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Thursday, November 28, 2013

Givenchy Ysatis: fragrance review & history & free perfume giveaway

Ysatis remains among the most memorable perfume launches of my childhood, alongside Cacharel's Loulou, mainly due to the commercial that accompanied it, much like Faure's dreamy Pavane did for the latter. In the Greek version, a marvelously sonorous, rhyming phrase was able to be coined for the launch, a fact that would be difficult to accomplish in any other language:  "Αναζητείς το Υζαντίς" it went (a-na-zee-TEES toh ee-sah-TEES), roughly meaning that the love-struck male that would smell it would be forever seeking the source of the fragrant Ysatis. It does lend one to daydreaming, doesn't it. Especially to an impressionable, already obsessed with perfumes, mind such as mine, back in 1984.
The reality, as is often the case with perfumes, is far more prosaic: Jean Courtiere, president of Parfums Givenchy, came up with the name, while searching ~as is the formal naming process~ for something non copyrighted, non insulting in any known language and mellifluous enough to be catchy. Ysatis it was and it stuck.


The story

I also vividly recall that Ysatis was accompanied by images of carnival, chess board games and Venetian masks, a fact that I mistakenly attributed it to the masterminds at the advertising company borrowing heavily from the Venezia by Laura Biagiotti popularity, at its apex during the early 1990s, but it looks like it was done in reverse. (disregard the art school project ones posing as authentic). Accurately enough, my memory is as it should be: not only is the architectural Art-Deco-meets-skyscraper bottle of Ysatis posing as a chess piece itself, the commercial is set to a scene from the Venetian carnival (to the succeeding scoring of Hendel's Sarabande, immortalized in Kubrick's Barry Lynton, and of Folias d'Espagna by Arcangelo Corelli): the intrigued, love-struck man in question is seeking the glamorous, 1940s vague-coiffed and 1980s made-up woman behind the mask, the truth behind the glamorous facade. It all stood as very impressive and to this day I think they involuntarily captured a huge part of perfume's intellectual appeal; what is it that makes us want to peel the layers off a person like the beige-purple petticoats off an onion?

I'm relaying all these very personal associations to drive to the fact that Parfums Givenchy had a nice, long-standing tradition in my house, as my grandfather was a devotee of Givenchy Gentleman (1974), my mother occasionally dabbed from Givenchy III (1970) and my father had an amorous relationship with Xeryus (1986) many moons ago. So falling for Ysatis wasn't far fetched at all and taking in mind the first perfume I bought with my pocket money was YSL Opium, it seemed like a natural enough progression into the abyss into perfume appreciation. In fact the fragrance was so popular in Greece that a local fashion "chain" is still named after it.

Searching for this perfume these past couple of days I come across Ysatis advertised as "the perfume of power". But this is not what it stood for for me. Perceptions have significantly changed and we're not the creatures we were in the 1980s, when everything seemed possible, even gassing out everyone in the room with one's scent fumes, but Ysatis, poised as it is between three categories (floral, oriental and chypre) in its complex formula, has the tremendous force to evoke a time when one felt untouchable.
It sounds rather perverse and morbid choice for a teen, but I kinda think I was morbid all along. We did listen to lots of Joy Division and Cure and Siouxie & the Banshees and read Poe poems and gothic tales, so I suppose it wasn't just me.

The scent of Ysatis 

The main fragrance story of Givenchy Ysatis is unfolded in pummeling, sultry and creamy smelling essences of orange flower, ylang ylang and tuberose, brightened by the citrusy but sweetish oil of mandarin and chased by animal fragrance notes (smells like heaps of civet to me and there's also castoreum) and some spice in the base (the unusual for a feminine fragrance bay rum as well as clove). It's pretty "whoa, what the hell hit me?" at any rate. Like Gaia, The Non Blonde, says: "Ysatis is not for the meek or those still figuring out their style and taste". Word. If you have liked and worn Organza (also by Givenchy) in the 1990s, or Cacharel Loulou, and Ubar by Amouage, you have high chances of claiming Ysatis with the clinging tenderness usually reserved for Nutella jars.

Ysatis was composed by Dominique Ropion, maker of such ebullient, expansive fragrances as Amarige, Pure Poison, Carnal Flower, Portrait of a Lady, Une Fleur de Cassie, Alien, RL Safari, Flowerbomb or Kenzo Jungle, among many many others.




