The signature scent is an obsolete model of perfume use. It was the perfume you mated with and wore exclusively day in, day out. If your perfume was discontinued or fatally reformulated, you were out of luck. I read often about the drawbacks of so many perfume releases each year. Creativity and exploration in commercial perfumery is stifled by market needs, narrow margins and short time frames for success. The explosion of 'niche' is impossible to keep up with without curation. Each year, hundreds of launches are aimed at the same fat middle of the bell curve. 25 years ago the dilemma was simply a dozen men's perfumes that tried to copy Davidoff Coolwater’s success after the fact. Today it’s hundreds of concurrent launches that all smell like Bleu de Chanel, each following the same model of risk management.
iTania Sanchez’s analysis that Chanel 5 wasn't successful due to marketing but to quality isn’t applicable to new perfumes. Half of those hundreds of simultaneous fragrances don't smell any worse or much different than Bleu. The quality, innovation or artistry of the product are the least important variables in the equation. Branding and marketing are the deciding factors and Chanel wins through PR power and prowess alone.
The lifelong signature fragrance has become a losing prospect. Perhaps a better model is to swim out a bit further and let the tide carry you. I don’t mean to Learn to Stop Worrying and Love the Wall at Sephora. But investigate a bit. Interested in oud? You’ll have hundreds to choose from. Don't like oud? Try one of the throngs of translucent incense perfumes. Rose is having a moment these days and there are some gorgeous Rose perfumes. Why not try one of those? Even a genre as tired as for the Fruity Floral has been tested by evolution for long enough that there are some solid choices.
If you never step into the same river twice, maybe this constant flow of new perfumes isn't a bad thing. I can't think of any given time in the past 20 years when there haven't been a good number of exceptional perfumes available. I'm thrilled that Guerlain seem to have found a way to resurrect Mitsouko. But if it had simply gone the way, I would have shed a tear and moved on. This attitude is not ahistorical. There lineages, traditions and movements in perfumery that continue whether historical icons remain extant or not.
We reminisce about signature fragrances when we talk about dear old Gran who wore Arpège and Grand-dad who used to wear Caron pour un Homme. Forget the arcadian past and ask yourself, would anyone be better off still wearing Giorgio every day rather than having discovered Carnal Flower? What if your boss still wore Opium rather than l’Air du Désert Marocain?
The choices are there if you chose to act. Investigate new entries in a genre that you’ve like in the past. Discover something completely new. Follow a perfumer whose work you’ve admired. There’s a lot of perfume bliss to be followed these days
But back to Guerlain Parure and the value of the new. A large decant of the discontinued but coveted Parure was sent to me by a generous friend who has a particularly good ability to read perfume. I think there was some degree of test implied in the gift. What would I do with Parure? Thinking about the river of new releases has influenced my take on Parure.
From a market perspective, novelty has come to be a universally positive attribute. It has a value beyond mere goodness. If new is good, then newer is better. The latest is the greatest.
Oy, did Parure missed the boat.
Parure was released in 1975, composed by Jean-Paul Guerlain. For perspective, Guerlain released Chant d’Aromes, a prim powdery floral in 1962, Chamade, an exquisitely powerful green floral from 1969 and Nahema, an over-the-top disco queen in 1979. How is it possible that Parure is so much more in the mold of Chant d’Aromes than Nahema?
I don’t think Parure was intended to be retro. It was simply behind the times and was released into a market that had already had many similar fragrances for years. Aldehydic floral chypres: Paco Rabanne Calandre (1969), YSL Rive Gauche (1970). Green powdery chypres: Estée Lauder Private Collection (1973), Weil de Weil (1971). The more emancipated green fragrances had left the dainty green floral aldehyde behind. By emancipated, I mean taking the lead like Aromatics Elixir (1971), carefree like Revlon Charlie (1973), or active and engaged like Estée Lauder Aliage (1972). For god’s sake, 25-30 years prior women were wearing Rochas Femme (1943), Robert Piguet Bandit (1944) and Miss Dior (1947). These perfumes were erotic, some tacitly, others blatantly. They highlighted the sensuality of the body. By comparison, Parure suggested as much distance from the body as a perfume can make.
Parure was intended for a woman who closed the drawing room doors before the Summer of Love started and still hadn’t opened them in 1975. Even the name, “Parure” which means both a matched set of jewelry and, simply, finery, shows how out of step this perfume was in 1975.
But that was then. As a homo in 2014, I reclaim Parure. Its dynamics are delicate and balanced just so. Removed from the context of the retiring bourgeoise of the mid 1970s, it is a soft floral chypre with fruity elements that, after 15 years of syrupy tactless fruity florals, seem subtle and sexy. Appropriating staid perfumes that were well designed but fundamentally conservative and making them a bit come-hither breathes life into them. God, it's great to be queer.
