A perfume can be very good but, with few exceptions, the drydown – a fragrance’s second skin – is what assigns it its place in history or consigns it to oblivion. Tacky sports car-driving fortysomethings notwithstanding, very few of us splash on fragrance seconds before meeting a special someone for dinner. (In fact, for me, the very presence of a bottle of cologne in the beverage-holder of a car is a burning sign to cut my losses and clear out immediately.) A good perfume or cologne introduces itself as a living memory, not a mask placed frantically over a less presentable facade.
Of late, I have been admiring two truly stellar, lighter-bodied unisex fragrances: perfumer Jean-Paul Guerlain’s Coriolan (1998; now re-christened and reformulated as L’Ame d’un Héros, 2008) and perfumer Françoise Caron’s Eau Fugace for Astier de Villatte (2008), each is an exemplar of perfection in the drydown.
Unlike the “head” and “heart” of a fragrance, the drydown is that phase of its evolution which best shows off its pedigree. A great drydown can never come from using shoddy, third-rate materials. For Coriolan, the drydown is a brief poème chypré of oakmoss, patchouli and helichrysum (otherwise known as everlasting flower); for Eau Fugace, its a takeoff on traditional eau de cologne but with written for Romantic strings, mainly petitgrain, basil, thyme and patchouli. One is cool, one warm.
Neither Coriolan nor Eau Fugace is reinventing the wheel. These certainly aren’t scents for the treasury, but there is a quiet, limpid, just-right sort of elegance about them that should land them a place in any man’s (or woman’s) life.