Ysatis has been reformulated and repackaged, though not ruined in the process; it's till Amazonian and lusciously haute bourgeois. Still if you're searching for the older formula, it comes in the black box vs. the newer purple one. The original bottles even read Ysatis de Givenchy. There is also a flanker, Ysatis Iris, also in a purple box, though that one has a purple hued bottle as well and of course the moniker "Iris" just below the name. Still, keep a sharp eye when shopping, as it's a rather different scent (focusing on violet & iris note sandwiched between the citrusy top and floriental bottom).

I have a generous miniature of vintage Ysatis for a lucky winner. Please state in the comments what was your favorite 1980s scent and what scents you'd like to see featured in the Underrated Perfume Day feature on Perfume Shrine. Draw is open internationally till Sunday midnight and winner will be announced sometime on Monday.

For more entries and fragrance reviews of Underrated Perfumes please click on the link and scroll.


64 comments:

  1. I was crazy about Coco in the 80's. I was an exchange student in Spain when it came out in Europe so I got it before it hit the States. I'd like to see Chanel Cristalle reviewed -- underrated but a masterpiece. Thanks for the giveaway!

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  2. My mother brought Poison and Coco to me from a trip to Paris in the '80's (before U.S. availability), but my favorite was Opium. I had perfume, lotion, powder, etc. One of my favorites that I would love to see reviewed in the "Underrated Classics," would have to be Bulgari Eau Parfumee (Au The Vert) Extreme. I still wear and love it. Just a short remembrance about Ysatis...one of my friends was an aspiring model and got a job in a department store spraying perfume on shoppers. I didn't like that practice, and begged her to ask before spraying. But she brought samples of Ysatis to our bridge club, and most of us loved it. Way back when...

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  3. Aliki14:35

    My favorite 80s perfume is exclamation by coty. For me it is the smell of this era, extravagant, loud, colorful, a bit kitsch even.

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  4. Dina C.14:45

    This scent is one of my best friend's signature scents. I forwarded the post to her, and I think she'll get a big smile from it. Once I watched the old advertisement, it seemed vaguely familiar. We were teens in the 80s, so it fits. I'd love to be entered for the drawing. Thanks.

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  5. Dina C.14:48

    My favorite scents in the 80s were Lauren by Ralph Lauren, Revlon Jontue, Flora Danica by Royal Copenhagen, and Coty Emeraude. I don't know much about Flora Danica, and I see it going for large prices on ebay nowadays, so maybe it would be interesting to me to know about that one. Thanks again.

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  6. My favorite 80s perfume is Poison. i really like tunerose scents.

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  7. Fernando15:03

    Ysatis was one of the first perfumes I bought for my wife when the perfume crze hit me some years ago. I found a battered black box in our local "surplus and salvage" store (it sells stuff other stores can't sell, basically). She loved it, which fits: we are both fans of big, brash, and beautiful.

    In the 80s, however, I liked perfume without paying much attention. I spent a couple of months in Paris early in 1988 doing mathematics, and of course wanted to buy my wife some perfume. I went to a store and was utterly, completely lost. I think I ended up with a bottle of Vivre, by Molyneux. We might still have a bit of that juice.

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  8. The original Halston - I wore it for 20 years and still revisit it frequently. And a shout-out to Cinnabar, which I rediscovered recently and still love.

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  9. my favourite givenchy perfume which i bought in the 80's was Le. I loved it. Can't find it anywhere now. I like ysatis in very small doses, not my fave despite having a soft spot for strong orientals. I was a young mum in the 80's, seems sooooo long ago....

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  10. Kathleen18:38

    My big '80's scent was YSL Opium, and it's one I've come back to recently, enthusiastically, after a couple of decades in storage. Now that I've learned a little more about fragrances (thanks in no small part to this blog), I recognize one of its most compelling elements, and one that it shares with my newly-beloved Ysatis: castoreum. I get a thrill from the castoreum note in Sonia Rykiel's Septieme Sens, too. It may or may not qualify as "underrated"; in any event, I would love to read your thoughts on it.

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  11. I'd like to say Opium because I wrote it in the 80's but it is indeed a perfume from the late 70's and so is my other 80's scent, Anais Anais. Does it count? I was in my early teens in the 80s and I was always wearing this monster perfumes! When I was really young I used to steal no5 from my mom and tried on her fur coats. I am not that person anymore, at all.

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  12. ariane20:02

    My favorite 80s scent was Jean Louis Scherrer(does it count,it was launched in 79) and Aliage!I was also in awe of Poison,too much so to wear it!Thank you for this,am such a fan of Dominique Ropion,would love to have a chance to sniff some vintage Ysatis!

