Showing posts sorted by relevance for query vintage. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query vintage. Sort by date Show all posts

Monday, February 17, 2014

On Vintage Stuff and the Polemics of Truth

It came to my attention that my article on Vintages on the mega perfume site has created much controversy. That's a good thing! It was written with a view of being controversial in the first place. I outright stated it from the get go that that was expected and in fact desirable. Still, there is some misunderstanding of the aim and the construction behind it and I feel like a couple of things need clarifying.

The core confusion seems to be that I have had a change of heart. That I loved vintages, reviewed them lovingly and somehow that's kaput. One commentator went as far as saying "The Perfume Shrine is bar-none the best resource for information on vintage perfumes available on the internet. Her vintage reviews are favorable and spot-on" continuing by saying that therefore the contrarian view therein is confusing. Well, thank you very much, and maybe there is a reason behind this accolade. Maybe it's because I double, triple, quadruple-check things. And people who do that often come across -shall we say- interesting discrepancies; I'm not alone.

Still, the question remains: have I lost my love of historical fragrances? No, actually that's not the case at all. In fact I intend to continue to review and smell vintage perfumes, just not pay crazy prices on them.

Indeed because I have been a huge collector (of vintage perfumes and otherwise) I have had a sort of epiphany lately. Lots of things I have amassed have ceased to be as they were the moment I had first bought them; not necessarily going bad always, but not what I had loved at that moment in time. This isn't going by memory alone, as many perfume lovers staked memory as the main argument into collecting vintages: "because they continue to smell as we remember them". No, I'm not going just on memory. I was actually keeping notes on them, very studiously too, with very specific attributes, marking this or that component and this or that twist; comparing and contrasting the notes with what I smell now I find that some of the attributes have changed. Some of these perfumes have been tossed because of this. Especially whatever was bought in decant form or air-seeping containers. (The suggestion on buying "nips" by one collector is -I concur- a good one). This is a valuable lesson to wear and enjoy what you have, for seasoned as much as for new collectors. Especially coming on the heels of the unfortunate demise of a huge and much loved in the perfume community collector, dear Linda. I didn't want to mention this in the article, it felt too personal for such a huge site, but this unfortunate event was a wake up call. The fact that her massive, beloved collection is being sold by relatives in an attempt to collect money for her children leaves me with mixed feelings. No matter how lovingly one keeps their collection, when one dies it's especially sad to see that a life's accumulation can't always be appreciated for what it was intended to be. That's point number 1.

Point number 2 is that apparently vintage collectors felt offended as if I had implied -through industry professionals' quotes- that they are not savvy. No, actually that's not true. I specifically mentioned that "people aren't that stupid" and that they can discern whether something has turned and has become dreck. It's the other nuances which are harder to pinpoint (authenticity to original formula, nuances between years and batches) and that goes for me too and any expert on the planet. A perfume, even from the same bottle, even from the same batch, is never the same twice. Octavian Coiffan had said it in his own erudite style too before closing his blog. Like Heraclitus said "you can't cross the same river twice". It's the transience of perfume that is accountable for that.

Besides, what constitutes "vintage", a term taken from wine? Vintage refers to specific year and perfumes do not have a date stamped on them, so what one refers to as vintage Miss Dior might be 1950s stuff and another's vintage might be 1970s stuff; two very different things! Unless we're 100% specific and unless we know EXACTLY when our bottle was produced we can't really talk about the same thing (and going by the packaging is not enough, because the professional I quote has seen with his very eyes that brands take left-over caps or boxes from one batch and use them for a later perfume batch as if nothing intervened.)

To revert to the feelings of collectors which have been ruffled: Even though once one has spent thousands of dollars on what they initially considered an investment or an art lesson it's hard to admit some error, the risk is totally legit. And should continue to be legit, something which the ridiculous hike on vintage perfume prices has rendered semi-impossible at the moment. (Not that I don't chastise the niche industry for their equally ridiculous prices as well from time to time and if you've been reading here you know it). Not a day passes by when I don't receive in my inbox some inquiry or other that goes along the lines "I have found X perfume at the back of my grandma's/aunt's/deceased relative's closet, how much is it worth?" It's a question that is impossible to answer straight for various reasons. Therefore my reply (after trying to offer some practical tips) invariably boils down to "as much as the market will bear". Because, I don't really know. People buy things that are claimed to be great and they buy them in whatever condition because they're a "MUST TRY" right and left. Whether they're then disappointed is a moot point, as the discussion following the purchase, much like a refutation in a tabloid paper, is written in small print. There is a public service hiding someplace rather than condescension when one says "hey, maybe it's not worth taking the risk unless the price is quite low, you know". This isn't such a bad reminder for very experienced players either, come to think of it. The other day someone had on offer an original Guerlain Parure "wave" design extrait bottle asking for thousands of dollars. Yes, Parure is fabulous and it keeps rather well too, oddly enough, but the price is more than ridiculous; it's scourging. We need to say it. I consider it a duty as a writer whose work is read by people budding into the hobby; not everyone is an old timer and "newbies" shouldn't be shunned in this vintage snobbery.

Some people felt offended all the same. What is easily forgotten is it is impossible to know exactly how something originally intended to smell, unless you have been to the Osmotheque, have compared the freshly made reconstitutions of vintage formulae with the vintage juice you have purchased from someone and ~assuming that this is even possible, since even the Osmotheque doesn't reconstitute everything under the sun~ you can speak with some certainty. Most of the time you can only get an idea. An idea is good enough compared to nothing and I know that very well. But it's just that: an idea and it's important to stress this when talking about something, even in the more formal context of a review. Much like classical antiquity isn't all white like we're accustomed to see in museums and idealized through the eyes of the 19th century ~I bet most of us we'd get a heart attack to see the vibrancy of color actually painted on classical statues (yes, painted on, you read this right)~ it's a similar case with perfume. We see the past through the eyes of the present and with a hope and longing for the future. It's an Utopia. And like all Utopias, an ideal one. I sympathize. I'm with you. But I prefer to admit it is and don't think I should be penalized for saying so.

One point which was resounding and which the industry would better heed to is the following, voiced by many: "I buy vintage because I don't like modern perfumes, niche or mainstream". Yup, I can see some of the veracity of that pronouncement. Maybe if mediocre stuff wasn't pushed as unicorn's tears, maybe I would be less harsh myself.

Finally, point number 3, it was rather disconcerting to see to have the authority of the people I quoted attempted to be undermined as non relatable, as "weirdos" (verbatim on another site) or with some invested interest into pushing new niche juice or into selling their own "versions" of vintage juice. The quotes are taken from the public forum and are just a choice picking because they are fascinating, coming from people who have spent their lives into the actual business and had access to the original formulae. As an example Musc Ravageur was recently reformulated, as officially admitted, yet no one raised an eyebrow; if Malle hadn't leaked this, no one wouldn't have been the wiser, because there is attention given to the work, it's not some hatched up job as widely imagined to be. Pity poor Thierry Wasser for all the shit he had thrown his way because he came on board at Guerlain at that particular moment in time: remember the vilifying, criminally rude implication that he should somehow forsake his position to allow Patricia de Nicolai gain access to the Guerlain canon? I consider this just one of the despicable milestones of the perfume world timeline.

