Have you ever been kissed by a booze-drenched rose?
Neither have I. But I have drunk old rum, Armagnac and cognac from lips that weren’t my own and Frapin’s new elixir conjures that sensation: a woody spicy ambery burn made more burning still by body heat.
Great spirits, like fine wines, can produce accords as harmonious and complex as those of the best perfumes. It isn’t entirely illogical then that a house that has been producing cognac for twenty generations should branch out into perfumes: both are the quintessence of the French art de vivre, and both yield a share to the angels, the famous part des anges that escapes into the air as wines and spirits age…
“La Part des Anges” having been co-opted by Thierry Mugler for a patented maceration process in wooden casks, Frapin turned to the next best thing. Their seventh opus was announced last summer as Les Ailes du Désir, “the wings of desire”, which was also the French title of Wim Wenders’ 1987 Der Himmel über Berlin (“The Sky over Berlin”). The story of an angel who chooses to become human in order to experience the pains and pleasures of life on earth seemed particularly suited – because of their volatile, combustible essence, distilled spirits and perfumes also hover between the spiritual and the carnal… Of course, before the Wenders movie, those “wings of desire” were not the attribute of angels but of the winged phallus used in fertility rites and commonly associated with the cult of the Greek god of wine and ecstasy: Dionysus.
Unfortunately, Frapin’s David Frossard hit a snag when Wim Wenders’ company took legal action to prevent the use of the title. The launch, initially slated for September, was delayed but as no quick solution was forthcoming, the name 1697 -- the year in which the Frapin family was ennobled by Louis XIV – was chosen as an alternative.
Up to then, the perfume had been off to an auspicious start. In 2009, David Frossard had been introduced to Bertrand Duchaufour by Pamela Roberts, L’Artisan Parfumeur’s former creative director, whom Frossard knew well from his four years as the export director of the brand. Duchaufour loved Frapin and was open to the idea of working with them. Knowing better than to fetter the perfumer with a restrictive brief, Frossard simply asked for a glamorous yet erotic fragrance…
The result nods towards two older Duchaufour compositions which also happen to be two particular favorites of Frossard’s, Patchouli Patch and Bois d’Ombrie (the latter already featured a cognac note); it picks up where Al Oudh and Havana Vanille/Vanille Absolument left off.
Vanilla is of course a prominent aroma in spirits aged in oak casks, since vanillin can be derived from oak, which also imparts leather and clove notes. Both Havana Vanille and 1697 feature it, but where the L’Artisan stretched out the facets of the vanilla pod until it started morphing into a cigar, the Frapin builds a space from which a vivid idea of fine spirit can emerge. The various accords (wood, amber, balsam, spice, leather, tobacco, dried fruit) spin around this axis to conjure a booze illusion.
In 1697, Havana Vanille’s hot flash of rum is amped up to conjure the rich burning sensation of a sip of cognac. The dried fruit facets of cabreuva, a wood essence seldom used in perfumery, and davana, one of Duchaufour’s signature notes, bolster the boozy effect. After the volatile rum absolute has evaporated, hot spices – cinnamon and clove – pick up the heat, soaking through the floral heart: with its ylang-ylang, jasmine and rose, at times 1697 could be perceived as a work on spicy flowers, with a phantom carnation spiking the bouquet…
The formula is built from top to bottom around the aromas of cognac or whiskey, with cresylic and tannic facets. The amber/leather effect is produced by cistus essence and cistus absolute, cassie absolute and a touch of isobutyl-quinolin. Patchouli is quite prominent in the blend.
The drydown of 1697 draws it towards balsamic notes, with vanilla, myrrh, tonka bean with its touch of chocolate and a sweetened condensed milk effect, but the mouth-burning booziness remains consistent throughout.
My only qualm may be the 14 per cent concentration, which I feel flattens the development a bit, whereas the 12 per cent concentration which I’d tested last summer in a small preview sample seemed to produce more ample sillage. As it is, though, it’s gorgeous stuff: a riff on the feel of cognac rather than a literal rendition, but just as head-turning as the drinkable Frapins; a dionysiac romp in the vineyard that should heat up what remains of this particularly chilly winter…
But consume with moderation: you’re apt to get licked by random Cupids.
Frapin 1697 will be launched in February, in a limited edition of 1697 numbered 50 ml bottles.
