Especially with perfume brands I know well I have expectations. Fair or unfair my favorites have an extra criterion to live up to. I’ve always realized that, but it was brought front and center with Atelier Cologne Love Osmanthus.
Those who have followed me over the years know I think of Atelier Cologne as one of those brands which are “mine”. It Is because we both started doing our respective things at the same time. Back when Atelier Cologne was just a stand in a section of the Bergdorf Goodman a little over ten years ago to the huge worldwide brand they’ve become. They have been my favorite example on the difference between mainstream and niche perfumes. When they started being offered in Sephora it was my stock answer to send readers in to give them a try and see if they detected the difference. Most of them did. This fragrance form of cologne absolue pioneered by founders Sylvie and Christophe Cervasel has been influential in ways big and small. Love Osmanthus is the forty-second release. Here is where things became difficult for me.
Christophe and Sylvie Cervasel
Another thing longtime readers know is I adore osmanthus. So to say I was psyched for an Atelier Cologne osmanthus was obvious. Except when I received the bottle this wasn’t an osmanthus fragrance. It is listed as an ingredient, but I’ve spent weeks in search of it. It is not there. Although I have other favorites the combination of wood and citrus is maybe the signature of Atelier Cologne. That is what Love Osmanthus is. What it isn’t is the best of that style within the brand. On my Atelier Cologne shelf there are many of these types of perfumes and I wear them all. It is just with forty-two Atelier Cologne choices Love Osmanthus is not my favorite. There is my conundrum. It is where I am taking my disappointment in no osmanthus being present along with it being a different iteration of woody citrus. Those are the extra criterion I was mentioning.
Then I had to ask myself is it fair? If this was the first Atelier Cologne I had encountered would I have thought it was good? Despite the name being misleading taken against the rest of the world and not the high bar within the brand is it good? Faced with my own bias I think the answer is yes.
Love Osmanthus is extremely simple a bitingly bright lemon over clean, slightly green, woods of cedar. There is this fleeting creamy floral which is buried deep. It doesn’t smell like any osmanthus I’ve encountered. If I was identifying it, I would call it magnolia because that is creamy and woody. The balance is ideal, and the lemon and cedar go all day.
Love Osmanthus has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
The bottom line is Love Oemanthus is another very good citrus woody from a brand which excels at them. If you focus on what it is and not on what it is not, I think you’ll like it.
Disclosure: This review is based on a sample provided by Sephora.
In 2010 I had an appointment on the beauty level at Bergdorf-Goodman. I was there to meet one of the creative directors behind a new brand of perfume. I was very early in this idea of being a writer about perfume; I was a bit nervous. Sylvie Ganter stood next to the pedestal with her debut collection of five. She welcomed me with a smile then introduced me to Atelier Cologne. She also had one of the perfumers who had done three of the five; Jerome Epinette. He was there to answer my geeky questions about how you make a cologne last. In 2010 when you put cologne on a bottle of fragrance that was synonymous with cheap and diluted. If this brand was going to survive, they had to overcome that perception. Their answer was to create a form they called “cologne absolue”. The simplest way to make a cologne last is to up the oil concentration. That is a simplistic formula but if done without thought you get a fragrance that is sunny ingredients bogged down in its own strength. It might last a long time, but you wouldn’t want to put up with it. The brilliance of the way Atelier Cologne re-imagined cologne for the 21st century was they never lost sight of what made cologne a specific kind of perfume. They just found a way to make it better.
Christophe Cervasel and Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel
2019 begins the tenth year of the brand. They have not just survived they are one of the great success stories in perfumery over that period. Mme Ganter would marry her business partner, and co-creative director, Christophe Cervasel to become Mme Ganter-Cervasel. The brand would become one of the few to take the niche sensibility out to the mall. I’ve lost count at the number of people I’ve sent to try Atelier Cologne to learn of the difference between mainstream and niche. The brand has been the first step to a new perfumed world for many because of that availability. Throughout everything the vision of what “cologne absolue” is, and could be, was never lost. M. Epinette has designed 28 of the 39 perfumes released. He has been as influential at defining the brand as the creative directors. It is why as Atelier Cologne begins its tenth year the perfume which kicks it off is a return to its roots; Pacific Lime.
