Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Histoires de Parfums Colette 1873: fragrance review

"If I can't have too many truffles, I'll do without truffles", Colette used to say. Although earthy truffles do not feature in the confines of 1873 Colette by Histoires de Parfums, the fragrance inspired by her personality, her sense of abandon to the sensuous side of life is clearly manifested in its wake.
I can very well remember the days when I was a fledging young miss, still a schoolgirl learning French at L’Institut Français reading the semi-autobiographical Claudine novels which to my young eyes (and those of La Belle Epoque too) seemed naughty and mischievous. How innocent my childish eyes were! Re-reading them as an adult I find them rather tame yet utterly charming and revealing of the character of Colette, the woman.

Inside her family garden of Bourgogne, young Sidonie Gabrielle Colette experienced her first steps as a writer, surrounded by roses and field flowers. Although she is famous for saying that a happy childhood is poor preparation for human contacts, she seems to have flourished on the latter, from her first marriage to "Willy" who got her into writing, penning the Claudine series under his name, to her affairs with women, another with her stepson from her second marriage, her third husband and finally her friendship with her famous neighbour Jean Cocteau in the Jardins du Palais-Royal.
Having chosen her surname as a pen name, she was to become an admired literary woman, famous for both her literary and sensual freedom.

Reflecting this fizzy woman, 1873 Colette is a gourmand yet refined hesperidic fragrance, in which unsettling white flowers blossom in a light bubble, sparkling with tangerine and lemon.
The opening of 1873 Colette unmistakeably reminds me of candied kumquat, which is by turn inextricably tied to my mind with Nymphes (numphs) on the Greek island of Corfu, whose shores lap the waves of the Ioanian sea and the Adriatic. The succulent delicacy possesses a contrast of flavours that surprises the taste buds with its journey from bitter and sweet to the sour of the core and the crystallised crust of white sugar around that cracks under the bite of teeth. The wonderful liquer made of kumquats has a honeyed touch reminiscent of ripe orange blossoms with their fresh yet indolic aroma when they are about to swoon dying on a white sheet before exuding their last breath of scent for the benefit of an amateur enfleurage.
This delicious aroma persists for most of the length of time 1873 Colette stays poised on the skin, later flanked by the delectable orange blossoms and the never too sweet caramelised aspects of lavender with a subtle vanillic touch, imparting a desire to stick your nose to your wrists with a glutton's eagerness in front of his favourite dishes.

The collection Histoires de Parfums created by Gérald Ghislain is governed by no rules other than inspiration. This loquacious individual with roots in the Mediterranean chose to bring his literary heroes to life in perfume, a sensitive and sensual medium: authors, books and materials become stories which unfold on skin, to be read by those sensitive enough to appreciate this flight of fancy.

Top: all the citrus fruits from sunshine countries
Heart: orange blossom, lily of the valley, lavender
Base: vanilla, white musks, caramel

1873 Colette by Histoires de parfums comes in Eau de Parfum:
120 ml for 130 € / 4oz for $115.00 (yes, it is cheaper in the US!)
The US site features the older bottle, while the European sites feature the new edition bottle.

You can buy directly from Histoires de parfums, First in Fragrance and MioMia.
Fabulous price on the sampler pack: set of 12 vials for 5€ on the official site.
Pic of Colette by Irvin Penn (1951) via the photographer's archive.


  1. Colette is one of my favourite writers. I especially love the stories she wrote about her childhood, her mother, the countryside, her pets. She was a wonderfully modern woman - with impeccable taste.

    Although it sounds like a Christian name, Colette was her surname.

  2. That sounds lovely. Actually it almost sounds exactly what I have been looking for. Adding to my to sniff list.

  3. Anonymous08:18

    Sounds great, indeed and how funny the price difference.. .. I thank you for the b&w picture which is so evocative!

  4. Bela,

    I can well understand how she is a favourite! Her style of writing is witty and thoughful, without ever becoming strained.
    I very much enjoyed Chéri, with its turning upside down of conventions. Et toi?

    Thanks for the info on the name.

  5. Jen,

    I have a feeling you would like it quite a bit! It has a very pronounced bittersweet hesperidic top with a softer core.
    Let me know how it goes :-)

  6. Dear Andy,

    it is a well-made gourmand (which is a category that's so easy to veer into tooth-achingly sweet) ;-)
    The price difference probably has to do with the difference of Euro compared to US$, but also the fact that the European sites carry the newer bottles ("New Edition" as mentioned on FiF -perhaps there is also a twinkering of the formula, will have to ask).

    I very much like that picture myself, especially that she is obviously old and yet with such a coqueterrie and poise about her. Someone who has enjoyed life :-)

  7. Anonymous11:01

    I like the picture too. Yes, she looks like someone who has enjoyed life, and knows much of our human condition - a wise & strong woman! The perfume sounds very lovely, I really will get to try it! (thanks for informing about the sampler pack!)
    (I tried another hesperidic fragrant yesterday that hit me unexpectedly strong, Dior's Esc a Portofino.I have not an adequate language to express why, but perhaps the strong cons. of oils, and the hint of almonds (?). Nevertheless, it was utter bliss! :)

  8. Utterly wise and strong!

    I highly recommend getting the sampler, great price for so many fragrances.

