“…on the Night’s Plutonian shore!’/ Quoth the raven, ‘Nevermore.'” Edgar Allen Poe wrote those words in his famous poem, The Raven, which has now become the inspiration for a new fragrance from the French luxury cognac house, Frapin.
Frapin entered the perfume business only six years ago in 2008, but the brand has been making expensive cognac for centuries. In fact, as a Vanity Fair article explains, the family behind Frapin goes back almost 800 years and has a true passion for cognac, as well as an interest in tradition. Understandably, as a perfume house, their creations all involve cognac to some degree or another.
Nevermore, however, is their first fragrance to have a literary focus. The inspiration is two-fold. First, Poe’s poem, The Raven, where a man slowly descends into despair and madness, aided by a talking raven who squawks out “Nevermore” like a prophet of doom at the man’s every mention of a happy memory in the past. In my opinion, the second inspiration is far more significant and noticeable in terms of its concrete effects on the perfume, and it involves a mysterious visitor called The Poe Toaster who visited Poe’s grave to pay tribute with cognac and three roses every year on Poe’s birthday for more than seven decades. As the Frapin press release quoted by a number of sites explains:
In the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the poet reveals the misery that overcame him whenever he was confronted with loss. Each happy memory become so distant that he knew of only one term for this condition: “Nevermore” – never again.
For the first time in 1949 on January 19 – the poet’s birthday, a mysterious visitor began to leave three red roses and a bottle of cognac at the grave of Edgar Allan Poe. An enigmatic gesture and a myth-enshrouded story, a dark, baroque universe, purple roses and amber liquid…
On its website, Frapin elaborates further, and talks specifically about how the perfumer, Anne-Sophie Behaghel, used certain materials to parallel Poe’s literary technique:
As the poet chose scathing words to write a nice punchy poem, perfumer Anne-Sophie Behaghel grabbed violent and bitter materials to tell the mystery. She dares the strength of a tyrannical rose that rout before driving the spell.
Top: Black pepper, Floralozone, Aldehydes
Heart: Rose oxide, Damascena and May Rose, Wine-coloured
Base: Ambrox, Saffran, Cedarwood, Amber.
It was interesting to me how the note list for Nevermore on places like Fragrantica omits the extent of aromachemicals involved, opting for generic references to “amber” or aldehydes. There is not a word about “floralozone,” Ambroxan, or rose oxides. The latter may not be a big deal, but I think something like an ozonic accord is pretty significant and something that people might like to know about. Aedes‘ recent Copal Azur is a good example of just how synthetic and chemically clean a fragrance can smell with that note, and the result isn’t for everyone.
Nevermore opens on my skin with a ghostly, translucent rose doused with ozonic, clean aromachemical notes, black pepper, saffron, woody amber, a light touch of soapy aldehydes, and a splash of boozy cognac. There is a strong sense of greenness in the base that smells like a very earthy, meaty, musky vetiver infused with oakmoss, the same sort of vetiver note that is showcased by Olivier & Co.’s Vetiverus. The notes make no mention of vetiver or anything mossy, but I’ve thought the same thing each time I’ve worn Nevermore.
Within a matter of minutes, the aromachemicals grow in strength, and they consistently make Nevermore a very difficult scent for me to wear. I tested the perfume three times, and scrubbed it off on the first two occasions after 20 minutes and 60 minutes, respectively. I am sensitive to aromachemicals, but I usually manage to stay the course unless there is a lot of it in a fragrance — like here. I also sometimes have a physical reaction to ultra-potent types of aromachemicals, like Ambroxan. Here, there is such a walloping amount of it that, the first two times I tried the scent, my throat seized up in allergic reaction. On all three occasions, however, the perfume gave me a migraine.
The problem is not only the super powerful, extremely desiccated Ambroxan with its peppery, chemical and almost ISO E Super-like nuance, but the overall combination of notes. There is actual black pepper which smells fiery like a red chili pepper; painfully clean chemical notes from the “floralozone;” a peppery, synthetic cedar; and I really wouldn’t be shocked if there were ISO E Super in the whole chemical-smelling mess as well. To my surprise, the aldehydes were the very least of the problems, as it is quite a minor touch here. Much more prominent is the unpleasant black pepper, the ozonic cleanness that carries the whiff of a dry cleaner shop, and the saffron (which I suspect is actually another aromachemical called Safraleine).
The rose lies behind all of this, feeling as translucent as a sheer, ghostly x-ray. You definitely have the sense that Nevermore is a floral fragrance in its first hour, but there is nothing solid about the rose, nothing meaty, rubied, velvety, or substantial. It is too heavily blanketed by the chemical cocktail, which is fast becoming dominated by the Ambroxan and peppery woodiness at the cost of all else. It’s a little surprising to me how the cognac that is such a Frapin signature is so minor here. Even the mysterious greenness is more noticeable on my skin. I have to say, the latter is one of the really nice parts of the scent, particularly in conjunction with the tiny puffs of rose. Together, they really do manage to cover the image of a moss-strewn, earthy, cold and dark grave, covered with three small roses.
Nevermore slowly shifts. In the first 15 minutes, the scent is a very chemical heavy rose bouquet drenched with fiery spices, ozonic chemical cleanness, prickly dry Ambroxan, and a touch of cognac, all atop a base of dark, earthy greenness and woodiness. Shortly after, though, at the 30-minute mark, the notes start to overlap, things get blurrier, and the Ambroxan grows even stronger. The cognac is now a hair more prominent, finally adding the whiff of the booziness one expects from a Frapin scent, while the black pepper calms down a notch.