If you ask someone to describe a cologne to you it is likely they will reply “citrus-y” just before they complain about it not lasting. For perfume 39 the brand focuses on a citrus fruit they have not designed a perfume around previously, lime. M. Epinette has refined both his concepts of cologne and minimalist construction immensely over the ensuing years. Pacific Lime is proof of that.
There are five listed ingredients; lime, lemon, coconut, spearmint, and eucalyptus. Three of the five are traditional cologne components. Coconut and eucalyptus are not. The way both of those are used within Pacific Lime is what gives it that Atelier Cologne signature.
If you’ve ever spent time slicing fresh limes prior to a party, or if you work as a bartender, the first few minutes of Pacific Lime will remind you of that. Piercing the skin of the lime while the juice of the pulp and the citric acid of the skin scent the air. The sticky juice coating your hands. That’s what Pacific Lime smells like out of the bottle. Then if you read that ingredient list above and started thinking baker’s coconut or pina colada that is not what’s here. The coconut is reminiscent of the fresh white meat of the coconut after you’ve drained off the water. Growing up in Florida I husked many coconuts and used my penknife to scoop out the white part. This is not overly sweet it carries a kind of muskiness not unlike a synthetic white musk. For all I know M. Epinette might have made a coconut accord using that. The way the coconut combines with the incredible freshness of the lime is spectacular. It then finishes with twin prongs of mentholated goodness. The spearmint provides a lighter piece of that effect. The eucalyptus is what makes the final stages of Pacific Lime something special. It carries an expansiveness through the menthol inherent within the eucalyptus forming an energetic glow surrounded by lime.
Pacific Lime has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
This is one of the best citrus colognes Atelier Cologne has produced in their entire line. It continues to show that even when you come full circle there are still new things to say.
Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle provided by Atelier Cologne.
If there has been one thing I have done the most over the time I’ve been running Colognoisseur it has been to recommend Atelier Cologne. One of the difficult things for me is to receive an e-mail from a reader letting me know they want to give this niche perfume world a try but they live outside of the major US cities. Most consumers want to know if they are going to pay more that they personally can tell, and appreciate, the difference between mainstream and niche. My answer has been, more often than not, to head to their local mall; go to Sephora, and get a sample of Atelier Cologne. Most of the time I receive a follow-up from those who do see the difference. There are some who have replied that they like what they smelled but it was “too strong”. Even when I show visitors niche perfumes that is a common refrain, as well.
What that means is a perfume brand needs a fragrance which acts as a welcome mat to allow a consumer to take a smaller step from the mainstream into a different style of perfumery. I think the most recent release from Atelier Cologne called Clementine California will be that perfume for the brand. One of the reasons I think this will become important is if the recent acquisition by L’Oreal comes with a plan to expand the availability even more; Clementine California can become the brand ambassador.
Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel
Clementine California is still the Cologne Absolue for which the brand started by Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel pioneered. Jerome Epinette is once again the perfumer. Clementine California is a sparkling citrus cologne. All of this is part of the brand DNA. What is different is this is, seemingly by design, the most easygoing Atelier Cologne ever.
To achieve this affability M. Epinette uses a very traditional cologne spine of citrus, spice, and woods. Only in a few places is there a different twist to that classic cologne recipe which is what makes it a small step towards niche.
The opening is a sun-drenched citrus mix of clementine and mandarin. Then M. Epinette tints it green with juniper. This is the technique he will use throughout by adding a green facet to each accord. In the heart star anise and Szechuan pepper provide the spice component which is turned greener by basil. The base is sandalwood and cypress providing a woody alternative to the more commonly used cedar. M. Epinette adds vetiver for the last bit of green.
