Frederic Malle Cologne Bigarade

Sometimes the negative reviews can be the most fun to read.  Gushing on and on about a great perfume is all very well, but the reviewer’s disgust when a scent fails to delight can be even more memorable.  I’m about to give you an example of that.

When perfume is your hobby, you sample a lot.  And the truth is, you find far more perfumes that you dislike or are bored by than ones which put a giant grin on your face.  It comes with the territory.  We sample perfumes to pursue the adventure of discovering perfumes, not necessarily to find something specific and perfect. 

 Frederic Malle’s Cologne Bigarade is from my summery sample batch.  “Bigarade” is the cold-pressed oil from the peel of the bitter orange,  a tree whose aromatic bark and oils are used in perfumery, hence this cologne’s name and the name of my post.  It’s amazing how you can research reviews from other people who tried a perfume, put it on your short list, and then when you finally try it, it barely relates to what you were expecting. 

Cologne Bigarade is meant to be a unisex aromatic (i.e. herbaceous) citrus.  It starts out well enough… but only for about five minutes.  At first spray, delicious half-peeled tangerines lie coolingly alongside liquid aloe vera soap.  Rapidly this transforms into something vaguely smoky and musty, with a cigarette note reminiscent of an ancient apartment owned by your eccentric, leopard-wearing old aunt with all the costume jewelry dripping off her and the lipstick applied a little crookedly.  (Oh, you don’t have an aunt like that?  Well neither do I but it still reminds me of her!)

After this strange but brief phase it just gets perfumey – you know, that dated smelling perfume odor, your grandma’s vanity table, the whole deal.  It’s fusty.  When I press my nose close to my skin, I get something better – something with warmth and salty sweet orangey gold mixed with a twist of white rose petals, but none of that wafts up as I go about my daily business.  It can’t elevate the perfumey sillage into something I’d ever want to wear.   In the drydown, which seemed to start around the three hour mark, it smells musty in a fresh way… kind of like a really dusty aloe vera plant that’s just been trampled and has broken slippery aloe gel all muddled with the dust.

I expected a light, fresh citrus cologne that is weekend worthy and open.  I got a 40’s style perfume for a divorced aunt.   

Note Bene: I do think my skin may have a tendency to make certain colognes go flat based on previous failed experiments like this – you may love it on yours.  I just saw in House Beautiful that Yul Brynner’s daughter wears it for all its fresh weekend-y traits!