Obviously people at large will continue to buy new niche juice because the concept of niche perfumes as connoisseur or exclusive stuff is too successful from a marketing point of view to stop anytime soon; market research shows it's the only rapidly growing segment of the perfume industry and everyone is jumping on board to grab a bite off the pie. And obviously the market for reconstituted vintage juices wasn't big to begin with, never was the prime objective or job of one of the people quoted and shouldn't be held as an ad hominem attack. It's highly ironic, let it be said in passing, that someone with a self-promoted controversial profile in our secluded circle, who has never been in any capacity involved into the creation of fine fragrance at any given moment, was deemed a quotable source than professionals who have spent their whole lives immersed into actual perfume making (let me here repeat that Malle's kin was fragrance head at Dior "back in the good old days" and that Dame has worked at Caron, Lauder, you-name-it etc). It proves something that is all too well known to politicians: that self-promo works and the more you say what people want to hear the more you're "liked" by them.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

M.Micallef Royal Vintage: new fragrance

At the beginning of February, French niche house Parfums M.Micallef launches a new fragrance for man, ROYAL VINTAGE. It is a perfume aimed for men with timeless, sophisticated elegance.

Head note: Pink berries and bergamot
Heart note: Cypress and leather
Base note: Patchouly and musk.
 “… For this atypical fragrance in our collection, I wanted to reinterpret the EXCLUSIVE bottle using the design codes of these beautiful vintage cars… " says Martine Micallef. "

The design of the ROYAL VINTAGE bottle was inspired by glamorous and iconographic images from the classic cinema universe: beautiful vintage cars adorned with glittering chrome bumpers. For this atypical fragrance in our collection, I wanted to reinterpret the EXCLUSIVE bottle using the design codes of these beautiful vintage cars, "says Martine Micallef. In the authentic French tradition of crafts and luxury, the M.Micallef Company gives priority to qualitative and natural ingredients in its fragrances and magnifies each bottle in its art studio. The glass bottle of ROYAL VINTAGE is covered with a chrome color metallization with a black ring hand affixed in the middle and is wearing a matte black metal cap.

quotes via press release 

Spray bottle in eau de parfum concentration, 30 and 100 ml retailing at 76 € and 175 € respectively.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Optical Scentsibilities: The Imaginative Vintage Perfume Presentation

The enrobing of a perfume in a glass mantle is analogous to the draping of fabric around a beautifully formed body. The outer presentation should complement the interior magnificence. It was just a few years ago that only the lower end of the fragrance market had flamboyant and over-gilded bottles to balance the cheap impression left by the low price asked and the less luxurious smelling experience. The chic stuff circulated in architectural bottles with relatively sparse lines, like with Chanel. But then niche perfumery boomed aiming at a more discerning customer.

Captivating not only the aficionado, who dreams in perfume and can have their beloved elixir dispensed even in a milk carton for all it's worth, but also the loaded purchaser, who views perfume as a precious fashion accessory that completes their luxurious lifestyle or as a gift to be given with the desire to please the eye as much as the nose. Ergo fancier bottle styles have become desirable and coveted again, ranging from the extravagant, like the crystal creations by Agonist or the Swarovski crystal containing Hedonist by Viktoria Minya, to the artistically hand-made such as the Martine Micallef bottles or the glamor of the 1001 Nights of Amouage. But back in time, the imagination of the fragrance bottle designers run into patterns which remind us more of Limoges and Lladro porcelain figures (or in the case of drugstore items of Barbie playthings) than of perfume bottles.
Everyone recalls the model dummy for Schiaparelli's Shocking, reprised by Jean Paul Gaultier in the 1990s. But I have unearthed a few more vintage examples on Ebay to share with you on a rainy day. Here they are.

                 Vintage Novelty Windmill for "Devon Violets" Perfume by Delavelle

                        Vintage Novelty Harp "Heavenscent" Perfume by Nikki de Paris.
             "The Perfume for Heavenly Times" as tagged on the box, depicting a taking aim cupid.

               Vintage Spray Perfume "Malibu Musk" Bottle Palm Tree 1980s

Do you know of any fanciful shaped vintage perfume bottles you'd like to add? Feel free to share in the comments.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kate Moss Vintage: her love for old things (new fragrance)

In an interview she gives to Brendan O'Connor (a professed lover of scent, judging by his wearing of Chanel Bel Respiro), alongside the watching eye of Steve Mormoris, vice president of Global Marketing for Coty, Kate Moss talks about her newest fragrance after Kate (2007), Velvet Hour (2008) and Kate Summer Time (2009). It's called Vintage to reflect her love for old things "that have stories" and her whole aesthetic.

Hot on the heels of her Some Velvet Morning cover, the Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra song she recorded with Primal Scream, Kate has embraced her love for vintage even in perfumes. For this foray into fragrance collaboration woth Coty she went for the softer side, not her party side, she reveals, reflecting a classier aim. The perfume was developed by Olivier Polge and includes notes of pink pepper, freesia, mandarin, heliotrope, jasmine, almond blossom, tonka bean, vanilla and musk. (notes via NST) One could of course argue that that list reads nothing like Vintage, more like another increment in the vast array of modern compositions.
Still, Kate Moss Vintage is a fruity floriental, which according to the writer is "a little bit cooler and less overwhelmingly flowery than some other personality-driven perfumes. It comes in a very cool bottle and the whole package is very Kate Moss. It's the Rolling Stones in the Sixties meets Ladbroke Grove punk meets Wicklow trustafarian. It's an afghan coat and butterflies and a glass of champagne"...

Read the whole article on the clicking here
And here is the TV commercial directed by leading British artist and photographer Katerina Jebb, featuring her "scanning" technique. Music is taken from Nocturne Op.9 no.1 in B flat Minor by Polish composer Frédéric Chopin. You can call that timeless, for sure!

Photo of Kate Moss via, bottle pic via

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Frequent Questions: How to Open a Stuck Perfume Bottle?

You've seen it happen and cursed under your breath: Your favourite bottle of fragrance on your dresser, or the precious vintage perfume you bought from a collector or unearthed from granny's attic, is hopelessly stuck; its stopper or the sprayer doesn't seem to work; nothing, rien, nada... No amount of pulling, tagging, cursing, or praying has yielded any results yet and you're desperate to pry open and have a go at the fragrant insides. First of all, don't despair, it has happened to us all...
Usually the culprit is just dried-up perfume that needs to be either mechanically or chemically removed/dissolved in order for the cap to resume its original function, i.e. keeping the contents air-tight and not playing with your nerves-strings. Secondly, here is a handy guide into opening stuck bottles of fragrances and extraits, techniques depending on the type of flacon and age of fragrance.