Clementine California has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
From the very first moment I smelled Clementine California I believed this is the cologne which can put its arm around your shoulder while you step over the threshold into a different fragrance world. I am looking forward to recommending this to the next person to send me an e-mail.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Atelier Cologne.
I have mentioned how I believe Atelier Cologne has done one of the best jobs at building a brand of any of their contemporaries. I have also believed a key part of that was the use of only two perfumers on nearly all of the previous thirty releases. Perfumers Jerome Epinette and Ralf Schwieger have provided the olfactory DNA which has define Atelier Cologne. Particularly over the last year I began to wonder if there was room for a new collaborator who could also add a different genetic makeup to this brand.
When I received my five press samples of Collection Orient I have become so used to the styles of M. Epinette and Hr. Schwieger that I felt like four out of the five felt like M. Epinette’s work. When I sent off the e-mail to Atelier Cologne to get confirmation I asked if the fifth perfume, Poivre Electrique, was maybe a new perfumer. When I received my response I was delighted to find out it was Bruno Jovanovic.
Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel
M. Jovanovic was the one perfumer outside of Atelier Cologne who I admired for also working on modernizing the cologne architecture. In 2012-2013 he made five fragrances which showed his version of contemporary cologne. The three releases he did for Thirdman, A Lab on Fire Almost Transparent Blue, and Dries van Noten for Frederic Malle. If there was a signature to his style of cologne it came in the more transparent use of woody notes in the base accord. The five fragrances I named above sit in the same space as all of my Atelier Cologne bottles because that is where I feel the future of cologne exists. I don’t know the story behind M. Jovanovic being brought in to the Atelier Cologne Perfume fold. I can say that I am delighted that creative directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel reached out to him.
For M. Jovanovic’s first brief he was tasked with using black pepper as a keynote in Poivre Electrique. Black pepper has been a fantastic note in perfume when used correctly. It has been an overbearing presence when used inappropriately. There are more examples of the latter. M. Jovanovic I believe recognized this. He uses black pepper as the replacement for the traditional herbal component of the cologne top accord. It is a beautiful beginning to what turns in to a spectacular new cologne.
Poivre Electrique opens with the black pepper front and center. It holds all of my initial attention until bitter orange eventually adds in the citrus piece of the cologne design. M. Jovanovic keeps this pepper set at a steady burn without crossing over into searing. The pepper continues as the heart notes begin to become more apparent. Rose and incense make up the duet along with pimento carrying on with the fading pepper in adjacent to it. In a set of perfumes dubbed as from the Orient this is the one phase where I felt like I was in a Pasha’s Palace. Myrrh warms the incense. Then M. Jovanovic provides his signature as sandalwood and cedar provide the translucent woody veil over the heart accord.
Poivre Electrique has 16-18 hour longevity and average sillage.
Poivre Electrique is my favorite of the new Collection Orient. I admire much of the risk taking evident in the other four releases but Poivre Electrique combines that adventurousness with a set of incredibly pleasing accords. I suppose it could just be that The Return of Bruno to making new cologne in a place where it feels like he should always have been, being a match made in Heaven.
Disclosure; This review is based on a press sample provided by Atelier Cologne.
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.
Atelier Cologne is one of my favorite brands because they continue to test the boundaries of what can be accomplished with a cologne architecture. For this latest five fragrance collection the creative directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel have looked Eastward for inspiration to result in the Collection Orient. This is almost a natural as the ingredients those of us in the West associate with the East lend themselves to a cologne-type fragrance. I will review the entire collection over the next three days. Today I begin with Encens Jinhae and Mimosa Indigo.
Encens Jinhae is by perfumer Jerome Epinette. It combines incense and cherry blossom. The Jinhae in the name refers to the South Korean town where the most famous Korean celebration of the cherry blossom takes place. I have always associated both of these ingredients with Japan. Growing up in S. Florida there was this small Japanese Garden on one of the causeways linking Miami to Miami Beach. Whenever I visited as a child there was a cone of incense burning. Miami was too warm for cherry trees. For that it is my current home in Washington DC which provides me the spectacle of the cherry blossoms every spring. Encens Jinhae melds both of these memories into one.