The greatest change, however, occurs at the end of the first hour and the start of the second when the amber and woody notes surge to the forefront, trailed closely by the saffron. The overall effect is to completely obliterate the rose which retreats to the shadows with a whimper, along with its earthy, dark, almost vetiver-like undertone. With every passing moment, Nevermore turns more and more into a duel between the dry, peppered, chemical-smelling Ambroxan and the also peppered, spicy woodiness. A few droplets of ozonic cleanness are splattered over it, and a vague, nebulous hint of floralcy hovers over the whole thing, but this is almost entirely a dry, spicy, peppered mix of woody “amber” accords.
And that’s really it for Nevermore. The perfume simply doesn’t change much beyond that basic structure until its final hours on my skin. The secondary or tertiary notes like the saffron, rose, pepper, the ozonic cleanness, and that mysterious woodiness merely fade away from what little presence they had to begin with. The drydown seems to kick in at the end of the second hour, lending a subtle creaminess to the base deep below the Ambroxan woody bouquet, but the whole perfume feels ephemeral and translucent on my skin, with only the aromachemicals projecting in any noticeable way. The rest of the notes feel like they’re practically evaporating off my skin.
In fact, I really thought Nevermore was going to give its last hiccup a mere 4.5 hours into its lifespan. Yet, to my surprise, thin, gauzy wisps of ambered woodiness clung on tenaciously for quite a while. Yes, I had to put my nose right on the skin and inhale like a vacuum cleaner to detect it after the 5th hour, but Nevermore actually ended up lasted 9 hours all in all. In its final two hours, it was a creamy, soft amber that was very pleasant (especially as compared to the hell of its initial debut), but it wasn’t particularly special.
The sillage was initially moderate, thanks mainly to the strength of the very potent Ambroxan, but Nevermore is generally a very discreet, soft scent, much like its siblings in the Frapin line. Using 3 good smears equal to roughly 2 sprays from an actual bottle, Nevermore opened with 3 inches of projection, but the perfume felt sheer and thin beyond belief. The wispiness only grew worse as time passed, and the sillage dropped to about 1 inch on my skin after 90 minutes. Nevermore became a skin scent on me after 2.5 hours and, as I noted earlier, it’s so insubstantial that it felt as though it was going to die only a few hours after that.
Quite obviously, I didn’t like Nevermore. In fact, there were times when I rather felt like the man in The Raven, descending into despair and facing an aromachemical prophet of doom who squawked out “nevermore” to my memories of happier fragrances. Yet, I am the first to tell you that I have a sensitivity to aromachemicals that the majority of people do not share. Either they can’t detect the damn things, or they don’t care when they do. So the greater concern for most of you will be Nevermore’s wispy translucency and potentially iffy longevity. Frapin is a line that seems to opt for soft sillage in general, but the fragrances don’t seem to have the longest lifespan, either. My skin tends to cling onto aromachemicals like mad, and I think that Nevermore would have died a fast death otherwise. Perhaps you’ll be luckier than I was.
The handful of reviews for Nevermore on Fragrantica are mixed to negative. One person is generally positive, giving the fragrance a 7 out of 10 rating, but two others are either revolted or disdainful and bored. The first chap says the fragrance smells like “infested electronics” at Radio Shack, and is disgusting. He blames the aldehydes for the chemical aroma, but I think it’s the “floralozone” accord which, again, is not listed on Fragrantica but which is plainly stated on Frapin’s website. Ozonic accords smell like chemicals but, then, a lot of things in Nevermore smell like chemicals, in my opinion, and I’m not the only one who thinks so. The most recent commentator poster says Nevermore is:
One of the most boring scents I have experienced in a long time. Loads of Iso-E Super, laced with something inconsequential. Made me wonder why anyone would waste time, money and effort to create something so very bland.
The “Dislike” bar for the fragrance is quite high, too, but some commentators are less critical:
- First impression on paper: its green, foggy and a bit musty like a cellar, but its good, like all the Frapin scents.
- A very quiet rose . Similar to Tea Rose from Perfumer’s Workshop but quieter, less green , with a great note of cedar in basenotes . A meditative rose , androgynous . With a sensation of a cloud of powder at the end[.]
If you’re eager to try Nevermore but live in America, you may have some work ahead of you. The perfume is available in Europe at places like First in Fragrance, but I was baffled to see that none of the usual Frapin retailers in the U.S. have it. Not Luckyscent, not Beautyhabit, or anywhere else I checked. Luckyscent usually has a “back-ordered” notification whenever they sell out of a fragrance, but there is no page for Nevermore whatsoever, and the scent was released a few months ago. I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance last month, but the listing has now vanished from their website, too, presumably because they can’t get a hold of another bottle.
You can always order a sample from Europe but, personally, I don’t think it’s worth the bother. Putting aside the aromachemicals entirely, this simply isn’t a lush, luxurious, full-bodied scent with much character or interesting distinctiveness. The rose is wan and feeble, not deep or bloody as you’d expect from something inspired by Poe. It isn’t even the star of the show, if you ask me, and the perfume’s only boldness comes from the strong chemicals. If you’re into that, then go for it. I’ll stick to croaking out “never ever more.”