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  13. Dina5620:21

    My favorite early 80’s scent would be White Linen, it was the first fragrance I owned. My neighbor worked in the Estee Lauder factory close by and Estee Lauder was the only perfume brand I knew about. I loved it though and at the time felt very sophisticated wearing it.

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  14. My mum used to wear YSL Paris and that would be my favourite 80's perfume

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  15. In the 80s, I wore Pierre Cardin Woman until Coco was introduced; from then on, Coco was my signature for years. I still love it.
    I would like to see Kenzo Jungle l'Elephant covered in a post.
    Ysatis is gorgeous stuff. I had some vintage perfume at one time that my mom nicked, and how could I blame my mom for falling in love? Thanks for the draw!

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  16. Oh no - Ysatis is not for the shy!

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  17. Gigi00:06

    I loved YSL Paris in the '80s. I laugh to myself now that I thought of it as a light, fresh scent back then! I'd love to enter the draw now that I have a better idea of what is light and what is bombastic.

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  18. leathermountain02:51

    In the 80's it was Chanel No 5. I realize that is not an 80's scent, but it's the only one I knew about in the 80's -- mom's dressed up to go out late perfume. Underrated.... If that means 'available for a relatively reasonable price' then I'll say Parfum Sacre. If it means 'no one else likes it,' then maybe Andrea Maack Coal. I rate both highly. Thank you for this draw!

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  19. I remember liking Ysatis a lot when I tried it. It'd be great to revisit it again. My favorite 80's perfume has to be Poison. It just screams 80's to me. I'd love to see Balmain's Ivoire on the Underrated Perfumes.

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  20. Anonymous02:58

    My favorite perfume then (I was in my teens) had to be Fendi! I loved it so much I bought my boyfriend the men's Fendi. It brings back fond memories , here we were a couple of new wave/goth teens wearing black fishnets, black cavarichi pants and trench coats, while wearing .....His and her Fendi:) I would love to read more about both of these scents as I feel they were memorable. Thanks for entering me in the draw. -----Tati

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  21. Missionista03:52

    I loved Poison in the 80s. Cliche for sure, but oh how I adored it...

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  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  23. I was really young in the 80's but I loved to borrow my dad's perfumes, specially Kouros.
    Thanks for the give away.

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  24. I was in college in the late '80's and wore YSL Paris every night me & the roommates went out. Today it brings back some fond memories! I would love to see Kenzo Ca Sent Beau reviewed. That's a true gem & hard to find unfortunately. Thanks for the draw!

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  25. Christmas is coming early to wish you a Merry Christmas gifts right here to see the latest
    http://prada.lllbag.com/

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  26. My fave is YSL Opium.

    Anna
    anna_k67@yahoo.com

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  27. Along with YSATIS there is the beautiful IVOIRE by Balmain. I have used both and appreciate the uniqueness of each one. I think they are both scents that put a stamp on 1980s and beyond.

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  28. Anonymous13:44

    Opium, opium, opium. Just got a few tiny drops from the original jus -- ahhhh divine. What I really hated was the preponderance of JOOP for woman | I used the old Bogner scent, which was very pretty. Love your work, xxx, DrNini

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  29. Anonymous14:14

    Fun commercial. I've never seen it before. Woe. Why don't women enjoy being so glamorous and feminine anymore like that?

    Anyway. My favorite (and signature) from the '80s and all time is Chanel Coco.

    An underrated fragrance feature? Hm. Molinard Habanita. I wore it in high school and was told I smelled like Grandma! I still wear it and still, well, smell like Grandma! :o)

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  30. Anonymous14:18

    Oops, the Anon above is me, Marsi. manon729 at yahoo dot com.

    I have enjoyed reading the comments and am delighted by all the Coco love.

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  31. Oh I would love some Ysatis!
    My favorite 80s perfume was Coco. I was so obsessed with it that I cut out the model's face from the add and added my own.

    Underrated perfume: Lauder's Sensuous

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  32. Heya,
    Please write about Trouble by Boucheron, Sun by Jil Sander and Versace Blonde in your underrated frags days. They are three of my faves.
    Portia xx

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  33. I feel sad for today's kids for not been able to experience all these great perfumes in their original formulation. Original Opium for example or even Ysatis. An everyday miracle in a bottle!

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  34. Mimi G19:47

    I wore Ysatis for a while and loved it. My favorite 80s scent was probably the original Montana and also Obsession come to think of it.
    Lovely draw Elena - I think I will go seek out a bottle of Ysatis as well - even reformulated today - it is gorgeous original scent.

