It honestly does not take much convincing to get me on board with a fragrance called ‘The Orchid Man’. I am, after all, a well-documented lover of all things floral and I always feel encouraged by a modern launch that gears a floral towards men. As a man, or a boy (The Candy Perfume Man just sounds a bit creepy, doesn’t it?), whichever fits, I get tired of the industry’s attempts to encourage me to wear brutish things with burly ingredients, solid things like cedarwood, amber and oud. I like all of these things, but sometimes a guy wants to sissy things up with a great big whack of indolic jasmine, do you feel me? I am confident enough in my sexuality to not care about labels so a masculine floral, or a floral of any kind for that matter, is a no-brainer.
So yes, I was very intrigued when a bottle of Frapin’s latest fragrance, ‘The Orchid Man’, arrived on my doorstep, partly due to the fact that I’ve never really tried anything from the brand before. Without giving too much away, I must say that after spending some time with The Orchid Man, I certainly feel motivated to spend more the with the brand. Inspired by the life and fashions of French boxer, Georges Carpentier, The Orchid Man takes its name from his nickname, which is a reference to the orchid corsage he often wore with his suits. As a man of many talents, Carpentier was than just a boxer, he also was a star of stage and in film, a dabbler with the sport of Rugby and even the proprietor of the first cocktail bar in Paris. It’s no wonder then, that Frapin’s The Orchid Man is a complex and nuanced perfume.
Created by perfumer Jérôme Epinette (Byredo M/Mink & Atelier Cologne Rose Anonyme etc.), The Orchid Man strives to capture both the “elegance” and “violence” found within the spirit of such a contrasting man. Jérôme Epinette took inspiration from a boxing gym, centring the fragrance around “an animal leather accord that gives the scent its signature, power, elegance and the iconic aspects of boxing gloves” adding patchouli, which “brings the hot and humid tones that conjure up the atmosphere in a boxing gym”. The result is a kinetic spritz of energy full of juxtapositions that speaks of contact sport as much as it does gentlemanly elegance.
Top: Calabrian Bergamot and Madagascar Black Pepper
Heart: Jasmine and Leather
Base: Amber, Oakmoss and Patchouli
How Does it Smell?
Ding, ding, the bell goes and we’re off to a flying start. The first round is brash and bracing, much like a well-delivered punch to the face, albeit less painful, giving the impression of bergamot sweat jumping from the body as the punch lands. A whoosh of black pepper flies just past your nose, blocked by a stem-like greenness that is reminiscent of fleshy flower parts crushed harshly between clenched fists. There’s an underlying soapiness that is clean and creamy, hinting at the closeness of bodies and whiffs of freshly applied deodorant on exposed armpits. To add to this, the top notes are airy and ozonic, and they feel active as if there is movement of the air at rapid intervals.
The floral section sits firmly in the heart and whilst it’s noticeable and present, the key thing to note about The Orchid Man is that it’s not overly floral. The flowers here are jasmine-like and sit somewhere between dewy and fresh, and warm and tropical. To my nose they are shrouded by the gauzy top notes for most of the fragrance’s development, creating an effect that is like those plastic hologram cards you used to get as a kid where a number of still images appear to move as the angle of the card changes and the light diffracts. The floral hides and pounces, disappearing and reappearing as one dodges and blocks, moving in and out of focus.
Humming quietly in the background is a dark layer of warm leather. Initially, the scent of leather itself isn’t present, instead simply the texture shines through, providing a strong fuzziness that plays into the hands (or gloves, in this case) of the energetic bergamot and black pepper notes up top. With time, the unmistakably dirty tones of smoky birch tar start to appear, underpinning the whole thing with a dark mood. The leather here is the violence, hinting at the harsh reality that boxing ultimately ends in physical damage. That said, the leather note is firmly in the background and it never takes over, leaving the fresher citrus and floral notes, i.e. ‘the dandy section’ to take control.
In the base, The Orchid Man rests on patchouli and moss. Both notes have been sanitised and don’t present the inky or medicinal facets one would expect from old school scents. It becomes even more gauzy and diffusive in the base, sending forth small breezes of mineral-like and scratchy patchouli, woody-sharp leather and crushed green stems. It makes for a satisfyingly robust end to what starts out as a bundle of fizzy energy, and it cements The Orchid Man as more than just a fizz and a crackle by giving it a hidden depth. It all feels quite luxurious, like a cashmere scarf or a silk tie.
The Orchid Man is one of the most enjoyable masculines I’ve had the pleasure of sniffing in a while. It’s not a powerhouse by any means, but it does have a distinct presence and it’s one of those fragrances that one catches a surprising whiff of throughout the day, just as a reminder that yes, it is in fact you that smells might fine, not somebody else. The Orchid Man is an effortless masculine fragrance (to be fair, it would make a good feminine too) that suits both casual and smart wear (I’ve personally been rocking it with a suit for work and a Christmas jumper around the house, so it’s most definitely versatile), and it treads that perfect line between easy to enjoy and slightly unusual to make it a truly decent fragrance. Consider it as a must sniff.
Sample and images via Frapin. Quotes and notes via Bloom Perfumery.