Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is a unique brand. Positioning himself somewhere between Creative Directory and Fragrance Curator, Malle is responsible for putting the perfumer centre stage, famously slapping their names on the bottles of the fragrances they create, and allowing them artistic carte blanche to create perfumes that are works of art. It’s quite staggering to think just how many modern classics come from this line – Carnal Flower, Portrait of a Lady, Le Parfum de Therese, Une Fleur de Cassie and Vetiver Extraordinaire – I really could go on, there really isn’t a single ‘dud’ in the collection, and when viewed against the plethora of niche brands on the market, Editions de Parfums de Frederic Malle puts many to shame.
The most iconic, and in my personal opinion, the most beautiful fragrances within the collection are penned by legendary perfumer, Dominique Ropion – a man that conducts fragrant symphonies, rather than simply creates perfumes. He is the nose behind some of the greatest fragrances from the last thirty years. In short, the man is a genius and he seems to be the go-to guy for Malle when the brand wishes to ‘perfect’ a genre, whether that be the greatest tuberose scent (Carnal Flower) or the ideal rose fragrance (Portrait of a Lady), or even the coolest modern fougére (Geranium Pour Monsieur).
With that it mind, it seems appropriate for Ropion to be the nose to take on the humble Eau de Cologne with a view of creating the cologne – a cologne to serve as a reference point for the genre, and blow all others out of the water. The result is ‘Cologne Indélébile’ (‘Permanent Cologne’), a fragrance that is described by the brand as being a “modern yet traditional Eau de Cologne that lasts forever”, which is quite a statement to be making, if you ask me. With this permanent cologne, Malle and Ropion are attempting to redefine an age-old genre and drag it firmly into the 21st century by embracing modern technology (specifically through the use of ‘technical musks’). If that’s not an exciting prospect for a fragrance, then I don’t know what is!
“A clean scent, yet surprisingly magnetic. A modern yet traditional Eau de Cologne that lasts forever. Dominique Ropion embraces musk’s nature as both a quasi-aphrodisiac and a scent of purity to create a very personal interpretation of Eau de Cologne. A splash of the best neroli intertwined with orange blossom, bergamote, and the most technical musks for a scent that endures, and endures, and endures… Cologne Indélébile.”
– Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle
Neroli, Orange Blossom, Bergamot and Technical Musks
How Does it Smell?
The perfect cologne. It seems like the simplest of ideas and one that would perhaps be redundant seeing as the humble Eau de Cologne has been in existence for hundreds of years, leading one to believe that such a feat would have been achieved long ago. Sure, there are hundreds of decent colognes on the market, but many lack one thing; longevity. Yes, you can find an Eau de Cologne that lasts a decent amount of time, take Mugler’s Cologne or Etat Libre d’Orange’s Cologne, for example, but these aren’t traditional colognes by any sense and each paints a more modern picture. Cologne Indélébile sits somewhere smack bang in the middle between tradition and modernism, pairing excellent presence and longevity with classic cologne ingredients to create something that is, for want of a better word, perfect.
Cologne Indélébile opens with lemons, and I mean LEMONS. The citrus is giant, vibrant and very present. I find it to be particularly tart and sharp during the first few minutes, at which point it almost takes on a metallic edge (as Persolaise perfectly summed up in his review) that makes everything thing feel cool and bracing, not to mention very modern. Underneath the lemon is a floral heart of orange blossom, neroli and narcissus that feels clean and punchy. Everything is relatively sterile, as it should be in an Eau de Cologne, but at the same time it feels wonderfully alive and airy, fizzing in a lively breeze of creamy white petals and sunshine-coloured pollen.
The real magic sits within the ‘technical musks’ that Ropion has used to give Cologne Indélébile longevity, lift and a wonderfully steamy feel. There are two things that strike me as particularly interesting with the base of this thoroughly modern cologne; 1) it casts more than just a few shades or Ropion’s magnum opus, Carnal Flower, evoking the crisp and green buds that are the core of the tuberose queen; and 2) the musk allows the fragrance to weave in and out of consciousness, meaning that throughout the day the scent appears to disappear and reappear, surprising the wearer with strong puffs of steamy cologne-goodness to reawaken the senses.
Cologne Indélébile is a masterful Eau de Cologne. It manages to strike the right balance between complexity and simplicity, being technical enough to last and surprise, whilst retaining that paired back and light approach that is the very heart of the cologne genre. Ropion has once again proved that he has an innate knack for perfecting fragrance styles into something almost orchestral. Cologne Indéléble, with its huge citrus, palpable florals and clever, steamy musks, almost renders all other Eau de Colognes obsolete, and for that reason I highly recommend it. It would be hard for another cologne to top this.
Cologne Indélébile is available in 1x10ml (£3), 3x10ml (£75), 50ml (£110) and 100ml (£155) Eau de Cologne.
Sample, notes and quotes via Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle. Image 1 my own. Image 2 via vertigomag.co.uk.