M. Epinette opens Encens Jinhae with pink pepper and nutmeg. This is one of the rare occasions where the top accord has not appealed to me. I felt like the nutmeg and the pink pepper never found an equilibrium making it feel more discordant than I would have preferred. Thankfully all of that moves away as the heart of incense and cherry blossom blooms. Cherry blossom is a tough floral to work with because it carries a very slight scent profile. M. Epinette uses rose to add some of the depth nature left out. Because of that fragility the use of the incense also has to be carefully modulated. If I thought the top accord was off-kilter the heart accord is almost perfectly balanced. Since that is where most of my time wearing Encen Jinhae was spent it made me smile a lot. The base is a combination of sandalwood, elemi and a patchouli fraction. This provides an opaque woody foundation. Encens Jinhae has 12 to 14-hour longevity and average sillage.
Mimosa Indigo is also composed by M. Epinette. Encens Jinhae felt like a fairly straightforward paean to the Orient; Mimosa Indigo is a very conscious melding of East and West. M. Epinette works towards a heart of mimosa and leather. It leaves Mimosa Indigo as something straddling two worlds.
Mimosa Indigo’s East-West divide is illustrated by mandarin and saffron in the top notes. The mandarin provides the juicy citrus to the exotic nature of the saffron. I wouldn’t have expected these two to go together as well as they do. I was sort of sorry to see them move out of the way for the heart notes. The mimosa is beautifully realized. M. Epinette also chose to use lilac to up the floralcy because his white leather accord has some oomph to it. This leather accord is not so refined to be described a suede nor is it so animalic to be thought of as raw. It falls closer to suede than unrefined but this is no ultra-refined version of leather. This is why the lilac is necessary otherwise this would just be a heart of leather. The final mix of the mimosa and the leather is fascinating. The base is again sandalwood but made sweeter with some vanilla over a few sheer musks. Mimosa Indigo has 16 to 18-hour longevity and average sillage.
In both of these Orient Collection releases it is the floral heart accord which make them stand out.
I’ll review the remaining three entries over the next two days.
Disclosure; This review was based on press samples provided by Atelier Cologne.
In a year when I smelled almost 700 new perfumes it is easy to focus on some of the problems which affect the perfume industry. What is nice about this time of year is it allows me to focus on what is outstanding within perfumery. These next four winners are what keep me coming back for more.
Perfume of the Year: Naomi Goodsir Iris Cendre– There is one thing about finding a great perfume for the first time at one of the big expos; it stands out head and shoulders above all that surround it. When I arrived at this fall’s Pitti Fragranze in Florence my very first stop was to see Australian born milliner Naomi Goodsir and her partner in perfume Renaud Coutaudier. I look forward to connecting with this brand because these two have an uncompromising attention to detail in each of their releases. In three years they have only released four perfumes. Every single one of them is among the best for their particular year. I knew there was going to be a transcendent entry sooner than later. On that September day in Florence Iris Cendre turned out to be that fragrance.
For Iris Cendre Mme Goodsir and M. Coutaudier returned to the perfumer they worked with on their first two releases, Julien Rasquinet. Together they created a shimmering green iris which had a sly callback to their earlier collaboration Bois D’Ascese in the base. Iris Cendre is a success on every level I can name. Choosing a Perfume of the Year has never been easier.
Perfumer of the Year: Christophe Laudamiel– This category was the toughest it has ever been for me. There was so much laudable work by many perfumers this year I ended up looking for intangibles to elevate my eventual choice, Christophe Laudamiel. The perfume reasons were the three 2015 releases he composed; Raymond Matts Pashay, Raymond Matts Tulile, and Strangelove NYC meltmyheart. I mentioned in my overview yesterday that there were more unabashedly synthetic perfumes released this year. In the past I have used M. Laudamiel’s work for brands like Humiecki & Graef or Nest as what can be accomplished with a primarily synthetic palette. The three perfumes he worked on for 2015 are even better examples especially the Raymond Matts Pashay. Strangelove NYC meltmyheart shows how he can take a perfectly executed central accord of chocolate, oud, and orris accompanied by a set of synthetics which impart a transparency to create something supernatural.
