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Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée Cologne Absolu — A Fragrance That Captures Intimacy



When a woman wears one of her boyfriend’s faded, distressed, even ratty T-shirts to bed, allowing the flimsy fabric (the fibers of which are naturally imbued with his musky scent) to swathe her own naked bosom, a simple outfit change is transformed into an intimate, poignant and demurely sensual experience. First, by appropriating his T-shirt, the woman is creating an invisible tether between her physical self and that of her beloved, welcoming something he cherishes into her life. Second, the act of wearing his shirt in many ways mirrors the lovemaking act — after all, an item that has so often covered his naked chest now rests atop hers, creating a tactile tie between the two lovers. And third, there’s the mingling of their scents, the way these come together and form an inextricable, gender-defiant aromatic blend, much like the fragrance that lingers on their respective bodies after a passionate embrace or an intense session under the sheets. If you’ve ever smelled your boyfriend or husband’s natural scent (or his cologne, for that matter) on your skin and smiled, remembering the warmth of his touch, then you know just how intimate this synergy of fragrances can feel.

This, then, is the feeling perfumers Sylvie Ganter and Christopher Cervasel, founders of Atelier Cologne, sought to recreate when developing their newest cologne scent: Vanille Insensée. As with all of their fragrances, there’s a vignette that captures the inspiration behind the Atelier Cologne Vanille Insensée ($170 at AtelierCologne.com). In this tender tale, a man enters a crowded lounge or restaurant and, as he makes his way through the mass of people, he detects a familiar scent: the signature perfume of his beloved. It’s a cologne that once belonged to him, but which she playfully stole from him years earlier (with his permission, of course). It’s a scent that reminds him not only of her, but of the times they’ve spent together. As the two sit facing one another, memories coated with the magic of their love fill their minds, and their romance is rekindled once more.

It’s a story that can apply to life-long mates or to lovers separated by time, distance, or circumstance and whose paths have crossed again in a fateful twist.

To visually capture this tale, Ganter and Cervasel staged a scene that captures the mood of the cologne and had this set-up photographed. In the photo, you see a study-worthy, dark wooden table — presumably situated within a lounge, café or restaurant — covered with tourist-ready souvenirs of New York City like a Playbill booklet and a miniature replica of a yellow cab (perhaps the male and female protagonists of this tale are visiting the Great White Way while on vacation and have stopped for a drink at a nearby pub in Times Square. Also on the table, one finds masculine tokens like a vintage, etched, silver-toned cardholder, a pair of cuff links, an unfurled yellow tie, a silver wristwatch, and a black leather glove. Nearby, ladylike items like a red Estée Lauder lipstick in its classic gold tube spill out of a gold frame clutch, referencing the female presence in the space. Glass bowls filled with walnuts and pecans, heart-shaped glass ashtrays, an open bottle of Perrier Jouet, and two glasses of malt liquor capture a pub-like atmosphere, but a lit candle nearby infuse a dash of romance to the setting.

Now, imagine you are the woman in the story, the one who has snatched up her beau’s cologne and worn it on her own skin for years and years. What might this fragrance smell like? How would you capture the musky masculinity of the original scent or how it’s softened by your own innate fragrance? Well, in the minds of Ganter and Cervasel, the scent would consist of a blend of woody notes and sensuous creamy vanilla.

The Vanille Insensée Cologne Absolue opens with top notes of lime, cedrat, and coriander, a cilantro-like herb, for a grassy but citrus-y scent that wakens the senses but still feels mossy and a bit dirty. At the heart of the fragrance, you’ll find the deliciously robust jasmine; vetiver, a grass cultivated in India that boasts an earthy but smoky scent (in this particular case, it’s almost cigar-like); and oak moss, which has an oriental quality and first but then dries a bit and develops more of a bark-like aroma. The base notes, meanwhile, include: vanilla from Madagascar; an amber note that gives the fragrance its incense-like quality; and an oak wood note, which might remind you of the way the furniture smells at a university library.

The fragrance is simply exquisite. When you first apply the scent, you get a hint of the lime note but it never overwhelms the senses, instead opening the way for the woodier and smokier notes, which are always tempered by the creamy vanilla to give them the desired sensuousness. The jasmine note is quite understated, softening the more masculine notes without screaming for attention or taking the scent into the floral realm. As time passes, the citrus notes dissipate a bit and the vanilla, amber and oak wood notes linger on the skin, creating a fragrance that feels feminine but still has hints of masculinity. It’s like that light but ravishing aroma you detect on your skin after you’ve spent the night lying in your adoring man’s arms.

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