Charenton Macerations Christopher Street : Perfume Review

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The first thing I noticed about Charenton Macerations Christopher Street was that it was a proper, old-school chypre (a perfume based on an intricate combination of citrusy, floral and mossy notes).  At  long last, I should add. It was composed by Ralf Schwieger, author of Lipstick Rose for Frédéric Malle and lately several fragrances for Atelier Cologne and Etat Libre d’Orange.

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Charenton Macerations is a new indie brand created by fragrance consultant Douglas Bender, and Christopher Street is the debut perfume from this indie outfit. The notes of Christopher Street are supposed to give an olfactory picture of this New York neighborhood, and to that end one might want to read the brief as given on the Charenton Macerations Web site. Early on, Bender wished to “…combine classical floral elements with more subversive tones of metals, smoke, watered down alcohol, wet woods, clove, burnt coffee, and dark tea” that would represent, well, a lot of things having to do with the history of Christopher Street and its casts of characters.

I can smell all of it.  How many times does this happen in this new world of vague, watery fragrances?  Next to never? Christopher Street drugged my nose from the first sniff.  Up came the moss, the myrrh, the patchouli, through a haze of hot spices and raw tobacco. As the copy claims, Christopher Street is positively unfettered by trend and is thus not impaired by its restrictions.  If it doesn’t smell as wild and free as the marketing would have it; that is by no means a problem.  It’s a wonderful sniff and I am glad that the tea and coffee notes never appear.  I’d much rather the citrus and cigarettes, but that’s a personal preference.

There is indeed an alcoholic haze at the top of Christopher Street through which one must wander, an effect I particularly like because of a personal fondness for margaritas (on the rocks, salt).  Tobacco is more prominent to me than leather, but it’s a suave and mild-mannered tobacco more associated with gentlemen’s clubs than with sweaty discos.

Orange blossom and carnation act as complementary notes in a quiet, background way.  They are subsumed to that positively thrilling base where you encounter the classic chypre foundation with lingering flickers of orange and bergamot.  For such a novel fragrance, the base is firmly seated in the past, among classic chypres that waft about like pipe dreams in our memories. Such a base leads you down Christopher Street wanting more from this indie label that has made such a stunning debut.

At $100 for 30 ml it’s what the French say is “trop cher.” I have used up most of mine during the month or so that I’ve tested it and am now down to meager rations and suffering sticker shock. But if it’s any consolation, the lasting power is excellent, and a little Christopher Street goes a long way.

Christopher-Street

Charenton Macerations Christopher Street includes notes of lime, bergamot, bitter orange, leather, tobacco, cinnamon, clove bud, “dance on skin” (described as “jubilant, yet sweaty” accord), orange blossom, poet carnation, incense, moss, musk, myrrh, and patchouli. Available directly from Charenton Macerations (may I add a plea for a sample option?)

Sample: Charenton Macerations

Photography by wwarby via Flickr, some rights reserved

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30 Comments

  • Virginia Burton: Reminds me of “Such interesting people live on Christopher Street!” (from “Wonderful Town” lyrics by Betty Comden and Adolph Green). May 27, 2013 at 7:33am Reply

  • David Rhaybans: When did the site get the facelift? It looks really great! May 27, 2013 at 7:39am Reply

  • solanace: This sounds really promissing! May 27, 2013 at 8:14am Reply

    • Victoria: If you like green leathery chypres like Aramis and Estee Lauder Aliage, you should try it. But I hope that they will have samples on their website, because it’s not a blind buy perfume by any means. May 28, 2013 at 3:24am Reply

      • Douglas Bender: Samples are coming later this month. Just signed off on the final proofs for them. May 28, 2013 at 12:00pm Reply

  • Bela: I couldn’t possible wear this – because of the name. LOL! Charenton is the name of a notorious French lunatic asylum (the equivalent of the Bethlem Hospital in London, which gave us the word ‘bedlam’). May 27, 2013 at 9:17am Reply

    • Jillie: Bela, that made me laugh. My Parisienne friend said the same thing about Guerlain’s Champs Elysees – she said she wouldn’t want to wear something that had connotations of exhaust fumes and pollution! May 27, 2013 at 9:23am Reply

      • Bela: Well, the Champs-Elysées may be a busy thoroughfare, but at least it is beautiful to look at (especially around New Year) and conjures up an idea of luxury. A lunatic asylum, on the other hand…. May 27, 2013 at 9:42am Reply

        • Jillie: Yes, I think you are right! May 27, 2013 at 9:52am Reply

          • Douglas Bender: Charenton is indeed named after an asylum outside of Paris, the last that the Marquis De Sade stayed in before dying. Charenton was not an asylum like what you see in “American Horror Story,” though, but was the first hospital of its kind to offer art and expression as a method of therapy. Plays were staged on its grounds to entertain French Society. So it really represents to me the idea of creating beauty from madness, as well as the concept of contained beauty (just like fragrance trapped in a bottle). Yes, for me, fragrance inspiration can even be found inside the walls of an asylum. May 27, 2013 at 7:08pm Reply