Illustration: Cupid and Psyche by Jacques-Louis David
Hullo, Denyse. Well, this sounds positively intoxicating. I can't wait to try it. Cistus? Davana? Sign me up.RépondreSupprimer
Jarvis, it *is* rather intoxicating: it's like wearable tipple, but the very chic-est kind.RépondreSupprimer
I just hope it will be available somewhere I can access it. (Limited editions make me nervous).RépondreSupprimer
Intoxicating sounding indeed - both food and drink in a scent. I share Jarvis worry about availability. In Australia even 'normal niche' is hard to get...RépondreSupprimer
Jarvis, I'm pretty sure Luckyscent will carry it. Nothing in the press material indicates there will a production after the 1697 bottles are sold, but then, if it sells well, who knows?RépondreSupprimer
I'm wary of LEs too, it's just too frustrating.
scentofchoice, ditto about LS. Not sure about the distribution of Frapin in Australia though...RépondreSupprimer
I can't wait for it to come out so I can try it - luckily for me, it's going to be available here although in small batch so I'll have to be quick about it.RépondreSupprimer
I'm a huge fan of the Frapin perfumes so I'm having high hopes for this one (and after your review, obviously deserved). :)
Ines, every time I've had excellent spirits I've thought how well their accords would translate into perfume, and Frapin have been doing a wonderful job of it. 1697 has joined 1270 as my favourite of the house.RépondreSupprimer
I think I gave the perfumer a laugh when I told him 1697 reminded me very much of a dish my Volga Deutsch great aunts and grandmother always made in the dead of winter, schnitt suppe. It's made with all sorts of dried fruits, stewed in spices, served with cream, sometimes a dab of brandy (though not for the Plain People like mine, alcohol was verboten). The dried fruits are stored in wooden barrels, so I got that from 1697 too (oak)! I sort of missed all the erotic edges, I guess....RépondreSupprimer
-Marla (aka Amish Girl)
Marla, I guess to me, fine spirits are always linked to sensuous occasions... Just proof that different backgrounds and experiences can lead to very different appreciations of accords.RépondreSupprimer
Very true! I think the first time I tried cognac of any sort was on an Air France flight from Paris when I was 23. I thought it was bloody awful! Not now, of course...but I still prefer buttermilk.RépondreSupprimer
Marla, I remember my first time in Paris when I asked for milk with my meal. The garçon looked as though he were about to throw up. Now I'm the one who makes that face when I go to North America and see milk served with meals. Gimme booze anytime.RépondreSupprimer
Threadgill's, Austin, Texas, serves fresh, cold buttermilk in 1-quart glasses! I still have dreams about this, ecstatic dreams....;-)RépondreSupprimer
PS: If I ever get a chance, I'll take you there for a chicken-fried steak dinner!
Marla, chicken-fried steak might be a reason in itself for not setting foot in the US... ;-)RépondreSupprimer
Hi Denyse, sounds like BD has come up with another intriguing composition. Cognac is my favourite after-dinner drink (tho for special occasions only!) & a large proportion of my enjoyment comes from inhaling the aroma of it before I even taste: this translation into perfume sounds wonderful.RépondreSupprimer
I'm not sure I'd actually want to smell *of* booze tho, so it's nice to hear that BD has focused on the 'idea' rather than a literal replication. Looking forward to testing it out :)
Parfymerad, agreed, I wouldn't want to smell like I'd splashed myself with my digestif either. The alcohol effect translates as warmth and evolves towards dry leather.RépondreSupprimer
Havana Vanille somehow didn't work on me but this sounds a delight, can't wait to try it, thanks for the great review.RépondreSupprimer
And Wings of Desire is one of my all time fav movies, it reconnects me with the world when I am feeling low, so it bodes well ;-)))
Silvia, I think 1679 may work for you. It's got nothing to do with Portrait of a Lady but if you love its rose-wine-y patchouli darkness you could get into this very different take on the notes.RépondreSupprimer
Ooooh yummy! 1270 is an Autumn/Winter favourite of mine and this sounds comparable. Shades of Amaranthine too maybe with the ylang-ylang and condensed milk aspect in the drydown. What a shame about the beautiful original name though. I remember the film and have avoided the Hollywood/Nicholas Cage remake. NicolaRépondreSupprimer
Nicola, OMG, I had completely blocked out the Hollywood remake! Ick.RépondreSupprimer
This shares a couple of notes with Amaranthine but as I wrote it's more in the line of four other BD pieces: it's a wood spice leather thing.
Wow. This sounds amazing, and right up my alley. Do you have an idea of cost? I heard that this will be a limited edition. Any idea to what will be available?RépondreSupprimer
Licked by random Cupids, you say?RépondreSupprimer
I wasn't interested in this before. Now I am. My wallet is glaring at you and muttering, "Thanks very bloody much."
Geordan, my info is that's it a limited edition and the price is 145 euros, at least in France.RépondreSupprimer
Muse, I was going to write "satyrs" but then I changed the picture... So you got away lightly!RépondreSupprimer
I almost stopped at the third sentence to comment before I even read about the perfume!RépondreSupprimer
"But I have drunk old rum, Armagnac and cognac from lips that weren’t my own..."
That's a classic for the ages! So romantic and just in time for Valentine's day.
1697 sounds divine; a shame about the name though with all of those other date-named scents out there!
Rappleyea, they taste a lot better that way!RépondreSupprimer
And yes, I agree, naming a perfume for a year is a bit unwieldy -- I'm hopeless at remembering figure or dates, and it took a lot of work to remember that one.
