Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Frédéric Malle Cologne Bigarade traces the life cycle of an orange in reverse—at first, it reveals the aromatic brightness of ripe bitter orange, then it transforms into a pearly white orange blossom before finally melting into a whisper of green leaves and twigs. It is a streamlined composition, with a fresh, resinous character of citrus rinds and young green leaves. While it occasionally strikes me as overly simple, there is no denying that on a hot summer day it is as refreshing as a glass of lemonade.
Created by perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena for Malle’s Éditions de Parfums collection, Cologne Bigarade is his take on the classical cologne. The composition is dominated by bitter orange notes that encapsulate all aspects of this material—from leaves to fruit. The bitter, or Seville, orange has a delicious astringent verdancy, and Cologne Bigarade captures it better than many other colognes. Although classically inspired, it does not smell old-fashioned. The hazy backdrop reminiscent of green tea leaves and sunbleached woods serves as a soft counterpoint to the effervescent citrus. It is at once related to Ellena’s other fragrances–Cartier Déclaration and Bulgari Eau Parfumée au Thé Vert. As Cologne Bigarade dries down, it loses most of its sparkling brightness, but the sweet woody notes that remain are very pleasant.
Bigarade Concentrée is a richer variation of the original theme, with a softer cumin note that in the original have a tendency to pop up unexpectedly right after the zesty freshness wears down. Between the two versions, I would choose Bigarade Concentrée only because the zesty bitterness lasts much longer. The initial impression is of spicy, peppery notes, but they vanish rapidly to give way to the green orange blossom accord. Uplifting and refreshing, yet sophisticated as few citrus colognes are.
Frédéric Malle Cologne Bigarade and Bigarade Concentrée include notes of bitter orange, aldehydes, rose, cardamom, pepper, cedarwood, and hay. Éditions de Parfums fragrances are available from Frédéric Malle boutiques, Barneys New York and Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums website.
Photo: Orange Blossom by Glenn Franco Simmons via flickr, some rights reserved.
Samples: my own acquisition