The smell of snowdrops and early spring

Eau de Gentiane Blanche by Hermès


Eau de Gentiane Blanche caught my attention when I was looking for an early spring cologne. Something cool and fresh, but without obvious summer infused citrus notes. Something within white and bluish grey color spectrum rather than yellow and juicy green. An alternative for Grey Flannel. According to some Fragrantica users the smell of Eau de Gentiane Blanche is similar to Grey Flannel, so I decided to give it a try.

Name: Eau de Gentiane Blanche

Brand: Hermès

Perfumer: Jean-Claude Ellena

Year of creation: 2009

Pyramid according to Osmoz:

Top notes: Fresh Notes, Green Notes

Heart notes: Oliban, Gentian

Base notes: Iris, Oakmoss, White Musk, Woody Notes

Classification according to Osmoz: Woody – floral musk

Classifications according to Fragrance Wheel by Michael Edwards: Woods (Boisé), Crisp (Pétillant) subgroup, Green (Vert)

Verdict by Luca Turin: 2 of 5 stars called “orange blossom” (by Tania Sanchez)

Although I wouldn’t say that Eau de Gentiane Blanche do smell like Grey Flannel, I have to admit, that both fragrances share the similar character and are the good choice for the early spring season. The time of snowdrops blossoming above the snow covered ground. When the thin rays of low staying sun are not yet bring enough warmth, but can still leave long blue shadows on the snow.

In Eau de Gentiane Blanche the citrus character of fresh top notes is ingeniously hidden and transformed into the peppery green freshness of the first grasses and leaves combined with the tonifying bitterness of white gentian blossoms. The main theme is extended by floral white musk with light woody accents. Fortunately this musk is much more pleasing to my nose than the one used in Grey Flannel.

Being honest, I don’t know what white gentian smells like. And whether it smells at all. But I have to say that Jean-Claude Ellena is succeeded to convince me, so I can easily associate this perfume with white gentian blossoms. But if he told me it was a smell of snowdrops, I’d believe him as well – same bitter freshness I’d expect from those gentle little flowers. In fact I prefer to associate the smell of Eau de Gentiane Blanche with a something familiar like snowdrops than something distant and unknown like Alpine gentian.

The fragrance is linear and doesn’t change with time. The sillage is restricted to the intimate zone and sometimes I can only smell it directly from the skin. But it stays the whole day and on my clothes even longer. A soft sillage in combination with musky freshness makes it quite suitable for in the office. And to me personally Eau de Gentiane Blanche keeps to be the early spring cologne. Its bitterness reminds me of the bitter character of capricious spring weather and its musky floral tones make me think of the first snowdrops.

The season of green florals with Grey Flannel


Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene or Spring is in the Air

IMG_4711v2SWIt’s always the same around this time of the year. The winter feels like it has been gone (even there is a big chance it comes back with snow and frost) and my inner calendar starts to notice the first signs of spring (even the smallest ones). Fortunately it’s easy to find something blossoming any time of the year in Amsterdam. Like different sorts of Viburnum shrubs reminding me of the first blossoming fruit trees. Or the yellow flowers of winter jasmine. And once it’s really cold and rainy outside, there is always place for hyacinths and tulips inside the house. The pungent smell of hyacinths that combines the cool green freshness with white floral elements fits perfectly this season.

At the first glance there seem to be not much hyacinth soliflores. Michael Edward’s guide mentions only Jardin Clos by Diptyque. But the cool green note of hyacinth can be found in many fragrant families – green, green chypre, fresh florals, white florals, fresh woody, etc. Like today I am wearing Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene where I defenitely sense hyacinth impression while is not even mentioned in the pyramid.