The intangible that lifted him over the others listed below is his tireless work for The Academy of Perfumery & Aromatics. In that capacity he developed a fantastic children’s introductory set to fragrance. By using different ingredients and tying them to their geographic location and their smells it is an ingenious way of introducing the concept of scent, in an educational way, to the next generation.
A great year of perfume combined with an important ambassadorial role makes Christophe Laudamiel my Perfumer of the Year.
Runner-Ups: Mandy Aftel, Cristiano Canali, Jean-Claude Ellena, Bruno Fazzolari, Rodrigo Flores-Roux, Dawn Spencer Hurwitz, Pierre Negrin, and Geza Schoen.
Creative Director of the Year: Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio– Of the many things I say over and over it is how disappointed I am when a brand plays it safe. While I press for a brand to take risks their bottom line is at stake to please my desire. Any Creative Director who takes too many risks will probably not succeed. My choice for Creative Director of the Year is Celine Verleure of Olfactive Studio who fearlessly released two very different perfumes in 2015, Panorama and Selfie.
Mme Verleure has always been interested in pushing the envelope as a Creative Director and that started with her work on the Kenzo Jungle collection from 1996-1998 which were not hewing to current trends at that time. When she started Olfactive Studio in 2011 she still made memorable riffs on recognizable templates but the early releases were about building an audience. In 2015 she challenged that audience with the fierce greenness of Panorama including a wasabi accord. Followed up by Selfie which took a fractured top accord of contrasting notes and coalesced it around a maple syrup heart. It is a fascinating bit of olfactory architecture I enjoy every time I wear it. These are perfumes which invite scrutiny and that is something I can only say about the very best releases in a year.
For her sense of adventure, I name Celine Verleure my Creative Director of the Year.
Runner-Ups: Karl Bradl (Aedes de Venustas and Nomenclature), Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel (Atelier Cologne), Madalina Stoica-Blanchard and Julien Blanchard (Jul et Mad), Christopher Chong (Amouage), and Marina Sersale and Sebastian Alvarez Murena (Eau D’Italie, ALTAIA).
Brand of the Year: Atelier Cologne– Atelier Cologne has been on an ever expanding trajectory since their founding in 2010. This year represented their most ambitious to date as they released eight new fragrances and an extrait version of one of the bestsellers. Owners and Creative Directors Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel have always impressed me with their clear vision for their brand. By releasing a four fragrance Collection Azur at the beginning of the year meant to be an introduction to the world of Cologne Absolue which was released to various Sephora for that reason. It was followed by four releases spread out through the year that continued the evolution of this style of perfume. Saphir Oud, Pomelo Paradis, Jasmine Angelique, and Musc Imperial displayed the versatility that can be elicited from this concept.
Atelier Cologne is also the genial ambassador to niche for many who don’t live in large cities. I have lost count how many times I have told those who live in these areas to go to their local Sephora and try the Atelier Cologne that are there. I almost invariably get a return e-mail relating to me how they bought one after smelling the difference. I always talk about wanting niche brands to reach out to consumers beyond the big cities. Atelier Cologne has done this with great success.
For those reasons Atelier Cologne is my Brand of the Year.
Runner-Ups: Aftelier Perfumes, DSH Perfumes, Hermes, Jo Malone, and Olfactive Studio.
Part 1 was my broad overview of the year.
Part 3 tomorrow I will reveal my top 25 new perfumes of 2015.
I definitely have my checklist of the great cities of the world I have not been to. Very near the top of my list at the moment is Barcelona. When it comes to travel I have a version of window shopping where I lay out all of the sights I want to see, the restaurants I want to visit and the hotel I want to stay at. No matter how much the first two categories have changed when my imagination goes wandering the hotel I want to stay in has never changed.
