In Jean-Claude Ellena’s book “The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur”, readers delve into the thoughts of Jean-Claude for a year. Jean-Claude writes like a French Yoda; and his approach to perfumery and life is philosophical. With great benevolence and a headstrong tone Jean-Claude writes about anything from bergamot, art, meeting Edmond Roudnitska, and more relevantly to this review, the difficulty he has with using mint in perfume.
In the chapter appropriately titled Mint, Jean-Claude quickly discusses the properties of real mint, describing how he “put bunches of fresh mint in his basket. The smell acted effectively as joyful and soothing energiser”. Mint is the ultimate energising note alongside citrus. It is refreshing and cooling, with quaint green nuances and a suggestion of pepper. What I find interesting personally is how my reference guide to fragrance notes clearly states how mint is the ‘quintessential scent of chewing gum and toothpaste’. Jean-Claude considers this fact also: “There are many essences of mint in perfumery – spearment, peppermint, pennyroyal, field mint, bergamot mint – which are also used for flavouring sweets, toothpaste, chewing-gum and sometimes as fragrance in household products; these different application depreciate the emotional impact of smelling mint.”
Connotations are powerful. Lemon has a quality that is reminiscent of floor cleaning products and dishwashing liquid and eucalyptus oil has a medicinal feel to it, like tiger balm or heat cream. Jean-Claude calls these olfactory symbols, and they are incredibly difficult to change. He found that mint either smelt too much like cleaning product, personal hygiene product and/or herbal tea during his trials.
Thus, mint is a difficult note to work with and to remedy this, Jean-Claude stated that ‘in order to transform mint into perfume (that is, to deteriorate the connotation), he therefore needed to find a new setting for this smell.’.
For this article, I will describe two very good fragrances with mint playing a decent part, and of course are void of any astringent connotations; for these fragrances mint may not necessarily be the focal note, but it’s there.
Volubilis by Bruno Acampora.
Photo from Luckyscent
In this rendition of the mint note, Volubilis mixes pink peppercorn with a mint note. It’s beautiful.
From the container, the mint fuses with pink grapefruit and a smidgen of pepper – it’s a welcoming smell, however also deceitful; as on skin this is much different. A stunning array of floral notes give delicacy. Revered may rose is used plentifully and it pays off, especially when blended – giving a cozy effect. The chilli-hot use of pink peppercorn is an interesting addition with rose. I’ve noted a floral-pepper combination in 31 Rue Cambon by Chanel before, however that pales in comparison. This accord makes the opening positively electrifying and invigorating, in the same manner a basket of fresh mint should, but at the same time doesn’t… nor could ever possibly do.
Olfactic sensibility and maturity is demonstrated through Volubilis with very high quality raw materials. The mint and pepper awakens whilst they twirl to a herbal dance much like many other chypre based scents on the market – with this easily being one of the more aromatic scents on the market. Creamy patchouli and wood notes make Volubilis rightfully and appropriately unisex, just as perfect on a man as it is on a woman. Creamy vanilla is indistinguishable but nevertheless cuts through the acidic tones of mint and grapefruit without ever taking over; in the same manner the vanilla and musk also domesticates and soothes the burn of pink pepper (baie rose).
Ironically, Acampora’s Volubilis is redolent of Ellena’s works. Minimal and lounge-worthy, if Italian Cypress by Tom Ford is what an Italian gentleman wears with a suit, this is what the same man would wear during a Neapolitan or a Mediterranean summer in his shorts or white trousers. This is never dry, but rather always sufficiently moist to the nose and has a wonderful and tight approach to minimalism in fragrances. Volubilis has just enough kick and squeeze to never be boring nor cloying and certainly a linear quality that is very good.
This doesn’t try too hard, I love that. Pepper and mint just works.
Subjective rating : 4/5
Objective rating: 4/5
Menthe Fraiche by Heeley Paris
Photo by Heeley Paris
Universal and modern – an ultra fresh unisex mint.
The impression of Listerine, Colgate, gum, herbal tea or floor cleaner is not far from being overridden thanks to this approachable fragrance – yet this does touch that facet slightly.
Menthe Fraiche, or Fresh Mint is exactly what it is. A mint dosed with water on a hot summer. It’s a bit like chewing fresh mint leaves with less bitterness. It’s a step up from the ‘domestic product’ facets, yet only one step, it’s a close one. Heeley’s mint is simply put, the best olfactic representation of mint on the market today – given your experiences with mint included and involved mojitos, ice tea and cold culinary salads.
It’s short lived like a true cologne – but I guess nothing lasts forever, happiness included. Bergamot and mint makes for a crisp and chilling opening like menthol-mint gum (not an overkill situation, I assure you), yet changes to highlight the tea note just like real peppermint tea. Subtle, sugary and summery. There’s a tiny impression of salt in there too!
Menthe Fraiche is like a scratch and sniff photograph of a bunch of mint that has been muddled with citrus and sugar. A beautiful take on mint that is also the most practical and the least adulterated. Again, it features a wonderful dimension of minimalism that in this instance reminds me of Osmanthe Yunnan once again by Ellena (it’s the tea note).
Finally there’s a slight impression of bitterness coming from this fragrance, giving Menthe Fraiche a bouncy quality to it. Like an on and off switch between sweetness and bitterness.
My only issue with this fragrance lies in the fact that it is a bit of a missed opportunity. You can do so much more by adding more in the mix!
Also try: Geranium Pour Monsieur by Frederic Malle; Guerlain Homme by Guerlain; Peppermint Sherbet from Comme Des Garçon; and Verbena Mint from L’Occitane.
It’s real! You can close your eyes and escape somewhere. Very good but simple – it can only get better, right?
Subjective rating : 3/5
Objective rating: 4/5