I love the idea behind it, the inspiration and simply the olfactory story. I am slowing working through my Frapin samples (I am very behind on testing this line.) Would you say that the red berries-rhubarb top is prominent? It has been described to me as having a very innovative red berry accord. Obviously, the geek in me want to know more. :))RépondreSupprimer
I hope I can give it a try.RépondreSupprimer
Selling us on a Duchaufour then telling us it's limited edition? Oh, you cruel blogger!RépondreSupprimer
But in all honesty, this sounds divine and the credit for that lies with you. Thank you. Any word on pricing or did I miss that?
Victoria, the rum absolute from Mane (I think it's from Mane) really steals the show for me in the top notes so it's hard for me to focus on berries or rhubarb. When I compare 1697 to, say, Idole (Lubin) or the Kilian that's rum and patch, I find 1697 much more "acidulé" in the top notes, so that could be the rhubarb effect which I didn't read as such.RépondreSupprimer
Compared to those two, 1697 reads as less masculine which to me, without seeing the formulas for any of them, means Idole and the Kilian have ambroxan or the like coming prominently. The floral heart acts quite strongly in 1697 -- ylang/carnation/rose sillage to me.
Taffynfontana, it's certainly worth it.RépondreSupprimer
Eric, it's not extravagant by the new standards: 50 ml for 140 euros, and it's an "absolu de parfum" i.e. 14% concentration.RépondreSupprimer
Word is that depending on the limited edition's success it could join the permanent line.
Aha! So that rum absolute is from Mane. It's soooo yummy. I wish that Womanity had featured Mane's caviar essence just a tid tad more.RépondreSupprimer
Marla, don't know whether it's just a personal impression but I'm seeing Mane popping up on the radar a lot of late. May have to do with Christine Nagel landing a top slot there. They're doing all the Etat Libre d'Orange now.RépondreSupprimer
As for Womanity, I'm afraid it qualified as a scrubber to me. Any caviar that gets on my skin shall be in a form that can get licked off.
The fragrance sounds absolutely delicious. I don't know that I will ever be able to smell it though.RépondreSupprimer
The reason I comment is that Der Himmel über Berlin is one of the most poetic films I ever watched. Bruno Ganz is stunning in it.
Much as I like poetic titles for perfumes, this title belongs to that film, in my very humble opinion of course!
Barbara, Der Himmel über Berlin is of course the title of that beautiful movie. Les Ailes du Désir is the French title, but it is also an expression that pre-existed the movie and was used in poetry. I find it a bit sad that it's becoming harder and harder to find names for perfumes, especially for smaller companies, because they are blocked left and right... It's getting so almost everybody has to settle for plan B or C...RépondreSupprimer
I was lucky enough to see Bruno Ganz onstage, directed by Klaus Michael Grüber. He is a truly magnificent actor.
As I was typing my comment I was thinking of part of the thing your reply. It must be frustrating to have thought of this perfect name for your perfume and have it snatched away from you for legal reasons.RépondreSupprimer
I didn't know about the wider use of the French translation of the title. I should have phrased it differently. Had they used the original German title it would of course have been different.
I only ever saw Ganz in the Wenders film, I am not surprised to hear he is also a good theatre actor.
Barbara, it's especially frustrating for certain perfumers who conceive their perfume with a certain name in mind -- I'm not 100% sure but I believe this one had been found very early on. Of course that doesn't change the beauty of the perfume itself, but since the original name added to it I wanted to expand on the story.RépondreSupprimer
One particular Ganz favourite of mine is rarely shown: it is Eric Rohmers "Die Marquise von O", based on Kleist, with another absolutely stellar German actress, Edith Clever.
Can't wait to try this one, although the pricepoint will encourage me to sample and not purchase unsniffed! I love 1270, although the bottle is mostly on Steve's side of the cabinet these days. Thanks for the back story on the name. Not a fan of numbers in a perfume name, as they are harder to remember, but at least they didn't further delay the launch in legal battles. We heard several comments about new rum absolutes when visiting Grasse fragrance houses last year! Have to find my notes, but I bet we were at Mane when the topic came up.RépondreSupprimer
I can be available to join Marla in introducing you to chicken-fried steak. It was a childhood favorite--- my Texas roots :)
Gail, I think Robertet also does a rum absolute, don't remember if that was part of your visit? For sure at that price point sniffing beforehand is a necessity, but something tells me you'd like it...RépondreSupprimer
ggs - Is that Gail? I can't quite tell...RépondreSupprimer
Since obtaining Robertet's Rum Absolute is out of the question, due to Min Order Qty(MOQ), Could you please see if you can locate your notes on which Grasse houses made some? I might Try Mane, but they don't want to deal small either.
if you find your notes, could you email me at:
Otherwise, I might have to try to make my own...
Thanks ever so much...
Paul, my recents comments widget is wonky right now, so if you check back in, I'm not too sure Gail will get your message. Email me at graindemusc at gmail dot com and I'll forward to her.RépondreSupprimer