Frapin 1697 : Fragrance Review

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1697

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Where is the exhilaration and intoxication? Where is the delicious darkness of a fine aged liquor? Where is the opulence typical of ambers and woods? For a fragrance that comes from a venerable cognac producer, Frapin 1697 seems like a particularly disappointing offering. It delivers none of darkness and richness one might expect from an amber oriental liberally dosed with rum notes and instead falls apart into musk and sour fruit. If it were a cocktail, I would have asked the bartender to remix it.

1697 was developed by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour, whose work I ordinarily quite enjoy. On the other hand, one-liner fragrances like his compositions for Eau d’Italie and Frapin lack any excitement. This is not just the case of 1697, but the Frapin range as a whole—I would rather spend my money on the house’s fine cognac than its perfume. While most compositions contain interesting ideas, they seem rather like unfinished sketches without much character. Terre de Sarment, Esprit de Fleurs, Passion Boisée and Caravelle Epicée fall into this category. 1270 is perhaps the most interesting composition, with its rich pineapple and raisin accord.

1697 does not even seem like a particularly memorable idea, a wan amber oriental that cannot decide whether it wants to be a spicy floral or a musky wood. Its prelude of rum soaked apricots and pepper is accented by tart rhubarb notes, making for an unexpected contrast of sweet and sour. Hints of spicy cinnamon are present throughout, becoming somewhat stronger as the fragrance dries down. The rose-jasmine accord provides the main floral element, albeit in a sheer and luminous style, rather than heady and petally. What ruins 1697 for me is the liberal dose of musk and vanilla, which rounds out the composition to the point of making it resemble a ball of cotton. The nuances of spices and woods becomes lost under a thick, white blanket of these soft, dense notes. Disconcertingly enough, as 1697 settles into its final drydown, it reminds me of a drugstore vanilla candle, with its raspy, plasticky note of white musk. Needless to say, not an auspicious association!

Frapin 1697 (the name refers to the year the Frapin family received its coat of arms from Louis XIV) includes notes of dark rum, acacia, davana, pink pepper, jasmine, hawthorn, ylang ylang, cloves, cinnamon, sweet dried fruits, rose, ambergris, tonka bean, patchouli, cedar, labdanum, musk and vanilla. Available from Aedes, Beautyhabit, Luckyscent, Theperfumeshoppe (Canada),and First-in-fragrance (Germany.) 50ml of Absolu Parfum costs $225.

Note: 1697 Absolu is a limited edition; only 1697 bottles have been produced and numbered from 1 to 1697.

Sample: my own acquisition

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30 Comments

  • Nathan Branch: I totally hear you on the Duchaufour appreciation tour. Quite a bit of his recent work has been wonderful, so I was curious about 1697. But a fluffy white musk and vanilla drydown? That’s where my interest ends.

    Though, really, I wonder who/what is more to blame — Duchaufour, or the Frapin budget? Because I agree with you on your assessment of the rest of the Frapin line. Interesting concepts, but never really fleshed out the way you’d expect (or hope). May 24, 2011 at 4:00am Reply

  • iodine: I gave Frapin 1679 a quick sniff at Exsence, and wasn’t struck at all, I vagously recall the round and rather banal vanilla sensation you describe. Moreover, I totally agrre with you about BD’s work for Eau d’Italie- it seems to me he’s been recycling more accomplished fragrances ideas or using sketches he would develop much better for other perfum houses.. May 24, 2011 at 4:23am Reply

  • Olfactoria: I love 1697 (and I don’t get tired of pointing it out. ;))! I am so sad you did not like it at all. Thankfully I get neither the sour fruit, nor the cloying cotton ball and drugstore vanilla associations, for me 1697 is a wonderfully rich and indeed intoxicating and sensual composition. Certainly my nose is not as schooled as yours, but 1697 smells heavenly to me and I am glad to have it in my collection.
    But thankfully different opinions and tastes can peacefully coexist in Perfumeland. 🙂 May 24, 2011 at 4:29am Reply

