The Orchid Man, the latest fragrance from the French luxury cognac house of Frapin has little to do with orchids or florals. And, for me, contrary to its inspiration, it doesn’t evoke fighters in the boxing ring, either. Instead, it conjures up Creed‘s Aventus. To be precise, a heavily peppered, less fruity cousin to Aventus in overtly synthetic form. I’d shrug, but the fragrance leaves me too bored to do even that.
The Orchid Man is an eau de parfum inspired by the legendary French boxer, George Carpentier, who bore that nickname because of the corsages he wore on his jackets. The fragrance was created by Jerome Epinette and was released last month. According to First in Fragrance, the note list is:
bergamot, black pepper, jasmine, leather, amber, oakmoss and patchouli.
The Orchid Man opens on my skin with crisp, grey, mineralized lichen moss splattered with chilly bergamot that smells like a lemon mixed with a drop or two of lime. Trailing behind them is a soft, sheer jasmine which adds a touch of sweetness as a counterbalance. There is also a different type of sweetness lurking behind it, a fruitiness that smells a little like orange, a little like pineapple, but not really either one in any clear way.
Other elements quickly emerge. In the base, streaks of a rough, synthetic, blackened leather awaken, emitting tiny puffs of smokiness. It’s coated with a heavily musky and slightly urinous animalic note that resembles civet mixed with something stronger, like costus root. It’s a little hard to tell the precise contours because of the blast of black pepper that suddenly explodes onto the lemony oakmoss. It’s the same fiery, scratchy, synthetic pepper that we’ve seen in numerous fragrances recently, like Amouage‘s Opus IX to name just one, but it’s far rougher here.
With the exception of the pepper, the cumulative effect strongly reminds me of Aventus which is also a chypre-ish, fruity leather with jasmine, although it lacks the same degree of musky animalics found here. There are other differences as well. Aventus’ leather is primarily tarry; it never once smelt like musky costus root (one of the critical notes that shaped vintage Kouros) on my skin; and it was coated with a very clearly delineated, concrete, and solid pineapple note. The notes were also blended in far smoother, more seamless fashion, and they never felt so overtly synthetic. Finally, Aventus had greater substance and body right from the start. The Orchid Man is practically watery in comparison in its opening minutes. I feel as though I were catching a fleeting glimpse of a ghost in a mirror from the corner of my eye. Given that Aventus is a thin, light fragrance on my skin with a profoundly discreet quality unless I apply a massive amount, something even more diluted, insubstantial, and elusive doesn’t impress me.
In fairness, The Orchid Man gains much more body as it develops. Well, relative to its diluted opening at least. Roughly 25 minutes into its development, the jasmine blooms, emerging from the sidelines to add a little more body and weight to the scent. Unfortunately, the scratchy accords grow exponentially as well. The black pepper is twice as strong as before; the animalic civet or costus root grows even rougher, sharper, and muskier; and a thin veil of synthetic amber descends on the notes. It resembles ambroxide/Ambroxan or one of its powerful, woody-amber aromachemical kin, and it serves as yet another olfactory overlap with Aventus which also bears an ambergris tonality. At the same time, the bergamot’s lemony side softens, while the nebulous, indeterminate pineapple-ish one grows a hair stronger.
The Orchid Man doesn’t change much on my skin in the hours that follow. It remains a heavily peppered, fruity, vaguely pineapple-ish, jasmine chypre over an animalic, musky, black leather base that is lightly veiled with synthetic ambered warmth. All that happens are fluctuations in the prominence or clarity of certain notes: the citrus-fruity accords feel more nebulous after 2 hours; all the notes start to blur together; the jasmine retreats to the sidelines after 3 hours; the moss becomes an elusive wisp in the background; and everything is pretty much dominated by the black pepper and the animalic muskiness.
Something in the scent is so intensely scratchy to me that I can feel it all the way to the back of my throat. That never once happened with Aventus. Actually, several of The Orchid Man’s notes bears an irritating roughness, but the pepper is a problem above all else because it’s significantly stronger and more forceful on my skin than the oakmoss, the jasmine, or the fruity accord. And yet, its abrasiveness is not my greatest problem with The Orchid Man.
My greatest problem is how boring and how derivative it is. Aventus is one of the most famous fragrances in the niche world, was recently ranked by Basenotes as #2 on a list of the 500 greatest modern perfumes, and has a cult following the likes of which I’ve never seen before. I find it difficult to believe that a perfumer as established as Jerome Epinette hasn’t smelt it. While The Orchid Man was undoubtedly created in accordance with the demands of the client brief, that doesn’t change the fact that the world doesn’t need a rougher, more synthetic, peppery copy of Aventus.
I eventually gave up with The Orchid Man and scrubbed it off. After 3.5 hours, it became a skin scent, a blurry, vaguely floral chypre-ish leather hidden under a blanket of black pepper and musky animalics. Not long after, it devolved into a simple, heavily peppered, leathery musk with a mere whisper of floralcy. By the middle of the 5th hour, it was difficult to tell if the leather or the animalic musk was the main note because everything except for the pepper had fused into a shapeless blob. (The pepper would probably outlive them both.) In addition, the fragrance felt like it was about to die on my skin.
At that point, I scrubbed it off with relief. One reason why is because my throat felt as though it had been scraped with a cheese-grater. I simply have far less patience these days to put up with negative physical reactions for the sake of a thorough review, but I probably would have scrubbed The Orchid Man even if it hadn’t given me a sore throat. I was simply so incredibly bored wearing the fragrance that it felt akin to watching paint dry. Plus, by the 5th hour, the fragrance was clearly in its drydown phase and unlikely to develop further or even last much longer. Frapin fragrances don’t have great longevity on my skin, and The Orchid Man didn’t appear to be an exception to the rule. It did have stronger sillage than some of the Frapin scents, though, about 4-5 inches at one point near the end of the first hour, but my skin to tends to amplify fragrances that have a large amount of powerful aromachemicals — and The Orchid Man is definitely a very synthetic composition, in my opinion.
I generally don’t give comparative reviews or analysis in my Reviews en Bref, but you can turn to Fragrantica if you want to read more. At this time, there are only two reviews posted there, but 6 people have voted for a similarity to Aventus. The Creed fragrance also comes up in one of the reviews. “Paint86” describes The Orchid Man, in part, as: “Aventus minus the amazing pineapple note. […] Nice, the leather settles to something quite refined and elegant, but it’s a formula that has been done better before.” The other commentator, “RobWales,” sums up The Orchid Man in a single sentence: “It’s fresh, inoffensive, and completely un-memorable.”
My overall opinion: wearing The Orchid Man is like watching paint dry.