Sunday, August 29, 2010

Baccarat Trio: Les Larmes Sacrees de Thebes, Une Nuit Etoilee au Bengale, Un Certain Ete a Livadia

Although only one out of the triad issued by Baccarat is known among perfume aficionados, Les Larmes Sacrées de Thèbes, the collection by the venerable verrerie (crystal makers) included two other worthy specimens: Un Certain été à Livadia and Une Nuit Étoilée au Bengale. All three formed Les Contes d'Ailleurs trilogy (Tales from Faraway lands) which reprised oriental themes, seducing and enrapturing, allowing the perfumer unrestrained choice in materials and composition. The occasion was to commemorate the new millenium and thus Baccarat commissioned three precious limited edition perfumes that would honour their patrimony in flacons of heavy crystal. Christine Nagel undertook the task of formula creation, at the time just entering Quest France and given carte blanche as to the commerciability of the fragrances: These were going to be Limited Editions for collectors and not focus-group marketing productions! Colombian-born Fédérico Restrepo was the flacon designer for the parfum bottles and each parfum bottle bore its own certificate of authenticity and lot number. There were only 1500 specimens issued for each of the Baccarat perfumes. Original prices were 880 euros for 30ml/1oz of pure parfum/extrait de parfum. All three fragrances however also had an Eau de Parfum version in a plainer bottle, as depicted on the bottom of this article, retailing for 400$ for 75ml/2.5oz, at the time available at Bergdorf's and Harrods (they are now discontinued and out of stock). Please note that the design of the EDP bottle has been accused of aiding evaporation.

Une Nuit Étoilée au Bengale (A Starry Night in Bengal) was the first perfume, inspired by India palaces and gardens, issued in 1997. The bottle is a blue-shaped heart with an outsprout of green, like curling stems of a mysterious plant or water sprouting out of an exotic garden fountain. The whole is resting inside a Π-shaped construction of transparent crystal with stars of gold designed on it. The whole is encased in a deep blue box with zigurat steps on it, recalling the maharajahs palaces of India (the maharajahs had been great crystal customers in their time).
The fragrance itself is an ambery floriental with spicy accents: Une Nuit Étoilée au Bengale is comprised of a citrus top of bergamot, segueing into rose, with a cluster of spices: ginger, cinnamon, and Ceylon "spice bouquet". The bottom is rich and sumptuous with notes of Mysore sandalwood, amber and vanilla.
There are no samples available for purchase at the moment, as far as I know. Apart from the ultra costly parfum version, there was the Eau de Parfum concentration circulating in a plainer bottle with a drop-style applicator (pic below). Both are discontinued and very rare.

Les Larmes Sacrées de Thèbes (Sacred Tears of Thebes) was inspired by Egypt and the wares of King Tut's tomb and was issued in 1998. The bottle is ~predictably~ a puramidal structure capped in amethyst crystal, with a fine "bubble" of yellow crystal blown into it, which houses the scent. It sits on amethyst cushion feet on the four edges. The whole is encased in a square bottle of egg yolk yellow for the innner carton and amethyst for the outer carton (see pic at the beginning of the article).
The fragrance, although an homage to Egyptian rituals, is by no means a replication of those alloys like other projects (see this one on Kyphi and others by Sandrine Videault) but a modern perfume. It is however predominantly resinous and balsamic with a peppery top note, focusing on intense myrrh, frankincense and a deep amber mix, flanked by jasmine, geranium, ylang ylang, cardamon, basil, myrtle, sandalwood and musk. Although compared to Parfum Sacré by Caron (1990), the resemblance is only passing, Les Larmes being much more balsamic with less of a rosy heart than the Caron.
Les Larmes is the best-known fragrance in the Baccarat triptych, possibly due to its optically approachable, exquisite bottle and the fact that it has been repeatedly hailed as among the most expensive perfumes in the world at 6,800$ in the press; largely thanks to the bottle.
Harrods Haute Parfumerie stocked a few remaining specimens, although info claims that reserves have been by now dried up. The Perfumed Court has samples of the Eau de Parfum concentration for sale for those curious to investigate for themselves.
Please be aware that the hereby pictured exquisite presentation isn't the only one: There is an EDP bottle (click on this link) with a plainer design which retailed for 400$ for 75ml/2.5oz of Eau de Parfum at Bergdorf's in the past, as noted for the rest of the trio as well.

