Homme de Café by Cofinluxe (1978)

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Homme de Café by Cofinluxe (1978) is an early masculine fragrance effort from Alberto Morillas, and only his second behind FH 77 by Courrèges (1977). Coflinluxe is a brand initially founded as Cofci by Jean-Pierre Grivory in 1976, starting off as a value-oriented fragrance brand much like Yves Rocher or Lomani – all of these perhaps French answers to Avon, Revlon, and Prince Matchabelli – until the Cofinluxe name emerged as a corporate identity when the brand began taking on separate divisions. Eventually Cofinluxe the brand became the umbrella house for lines like Café-Café (of which this scent is a part), Taxi, Watt, and so forth; while Morgan de Toi, Salvador Dali, Andy Warhol, and Charriol all became houses of their own under Cofinluxe’s control. As a budget scent and the male counterpart to Café by Cofci/Coflinluxe (1976), Homme de Café like its sister is meant to evoke feelings of sitting in a chic French cafe sipping coffee. Whereas the women’s scent gets often compared to the legendary Opium by Yves Saint Laurent (1977) which would appear a year later, Homme de Café doesn’t get as much chatter as it is really hard to compare, not instantly likeable, and fascinating only to the big-time fragrance history nerds like me.

I feel like Alberto Morillas really early on was showing his penchant for light, synthetic, and clean masculine fragrance designs that now pretty much define his work on the men’s counter these days; but without the benefit of all the Firmenich chemistry he has at his fingertips now, making Homme de Café feel like a bare-bones cousin to Azzaro pour Homme (1978). Dry citruses and metallic acidic synthetic notes try to impart the smell of coffee before the days of gourmands perfumery, but instead come across like solder or acid bath rust cleaners; although these are soon followed by a plethora of muted spices like nutmeg and clove. Dry woody incense notes of cedar, myrrh, and vetiver mix with bitter oakmoss and sheer musks which were just starting to appear in fresher fougères like the aforementioned Azzaro, and many later ones throughout the 80’s. Later on, fragrances like Givenchy Xeryus (1987), Alain Delon Plus (1988), and Pancaldi Concentrée (1989) would each make increasing use of base profiles like the one here, and do it better than Morillas did by adding in more soap to make it feel less tinny. Performance is moderate in the longevity as expected for such a low-priced fragrance, and projection poofs to skin in about two hours. As a casual spring through fall runabout scent, this can’t really do any wrong if you can forgive its weirdness, as the dry down is pleasantly aromatic.

If you ever wondered what the cats in Europe were wearing who couldn’t afford designers, but didn’t have MLM catalog perfume brands like Avon, well now you know. Stuff like Salvador Dali and Charriol have much higher materials budgets to be sure; but these Cofinluxe fragrances are mostly cheap-smelling, which is okay since they don’t actually smell cheap in a bad cut-corners kind of way. Morillas was showing the very beginnings of his punchy ozonic style here with Homme de Café without the benefit of the next thirty years or so worth of advancement in the aquatic and fresh fougère genre; so he was applying these then-futuristic ideas to standard 70’s aromatic profiles, and then doing so on an extremely low materials budget to boot. Remember guys, Alberto has been with Firmenich since 1970, and he was only eight years into that 50+ year tenure, therefore not getting the most glorious of assignments yet, so Acqua di Giò Profumo (2014) this is not (even if it shares some trace DNA). I’d say if you’re going to pick up Homme de Café as a collector for a window into Morillas’ past, do it. Otherwise, this quirky old drugstore aromatic may feel too threadbare for the casual user, unless you’re on a budget like your dad was 40 years ago when he wore it to date your mom. Thumbs Up

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