Name: Grey Flannel

Brand: Geoffrey Beene

Perfumer: André Fromentin (quite an unknown name for a perfumista)

Year of creation: 1975/76 (re-orchestration in 1996 is mentioned)

Pyramid according to H&R Fragrance Guide:

Top notes: Green
Main: Green note
Supported by: Galbanum, Lemon, Petitgrain, Bergamot

Heart notes: Green
Main: Violet
Supported by: Rose, Clary Sage, Fern, Geranium

Base notes: Powdery
Main: Musk
Supported by: Cedarwood, Moss, Tonka

Other notes mentioned in different pyramids: green lemon, orange, neroli, labdanum, violet leaves, mimosa, orris, cinnamon, amber, vetiver, oakmoss, sandalwood.

Classification according to H&R Genealogy: Chypre, green

Classification according to SFP (Société Française des Parfumeurs): B6m, Floral (Fleuri) group, Woody (Boisé) subgroup, masculine

Classifications according to Fragrance Wheel by Michael Edwards: Woods (Boisé), Fresh (Frais) subgroup

Verdict by Luca Turin: 5 stars of 5 called “sweet green

Grey Flannel seems to be a controversial fragrance getting a lot “love it or hate it” response. People call it either a “timeless masterpiece” or “synthetic crap”. Even Luca Turin who gives it 5 stars calls it a “masterpiece”, but at the same time mentions that the fragrance “occasionally feel a little crude”. Sounds like a perfume with a daring character. But there is one more thing i discovered reading the reviews from the experienced perfumista. I understand the scent is affected by reformulations. The version of 80’s seems to be richer and more refined than the current one. Well, both facts can explain the ambivalent feelings about Grey Flannel.

When I put Grey Flannel on, I get the same controversial feelings. I do love the start and I almost hate the base. Love the citrus freshness of the scent made almost non-recognizable behind the green fumes of galbanum and violet leaves. That pungent cool green freshness reminding me of a hyacinth flower. Cold and clean like the snow, but with a floral touch of fragile early blossoms. I smell the slightly bitter sweetness of violet leaves rubbed between the fingers. And that dusty powdery mossy base that gives the scratchy feeling reminding me the sense of raw woolen clothe on the skin. The general mood of Grey Flannel translated into colors feels like muted whitish, greenish and bluish tints turned out just to be the shades of grey.

The base tells me the different story. There seems to be a mixture of musk molecules that I can’t stand. I found them in the base of many other perfumes. And I hear more complains about the certain musk molecules from other perfumista. A lot of people are anosmic to one or several musk molecules and can’t smell them. Others seem to experience some musks as being quite unpleasant. Altogether it makes perfumes to be a lottery. A lot of them are very pleasing at the start, but you never know what is hidden in the end.

There are several possibilities to deal with the unpleasant bases. First it’s good to try different launches. Perfumes are undergoing slight reformulations quite often and there is a chance you find a version that is free from unpleasant side effects. Another possibility is to spray more every hour or two to refresh the top and keep down the base notes. At the end of the day you will probably need a shower, but you can enjoy the favorite parts of the scent the whole day. There is a chance you get used to the unpleasant notes and stop noticing them. And the last remedy is to find an alternative that has a similar smell or character, but is free from the side effects. And Fragrantica gives me some hints about Grey Flannel look alike perfumes: Eau de Narcisse Bleu by Hermes, Eau de Gentiane Blanche by Hermes, Green by Byredo, Ombre de Hyacinth by Tom Ford and Background by Jil Sanders. Well, sounds like an exciting adventure of discovering the new fragrances!


Cuir de Russie by Chanel

cuir de russie chanel pChypres, especially the leather ones are the perfect allegory for the dark winter days and long evenings filled with warm candle light and shadows of the night. This perfumes are deep and dark, a little bit scary due to their animalic notes, but at the same time warm and daring. Almost the same qualities we find in Oudh scented creations these days. I wanted to go to the origins of this perfume family.

There is no separate leather group in the H&R Fragrance Guide Genealogy Classification of Fragrances – they are classified as animalic subgroup of a chypre family. And the first (thus the oldest) perfume mentioned there is Cuir de Russie by Chanel from 1924. Is it the nice way to start the journey into the dark world of leather chypres? Let’s check the facts first!