  • If the bottle is a modern splash bottle with cap/stopper
First of all try using a rubber band twisted a few times around the stopper might do the trick: it gives you better grip, so you can magnify your strength's effect.
If it doesn't budge try running the bottle's neck and stopper under some hot water: the difference in temperature will create convulsion and have the cap loosen. You can also try this with salty hot water, it's even better. Then taking a kitchen towel and twisting a bit you should be done. Try again and again if it doesn't work the first time around.
If unsuccessful, another version would be to take the bottle in the fridge and let it sit for a little while (around a quarter of an hour should be enough). Again the difference in temptrature would do its trick. Last but not least the more sophisticated version involves microwaves: Take a paper towel, wet it, put it in a microwave oven for a few seconds, wrap it around the neck of the bottle in question, hold it there a few seconds with another towel over it, then twist gently. It does not affact the bottle or scent at all.
  • If the bottle is a vintage, old splash bottle with stopper

You wouldn't want to get a precious vintage bottle under the tap because you risk wetting and smudging the label, which is part of the vintage perfume's value. Neither would you want to refrigerate it, because the glass due to old age can become brittle and break or snap.
Instead get pure-grade alcohol (90 proof and upwards) at the chemist's ~usually these are stored alongside 70% isopropyl. Take a very small piece of cotton wool, 'string it out' a bit and saturate it with alcohol. Place it around the stopper above the neck and squeeze a few drops out so that they seep down around the stopper, then pack the cotton round it. Wait a few minutes to sit, allowing the alcohol to dissolve any hardened residue and then carefully try to twist the stopper.

  • If the bottle is a modern/vintage Spray bottle
Sprayers sometimes get stuck. It's a fact of life: Anything mechanical is prone to the occasional glitch. That does not mean that once it's stuck it's stuck forever! I have had sprayers which I thought were stuck for all eternity to magically revive themselves without any external intervention later on. This was attributed to good Karma, divine providence, changes in temperature and atmospheric pressure disloging the mechanism and other crucial factors beyond our control. What is within our control is the following:

First of all you need to ascertain whether it is a refillable sprayer or not (Not immediately obvious in some bottles). If the former, then it's a piece of cake unscrewing the whole mechanism of the sprayer and simply using the fragrance as a splash version or decanting it into another atomiser.

I deduce the problem is in the latter category where the spraying mechanism is securely screwed on the glass bottle forming a uniform entity. In that case, you need to first remove the small cap that is on the pumping mechanism: you will see a small "rod" inside protruding from the mechanism. Sometimes gently pushing this down a few times with your finger will yield results. If it starts to leak on your fingers eventually, it means it's unclogged and you can put the little metallic cap on and spray again, mission accomplished! Sometimes however you won't be able to resume the sheer phhhhhssst of the original sprayer and it will be reduced to a small stream of juice. Consider yourself lucky anyway, you're still able to use your fragrance.

Other times you will need to additionally saturate the little protrusion with alcohol or a little oil and then alcohol, so as to dislog the remnants of aged juice that have clogged the mechanism in the first place. And other times still, none of these methods will work and you will need to actually remove the whole sprayer: Cut the metal very carefully at the bottom side with a sturdy pair of scissors for garage work first and then using a pair of pliers gently elevate the sprayer while holding the bottle with the other hand (You want to be very careful not to drop the bottle or spill the contents and also to avoid having the pliers and mechanism bounce back at your face). This method renders the original bottle useless of course, but I assume if you're intent on opening it you're mainly interested in using the scent, right? You can decant the contents into a new atomiser and use it as such. Don't forget to put a label on it so you know which scent and batch it was.

Best of luck with your bottle adventures!

Pic of Parisienne bottle via Pic of "Le Secret de Dieux," a Baccarat perfume bottle for Yardley, circa 1913 via scentss Perfume bottles egg presentation from the Barcelona perfume museum via nogoodforme

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Frequent Questions: Via Verri by Etro & all its Versions Reviewed

Via Verri by Etro, one of the harder to find fragrances of the noble Italian niche perfume line, has circulated in at least three different versions. It therefore constitutes something of a mix-up, being identical in name but differing in both smell and date of launch. To be fair, the name is sine qua non, since it denotes the street address of the flagship boutique of the refined parsley & colourful silks textile brand in Milan. So let's disentangle this thread of Ariadne in another installment of Frequent Questions on Perfume Shrine today.

The original Etro creation Via Verri (2006) was launched by the Italian textile & fashions brand of Etro in commemoration of their flagship in Milan which is on Via Verri (Old Road). The traditional (and oddly classy for something so adorned) bottle featured the familiar design on the label on the glass in a circle, while the cap was in gold relief. The box was the classic parsley design of the house, adored by those who were old in the cult of Etro. The scentof Via Verri from 2006 was a heavenly mix of dark yet fresh roses, their petals not quite wilting , the whole enlivened with subtle violet and musky tonalities which persisted for long. Today, it is difficult to procure as it has been substituted by the subsequent versions, and in my opinion it remains one of the refined yet instantly identifiable as roses fragrances which appeal to people who are not especially keen on rose to begin with. But of course it also captures the hearts of those who are, anyway...

In November 2008 a Vintage Limited Edition of Via Verri by Etro was issued. The bottle bears a label which clearly indicates "vintage" underneath Via Verri (technically a misnomer, since it's not the original creation) with the number of the lot, since it only circulated in limited amounts. The bottle, issued only in 100ml/3.4oz contenance, was shaped in the familiar "old style" of Etro flacons: cool, elegantly shouldered glass but with relief designs echoing the textile tradition of the house and a stopper in etched glass, encased in a monochrome box of maroon.
There is also a Vintage version with the typical relief gold cap, also in relief glass for the body of the bottle, but I haven't seen that one in person. It is in Eau de Toilette concentration.
The scent itself is a spicy mix with floral-woody accents: Cardamom and coriander surface first alongside nutmeg and sweet mandarin, while the base is formed of cypress, musk, oak and "mineral amber", giving a warm underlay.

The most modern version of Etro Via Verri 2010 in Eau de Toilette circulates as above in the revamped bottle of the brand; still elegantly shouldered glass, this time smooth without relief, and with a silver cap. The white label clearly mentions the year of launch as 2010 and is white and square in shape. The scent of the newest Via Verri 2010 itself is a reflection of the previously Vintage Limited edition, veering into the spicy woody family with added lemony accents, rather than the rosiness of the original creation. It is described in these poetic terms: "The femininity of the rose is trailed by the warm opulence of jasmin. Amber and musk bring warmth, with the lively freshness of bergamot and floral notes of precious iris. Then the sharp spicy notes of white pepper and cardamom create more woody and oriental accords."
Please note the outer packaging is completely different than previous editions, the box bearing a white & black schema with a purple square around the name of the brand and the scent, like all the rapackaged Etro scents.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: Frequent Questions, Etro news & reviews

pic of Via Verri Vintage via gunni/ Modern Via Verri 2010 pic via

Monday, April 30, 2018

Vintage Powder Glamour - Guerlain Meteorites: fragrance review

Although most powders are scented with rose and iris to give a feminine impression that would tie with the intended audience (women who groom themselves with gusto), some brands do manage to render editions beyond the lovely into the cult. One such brand has been Guerlain. For their Météorites range of powders they rendered a compact or loose powder product into the innovative notion of small caked beads that one dips a fluffy brush on and then smooths on the face and decolletage. The product has been a hit for its velvety, subtly illuminating effect that never looks dried out, but, crucially, also for its unique and beguiling scent.


