Monday, January 21, 2008

Outlaws and Brigands: Bandit by Piguet (fragrance review)

It was 1944, when WWII was at its most crucial stages with the battle of Monte Cassino, the fall of Rome to the Allies, the maiden flight of the Bristol Brigand and subsequently D-day that Robert Piguet had sent his models down the runway brandishing knives, toy revolvers and masks like highwaymen, like outlaws. And it was this occasion that prompted Germaine Cellier to grab the models’ knickers after they had walked the catwalk, reputedly studying their scent in an effort to “capture the best of their femininity” for the couturier’s first foray into fragrance. Whether she did and how one defines femininity in the first place is food for thought.

Cellier herself was outwardly conforming to all the perceived ideas of it: beautiful, slim, blond and tall, she exuded an air of elegance. Yet her reputation was tinged with shades of unconventionality and homosexuality and her creations were aiming to reflect different perceptions of Yin and Yang. Fracas was made for the femmes, Bandit was for the dykes.
In those times of closeted sexuality, these were hints that never left the inner sanctum and remained under wraps. Today it is a matter of playful reversal of roles, when women are freer with their sexual identity and image and are conscious of how they can juggle both sides. In saying that however I realize that both of those sides are dark and dangerous and not to be trifled with: both Fracas and Bandit pack a punch and are smirking with the knowledge of their own sinister powers. To Fracas’s torrid tuberose that makes you either fall madly in love with or shun forever, Bandit juxtaposes daring, bitter green leather which, according to a male admirer smelling it, exudes aloofness, rebellious intellectuality and absolutely requires an expanse of skin to show for its sensuality to bloom.

Classified as a leather chypré, Bandit manages to pose a glorious riddle that has a resonance even to today’s sensibilities, staying resolutely, brilliantly modern and quite young in spirit, contrary to many chypres and leather scents. There is simply nothing like it on the market, although many have drawn inspiration from its complex leather and greens accord.

“Beautiful but brutal” is how the perfumer Guy Robert described it and he couldn’t be more accurate about a scent that opens on the intense slap of galbanum greeted by hazy blossoms on a bed of raw hide, rendered by 1% of isobutyl quinoline!
A woman has seized her boyfriend’s bomber jacket, which has rolled into mud and grass and bitter Artemisia and still holds the remnants of that contraband cigarette he smoked (or some weed, according to some!) when he was waiting for the call for action. Her own female scent has permeated the lining with warmth, her floral-laced soap and powder, her brunette feral muskiness and the mossy feel of wet earth underneath. There is an androgynous energy travelling throughout the scent with a hint of S/M which addresses our need to reassess how we view women and their role. Bandit’s copious sillage and intense bitterness will surely make eyebrows rise and mother-in-laws shake with trepidation upon meeting you; unless they’re elegant and mischievous themselves, in which case they will reply with a wink.

It is of interest to note that men could carry off Bandit admirably and in fact lots of older gentlemen apparently do, according to French sales assistants working for the brand! Also interesting is that there an eau de toilette of Bandit is/was aimed at men, sold at the main difference being it is very rough, with a distinct lineage to Aramis and a golden cap instead of the usual black one for the ladies.

Bandit had stayed in the shadows for long, before the fashion hysteria for Fracas in the 1990s brought deserved attention to the forgotten house of Piguet again. Indeed it was upon re-seizure of the Piguet house by Fashion Fragrances and Cosmetics that it got re-issued by Givaudan’s nose Delphine Lebeau.

The matter of its various concentrations and shades of difference betweeen different batches within the same concentration merrited its own research.
Therefore, for clarity we state the following: The original vintage composition came in parfum, eau de toilette and eau de cologne. The eau de toilette is the sharper of the lot, while the eau de parfum is greener. Parfum is sublime and smooth, but I am perfectly happy with my eau de parfum. This was a later, indeterminate addition, resulting in two versions of Bandit eau de parfum circulating in the market: one is the certified "new" version (which I have) which is close to the original, vintage formula that bears a certification on the box; and the other is the "reformulated" version that got issued before 1996 under Andrian Arpel. That intermediary version manufactured by Adrian Arpel is the one that was sold until 1996/1997 and older stock on etailers might be it. The bottles do not present visual differences in their opaque black with yellow edge around the label, apart from the box.

