My first and only bottle from the house of Frapin, L’Humaniste (“The Humanist”) is one of the few fragrances that truly fits its name. It is to François Rabelais – humanist and prized member of the Frapin dynasty – that this perfume is dedicated.
Perfume is a fascinating art. As in the expressive mediums of poetry and painting, perfume offers a chance to be transported elsewhere, to feel and be different, to think and consider, to reject or embrace, to admire, to find repugnant, to be delighted, made sad, and to experience wonder. But unique to perfume in particular is the ability to take that feeling with you and to express it to others in the form of an olfactory aura. This aspect of perfume is the part that most interests me – what does your olfactory aura say about you? In my reviews, I have discussed fragrances that embody summer, hope, and even love. Today we will be exploring a fragrance that captures the essence of gentlemanly scholarship. When one thinks of a scholar, what comes to mind?
To me, scholarship represents the ideal of intellectual pursuits – grounded in reason, armed with argument, and made sharp by years of rigorous study, the scholar possesses a keen mind and a broad outlook. If one is lucky enough to know a gentleman scholar of high stature, perhaps that eccentric and wizened professor that stays after hours to discuss abstract principles, one might also notice his kind heart and austere way of living. Rather than embracing a level of luxury that does not match the high state of his character, it is enough for this man to be surrounded by the texts of his trade. Simpleness in all things is desired by him, and the efficient seeking after truth is his way of being. As magnanimous with praise as he is in the skeptical refutation of accepted wisdom, he does not gloat or boast. And unlike his less stalwart colleagues who have been eroded by pessimism and frustration, the gentleman scholar is not intrusive, flamboyant, or abrasive. Gin is his drink and laughter his medicine – the former in moderation, always, and the latter in excess, but performed with a twinkle of intelligence in the eyes that will not be extinguished by age or ailment. He is, in every sense of the word, a humanist. This is what Frapin’s L’Humaniste represents to me: The character of a gentleman scholar.
Opening with the freshness of citrus lightly dusted with pink pepper, the fragrance offers an aura of sophistication and class. Here the lemon is not excessively sour, nor is it excessively sweet, but instead manages to mediate effectively between both of these facets. With a tip of his hat to the nearest lady and a gracious nod to the bartender, the gin accord enters politely, crafted competently through a diverse and deceptively complex medley of lemon, juniper berries, and spices. At the opening stages, the fragrance smells of clean citrus, aromatic gin and spice, with the slightest hint of a soft yet sophisticated note of peony. L’humaniste has a bright fizziness to it that reminds me of the euphoric and energetic passion that comes from new discovery.
In the dry down, which comes after approximately 3 hours on my skin, the scent draws closer to the skin and becomes a subtle woodsy-spicy fragrance. Its duration matches its character – its presence is noticeable for a short period, and it is polite enough not to overstay its welcome. Unlike many contemporary offerings, it is not at all overpowering, and even might be described as light and transparent. Like the gentleman scholar, L’Humaniste is considerate in its aura; what others might describe as poor projection comes across instead as gentlemanly and agreeable. When the wearer and those in his company catch a whiff of L’Humaniste, its subtle complexity stimulates the intellect.
Like people, fragrances that are true to their character impress me more than those that try to be something that they are not. If L’Humaniste were a long-lasting projection bomb, the refined impression it seeks to portray would completely disintegrate. I deduct no marks and make no criticism for its lack of projection and sillage. It is what it is, and more importantly, it is what it is meant to be. Do not approach L’Humaniste if you are looking for a fragrance that drags you into its brutish embrace and bullies you into never leaving. On the other hand, if you have room in your collection for a thinking man’s fragrance, one that stimulates new discoveries and grounds your character, L’Humaniste might be one to consider.
But what do I know about scholarship? “As for me, all I know is that I know nothing.”
“That’s all the glory my heart is after,
Seeing how sorrow eats you, defeats you.
I’d rather write about laughing than crying,
For laughter makes men human, and courageous.
– François Rabelais