The idea translated well in a separate fragrance for perfuming one's self with the lovely scent of those powdery beads the Météorites. And thus Météorites eau de toilette by Guerlain was born in 2000.

The predictable rose scent that lives in lipsticks and powders is here eschewed for violet, which is the predominant note of the fragrance. The intermingling with dry orris effects gives a starchy quality to vintage Météorites, it's the way I imagine rice powders completely devoid of talc from another era should have smelled. It gives me a totally groomed feel, not only the sense of cleanliness and dryness, but thanks to its retro violet vibe it's rather coy too, almost genuinely shy. This is a quality which I find fascinating, exactly because shyness doesn't come across as exhibiting its nature, and because in feminine iconography it's so often caricatured into a manipulating coyness.

Furthermore, the vintage fragrance is expounding on one of the signature notes in the Guerlain canon: heliotrope. The almondy, fluffy, powdery sweet smell of heliotropin (also used in mimosa scents) immediately recalls the hint of the patisseries that many Guerlain perfumes possess. L'Heure Bleue and Après L'Ondée are both characterized by it, and though they both lean towards melancholia in their wistful tension, the rapport with Météorites is another story. In the latter the warmth of heliotrope and the coyness of the violet note are allied into giving a newly found serenity. The drydown is soft and clean with notes of musky warmth. It's powder but more contemporary than L'Heure Bleue's powder. One of the few vintages that can be effortlessly worn as if it weren't. As silky nevertheless as being powdered with those large, goose down puffs we only see on film these days...

The vintage Météorites is retro like Parma violets, but not difficult to wear at all. It's subtle, yet lasts well. It's rather simple, but it's not simplistic. I genuinely like it very much.

The company has just launched a new limited edition fragrance (alongside their spring 2018 makeup collection) called Guerlain Météorites Le Parfum reissue 2018 with a different formula that leans more fruity floral. Read the comparison of the vintage Meteorites perfume with the new HERE.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Miriam: The Fragrant Story Goes On & Interview with the Perfumer

“From the Desk of Miriam Masterson”, year 1968

"Three blocks away from our house on Evelyn Avenue, I take dance lessons,
at the Beauregard School of Ballet. Mother expects me to do my very best
and tells me so every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday on the way to the
studio. We’re often alone in the car, driving to some appointment or
engagement where something will be expected of me. I sit in the back seat,
staring at her hair. Not a strand out of place. The car smells of leather
upholstery, face powder, and the scent I think of as mother. I wonder
whether she feels insecure, being out in the world without her perfume
bottle. How can she make sure she applies enough to last her through the
The bottle has no label. There might have been a ribbon--perhaps the
manufacturer tied something around the neck at one point. A box might
still exist, stored neatly on a shelf or in a drawer. When asked, mother says
she doesn’t know the name of the fragrance. It was a gift, she shrugs, as if
it fell out of the sky or simply appeared on her vanity one day.

It’s warm in the car and the heat has an interesting effect on the perfume. Maybe mother is perspiring, though that’s almost inconceivable.

Sometimes, when the car is parked in the garage, I go out and sit in it, and because of the smell mother is there with me, only I don’t feel I’ve done something wrong, or not well enough. Safe from her disappointment, I look out the window at the contents of the garage and I tell myself that at
some point I can get in a car like this and drive away if I’d like to. I can stop worrying about letting mother down, without having to feel that I’ve abandoned her. I won’t be abandoning mother because of the smell of her perfume inside the car. I’ll be leaving but taking her with me. I sit in the
front seat, imagining where I might drive. I look through the windshield as if entertaining an audience.

At the dance school, as Mr. Beauregard rehearses with us, I can feel mother
watching from the bench which lines one of the mirrored walls of the
studio. There are twenty girls in my class--all of us the same age--but
mother’s gaze singles me out and I feel diminished. I feel she would rather
have almost any other girl in the class as her daughter. I stare at my
classmates suspiciously, resentful of their unstudied perfection. By the
time we return to our driveway, mother’s perfume is somewhat stale, and
makes me a little queasy. She tells me I will have to do better in class; otherwise
I’ll continue to embarrass myself."

Thus continues the quest of Miriam, the character in Women's Picture, which became Miriam Eau de Parfum, the fragrance by Tauer Perfumes
For the occasion, Tauer replied to PerfumeShrine's questions below. Enjoy!
  • When I showed the fragrance(s) to my Italian importer, his first reaction was: “But Andy, this is again different to what you have done so far. It is different. So different!”
Elena Vosnaki: How did the idea to combine film and perfume launches come about?
Andy Tauer: Actually, it is all Brian’s initial idea. And, in a sense, it came at a very difficult moment for myself. It is actually more than just launching a film and a perfume together. Brian was looking for a partner, who would be interested to get inspired by women’s portraits that he captures on celluloid. These are women portraits like we know them from the forties and fifties, transported into our time. He contacted me one day out of the blue, asking me whether I would be interested to come up with perfumes that mirror his portraits. I came out of negotiations with an investment banker on building a brand and a perfume together and to be frank: I was so NOT interested in another project with another guy. But I tried to be nice, and wanted to read the script of the movie(s) and took it with me on my biking holiday. There, on my way with the bike from lake Geneva to the Mediterranean,  in the evenings, I read the script, again and again. After having seen the movie,  in a first version, I knew: I want to do these fragrant portraits for Brian. I knew by then, somehow, that I can blindly trust him. I proposed to him, however, that we should not fill the fragrances into Tauer flacons. It would not do justice to his brilliant idea and to the portraits. This is why we came up with Tableau de Parfums as brand: To make sure that it is not “just another tauer fragrance” but something different. And to make sure,  that perfume lovers see the connection. When I showed the fragrance(s) to my Italian importer, his first reaction was, without knowing the background: “but Andy, this is again different to what you have done so far. It is different. So different!”    

  • Bitter sweet memories are part of Miriam.

