The worst part of any long road trip is listening to the GPS tell you that you are almost there. You’ve done all the driving and you are close to being where you want to be. Then you hear that neutral voice tell you 45 minutes until your destination. New perfume brands also must travel a similar path. As a reviewer I have a good feeling about the early work of some new brands. I like what they seem to stand for while feeling they aren’t quite there. The owners don’t hear my voice but I’m thinking you’re one perfume away. Chris Collins African Rooibos has reached its destination.
Chris Collins will be known to many of you as one of the models who became a face for Ralph Lauren fashion. Mr. Collins would pick up a knowledge of how to market luxury through his association. He also was interested in fragrance. One trip to Paris he decided to go visit Grasse and see what he could learn. The result of that was his first collection of three perfumes in 2018 dubbed the Harlem Renaissance Collection. All three were good. They also showed an aesthetic of opulent luxury. After trying that initial sample set, I thought this was a fragrance line to pay attention to. He would return a year later with a four-perfume collection called Dark Romance. These were all at extrait strength and that didn’t do them any favors. They didn’t shimmer on the skin they kind of diffused into a pleasant-smelling close wearing perfume. The dedication to high quality was still evident it just needed to be dialed back some. When I received my sample of African Rooibos, I knew form the first sniff this was the culmination of the last three years of learning.
Mr. Collins has worked with some of the best perfumers, for this he collaborates with Sidonie Lancesseur. Together they create a perfume which evokes the Fynbos region of South Africa where rooibos is grown for use in herbal teas. The name translates to “fine bush” and the plant from which the tea leaves are harvested is part of the broom family. What they create is a fragrance of the bush country of South Africa.
It begins with a cool citrusy breeze of cardamom winding its way through the landscape. It picks up the dry ground though the kick of black pepper. As the breeze curls around a rooibos bush it also finds some orris there. The rooibos has a slightly smoky toasty scent profile. The orris first adds a sprinkle of powder before the carrot-like quality finds a vegetal sweetness to the rooibos leaves. Immortelle comes next in all its rugged floral maple syrupy presence. It meshes with the heart accord beautifully creating something even more engaging. Tonka bean amplifies the smokiness in a gentle way through the coumarin inherent within. Clean slightly green cedar provides a frame for it all.
African Rooibos has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
This was the perfume I expected Mr. Collins was eventually going to make. It pulls together all that he wants his eponymous brand to stand for. African Rooibos has completed that trip.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample supplied by Bergdorf Goodman.