The certification on the box reads:
This is the original formula for Bandit
created by this company with Robert Piguet
for the introduction of the perfume in 1944
Errol G.W.Stafford
Givaudan perfume corporation"

To help matters more, the “original” version also states “made in France”, while the other does not.
The eau de toilette that circulated under Andrian Arpel (Alfin inc. being his previous company name) bears this label:
Made in France
New York NY
The official Piguet site does not mention eau de toilette at all. However they do mention a body lotion available.
Bandit is available online at Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, First in Fragrance and various online stores (just keep an eye for all the different batches!)

Notes for Robert Piguet Bandit: galbanum, artemisia, neroli, orange, ylang ylang, jasmine, rose, tuberose, carnation, leather, vetiver, oakmoss, musk, patchouli.

And a lucky draw for our readers: if you want to be elligible for a sample of the Eau de Parfum, to see what all the fuss is about, please state so in the comments!

EDIT TO ADD: As of late 2012, a new reformulation of Bandit is under way by perfumer Aurelien Guichard to comply with latest IFRA allergens restrictions in fragranced products. Please note that the review refers to previous to that reformulation batches. We will update with a comparison as soon as a sample of the reformulated lands on our lap.

Pic of Bandit ad by okadi. Painting of Sappho by Mengin courtesy of Pic of Bandit Eau de toilette from


  1. Dearly beloved Bandit.

    What fun !

    I have old parfum, and somewhat newer edp-
    But it's all good.
    it does help to have cojones to wear it-
    Literally or figuratively.

    Do you wear it ?
    Inquiring minds want to know....

    [Hugs !]

  2. I'm a bit puzzled by the text of the so -called 'Certification': is that what's on the actual box? It sounds like a bad translation. The French is incorrect in several instances. This can't possibly have been issued by a French company. Can you explain it?

    I love Bandit. I don't want to smell of it, but I love to sniff it.

  3. I love Bandit and for me, it is one I can pull off quite nicely . . . . I am especially fond of the edp, but can wear the edt as well. Have received many compliments on this, as well as the other Germaine Cellier compositions . . . . seems as though these were blended for my chemistry . . . .G

  4. Anonymous07:12

    I happened upon your site not too long ago and have really enjoyed everything I have read so far....I now have the lively task of rummaging through ALL of your previous posts....

    Surprisingly, the first 2 fragrances I purchased when I started my "obsession" with fragrance were Montale's Black Aoud and Piguet's Bandit. (I had read such amazing things about both fragrances that I bought them online without ever smelling them!) To say the least, both scents were major challenges for me.

    Flash forward 2 years and 70 perfumes, oils, and EDTs later, and I am happily rediscovering the joys of both my initial fragrance purchases.

    Bandit is still challenging to me, but in a different way. It is by far the most green fragrance I own, but shocking simple in it's deliverance. It is sharp, bitter, and feels "alive" with with a metallic green shimmer. On my skin, it shouts it's arrival and then never really goes anywhere.....except slightly going from a blood-curdling scream to a less frantic (but equally resonate) yelp.

    I recently checked my bottle and I'm sure I must have the reformulated EDP. I can't remember where I purchased the fragrance, but thanks to your info, I know that it is NOT the EDT because it dons a black cap.

    Thanks for being a great resource....I look forward to reading more from you.


  5. I, dear. Hope you're well :-))

    I love it and wear it a lot in warm weather when I find that it cuts the heat nicely and lends an unusual ambience that prompts people to ask what it is.

  6. Anonymous07:27

    Another great post. Thanks for clearing up the history of this (and other) classic perfumes.

    And, of course I would love to sample Bandit.


  7. Bela,

    tu as raison, madame! I had not really paid attention to the grammar (créé with two accents, pour cette... and not par cette..etc.). It now seems quite faulty, doesn't?
    The reason though is simple: the quote came directly from a thread on POL (which I will send along) where it was mentioned, when I had started an extensive questioning on just how many formulations and versions there are a while back.

