Perfume is a relatively new venture for Frapin, one of the great cognac making families of France. Cognac has been in the family blood for more than twenty generations and Frapin’s first cognacs date back to the 13th century. In 2002 Beatrice Cointreau, a family descendent, began exploring the relationship between scent and cognac making. Five years later she launched the house’s first perfume. Today Frapin has nine perfumes, which are in the care of Parisian entrepreneur David Frossard. Frossard came to Frapin with a wealth of experience in the niche perfume industry and under his business and creative direction, Frapin continues to evolve. Frossard follows the brand’s founding values and like a fine cognac, Frapin’s perfumes are produced in small quantities from ingredients of a high caliber as are the perfumers Frossard chooses to work with. Craftsmanship and innovation rate highly and each perfume tells a different story linked in some way to cognac and spirits. Terre de Sarment draws from Frapin’s own story and Speakeasy conjures imagery of a smoky 1920s bar.
This winter I have been wearing the perfume Frapin launched last year called Nevermore. Like garden mulch I love the way rose fragrances protect and insulate the skin from winter’s cold. Arguably Frapin’s most courageous perfume to date, Nevermore is a dark and sombre rose fragrance that borrows from American writer Edgar Allan Poe’s narrative poem, The Raven. Nevermore’s composer is perfumer Anne-Sophie Behaghel and her inspiration is the story of the Poe Toaster, a person or people whose identity or identities are still unknown. For seven decades in the early hours of Poe’s birthday, the Poe Toaster visited the writer’s grave in Baltimore. Each year the Toaster raised a glass to the writer and left a distinctive arrangement of three roses and an opened bottle of cognac at the gravesite.
Niche perfumes are often promoted by stories that explore the human experience further than commercially driven, mass-produced perfumes, which are invariably based on the subjects of love, happiness, success, beauty and fame. The downfall of many is that they smell too similar considering the stories used to market them are so vivid and diverse. While a fair comparison can be drawn between Nevermore, which is set in mid 20th century America and a number of trendy Middle Eastern inspired fragrances (Behaghel’s combination of rose, saffron and woody-amber are the culpable notes) her unsettling overdose of aldehydes and Floralozone sets Nevermore apart as being something unique. It’s a bleak and eerie rose, stripped of any reference to the pretty cottage rose bush growing in nanna’s backyard.
Nevermore launches with a seemingly inexhaustible dose of Floralozone, a patented molecule from the global raw material producer IFF. Floralozone has an ethereal quality of winter rain falling on stone. Perfumers can use this breezy floral odour sparingly to create modern lily of the valley accords but in Nevermore the material is laid out naked with very little embellishment. A simple touch of black pepper and an aldehydic veil separate this ghost of a flower from the wreath of roses that lies beneath. This combination of aldehydes, water and dry cedar reminds me of the scent of absinthe liqueur. Nevermore’s trio of roses each have their own unique qualities. As dramatic as the Floralozone accord in the head of the fragrance, Anne-Sophie Behagel’s first rose is brutal. A cast iron flower as red as blood, the first rose is an imagined flower based on rose oxide, one of the many hundreds of molecules found in natural rose essential oil. Behaghel creates an entire flower from the oxide she singles out from nature. The second rose is much more amiable. Rosa centifolia is a sweet honeyed rose that is traditionally grown in Grasse and the third is the more exotic Rosa damascena or Damask Rose. I’ve heard that in Morocco, Berber butchers scatter cedar chips over the ground to absorb blood spilled in the market slaughterhouse. In a similar way, the dryness of Atlas cedar and Ambroxan absorbs the wet odour of rose petals. The result is a leathery bouquet of dried roses enhanced with saffron. Rich woods and amber give the fragrance depth, weight and very good tenacity throughout a day of wear.
Within a short time David Frossard has remoulded this young perfume brand with subtle refinements. From the bottle’s acid etched crest to the addition of some very fine perfumes based on imaginative themes, Frapin is a niche brand that has my attention. With a frequency of one new perfume per year, the last two, Speakeasy and Paradis Perdu were both very interesting but also very wearable. I’m not convinced Nevermore will be for everyone and my experience showing it to friends who do not share my interest in perfumery backs my theory. But for every person that passed on it, I had someone hovering over me wondering, “what was that incredible smell” that I was wearing. I’ve enjoyed wearing Nevermore this winter, cold weather suits it well, and I have no doubt that I will continue wearing it the months ahead. Although it is intended to be gender neutral, I think it makes a cracking good masculine rose fragrance.
Alternatives: Guerlain Rose Nacree du Desert
Creative Direction: David Frossard
Perfumer: Anne-Sophie Behaghel
Release Date: 2014
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woods
Favourite local stockists:
Sydney – Myer Galerie de Parfum
Brisbane – Libertine Parfumerie