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  35. My favorite 80s scent? Probably Amouage Gold for niche perfumes, and Coco in the mainstream.
    I would love to have you review the discontinued and wonderful Panthere by Cartier. It doesn't get mentionned enough on the blog and it is the epitome of 80's floriental ostentatious magnificence.

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  36. my favorite 80s scent is probably "niki de saint phalle"...it seemed more interesting to me than most of what my school-mates were wearing then, and i still like it greatly, though i think it's lost some of its 'oomph' in reformulation. i also wore "lauren" on occasion then; tried but rejected "poison"; and for a few months i had a thing for the men's versions of "eternity" and "obsession". i had "amarige" but found it strident then. i loved "opium", but wasn't that a 70s release?

    for am under-rated perfumes, i would suggest "jean louis scherrer" (the eponymous one, not the jls number 2 or other scherrer scents.) it's a very lovely chypre---elegant, very wearable today and affordable. i go through bottles of it over the summer, as my pick for a quality---but not spendy---chypre.

    i'd love to try the "ysatis"...always rather liked the name.

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  37. Anonymous23:04

    Hot on the heels of Jil Sander IV is Ysatis, another fragrance I used to wear and enjoy. It would be delightful to experience it again.
    My favorite '80's perfume, which I do still wear and love, is Paloma Picasso. i am lucky to have a few older ('90's) bottles.
    For possible review of 1980's fragrance, what about Byzance?
    Thanks again for another memorable opportunity.
    Kayceebee

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  38. croneangel23:48

    The 80s! What memories! Favorite? Just one? No way. Coco... oh yes! Opium... for evenings, wore Cinnabar during the day. Also kept wearing my Ungaro (the original one)from the 70s. Diva.. what a scent! Knowing... still my favorite. Paloma Picasso... oh how I adored that one! La Perla... mmm! Bocheron! Poison! And of course, Ruffles... why did they ever discontinue that precious fragrance? There are more but those were basically what I wore the most.
    As for little known frags, I don't recall seeing Ruffles reviewed. How about Parfum d'Or? Still an inexpensive beauty. Fun stuff. And thank you for the drawing!

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  39. merlina00:13

    My favourite 80's parfums were Opium , Coco, Paris and Ysatis. By the way, I also listened (and still do) to the Cure, Siouxsie...;)

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  40. Ellen02:31

    Like so many others who have commented-Opium, Opium, Opium. Also Boucheron. When did Eternity come out? That was another one that was a favorite around that time or maybe later.

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  41. Lili Bitmore02:39

    Greetings and thanks as ever for this fun read. I am another for the Big '80s ~ Opium, Obsession were in winter rotation. I had a coworker give me Magie Noire one (1980-ish) year as the secret Santa. I recall the lovely shape of the Ombre Rose bottle, too.
    Could you tell us about Toujours Moi as the underrated perfume of the day?
    One more for the draw, dear fragrant friends! Lili Bitmore

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  42. There were three that were my big favorites back then, Niki de Saint Phalle, Paloma Picasso and Opium. I had a few others that I wore, but these three were my top contenders of the '80s. Thank you for the trip down memory lane and the give-away.

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  43. mmmmmm the 80' That was the time when I started to be amazed by perfumes thanks to my mom. First "peeping and stealing", then sharing and shopping together! In those days, I fell in love with Lauren (Ralph Lauren). A fragrance I only got in the States thanks to some friends. I still have it and of course, works as a perfect "time machine" to my wonderful childhood days living far in Patagonia Argentina :)

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  44. annemarie05:17

    I'd love to see Ca Sent Beau as part of your underrated series!

    An older friend of mine wore Ysatis beautifully in the late 80s but I was never tempted to try it myself. I was in much more prim pieces like Chanel No 19 and White Linen then.

    For a while I have been meaning to pick up a mini of Ysatis so as to give it a good go, now that I am older and maybe wiser. I have been put off by disdainful comments about the reformulation, so I'm glad to see you think it is still wearable. Thanks for the draw!

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  45. Queditio08:31

    In the 80s I wore Poison, boy was I loud then!
    The one I'd like to see featured here is Il Bacio, a very lovely one that never gets mentioned.

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  46. Oh my, so many! I wore Ysatis and loved it. But my all time favorite 80's scent was Nocturnes de Caron. There were many others as well: Ombre Rose, Coco, Cristalle (love), Byzance, Samsara (my mother bought it for me in Paris when it first came out in 1989), YSL Paris, Fendi . . .

    Thanks for the draw!

