Niche Fragrance Magazine

Oh the cologne! Part 2

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If you can’t stand the heat, get (fragrance) out of the kitchen

I am fascinated by the wide array of notes that are eminently suited to eaux de Cologne – it means that everyone can find a version that suits them. Today I’ve gone into the kitchen to try eaux based around food and drink – from a mouthwatering herbal refresher to a nice cuppa tea.

You may think it’s not worth spending money on a fragrance that is essentially built around topnotes and designed to be fleeting and gone in a couple of hours. However, many big-name brands are ridiculously affordable for fine fragrance (15 Euro for 125mls? no, that’s not a typo), and supermarket brands are even cheaper. I almost always have some Maurer and Wirtz 4711 original eau de cologne in my handbag, just like my Grandmother before me (no violet sweeties though – mint chewing gum is more my speed). I use it like the French do – to cool down and refresh my skin on hot days. I have family in France where in every bathroom there is a bottle of Eau de Cologne, usually a litre bottle of a supermarket brand, and it’s treated like any other bathroom consumable such as showergel or shampoo.

Simply splash or spritz cologne over yourself when you get hot and sticky during the day, to cool yourself down. It actually draws heat out of the skin then dries almost immediately, because alcohol evaporates at a lower temperature than sweat. So you can apply several times a day during the baking summer days when what you really want is yet another shower. Since that’s not an option when you’re at work, and air conditioning isn’t very prevalent in Europe outside shopping centres and big offices, having a little bottle of instant refreshment in your handbag is a wonderful thing. I’ve experienced 40-Centigrade summer days in Switzerland and Provence, and can assure you that a slosh of one of these on the back of your neck and down your shirt is a wonderful thing when you think you’re melting.


Berdoues – Collection 1902 Tradition – Figue Blanche

Speaking of Provence, I adore green, raspy figleaf fragrances such as L’Artisan Parfumer’s Premier Figuier, and wear them a lot in the summer. So I was really interested to try an eau de Cologne that had the fig note I enjoy so much, and I wasn’t disappointed. There are a few classic fig pairings and this eau de Cologne has a little touch of the coconutty note I like in Diptyque’s Philosykos, warming up the heart and giving it an approachability that I really enjoy. With the light cedar base, it’s unisex, even though the juice in the bottle is pink.

I am pretty sure I would rattle through a bottle of this in a hot summer, especially as it’s ridiculously inexpensive. I love the green fig leaf note that lasts, but I also like the slight juiciness of the heart that brings it just off dryness and a rosy cedarwood base that lingers well. A bottle of this will be coming to live with me.


Berdoues – Colognes Grand Crus – Assam of India

This intrigued me, as I love a good cuppa and a good strong, malty Assam definitely does it for me in the morning. So would this make sense as a fragrance? I know Bvlgari‘s famous (and groundbreaking) Eau Parfumée Au Thé Vert, is light and fresh, another JC Ellena creation, Hermes Hermessence Osmanthe Yunnan marries the light, chestnut aroma of Chinese Yunnan tea with the apricots of osmanthus flowers, but would a tea perfume work with tannic and rich Assam?

It’s actually really good. Rather than thinking of a mug of Builder’s Brew with milk and sugar, picture a porcelain cup of Assam tea with lemon. That is the refreshing top note of this eau de Cologne. The tea gives it a certain roundness and body that is very different from the citrus colognes I reviewed last time. Because of the setting, this reminds me of unsweetened home-made ice tea, cool and refreshing but somehow savoury at the same time.

I mentioned that porcelain cup for a reason: imagine a rose pattern on it, lending a little whiff of beautiful pink roses in the heart of this cologne, anchoring it to the skin. If you’re florally-challenged like me, fear not; this is a gentle rose, so bearing in mind that different notes bloom differently on different skins, don’t be afraid to put it on your ‘to try’ list.


Berdoues – Collection 1902 Tradition – Gingembre Vert

This is as zippy as you’d expect from something called ‘ginger’, with a mouthwatering cut grass note as it hits the skin. Soon after, that turns into a very light but definite crushed mint leaf, which is a note that’s a very clever addition to a cooling eau de Cologne, because we associate mint with freshness and cleanliness. Yet this is not a cold menthol, so it’s not a caricature of someone emerging ‘new minted’ from the bathroom. There’s also a little lime in there, which conjures up thoughts of icy Mojitos. This is an unusual delight.

Cocktails are having a resurgence at the moment, and gin seems to be particularly fashionable. The rich palate of herbs, spices, botanicals, flowers and fruits available for flavouring gins is very similar to that used in classical colognes, so I was tickled, but not surprised to see a bottle of Gin & Tonic edt in the Library of Scent (Demeter in the US) range. I did try it, but it didn’t smell much of juniper or quinine to me.

Gingembre Vert would be the perfect summer splash for a lover of cocktails, or indeed, if you have a youngster who you want to divert from body spray abuse. This little beauty will definitely not leave you reeling in a cloud of teen-fug, rather, your youngling will glide around smelling cool and minty-fresh.

A decade ago in a little secondhand bookshop, I bought a biography of an obscure biophysicist written by a New York Times journalist and my life changed. Yes, I blame it all on Luca Turin and Chandler Burr; thanks to them I fell in love with L'Heure Bleue and haven't looked back since.

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