    You did prompt me to go search for my own backup bottle of EDP (which was quite a task, because I had those kept away from the current collection, but it was worth it; so thanks!) and see the label on the box again. Mine is in quite correct English and I have thus edited the text to that exact wording. (therefore I believe it was just a wonky translation).

    I hope this helps people along.

    Bandit is quite a stunner, isn't she? It's well worth sniffing from time to time, even if not wearing it.

  8. G,

    I am overjoyed you are another one in the Bandit clan! It does receive the most unexpected compliments I find.

    Good for you that you can enjoy the rest of the Cellier fragrances as well :-)

  9. Marko,

    first of all, thank you for your profuse compliments :-))
    What can I say? I hope you enjoy the rest of the blog, just as much.

    "going from a blood-curdling scream to a less frantic (but equally resonate) yelp" is a great description! Bandit does present its challenges, but it's so worth it in the end.

    You made very discerning choices upon starting your "obsession". Interested in what fragrances hold your current attention...

  10. Dear Mark,

    you're very welcome! You're in for the draw on the Bandit edp sample, of course.

  11. Anonymous08:24

    For me as a part of the Fracas faction i admire Bandit for it pungent greenness. From a safe distance. I wouid love to smell it on a woman's skin. Unfortunately noone here wears it! ;-P Have to say that in EdT i can barely stand it while in EdP it is far more balanced and smooth.
    Germaine Cellier must have been a genius. Only think of Vent Vert which is a distant relative to Bandit i can wear.

  12. Hello, this is first time for me to leave a comment here, I have been reading your wonderful blog silently for some time now.

    The various strengths and batches of Bandit are indeed a mess. I got a bottle of the parfum a while ago, I think it's the version with the certificate, it stroke me how different it is compared to the EdP sample I had, one could sort of feel the similarities but they are almost two totally different scents. The parfum is much smoother and sweeter, the green harsh tone is nowhere to be found. Even though I first thought the parfum to be more wearable, after a while I find the EdP to be much more unique and fun to play with.

  13. Anonymous14:25

    A very interesting review of one of my Top Ten scents, thanks! If the femme/dyke divide is no longer as relevant as it might have been I think the blonde/brunette stereotype is. I've always thought of Fracas as a vampy blonde scent and Bandit as an elegant aloof brunette perfume. For once I conform, at least in part! I'm confused about which edp version I have as I got rid of the box when I bought it online about 2 years ago. Oh well. I love to have the bottle with its cap off lying in my bag increasing the leather aspect!

  14. Hi, Helg. It was the French that sounded to me like a bad translation (which it turns out it was). You didn’t post the faulty English wording. Since you’ve now removed the French I can’t be sure, but I seem to remember it went like this:

    C'est la formule originale pour Bandit (créé pour cette compagnie avec Robert Piguet) pour l'introduction du parfum en 1944.
    Errol G.W.Stafford
    Parfums de Givaudan

    JFYI, a more correct translation of the English text that you’ve now posted should read:

    Ceci est la formule originale de Bandit (créée pour cette firme en collaboration avec Robert Piguet), à l'occasion du lancement du parfum en 1944.
    Errol G.W.Stafford
    Parfums Givaudan

    Yes, it is a wonderfully potent brew. A bit too strong for me to wear, unfortunately.

  15. Dear N,

    Cellier had a profound disregard for the rules. She used 8% of glabanum in Vent Vert: the vintage is a green slap across the cheek!

    It would be fun for you to smell the EDP on someone. I can only hope you will :-)

  16. Elysium,

    welcome and I appreciate your comment. Glad you enjoy the blog.

    Indeed the EDP is such fun to experiment with: this is one fragrance in which it really is worth having all concentrations on hand ~they have something different, all of them. I have even heard one version described as an aldehydic floral with moss!

  17. Donanicola,

    thanks for your interesting comment: putting a cap-less bottle in a purse seems like such a decadent idea. (off to do that!)

    The blonde/brunette stereotype is a fun subject and perversely fascinating in relation to fragrances. I hope you caught my previous post about the Guerlain scents with the differently colour-haired models?

  18. Bela,

    presque! (good memory)
    There was also a different name stated as the Givaudan president, so I deduce there is a difference in dates issued as well. (iss't this maddening?)

    The English label isn't faulty: the quote now comes directly from my unopened bottle's box.

