Friday, 14 February 2014

Sniffing by numbers: Fragrance Republ!c FR! 01 / 04 review

Argentina tango ~ Source:
A number of reviews have been appearing lately of the new line of perfumes from Fragrance Republ!c (note odd use of an exclamation mark where an 'i' should be), which is described as:

"A new club of fragrance enthusiasts that gives exclusive access to original fine fragrances as created by world class perfumers.  Every month our members receive an exclusive fragrance straight from our lab to their door."

The difference between working for Fragrance Republ!c and a conventional perfume house is that their perfumers are allowed free rein to create whatever takes their fancy.

I was contacted by a PR person for the brand back in December and have since been sent two perfumes from the line, FR! 01/ No 3 and FR! 01 / No 4.  Oh look, even the initials are exclamatory!  I haven't tried the first two releases, but here are a couple of reviews: of FR! 01 / No 1 on Chemist in the Bottle, and of FR! 01 / No 2 on Another Perfume Blog.

FR! 01 / No 3 is a brisk, slightly masculine-leaning ode to the Mojito, and I have nothing to add to Val the Cookie Queen's review here.  FR! 01 / 03 would make an excellent choice for a buff, sporty young man like Val's son, who has apparently pretty much adopted it as his signature scent.

This week I have been wearing FR! 01 / 04 by Amélie Bourgeois for three days straight, but my decision to write about it today was in fact prompted by Sandra's post on Olfactoria's Travels about the latest Hermessences scent, Epice Marine, in which she detects a 'toasted cumin' note.

Do those stitches remind you even a teeny bit of sesame seeds?

Now as it happens, the most salient note for me in FR! 01 / 04 is the rather offbeat use of sesame. When first applied on my skin, I am strongly reminded of stir fry oil, both in physical texture and scent. Having now had a good old sniff of the bottle of stir fry oil I currently have on the go, I can confirm that this impression is entirely erroneous.  My cooking oil smells sharper and more lemongrass- and ginger-y.  But I still have a vivid mental picture of anointing myself in cooking oil which refuses to go away.  As well as the strongest nutty note I have ever smelt in a perfume - and it could be that I have nut-amplifying skin - there is a slightly camphoraceous quality to the opening.  We are almost in lighter / barbecue fuel territory, but happily not quite.

Now I don't mean to put people off this scent, for this singular opening soon mutes down into a rich and smooth - albeit still slightly oil-reminiscent - floral accord.  But before I leave the oil facet, I must relate my interesting discovery about Bourgeois' inspiration for this scent.  For she grew up in an area of the SW of France called Les Landes, which is noted for its long sandy beaches fringed by pine forests.  And apparently 'hot sand' and 'sunscreen' were very much in her mind at the inception of this perfume, though after thinking long and hard about which direction it was going to develop in, she settled on a floral note - namely magnolia - as the main turn in her composition, with its evocation of 'sensual dance' and 'hotness'. By a curious chance we are back in Zelda territory again and my own associations of that perfume with a languid and sultry weekend in Charleston!

Those really are naked people swimming, but this is a family blog

So the mental leap from sunscreen to stir fry oil is perhaps not too extreme after all.  I have a bit of a soft spot for Les Landes as it happens, which was kindled by my voracious reading of the rather gothic works of Francois Mauriac at school. I have also visited the region for work a few times, but my most abiding memories of the coast are of accidentally spending two weeks in a naturist camp in Montalivet-les-Bains in 1983. The first few hours were excruciatingly awkward, but it is surprising how quickly you become accustomed to the naked human form in all its myriad variants.  So, you know, a disproportionate amount of sunscreen will have been deployed on that holiday all right...;)

Our cabin in the forest - mosquitoes had never had it so good!

But that is enough about the germ of the olfactory idea for this scent, for Bourgeois's final composition is not about France, but Argentina, where I have never been, though I have eaten a few tins of corned beef in my time.  The description inside the lid of the box the perfume came in states:

"I wanted FR! 01/04 to be as bright and exhilarating as a weekend getaway to Argentina, while also recalling the sensuality and tempo of the tango.  Conceived as two bodies dancing, its structure evokes the tango's abrazo, as an intense floral with magnolia and cassie flower, and an enchanting woody note embrace with passion and grace."

Top notes: yellow Italian mandarin, sweet orange
Middle notes: jasmine, fleur de cassie, mimosa Maroc, magnolia
Base notes: sesame, tonka bean, white musks

Once the oily effect dissipates, I'd say the dance is rather between a very juicy fruity blend - reminiscent in intensity of Atelier Cologne's Orange Sanguine and Aftelier Secret Garden, also a little of Vero Profumo Rubj maybe, as well as a rather obscure orange-forward scent by Ajne called Bloom de Nuit - and an intense floral hit of magnolia, flanked by sweet and sherbety mimosa.  FR! 01 /04 is bombastic all right, a showgirl scent, with the intensity and unctuousness of Zelda but none of the latter's zesty greenness.  I would personally lose the sesame note altogether, because it plays up way too much on my skin and fractionally tips the fragrance into 'odd' territory, although it is Bourgeois's stated aim that it should appeal to as many club members as possible.  I have never smelt anything like it, though, I'll give it that - and the sesame note may be the reason.

Source of the stir fry oil chimera

What else is there to say about this scent or the range in general?  Well, for one, it is commendable that the Fragrance Republ!c perfumers have unlimited creative freedom in this way.  The release of perfumes in just 15 ml bottles is also greatly to be encouraged - and hopefully a trend that will gather momentum in more orthodox quarters of the industry.

