Balsamic, mossy peach with some aldehydic fatty-ness beneath. This feels like it wants to be a big shoulder pad affair, but it also feels older and therefore more restrained. Some of the opening fruit notes fade right away, and a musty sandalwood floats to the top and lingers there. It’s a fruity chypre on a strict diet. Although it starts out as enticingly complicated, it devolves into something moribund, vague, and gaunt entirely too fast. Not awful by any stretch, but it the lacks the balls of the fiercer femmes.
While others have clearly handled it over the years, Edmond Roudnitska’s fingerprints can still be found on Rochas Femme. Even the current reformulation retains traces of that animalic warmth and oddly compelling/repellent overripe fruit accord Roudnitska would later hone in Le Parfum de Thérèse and Diorella.
Today’s Rochas Femme is a spicy, fruity chypre of considerable weight, its top notes intensely lactonic and its base notes rich in labdanum. The fearsome, animalic cumin note so often commented upon in other reviews hardly registers to my nose, and anyone expecting the current version of Femme to pack the kind of cumin and civet wallop found in Roudnitska’s Eau d’Hermes will be heartily relieved (or disappointed, depending upon inclination). I do not know the vintage Femme, but what remains of the scent today is probably less interesting and daring, but also more versatile and wearable. It’s also hilariously mislabeled, for as others have noted, Femme is a perfectly comfortable scent for men. More than anything though, the pleasant, if toothless Rochas Femme leaves me very curious to try the original formula.
Rochas Femme would be interesting if only for the fact that it is a great battle-axe of perfumery. It originated during a time of rations and war, it has survived a number of formulations, and it's survived trend and fashion, no mean thing. But Femme is interesting other reasons. It is an early work of the the noted 20th-century perfumer Edmond Roudnitska, and it is an early and stellar example of the dark fruity chypre, one of the best styles of 20th-century perfumery.
From castoreum to methyl ionone (the chemical Roudnitska apparently made use of when he found it in a factory during WW II) to oakmoss, Femme has had its ingredient list maimed over the decades. I can’t say how much the current model resembles the original, which was apparently quite a dark delicacy. But what I own is a parfum de toilette in a one ounce round bottle (the "Byzance" bottle) that may or may not be from the 1990s. I've also had a few carded samples from an old perfume shop of what was labeled eau de parfum. They smell similar enough to my nose. I suspect Femme's saving grace has been it's dark, boozy plum note. It is enhanced by a cumin note that I believe was ostensibly added to replace animalic elements as they became unavailable. Here Femme is luckier than many of the other animalic perfumes to have been reformulated. The woody cumin works fits the darkness of the fruit. Used strictly as a spurious animalic, a cumin note is generally unsuccessful. Reformulations that use this sort of crude bait and switch are one of the reasons reformulation is so demonized.
Look at the great mid-20th century chypres, with their great lung-buckets full of oakmoss and other toxins. If you line up Miss Dior, Ma Griffe, Miss Balmain and Jolie Madame the vintage and current models, it's hard to see the modern bottles as anything other than a fall from greatness. Femme and the other fruity chypres of the time appear to have enough grit and chutzpah to survive the criminalization of oakmoss. To my nose Femme as well as Guerlain Mitsouko and the underestimated Y by YSL, are in better shape currently than the others mentioned above.
A well-done reformulation certainly helps, but Femme's other advantage is context. Forget the old chypres, Femme could be seen today as a smart, boozy version of the generally vapid fruity floral. Femme fits right in line with Badgley Mischka by Badgely Mischka.
Femme isn't what she used to be, but who among us is? I hope I can find a context in which I'll still shine as she does at her age. She's a tough old broad and I'm still honored to wear la Vieille Femme.
I adore Femme. To my nose this is a peachy chypre. Yes there is a slightly skanky cumin note but it is not overstated in my view and makes Femme all the more interesting. The cumin note lends a distinctly intimate feel to Femme and I understand why the previous reviewer gets 'dirty underwear'.
Call me a pervert, but I rather enjoy a wiff of something in that direction and those who like the slightly funky side of L'air de Rien and Agent Provocateur may also enjoy Femme.
The cumin note is prominent in the opening but is less so in the dry down. The dry down is woodsy, mossy chypre. I would draw comparisons with Yvresse (more obviously fuity/floral) and 31 Rue Cambon. I find Femme utterly comforting and enveloping.
11th January, 2013 (last edited: 21st March, 2013)
I found this fragrance to be nasty, oppressive, and downright vulgar. One time on a shopping trip with my boyfriend we went to a fragrance shop and upon sniffing this my boyfriend had to leave the shop. On the way back to his house he actually pulled over and started gagging, as the test strip we had used had actually brushed the scent on his nose.
When we got home all he could say was it smelled like dirty underwear.
I cannot imagine wearing anything that would get that reaction from anybody. So tonileefiore, you weren't the only one to get ill while experiencing this vile stuff.