Anyone who still claims today that true chypre fragrances are a thing of the past will be punished by 'French Affair' lies. Like 'Maai', 'Chypre Palatin', 'The Afternoon of a Faun' or 'Chypre Shot', the fragrance shows that Chypres of the classic type are still feasible today, and that thanks to the latest, largely allergen-free oak moss, they can even survive alongside the classics However, since there was a long dry spell in which the development of a chypre scent was basically impossible and there was therefore no continuity in the further development of the genre, these new creations are often given the attribute 'neo-classical' And indeed, the reference points mostly lie in the time span that was a classic for chypre fragrances: from the 50s to well into the 70s.
French Affair' clearly cites the last great decade of the Chypres, the 70s. And here especially a variation of the rose patchouli chypres, whose most prominent representatives were 'Aromatics Elixir' and 'Aramis 900', both created by Bernard Chant at the beginning of the 70s.
The fact that the young French company Ex Nihilo came around the corner almost half a century later with a factory quoting precisely these fragrances shows some courage, since the originals no longer play a role at all in today's fragrance scene, unlike in the past. On the other hand, however, it fits in with the omnipresent efforts to revive the 'good old days': rows and rows of new 'classic' Fougères suddenly appear, patchouli, amber and musk as well, the hippies' favourite fragrances are heavy 'en vogue' again, just as oriental heavyweights à la 'opium' are gladly quoted again.
So why not the rosy patchouli chypres from Bernard Chant.
Quentin Bisch, his successor, has created with 'French Affair' a genuine chypre fragrance that seemed unimaginable until a few years ago. The ball that IFRA had directed directly into the heart of the chypre genre was too placed. The delinquent seemed dead as a doornail, but was actually only comatose, and only temporarily.
So 'French Affair' again shows up with a chypre gesture as if nothing had happened, nothing at all.
Right at the beginning of the fragrance, the typical bitter-woody, woody, olfactory chord of Chypres swells, initially accompanied by a fruity, sweet-sour lychee, which contrasts beautifully with the dry, green-grassy violet leaf, which in turn leads to a beautiful, velvety, powerful rose chord, which in turn comes to rest on a rich, woody, earthy patchouli, bitter oak moss and smoky, green vetiver.
All phases of the fragrance process reveal themselves at the same time, only the focus changes slowly. Even after many hours you can smell yourself back to the beginning, how you can sniff your way from there into the depth, through to the end. French Affair' unfolds quite a volume, without appearing overloaded and all too difficult Despite this enormous presence, the fragrance doesn't seem loud or even intrusive, but wonderfully keeps the balance between a strong performance on the one hand and appropriate restraint on the other hand This is a kind of a line between his predecessors 'Aromatics Elixier' and 'Aramis 900': not as full-sounding as one and a bit more courageous than the other.
The idea for this fragrance allegedly arose from the wish to pay homage to that type of Parisian dandy of the 70s, this rare, yet gossip-filled species that meandered between a dazzling world of fashion, a glamorous jet set and existentialist Rive Gauche chic.
Jacques de Bascher, for example, became the epitome of this type: A companion of Karl Lagerfeld and a temporary lover of Yves-Saint Laurent - an elegant stance with a melancholic shaded gaze and cultivated moustache. Also Marcel Proust was once such a Beau, as it is today Pierre Niney, the actor who impersonated Yves-Saint Laurent in the movie.
Yeah, I think that's a good fit. The link with these typical Parisian scene plants works.
But it's not as if this inspiration had forced itself upon me, you had to come across it. In the case of Patricia de Nicolaï's 'Patchouli Homme', today's 'Patchouli Intense', also a Patchouli-Rosen-combo, I actually had this association with a Marcel Proust type.
Just as those dandies played with their feminine side, 'French Affair' is an absolute gender-bender, at least in my opinion. A fragrance-savvy colleague, who was completely enthusiastic about 'French Affair' and was always hanging around my neck, repeated several times: "Ah, what a fragrance, so masculine!
Strange how different the perceptions are after all. A fragrance like Givenchys 'Gentleman' from 1974, which was also a Patchouli Rose fragrance, but with a much higher Patchouli content (here this woody earthy chord was really creaking), I would rather call it masculine - although I had a good friend who wore it for years...
But French Affair?
No, I think this scent is absolutely unisex. Just as 'Aramis 900' was unisex, respectively is, although Bernard Chant developed it as a male counterpart to 'Aromatics Elixier'. Aromatics Elixier', on the other hand, is clearly feminine - too pronounced and superficial, the floral part seems to me here.
In any case, 'French Affair' is a wonderful chypre with clear vintage vibes, in a modern garb at the same time: lychee gives the bitter-citric bergamot, which is indispensable for any chypre, a more fruity colour, a good pinch of pepper and a little bit of herb-herbal angelica accentuate the floral components, cedar and vetiver aerate the mossy-resin base Lychee, angelica, pepper and cedar form the contemporary Terre d'Hermès/French Lover outfit, so to speak, in which 'French Affair' confronts us as a good old friend.
But as good as the scent is in my opinion, you won't meet it often. The fragrances of Ex Nihilo are not only quite expensive, but also hard to get, which is a pity, because the combination of inspiration, skill and good choice of materials is rather rare. Most of the time there's a problem with the former, often with the latter and sometimes with everything.
Not with Ex Nihilo, and certainly not with French Affair.
Maybe one day the company will reconsider its distribution policy, so that 'French Affair' might become 'Worldwide Affair' after all.