Thursday, March 25, 2010

Paco Rabanne Calandre: Fragrance Review

"Imagine its spring. A rich young man arrives in his E-type Jaguar to pick up his girlfriend. Imagine the scent of fast air, speed and leather seats. He takes the girl for a ride along the seaside. He stops in a forest. There he makes love to her on the bonnet of the car."
~Marcel Carles recalling Paco Rabanne's brief for what became Calandre.

I was browsing one of the blogs I enjoy, namely Perfume Posse, the other day, when I came up upon a post by Patty in which amidst other musings (such as her antipathy for my beloved Fille en Aiguilles, how can this be I ask you?), she was crestfallen about the discontinuation of Calandre, a floral aldehydic that comes from 1969 (composed by perfumer Michel Hy) and which is just about one of the friendliest rose aldehydics in existence.

This Rabanne is also respendid with interesting trivia: It has rose oxides which give a slight "metallic" tinge to the flower, supposedly to translate the notion of "calandre" into scent, it being the car's radiator grille in French. Actually the first perfume "draft" was too reminiscent of a hot car (Spanish-born Paco Rabanne's brief) which made it rather unwearable, so back to the sketch board it went! The bottle, designed by Pierre Dinand, was sparse, with metal overlays in brushed silver finish which gave a high-tech look about 20 years before this would become the norm.

Calandre has been special to me personally for two reasons: First, it was given to me as a gift as a young teenager (we're talking about 13 here) by my sophisticated grandmother. I cherished my little bottle and had it alongside my other precious gems for years ~Anais Anais, Chanel No.5 (you read this correctly), Tosca and 4711 by Muelhens and Opium (you read this correctly too, I've said my piece before) alongside several minis I snatched up every chance I got.
Secondly, in the face of the deterioration of Rive Gauche by the oversexed, modernisating Tom Ford stint as creativer director of Yves Saint Laurent Parfums, Calandre remained more faithful to the former's idea of what I call its spirit of frosty allure, "what KGB agents would have worn to seduce James Bond"; almost the way "black pudding" is the faithful reminder of our primeval, barbaric and needy of ready nutrients nature.
The comparison between Rive Gauche and Calandre of course is the very antithesis of cognitive dissonance: Perfume lore wants Jacques Polge to have been instructed by the people at Yves Saint Laurent to produce something similar to the ~at the time~ avant-garde Calandre which had been issued the previous year. The result came in the market in 1971 in a striking blue and silver metal aluminum can and with the passage of years managed to eclipse the pulchritude of the original: Yves Saint Laurent with his flamboyant colours, rustic decadence and matchless tailoring became all the rage in the 1970s, while the futuristic Rabanne sewing with pliers and a blowtorch on his space-age plastic chain-mail Barbarellas had become a little less relevant to the zeitgeist; only Mylene Farmer continues to evoke the futuristic extravagances today. Overall Calandre is more American than Rive Gauche and it pre-emptied the trend of American-style fragrances that followed (White Linen etc)

Calandre has a wonderful olfactory profile: citrusy, slightly sour top note which segues into both oily green hyacinth and a fresh (laundered, thanks to lily-of-the-valley) white rose, elements which peter out slowly into an undefinable vaguely herbal base with honey and light musk touches that is its own thing more than anything that morphs into the wearer. Compared to Rive Gauche, Calandre is less frosty aldehydic, more lemony and with a softer overall character but equally abstract like you can't really point your finger on what you're smelling: Is it iced linens off the fridge on a hot day in a tamer version of The Seven Year Itch heat-remedy? A florist's fridge when the flowers have long departed? Or the cool breeze through a vetiver-sewn canopy in a non-tropical climate? That's Calandre's charm!
Cue into the last few days: The news of a possible discontinuation of Calandre bombed. Smiles were wiped off faces. The official response from Paco Rabanne on the question on discontinuation luckily came through a POL member, Cubby:
"Thank you for your message and for your interest in Paco Rabanne. Further to your enquiry, the Calandre perfume is still available in our current collection. Could you please notify us of your residential area so that we could indicate you the details of your nearest stockist. We remain
at your disposal for any further information. Best regards,
Paco Rabanne Online"
So now you can rest easy! It's even available as an Eau de Toilette on Amazon still.

