Monday, June 9, 2008

Intoxicated ~Yvresse (Champagne) by Saint Laurent: fragrance review

Is there anything more French than Champagne? The delicate fizz of this refreshing wine is irresistible. Its little bubbles burst on the palate as they incessantly move upwards in the fluted crystal glasses in long, long ribbons with all the gusto of exotic dancers, making me dream.
Champagne, produced by inducing the in-bottle secondary fermentation of wine to effect carbonation, is also protected under "appellation": An appellation is a geographical indication used to identify where the grapes for a wine were grown. In the case of champagne, the wine enjoyed an appellation control by virtue of legal protection as part of the Treaty of Madrid (1891). It was stated there that only sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region and adhering to the standards defined for an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée could be called "champagne." This right was even reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles after WWI.
And here is where Yves Saint Laurent and his fragrance steps in...

Yvresse, the feminine fruity chypre by Yves Saint Laurent, was composed by Sophia Grojsman (previously responsible for the mega-hit Paris) and originally launched in 1993 as Champagne. Even the bottle recalled the cork-stoppered bottles of the French elixir with its twisted gold metal detailing. But upon its issue, the French winegrowers protested, even resorting to smashing bottles of champagne in front of the journalists who had arrived in Paris for the launch party. Pierre Bergé, president of the brand, had had to scuffle with the vinoculturists and the battle for the name was afoot. After a lawsuit resulting in a legal battle which Parfums Yves Saint Laurent lost, they rechristened the fragrance Yvresse : a clever and elegant word play on “ivresse” -which means "intoxication/drunkenness" in French- with Saint Laurent’s initial “Y”).
It was at that crucial no man's land point in time that advertisements circulated on which it was noted: Sous ce nom je serai bientôt un objet rare. (I will soon be a rare object under this name). The red-sequins dressed woman was holding her hands in the air in a shape of Y, recalling the advertisements of Saint Laurent's other chypre, the magnificent and dry Y.
It was at that point that I had secured my bottle. I know it has become a collectible.
Later on, the emphasis of the slogan shifted and two elements mingled: the pettillant (sparkling) aspect of champagne: "un hommage aux femmes qui petillent"(a hommage to women who sparkle); and the forbidden touch that was traced back to Opium: "Les femmes adorent les interdits" (women love the forbidden), with perhaps a wink to L'interdit by Givenchy.

Yvresse is an excess of an effervescing fruity chypre, nostalgic for an era of full-bodied both wines and women with complex personalities and secrets behind the festive facade. It's full of overripe notes, like a bruised apricot, that recall to mind more an eau de vie with sweet violets on top or a "bellini" of mashed peach purée and sparkly Prosecco than actual champagne, although it does retain the sparkling quality of the delicate bubbles. The latter makes for an impressive swoosh upon first spraying without the tingling of the nostrils that makes the experience of sipping champagne so naughtily indulgent. Wait for it to develop fully though and it has a tipsy effect that is comparable. Yvresse has a buttery quality about it, with an oak tone like the used barrels of fermented spirits. In a way its petulant character traces its antecedents in the hideously beautiful Que Sais-Je? by Jean Patou (composed by Henri Alméras in 1925), a more robust example of a honeyed fruity chypre.
The violet, mint and spicy aniseed notes of Yvresse, piquant along with the earthier chypre accord, combine to give a character of both brightness and sophistication, celebrating in a decadent way. Yvresse is meant to be worn by bubbling, spirited women (or daring men) who can hold their own and laugh their way during a dull soirée, not needing others to make it a celebratory occasion.

Top: nectarine, mint, aniseed, cumin, violet
Heart: "blue rose", rose, lychee, carnation, cinnamon, jasmine
Base: vetiver, oakmoss, patchouli

There is also an Yvresse Eau de Toilette Légère (light version) which replaces nectarine fruit with nectarine flower, aniseed with blackcurrant leaves, rose with mimosa and lychee with white lilac. It's less sweet and less "ripe".

For those who find Yvresse likable but perhaps too much and more mature than they would like, Deci Delà by Nina Ricci, a now discontinued but easily found online perfume, is quite close in spirit and smell. It adds a taste of hazelnut and vanilla and eases on the boozy, but with a more playful air that would satisfy a younger audience.

Pic of drunk (?) lady by owenbooth on Flickr.
Ad pic courtesy of parfumdepub.


  1. That sounds so delicious. Your blog is the worst for lemmings. I mean that as the highest compliment, of course. I will have to hunt down both Yvresse and Que-Sais Je? at some point.

