Perfume Review: Institut Très Bien Cologne a La Russe, Cologne a La Francaise and Cologne a l'Italienne
Institut Très Bien is a new fragrance line based in Lyon, France. Their site is under construction, so I cannot provide you with more details on their history and philosophy, however I can tell you that in 2004 they received first prize at the Beauty Challenger Awards, held during the Cosmeeting exhibition in Paris. The awards is given for innovation and best practices in the niche sector. Rather predictably, I was mainly drawn to this new line of colognes because one of the fragrances was called Cologne a La Russe.
Cologne a La Russe, said to be a “faithful reconstruction of a 1906 formula”, is a lovely, bright, juicy citrus scent. Hard as I try, I cannot discern anything particularly Russian in this fragrance (now, having vodka as one of the ingredients could help…). The base notes (ambrette seeds, benzoin and iris) are significantly “darker” than the dazzling yellow top and fresh, herbal green middle notes; the base is a little powdery and because of that ambery-powdery quality the drydown has a vaguely Guerlainesque feel to it, thus making Cologne a La Russe smell classically French rather than Russian. This is a lovely scent; I enjoyed its initial citrus explosion (lemon, bergamot, lime), its attractive and elegant middle stage of lavender, rosemary and orange blossom, and the chic and warm, ambery drydown. Of the three colognes, A La Russe had the best (though not spectacular) staying power and generally felt most “substantial”.
I also liked Cologne a La Francaise with its appealing combination of magnolia and citrus. The citrus accord (grapefruit and lemon) was more apparent in the beginning and rather overwhelmed the floral notes, but as the scent progressed, the lovely flowers became evident, making Cologne a La Francaise a charming, airy composition. The scent was very pretty, very wearable but, true to its cologne nature, had almost no lasting power whatsoever.
Cologne a L'Italienne disappeared even faster; ten minutes after the application it was completely gone. The lack of staying power aside, I generally liked this cologne the least. The beginning was as juicy-citrusy as in the other two scents, but while Cologne a La Russe went through a pleasant, subtly herbal stage and had an unexpected, interesting drydown, and Cologne a La Francaise has paired the citruses and flowers in quite a delightful manner, there was nothing particulraly remarkable about Cologne a L'Italienne. After the first citrusy blast it appeared undecided as to what direction it should take, seemed to chose to remain citrusy, smelling faintly of lemons and bitter oranges, and then disappeared quietly and without a trace.
All in all, the Institut Tres Bien colognes were very well done, very pleasant…but I did not find them “different” enough from other colognes on the market to warrant a full bottle (and an expensive bottle at that!) purchase.
Cologne a la Francaise is available at Blissworld.com, $90.00 for 100ml. Bliss used to carry the other two fragrances as well, but at the moment it seems to be out of stock.