Name: Cuir de Russie

Brand: Chanel

Perfumer: Ernest Beaux

Year of creation: 1924 (released later in the US under the name Russia Leather)

Pyramid according to H&R Fragrance Guide:

Top notes: Dry Freshcuir de russie chanel pub
Main: Orange Blossom
Supported by: Bergamot, Lemon, Mandarin, Clary Sage

Heart notes: Dry Floral Woody
Main: Orris, Carnation
Supported by: Rose, Ylang-Ylang,  Jasmin, Cedarwood, Vetiver

Base notes: Leathery Warm Balsamic
Main: Leather
Supported by: Amber, Opoponax, Styrax, Heliotrope, Vanilla

Classification according to H&R Genealogy: Chypre, animalic

Classification according to SFP (Société Française des Parfumeurs): G1f, Leather (Cuir) group, Leather (Cuir) subgroup, feminine

Classifications according to Fragrance Wheel by Michael Edwards: Dry Woods (Chypre Cuir), Classical subgroup

Verdict by Luca Turin: 5 stars of 5 called “leather luxury

Cuir de Russie chanel edtCuir de Russie is presented as the first feminine scent with the pronounced leather note. But in fact leather theme was quite popular at the end of the 18th, begin of 19th century. Names like Cuir de Russie or Peau d’Espagne were more like common names of leather scented perfume compositions.  And yet I do believe that this creation of Ernest Beaux could be shocking. Madame Chanel was quite famous with her liberating spirit.

According to the legends the inspiration behind Cuir de Russie was the homage to the Russian motherhood of Ernest Beaux under the growing success of Russian Ballet during this time. A lot of Russians escaped to Europe after the Revolution of 1917 and raised the interest to the Russian culture. Birch tar was one of the main ingredients of Cuir de Russie composition next to animalic castoreum and ambery labdanum. But it was not the first time the smoky notes were used in perfume (let’s remember Tabac Blond by Caron in 1919). There are also rumors saying that the smell of Russian Leather became familiar to French noses after the War of 1812 when the birch tar scented boots of Russian soldiers were marching through Paris. An urban legend probably as Russian leather was already a famous export product before that war. Birch tar next to many other components (including aromatic ones) was used in a leather currying process to create a supreme product – soft, water resistant and pleasantly smelling. This process was unique to each country and that is why leather from different parts of the world had its own smell.

Taking into account all mentioned above I can imagine Cuir de Russie to be a very dark smoky scent with an animalic background. But the reality of modern eau de toilette version is quite far from the described fantasy. The original formula was discontinued and re-orchestrated again by Jacques Polge in 1989 (some mention 1983) and later again in 1999 when the perfume has joined the Les Exclusiefs de Chanel collection together with other “forgotten” Chanel perfumes.

Spraying the modern EDT on my skins reveals a beautiful classic elegant scent. It’s quite floral to my nose with just a touch of soft leather.  It starts with very recognizable touch of aldehydes. Much less than in Chanel N5 or N22 and melts into a classic floral bouquet. Again a very recognizable Chanel – rose, jasmine, iris and ylang-ylang accord. And then the softness of smoky leather that recalls the impression of fur in my imagination. Leather luxury worth 5 stars? Well, I can’t agree more. The pure perfume seems to be less aldehydic floral and more leathery, but it’s only available in a very few shops like Chanel Boutique on Rue de Cambon in Paris. Though it might be much closer to the darkness I am looking for. Cuir de Russie leaves a delicate trail that hardly goes beyond the intimate zone. I stop noticing it on my skin within a couple hours, while I still can perceive it from my clothes. Probably it’s too delicate scent for me. Despite of a strong floral and aldehydic facets I don’t perceive Cuir de Russie as ultimately feminine on my skin. It would perfectly suit a refined man.

Pictures: among others are taken from the website of CHANEL (