EV: I read how the memory of your own mother come into the picture upon seeing Brian's vision. Is there a connection with Miriam EDP?
AT: Yes and no.
No in the sense that the fragrance Miriam is made for Miriam, the figure in the movie Miriam, played by Ann Magnuson, who is, by the way, absolutely wonderful. This scene where she sits in the meeting room ,with the toast in her hand. Oh my…! When I saw it the first time, I was sitting in there with her!
Thus, I created the fragrance, with Miriam in mind, with Ann Magnuson being Miriam, and with my memories in my mind. And there, there is the Yes. Yes, of course: Miriam’s mother is old and suffers from dementia. Miriam cares for her, and her mother’s perfume is a link into a past that is gone and far away. My mother passed from us three years ago. Too early. But it is not us deciding when we need to part. My mother and me were very close, connected by a bond that is still very strong, a friendship, love, and the routines of telephone calls, regular dinners together at our and her place. In the end, with her disease entering the final phase, my partner and myself cared as best as we could and invited her to our house for a few weeks, after her last treatment, knowing that we are counting weeks now. We talked a lot. About a almost everything.

To be frank: I cannot handle death properly. I do not find consolation outside the fact that we are all star dust and will return to the universe and become a star one day. When I watched Woman’s Picture, it triggered a lot of memories of my family and my mother and her role as fighter, trying to let us grow up and give us all we need without a father; trying to cope with a life that was not easy. Being a mother is not easy. I feel men cannot fully grasp the love a mother has to her child. It is the memory of this love that made me smile and sad at the same time when I watched Woman’s Picture. Miriam, Loretta and also, especially, Ingrid. So touching.

  • Anything else would not be honest.

EV: Do you think there is a buying audience for an aldehydic floral beyond a dedicated fan base these days? (When was the last time you heard of an aldehydic promoted as such?)
AT: Ah, Elena! Of course there  is! Miriam is a wonderful floral, aldehydic, green, deep, rich, vintage, wonderful oldfashioned, chic, grand perfume. A true classic. And it is much more. It is a link into a world of other women, of portraits, of a story of our mothers and grandmothers. And then, even if is not attracting a large buying audience: I do not think in market share and bottle turn over when creating a fragrance. The fragrance must be the way it is. Anything else would not be honest!
  • Miriam is definitely vintage, or rather vintage-like
EV: What was the challenge in Miriam EDP? Perched between modern and vintage? Technical stuff? Seeing the film character changing course slowly possibly? Something else?
AT: My challenge was to come up with a fragrance that is born in the forties of the last century, but created today: How to find an aesthetic language that bridges this gap! How to create a fragrance that conserves this vintage spirit but fits with Miriam who lives today. I hope I managed. Miriam is definitely vintage, or rather vintage-like.

Miriam Eau de Parfum will launch in October at ScentBar in Los Angeles.

photo via romantichome blog

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Fleur de Feu by Guerlain: fragrance review of a rare vintage beauty

If you ever come in contact with volcanic earth you will discover that despite the sulphurous yellow emanations it is exceptionally fertile. Stationed as I am in the land of numerous volcanos silenced for years but always at the ready to burst forth their bituminous menace, I can better appreciate the inspiration behind Fleur de Feu by Guerlain: the fragile yet sturdy beauty of flowers that rise their head on an island volcano.
Created by Jaques Guerlain in 1948 (according to Le Portail des Antiquaires, while others attribute a 1949 date), Fleur de Feu, which means "fiery flower", was the first Guerlain perfume to celebrate the optimism felt after the end of WWII. Guerlain had only produced the legendary Dawamesk during those difficult years (in 1942 actually), so they were eager to turn a new leaf. Much like Christian Dior had written in his autobiography referring to Miss Dior ("Europe was tired of letting off bombs, all it wanted now was to let off firewords!"), the festivity and joie de vivre inherent in that primal force of nature, fire, has inspired perfumers with connotations of radiance, warmth and passion and Fleur de Feu was masterminded as Jacques Guerlain's generous gift to women.

Fleur de Feu is quite rare since it's been discontinued for decades and it's even rarer in extrait de parfum (pure parfum) which I am now going to review, but like I mentioned before a thesaurus (with the original Greek meaning of treasure-trove) of vintage Guerlain fragrances has ended in my lap inspiring me to write and appreciate the tastes of a bygone era: When women displayed a different interpretation of their feminine wiles and when sexuality was revealed in shapes that accentuated the female form.

The scent of Fleur de Feu is warm and inviting, a floral almost quasi-gourmand with the plush carnation heart that will be reprised in Atuana in 1952. It shares the rich note that appears in the scorching peppery whiplash of the admirable vintage Poivre by Caron at a time when the perfumer's base Dianthine (first devised in 1902 by Chuit & Naef -its formula now owned by Firmenich, same as with Cyclosia and Iralia) was supremely popular. After all, the original L'Origan by Coty also featured it.
Although Fleur de Feu bears the epithet of "fiery" however, the composition here smothers it with decadent flowers of which a rich jasmine and ylang ylang can be very clearly detected, as well as powdery tonalities of iris and vanilla, so characteristic of the Guerlinade accord (supposedly the base that appears like a signature in every vintage and several modern Guerlain fragrances). There seems to be a little benzoin wamth that paired with the butterscotch-like vanilla and a hint of tobacco flower (I might be hallucinating however as to the latter note) might allude to the delights of leisure at home, at a time when women were expected to be efficient homemakers with a roast in the oven and a bavaroise in the fridge, while simultaneously bursting out of their hourglass curvaceous attire. The slight shift in focus from the optimism of l'après guerre to the bombshell ideal of the 1950s can be witnessed in the retro print advertisements for Fleur de Feu: from the romanticism of the young woman holding a bouquet of flowers to the excited bust of a red-faced Maenad. The parfum concentration is seamless with little progression, a very feminine purring composition that radiates with warmth and stays poised on my skin melding with its intimate effluvium for hours on end.

The art deco ribbed bottle with a pedestral for Fleur de Feu was made by Bacarrat around 1948 (according to Roja Dove), breaking with the more rococo tradition and introducing simpler shapes. It was designed to resemble the gigantic American skyscrapers of that time, same as with Ode later on, according to Dulcinea Northon Smith's research. It's interesting to note that this was also the inspiration behind the old blue bottle of Je Reviens by Worth; such was the impact of the brave steel and glass architecture on the pulse of culture, at a time when everything seemed possible and affluence was slowly building!

In the beginning of 2008 Guerlain decided to use the copyrighted name on their makeup collections, much like they did with the lamentably discontinued Parure fragrance: Fleur de Feu nowadays denotes the '08 spring collection of eyeshadow palettes and Kiss Kiss Gloss limited editions. Which probably means that it won't be any time soon we see the re-issue of the glorious fragrance...

If you are persistent you might find some on Ebay or at least some Eau de Cologne concentration from the 50s/60s at Sarah's Perfumes or Eau de Toilette at The Perfumed Court.