A rather talc-y/powdery floral chypre that seldoms venture far from the skin. There was a salty hint of spiced plums at the top that reminded me of preserved prunes, a floral heart dominated by lilacs over an mistakably brooding foundation of oakmoss in the base. Younger than Mitsouko by more than three decades yet Parure feels unwearably ancient in comparison. I simply could not warm up to it. To my nose, the fresh lilac note creates an uncomfortable dissonance against the typically darker grain of a chypre.
***** This review is of the vintage parfum *****
Combining an attenuated bergamot with a spicy prune makes for a very unique opening, which leads to a distinctly dark-floral drydown. A beautiful rose initially, and further into the middle notes a gorgeous jasmine appears - delicious. In the further development the standout is the lilac: at times harsh and nigh smoky, it mixes with spicy tones and moss to a leathery base of distinction, that in the base is complimented by an oak moss that is quite restrained on my skin. Absolute superb quality of ingredients, smoothly blended whilst maintaining great structure and development, with good silage and projection. I get six hours of longevity. One of the most creative classic Guerlain perfumes and an unusual chypre.
Superb leather herbal chypre
One of Guerlain's most unique scents - it beings for me with a sweet leather accord, which is permeated by a dry, crisp herbal accord (the clary sage, which here resembles caraway seed) and then these two float over a dry, deep and fragrant rose for the dry down. A marvelous chypre.
Released in 1975 and discontinued, according to the Guerlain site, in 1989, due to restrictions on material use, despite the Basenotes page stating it is in production.
Gorgeous and unique bottle. Over the top stopper, meant to resemble ocean waves.
The twelve ingredients: Bergamot, Plum, Rose, Jasmine, Lilac, Oakmoss, Galbanum, Clary Sage, Vetiver, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Leather
Finding this for sale is difficult and costly, so do sample first, but definitely worth an investment.
Pros: Unique among scents - leathery and herbal supported by rose
Cons: It is discontinued since 1989, despite Basenotes stating it is in production
I had read that Parure Extrait was starring a richer plum note than the EdT. However, I did not find this to be the case. Both my Extrait and the EdT are old stock (peachy color - not yellow) as Parure is said to be reformulated and thinned before its eventual discontinuation (it was only the EdT that survived longer). Having said that, I think the top notes of my Extrait are partly ruined (for the first 20 minutes), before a big dark rose takes over dramatically. Parure does remind me of the old vintage Nahema Extrait, which comes as no big surprise given the timing and the fact that Jean Paul Guerlain is both their creator. It is an absolutely stunning creation (it is so dark and brooding), so dense and complex smelling that I like to think of it as the 'Caron among the Guerlains'. I can see the often quoted reference of Parure being Mitsouko with plum instead of peach as well. However, I find Parure is much more a dark rose chypré than a fruity chypré.
A few additional observations:
- the 'leather note' is woven into the complex dark rose accord with oakmoss instead of an own note to my nose.
- it's been said but true that the EdT and Extrait do not differ greatly in the overall picture. The Extrait features a big dramatic rose, which the EdT lacks to a great extent. On the other hand, this makes the EdT even more obviously chypré in comparison, also dryer and slightly more frugal and hence more straight-forward chypré (if I make sense or express myself clearly enough).
- Longevity is very good, although this refers mainly to a naturally very long drawn oakmoss final. The progression time from top through Parure main heart accord is not even two hours (EdT) resp. three hours (Extrait), before the oakmoss drydown is the sole dominant player.
- Parure is impossibly vintage and dated smelling (it's well a compliment, but a fact, too) no matter how
well preserved or fresh your jus is. I think Parure is an absolute stunner when smelled outdoors - picture sunshine, fresh crisp spring air and the smell of nature's green returning after a long and harsh winter. Parure resembles both the dark and heavy side as well as the fresh, bright new life (the dark winter season finally making room for spring).
Parure is an absolute treasure, a gem of times bygone and a very typical Guerlain, too, although very complex and dense (which prompted my Caron comparison) as such! As a chypré, I might find Parure better contrasted and therefore more interesting and appealing than Mitsouko. Still, albeit a totally different fragrance in nature, my favorite Guerlain chypré is Sous le Vent.
A truly breathtaking perfume to experience!
An opulent chypre, with a dollop of plummy sweetness in an otherwise rosy heart. The drydown is a symphony of leather, a light touch of patchouli, and gorgeous, pre-IFRA oakmoss.
It makes me purr with delight.