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.
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.
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