            • Bela: Hmm… if you haven’t seen/read it, I think you should see/read Peter Weiss’s Marat-Sade (full title: The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade). Charenton had to have been a place of horror because all asylums were at the time (and still were fairly recently) even if the treatment of patients was more humane there than elsewhere. May 28, 2013 at 5:26pm Reply

    • george: Maybe it should be part of the Etat Libre d’orange range, what with Charogne being part of the aforementioned. Perosonally, i would love a perfume entitled bedlam! May 27, 2013 at 12:38pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Great idea! Etat libre presenting ”Mad Bess of Beglam”. How should it be? Yellow/green chypre or red pepper? May 27, 2013 at 1:20pm Reply

        • Cornelia Blimber: ”Mad Bess of Bedlam” ..erratum corrige. May 27, 2013 at 1:22pm Reply

          • george: Well, as I would be going for the late stuart/georgian era Bedlam, it would need to contain some sort of hay extract or coumarinic ingredient, and a juniper/gin accord for the stink of the warders. But red pepper chypre- isn’t that 31 Rue Cambon?- why that for an insane asylum? (as twas called back then) May 27, 2013 at 1:44pm Reply

            • Cornelia Blimber: Red pepper symbolic for the insane rage of the mad woman May 27, 2013 at 3:29pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s a deliberate choice. Here is some more info:
      http://www.charentonmacerations.com/tag/de-sade/ May 28, 2013 at 3:25am Reply

      • Bela: Yes, someone pointed it out on MUA. That’s even worse, imo. I am no admirer of the Marquis de Sade. May 28, 2013 at 5:27pm Reply

  • Jillie: Suzanna, I love chypres (although not keen on sweaty notes!). I feel so sad that we will be losing nearly all true chypres now that oak moss is frowned on, and I am treasuring some of my old favourites. I suppose Estee Lauder did a pretty good job with their “white moss”, but I can’t really imagine anything really replacing the genuine stuff. May 27, 2013 at 9:29am Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: Again such an impressive, mysterious, ominous landscape in strange green light. Wonderful.
    As for the perfume:
    I hope this perfume will be available in the Netherlands! Raw tobacco, cigarettes, citrus..sounds as the perfect companion for a glass of Johnny Walker Black Label and Pall Mall. May 27, 2013 at 9:51am Reply

  • Lucas: Sounds like a quality perfume which is worth a sniff for me. I love a good and well blended chypre May 27, 2013 at 11:52am Reply

  • Daisy: I heard about this! Now I am very much looking forward to trying it out. Thanks for the wonderful review, Suzanna! May 27, 2013 at 11:59pm Reply

  • Rina: May I say that having the creator of the fragrance commenting is wonderful? Thank you Mr. Bender for playing in our sandbox! I hope others will too! Thanks Suzanna for a great article too! May 28, 2013 at 1:25pm Reply

  • minette: nice to hear from the owner! your replies made me want to try this even more – although victoria’s 5-star review is already recommendation enough!

    thanks for adding the sample option.

    cheers! May 28, 2013 at 3:14pm Reply

  • minette: oops, suzanna’s 5-star review! May 28, 2013 at 3:14pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: I loved Bela’s observation about the French madhouse, but I would be more likely to avoid the scent because of the Christopher Street associations…. wasn’t Christopher Street New York’s version of Castro Street, San Francisco back in the day? So to my mind, it would smell like sweaty leather (not necessarily a bad thing), amyl nitrate (god, I am old), spilled beer, assorted body fluids, and someone who was once important to me dying young, but not unexpectedly. I much prefer the madhouse connection. Did anybody see “Quills”? the Kate Winslett movie about the Marquis de Sade? May 29, 2013 at 4:55pm Reply

  • Tanya: To me this scent sounds likely to smell wonderful! Completely interested in smoky/leather scents lately!

    I do find it rather amusing about the number of those who have considered rejecting it based on the name! Especially when I’m more likely to do the opposite! Not liking a name (or bottle) won’t stop me from liking a fragrance… however, liking a name is really upsetting to me when I don’t like the scent! But then I’m also thinking that Bedlam would be a terrific name for a fragrance. May 29, 2013 at 5:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also would love a fragrance named Bedlam! It would be especially fun if someone were to ask what perfume you’re wearing. 🙂 May 30, 2013 at 10:55am Reply

  • Tara C: Ha! People snickered in South Africa when I visited there years ago, as apparently their (in)famous insane asylum is named Tara. Still waiting for a perfume named after me. 😉 June 4, 2013 at 12:44am Reply

    • Victoria: There are two! Auric Blends has Tara Perfume, and Ava Luxe offers Green Tara. 🙂 June 4, 2013 at 5:35pm Reply

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