As for the clinical packaging and the numerical names, I am not so keen on that.  I am working up to doing a post on Biehl Kunstwerke, in which I shall doubtless also have a pop at this 'sniffing by numbers' approach. Overall though, I think it is an exciting new business model, and I look forward to catching up with the other numbers in the range - both the earlier ones I missed and the ones (or rather 05 'and higher', as the flight attendants say) yet to come.

Special credit is also due to the nifty cut out foam in which my bottles were most securely shipped from France.  I do like a bit of avant-garde packaging, as long as - as in the present case - it is commensurate with the item housed within.

If you have tried FR! 01 / 04 already, I would be most interested to know what you made of it, and how prominent the nutty note was on your skin.

And if anyone has any more creative names for a 'big juicy fruity magnolia scent with Latin American connotations', I would love to hear your suggestions.  

Not sure about 'Evita', no...


  1. So is it kind of like a tahini fragrance?? That would be odd ;) . Thanks for the mention. Big grin. Bussi xxxx

    1. Hi Bussi,

      No, I do know it's Val, really. Tahini isn't far off actually, but with juicy orange and radiant fat florals in there too. I guess you will be able to try it for yourself soon? X

  2. For a while I've been thinking about writing a post about this "club" but since my attitude is very negative I keep postponing.
    What I can say now - I don't like those bottles: they look cheap. And I really dislike those names. If I ever come across one of their perfumes that I'd love I'll repent and start singing praises. But for now I'm still thinking about writing a negative piece on it.

    1. Hi Undina,

      They aren't really even bottles - more like decants, handbag size sprays. That aspect didn't bother me particularly as I was so pleased about the size, though it is true that more design values could be built into even a small bottle. Look at Ajne, to take an extreme example the other way. Or Zelda indeed which is somewhere in between.

      The names are disappointing, I agree. I am not sure I could ever fall heavily for a scent that is just a number.

  3. Interesting, Vanessa. Similar to Undina, I really don't care for those decant-style of cheap bottles, and the names are awful between the numbers and the exclamation points. But it is great that they make the fragrances available in the small size bottles, and there are many perfume lovers who don't care about the bottle anyway.

    Got a kick out of you wondering if you have "nut-amplifying skin"! : - D

    1. Hi Suzanne,

      Calling them 'names' may even be overstating it, hehe. I did find the exclamation marks quite fiddly to insert while writing this post and it was one of my New Year's Resolutions to use fewer of the blessed things, not more!

      I can't wait to hear how anyone else got on with it - I can't believe the perfumer got this much nut from her composition or she would surely have said: 'Hmm, dial back the sesame, I think...' ;)

  4. A very fun account of this new venture, V. At least it sounds like the fragrances really are going to be original.

    1. Hi Tara,

      Both the ones I have tried I would certainly class as original. The tuberose and rose one that Natalie reviewed sounds as though it might be more familiar, yet pretty all the same. I get the feeling that given the freedom these perfumers have, they are more likely to go off-piste creatively than not. ;)

  5. It's reminding me of that popular high-school perfume Exc!amation. Not a very up-market association to make...AnnieA

    1. Hi AnnieA,

      Aha - I guess I was lucky to escape that particular high school craze, so the perfume doesn't have any exclamatory resonance for me at least, but I take your point! Oops, there I go again...

  6. My skin amps up the white musks in this one. I got the sesame a lot the first time I tried it but since then not so much. I don't get much citrus either. It's a nutty white musk but not in a bad way if that makes any sense. I wish they had names too. The bottle doesn't bother me too much. I think it's nice they credit the perfumer on the side of it. I think that's in line with the whole concept of letting perfumers create. Maybe they'd rather you remember the name of who made the scent instead of the name of the perfume.

    1. Hi Poodle,

      Sooo interested to hear your take on this one. How intriguing that you get more musk and I get ongoing nut. For I did every time! I do additionally get juicy fruit and big florals - you I sense not so much. ;)

      And you make a very good point there that maybe the bland numerical names tend to make you focus on the perfumer as a beacon of recognisability in the fragrance collection. I certainly do think of 04 as 'the Amelie Bourgeois one', and am looking forward to trying the one by Antoine Lie even though the notes don't sound quite like my cup of tea. That one is up next, I believe...

    2. I was thinking of reviewing this one for APJ. Maybe I will do that. I just got the Antoine Lie one and my first thought is I like it. I like those notes though. It's green and licorice. I love anise and licorice notes and love the way it smells green for more than just the first few minutes. I'll need to give it more skin time.

    3. Hi Poodle,

      Ooh, am excited to hear your feedback on the Antoine Lie scent, even though it sounds even less like my thing from your description. Still, he created PD BLACK, so it has to be tried! Will definitely look out for your review on APJ, if you do one. ;)

    4. Your review of 04, I meant, or either scent indeed!

  7. Thanks for the link! Funnily enough, the numbers don't bother me as much with this one as they have with other brands - I can only assume it was because I was aware of them from 01, which has made it relatively easy to keep track of them. Of course, that will not be the case when the number gets above the magic number of human memory: 7.

    1. Hi anotherperfumeblog,

      Belatedly replying to your comment here. That's a good point about the numbers bothering you less if they are sequential. The Biehlkunstwerke series adds a complicating layer of letters into the equation of course. ;). I do rather struggle with that one.