  • ines: Huh. And I was ready to love it but then again, there is probably still chance I will, as Caravelle Epicee is one of my all time favorites. 🙂
    I wish it would finally get here so I’d get a chance to try it. May 24, 2011 at 4:33am Reply

  • Natalia: sounds disappointing. Terre de Sarment and Esprit de Fleurs left me unimpressed, and oh how i wanted to love 1270 and i just didn’t. Passion Boisee i find to be a very comfortable scent though, and i love Caravelle Epicee (in fact, wearing it right now!) also i find l’Humaniste to be an adorable gin-tonic-white-wine-flowers kind of smell, i even purchased a decant of this to wear during warmer weather.

    as much as i love their cognacs though i havent found a fragranc ein the line that would remind me of my absolute favorite winter drink (and digestif of all times) – cognac… May 24, 2011 at 5:35am Reply

  • bee: same here, an exsence experience: rum, rum, and a sweet dry down, I was disappointed too May 24, 2011 at 6:37am Reply

  • nstephens@beachcroft.com: I was expecting to love this one but (on the basis of only one sniff so far) I was a little disappointed. It seemed a bit of a mess. I need to give it a fair go though, probably later in the year when it’s cooler as that might suit it better. I do like 1270 alot but not so much the others. Do hope BD is not spreading himself too thin. Nicola May 24, 2011 at 8:59am Reply

  • Suzanna: I stopped exploring this line with 1270, which I bought and rarely wore. I am not very intrepid and from the sounds of it I was wise to avoid this. It is everything I do not care for.

    This review made me revisit the work of Duchafour, a lot of which I’ve sampled. I rather like Sienne l’Hiver’s wet-stone-and-cocktail-olive weirdness, and I keep Eau d’Italie soap in my bathroom, but overall this isn’t a perfumer towards whose work I naturally gravitate. For L’Artisan, I do think Havana was/is brilliant and I am greatly amused by its rendering of Christmas rum ball with vanilla cold cream and tobacco.

    You are doing us a service with these reviews. In this economy, four dollars a pop for a sample means that an order can quickly become financially cumbersome. I consider this one four dollars saved. May 24, 2011 at 9:03am Reply

  • dukeofpallmall: M. Duchaufour is a great perfumer, but, budgetary issues aside, he’s been making way too many scents in the last years, resulting in too many self-plagiarisms and uninspired hackwork. I’m sure Ernest Beaux would have had the same problem with such an output, but that just indicates what’s wrong with the perfume business – quantity over quality, whether in the designer or niche markets. Admittedly, hundreds of bloggers and thousands of perfumistas hungering for new juice to talk about may be part of the problem :D. May 24, 2011 at 9:44am Reply

  • Victoria: The major problem for some niche line is really not so much the budget or perfumer’s talent, but the creative direction. I know that it is not often talked about, but a creative director (evaluator, brand manager, etc.) can exercise a profound influence on the fragrance. Serge Lutens and Frederic Malle are good examples, as these lines are headed by people with a very distinctive and very strong reason. Don’t believe for a second that Malle lets perfumers do anything they want! And it is a good thing when there is a strong creative intent and a strong concept. There has to be a strong direction.

    In case of Frapin, I feel that this is exactly what is missing. The ideas are interesting, but they are not pushed further. May 24, 2011 at 10:17am Reply

  • Victoria: And the thing is that I love his work on the whole and even these sketches of perfumes are something I enjoy smelling. Now, I would not want to wear them on my skin and neither would I want to spend $$$ on them. May 24, 2011 at 10:18am Reply

  • Victoria: Of course! 🙂 I am glad that you commented though, because it is always good to see different opinions. All of us perceive scents somewhat differently, and it makes the discussion enjoyable. May 24, 2011 at 10:20am Reply

  • Victoria: I prefer Caravelle Epicée to this by far. Caravelle Epicée at least has the depth and richness, whereas 1697 never really comes together. May 24, 2011 at 10:24am Reply

  • dee: Oh no V., here’s another one! LOL, I loved New Look, and I love 1697— which either means I have bad taste, or we are perceiving things very differently…

    1697 for me is a deeply sensual, intoxicating brew; the wearing experience very much reminds me of Histories de Parfum 1740 (which I also love); I feel like I remember reading that 1740 wasn’t particularly well-loved in the blogosphere either.

