Jean Marie Farina Extra Vieille (Roger & Gallet)

I've been having an off year with orientals, which doesn't surprise me much. I have to be really in the mood for spicy amber compositions, and even then I find it difficult to reach past my fougères for one. As the years plod by, I'm realizing that fougères and citrusy-green fragrances are more exclusively to my taste, and even in the bitter cold of January they're preferable. It takes a certain kind of crazy to wear an eau de cologne in winter, as they're the most short-lived and ephemeral of all perfumes, often killed in minutes by any temp under forty degrees Fahrenheit. Guess you have to count on people with extra-sensitive sniffers to appreciate your SOTD. If you have a citrus EDC in the classical style of Farina or 4711, give it a try this winter. You may discover a hidden pleasure in how icy air tints bergamot and lemon and crystallizes their piercing aromas. It may be short-lived, but it's interesting and smells amazing.

Jean Marie Farina's 1806 "Extra Vieille" brand, currently by Roger & Gallet, is not the first of Farina's Cologne Waters. The original, pictured below, was created in 1709, and is significantly greener and more floral than its nineteenth century counterpart. I have yet to do a skin comparison of the two, but I'm pleased to say that Extra Vieille smells good nonetheless, and should appeal to cologne enthusiasts. R&G released several variants with lavender, rose, ginger, etc., but the most direct experience comes from the first Extra Vieille, pictured above. It opens on a crest of bergamot and lemon oil, bright, sharp, fresh, clean, surprisingly fruity, and even a tad sweet. There's a little orange and orange flower in there to warm its edges as it begins to dry into an herbal-spicy base of basil, geranium, clove, neroli, and musk. Nice, but boring. The upside of owning Extra Vieille: it's a well balanced EDC, made with slightly higher-quality ingredients than 4711, and is arguably somewhat more satisfying for citrus fanatics because of them.

The downside of Extra Vieille is that the difference in quality isn't vast enough to justify the dramatic difference in price, or the reduction in quantity per bottle. 4711's citrus is equally fresh, but a bit harder and greyer in feel, with what I can only describe as a "colder" drydown. In other words, its various citrus notes coalesce into a dry metallic accord, which is almost odorless. However, its floral and herbal notes kick in and prevent it from smelling simple and cheap, and for the money, it's nice to experience such a chipper basil-rose accord. Farina's citrus is softer, a touch richer, with a warmer complexion and drydown. But the musky spread of light florals and herbs in its base doesn't really outshine 4711's in the end, and 4711 definitely lasts longer - sometimes much longer. So I'd say it's almost a draw there. But why spend fifty bucks on three ounces of one when you can have twenty-seven ounces of the other for a single Andrew Jackson?

Furthermore, I'd keep in mind that Extra Vieille's price in no way reflects on its strength or tenacity. You'll be lucky to get twenty minutes out of a few sprays, so be careful. If you're applying it because you enjoy citrus, however attenuated it may be, then this cologne is worth the investment. If you're looking for a brisk refresher after a shower, and aren't overly concerned about how refined your citrus notes are, 4711 is more than adequate. Its citrus is good and serves the same purpose with equal panache, and I think I like its drydown a bit better than Extra Vieille's. I'll get back to you about Farina's 1709 Original.

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