Sunday, July 14, 2024

The Startling Plummet of Frapin’s Speakeasy

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I’ve been hesitant about Frapin almost since I first discovered them. While searching Basenotes boards, I came time and time across the same worrying complaints. First of all, their scents were lovely, but fleeting. Yet far more worrying was the reputation of the bottles. Everywhere I looked, people – even avowed Frapin fans – reported spilling that made the fragrance an absolute mess to use. At the price of $165 a bottle, Frapin scents just didn’t seem full bottle worthy.

I ignored the brand altogether until last year, when I had grown used to buying decants. After all, if the main problems with Frapin were price and bottle integrity, buying a decant offered solutions to the house’s two major problems. Sure enough, I’ve loved Frapin’s L’Humaniste ever since I grabbed a 5mL decant. It’s both indicative of the house’s aesthetic overall and a shining example of that aesthetic done right. Frapin, a Cognac company, specializes in boozy perfumes, and L’Humaniste is just about everything you could ask for from a gin-and-tonic-inspired fragrance.

As L’Humaniste is often referred to as the standout in Frapin’s line, I was curious about what I might find among the house’s deeper cuts. Speakeasy, named after Prohibition-era bars who kept their business on the down-low, seemed like a good litmus test for Frapin’s overall competence within their wheelhouse. The fragrance’s note pyramid reveals nothing too surprising given its name.

Speakeasy Notes:

Top: Rum extract, Indian Davana, Sweet Italian orange, Fizzy lime from Brazil

Heart: Cold Russian mint, Egyptian geranium

Base: Leather accord (ciste, labdanum, styrax), Tobacco accord (tobacco, liatrix, everlasting flower/immortelle, tonka bean, white musk)


Speakeasy’s opening is glorious. Like L’Humaniste, Speakeasy carries a certain spaciousness that’s at once refreshing and atmospheric. At the top of the fragrance is a citrusy rum cocktail that leans toward mojito territory. The mint is absolutely present alongside the orange and lime, and the rum carries a funky booziness that passes quite convincingly for the real thing. Also present are the tobacco and rum accords, grounding the cocktail elements in the perfume’s titular environment. Smelling Speakeasy, you can almost walk your imagination through the multiple aspects of its atmosphere – taking a whiff of the cigar smoke, leather seats, and cocktails at your leisure.

Unfortunately, Speakeasy almost immediately begins to dim its lights. The beautiful textures of the opening blast fads to a slightly boozy, amber scent within an hour, losing not only dimension but also quieting on the skin to near silence at an alarming rate. In that way, it almost reminds me of Roja Dove’s Creation-E Parfum Cologne, a scent that opens with a beautiful boozy accord but makes no intention of sticking around. It’s almost as if this is a boozy scent for the beach, requiring high temperatures in order to shine for any amount of time. Even so, I can’t imagine heat would be able to completely revive the beauty of Speakeasy’s opening given how flat it appears an hour into a wear.

When I look at Speakeasy’s notes, I can’t help but recall the immortelle-leather of Histoires de Parfum’s 1740. Now, these are far from identical – 1740 holds none of the over boozy elements of Speakeasy, and it’s far more focused in its spice & leather approach. But when I think of how 1740 opens with a gorgeously textured leather that also throws back to dimly lit establishments from times gone by, and then ages gracefully into stages that are just as beautiful over the better part of a day, my disappointment at Speakeasy’s failure grows.

Surely there are perfumes that take the incredible idea at Speakeasy’s core and spin it into a perfume worth a pretty penny. However, Speakeasy itself is like one of those well-manicured bars with nice décor and inoffensive music that lures you in, only to bore you within the hour. Better to stop somewhere different altogether.

Samples, decants and bottles of Speakeasy are currently available through Scent Split.

The Fandomentals “Fragdomentals” team base our reviews off of fragrances that we have personally, independently sourced. Any reviews based off of house-provided materials will be explicitly stated. 

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