Perfume Reviews

Reviews by Wild Gardener

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Total Reviews: 199

Givenchy Play Intense by Givenchy

Synthetic - but not excessively so; the unusual quality of PI comes from its choice of notes : red fruits, mandarin orange, powdery brown gourmand (carob flour), pink pepper and a blue steel 'lavender'; set on a conventional oriental base.

Stylistically it's a strange hybrid of gourmand, oriental, and fururist metal fougère. These are deployed in the symphonic-synthetic manner of 24, Faubourg; many narrow-range synthetics packed into a seamless composition. But the difference with PI is that its not at all concerned with the classical blandishments of Faubourg, on the contrary, it employs this synthetic style to make an appropriately avant-garde statement. With its metal skeleton, plastic skin and frizzy brown hair, PI would be ideal scent material for a Bladerunner replicant.

But, despite its artificial quality, by sheer will power it seems, this odd creature overcomes its shortcomings (linear, dominated by synthetics, designed by committee) and flaunts them as though they were assets.

On the other hand, like a replicant, PI seems to adapt to its environment and slowly evolves a more humane side as the natural-feeling oriental base finally asserts itself. The naturality of the base serves to underline just how un-natural the rest of the profile really is.

Instead of trying to disguise its synthetic nature, PI demonstrates that this quality is deliberate. Its artificiality is an artifice; something to be celebrated, not excused.

Unlike Faubourg, PI's style is absolutely in keeping with its substance and this coherence is, in the final reckoning, what makes Play Intense a success.

****
18th October, 2017 (last edited: 19th October, 2017)

Eau de Cologne d'Orsay by D'Orsay

A modest citrus cologne that murmurs sugar and spicy sweet nothings, i.e. a cologne / eau de toilette in the vein of François Coty's Eau de Coty.

Whether this bottle (poss. 1970's) smells like the original version from 1910 or 1912 is one question; but whether Coty invented this style - the cologne de toilette - or whether his 1920 release was a (much improved) copy of someone else's idea is another, bigger and more important question. One best left to a real perfume expert, my experience not being up to it, evidently... Je m'excuse.

***/*
17th October, 2017

Insensé by Givenchy

Insensé appears to have a distant relation to Cool Water: the salty undertone, the bitter fruity direction, the flat topography; but there's even more going on here which is akin to another style of perfumery. Along with Kouros and Jules, Insensé is one of a small group of musky transparent skin scents for men who want to smell good but don't necessarily want to be outed as Perfume Lovers.

Insensé is a bitter, plasticky white floral; unsweet, astringent. Its texture is shiny-smooth, like a milky white glaze on a rough earthenware pot.

Like many masculines Insensé isn't that complex, there's not much of an overt theme here. It's rather elusive, pale and shy - but somehow not introverted. There's a discrete muscularity articulated by a peppery green resin note that pushes through the musks and the flowers at the core, and this in turn is nuanced by woods and powder that allow the base to grow a little sweeter.

And that's it. Pale and bland, and piquant. Without a clear direction it can get a little monotonous. I suppose if you like Brian Eno's Music for Airports you may go for this, but if you prefer Another Green World you may find Insensé a bit boring.

***
10th October, 2017 (last edited: 12th October, 2017)
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Fleur de Rocaille by Caron

Why Caron should have felt the need to put out a modern style bitter syrup floral is understandable in terms of covering all the commercial bases - even if their offering mainly stands out from the rest by the way it smells so horrible and synthetic.

But why they should have named it Fleur de Rocaille when they already had a (hopelessly out of date) wholewheat cake and rose affair called Fleurs de Rocaille is deeply baffling.

*
10th October, 2017

Chanel Pour Monsieur by Chanel

There's a crisp precision to Pour Monsieur's opening that makes me wish it would stay frozen in time. If Henri Robert had served up just this one straight accord it could have been a work of genius, but as it stands the crisp mathematical algorithm of citrus and moss soon loses its éclat to a sweet and rather chewy chypre base.

The chypre is perfectly good; once it's developed there's nothing wrong with it but as the yellow and black butterfly mutates back into fat green caterpillar there are some difficult moments along the way.

What began with the potential to be a brilliant eau de cologne in the end turns out to be a compromised but still elegant aromatic chypre.

***/*
04th October, 2017 (last edited: 12th October, 2017)

Pour Un Homme by Caron

Metallic rosemary-lavender and sweet vanillic sandal. Pour un Homme is barely more than that. Two notes, carefully balanced, unfurling in a slow and steady evolution that increasingly blends warm with cool, chewy with hard textures, beige with blue.