Un Certain été à Livadia (A Certain Summer in Livadia) was inspired by Russia and the Imperial Court and was issued in 1999. The bottle takes on the "onion"-shaped domes of classic Russian Orthodox churches, with a starry " gold cross" on top and green crystal, and superimposes it on a red "body", housing the perfume, which rests in turn on a curved "boomerang" shaped crustal base with Russian lettering. The whole rests on a red base, encased in a red round box. Livadia is of course was the place in the Crimea where the palace of the last tsar Nicholas II was situated, later seized by the Bolsheviks and now transformed into a museum.
Un Certain été à Livadia received the prize of Best Perfume of 1999 for Christine Nagel 's work, awarded by a jury of French journalists (info according to her mentor's, Jean Claude Ellena, archives). The fragrance is centered around a blooming orientalised/musky heart of seringat (i.e. Philadelphus, a plant of white-petaled blossoms with a scent between orange blossom and jasmine; also known as "jasmin des poètes"). The top introduces complimentary hesperidic notes of citruses while the base is comprised by a soft, enveloping musk accord.
There are no samples available for purchase as of this moment. Rare specimens of the bottle crop up online from time to time, with an estimate of between 500-700$ for a bottle, although Ebay auctions have occasionally demanded 1200euros with ambiguous results. Also circulated in Eau de Parfum concentration as seen below. It is of course discontinued and out of stock.

pics via ebay, gazette drouot, parisparfum and parfumini


  1. Fiordiligi13:39

    You know, I had never heard about the other two that AREN'T Les Larmes until right now, reading your article! How very interesting.

    And there is the photo of the offending article: the edp bottle, which I have, and from which the majority of the edp has simply evaporated. I was terribly disappointed.

    Les Larmes is utterly sumptuous and gorgeous. Anyone who hasn't sampled it really should try to sniff a drop.

    Thank you, dearest E, for a fascinating piece.

  2. Thanks for the post on these rare treasures. So interesting!

  3. I *love* Les Larmes, and still occasionally put "Larmes" and "Thebes" into "Search" over at eBay, but now I fear my little perfumed court sample is all I'll ever own. (*Sigh*)

    How astounding to learn that there were two more in the series!! As ever, Elena, you bring perfume to life!

  4. D,

    someone had to group these three in a post and present the facts, I guess. Glad it was me.
    Pity about the EDP bottle evaporating; the "dropper" looks like those "sticks" they use on home fragrancing, no? Or the tip from the Desnuda fragrance by Ungaro (who remembers that? LOL)

    These are exquisite in varying degrees and totally worth sniffing. I think Roja might have the two others in his private collection, although Larmes is the most unusual, most sumptuous.

  5. KJ,

    thanks honey for stopping by and glad you enjoyed the piece. They're truly worth a sniff if you ever get the chance!

  6. R,

    thanks for the kind words! Overjoyed you enjoy Les Larmes as well (and to think I once had the chance to buy my own full bottle and I didn't....well, it was back when they launched and I wasn't aware of how rare perfumes become later on...silly me!)

    There are some specimens cropping up in very infrequent intervals. Not only on Ebay either, on collectors' sites. ;-)

    1. cecile10:39

      Hello, i am french, and this bottle was offered to me some years ago. I have the certificate of authenicty. It was a decoration in a shelf but all the perfume is out without using it but we can always smell it. Unfortunely the cap is a little broken at a corner.
      Do you know how much i could sell it ?

    2. Salut Cecile!

      The right answer to that kind of question is "as much as the market can bear". I'm sure bottle collectors are your best bet, since perfume aficionados would need a few drops to actually use, so a search on Completed Listings on Ebay should indicate how much glass collectors are willing to pay. Hopefully you will have success, especially since you have the authentication.
      Good luck!

  7. *Gasp*!!! A whole bottle?!?!? All to yourself?!?!?! Too much to think about...

    Well, I will keep both eyes peeled for Larmes as well as her sisters-- it's one of those "lost memory" fragrances for me, like voices half-heard from another room.

  8. Anonymous02:14

    sigh, i see there is a bottle currently on eBay, which has a hairline crack & a small amount of perfume left in it & even that has a starting prices of $1500 (sighs again)


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