Notes for Paco Rabanne Calandre:
Top: Aldehydes, green notes, bergamot, lemon
Heart: Rose, lily of the valley, geranium, jasmine, ylang-ylang, orris root
Base: Vetiver, oakmoss, cedar, sandalwood, amber, musk

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Aldehydes, what are they and how do they smell?

Perfume ads via parfum De Pub. Pic of chainmail dress by Paco Rabanne via In Memory of All Things


  1. Once again, you have made me want to try something I've never smelled! Thanks for all the interesting backstory, also.

  2. Hello there! Hope you're better and fully preparing for your lovely trip! (I'm going to a quite different destination this Easter)

    Glad you enjoyed the review and thanks! Calandre is very easy to wear, it's not harsh or screetchy and it's not "chypre"-based either (even though some peg it thus, but it's not).

    I don't recall if you like Rive Gauche?

    1. Anonymous15:45

      Late to the game here but a question for you. You say Calandre is not chypre-based and by that do you mean there is no labdanum in the base? I know there is oakmoss in the base but in order to be a true chypre does there have to be labdanum and oakmoss in the base?


    2. Anonymous06:12

      You say Calandre is not chypre-based. What has to be in a chypre to absolutely label it a chypre--citrus, labdanum and oakmoss? And if so, which one of these doesn't Calandre have (I'm assuming labdanum?)


  3. I enjoyed this , but never bought it 'in the day'...

    It was a quicksilver-metallic scent , green and steely.
    I liked my greens with more chutzpah, at that time;-)

    Today, I simply enjoy its easy-going nature.
    It pleases and refreshes in extreme swelter-
    Not a bad thing, at all ;-D

  4. Ida,

    your description is very much my impression as well, "green and steely" is very apt! Yet easy to use. Not fangly like Cialenga, Silences, Zen etc. (great as those might be!)

  5. Anonymous00:43

    Thank you for writing about Calandre, a scent dear to my heart. It deserves more attention especially by a new generation of perfume lovers. Decades ago I owned it in every form, including a complete line of bath products. The pure parfum was out of this world. Rive Gauche never smelled as good as Calandre. Every magazine at the time said "If you like Calandre, you'll like RG". Nope. I, too, feared it had been discontinued. The 100 ml bottle price has doubled in the last 14 months, which is curious. Now, if they'd only make the parfum again!

  6. Thank you for your lovely piece on Calandre. It is one of my favourite fragrances. Cool, clean, crisp, with an undercurrent of warmth. I always feel calm and feminine when I wear this fragrance. It is one of the last "old school" classics.

  7. Anon,

    so glad you chimmed in! It certainly deserves more attention, it's such an easy-going young thing, very wearable. I don't recall the parfum all too well now you mention it, probably because I never invested in a full bottle of it. But I take your word for it and fervently hope they do bring it back. (here's hoping)

    Somehow I think the doubling of the price is no indication of discontinuation. If it had been, then the price would first drop dramatically, then culminate on auction sites.

  8. Anna,

    thank you for stopping by and commenting and so good of you to coroborate my thoughts as a dedicated wearer of Calandre, no less! It's indeed all you say and more. A lovely fragrance indeed.

  9. I run a perfume site, and found that Sarah Jessica Parker to be the most popular

  10. Hello Arlene!
    I believe you meant to comment on the Heat by Beyonce article, right? If so, then yes, SJP's Lovely is very very popular, no doubt; it will take Beyonce a while to come up with those overall figures. It's just that the short time elapsed shows a great dynamism for the "brand".

    Hope to see you again on these pages, thanks for visiting.

  11. Hello - Thank you for taking me on a trip down memory lane. Calandre was a mainstay for me during my college years in the 70's. It was so satisfying to wear as a light green hyacinth then musky dry down .
    I first became smitten in 1972 as a high school senior with a small tiny bottle of the PERFUME . Yes, anon, the extrait. Was it breathtaking. It was remarkable how I felt when I applied it to my neck . And ogh the male attention that followed. Never hurts. Wish they would bring back the perfume but I would be satisfied with a greater distribution. It joins the ranks of Norell, Miss Dior, Diorissimo Azuree and Chanel 19 for a sentmental journey..I think I will order now ..

