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