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.