I was recently gifted a full, properly stored bottle of Eau Fraiche eau de cologne by Christian Dior, probably from the decade it was created. The box has a textured, black and white rattan weave design, and the bottle sports the signature black bow.
Eau Fraiche, or fresh water, starts with a sparkling, sharp, gleaming citrus accord, heavy on the lemon. This naturalistic citrus is soon surrounded by a hazy cloud of herbs and oakmoss with a subtle powdery drydown. The effect is: nature tamed, or elegance letting her hair down. Eau Fraiche features a kaleidescope of fresh facets, combining the sheerness and intensity of real citrus with the floralcy and drydown of a perfume perfume.
Nature tamed: I once described Jean Naté as smelling like a lemon that's gone to finishing school. Dior's Eau Fraiche is much more polished and complex, but the effect is still the same — a burst of nature reined in, its herbs (basil? rosemary? anise?) joined with oakmoss, patchouli and maybe vetiver arranged into a camera-ready pose.
Elegance letting her hair down: Eau Fraiche makes me think of Grace Kelly at the beach. In her bathing suit, she still managed to look more polished and chic than most women in evening gowns. Eau Fraiche is like that — a scent that was probably meant to be thrown on before heading out the door on a summer day, and splashed on throughout the day for refreshment, but it's still tailored and slightly formal. It still smells "perfumey." It's a perfume that has kicked off its shoes and wiggled its toes in the sand...
But make no mistake, Eau Fraiche is a chypre. In fact, although I cannot remember the source, it's said that Edmond Roudnitska once said that his composition Eau Fraiche was the only true chypre on the market, although I'm not sure what he meant by that.
As a refresher course, the chypre perfume category was born with Coty’s Chypre in 1917. Its notes were said to reference the flora found on the island of Cyprus in Greece. (Chypre is the French word for Cyprus.). According to The Haarmann and Reimer Fragrance Guide/Duftatlas/Atlas Olfactif, chypres are categorized by the contrast of a sparkling citrus top led by bergamot and an earthy mossy base dominated by oakmoss. But please note: “Patchouli can also be termed an indispensable element in this basic accord.” H&R says, Chypre = bergamot, oakmoss and patchouli.
The Osmothèque’s perfume book says that chypre is a style of perfume “based mainly on harmonies of oakmoss, cistus labdanum, patchouli, bergamot, etc.” The Osmothèque says, Chypre = bergamot, oakmoss, cistus labdanum, patchouli.”
Sniffing Christian Dior's Eau Fraiche, you can get a whiff of many fresh, unisex scents that came later. The other refreshing Diors, Eau Sauvage (1966) and Diorella (1972), both reference Eau Fraiche. Clarins’ Eau Dynamisante is like Eau Fraiche but with more prominent, turbo-charged herbs. And of course, there was Calvin Klein’s 1990s version of a unisex Eau Fraiche: CK One.
Once the citrus disperses, Eau Fraiche lingers on the skin as a mossy, woodsy, slightly powdery thing. She may be wearing shorts, but she's ladylike and composed.
Eau Fraiche ads from hprints.com