I can very well remember the days when I was a fledging young miss, still a schoolgirl learning French at L’Institut Français reading the semi-autobiographical Claudine novels which to my young eyes (and those of La Belle Epoque too) seemed naughty and mischievous. How innocent my childish eyes were! Re-reading them as an adult I find them rather tame yet utterly charming and revealing of the character of Colette, the woman.
Inside her family garden of Bourgogne, young Sidonie Gabrielle Colette experienced her first steps as a writer, surrounded by roses and field flowers. Although she is famous for saying that a happy childhood is poor preparation for human contacts, she seems to have flourished on the latter, from her first marriage to "Willy" who got her into writing, penning the Claudine series under his name, to her affairs with women, another with her stepson from her second marriage, her third husband and finally her friendship with her famous neighbour Jean Cocteau in the Jardins du Palais-Royal.
Having chosen her surname as a pen name, she was to become an admired literary woman, famous for both her literary and sensual freedom.
Reflecting this fizzy woman, 1873 Colette is a gourmand yet refined hesperidic fragrance, in which unsettling white flowers blossom in a light bubble, sparkling with tangerine and lemon.
The opening of 1873 Colette unmistakeably reminds me of candied kumquat, which is by turn inextricably tied to my mind with Nymphes (numphs) on the Greek island of Corfu, whose shores lap the waves of the Ioanian sea and the Adriatic. The succulent delicacy possesses a contrast of flavours that surprises the taste buds with its journey from bitter and sweet to the sour of the core and the crystallised crust of white sugar around that cracks under the bite of teeth. The wonderful liquer made of kumquats has a honeyed touch reminiscent of ripe orange blossoms with their fresh yet indolic aroma when they are about to swoon dying on a white sheet before exuding their last breath of scent for the benefit of an amateur enfleurage.
This delicious aroma persists for most of the length of time 1873 Colette stays poised on the skin, later flanked by the delectable orange blossoms and the never too sweet caramelised aspects of lavender with a subtle vanillic touch, imparting a desire to stick your nose to your wrists with a glutton's eagerness in front of his favourite dishes.
The collection Histoires de Parfums created by Gérald Ghislain is governed by no rules other than inspiration. This loquacious individual with roots in the Mediterranean chose to bring his literary heroes to life in perfume, a sensitive and sensual medium: authors, books and materials become stories which unfold on skin, to be read by those sensitive enough to appreciate this flight of fancy.
Top: all the citrus fruits from sunshine countries
Heart: orange blossom, lily of the valley, lavender
Base: vanilla, white musks, caramel
1873 Colette by Histoires de parfums comes in Eau de Parfum:
120 ml for 130 € / 4oz for $115.00 (yes, it is cheaper in the US!)
The US site features the older bottle, while the European sites feature the new edition bottle.
You can buy directly from Histoires de parfums, First in Fragrance and MioMia.
Fabulous price on the sampler pack: set of 12 vials for 5€ on the official site.
Pic of Colette by Irvin Penn (1951) via the photographer's archive.