    And I am overjoyed to see yet another who enjoys Escale a Portofino: I must try it!
    By all acounts it must be quite good.

  9. I was going to chime in about Colette being her surname, but Bela had already spotted it.
    Colette's perfume was, apparently, a Jasmin by her friend, the perfumer Henriette Gabilla. Another source of inspiration would've been her favourite snack, roasted chocolate. I can't say I've been bowled over by the Histoires de Parfums, but then I've only smelled them on strips, and also, I have such strong ideas about the authors in question that they're bound to conflict with the perfumer's vision of them.

  10. LOL! That's because Bela has been reading Colette and books about her for over 40 years, C. Colette was interested in make-up and perfume. She even had a boutique selling cosmetics for a while. She also included recipes for dishes in some of her books. She was keen on everything to do with the senses.

    E, I did enjoy Chéri because of the writing, but I wasn't terribly interested in the subject matter. I think she's at her best - and most sensuous and delicate - when writing about nature, animals, etc. I love her non-fiction most of all.

  11. Anonymous18:53

    Beautiful post! And I just ordered the sample set from the Histoires de Parfums website. Very much looking forward to indulge in "all the citrus fruits from sunshine countries"...
    On a different note, when I mentioned a couple of days ago that YVRESSE is just right for when you want a perfume to talk to you, I believe it was Chandler Burr who coined the term in one of his descriptions of ANGEL. He wrote something along the lines of "this thing will talk to you for hours..." Sounds like a great idea to me, to confer a scent human attributes, I am wondering now what special character traits would make COLETTE 1873 come to life...
    Cheers, Olga

  12. Dear D,

    the perfume choices of mme Colette sound scrumptious, to say the least! Roasted chocolate is one scent I would very much like to see done well.

    The HdP line hides some interesting surprises, so I think you should test them on skin sometime ;-)

  13. Bela,

    yes I know about the cosmetics, she was very much into those things and her writing reveals so.
    I agree she had a knack for sensuous, which is one aspect of why her writing is so pleasant to read. It transports.
    "Cheri" seemed positively naughty when I was young! But of course one would see it with a jaded eye as an adult, I can see that.

  14. Olga,

    thanks so much for your kind words and for clarifying about the idea behind "perfume talking to you". Indeed it's a lovely concept and possibly quite true for Angel.
    I think Colette 1873 would rather make you a delicious desert, fruits and petals flambes with citrus liquor.

    Hope you like the sampler pack, I think it's a real bargain and sure to provide hours of fun! :-)

  15. Anonymous19:55

    Dear Elena
    Indeed, someone who has enjoyed life. One can see, almost physically feel it.
    I just tried to order the samples but failed on the paying options. Carte bleu left me with question marks....

  16. That's odd!!
    I wonder why: maybe you should mail them/fax them and ask (I am sure you could do it on the phone as well)?
    Olga has just ordered them, so I don't think it's a technical glitch.

  17. I have just come home from Paris and I love to walk around the Palais Royal. I did end up at Rosine where I purchased one of their scents - I do not think Colette would have minded.
    If I were to live in Paris - this is the place I would love to be.

  18. Welcome back LJ!!
    Which Rosine, if you don't mind?

    Indeed the Jardins du Palais Royal have something very romantic about them. *sigh*

  19. It was so difficult but I bought Rose d Amour. Its a sweet rosey scent that was strong to my nose as I loved the gentle ones but they would not stay on my skin. My Mother went Rosine de Rosine - a traditional rose. Nice too!

  20. Thanks dear M! They sounds adorable for you and your mum! :-)

  21. Anonymous17:09

    Dear E,
    thanks for this review. Histoires de Parfums looks like an interesting brand. I met this name Colette on various blogs and I never knew who she was. In my country there is no tradition of reading her books among the young people. But the library here has her books. I love to find new tips for books this way. :-)
    BTW Escale a Portofino is not my fav scent, too many lemons. :-(

  22. You're very welcome, dear L.

    They do have some interesting scents (their Patchouli Noir is quite dirty, very interesting).
    Glad you found something new and interesting to read: Colette writes very well, very wittily.

    Bummer about the Escale a Portofino which sounded so good by so many: so it's very astrigent, you say? or too simplistic?

  23. Anonymous12:43

    Escale a Portofino are lemons, strong lemons from the beginning, the scent lasts for hours and with time the lemons are sweeter and warmer and after 6 hours on my hand they became bittersweet. It is a nice scent, don't worry to try and enjoy it. But I don't like lemons this way.

  24. Thanks for the review on Escale, Lavinia. Good to know!


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