Last year Atelier Cologne released Sous le toit de Paris in honor of the centennial of the dome at the Galeries Lafayette, one of Paris's most elegant department store buildings. The dome (la coupole), designed by architect Ferdinand Chanut and glass artist Jacques Gruber, is the unofficial symbol of the Galeries Lafayette as well as a beautifully preserved example of Art Nouveau design. It's fantastic in every sense of the word. As Atelier's homage to the dome reads, "A century of elegance and extravagance! La Coupole has covered times and fashions, while inside the emotion has remained the same. The wish to reinvent oneself. The pleasure of looking and discovering. The joy of possessing the object of desire..."
Sous le toit de Paris ("under the roof of Paris") is a special edition fragrance, available only at Atelier Cologne boutiques and the Galeries Lafayette. Its composition includes top notes of Moroccan neroli, Sicilian bergamot and African bigarade; heart notes of French violet leaves, South African geranium and Haitian vetiver; and base notes of Brazilian tonka bean, musk and white leather. Like most of Atelier's fragrances, it's complex yet not overwhelming, and it could be worn by either women or men. Now that I've finally tried it, it's one of my favorites from the brand.
Atelier works its "cologne" theme into each fragrance in the line, and Sous le toit de Paris has an appropriately cologne-ish citrus accord in its opening. There's also something like fennel or anise that I enjoy very much. These top notes merge into a more floral heart: the violet is the star here, and there's more of it than you might expect from the list of notes. It's a dry, slightly dusty-sweet violet (rather than a greenish violet or a candied violet), and it's backed up by smooth vetiver, pale woods and a hint of suede. For an hour or so, Sous le toit has quite a bit of presence, but then it quiets down for the rest of its long-lasting wear. Its eventual dry-down is a little more feminine, with a touch of powder in the musk, but it certainly never veers into Lipstick Rose territory. The violet persists nicely, and the fennel (anise?) seems to re-materialize from time to time.
All in all, Sous le Toit de Paris is interesting and wearable, and made of high-quality ingredients, like many Atelier fragrances. Could it be a tribute to classic French violet fragrances like Guerlain Après L’Ondée and Balenciaga Le Dix? I wonder. Of course, it feels more "modern" than either of those perfumes: like other Atelier fragrances (such as Grand Néroli and Vétiver Fatal), it's a contemporary re-interpretation of a classic ingredient. It should appeal to lovers of other new, woody-musky violets like Balenciaga Paris. It certainly appeals to me, and it also makes me want to visit the Galeries Lafayette and stare up at that remarkable glass dome.
Atelier Cologne Sous le Toit de Paris is available as 30 ml ($65) and 200 ml ($175) Cologne Absolue ("concentrated at 15%"). For purchasing information, see the listing for Atelier Cologne under Perfume Houses. (Although Sous le toit de Paris has limited store distribution, it's available through the Atelier Cologne website.)