Each cologne absolue is peppered with warm, woody or spicy notes. Grand Néroli is warmed up by vanilla, while Trèfle Pur has clover and patchouli moss mixed with its dominant bitter orange note. Each also contains significantly higher concentrations of essential oils than standard eaux de cologne, which have between 2 and 5 percent. “Ours range from 12 to 20 percent,” says Cervasel, noting that just as a chef has to taste as he cooks, a perfumer can’t adopt a one-formula-fits-all approach.
“We always went with our instincts,” adds Ganter. And their instincts proved to be quite pricey. When she and Cervasel were testing the various concentrations of their Bois Blonds blend, “the one that contained 20 percent of neroli oil was hands down our favorite. We were like, Oh, my God! Neroli is so expensive! And we love it at 20 percent!” says Ganter, adding with a sigh, “So 20 percent it is.”
The entire collection is the work of boutique suppliers. The scents themselves were created by two family-owned fragrance houses that specialize in natural raw materials; the bottles were designed by Pochet; and the caps, which are made of a handsome aubergine leather, were handcrafted by French leather watchband makers. To encourage customers to sample more than one scent, Cervasel and Ganter plan to offer a half-ounce bottle with every cologne absolue purchase (200-milliliter bottles range in price from $145 to $175, based on ingredient costs) when they debut their collection at Neiman Marcus. “One thing we’ve learned about our brand,” says Ganter, “is that it’s very rare for people to like just one.” Or so they hope.