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Speakeasy - So good it should be outlawed - December 3, 2012 New Fragrance Listing

Photo: Raid at Elk Lake, Wikimedia

I am a huge fan of fragrances from Frapin, the French cognac producer that expanded into perfume making in 2002. Their unisex fragrances are well-crafted and just plain gorgeous – just take a whiff of Caravelle Épicée or 1697 and smell for yourself. Besides, Frapin are experts in two of my favourite things: booze and fragrance, which makes sense in a way.

Expanding into to perfumery wasn’t a giant leap for a distiller of fine alcohol. I mean, cognac and perfume are both blends; both need a direction and a master blender or a nose to create a distinctive taste or fragrance. With Speakeasy, the concept plays on the forbidden, the outlawed.

A speakeasy, in case you missed an episode of Boardwalk Empire, is a place that sells illegal or bootlegged alcohol. Speakeasies sprang up during Prohibition (1920–1933) when the production, sale, and transportation of liquor were illegal in the United States. Often hidden behind legitimate businesses or in back alleys, the name ‘speakeasy’ refers to the practice of speaking softly about their location so as not to tip off snitches or the authorities.

The Frapin web site says that “since today the forbidden pleasure is not alcohol, but tobacco” Speakeasy is a fragrance built around tobacco. So we have a manufacturer of alcohol, whose products were once banned, making a perfume around a product that is now, in some public places, banned. Neat, hey? And while I do enjoy a bit of irony with my frags it’s the way Speakeasy smells on my skin that made me buy a bottle.

It opens with rich, boozy rum. That’s right cognac producer Frapin becomes a rum-runner for Speakeasy and this rum was run up from Cuba cause there’s lime here too and a citrusy sweetness from tropical orange. Davana adds a note of dried fruit which gives it depth. Mint gives it an herbal coolness (I smell mojito) while geranium gives it a dirtiness that is irresistible. As it blooms, tobacco comes forward and dominates the heart of the fragrance making it rich, warm and just a little sweet. Immortelle heightens these facets of the tobacco with its deep sweet maple tobacco-like qualities. The base is dark, resinous and leathery from ciste absolute, labdanum and styrax, making the dry down an aninmalic dream come true. Tonka bean adds a rich vanilla/almond note while white musk smoothes it all out.

Speakeasy is so warm, full and rich that if they had had this during Prohibition people wouldn’t have minded being dry. Actually, that’s not true. People still would have missed their hootch, they just would have smelled better.

Speakeasy was made to wear when the temperature drops. But remember to always try the genuine juice – like what we have here at the niche – you don’t want any of that bootleg stuff. It’ll give you the collywobbles.

Today, we’re adding Speakeasy to our decant offering. Decants are $4.00.