It was a series of fortuitous discoveries, which lead Jean-Charles Brosseau into the world of perfume. The trained couturier known for his expertise in millinery and accessories launched his most famous creation, Ombre Rose in 1981. Rumour has it the Parisian designer discovered a scent, a perfume base in a bonding agent, which he interpreted into Ombre Rose. The scent contains warm notes of musk, vanilla and heliotropin. Like all feminine’s in his range, Ombre Rose is housed in art deco inspired glass symbolizing those values dear to Brosseau: discreet luxury, refinement and classicism. In 2005 the collection was extended to a trio of men’s eau de toilettes with a fourth arriving in 2011. The men’s bottles retain the graphic lines of Art Deco but they are less ornate and simply contain the perfume title with the house’s name discretely printed on the spherical cap. What attracted me to discover Thé Brun were two things. One was Pierre Bourdon, the creator of this fragrance. His name is associated with some of perfumes biggest blockbusters: Yves Saint Laurent Kouros, Christian Dior Dolce Vita, Cool Water by Davidoff and Shiseido’s Feminite du Bois: a project he co-authored. I was keen to see what Pierre Bourdon would create for a smaller, niche house like Brosseau. Bourdon is one of many modern perfumers who have reached an almost celebrity-like status following the rise of perfume blogging and the public’s interest in the creators of their perfumes. For successful perfumers these smaller projects always give an interesting result, like big screen actors who take on small indie film projects between multi billion dollar blockbusters. Pierre Bourdon’s creation for Frederic Malle, French Lover (or Bois d’Orage if you live in the United States) is one of my favourite niche Bourdon’s. Tea as a perfume note is not uncommon, appearing in works by L’Artisan Parfumeur (Tea for Two, Thé pour un Été), Jean-Claude Ellena’s Bvlgari Thé series and more recently his work for Hermes. Green Tea by Elizabeth Arden (1999) was also a highly successful commercial fragrance. In contrast to these tea experiences, emoting the serenity that comes with sitting down to a quiet cup of tea, Bourdon’s tea is more like a visit to a teashop. This is the rich scent of imported leaves that have traveled oceans to be held in your hand. This highly aromatic scent is tamed with an aquatic melon accord reminiscent of Cool Water.
Jean-Charles Brosseau classifies this as an aromatic spicy fern with tea accord. Going on skin, it feels like there are two different fragrances been applied simultaneously. The first is a classic men’s 1990’s accord of melon, pineapple and orange blossom with violet. This is a familiar note most men would have developed antibodies for two decades ago. There should not be many males that would disagree with this aroma. The second theme is where things stray from the familiar, pairing a smoky, woody tea note and an aquatic fruity accord. I cannot see this potentially risky idea passing with the likes of Davidoff or Yves Saint Laurent and this is why I love these more experimental small projects the big names in perfume occasionally undertake. Pierre Bourdon’s tea is dry and smoky. There is no mention of birch, but it contains something of that nature that had me reaching for the perfume notes to correct my thinking that this contained leather. Lavender and cumin add herb and dry spicy notes to the tea accord, overall giving a sense of dark tea aromas with water, fruit or a slice of lemon.
Pierre Bourdon’s tea offers a refreshed view on what masculinity could be. Most tea perfumes to date have been feminine or unisex. Thé Brun offers ruggedness without relying on the all too familiar fougere archetype. This is a great casual evening fragrance. If a leather jacket and jeans is your staple wardrobe, give this a try. Blondes should not be discouraged from experimenting, but I feel this works better on dark-headed men. Dark hair, eyes, brooding…perfect.
Santa Maria Novella Nostalgia, Bulgari Pour Homme, Bulgari Pour Homme Extreme
Perfumer: Pierre Bourdon (Fragrance Resources)
Bottle designer: Claude Brosseau
Release date: 2005
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Aromatic Fougere