    Have you tried just spraying the inside of your skirt/pants? The scent rises slowly, but never becomes overwhelming.

  19. Anonymous16:05

    Yes I did thanks! I didn't conform to the Guerlain types as I don't wear Shalimar (I'm a Mitsouko girl through and through)but it was and is fun nonetheless.

  20. OK, glad you think so! I find it frivolous and fun myself :-)

  21. Anonymous19:58

    Have always been curious about Bandit, it sounds like something I could pull off. I have what I've heard is a distant cousin of Bandit, Cabochard by Gres. I'd love to be in the draw.

  22. Anonymous20:15

    Helg, for various reasons I got behind in my blog reading and am now catching up. Very much enjoyed the Chandler Burr interview below. Brava! Looking forward to his book.

    Great run-down in your post today on Bandit and the various versions. Yes, please put me in the drawing for a sample. Will probably add Bandit to my "buy" list for 2008.

    Thanks again for all the work you put into this site.

  23. Sabina,

    if you like Cabochard, you have good chances to like Bandit too. However Bandit is much greener whereas Cabochard (in the vintage version, because the reformulated is utterly ruined *said with vehemence*)has an orientalised (?)aspect to it.

    Of course you're in!

  24. Freegracer,

    thank you for your most kind words which give me encouragement to continue to provide pleasure and -I hope- intelligent commentary on various scented matters.

    Glad you liked the Burr interview: he did give some insights on how he writes and how thinhs work, huh?

    You're in the draw, of course :-)

  25. Coincidentally, I had just reached for my Bandit last Friday when meeting Octavian of 1000 fragrances. I love the edt in the heat when its greenness competes with the floral heart, but the extrait was perfect for a damp, mild,grey winter day: the bitter greenness of the armoise and the isobutyl-quinoleine slap are softened by a luscious floral base. Every time I reach for it, Bandit reminds me of its very peculiar appeal. Is it the weather, my mood, my hormones? Sometimes I can't get away from the dirty ashtray/weed stick-up. But when the time is right, she's a masked queen of bandit, creeping in dragging bits of herbs on her heels and oakmoss in her hair, bearing the bouquet she'll leave to the one she'll have robbed.

  26. As a novice perfumista, I'd love to be entered into the drawing, as I've never tried Bandit (though I love the DIVA Fracas). Wonder if I have the cojones to wear it...?

  27. Anonymous05:21

    Yet another illuminating post from perfumeshrine! I loved the models' knickers story, have never heard that one before. Great image-description of the seductive bandit, and thanks also for the breakdown of the versions. Would appreciate being in the draw if I'm not too late. thanks,

  28. Dear D,

    I hope I'll get the full breakdown ;-)

    Good visual. Indeed Bandit is a scent I reach for mostly in warm weather: it cuts the heat nicely. But rainy days might also be grist to its mills: have to try it (usually I use Mitsouko or Vol de Nuit for that)

  29. Vida,

    I hope you find out if you win the draw :-) You're in!

  30. Jane,

    thank you, we aim to please :-)

    The knickers story was too good to be left out ;-) And the breakdown on the different formulations was so maddeningly confusing that I set out to find what the hell was going on with those. I'll be glad if it helps people.

  31. Forgot to say, Jane: you're in!

  32. ‘The English label isn't faulty: the quote now comes directly from my unopened bottle's box.’ I was talking about the English blah blah from which that bad French translation had supposedly been written. I assumed that was what you meant when you said, ‘Mine is in quite correct English.’ It’s getting much too complicated now. So, never mind.

    No, I haven’t tried spraying in a different part of my body from where I usually do. I love the smell in the bottle and on my hand, but I don’t want to wear it nor walk around wafting it. It’s just not me.

  33. Alas I am a tad late for your Bandit draw :(

    I first heard of bandit when I did a bit of research on fragrances of the 30s 40s and the famous women who wore them. I tried a sample from a kind stranger who heard my pleas online and since then I am an addict.. I wear it to bed because I wish to fall asleep caressing it. I wear it when I'm going out or just around the house..nothing smells like it..and I mean that in a good way..In three weeks I have used a 50ml bottle and it looks like I will need to continue my addiction and find a "dealer" to feed my habit once again!!!! My only regret was that I have missed the possibility of a free fix.....

