As I mentioned a couple months ago, I was surprised to find I own bottles of every perfume made by Frapin. What it says to me is that creative director David Frossard has created a brand aesthetic which seems to also be my aesthetic. Part of it is they don’t release a new perfume every year. Although occasionally there is a year when I get two new ones to try. 2021 is one of those years as Frapin Checkmate is the second fragrance from the brand this year.
Mr. Brossard returns to perfumer Anne-Sophie Behaghel as his collaborator. They also did the earlier release this year Bois Blanc. For Checkmate they are working from a brief of a father-son chess game in an outdoor pavilion among the family garden. The idea is to capture the world that surrounds the mental competition taking place at the center. It is one of the joys of playing chess outdoors instead of in a dreary conference room. There is a reminder that the world is not confined to an 8X8 board. In the vicinity of this battle Checkmate finds the world as fascinating as the game.
It begins with a citrus breeze of lemon given lift through cardamom. This combination has an airiness I find particularly enjoyable whenever I find it. The flowers of the garden, mainly heliotrope with some iris supporting it add a powdery gloss to the citrus accord. Now we get down to the game cedar provides the playing surface. A suede leather accord made me think of a bag containing the pieces. As the perfume develops it becomes woodier. As if your focus leaves all the other things behind to concentrate on the board.
Checkmate has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
On the few occasions I’ve played chess in a park I’ve found it impossible to keep my mind on the game. I can’t focus solely on moving my pieces. The world is so much larger. Checkmate provides the same message.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
There is a new trend within the beauty sector to create eco-conscious products. Fragrance has not escaped this. Over the last three years there have been multiple new brands touting their green-ness and I’m not talking about the perfume. I understand the consumer’s desire to want to purchase in a more ecologically aware way. The one thing I haven’t quite figured out is why the perfume inside the bottles must be so simple, to a fault.
Obvious Parfums is the latest to take on this mindset. Founded by David Frossard who has been behind a few of my favorite brands. He asked two perfumers in Anne-Sophie Behaghel and Amelie Bourgeois to make the contents of his eco-conscious containers. I awaited my discovery set hoping this would be the brand to break away from the equation that green equals simple.
There are seven Obvious Parfums in this debut collection. They all have the name of the keynote on their label. Six of them fall into that simplicity I am not finding interesting. Une Vanille is a slug of vanilla and some musks. Une Rose a rich Bulgarian variety but little else. Un Bois is some woods and a lot of ambroxan. Which made me wonder whether a synthetic like ambroxan is eco-friendly. You’ll notice I haven’t said the entire collection is like this. The seventh, Obvious Un Poivre is delightfully different and lays out a blueprint for the future of this brand if they are willing to follow it.
What sets it apart from its shelf mates is there is a real development to it leaving behind the desire to be a solitary note. The perfumers open with a nose tickling amount of black pepper. I know this is a divisive ingredient, but I enjoy it when used well. The perfumers balance it out with caraway and baie rose. It keeps the pepper from being too raw. The caraway adds its unique freshness while the baie rose smooths out much of the spikiness. Violet comes next along with more spices of cinnamon and ginger. The violet is that sharply earthy version. The spices add to the mélange already in progress. The base is a gorgeous slightly smoky Haitian vetiver and a hint of the lemon-tinted amyris wood.
Un Poivre has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
I am being hard on the simplicity of the other six. If you like the ingredient listed on the bottle and desire to be eco-conscious in your fragrance purchases, these are better than many of the others trying the same thing. Un Poivre is so different from the other Obvious Parfums I hope it is what consumers are drawn to. That’s because this is the type of eco-perfume I would like to see more of.
Disclosure: this review is based on a discovery set I purchased.
When I get asked the silly question about if you could only have one perfume or one brand, I have an answer that surprises. I have mentioned over and over that Frapin Caravelle Epicee is my answer to the one perfume question. It has never failed to do everything I can ask for a perfume. It wasn’t until last year upon the release of R.K. that I realized I own bottles of every perfume produced by the brand. Not only that but those bottles are at lower levels of many others. I have now become cognizant when I am conflicted about what to wear on a day my eye always looks at the shelf of Frapin bottles. Which is why the arrival of Frapin Bois Blanc put a smile on my face.
I think I need to give more credit to creative director David Frossard than I have in the past. I’ve been looking back over the fifteen perfume they’ve release since 2006. What I found was a creative director who knows how to communicate a brand aesthetic to some of my favorite perfumers. For Bois Blanc he renews his partnership with perfumer Anne-Sophie Behaghel. This is the third perfume she has done for the brand after Nevermore and R.K.
I am noticing a resurgence in the category of rugged woody perfumes on my desk lately. This is a style which offers a lot of flexibility to a clever creative team because the perfumer’s palette is loaded with choices. Mme Behaghel puts some of those familiar woody ingredients in different places.
