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May 23, 2011:
Most people who think and write about perfume have a habit of anthropomorphizing a good many of their fragrances—and while most of the ones I assign real-life qualities to are female, there are a few good men in my collection, too. Not surprisingly, they are usually the fragrances specifically targeted to the male audience—Pascal Morabito Or Black, Caron Yatagan, Amouage Dia Pour Homme and Oscar de la Renta for Men being among my favorites—though a few unisex fragrances share this assignation too: Serge Lutens Chêne will always be Peter O’Toole to me, and even when that luminous old actor is dead and gone, I will continue to have a crush on him and Chêne will be the scent for me that keeps his memory alive.
Which takes me to my next point. When I’m wearing a fragrance that reminds me of a beautiful woman, it makes me feel like I’m inhabiting that woman’s skin, wrapping myself up in her aura and pretending that I’m her. But when I’m wearing a fragrance that I’ve anthropomorphized as male, it’s a different feeling entirely. I don’t feel like I’m taking on the male attributes of the fragrance; I feel like I’m actually with the particular male of my fantasy. I know I’m not alone in this regard—Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels recently did a review of Juliette Has a Gun Calamity J, a unisex fragrance that has become her personal Marlboro Man, her secret fling with a rough-and-tumble cowboy. I have a hunch this type of fantasy is the reason so many women, no matter how much perfume they have, end up stealing their partner’s scents. (Does it work the other way around, I wonder? My guess is no, but I’d love to be proven wrong, because how sexy would that be?)
Up until now, the men’s scent I've worn the most has been Morabito Or Black: no small wonder when you consider that it reminds me of Johnny Depp turned loose on a motorcycle somewhere in Spain. But for the past month, Or Black has taken a back seat to Frapin 1697—and here I must reference Birgit again, because her review is what drove me to lay out a cool amount of cash for a decant of this limited-edition “absolu parfum” created for the august French house (known foremost for its distillation of fine cognacs in the southwest of France—where its vineyards have stood since 1270—and to a lesser degree its fine perfumes). 1697 is the seventh perfume in the Frapin line, of which only 1697 numbered bottles were produced, its exclusivity serving to underscore the event for which it serves as commemoration: the year that Louis XIV ennobled the French distiller. Created by perfumer extraordinaire Bertrand Duchaufour, 1697 is a strikingly unique amber perfume that celebrates the complex bouquet of aromas that make up cognac.
Which, let me tell you, is a strikingly different brew from Morabito Or Black.
As such, you could say that in recent days I’ve traded in the sultry swarthiness of motorcycle leather, highway dust and Fino sherry for the scent of man in a tropical wool suit, elegant leather shoes and manners that match the rare spirit of the brandy he is offering me from the snifter balanced in his long fingers.
In other words, come! Meet my new lover. To you, he goes by the name of Frapin 1697, is the suavest of ambers, and when you take in his essence, you’ll swear you can smell, if not every one of his fragrance notes, then a good majority of them: cabreuva, davana, Jamaican rum, cistus, pink pepper, jasmine sambac, hawthorn, ylang-ylang, clove, cinnamon, dried fruit, rose, ambergris, tonka bean, myrrh, patchouli, cedar, white musks, and vanilla.
At first whiff, he is that burst of warm intoxication that travels, in ten seconds flat, from your brain to your loins: the sweet sting and engulfing warmth of high-proof alcohol; the equivalent of that whoosh you feel when you look across a room and lock eyes with a gorgeous stranger; the very scent itself of that first sip of cognac. In moments, though, as if to spare you from embarrassment, this lover known as Frapin 1697, but which I call by another sexy French name, will smile sweetly and reveal the manners he learned at the English boarding school he attended—manners that smell like the dark, winey fruits of a good English pudding; the slightly dry and herbal smell of the Cers wind when it stirs the fields and the chalky soil of his home in southern France; the politely spicy smell of his bay-rum aftershave; and the sexy sweetness of vanilla.
But let us not forget his attire—the supple scent of expensive leather shoes, the delicately camphorous aroma of the suit that is well-kept and, at the same time, well-aired, whispering of worldly travels as much as of well-paneled walls.
Spending time with Frapin 1697 is so much different than spending time with other lovers. Whereas I know exactly what I’m getting when I spend time with Morabito Or Black (a dark and swarthy adventurer who throws every sense of caution to the wind) or with my masculine version of Oscar de la Renta (a sporty, alpine daredevil who likes the chase as long as he’s on familiar turf), Frapin 1697 offers up that true rarity of the masculine world: a sense of discretion and quiet mystery. In fact, this is the hardest thing for me to describe about the fragrance, for as disarmingly handsome as it is—its physical presence so full—full enough for me to hallucinate that a tall man with dark wavy hair, a sensual mouth and European-tailored clothes is walking down the street with me—it has the good sense not to put its whole self out there. There is something controlled and private and reined in about it; the sort of something I appreciate in terms of people and fragrances, both.
A noble spirit, they call it. Small wonder it comes at a price.
Frapin 1697 is every bit as ethereal as it is warm and corporeal, and I fell for it the way one falls for such dreamy fantasies: hard, earthbound and fast.
Frapin 1697 Absolu Parfum, a limited-edition fragrance, can be purchased at LuckyScent.com: $225 for 50 ml. I purchased my decant from ThePerfumedCourt.com.
Image credits: photo of cognac snifter is from TimothyBarber.net.
Frapin 1697 Absolu Parfum: Distillation of My Dream Lover
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