  34. Anonymous04:01

    What an absolute disappointment with the current version of Bandit de Robert Piguet PARFUM ordered from the
    It's extremely mild and actually not really long lasting (to my standards). Women might like it though.
    Current EDP version is definitely sharper and indeed sounds like a true BANDIT! Although I'm not sure whether my EDP was issued before or after 2010 (remember about the reformulation to comply with IFRA restrictions on oakmoss levels).
    BANDIT is an artwork, a unique fragrance suitable for both women and men, who are strong, confident, and independent; those people do not tolerate commonplace and conformism, quite often they break the rules, and break them beautifully, deliberately and well!!!

  35. M,

    it's quite a stunner, I agree. Your experience with it is so potently evocative it makes me want to get my bottle out and douse myself with it! :-)
    Thanks for sharing! (and you're never too late)

  36. Alexis,

    I'm sorry your experience was disappointing.
    In parfum's defense, this is usually the case with extraits though: they're not really projecting, they stay close to the skin. I haven't tried the parfum in a while, so can't be sure if it is a reformulation concern or just the nature of the beast. I will have to take your word for it. You can at least still enjoy the EDP which is fierce and independent, as you so eloquently put it. :-)

  37. Anonymous01:50

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  38. Anonymous02:13

    Ok, I finally got my order from The Perfumed Court (as far as I know, it’s a trusted source of vintage fragrances).

    Now I have the following versions of Bandit by Robert Piguet:

    (1) Bandit Light Pour Homme EDT (Alfin inc.);
    (2) Bandit EDT (Alfin inc.);
    (3) Vintage Bandit EDT Original Formula;
    (4) Vintage Bandit Parfum Original Formula;
    (5) Bandit EDP (Fashion Fragrances & Cosmetics, LTD);
    (6) Bandit Parfum (Fashion Fragrances & Cosmetics, LTD).

    Versions # 1 and 2 (manufactured by Alfin inc.) are grossly reformulated, I wouldn’t recommend even trying them, it’s a waste of time and money.

    Version # 3, Vintage Bandit EDT Original Formula (obtained from The Perfumed Court): A strong dark chypre, quite oriental, with a mild resemblance of Salvador Dali Perfume by Salvador Dali, extremely powdery with subtile notes of Valeriana officinalis, NO LEATHER AT ALL!!! Ok…Maybe just a little leather. And it actually provokes a headache! The color of substance is dark yellow, even brownish (which is strange, because I saw vintage Bandit EDT on the internet and the color of juice was yellow). So there are three options: 1) it’s not Bandit at all, and The Perfumed Court shouldn’t be a trusted source anymore; 2) the juice is super old and wasn’t properly stored; 3) this is the way Vintage Bandit EDT smells (I really doubt it).

    Version # 4, Vintage Bandit Parfum Original Formula (obtained from The Perfumed Court): an absolutely gorgeous three-dimentional fragrance which olfactorily complies with canonical chemical design for Bandit by Germaine Cellier. But again, I saw a few vintage Bandit pure parfums on the internet, the color of juice was brownish (a cognac-like color), however, in my case, the sample obtained from The Perfumed Court is light yellow (a champagne-like color). So it’s a bit of conundrum whether I should trust The Perfumed Court.

    Versions # 5 and 6 (Fashion Fragrances & Cosmetics, LTD) are currently on the market. Both are very similar to the vintage vesrion of Bandit Parfum Original Formula obtained from The Perfumed Court, but Bandit EDP from Fashion Fragrances & Cosmetics, LTD is stronger, sharper, and more leathery and green [at least on my skin] (and as a man, I like this version of Bandit most of all).

    I’m still interested in trying Vintage Bandit Parfum and EDT Original Formula versions from sources other than The Perfumed Court .

    For now, I would totally stick to the current versions of Bandit de Robert Piguet manufactured by Fashion Fragrances & Cosmetics, LTD in the USA. I’ve heard that their current nose, Aurélien Guichard, trained in Givaudan, was really carefull in going back to the perfume formulations by Germaine Cellier and in trying to recreate Bandit as close as possible to its original.
    Note, they make only Bandit EDP and Bandit Parfum, no EDT!