  12. Just last week I finally gave in to my curiosity and bought a small vintage bottle of Calandre on ebay (from a seller I've found reliable, no fakes and no totally-ruined-by-age). It hasn't arrived yet, but I'm expecting it any day now. I'm looking forward to trying it, with your comments in mind.

  13. I didn't love Rive Gauche when it came out, but now I think it's gorgeous -- although, oddly (or not!) more as something I like to smell than to wear.

    And where o where are you going?!

  14. Madelen,

    thanks for your most interesting comment. So it looks like I should hunt a bottle of the vintage parfum, it sounds like a must. Your sentimental mainstays are all very elegant! There's just something about those greens.

  15. M,

    sounds like you have found a great seller, do enjoy your purchase! I am very much looking forward to your impressions, if you care to share them with me. Thank you!

  16. March,

    oh I can see that, sometimes there are things we prefer as a passing sillage than a constant reminder or we love on others and not on ourselves. RG is certainly gorgeous! Calandre, you'll find friendlier.

    Grasse and Cannes are in the cards, so expect me to come back with lots of nice raw materials thanks to a connection who promised things and impressions to share ;-)

  17. I love calandre and wear it about once a month. I think I've had the same bottle since the nineties. Thanks for the post.

  18. Hi E -- Oddly enough, I don't remember the scent of Calandre, although I must have tested it in it's day -- I thought I'd smelled them all --hmmm. Is it as metallic as Rive Gauche?

  19. Liza,

    you're most welcome, glad you enjoyed!

  20. P,

    hi there honey!
    I'm sure you have smelled it, it was quite popular. It's now that it's forgotten :(
    I think RG is more metallic and more frosty. This one is easier-going. (Weird, one would expect the reverse in regards to popularity)

  21. Anonymous07:46

    Thanks for this review of Calandre, a recent enthusiasm of mine after I bought it on a whim at what seemed a low price from an online vendor (I was buying another Paco Rabanne favourite, Metal, which I'd thought long since discontinued).

  22. Anonymous17:39

    I wore Calandre for over a decade in the '80s as my only perfume. I would buy it in France on trips. I recently realized (upon reading various perfume blogs) that I was always consistent, as I loved Rive Gauche in the '70s as well as other "green" fragrances like Azuree and Carven Ma Griffe. Metal, by Paco Rabanne, is also wonderful. Thanks for the great information and review.

  23. I had not looked for Calandre since being unable to find it in retail stores during the 90's. I had the urge to research online this morning, found and ordered. I am so pleased.

  24. Anonymous15:13

    One of the all time scent greats and a long-time favorite of mine. I, too, wore this as a teenager, along with other similiarly-veined eau de toilettes like O de Lancome, 4711, Tosca, and Eau de Givenchy. What memories these bring back to me of my joyous, exploratory youth! I would be terribly saddened if any of them were discontinued—perfumes are, to me, like photographs in their power to evoke the past—but the loss of Calandre would be devastating. Thanks for giving it such love.

  25. Janetta15:30

    Well, now it's gone. Just received a reply to my plea for help from Paco Rabanne. It's gone, and they are just going after what's popular apparently. So, it's the strong, obvious, obnoxious, teenager scents for them, I'm guessing. After all, the teen market is the biggest.

    From their message..."Our decision to stop making a product is based on market trends. While we would like to be able to keep everyone's favorites, it's just not possible. We are always introducing new products as a result of consumer feedback. We feel strongly that listening to consumers like you helps us to improve. You can be certain that we will share your comments with our Marketing Department."

    Well, maybe if tons of people write to them, it will make a difference.

    So sad, so very very sad. The end of an era...

    1. Anonymous11:44

      I loved Calandre. I haven't
      found a replacement. Newer
      scents just smell bad. A shame.

  26. Anonymous00:12

    Well, I'm just lost. I've used Calandre for years, and now Idon't know how to replace it; can't find THE perfume... I feel Calandre is irreplaceable... ¿How can I write to Paco Rabanne's marketing people? I'm argentinian...

