Cologne Absolu: the final frontier.
Back in my Sephora days, Atelier Cologne was one of those hidden gems I showed to clients I liked most. When they presented an interest in the finer things, like a beautiful Dior serum or YSL foundation, it was a natural progression to expose them to the luxurious world of this exclusive fragrance brand. Word is slowly spreading that there is magic to be found in this range, and I’m only too happy to share with you, my favourite readers, a few key points and my top picks.
Established in 2009, Atelier Cologne is the world’s only perfume house trading in fragrances inspired by the original Eau de Cologne from eighteenth century, sourcing the world’s most precious ingredients combined with the classic citrus styles of the past. Founders Sylvie and Christophe are more than business partners; they’re lovers who followed their mutual passion for scent. Legend has it the short stories printed on each Atelier Cologne box are based on their real lives, or at least inspired by. On Rose Anonyme:
“She turned the dial until the safe opened, revealing the diamond. She had stolen jewels before, but none compared with this one. She left a single rose and the scent of her perfume in its place for him to find. In a moment she’d be halfway around the world and he would be in pursuit. The chase began again…”
And on Vetiver Fatal:
“He was alerted immediately and called on the case, another diamond stolen mysteriously. The moment he opened the dossier, a smile sparked in his deep eyes as he recognized her signature mark. He took one of his passports, burned the file and began the pursuit. This time she wouldn’t get away…”
How adorable! They sure know how to make gifts go the extra mile with these small touches. Every 30 ml refillable bottle of Atelier Cologne’s Cologne Absolu (15% fragrance concentration or more) comes complimentary with a leather sleeve that can be engraved with the recipient’s name, as pictured. This service is available online or in select North American Sephora stores and during special events. Sets and body products are also available year round for the discerning collector, and despite the impeccable quality, thorough craftsmanship and sought-after exclusivity, the prices remain attractive and competitive among niche houses (comparable to Serge Lutens).
The range is divided into six distinct collections, and I have for you today a few bottles from the Originale, Azur and Métal families to recommend. The entire line is very good, but these are the best of the best, truly unique pieces that are most deserving of being brought home to your collection. Let’s start with newest one, called Citron d’Erable, released just a couple of months ago exclusively in the Canadian market.
“They heard about a retreat in the Great Lakes region: a couple of days in authentic wood cabins where all is raw and original, yet still beautiful. Each night promised new encounters, enjoying the warm citrus aroma of that familiar drink they shared. It was clear these moments would change them, maybe forever.”
My first impression of Citron d’Erable is smoky sugariness with a hint of lemon, which is indeed Atelier Cologne’s signature. It’s decadent and nearly edible. It has notes of sequoia and cedar that give it a fresh woodsy cleanliness but also pepper and orange to counter with warmth, making for a complex juice that somehow evokes the salty flavors of the Asian fusion kitchen, like sweet and tangy soy sauce. In the base is where you find the true nod to Canada, a delicately sweet maple aroma not unlike the small sugary bonbons tourists often take home. Citron d’Erable – “maple lemon,” in case you haven’t figured it out – is marketed as unisex but leans strongly towards the masculine side of the spectrum, like Cedre Atlas or Figuier Ardent. It’s a very conceptual approach to capturing the Canadian essence, and does not fail to impress both on a journalistic and consumer level. It’s both comfortable and bold, and if it doesn’t win some major honours in this year’s Canadian Fragrance Awards I will be surprised. The only downside is that is it just about impossible to get a hold of outside the country, but perhaps you could call your local boutique and beg your way to a bottle.
“They drove all night long taking turns… The minivan was the same one they had when they first met. He spotted it instantly, driving along the line of bergamot trees leading up to the villa. The table was already set for lunch. He wasn’t surprised to see them. It was as if they had always been together. This moment was a blessing and a reminder of so many treasured years.”
The Originale collection is quintessential Atelier Cologne, showcasing simple yet elegant citrus fruits in top notch, linear fine fragrances that are perfectly unisex. They are intended to be worn alone or in combination with another Atelier Cologne, like Orange Sanguine and Vanille Insensée, which together smell like an orange Creamsicle. My favourite is Bergamot Soleil, which came out in the dreary winter months this year to remind us that the sun shall return eventually. It explodes with a bitter grapefruit top note which takes on a sweet, warm vanilla quality, mixes with calming lavender and a touch of spice, and settles nicely into a vetiver and amber base. Very evocative of the Mediterranean, bears slight resemblance to Aqua Sextius from Jul et Mad Paris. Elegantly unisex, a good everyday summery cologne. Not too potent, not too bland, the perfect combination and oh so easy to wear. Makes me think of a sunshine-filled picnic.
“Her timeless generosity defined her, but she preferred to stay hidden. With fire and passion, she secretly devoted every moment of freedom to the cause that could make an everlasting difference. Her actions would irreversibly alter the established order.”
And if big time luxury is what you’re after, look no further than the Métals. Five never before seen fragrances inspired by the epitome of expensive ingredients, ranging from $245 to $270 per bottle. The classic Atelier Cologne flacon is dipped in opulent metallic finishes, adorned with leather caps. Blanche Immortelle from 2014 is my favorite, and it is a lot to take in. Rich, dark, bitter, delicious, addictive; immortelle, the main note, is a type of flower with a caramel- and coffee-like odour profile, here found layered with a teensy tart citrus. Reminds me of dark chocolate without the sweetness, a secret gourmand hiding behind a floral name. Equivalent to a smoky log cabin in January, with the fireplace roaring and a heavy blanket covering your lap. Warm and comforting, but somehow menacing. Doesn’t fall short of any Tom Ford Private Blend or equally prestige release, and as with the others lasts the whole night long.
So in conclusion, Atelier Cologne truly has something for everyone and for every taste – we’re barely scratched the surface with this trio. If you’re a floral person you might be limited in your choices, but otherwise there is so much to discover, and Sephora is the place to go to do it. Thank you to Thomas for organizing this review, please let me know your thoughts on this house in the comments! Next on my radar from Atelier is the just announced Camelia Intrepide, inspired by aviation icon Amelia Earhart. I can’t wait to try it!
*Prices true at time of writing.
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