Gentian Genie – Introducing Amer

Amer Fragrance the fragrant man


The Fragrant Man is very pleased to introduce you to Amer, our new guest writer. Amer is Greek, and when not working as an architect, he is an amateur explorer in the art of perfumery – we found him in the comments section of the Fleus de Web post, where he delivered an extraordinary review of Multiflore.

“The limpid body of the sleeping faun is now cradled by the forest floor, but underneath the cover of foliage, the pulse of a beating animalic heart can still be detected in the form of an ambery oud.”
– Amer’s take on Multiflore

He says, “I am not an avid collector of bottles and samples but I sniff and analyse whatever I can get within sniffing distance of”. Amer credits his analytical nose in helping him on his quest to better understand perfume, and says he knows natural essences well enough to recognise their behaviour in a composition. He has also commented on The Quantum Unicorn Accord.

lumiere noire pour homme philosykos dior homme thefragrantman the fragrant man

His favourite scents are (in no particular order): Eau de Gentiane Blanche, Philosykos and Lumiere Noire Pour Homme. An honourable mention goes to the original formulation of Dior Homme – “It is a fond memory that marked a period of my life,” says Amer.

His favourite note is the orris – “I am always on a quest to find the perfect one”. Amer also believes in “perfumery on a budget” and says that the price of a perfume is part of his overall feelings of it. “Perfume is not simply a work of art, but also a product,” he says.

Amer’s first post will be a review of one of his favourites – Eau de Gentiane Blanche, by Jean-Claude Ellena for Hermès.

A Story of Bitterness

Eau de Gentiane Blanche the fragrant man thefragrantmanAfter careful consideration – and one ficticious fragrance review – I have chosen to present Eau de Gentiane Blanche as the subject of my first review of an actual existing fragrance on The Fragrant Man. I know it is not a new release, which many of us look for when reading reviews, and I am also aware that it is not everybody’s cup of tea in spite of me finding it groundbreaking and spellbinding at the same time. I can’t imagine it being a big seller but Hermès, to their honour, keep it in production and among the many mainstream offers of big department stores. I have tried to convert many of my friends to the beauty that I find in Gentiane Blanche and so far I have had my share of wrinkled nose responses. Hopefully I can do better using the written word.

During my wanderings in Perfume Land I have come to a glorious understanding about perfume, one might even call it an epiphany: IT IS SWEET!

The immediate purpose of fragrance seems to be sweetness and it is so in every culture and every region of the world. Yes yes, I know, there are the occasional bitter materials like incense or myrrh, but they are rare exceptions and usually serve as a counterbalance to the extreme sweetness of the star ingredients. When they serve as a central theme they are usually rendered sweet; it is only natural, one might say. Since time immemorial our ancestors have craved for the sweetness of fruits for nurturing and pleasure, and for the sweetness of flowers for comfort and relaxation. Sweetness in many cultures is synonymous with a pain free existence of luxury or even paradise.

thefragrantman the fragrant man poliination bee

Sweetness in nature is a form of currency, invented by the plants to make the animal world do their bidding. Insects are coerced by their addiction to nectar to participate in the polygamous mating rituals of plants. Mammals and birds propagate and disperse the species that reward them with sweetness – humans are the only ones who do it consciously by planting while the rest do it unconsciously in the most un-fragrant way imaginable.

If sweetness is the carrot of the natural world, bitterness is the whip. Bitter is the punishment that deters. It states that something is off limits. Bitter means poison. Metaphorically, bitter stands for sorrow, parting and death.

