This rich, resinous, warm glow of a fragrance, is like the olfactory interpretation of a black, velvet cocktail dress. It's a theatrical, grande dame of a fragrance, with memorable personality, while not being shrieking and era-bound. It has the distinct, signature factor of a 1980's scent, like "Poison", with the reserved, whispering softness of a hotel soap from 1933 and the flamboyant, celebratory feel of the 20's scent that it is.
To me, the name "Arpege" couldn't be more perfect for this crackling fireside of a blend. It smells of beautiful places and joyful, social events. It smells like the dry, aged wood interior of a piano, with its polished keys. It salty-dry, yet soapy powdery scent of styrax, feels like a clean woman, dressed in a cedar-stored velvet gown or dress, warming a little, under hot lights. The creamy florals smell like the best, hard-milled, cold cream based soap. The shadowy -- almost murky -- textured greens, like herbally vetiver, evoke the feeling of standing on a veranda, looking out to the moonlit garden and grove of trees (with hidden benches, for snuggling lovers!) below. The dry, smooth, crumbly resin base notes, reminds me of the polished, sweet smell of violin rosin.
While "Arpege" contains some truly lovely, apricot-creamy florals, it's really a scent for those who love woods, resins and shimmering aldehydes. It's similar to "Mitsouko", in that it has a mossy, layered undertone of greens, herbs and tonic but where "Mitsouko" feels more like a bouquet of greens, ferns and incense, "Arpege" is mostly just sweet woods, shimmery, metallic florals and bitter incense.
That lovely, slightly bitter, dry bite is why I would settle on classifying "Arpege" as the quintessential "Oriental", while the wet, earthy mossiness of "Mitsouko" sets that squarely as "Chypre". Both have a similar heft and a romantic, otherworldy presence and feel curated, like a trunk of World travels but "Mitsouko" is sleek cat, mystery, while "Arpege" is glamour -- with a kick of sweetness. "Mitsouko" is Louise Brooks in "Prix de Beaute", while "Arpege" is Janet Gaynor in "A Star is Born".