    Well, that’s okay. More bottles for me!!! ; ) May 24, 2011 at 10:55am Reply

  • Victoria: Caravelle Epicée and 1270 are my favorites, if I have to name them. Still, like you, I prefer just to drink my cognac. None of these capture its sensation and nuances. May 24, 2011 at 11:06am Reply

  • Victoria: I really expected so much more from it. May 24, 2011 at 11:07am Reply

  • Victoria: 1270 has such an interesting spiced raisin and pineapple accord. I wish it had a more fleshed out structure, but all in all, it is memorable. May 24, 2011 at 11:08am Reply

  • Victoria: I like his work for L’Artisan a lot: Traversee du Bosphore, Havana Vanille, Timbuktu, Nuit de Tubereuse, etc. But when it comes to some other niche projects, I find myself somewhat disappointed. May 24, 2011 at 11:10am Reply

  • Victoria: Quantity over quality is definitely an issue in all areas of perfume market, niche included. May 24, 2011 at 11:12am Reply

  • Victoria: Oh, I was just writing a review of Histoires de Parfums 1740, which I loved! I agree with you, that one did not get much appreciation, but to me, it is one of the best Histoires de Parfums fragrances. Leather and immortelle… so sensual! May 24, 2011 at 11:15am Reply

  • dee: I feel some redemption in your liking 1740 🙂 Can’t wait to read your take on it!!!! May 24, 2011 at 11:27am Reply

  • Victoria: Dee, I am very happy to see someone else who enjoys 1740. 🙂   May 24, 2011 at 11:39am Reply

  • Marla: I understand what you’re saying, though some of the reasons you don’t care for 1697 are the reasons I enjoy it! For example, the sour fruit note of davana is one of my favorites, I just happen to like it and it’s hardly ever used (I can only think of one other, Kenzo Jungle le Tigre). And the fact that it’s not terribly heavy or complicated works for me, because I don’t like heavy ambers or terribly boozy scents. So this seemed to me to be a lighter, more transparent sketch of a heavy, boozy amber, which makes it wearable for me. I also like the nutty and milky notes, it’s a bit gourmand. I know this scent went through lots of legal troubles and sourcing problems as well, and I’d like to be able to try one of the original versions to compare. May 24, 2011 at 12:04pm Reply

  • dleep: HMMM! I love Duchaufour and have several of his scents so this is very disappointing. I may give it a try one day but I’m not in any hurry. Thanks for the review. May 24, 2011 at 12:07pm Reply

  • Victoria: You are right about davana, such an interesting note! It is very difficult to use though, as it tends to suppress the composition quite easily. Here are a few of my davana accented favorites: Tom Ford Bois Marocain, Histoires de Parfums 1740, Amouage Jubilation (both of them), Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir. May 24, 2011 at 2:21pm Reply

  • Victoria: You should try it, especially if you liked other Frapin fragrances. Perhaps, you will enjoy it more than I did. May 24, 2011 at 2:22pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I love Histoires de Parfums 1740, enough to own a full bottle. I will be very interested to read your take on it. I don’t think of Marquis de Sade much when I wear it, I just enjoy the fragrance. May 24, 2011 at 4:02pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Would you call Paestum Rose a sketch, V? If so, perhaps I see it the way I see those one-line gesture drawings by Matisse… May 24, 2011 at 5:03pm Reply

  • Victoria: I do not make that connection either! It is sensual and quite beguiling.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 24, 2011 at 7:20pm Reply

  • Victoria: That one seems to me as a bit more fleshed out. Still one-dimensional, but less of a one-liner than other Eau d'Italie fragrances. Bois d'Ombrie is a very interesting idea, begs to be made into a bigger fragrance.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 24, 2011 at 7:24pm Reply

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