Pics: Ad illustrations "Jeune femme avec bouquet de fleurs" for Guerlain's Fleur de Feu by Darcy 1949 and illustration by Darcy 1951, courtesy of Parfum de Pub and Vintage Perfume Publications respectively. Bottle pic uploaded by orchid74 on MUA, with many thanks.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rochas Madame Rochas: fragrance review

"Give him Madame Rochas. A few drops at a time."
 ~New Yorker magazine vintage ad 27 November 1965

Madame Rochas was the signature scent of my grandmother in her mature years and lovingly picked by my own mother as well, when my grandmother passed away. They were unconsciously true to the wise words of a vintage ad: "Rule: Your perfume should change as often as your mood. Exception: Madame Rochas." It does make for a glorious signature fragrance...I well remember smelling the perfume on both women as a little girl, thinking it smelled simply wonderful. And it still does, transporting me to an elegant vision of old money class, beautiful restraint, no vulgar displays of anything, be it flesh or wealth. But that's not to say she's not sexy or femme either. Another vintage ad puts it well: "In France romance is a national passion. So is Madame Rochas". And it is indeed very much a "perfume in the French style".
Like classical art, this Guy Robert scented creation always felt like it was simply striking the right proportions.

Character & Attitude: A Grande Dame
To describe Madame Rochas feels a bit like ornamenting that which needs no ornament. Much like my maternal grandmother, she is a Grande Dame, never an ingenue, girl-next-door, damsel in distress or soubrette. This might be the reason this 1960 creation fell somewhat out of favor commercially in the last 15-20 years when perfumery reached its apogee of fragrance creation ideals focused on naive youthfulness, immediate accessibility or plain out weirdness for the sensationalist/witty effect. Much like on cannot imagine the generation of CK One approaching their elders' vanities with anything but a dismissed "pffft", one cannot envision Madame Rochas on anyone under 30. Unless of course we're talking a perfumista who dabbles in decades past.

On the contrary Madame Rochas is in a way Lanvin's Arpège revisited for the 1960s and the new jet set emerging, a sort of Parisian Mod, Jackie Kennedy shops French designers before becoming First Lady. Madame Rochas is also interesting as a milestone in perfumer's Guy Robert opus in that it set the stage for his Hermes Calèche to follow the following year, Madame Rochas' drier twin sister; the latter would would influence the market for quite awhile.

The fragrance was created specifically under the commision of Hélène Rochas, the young wife of the Rochas house founder, for whom Femme de Rochas was also made when she went into wedlock. She was only 30 when the perfume was officially issued, showing just how far and wide tastes in what is considered youthful have shifted.

Scent Description
The aldehydes open on a dewy but sunny April morning: Hyacinth, lemon and neroli are shining with green-waxy-lemony shades before an indeterminate floral heart opens with woody tonalities (tuberose, rose, narcissus and jasmine). The propelling provided by the muskier, mossier, lightly powdered (never talc-like) base extends the florals and woods on for hours. The complexity of the formula and the intricate structuring of its accords accounts for its radiance and tenacity.
The powdery orris feel is underscored by the fresh and at the same time musty vetiver; but the proportion is such that the end result doesn't smell musty at all.

This bright, vivacious, graceful bouquet gains subtly soapy nuances of corpulent lily of the valley with only a slight hint of floral sweetness; its delicious bitterness, almost chypré, lurking beneath the green flowers is its hallmark of elegance. Inedible, smelling like proper perfume with a surprising warmth, ambery-like, like honeycomb smelled at a distance, Madame Rochas is an aldehydic floral perfume in the grand manner and thanks to its perfect harmony, lack of uprightness and full on humanity it is among the most legible in this demanding genre as well, not to mention romantic and sensuous too.
If you thought you couldn't "do" aldehydic fragrances because you can't succumb to the most famous example Chanel No.5, maybe Madame Rochas will do the trick. It sums up good taste.

Notes for Madame Rochas:
Top: aldehydes, bergamot, lemon and neroli
Middle: jasmine, rose, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, orris root, ylang-ylang, violet and narcissus
Base: sandalwood, vetiver, musk, cedar, oakmoss and tonka bean.

Fragrance Editions: Vintage vs. Modern & Bottle Design
The original Madame Rochas was introduced in 1960 and was re-issued 1982 in its second edition, re-orchestrated by Jean Luis Sieuzac. The original bottle design represents a replica of a 18th century bottle which was in the collection of Helene Rochas herself. The box is printed like a tapestry.
The new edition design was adapted by Pierre Dinand and is available in 30, 50 and 100 ml of eau de toilette.  The box is white with gold lettering.
The new version of Madame Rochas is somewhat lighter than I recall and less spicy- powdery, emphasizing green floral notes on the expense of balmy, woody ones. But it's still classy and collected at all times and a bargain to get.

Who is it for?
I would recommend this for all Calèche, Climat de Lancome, YSL Y, Guerlain Chamade and even Dioressence lovers. Climat is much more powdery and immediately aldehydic, Y is more chypre and Chamade relies more on hyacinths. Dioressence starts with sweeter notes in the openening and is much more animalic-smelling in the deeper notes, especially in the vintage orientalised verion. Madame Rochas could also be a great fit if you like things like Rive Gauche by YSL, Paco Rabanne Calandre, Revillon Detchema or Tauer's Tableau de Parfums Miriam.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Vega by Guerlain: fragrance review (vintage

Véga was originally created in the 1930's, in 1936 to be precise, by Jacques Guerlain. It was such a loaded year: the Berlin Olympics, the Nobel for Eugene O' Neil and cinematically speaking My man Godfrey with Carole Lombard who could wear this perfume effortlessly. The recreation was undertaken by Jean Paul Guerlain for the opening of the renovated Boutique Guerlain in 2005 and bears his mark alongside the well-known Guerlinade base. It entered the Legacy collection, known under the name Il était une fois (=once upon a time). Belonging to the family of aldehydic florals that first took off with the infamous introduction of Chanel No.5 in 1921 by Ernest Beaux, Véga has the fizzying, sparkling element of the aldehydic opening, that can sometimes smell waxy or even soapy.

Vega is such a beautiful name: being the brightest star in the α Lyra constellation and the 5th brightest star we can see in the sky, it has 58 times the brilliance of the sun, although scientists tell us that they are full of cosmic dust. The name however evokes luminosity and the perspective of cosmos: In 1936 Paris was indeed the capital of Light, the chic metropolis of every emerging trend, the place to be!

The original jazzy Véga in vintage Eau de Toilette traipses along the classic school of aldehydics with a luminous, expansive quality and softly powdery rosey and iris notes that support the warmth of sweet flowers ~notably the piecingly sweet ylang- ylang~ and the familiar vanillic touch of the Guerlinade base that takes a creamy nuance: the lustre of big pearls worn at the open neckline of a soft cloak under marcelled hair to go out for a night of folly.
Perhaps that aldehydic arpeggio is a nod to the take-off in Chanel's No.22 as well. The notes sing in a beautiful choral that hums melodiously.
According to toutenparfum in 1995 or 1997 according to other sources (later which would co-incide with the 1996 LVMH takeover and therefore seems more probable), Véga was briefly re-introduced and swiftly disappeared again. The bottle was short and cylindrical with a bulby cap, resembling the original inkwell flacon shown in the above vintage print ad.