The opening accord is a citrus and herb mixture. Orange is greened through rosemary and eucalyptus. The entire thing becomes turbocharged through ginger. Then in what I expected to become a flaw ambroxan began to arise. That ingredient too often becomes an impenetrable monolith Mme Behaghel uses it as a spine for this, without it becoming overbearing. As it inserts itself into the top accord the dry woodiness of it fits ideally. The heart forms around a rich cedar given texture through sage and violet leaf. There is a green freshness to good cedar. The complementary ingredients pull that out as the ambroxan provides a foundation for it. In the base another problematic ingredient cade wood holds prominence. Just as with the ambroxan Mme Behaghel uses just the right amount to display its smoky charms. This is again with just the right amount so that quality does not become annoying. A lighter guaiac wood completes the trunk of this perfume tree.
Bois Blanc has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
Bois Blanc is the kind of woody perfume which finds its uniqueness in the precision of its design. By the time it is complete it is a towering example of the form.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
I am not one who says prayers. Yet there is a piece of poetry which has spoken to me from the time I first read it as a teenager; “If” by Rudyard Kipling. It is a poem of couplets each of which are meant to inspire a boy to be a man. My favorite is “If you can dream-and not make dreams your master; If you can think- but not make thoughts your aim”. This is taped over my computer monitor where I write for this blog. As I said I don’t formally pray but I regularly recite couplets from “If” when life presents situations which fit. My esteem for “If” made me very wary of a perfume attempting to use it as a brief. Despite those misgivings Frapin If by R.K. wants to try.
Those of you who have followed me know that Frapin is one of my very favorite perfume brands. Creative director David Frossard releases new product sporadically. It has been two years since there was last a new Frapin fragrance. I have always found that slower pace of production has produced perfumes which have spoken so strongly to me that it is one of the few brands I own a bottle of everything. If there was a brand I would want to turn my mantra into perfume this would be one of them.
M. Frossard collaborated with perfumer Anne-Sophie Behaghel. They had previously worked together on the only other poetry inspired fragrance in the collection, 2014’s Nevermore. For If by R.K. their vision was to capture the India of Rudyard Kipling by using perhaps its most famous perfume ingredient Mysore sandalwood.
The opening of If by R.K. is a spice-laden affair of ginger, pepper, and cinnamon. Mme Behaghel balances the kinetic heat of these ingredients into something which adds verve without taking over. She figuratively attenuates the spiciness with the creaminess of fig. I have long enjoyed a mixture of spice and fig. The accord here is as good as it gets. Underneath it all is the Mysore sandalwood. There is a quality to this source of the ubiquitous wood which is hard to match. Mme Behaghel wants to not step on the beauty of this. She adds in an earthy patchouli and allows this to form a container for the spicy fig accord from earlier. The final piece is a teasing out of the inherent sweetness of Mysore sandalwood as tonka and vanilla do such a good job it almost turns into a figgy custard gourmand in the later stages.
If by R.K. has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is a gorgeous perfume that I will be wearing throughout the next few months. It is the ideal choice for my favorite scarves. I think it is among the best Frapin has ever produced. Clearly M. Frossard knows both how to dream and think.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample I purchased.
When I am referring to the “sweet science” if you’re reading this blog you might expect that I am talking about perfumery. The phrase actually is more commonly used to describe boxing. After a series of articles in The New Yorker by AJ Liebling with that title, it stuck. Those articles were meant to show that boxing was not about just bludgeoning your opponent. There was distinct strategy involved which would unfold over the course of a fight. If you executed; the path to eventually winning was through strategy as much as strength.
David Frossard the creative director at Frapin is a student of boxing. For the new release The Orchid Man he wanted a perfume to tell the tale of Georges Carpentier who carried that nickname into the ring. M. Carpentier would at the height of his career take on Jack Dempsey in Jersey City on July 2, 1921. This is widely regarded as boxing’s first million dollar gate. M. Carpentier would lose that bout and eventually retire from boxing to run the cocktail bar he opened in Paris.
For The Orchid Man M. Frossard collaborated with perfumer Jerome Epinette to design the fragrance that would capture the sweet science of M. Carpentier’s career. The centerpiece of any fragrance of boxing will obviously be leather but the choices of what surrounds it are very well thought out.
The Orchid Man opens with the bright lights of bergamot. Then M. Epinette begins to throw short spicy jabs of black pepper. Each one tickles the nose as it sets you up for the big punch. M. Carpentier was known for his “frog punch”. It was a straight right hand to the head that he would leap into to add more momentum. The heart of The Orchid Man is that punch made perfume. M. Epinette’s version of a leather accord is the smell of refined and used leather. The unexpected momentum which provides power to the leather is a healthy amount of jasmine. This is a knockout of a heart. Each time I wore it I was surprised at how well designed it was. The base tints all of this a shade darker as the lights are off and patchouli, oakmoss, and amber provide the grounding effect of a boxer on his way out of the ring.
The Orchid Man has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
Frapin continues to come up with unique inspirations for their fragrances. The Orchid Man stands out as one of their best. M. Carpentier may not have brought home the title that July day in 1921. Messrs. Frossard and Epinette have found a way for The Orchid Man to win in a different arena almost one hundred years later.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Frapin.