Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Twin Peaks: Gres Cabochard, Aramis for Men and Lauder Azuree

It's been noted before that Aramis bears a distinct kinship with Cabochard (Grès) through the common perfumer behind both creations, namely the legendary Bernard Chant. But two other perfumes fall neatly somewhere between those two neighbouring meridians: Azurée by Estée Lauder and Bandit by Robert Piguet. Roughly, they can be likened to a family:

Aramis being the butch Godfather patriach, well behaved on the outside, dangerously brooding on the inside. Cabochard is the maternal force turning the neck (and therefore the head as well) in any which way she likes, while Azurée is the younger long-haired son driving fast without a licence and Bandit the rebel without a cause tomboy daughter who shuns panties in lieu of leather pants. They could have been The Sopranos, had the show been more stylish-oriented and retro glamorous. Or not. It doesn't matter, we can imagine.

Actually I'm cheating: Technically, the original sketch for Cabochard from 1959 was later deprived of its intensely opulent, romantic floral heart of India-reminiscing blossoms to serve as the core of the formula for Aramis (1965). For those who didn't know it, Azurée (1969) is also by Bernard Chant; a fresher interpretation of the Aramis idea given a luminous fruity topnote of refreshing bergamot, while still remaining resolutely herbal.

Chant was mad for chypres, skanky animalic or non; his Aromatics Elixir for Clinique is a seminal study on mossy herbal patchouli with a big rose lurking inside the bush. Azurée, albeit herbally green and chyprish, is softer than Bandit and lacks the acid green bite of the quinolines that compose the latter's leather note, thus making it more approachable of the four specimens, if largely unsung.

Comparing the two classic fragrances from Grès and Aramis, Cabochard and Aramis for Men respectively, I find myself contemplating how reformulation has changed perceptions: Cabochard has lost something of its intensely feminine mystery of floral chypre throughout the years (the ylang ylang and civet have been watered down), gaining a toughened, ballsy exterior which brings it even closer to the virile Aramis; the latter hasn't suffered major loses so far, although a reformulation in the mid-2000s altered a bit of its veneer.  
Aramis appears somewhat sweeter and mossier, underneath the male snagging quality with its pungent bitter leathery and artemisia green notes on top laced with cumin and a hint of ripeness emerging very soon ("body odour zone", "wild!", "unbelievable"). It has a more powdery-earthy vibe overall, with a sweet pleasing note in the drydown which lasts amazingly well. Cabochard is more screechy and strident nowadays with its synthetic castoreum and floral reconstitutions, yet still rather formidable compared to so many blah scents around. Both are abstract landscapes where everything is sophisticated, yet wild too; a cultural map of the sexual revolution unfolded through the span of a couple of decades.

Certainly not interchangeable, but similar enough to appeal to lovers of rough, fangly greens with mossy, leathery drydowns, this quartet of fragrances ~Aramis, Azurée, Bandit, Cabochard~ has a place in any perfume collector's arsenal. All fragrances are highly recommended as "shared" between both sexes irrespective of their advertising campaigns.

Notes for Aramis for Men:
Top: Artemisia, aldehydes, bergamot, gardenia, green note, cumin
Heart: Jasmine, patchouli, orris, vetiver, sandalwood
Base: Leather, oakmoss, castoreum, amber, musk

Notes for E.Lauder Azurée:
Top notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, artemesia, gardenia
Heart notes: Jasmine, geranium, cyclamen, orris, ylang-ylang
Base notes: Leather, patchouli, oakmoss, musk, amber

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

Notes for Gres Cabochard:
Top: aldehydes, bergamot, mandarin, galbanum, spice
Heart: jasmine, rosa damscena, geranium, ylang-ylang, iris
Base: patchouli, leather, vetiver, castoreum, oakmoss, tobacco, musk, labdanum, sandalwood.

Top photo Vogue US cover March 1969. Vintage ad from the 1980s for Aramis for Men.


  1. Bradamante21:01

    The thing is - I got three of them, and Aramis is on the list what-next-to-buy. I suppose I appreciate the Chant oeuvre - very much apparently...

  2. How interesting! I like Aramis on a man once it has softened some. I can see how they are similar, now that you point it out.

  3. Aramis was popular when I was in high school (class of '86)-with some of the girls. Funny, I still have trouble thinking of it as a masculine scent.
    Never smelled the original Cabochard, sadly. The current version seems like an inoffensive, conservative "office scent," similar to Prince Matchabelli Cachet circa 1980. A far cry from what I've read about the original scent!

  4. Bradamante,

    Aramis used to be one of the best mainstream frags one could buy with confidence. It was so ubiquitous on the Lauder counters that one seemed to bypass it out of familiarity. But...it's great.
    Chant made stellar perfumes, very concrete vision, very masterful execution.