In the 2005 re-issue of Véga those diffusive soapy-powdery notes are softened, to suit modern tastes who have arguably distanced themselves from the more perfume-y tastes of yore. However that is not to the detriment of the perfume at all. Rather it emphasises the rich floral heart while the two versions are not dramatically different. The ylang ylang is the predominant note in the new composition, a jasmine-like scented flower with a somewhat fruity aspect; jasmine and orange blossom come along too from the wings as supporting players. Véga also features fleur de cassie (acacia farnesiana) with its rich smell, like cat's paws immersed in milk, a whiff of heliotrope. Although iris and rosewood are listed, they were not to be found in the re-issue, at least not in the usual earthy version I come to witness in most true iris perfumes, like Luten's Iris Silver Mist or Hiris. That sweet floral heart in combination with the Guerlain vanillic warmth and the plush vetiver-amber base reminds me of the fond of Vol de Nuit and Shalimar at the same time without the smokey den ambienace of the vintage forms of the latter. That is to say Véga definitely has an animalic musky tonality in it that would potentially drive off people not attuned to full, hazy florals. It is not a perfume for shying violets!
Although the heart and base have elements of Chanel No.5, especially in its parfum version, Véga is at once less naughty and woodier. That darker, more serious element is a great attribute of the creation and although it is only an idea of darkness really, it still manages to make the perfume rise above merely pretty. Guerlain has always had an affinity for making likeable and wearable perfumes, often taking inspiration from other compositions and "making them laugh", like Jacques Guerlain did with Shalimar and Mitsouko (inspired in part by Coty Emeraude and Chypre respectively). Guerlain's other aldehydic floral from the period between the two World Wars, Liù, was another one inspired by Chanel No.5, but in comparison to Véga the latter seems soapier and more angular. They both have a bourgeois sensibility that makes for generally very "French"-smelling perfumes; at least in what is considered French in the collective unconscious, France being a vast country embracing many different cultural stimuli. This is the case here with Véga and this aldehydic may be a wonderful alternative for people who cannot enjoy Chanel No.5 or Arpège or even the fabulous Editions des parfums Frédéric Malle Iris Poudre.

The vintage parfum circulated in the inkwell-shaped bottle, while the Eau de Toilette is to be found in the large oval bottles (as depicted) on Ebay. There seemed to be also an Eau de Parfum version which however I have not tried yet. The 2005 re-issue of Véga is currently available exclusively at boutiques Guerlain and the Bergdorf Goodman's éspace Guerlain in Eau de Toilette in a 125ml splash cylindrical bottle tied with a gold thread on the neck and the Guerlain seal flat on the cap.

Notes for Véga:
Top: aldehydes, bergamot, orange blossom
Middle: jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, fleur de cassie, rose, carnation, rosewood, iris
Bottom: sandalwood, amber, vanilla

Please read another review in French on Ambre Gris.

Pic of Vega ad courtesy of Bottle pics through, Victoria's Own and mr.Guerlain (collector).

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Le De by Givenchy: Vintage and Modern Les Mythiques Re-issue Comparison~ fragrance review & history

What possessed Givenchy to create two fragrances in 1957, the well known L'Interdit and the less known Le De, both inspired from and originally intended for Audrey Hepburn? In retrospect, though both elegant, delicate enough florals of immense clarity to reflect the tameness of the 1950s in terms of perfume expectations and societal mores and therefore suited to the "nice girl" elegance of Hepburn herself, the commercial supremacy of one over the other has left Le De in the twilight. It's perhaps telling that Bette Davis, no spring chicken when Le De became available in 1958 ~the actress was hitting 50, well into maturity by the standards of the time~ chose to wear the ill-fated one. Le De remains today a snapshot of how women used to smell, ladylike and in pearls, and even in the re-orchestrated re-issue that the company launched in 2007, seems a captive of time in one way or another.
The history of Le De 

The oddly named Le De is a reference to the particle of nobility in Hubert de Givenchy's name. In 1952, at the age of 24, Givenchy opened his own design house on 8, rue Alfred de Vigny in Paris introducing it with the "Bettina Graziani" collection, named after Paris's top model at the time. He had a tight budget and only three staff working in a room loaned to him by friend and mentor couturier Cristobal Balenciaga.

The landmark of Givenchy's style, and the contrast to his more conservative contemporary Christian Dior, was innovativeness: The revolutionary use of cheaper fabrics employed in designs that intrigued with their aesthetic viewpoint, instead of their bourgeois luxury (influenced no doubt by Balenciaga), and his "separates", instead of the more standard option of dresses. Audrey Hepburn, later the most prominent champion of Givenchy's fashion (and to many the fashion plate whose image both benefited from and inspired him in equal measure), met the French designer in 1953 during the shoot of Sabrina. He had mistakenly thought he was going to meet and dress Katherine Hepburn...An immediate friendship was forged over this misunderstanding and Hubert went on to design almost all the wardrobes she wore in her movies, prompting him to later say that "Audrey's image is associated with my name".  She never failed to note that "Hubert gave me self-confidence. In one of his suits with the beautiful buttons I can forget my shyness and talk in front of 800 people". Their friendship lasted till her untimely death.

Le De came about when Hubert chose decided to gift his friend with a perfume; actually he commissioned two, the other being L'interdit (created in 1957 and commercialized in 1964) and they were hers alone for a whole year. In 1958 the idea of launching perfume under the aegis of his house saw Le De being introduced to the market while L'Interdit was immortalised in another classic Audrey Hepburn film, Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Comparing vintage and modern Le De Givenchy

The vintage edition of Le De comes across as a strange floral etude in the lineage of Le Dix de Balenciaga, with the violet note treated in a non sweet manner, contrary to all confectionary and makeup references that violets usually translate to perfumery. Instead the astringency of the violets gains soapy and powdery nuances (thanks to orris and rose) presenting the suds and puffs of a beauty ritual through the sheer panel of a light filter. There is no natural reference, just abstraction. The narcissus essence is laced with the impression of a horse's sweat, segueing into a musky feminine aura that is lived-in contrasting nicely with the general "groomed" effect. It is subtle enough that you won't catch it unless you're looking for it.

In 2007 a re-issue of Le De Givenchy was launched under the auspice Les Mythiques, a homage collection to the classics in the Givenchy line. The modern Le De is a play on humid floralcy. A dewy floral would theoretically appeal to modern sensibilities, even though this style had commercially expired by the time that the company thought about launching it. The violet is subdued and a "clean" orange blossom and lily of the valley are making it approachable and familiar. The structure recalls a woody musky floral and sillage and projection remain low-key, though perfectly calibrated to function as a constant halo. As of time of writing, the modern Le De is still available from Harrods.

