With the spring 2013 Renaissance of eaux de Cologne, we decided it would be worthwhile to publish, at long last, a review of Eau de Fleurs Néroli by Chloé, which was kept in the archives since 2010 as it was written first in French. Here is the English version translated and adapted for the blog.
Eau de Fleurs Néroli by Chloé seems to have elicited to be unsurprising in its initial opening moments and even so later on as the composition unfolds, I wrote in 2010, putting then the accent on the familiar, nostalgic nuances of this staple type of perfume. In 2013, I realize better the discreetly original character of this perfume composed by perfumer Aliénor Massenet of IFF, which I now perceive as much more based on a dual structure of eau de Cologne and lavender fougère blended furthermore with unconventional notes of tobacco and wild blond herbs; I had sensed the fougère aspect then, but not as centrally. Its undercurrent however remains throughout the development of the perfume creating a very pleasant unisex composition evoking a well-worn and eminently sharable woolen tweed jacket brushed by the air of the countryside. If I had sensed the woolen jumper aspect of the cologne back then, now the sartorial and olfactory play on gender codes appears much clearer to the nose...
Eau de Fleur Néroli opens on a very familiar eau-de-Cologne accord - if you dab on some more generously onto the skin, it even takes on a slightly masculine character seemingly borrowed from a man's after-shave built on a fougère accord. This domesticated accord now comes enriched with a more carnal and distinctive neroli note playing in counterpart, much more so than is commonly felt in a classic eau de Cologne; a musky and powdery aspect has also been emphasized.
In a way it is a pas-de-deux which is taking place from the start between the classical matrix of a Kölnisch Wasser and one of its traditional and most solar notes, neroli, which has been invited to step into the limelight in order to renew our perception of the genre of the eau de Cologne as a clean and nearly disembodied perfume. Here, fleshiness has been added.
The neroli note becomes ever more present as the fragrance develops. It offers nuances of sweet syrup, fruits, resins, the latter a bit sticky even, perhaps coming from an unconscious memory of sweet treats stuck at the fingers of childhood. The scents reveals the spectacle of a solar neroli note with orange and mandarin nuances, which has both character and joy of life within. Smells of wild herbs contribute to creating a fresh, green aromatic sensation. The lavender accord is invigorating and wind-swept.
Neroli is given pride of place as if it had been invited to a causerie in the drawing-room of Anne-Marie de la Trémoïlle, Princess of Ursins and Nerole, who introduced it in France from Italy, launching a fashion for its sensual scent from the 17th century. Is it the tea note that invites you to think of a social hour? Whoever enjoys neroli will be able to reconnect here with the simple yet authentic pleasure of inhaling it as the collection Eaux de Fleurs puts the accent on the quality of its star ingredients.
After the phase of an orangey sun, a partial eclipse takes place.
The neroli note then becomes slightly darker, becoming more animalic and spiced up. Notes of cumin and cedar wood, whose animal facet has been brought out, bring the association of their flesh-like nuances to create a sensation of human sweat, both realistic and sensual. Many French eaux de Colognes like to retain this rawer humanity note as if they were reluctant to let go of one of the initial reasons that led to the popularity of colognes, its modesty aspect which would have covered but not eradicated the smell of a human body. Try using an eau de Cologne as a deodorant under your armpits and you will see how inadequate in the long run it is at replacing a modern deodorant.
Eau de Fleur Néroli thus makes the choice of being a carnal eau de Cologne refusing to adhere to the diktats of the deodorized society, illustrating the conviction that the smell of sweat ought not to be completely forgotten.
Gentle nuances of bonbon soon surface while at the same time, a deeper, more ambery tonality appears suggestive of nightfall. It smells evocatively of the countryside, of blond and dry herbs and tobacco. An almondy facet appears creating a sensation which is half-gourmand and half-fresh (tonka bean). With the warmer texture of the scent, one is led to feel that there will be days in the summer when it will get cooler and one will need to bring a woolen jumper in one's luggage.
This composition is that of an eau de Cologne which is fleshier than usual yet revealing of the aromatic and tonic nature of its direct ancestor. Néroli is somewhere in-between the complexity of Fleurs d'Oranger by Serge Lutens and the classicism of a "bathroom-top" eau de Cologne. If we compare it with the Infusion de Fleur d'Oranger by Prada which also attempts to create a mixed texture both light and deep, one will notice that it is lighter than that one. Compared to it, Néroli is more like an invigorating eau. One also feels in it much more of that allusion to a misty blue-mauve color and guimauve nuance found in orange blossom perfumes which are echoes of L'Heure Bleue by Guerlain, as if the orange-blossom-scented lanyards of guimauve were always held captive in our childhood memories of orange blossom.
This perfume belongs, as far as I am concerned, to a group of stealth eaux de Cologne which could be considered to be vehicles for the reintroduction of mixed sensations of substance and depth in the midst of a culture which is enthralled by freshness and lightness. It's been a while since we got used to evanescence and transparency, the legacy of the 1990s, and L'Eau d'Issey in particular.
It would be however too quick to conclude that the wave of freshness is on the wane. Perfumers always manage to carve out spaces of experimentation in order to refine textures which are becoming more and more diaphanous. This is what nose Daniela Andrier has done with her series of Infusions at Prada. These scents are the products of a research which push them ever more in the direction of abstraction and immateriality (see Infusion de Vétiver
It is however impossible to miss the fact that a reaction has taken place, and in particular, and paradoxically, that this dialectical dynamic is to be experienced in the new-depth of eaux de Cologne
which have turned velvetier.
One can think that the name eau de Cologne is here to signal to consumers that lightness is indeed to be expected. No need therefore for a slogan that would advertize a freshness which is almost universally desired as everyone knows that an "eau" or an "eau de Cologne" are meant to refresh.
The rather large flacon for Eau de Fleur Néroli, which can be seen to be derived from the style of a bathroom-top eau de Cologne, is one that makes you think that it is meant to be used liberally. One is invited to imagine the rhythm of a quotidian habit, that of an easy gesture, which is one of the aspects of the cultural representation of the eau de Cologne.
In the end, and beyond the revivalist meaning of the modern eau de Cologne movement, what should pull your attention in the direction of this eau de Cologne is its very well thought-out unisex composition. For women, it is a way of wearing a light fougère. For men, it is a way of reconnecting with a floral scent. For both, it will be evocative - if you smell closely enough like you bring a conch shell to your ear - of long strolls taken in the countryside wearing superbly worn tweed jackets, which would have been cured thanks to the Scottish hills wind, the scent of wild herbs, and rooms filled with the lingering scent of Amsterdamer tobacco.
Fragrance notes: mandarin, orange, clary sage, rosemary, peony petals, tobacco, tea, tonka bean, white musks, amber.