  27. noetic owl11:08

    I will always associate this scent with my mother.She was gifted a bottle of this and it was one of her favorites although she has not worn it in about thirty years. Sad to hear that it was discontinued but I can see how it would not fit into the current trends of perfume. It would have to be revived as a niche and sell for over $300.00 a bottle! But all kidding aside, I have a small sample of vintage and put it on yesterday- my take is heavy on the metal with lemon and powdery notes- reminds me very much of some of my other vintage favorites- Metal (also by PR), no. 19 and Rive Gauche- all to my nose possessing that strange metal accent which I love. I kept sniffing my wrist all day-loving it but also acknowledging that were my teenage daughters to sniff it on me they would probably say I smell like an "old lady". Funny how certain scents become dated-yet in my mother's mind (and mine as well) Calandre was a fresh and green scent.

  28. Anon,

    late but here I am.

    Enjoy your purchases as I understand both are now discontinued.

  29. Anon,

    it's really helpful when one has consistent taste; it makes easiest to suggest alternatives too.
    Lovely choices and a distinctive style. Hope you have stockpiled Calandre!

  30. Lannea,

    glad to hear it :-)

  31. Escentual (a British website) sells it for $60!

  32. Anon,

    awww, such a sweet phrasing ("perfumes are, to me, like photographs in their power to evoke the past")

    And thank you!

  33. Janetta,

    this is sad news indeed.
    I do believe that tons of mail will make a difference; look what happened with Venezia by Laura Biagotti for instance, it got re-issued.
    I think the biggest spenders are the early 20somethings. Teens don't have as much disposable income, so their segmentation is rather lower end (celebrity stuff etc). Designer brands make a profit in the 20-30 segmentation. If we change the tastes of those people beyond what they're being dictated to like, then there's hope. ;-)

  34. Claudia,

    better late than never.

    I think you should address your email to Puig Group who control Paco Rabanne.

    Address a letter to the headquarters:
    Puig, S.L
    Travessera de Gracia, 9
    Barcelona 08021

    or use the Argentina contact:
    Talcahuano 833 piso 10° CP C1013AAQ
    de la Ciudad Autónoma de Buenos Aires.
    Buenos Aires
    +54 11 5554-9300

    Hope that helps!

    In the meantime, perhaps if you can find vintage on Ebay or discounters...or maybe try Rive Gauche which is very close indeed.

  35. Noetic Owl,

    what a delicious comment, thank you for sharing!
    You know, it's a pity things get discontinued at such an alarming rate. I guess it's difficult to keep everything in production and the new makes for rekindled interest. Still....

    As to your comment on Calandre becoming dated though it smells fresh, I think terms like "fresh" or "modern" are subject to interpretation beyond their objective olfactory properties.
    Let me explain:
    "Fresh" used to mean laundry-like or screechy ozononic all through the 1990s (and we were bombarded with the equivalent scents to cement the idea). If you ask people in their 40s today they still think that kind of smell smells fresh. It's how they were brought up.
    Nowadays "fresh" means fruity & sweet reminiscent of shampoo (and you can well argue how sweet can't be fresh exactly since it already predisposes for some ripeness, some elaboration, something constructed like desserts etc. but try changing the mind of those who have been dictated to equate fresh with those attributes; the ad copy is all powerful in that regard!).

    I find that although we map out our olfactory imprint while we're children (and these are our memories we can't shake off and will always influence us), our conscious associations and buying habits are formed when we're late teens & impressionable "me too" early 20s. Whatever was fashionable then will always hold a powerful pull on us, even if it is just to dismiss it as "immaturity" (that kind of hate on our parts means it has a strong pull too!)
    Just my theory :-)

  36. That's good to know, thanks!

  37. Oops, something happened with Blogger and it ate a comment. :-(
    My sincere apologies to the poster HalfPast5 who kindly alerted us that:

    "Escentual (a British website) sells it for $60!"

    Again, many thanks!

  38. Of all the reviews of the intriguing Calandre that I have read, I think your description of it as "abstract" is perhaps the most fitting. For me, Calandre encapsulates the mid-20th century concept of "space age". It is as clean, steely, mod and mysterious as, say, "2001: A Space Odyssey" - both the fragrance and the film are minimal yet complex. It presents as a fragrance not quite of this world, reminiscent of earthly flowers but at the same time somehow all together alien. For me, Calandre captures the late sixties' zeitgeist, the optimism of modernist nonconformity. I love to savour Calandre because it carries me away from the cynicism and vulgarity of the now.


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