Is that so? Well, yes and no. Since ancient times people knew that there is more than one side to all things. Ancient Greeks believed that with everything, good measure is needed. When the right measure is kept, poison can become remedy. When the measure is lost, even food becomes poison. In folk medicine, bitter substances (when used wisely) are said to be the most potent cures. Bitterness is the unpleasant price one has to pay for healing but really, the price is small and when one knows the reward, even enduring some bitterness becomes pleasant. If one has delved into herbalism they come to enjoy the bitterness of herbs and even feel gratitude for that taste.

gentian root the fragrant man thefragrantman

Gentian Roots

Gentian, is possibly the bitterest plant in the natural world. If folk medicine holds any value (which it does) it should be a cure-all or even as close as one can get to an elixir of immortality; a mighty claim for such a humble plant.

Eau de Gentiane Blanche plays with all of the above. She is not simply a pleasant and fresh cologne; she is art. She hints to an era when perfume was not simply a way to enhance one’s personal charm but also a panache for ailments of the body and the soul. Ellena has managed to keep her unconventionally un-beautified as only a handful of fragrances are (l’Eau Froide by Serge Lutens comes to mind but not nearly as accomplished). She is as dramatic as a barren landscape and untainted by civilisation and the culture of pleasure as a girl raised by wolves. She walks off the beaten path of sweetness and takes us through a wild and magnifi-scent (excuse my pun) forest in search of the root of immortality. I will not bother you with a list of notes or an accurate olfactive description, there are many good reviews about them anyway. What I will give you instead is a narrative for an imaginary commercial which I think says more of how I see Gentiane Blanche.


Eau de Gentiane Blanche the fragrant man thefragrantman

Through an open door with a carved stone frame we get a glimpse to a formal garden in winter and a sky heavy with clouds. The hour cannot be determined. A barefoot figure in a felt/flannel cloak, graphite in color appears, steps out and swiftly runs through an orthogonal patch of lawn. She ignores the stone paved path and crosses the lawn diagonally while the camera follows her from a birds point of view. She reaches the border of shrubs (change of camera angle/close up from behind). She pushes through the wall of plants and we get a kaleidoscopic succession of brief scenes where she is lashed by the branches and she crushes some leaves with her hands in her effort to avoid them, releasing their essences into the air. She reaches a clearing, the dense foliage behind her and an open view in front of her. The clearing lies on the edge of a cliff and from there stretches a barren landscape crossed by a frozen river. In the middle of the clearing there is a pedestal and on it, from a statue, only the feet remain. She approaches the pedestal cautiously trying to catch her breath. She kneels near its base and with her hand reaches for something in the weeds that grow around it. She lets her cheek press against the cold marble for a moment. She uproots the small trophy that she came here for and dashes back into the trees. She makes it back just in time before the storm breaks and enters the building that we now see clearly as a monastery. She makes it through a hall filled with incense smoke and after a while into a big kitchen. There is a huge parchment book on a wooden stand, a copy of the works of Dioscorides in Latin. She leaves the small plant with the singular tiny white flower and some soil that clinged to its roots on the open pages. There is a medieval depiction of the plant and a title. Guess what…I bet Ridley Scott would do wonders with this script!


Dioscorides latin thefragrantman the fragrant man

Gentiane Eau de Gentiane Blanche – Hermès
1 of 3 in the Les Colognes range
Perfumer: Jean-Claude Ellena
Classification: Cologne – non-citrus
Launched in 2009
Top Fresh Notes, Green Notes
Heart Gentian, Benjoin
Dry Down Iris, White Musk, Oakmoss, Woody Notes

Portia Turbo splashing around
GentianGentian, or Felwoort Gentiana lutea Gentian was named in honor of King Gentius of Illyria (180-167 B.C.), who, according to Dioscorides, discovered the medicinal virtues of the herb. Ancient and medieval physicians recommended Gentian primarily as an antidote to poison. Gerard noted its use as a counterpoison and as a remedy for “evill livers and bad stomackes.” He also recommended Gentian to “helpeth digestion, and dissolveth and scattereth congealed bloud.”
University of Virginia, Health Sciences Library

Further Reading
Perfume Shrine – review

29 responses to “Gentian Genie – Introducing Amer

  1. Amer,
    First off let me welcome you! After having read this review I must say that you truly are a fragrant man! I am looking forward to reading many more of such writings from you!
    and I am curious, do you practice yoga?