  5. Karin,

    good on you! I think Aramis needs a light hand and the right person to really radiate as it should. Puuurrh...

  6. Amy,

    funny you should say that, how very interesting! I always thought it was a bit macho. Then again, not as butch as Givenchy Gentleman and Santos by Cartier (both of which I absolutely loved but couldn't make them submit).
    If you want to weap, try the vintage Cabochard. It's lush and ripe and quite floral beneath the moss. It was my mother's favourite... :(

  7. Ahh...I sometimes wonder at the wisdom of trying any more vintage fragrances. But, 'tis better to have loved and lost....

    The loss is all the more heartbreaking when scent-memories are intertwined with memories of our loved ones.

  8. Anonymous07:48

    Speaking about Aromatics Elixir - what has happened to the proposed launch of the special Perfumer's Reserve? It sounded so interesting ....

  9. Anonymous20:31

    The new Cabochard strikes me as incredibly sweet (not in a good way). How sweet is Aramis in its current form relative to the new Cabochard?

  10. I'll have to re-try Azuree. It's been years and the last time, it wasn't really for me. I remember finding it harsh perhaps? But that was a long time ago. Of course I love vintage Bandit and Cabochard. And so many guys I knew wore Aramis in the seventies and eighties! I should sniff it again just for memories sake.

  11. I love all of the above — in vintage, and wouldn't hesitate to wear each, including Aramis! Bernard Chant is indeed a badass...

  12. I've only tried Bandit so far, and I love it! The leather note doesn't feel harsh at all on me. I'll have to try Azzure and Aramis soon, I think it would be hard to get my hands on Cabochard around here.
    Eva S Sweden

  13. Oh, I love all three, but Aramis best. To my nose at least, it feels the least tampered with.

  14. Little Red04:10

    That Aramis ad is very Laura Holt/Remington Steele.

  15. Amy,

    you can say that again...It's an utter shame that scent memories are the most fleeting of them all and so difficult to recreate.

  16. Jillie,

    absolutely no bottle of it in sight.
    It would be indeed insteresting to see what they come up with, but ...

  17. anon,

    I find Aramis sweeter in a sort of powdery, earthy, cut grass way (I mean not really sweet like in vanilla or fruit or rich flowers; oh well, you perfectly well know what I mean).
    Cabochard strikes me as strident, not really sweet and nowadays lacking depth. Are you perhaps referring to Un Air de Cabochard by any chance? That one is a different perfume, though it can be very easily confused with the plain Cabo.

  18. Melissa,

    of all the Lauders, I think Aliage is the "harshest", but Azuree and Private Collection do have a sharpness about them. Still, the composition is a great one, so worth revisiting. Plus on the whole the Lauders are less tampered with, or at least tampered without disfiguring.
    Aramis is such a potent scent memory for so many women, since so many men wore it. Isn't it endearing?

  19. Barbara,

    love your description of Bernard Chant as badass!! :-)

  20. Eva,

    great!! I think you would like them or at least appreciate them.
    What concentration of Bandit do you love? As pointed out in my review, there are many variations. The EDP is the roughest, with cut-through-steel green quinolines.

  21. Dain,

    hi there! So nice to "see" you!

    Men's scents fly more under the radar, plus men are more loyalist compared to women in their fragrance choice. Could that have anything to do with it being more subtly treated, I wonder. It's definitely a wonderful scent!

  22. Little Red,

    wonderful observation, you're spot on! I see it too, now you're saying it.
    I think the advertisement is contemporaneous, which explains the visual taking on references of that popular TV show.

  23. I remember all the twenty something guys (and older) wearing Aramis in the 80's! It was very popular, I dont smell it around anymore. I think I smell more Axe then anything on the young kids (mine included cough choke).

    So great to see a new Twin Peaks article


  24. Yes, it's the EDP!
    Eva S

  25. Audrey,

    if Axe has substituted Aramis in the budding adults of today, then something is very very wrong, agree?

    Glad you liked the article, hope to have some more up in the future.

  26. Eva,

    ah, great!! :-) (Love the edp myself!)

  27. Yes, Axe is a sad substitute for Aramis. Poor young ladies having to suffer through it. lol


  28. Anonymous00:34

    Wonderful article. In the 1980's, I fell in love with the man who became my husband--I wore Cabochard and he wore Aramis. Scent is an important part of what draws us to another person. Even today, he keeps a big bottle of Aramis on the counter, and among my many perfumes I have Cabochard and Bandit. Think I should try Azurée...

  29. Anon,

    thank you for the wonderful story! How very romantic, to remember these moments in scent.
    You should definitely try Azurée, it's a largely unknown gem (especially for this moment in time when many of the classics have been attenuated, but that one hasn't)


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