  39. Alexis,

    wow, reads like a meticulous breakdown (and a positive nod to FF&C), thanks!

    I agree with you: the version I like best is the EDP produced by FF&C (my bottles are from mid-00s)

  40. Stormy21:52

    Hello there!

    I have contemporary Bandit EDP (3 or 4 bottles from different years, different countries) & contemporary Bandit Parfum, as well as vintage EDT (a few bottles from different sources) & vintage Parfum (2 mL-mini from Paris). They are all so different from each other, but one could still see that they are variations on the Bandit theme...

    Some time ago, I've received a few samples of vintage Bandit Parfum and vintage Brigand Parfum (In 1945-1947 Bandit was marketed in the USA as Brigand). The both samples smell almost identical. The Bandit is just a bit sharper. The owner claims that they are from the 50s-60s, 100% genuine, and well-stored. The juice is dark brown. The smell is just divine!!! It's a very dark chypre, deep, not super-sharp, green-woody, with just a hint of roses, a lot of oakmoss, very musky, some vanilla and benzoin notes are there as well; and there is even some sweetness to it + powdery character. Really elegant, animalic, mysterious, and lady-like. BUT... The smell has really nothing to do with vintage EDT or contemporary EDP or Parfum (well, maybe drydown is somewhat similar)! It's almost another fragrance! For example, I can't detect artemisia and carnation at all!!!; galbanum is there, but not really obvious. I suspected that due to aging, all top notes are gone, and this extra-sweetness is due to oxidation or something. However, the owner insists that the majority of top notes are there, and this is how a vintage Bandit Parfum should smell like.
    Well, my 2 mL-mini of Bandit Parfum from Paris, when it dryes down, does smell somewhat similar to those samples, but it has prominent artemisia and carnation notes, really easily detectable! So the owner thinks that the version I have from Paris is b.s.

    Any experience with vintage Bandit/Brigand parfum?

    I'd really appreciate your comments regarding this issue.

  41. Stormy,

    thanks for the most interesting question and the experience you're sharing with us about the comparison between your batches.

    The difficulty with vintage fragrances is that we can never be sure how much of the original perfume has changed over time. Some perfumes do keep well, others less so and others though they keep in the sense that they do not "turn" into a sour mess do change their character in that either they lose some top notes or they "mellow" thanks to the deterioration of some of the tangier ingredients by the balsams and resins in the base.
    In short, judging a vintage is almost impossible.

    My own experiments with Bandit have to do with samples/bottles obtained in various ways, so it's not always on the same scale of legitimacy. Ebay or auctions do not present the same degree of authenticity as buying off an estate sale or an antiques dealer you know and trust. From what I know, the modern formula does present differences with the older one (it's greener and sharper for one), whereas the old was more chypre thanks to more oakmoss.

    However from your post one thing raises an alarm: seller saying some other version is b.s. is suspect.

    I suppose you will never know 100%, unless you test the seller with other vintage perfumes of which you have a perfect recollection of and can be certain how they were supposed to smell like (this is more difficult than it sounds) and therefore can then be certain that they hide something or don't tell the whole truth. You can then decide whether they have filled up the vintage bottle with some other perfume of less "collector's value" or not. It would also depend on the procuring of your Bandit Parfum from Paris: how old is that, where does it come from, who provided it etc.

    Bandit DID in fact circulate as Brigand in anglo markets for a while, that much is true (Similar to My Sin/Mon Peche). That much I can assure you about.

    Thanks as ever for your input and feel free to drop a line if you find anything more.

  42. Anonymous17:05

    When I was growing up, my mother and granny (African American women) worked with several white women who had second jobs cleaning house for several affluent clients out in the suburbs and I remember them giving my mother almost empty bottles of fracas and bandit which my mother very sparingly stretched with just a 1/2 wear to my graduation, my grandpa's funeral, their 20th anniversary...and lastly, when my granny died...a dab for granny to wear in to eternity...It's amazing what memories a scent can conjure up! maybe not all good, but all definitely welcome...I have been wanting to get a sample or purchase some original since then....where can I get either one?

    Roz collins


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