  2. Thank you Brie for the warm welcome and the nice words. It is nice to be here.
    Guilty as charged. Yoga on the beach in this particular photo. Also very much into natural perfumery like you.
    I just read on another post that Jordan visited Greece a few days ago?

  3. Amer I like your words about the relevance of fragrance prices when reviewing. The best advice I received from a Perfumista was ‘Set a Perfume Budget and stick to it”. That advice was from Portia Turbo.
    I set a budget for the year as I like to only review from purchased bottles. However the said budget is usually spent by Feb or April. This year I will be reviewing from samples as well.

  4. Amer, that was a fabulous first review! I can’t wait to read more. Also, since one of my nicknames is Bitter Trish I should probably seek out a bottle of this fragrance. I love the imagery of your story too. It’s like me running out to my herb garden to grab some parsley or basil for whatever I’m cooking. Okay, I probably don’t look that dramatic but a girl can dream.

    • poodle, definitely worth a try if you are into “unconventional” but some patience is required. It is not an easy love. I have a soft spot for extremely vegetal concoctions but I know not everyone shares this taste. Eau de Lierre by Diptyque is another favorite of mine, not as bitter but just as verdant. Btw, Gentiane Blanche tends to register differently to different people, kinda like a genie. It contains four kinds of musk and since many people can be anosmic to one or more of them, each can get a different impression.

  5. Yassu, Amer! Ti kanis? 🙂 Welcome to the our little blogging community. Judging by this first post, we are all truly lucky to have you. I absolutely adored the eloquent poetry of your Multiflore comment: “The limpid body of the sleeping faun is now cradled by the forest floor, but underneath the cover of foliage, the pulse of a beating animalic heart can still be detected in the form of an ambery oud.” Brilliant.

    As for Gentiane Blanche, I’m afraid Jean-Claude Ellena’s minimalism does not usually mesh with my personal perfume tastes, but you wrote beautifully. I really enjoyed this part: “She is as dramatic as a barren landscape and untainted by civilisation and the culture of pleasure as a girl raised by wolves.” Lovely.

    As a side note, I fully agree with you on the issue of price being a factor in one’s consideration. It’s one reason why I often assess perfumes in that context. Perfume can be art — though it also often falls short of that lofty level — but there is a lot of “art” out there and not all are created equal. Plus, with current niche prices increasing exponentially with every year, and with perfume addicts wanting more than just a single bottle of perfume a year (or month), one *must* consider price in assessing a fragrance. In short, I’m glad it is something that you will consider, too, when you write.

    Damn, even my comment replies are long. My apologies for the length of this. As Jordan may have warned you, brevity is not part of my DNA. 😉

    • Thank you for taking the time to read through my ramblings. When I wrote this I thought I went too far and asked from Jordan for some editing, expecting he would throw away some pieces. He added some more instead… so about brevity… I think in perfumedom people are more concerned about longevity. Lets stick to what we know. Not a time for experimentation I say.

      I just recently discovered your blog and read through some of your negative reviews that I thoroughly enjoyed. Your reviews of Dzing! and Dzongkha reminded me of how I created an IMDB account to save others from horrible experiences. I like (but don’t love) both btw but that’s an entirely different matter.

  6. Hi Amer, welcome to TFM!

    It’s a very timely review for me: with the latest two new perfumes in this line (Eau de Mandarine Ambree and Eau de Narcisse Bleu) I decided I’d need to test all five.

    • Thank you Undina for the welcome. The new additions to the line haven’t been released in Greece yet. I will sure try them as soon as I see them land on a shelf somewhere.

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  10. This is a great review Amer, i love how you have described the scent in such detail. Ive just ordered a bottle, im really exited to try it! It sounds like a masterpiece.

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