Roger & Gallet 101- Five to Get You Started

What if I told you there was a perfume brand which had some of the greatest perfumers designing fragrances for them. What if I further told you that brand would also be considered a Discount Diamond as the entire line can be had for $50 or less. You would think that brand would be front and center at the local mall. Instead that brand, Roger & Gallet, can be frustratingly hard to find. It is extensively available at multiple online sellers. If you’re looking for a great value perfume purchase here are five to start with.

Roger & Gallet was founded because they were the exclusive producer for the Eau de Cologne invented by Jean Marie Farina. Now called Jean Maria Farina Extra Vieille it is perfume history in a bottle as the original eau de cologne formula of lemon, neroli and rosemary is faithfully recreated. This is as close as you get to owning the alpha perfume.

Until 1990 Jean Marie Farina Extra Vieille was the only real fragrance the brand produced. There were a couple of attempts in the !970’s and 1980’s but it wasn’t until 1990 when the fragrance arm was really expanded. In 2003 Eau de Gingembre was released by perfumer Jacques Cavallier. This is a natural follow-on to Extra Vieille as it is the cologne structure fused with the gourmand note of gingerbread. When you first smell it the neroli is very cologne-like and then the bake shop where the gingerbread is cooking comes in behind that. Ambrette seeds provide a very light botanical musk to finish it. This is one of those early gourmand experiments which works on every level.

r&g bambou

Bambou was released in 2007 by perfumer Alberto Morillas. It is also another one which builds upon the cologne ancestry of the brand. M. Morillas works a different set of ingredients as grapefruit segues into the green damp woodiness of the bamboo accord before turning more aggressively green with vetiver in the base. Bambou is a fresh woody perfume ideal for warmer days.

My favorite perfumes by perfumer Dominique Ropion are many of his more intense compositions. Which was why I was shocked to find out he was responsible for 2009’s Bois D’Orange. M. Ropion fashions a cheery voluptuous citrus fragrance. It is very reminiscent of the smell of the orange orchard as it captures the fruit the leaves and the trees. A fun perfume from a perfumer who is not necessarily thought of that way.

The most recent release is 2013’s Fleur de Figuier by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian. M. Kurkdjian wanted to also capture the entire fruit tree experience. This time it was fig. One of the reasons I enjoy this perfume so much is he uses caraway instead of bergamot with his citrus in the top notes. I have long thought caraway could be a great substitute for bergamot. In Fleur de Figuier it shows how good it can be as a replacement. This leads to a fig accord of the still-ripening fruit on the tree amidst the leaves. M. Kurkdjian in fact lets the fig leaves dominate for much of the middle part of the development enhancing the green of the unripened fig. This gives way to a creamy woody effect as cedar stands in for the trunk of the tree. I still think this is one of the best perfume bargains out there as it is some of M. Kurkdjian’s best work of the last few years at a very affordable price.

As I mentioned above these fragrances can be difficult to find but when you do these five will make the reward worth the hunt.

Disclosure: I purchased bottles of all the perfumes reviewed.

Mark Behnke

Fourteen Basic Perfumed Plots?

When it comes to fiction there is a thesis which says there are only a finite number of stories. Everything which comes from that is derivative of the original. The problem with this is there is no agreement on how many comprise the baseline. The number varies from three to twenty. Which says to me there is some flaw in the thesis. In perfumery though that might be more accurate than in prose.

What got me thinking about this is a couple of recent reviews, of a chypre and a cologne, elicited two different e-mails on how derivative they were. These are two of the oldest perfume forms there are. How different from 1917’s Chypre de Coty and Jean Marie Farina’s 1709 Eau de Cologne does it have to be? The outlines of chypre and cologne were set by those two perfumes that is why we remember them. The question becomes does everyone after just become a different form of flattering imitation? My correspondents believe that if it comes close enough then they are unworthy of being seen as original. Just as with the concept of a finite number of basic plots I believe it is what a creative team does with these forms which allows them to tell a similar story but not necessarily the same story.


I would say that neither Chypre de Coty or Farina’s cologne would be lauded as the very best chypre or best cologne. In both cases I view them as the alpha with a lot more of the alphabet to come. The pinnacle comes when a creative team looks at these nascent forms and evolves them. The originals are still there within but the fragrance itself is different. That’s the easy case and not what my correspondents were talking about.

In both of these recent cases the question centered around whether changes have more to do with concentration changes on a classic form of chypre and cologne. If you upgrade the raw materials while making it stronger; is that different? I am more inclined to agree with my correspondents on this point. Although in the cases we were discussing I don’t agree with them that is what was going on. I feel the creative teams were going for something different and the similarity is more pronounced but not flat out copying. I absolutely see the counterpoint being offered. I just think these new perfumes did provide something different.

When I look at the classifications in Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World and see the entire perfume concordance broken down into fourteen categories I think perfumery is closer to living up to the thesis that there are fourteen basic olfactory stories. It is up to the creatives to make us forget that.

Mark Behnke