“The one thing the French do brilliantly is sensuality”
It’s hard to argue with that statement from David Frossard, creative director of Frapin perfume. I recently hotfooted it to Shoreditch perfumery Bloom to meet David and learn more about the perfumes from a French company whose products I’d only had the pleasure of sipping previously. No I’m not a wino glugging anything with alcohol….Frapin is one of the oldest and finest cognac producers in the world as well as being owners of Gosset Champagne, the oldest Champagne house in the world.
France might be fighting to keep its crown on many fronts but it remains undisputedly the capital of the world’s modern perfume industry. David has spent 20 years creating and marketing niche perfumes. He was in London for the launch of Nevermore, the newest Frapin fragrance. He shared the history of the Frapin dynasty, how he became involved in their perfume making venture and the inspiration behind the scents which he wants to “move you”.
First a whistle-stop grand history tour. The Frapin family can trace their roots in South West France back over 20 generations and have been involved with wine and vine in the region since the Middle Ages (1270 to be precise). Initially owning vineyards then moving into distillation at their chateau, Fontpinot, which is still in operation. They are part of French aristocracy having been bestowed with a coat of arms by the Sweet Smelling King Louis XIV in 1697. The family bought Gossett in 1994. In 2002 they launched their first fragrance after noting that blending perfume and blending cognac use many of the same skills and sensibilities. In 2008, David joined them in a partnership to develop the fragrance business and there are now nine perfumes in total.
Frapin is the only cognac company that in effect produces from farm to table, using grapes from their own vineyards and controlling every stage of the production process. They are not a mass-production and take a more artisanal approach. This same care and attention seems to have been applied to the perfumes.
The fascinating history of the Frapin family and cognac itself are the inspiration for all the perfumes:
- 1270: named after the year the family settled in Cognac. This was the first Frapin perfume and is the closest to being an obvious interpretation of cognac in perfume form. It features a hint of pineapple like the original grape that Frapin used to make cognac. Other notes include dry fruits, honey, vanilla and verbena all perfectly balanced with none dominating.
- Caravelle Epicee: the name translates to “spice ship”. This perfume was inspired by the boats on the Spice Route that transported cognac alongside their spice cargo. Cognac was initially produced as a pragmatic solution to allow wine to be exported and survive long sea journeys. This perfume has rich and spicy notes of pepper, nutmeg, coriander mellowed with amber, patchouli and sandalwood.
- Terre de Sarment: the name translates to “land of vine”. This perfume was inspired by David’s first visit to the Frapin castle (see picture above) where he was blown away by the chateau and surrounding landscape. Notes in this are meant to evoke the smell of the earth first thing on a summer morning, with the grapes still covered in dew and the scent as they warm up in the morning sun
- L’Humaniste: named in honour of Francois Rabelais, a member of the Frapin family, renowned as a renaissance humanist and author. I’ll admit I didn’t know the name but a quick search tells me Rabelais is much celebrated in France with satirical masterpieces considered in the same vein as Cervantes. He was also a practising doctor who believed wine and revelry were effective cures for many ills! The inspiration for this perfume was to create something simple without being unrefined. Lemon and bergamot with heart notes of juniper, nutmeg and base notes of gin, oak moss and tonka create the sensation of sipping a G&T.
- Paradis Perdu: the name translates to “paradise lost”. This perfume was inspired by the 1889 Paris World Fair when France was on top of the world. Frapin received a gold medal for their cognac from Gustav Eiffel himself who then designed the stores at the Frapin castle (a deal was done swapping a bottle of cognac for his services). This is the least “boozy” of all the Frapin fragrances. It is zesty and green with citrus top notes and a spinach, basil and elemi heart.
- Speakeasy: this perfume was inspired by David’s visits to his uncle who lives in the Florida Key and the bars there that Ernest Hemingway used to hang out in. Top notes of citrus and rum with a heart including Egyptian mint and drying down to a leather and tobacco finish. David wanted to recreate a smokey sexy film noire bar vibe. Think Mojitos, cigar smoke, bar brawls, lipstick and leather bar seats.
- 1697: this is named after the year Louis XIV gave the Frapin family a coat of arms making them part of the French aristocracy. Known as The Sweet Smelling, Louis XIV demanded a different perfume every day and even had the palace fountains filled with fragrance leading to the it being known as “the perfumed court”. The inspiration for this perfume was inspired by the splendour of his reign and accordingly this fragrance contains the most lavish ingredients. The bold scent includes absolutes of rum, Tonka beans and rose and opens with cognac with spicy floral heart notes drying down to an amber and leather base softened with vanilla.
- Passion Boisee: this name translates to “wood passion”. This, unsurprisingly, is a warm, woody scent that opens with tangerine and nutmeg leading to a woody heart and drying down to cedar and patchouli. Frapin explains the inspiration in this magnificently French way:
“Cognac is the lovechild of alcohol and wood. It is the oak of the cask that lets the eau-de-vie breathe; the porous wood absorbs it, and it return, releases the substances that will give cognac its bouquet and burnished gold hue. Passion Boisée celebrates this long-drawn intimacy.”
Nevermore: the latest release, named after and inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven and the tale of the Poe toaster who left a flask of cognac on Poe’s grave every birthday for some sixty years. This is described as a masculine rose. Stay tuned for a forthcoming post on this perfume.
Who knew sniffing scents would turn out to be a history, geography, philosophy, literature, and gastronomy lesson all combined in one intoxicating mix!
Perfume is such an evocative product that can practically teleport me to a different place and time. Does knowing the inspiration behind a fragrance affect how it smells to you?
For full details of the top, heart and base notes of all the Frapin perfumes head over to the exclusive UK stockist, Bloom at 4 Hanbury Street, London E1 6QR www.bloomperfume.co.uk or Frapin www.parfums-frapin.com