The Hotel Majestic was the first luxury hotel in Barcelona opening in 1918. The same family, Soldevila-Casals, has overseen the hotel for nearly one hundred years. It is situated in the Paseo de Gracia near to the Gaudi installations, La Rambla, and the best shopping. When my mind travels where my body hasn’t I try and visualize everything. Of course I imagine what they will smell like too. Starting in the spring of 2015 the Hotel Majestic started wafting a signature scent throughout the premises. It comes from one of my very favorite perfume brands Atelier Cologne and is called Musc Imperial.
The creative team behind Atelier Cologne Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel have actually spent nights in the suites of the Hotel Majestic. When they were commissioned to create a fragrance to capture the spirit of the hotel they had personal experience to draw from. They asked perfumer Jerome Epinette to join them as they built a 5-star hotel out of a cologne absolue architecture.
What M. Epinette produced was the exhilaration of a day on tour in Barcelona. The energy of the morning. The afternoon in the gardens. The evening close together under the stars.
The day opens with a sunbeam of bergamot which is made Spanish by the presence of clary sage providing an herbal green tint. Blackcurrant provides a bit of berry lushness underneath the leaner notes of the bergamot and sage. The heart of Musc Imperial is a marvel of Nouveau Cologne. M Epinette takes a rich refined leather accord. I think of my Hermes messenger bag whenever I get to this part of Musc Imperial. M. Epinette infuses this refined accord with fig and lavender. Lavender is one of the traditional building blocks of cologne. In Musc Imperial M. Epinette allows that to ground the heart in cologne territory but the fig and leather make it richer, more opulent. It becomes a 5-star lavender. The musk shows up in the base as M. Epinette uses the more animalic synthetics. He then uses the botanical musk source of ambrette to round out the synthetics giving them more nuance. A little bit of cedar provides the final bit of foundation in the base.
Musc Imperial has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Atelier Cologne is a brand from which I like many but there are a few which have attained their own exalted tier amongst the collection. Musc Imperial was one of those which grabbed me from the moment I smelled it on a strip. It is one of the very best offerings Atelier Cologne has. As of September 2015 the exclusivity of Musc Imperial will be expanded to a wider audience as it becomes available at stockists outside of the Hotel Majestic and Atelier Cologne boutiques. For me as I imagine my eventual trip to Barcelona I now have the ability to have the reality of what I will smell when I enter the Hotel Majestic for real.
Disclosure: This review was based on a press sample from Atelier Cologne.
I grew up on the James Bond films. I’m pretty sure there was a time in my adolescence I believed I could be James Bond. Throughout the 1960’s there was only one James Bond, Sean Connery. Mr. Connery did the first five 007 movies. Then he quit for 1969’s “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service” only to return to do 1971’s “Diamonds are Forever”. After that movie was released he said emphatically that he would never play James Bond again. Until he did in 1983’s “Never Say Never Again”. One should always be careful about using the word never especially when speaking to people who will record those things. Certainly Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel co-owner and creative director at Atelier Cologne probably regrets the time she told me there would “never” be an oud perfume at Atelier Cologne.
Sylvie Ganter-Cervasel and Christophe Cervasel
That assertion was made in the very earliest days of Atelier Cologne’s existence. One of the things I’ve admired about Mme Ganter-Cervasel and her partner in life, and business, Christophe Cervasel is the consistently evolving vision which has become a brand characteristic. Two years ago one of those evolutions was the creation of the Collection Metal. The idea was to work with rare materials and again re-define what it means to call something a “cologne”. It is only natural that an oud perfume fits in with this definition. The newest release is just that, Oud Saphir. If the brand has been ever-creating itself one thing which has remained a constant are the perfumers who create for Mme Ganter-Cervasel. Ever since the original five releases they have only used two. For this “never” perfumer Jerome Epinette signs his 15th perfume in the Atelier Cologne collection.
