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Frapin

April 2012

  • Todd Manzanares

A near millennium of French cognac and perfume.

Cultural thinker at the School of Life in London, Roman Krznaric, draws a distinction in his new book The Wonderbox: Curious Histories of How to Live, between pre- and post-enlightenment understandings of the role of the five senses. Over the last five centuries it is sight, the power of the eye, that has been dominant over all other senses – as reading took over from oral transmission of knowledge, leading ultimately to our hyper-textual, hyper-visual culture. Smell got left somewhere along the way, and while it may still be important for slow food chefs and those addicted to the pleasures and meaning of fragrance, long gone are the days when, animal-like, we might identify our lovers not just through sight, but smell. The primacy smell once had can still be seen when one observes how smells trigger reactions deep in the brain, particularly long since forgotten smells associated with childhood, but it no longer stands in the same privileged relation to ourselves as does the eye and sight.

More is the pity. One may need to reactivate and retrain one’s sense of smell in order to enjoy the full depth of the olfactory experience that is the Frapin label’s range of perfumes, coming as they do soaked in history, spice and cognac, imbued with centuries of wisdom, craft and hedonism. Pedigree here is embedded into the very soul of things.

Frapin has claim to being the oldest family business in the world. Dating back to 1270, that’s nearly 850 years – or 35 generations – of cognac and, later, perfume makers.

In 1270 the Frapin family settled in the Cognac area, in south-west France, beginning as wine growers in accord with the simple rural agricultural tradition of the time. Over the succeeding generations the family developed as distillers, in which capacity cognac has been produced for some 20 generations from the 300 hectares of the Frapin estate, based at the Château de Fontpinot at Segonzac, deep in the heart of the designated Grande Champagne region. Today, the cognac tradition continues unbroken, and the cognacs and perfumes are synonymous with luxury and a particularly French understanding of the priority and quality of culture.

Some of Frapin’s signature perfumes are named after key dates in the company’s history: 1270 for the founding of the family on their lands; 1697 for the year Louis XIV gave his apothecary Pierre Frapin the right to bear a coat of arms. Now ennobled, this was apparently a time for drunken festivities, parties and balls, all filled with colour and scent. No less a figure than Rabelais, medieval humanist and author of the wild blending of fantasy and humanism, Gargantua and Pantagruel, was a member of the Frapin family.

Importantly, the House of Frapin does not generally distinguish between ‘male’ and ‘female’ perfumes, believing that elegance in fragrance transcends a simple gender divide. We are human, and we love and respond to fine fragrances regardless of gender. These perfumes are for lovers, travellers, aesthetes and those addicted, secretly or openly, to beauty, elegance and opulence. Frapin’s 1697 comes from the hand (and nose) of master perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, who we have seen recently on these pages associated with the house of L’Artisan Parfumeur, but known also for his perfumes created for Givenchy, Comme des Garçons, Amouage, Christian Dior and Acqua di Parma among others.

The cognac tradition of the house of Frapin is evident here. The fragrance of 1697 is one that envelops and warms, and will be the perfect accompaniment for a dark winter shot through with languid pleasures – think open fire, a glass of cognac, deep slate coloured skies, desire and a beautiful companion. 1697 is a complex fragrance, richly imbued with the heady flavours of rum, cinnamon and cloves. It is a class apart on first encounter, a posh and glorious Venus in Furs with a boozy opening kick, followed up with davana spice and the South American cabreuva wood oil.

And that rum-led intoxication is only the beginning. There follows a beautiful harmony of mid notes, a rose-inspired floral bouquet, drawing on the finest touches of jasmine, hawthorn and ylang ylang. To round off with a flourish equal to its grand entrance and sustained, sensual heart, 1697 melts into vanilla and amber gris; gentle almond and chocolate accents of tonka bean are softened by a drop of condensed milk and warm patchouli. Yes, this is an unforgettable kiss.

Frapin has also four exquisite fragrances that build around the heart of cognac, coming together in various careful blends of scents such as tobacco, vanilla, nutmeg, incense, cinnamon, myrrh, cumin, orange blossom, bergamot, pepper and leather: Terre De Sarment, Esprit De Fleurs, Caravelle Épicée and Passion Boisée.

Frapin 1697 Eau de Parfum 100mL – $245
For details of national stockists of the Frapin range contact Agence de Parfum.
agencedeparfum.com

 

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