This is almost a natural as the ingredients those of us in the West associate with the East lend themselves to a cologne-type fragrance. I will review the entire collection over the next three days. Today I begin with Encens Jinhae and Mimosa Indigo.
Encens Jinhae is by perfumer Jerome Epinette. It combines incense and cherry blossom. The Jinhae in the name refers to the South Korean town where the most famous Korean celebration of the cherry blossom takes place. I have always associated both of these ingredients with Japan. Growing up in S. Florida there was this small Japanese Garden on one of the causeways linking Miami to Miami Beach. Whenever I visited as a child there was a cone of incense burning. Miami was too warm for cherry trees. For that it is my current home in Washington DC which provides me the spectacle of the cherry blossoms every spring. Encens Jinhae melds both of these memories into one.
M. Epinette opens Encens Jinhae with pink pepper and nutmeg. This is one of the rare occasions where the top accord has not appealed to me. I felt like the nutmeg and the pink pepper never found an equilibrium making it feel more discordant than I would have preferred. Thankfully all of that moves away as the heart of incense and cherry blossom blooms. Cherry blossom is a tough floral to work with because it carries a very slight scent profile. M. Epinette uses rose to add some of the depth nature left out. Because of that fragility the use of the incense also has to be carefully modulated. If I thought the top accord was off-kilter the heart accord is almost perfectly balanced. Since that is where most of my time wearing Encen Jinhae was spent it made me smile a lot. The base is a combination of sandalwood, elemi and a patchouli fraction. This provides an opaque woody foundation. Encens Jinhae has 12 to 14-hour longevity and average sillage.
Mimosa Indigo is also composed by M. Epinette. Encens Jinhae felt like a fairly straightforward paean to the Orient; Mimosa Indigo is a very conscious melding of East and West. M. Epinette works towards a heart of mimosa and leather. It leaves Mimosa Indigo as something straddling two worlds.
Mimosa Indigo’s East-West divide is illustrated by mandarin and saffron in the top notes. The mandarin provides the juicy citrus to the exotic nature of the saffron. I wouldn’t have expected these two to go together as well as they do. I was sort of sorry to see them move out of the way for the heart notes. The mimosa is beautifully realized. M. Epinette also chose to use lilac to up the floralcy because his white leather accord has some oomph to it. This leather accord is not so refined to be described a suede nor is it so animalic to be thought of as raw. It falls closer to suede than unrefined but this is no ultra-refined version of leather. This is why the lilac is necessary otherwise this would just be a heart of leather. The final mix of the mimosa and the leather is fascinating. The base is again sandalwood but made sweeter with some vanilla over a few sheer musks. Mimosa Indigo has 16 to 18-hour longevity and average sillage.
In both of these Orient Collection releases it is the floral heart accord which make them stand out.
I’ll review the remaining three entries over the next two days.
Disclosure; This review was based on press samples provided by Atelier Cologne.