How to Differentiate Different Editions

The original Le De Givenchy was introduced in 1957. The vintage bottle has rounded shoulders and is following the classic mould common for L'Interdit as well. It was available in eau de toilette and extrait de parfum. The 2007 re-issue of Le De Givenchy in Les Mythiques line is encased in a lilac box with the logo of Givenchy repeated in the design motif of the packaging. The bottle in frosted glass, tall, with sparse lines and sharp shoulders.
EDIT: My reader Lily notes that there is an update on the Les Mythiques 2007 edition, introduced in 2011, with slight differences in the packaging, although I haven't come across it in person. If anyone can describe the differences and whether there's a change in scent I'd be happy to include the info.

Notes for the vintage Le De Givenchy:
Top notes are coriander, mandarin orange, tarragon, bergamot and brazilian rosewood
middle notes: carnation, lilac, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley and rose
base notes: sandalwood, amber, musk, oakmoss and guaiac wood.
Notes for the 2007 Les Mythiques Le De Givenchy:
Top notes: coriander and lily-of-the-valley
middle notes: jasmine, ylang-ylang and bulgarian rose
base notes: sandalwood, vetiver and incense.

Les Feuilles Mortes: music by Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert. Yves Montand sung it in 1946 in the film "Les Portes de la Nuit".

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Chanel Gardenia vintage vs. modern Les Exclusifs Gardenia: fragrance review & history

The original Gardénia, issued by Chanel in 1925 and composed by legendary perfumer Ernest Beaux who created all the early opi/opera of Chanel, was built on a fashion premise: The deco motifs of the 1920s exalted the almost cubist arrangement of flower petals, resulting in designs which were transported into impressive jewellery. Gardénia was not conceived as, nor was it meant to be, a gardenia soliflore, although the heavy-smelling blossom was picked thanks to its optical resemblance to Mademoiselle Chanel's favourite flower: the camelia, which doesn't hold a scent. The name in reality derives from the English word "garden" (it's jardin in French): a popular reference of the times, especially if we recall the Shalimar story and the gardens of Lahore that made the imagination run wild. That was then.

But gardenia fragrances in particular re-entered the consciousness of the public with a vengeance in the next decade, the 1930s, in a different manner. This was a time of financial difficulties and a more conservative cultural milieu, when every company was launching or re-issuing their own gardenia fragrance; advertising them as a return to neo-romanticism, the gardenia boutonnières of Edwardian dandies and the gardens in the South of France which provided welcome escapism. Indeed an American advertisement for Chanel Gardénia mentions how it's meant to evoke romantic gardens at the Riviera and tags it as a youthful fragrance. [Chanel is no stranger to capitalizing on advertising to promote specific perceptions of their products, as it famously did with No.5.]
It was 1936 after all when the hit song "These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You)" by Eric Maschwitz & Jack Starchey included the infamous lyric "gardenia perfume lingering on a pillow"...alongside "an airplane ticket to romantic places". Is it any wonder that in the economically "tough" decade of the 1970s Brian Ferry & Roxy Music chose to bring this song back doing their own cover on it (1973)? Chanel would eventually bring their Gardénia back from the dead too; but almost two decades later. And as recently as the end of the 2000s yet again, this time in their boutique line Les Exclusifs where's it's still available.

Olfactorily, the two versions cannot be any more different, providing a valuable history lesson for any inquisitive perfume lover:

The vintage Chanel Gardénia was composed on a narcissus base with a green accent of styrallyl acetate; a freshly green note, naturally present in budding gardenias and a very popular inclusion in many classic floral chypres: It provides the gardenia greeness in the heart which compliments the mossiness of the background, from Miss Dior to Ma Griffe. The trick of composing a "gardenia chord" instead of using an extract from nature was necessitated by technical complications: No essence could be rendered (till very, very recently in fact and then only in some extremely limited distribution niche fragrances). The gardenia in the hands of Chanel is oscillating between green and creamy, as it's allied to other white florals with a powdery veil.
The top note of the vintage Gardénia however is surprising in that it's built on a violet accent, composed through octin and heptin methyl carbonate. The progression from the sweeter violet to the feminine floral harmony in the heart, featuring natural jasmine, makes for a rounder experience with woodier base notes recalling those in Chanel's own Bois des Îles or even Coty's Imprevu, with a spicy whiff of vetiver lingering.
The vintage came in extrait de parfum (a very round and feminine smell) and later Eau de Toilette in the standard square bottles with the round black screw-on cap. Opening one, made me realise how different the perceptions of a floral were in those eras back contrasted with today: Although I can feel the delicate rendering of petals, there is no immediate "department-store atmosphere" of a hundred florals sprayed simultaneously into the air. Drop by drop, it's silky and polished, like a strand of patina rose pearls in slightly differing diameter.

The original version of Gardenia circulated well into the 1950s, but it disappeared at some point when other Chanel fragrances such as No.19 and Cristalle entered the scene. Sometimes the labels did not have the French accent aigu for the American market.
An effort was made to bring it back alongside the more faithfully rendered classics Cuir de Russie and Bois des Iles in the Chanel "Rue Cambon" exclusive boutique circuit at the cusp of the 1990s: Regrettably, it was the least resistant link in the chain, accounting for a rather destitute white floral. The bottle in extrait was rectangular with a white label like standard Chanel extraits (depicted) and the colour of the juice a light yellow. There was also a limited edition Eau de Toilette in a rectangular bottle edged in gold, with white label and white cap in the 1990s (shown on the right).

The modern version of Gardénia as part of Chanel Les Exclusifs more upscale line, reworked by Jacques Polge, conforms to the latest regulations and changing tastes. Thus it is comparatively much thinner, stretched to its limit, based on a standard white floral chord with fresh & green jasmine/hedione, "clean" orange blossom cologne-ish notes and just a smidgen of tuberose (and absolutely no gardenia whatsoever). A delicate vanilla base is the only other detectable note, very light and soft without much sweetness. The fragrance's popularity and reception is no doubt accounted by its transparent and easy demeanor which lends itself easily to any wearer. There is a young, ice-princess vibe about it, rather classy in its sex-denying way.

It leaves something to be desired in fulfilling a powerful romantic imagery and rather much in providing an avant-garde entry in the field of white florals (which it could have tried if it wanted to); but its wearability provides options for casual & office wearing, which is more than can be said for some of the more sumptuous and demanding vintages. Among Les Exclusifs, in Eau de Toilette concentration with an even paler colour of juice than before, Gardénia is also one of the most fleeting, making for a brief experience that needs to be constantly renewed.

Notes for Chanel Gardénia: jasmine, gardenia, orange blossom, tuberose, clove, sage, pimento, musk, patchouli, sandalwood and vetiver.

Ella Fitzerald sings These Foolish Things

And Brian Ferry reprises it in his own innimitable style in a rare 1974 video.

pic of vintage parfum via Ebay & stock bottle photos. Pearl necklace & gardenia extrait bottle via the Romantic Query Letter.

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