  2. LOL, thanks Dain for your wonderful compliment, although I sure don't set out to ignite unreasonable desires!

    Yvresse is a peculiar scent that merits its place: it's equal parts loud and lovely and I am surprised that I went through a whole bottle of it in the 90s with complete and utter defiance of the trends of the time (marines etc.)Surprised because I don't usually go for fruity scents.

    Que Sais je? is highly, highly recommended: it will get reviewed here soon ;-)

  3. How does Yvresse compare to something fruity like Le Parfum de Therese? Or maybe even Mitsouko, the gold standard of fruity chypres? I'm curious how it differentiates itself, maybe booziness? I've never particularly liked the boozy perfumes, so it would be gratifying to find one I like.

    I believe you about Que Sais-Je?, Jean Patou, their house signature seems to be perfection, pure and simple. Hermes should just acquire Patou and they'd be set with all those worries about having a coherent olfactory aesthetic. : )

  4. Oh, there's no relation with the Roudnitska perfume in my mind: whereas one is big, ebullient, festive and strong (Yvresse), the other is elegant, discreet and tasteful with a fainter fruity (melon) note and an acqueous element to it (PdT) that makes for good summer wearing.

    Yvresse is not that boozy, I mean compared to something like Frapin or Botytris. If you like strong and earthy-fruity you stand a good chance of liking it. I think a tester should be within your vicinity: alas, I do not have a bottle right now to send you some to try, contrary to the others ;-)

    Patou is a house that produced great scents through the years and the 30s ones have a signature that's recognisable, perhaps due to the common perfumers' "bases" which they used.

    As to Hermes, they are doing their coherent thing all right for the latest things (one aesthetic) but there is a chasm between the older things (another aesthetic altogether). If they acquired Patou they might be too good for words. But I think Patou is going in the right direction with Duriez: their Sira des Indes with its fruity note was quite interesting! (and a different India-inspired fragrance too, without going for the cliché of spices either.)

  5. I bought it years ago-
    I thought was oddly grand, and very happy.
    More fruit than chypre, for me- but I still adored the dissonance and fizz.

  6. Wow, thank you very much. That clears things up so well. You're a fount of knowledge, as ever!

  7. Dear I,

    I used it some years back myself. It does have lots of fruit and "happy" describes it well. If it weren't for that mossy thing in there I would have written it off.

  8. Dear D,

    you're very welcome! Glad to be of service if I can :-)

  9. Anonymous15:44

    Wow, talk about a forgotten frag! You do resurrect the oddest things, Helg, never expected to see this. Had a bottle of it but gave it away, very strong and older than I'm used to. I prefer lighter fragrances in general.

  10. Anonymous16:09

    Beg to differ. I found this one very sweet, almost tooth-achingly so! Couldn't find the chypre in it at all.

  11. Anonymous17:52

    oh, do not let hermès take over patou. that would ruin patou.

    yvresse seems to have a ton of vanilla or tonka on my skin, so it's like a rich dessert with a boozy edge, rather than a beverage. i love it.

    que sais je is yummy but in a much different way. i don't find it ugly at all, but i can see how it could be challenging.

    - minette

  12. Aline,

    perhaps I do :-)
    I can see how it could tire after a while: it had that effect on me after enjoying a full bottle of it.

  13. Sue,

    indeed it's not the standard chypre, by any stretch of the imagination. You're right!
    Maybe your tastes go into greener or mossier directions? Mine as well, so I can undestand how the fruit eclipsed the chypre for you. You really have to pay attention when wearing it and repeteadly at that.

  14. Dear M,

    your description of Yvresse is very good! I found myself a little tired of it after one bottle. Maybe at some point I will get a small one for old time's sake.

    But you misunderstood my comment on Que Sais-je?: "hideously beautiful", as in VERY beautiful. Perhaps I wasn't that clear, letting my turn of phrase get the better of me (not uncommon, ahem...). In short: I love it!

  15. Anonymous00:14

    no, i didn't misunderstand your comment, i was just making my own! i knew you loved it, too! seems i was the one being unclear! ha ha! - minette

  16. Ooops, sorry about that! Should have known, you saying it being "yummy" (and it is!): that will teach me to read comments twice :-O

  17. Helg,

    Coming late to the party (am quite, quite rushed these days), but let me tell you I enjoyed tremendously your tribute to YSL's perfumes. I had forgotten just how many of them were pure gems.

  18. Thank you dear S, your words are very nice to hear and many thanks for stopping by in the middle of your overscheduled program.
    Hope you have a lighter load soon and enjoy some rest :-)

  19. I have a huge bottle of it for sell vintage left too my by my aunt who has passed away never bern open. Contact me if interested. 217 816 5119


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