Oud Saphir opens with the slightly twilight kind of citrus opening which has become a hallmark of the Collection Metal. In this case bergamot is given depth with ambrette and bite with pink pepper. It is shaded beautifully by M. Epinette as it sets you up for a deeper cologne experience than normal. Jasmine cut with the metallic green of violet leaves come next and they are placed on a plush leather accord. M.Epinette uses one of the most transparent leather accords I regularly experience and in Oud Saphir it is just the right amount of heft to support and not overwhelm the jasmine. This transitions into a base where M. Epinette wisely chooses to use an oud accord instead of the real thing. Honestly this is more the norm than not. In the case of trying to form a cologne around oud too much of the real stuff would have trampled this construction underfoot. By using an accord M. Epinette was able to again find the appropriate shading of oud to match the volume of the rest of the development. A bit of birch wood provides some of the more characteristic rough edges of oud without being oud. It all finishes with a light flight of vanilla over all of it.
Oud Saphir has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
As I wore Oud Saphir I started to realize it had some connection to my James Bond analogy. Oud Saphir is the most formal of the Atelier Cologne creations to date. When I’m looking at the perfume vault for something to wear underneath my tux during gala season I never even think about one of the Atelier Colognes. Oud Saphir has now filled this gap as I can definitely see myself wearing this under my formal wear, sipping a martini as I scan the crowd for enemy agents. I am very pleased that “never” has turned into Oud Saphir it is everything Atelier Cologne stands for.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Atelier Cologne.
Continuing my reviews of the new Atelier Cologne Collection Azur I take a look at Cedre Atlas and Figuier Ardent. One of these has become one of my favorites in the entire line.
Cedre Atlas is composed by perfumer Jerome Epinette and it is going to be a personal litmus test on how much you like cedar. M. Epinette uses an overdose of cedar in the heart of Cedre Atlas making me feel like I was standing in a lumber mill slicing up cedar planks. Before I got to that heart a fleeting application of citrus flies by as quick as a matador’s cape evading the onrushing wooded bull. The note list claims lemon and blackcurrant but all I really detect is lemon and it is in a hurry to get out of the way. In what seems like seconds the cedar lands with an all-encompassing thud. The first time I wore this it was too much. Cedar has a distinctive profile most often described as pencil shavings. This felt like being trapped in a pencil sharpener. It was aggressive and borderline irritating. After about four hours I started noticing there was this beautiful fruity floral woody fragrance coming from the places where the cedar had previously been pushing me away from. That accord would further improve as vetiver and papyrus added a watery green tint to the final stages. The last few hours of Cedre Atlas were a real joy to wear. The first couple of hours taught me how much I like cedar; not as much as I thought. Cedre Atlas has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Figuier Ardent is composed by perfumer Ralf Schwieger and is one of the best fig perfumes of the last five years. Fig is one of those ingredients which has been interpreted in so many ways and I wasn’t expecting to find Hr. Schwieger’s version to be so compelling. He focuses on a green fig hanging on the tree not yet ripe enough to be picked. He places that fig in the center of a sirocco of spices chosen to enhance the central note. Bergamot and anise form the early moments of Figuier Ardent. Within an hour a fig leaf note carrying vegetal facets announces the arrival of the fig itself. This is a fig which is greener and a lot less pulpy than the riper version many perfumers tend to prefer. Cardamom is used to enhance the un-ripened nature of the fig as it complements the green. Black pepper is used as contrast to the almost salty character this young fig has. Then like a time lapse photo as Figuier Ardent moves into the base the green fig ripens into a mature fig. Hr. Schwieger uses iris and tonka bean as ripening agents. They transform the immature into the experienced over the course of hours. It is a fabulous olfactory illusion and it all finishes on a very lightly woody cedar foundation. Every day I have worn Figuier Aredent I have been more and more impressed at the effect Hr. Schwieger has accomplished here. This is a great fig perfume. Figuier Ardent has 12-14 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
As I said in Part 1 yesterday the whole Collection Azur feels like the culmination of five years of experience by the Creative Directors/Owners Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel. They have applied that knowledge and are still taking Atelier Cologne in new directions. Figuier Ardent is proof that those journeys can end in paradise.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Atelier Cologne.