In 1270, in the Grand Champagne region of France, the Frapin family began making cognac, using folle blanche grapes grown on the family’s 300 hectares, where its chateau, Fontpinot, is also perched. Today, more than 700 years later, the family still makes cognac, and is one of the oldest established families in France.
Like perfume, creating cognac involves sourcing the finest raw materials and refining them to their essence in a meticulously controlled set of processes to create something luxurious, nuanced and aromatic. It’s perhaps unsurprising, then, that in 2002, the wonderfully named Beatrice Cointreau, a 20th generation member of the Frapin family, decided to create a line of perfumes that would capture the particular blend of aromas experienced during the cognac production process, and around the grounds of Fontpinot. In lieu of drinking it, Cointreau would sometimes rub cognac on her wrist to sample its heady flavours — florals, dried fruit notes, vanilla, spices and woody notes were all detected.
Using ingredients sourced in nearby Grasse, the global epicentre of perfume manufacturing, she created “1270”, an intoxicating blend of bitter chocolate, candied orange, raisins, prunes and hazelnuts, with a spicy heart and honeyed base notes cocoa and coffee, leather and wood that suggest ancient cellar spaces. It’s housed in an elegant flask with the P Frapin & Cie logo subtly etched into the top of its beechwood stopper — a nod to the casks in which Frapin cognac is distilled over decades, painstakingly crafted by a pipemaker.
Benny Castles, a director at WORLD, which stocks Frapin’s fragrances, says despite its undeniable quality, the brand has remained under the radar. “There are some fragrance brands that are really about the story and the fragrance speaks to it, but, although Frapin has wonderful stories, they lead with the fragrance. In that sense, Frapin embodies the sophistication and elegance of French design and creativity — without overcomplication. “It has a really strong following, but you don’t see it in the stores or in duty free, and it hasn’t registered like other niche luxury brands.”
Soon after launching “1270”, Frapin handed its perfume production over to David Frossard, a Paris-based perfume expert who extended the line, creating further examples of beautifully refined, unusual and clever fragrances, often inspired by intriguing historic personages or masterworks. “Nevermore”, for instance, references Edgar Allen Poe’s famous poem The Raven and pays tribute to the Poe Toaster, a mysterious cloaked personage who, for years, would visit Poe’s grave on his birthday, leaving behind three red roses and a bottle of cognac. It’s a rich, spicy scent of black pepper, nutmeg and wine dregs with dark rose notes and a warm, cedar base.
“The Orchid Man” combines such diverse notes as bergamot, leather, jasmine and patchouli to pay tribute to Georges Carpentier, a fast, hard-hitting early 20th Century boxer who wore floral corsages with his tailored suits. It’s a softly elegant scent that confounds modern ideals of masculinity. The latest Frapin creations are both complex and surprising, although they differ greatly from each other.
“Laskarina” is named for a fearless heroine of the Greek war for independence, a wealthy widow who bought arms, built warships and assembled a private army to lead a revolt against Ottoman rule in the early 19th Century, and died arguing fiercely over her son’s elopement. It’s a fresh, sweet floral with notes of bergamot, grapefruit and pink peppercorn, orange blossom and Bulgarian rose, played off against spicy undertones of frankincense, black pepper and Ambroxan, a compound similar to ambergris.
“Isle of Man” is a bracing concoction that pays tribute to the most dangerous race in the world, the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy, which claims motorcyclists’ lives every year. Citrusy and salty, with green and floral notes on a base of ironwood, vetiver and musk, it’s intense and bold and is guaranteed to gel with a certain kind of man.
“People learn with fragrances that they should match your personality,” Castles says. “Sometimes that’s a little bolder and fun and experimental, and sometimes it’s a bit more classic. What fragrance can give you is that feeling of completeness. It’s that last accessory to an outfit.
“And with that comes confidence and strength of personality. If your clothes or fragrance suit you, you’ll feel more like yourself, and be more capable in all the ways that you want to.”
P Frapin & Cie fragrances are available exclusively from WORLD