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  47. VeniH10:13

    I loved Diorissimo in th 80´s, of course it was the true, original, non-reformulated one :-))

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  48. The scents I've remembered and scream the 80s to me were Cacharel's Anais Anais, Revlon's Jontue and Vanderbilt by Gloria Vanderbilt - I would love to see a more thorough review of any of these often overlooked scents, especially of the last two.

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  49. Anonymous15:32

    Yes, what dali said:) Please review the original Panthere -- it was my signature at the time and I loved it so much -- I'd like to read what an educated nose has to say about it. Thanks in advance!

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  50. I guess Parfumerie Generale's perfumes are underrated pretty much in all blogs, with minor exceptions. So i'd love to see some of those being reviewed. My favotire from the 80's is Poison. I still like it. I am not sure I can wear it at this point.
    Thanks!

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  51. I am sorry I just realized I did not answer part of the question to enter the draw. I'd love to see featured in your underrated series Frangipani e cocco by I profumi de Firenze. I am not sure if you have seen a site called literally 80s and the post called "Making Scents of it all in the 80s"? They have videos of perfume commercials. They are worth seeing.
    Thanks!

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  52. Noting down all your mentions people, thank you so much!

    Some of them I think I have reviewed back in the archives or in passing, but maybe a stand alone review is in order. Will try to sort out the chaos and get back to you!

    @Wefadetogrey, fabulous trip down memory lane!

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  53. I could probably name a hundred eighties scents that I loved endlessly, but I think the one that tops the list is Salvador Dali, one of those astounding kitchen-sink floral oriental chypres that seemed to have about a thousand different notes. A close second was the fantastically complex and expensive-smelling Parfum d'Hermes.

    I was never a fan of Ysatis but my mother loved it back in the day and if I had that vintage miniature in my hands I would give it to her when I visit next spring.

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  54. I couldn't afford many perfumes in the 80's, so my favourites were limited to the few I owned - Ysatis, Vanderbilt, Lutece, even White Musk. Now that I am "comfortable" enough to indulge my passion fully I've discovered many more - Byzance, Boucheron, Panthere, Paloma Picasso, Joop, Giorgio... I clearly love the perfume equivalent of shoulder pads and big hair! One underrated perfume (as far as I'm aware) was Raffinée by Houbigant - a spicy, heady, fruity white floral, sweet and musky.

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  55. Anonymous15:21

    Would love to see Eau d'Eden reviewed just cuz I'd like to know what aromachemical that beautiful white musk was.

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  56. I liked Karl Lagerfeld which I think was part of the Cinnabar/Opium spice crazed days. For a foral I loved and still do Boucheron.

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  57. The one I liked, which comes to mind right now, is Fendi for Women. Thanks for the draw. I like reading about fragrances I'm not familiar with, so I don't know which specific fragrances I'd like featured.

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  58. I was born in the 80s so I cannot really say that I could have a favorite scent but I do remember being fascinated by my grandfather's bottle of cologne which was shaped like a bunch of glass grapes. The perfume inside was slightly green and it was a magical creature to me.

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  59. drgb00:28

    Back in the late 80's I was in a relationship with a beautiful woman who knew her perfumes. My favorites were Ysatis and "Hope". I could always identify Hope, but when she wore Ysatis I'd usually ask "What's that perfume you're wearing tonight?" and the answer was invariably "Ysatis". Seems it never smelled the same on her twice, though the scent was always intoxicating. (so much so that I saturated a tissue with it and kept it in a ziplock bag as a remembrance--lasted for several years). My next gift of perfume will be Ysatis...if I can find the original formula.

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  60. DRGB,

    ah, that's a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing!

    (I get that reaction from people when I wear vintage Opium. Many have commented on what a nice floral it is. I mean….floral???!!@?? But yes, more than a handful have said so…)

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  61. DRGB,

    ah, that's a beautiful story. Thanks for sharing!

    (I get that reaction from people when I wear vintage Opium. Many have commented on what a nice floral it is. I mean….floral???!!@?? But yes, more than a handful have said so…)

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  62. Anonymous00:01

    Ysatis was my personal favorite. Lauren, Halston, Anasis Anasis, and Chloe left over from the late 70's were part of my collection. Chantilly, Jovan Musk, Obsession, Posion,Coco, Charlie, Calvin Klien and Coty were there too. And of course Channel for special occasions.

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  63. Anon,

    sounds like you were a true, dedicated perfumista!!
    Thanks for bringing this tinge of nostalgia on these pages. :)

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  64. Anonymous13:19

    Ysatis has and still is my favorite perfume. Unfortunately, I can't find it in Athens any more. I have even resorted to bulk-selling perfume shops but to no avail. Has Givenchy discontinued its production?

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