When one thinks of eaux de cologne, one thinks of the freshness from tart citrus. I should think that a refreshing eau de cologne falls along the lines of bergamot, lemon, orange, lime, and grapefruit. But in an eau de cologne such as Eau de Gentiane Blanche (Hermès, 2009), the notion of freshness may surprise you.
This is because perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena has chosen the bitterness of gentian for its refreshing power. Its deep vegetal bitterness, much like a green stem that has just snapped and is oozing its bitter sap, provides a fresh effect. Accented by a spritz of bitter orange, the bitter-green mix feels crisp, cool, and radiant.
Cleverly, the herbaceous verdancy of gentian is paired with the dry earthy woods of incense and 0.7% myrrh oil. The notes of resinous woods provide a warm contrast to the cool bitter herbs. The tension between the vegetal and woody notes serves as the centrepiece of Eau de Gentiane Blanche. And, the composition is kept fresh by the persistent bitterness.
Towards the dry down, iris and musks mellow the sharpness of incense and the bitterness of gentian with their powdery softness. Eau de Gentiane Blanche has longevity, and I love the way its dry, bitter incense rises to greet from a warm skin.
Much like how hops have long been used to provide a mouth-puckering bitter contrast to the rich fermented flavours of beer, the crisp bitterness of gentian is an equally powerful palate cleanser for the resinous incense. The pairing of these two potent notes give Eau de Gentiane Blanche its lasting brightness that shifts in tone from crisp and cool to dry and warm. It is an interesting exploration of the rarely used note. The composition itself is a palate cleanser amongst the inundated fragrance shelves, and I find myself coming back to its addictive cool and warm bitterness.
A note on the shower gel: I finally succumbed to the shower gel. It leaves a fresh combination of tannic dryness and bitter verdancy on skin.
Sources: usa.hermes.com, Scents and Chemistry The Molecular World of Odors.