Pour un Homme is for an old fashioned kind of guy. One who is modest and believes that discretion is the better part of valour... and so it should come as no surprise to find that this quiet and simple composition were in danger of being misunderstood in these days of high contrast formulae which broadcast at top volume. To underestimate this scent - just because it doesn't grab you by the nose - would be a mistake. It takes time and effort to get to know this one, (it took me quite a while to come round to it) but in the end the effort pays off.


Until Ernest Daltroff had the idea of pairing lavender with vanilla to create a masculine no one had done anything like it before. Despite the claims made for Jicky (which was originally a feminine) and some of the more dandified eaux de colognes, Pour un Homme was the first Eau de Toilette made solely for men.

For Daltroff this was a brave thing to do, some may even have thought it foolhardy, and for his business it was a gamble - a risky venture into the unknown. Men were not used to anything more than a brisk splash at shaving time which quickly faded away. For perfumers the problem was to avoid making anything for men that smelled (or lasted) like their wife's perfume. Anything effeminate which could pose a threat to a man's sense of his masculinity was to be avoided like the plague.

Anything flowery or sweet must, you would have thought, be rejected by the conservative taste of the male, and that's what makes the uptake of Caron's groundbreaking sweet lavender so remarkable. It was a huge success despite being a masculine that hugged so closely to the feminine codes. Or perhaps (in an era when most men wouldn't have been seen dead at a perfume counter) Pour un Homme was a winner precisely because it appealed to the wives, mothers and girlfriends who actually bought the stuff for their men.

Whatever the reasons behind its popularity, the secret of PuH's success with men surely lies in the subtle blend of traditional and more unusual modern odours. Lavender has longstanding associations with washing and this was the ideal candidate for introducing a perfume product into a man's daily grooming ritual - shaving, the only possible time when he could be induced to put on scent. The strategy, therefore, would be to replace the customary aftershave splash and friction with the new toilet water. To make it more acceptable to the recipient of this new fangled product, PuH opens with a sour vinegary note which is soon joined by the metallic tang of rosemary. Sour sweat and the sting of the razor give an edge to the lavender that would no doubt have been felt as reassuringly masculine by many men; not at all soft or effeminate, quite unlike the rounded pot pourri aroma of the linen closet. So far so good...

And then there is the vanilla base accord, backed up by sandalwood and amber. Sweet, yes, but who could possibly feel emasculated by the smell of toffee, cocoa and home baking; possibly just a slight regression to the oral stage of childhood dependency...? But there are no feminine flowers to scare off the wary male, just a slow evolution of subtly mingling contrasts and harmonies that he could ignore if necessary or enjoy if he chose.

PuH couldn't afford to be brash and in-yer-face like todays 'look at me' selfie style formulae. Back in 1934 Caron couldn't have been sure that men would take to wearing perfume of any kind; they had to tread carefully. This meant they had to offer something that was not too complex or difficult, something built around familiar notes, something masculine yet pleasing to women, something easy to wear yet still a little sophisticated. Something like Pour un Homme.

Even though it may feel tame by todays standards, launching this very subtle and captivating "special creation" for a man was a bold move. Caron took a chance, jumped into unknown territory and their gamble paid off. PuH became a triumphant best seller, and the house's biggest commercial success.

PuH was equally important for the wider world of perfume. It became the foundation for a whole new genre (or should that be gender?) of perfume, the one which has grown into what we now know as the masculine side of the aisle.

Pour un Homme de Caron; two chords that changed the face of perfume, two chords and a visionary nose.

*****
26th September, 2017 (last edited: 27th September, 2017)

Safari for Men by Ralph Lauren

Apple banana citrus, wood, and a green note form a crude and approximate version of PINEAPPLE; so that's Aventus right? Then there's a GINGER note that drags it towards Envy for Men territory, and the fresh aldehydic FOUGÈRE thing going on reminds me of the cool wind blowing through Tsar. In fact there's everything but the kitchen sink thrown into this one. Later, as it settles down it takes on a bit of apple pie.

In the end Safari fm is just too SWEET, and corny Seventies style for my taste.

**/*
24th September, 2017 (last edited: 27th September, 2017)

Eau de Muguet by Coty

Coty was a perfumer of great genius. He single handedly created the chypre and amassed a huge fortune from his capacity for creative vision and hard work, but he had blind spots. He once said when Jacques Guerlain does vanilla he comes up with Shalimar, but when I do it all I get is crème anglaise, custard.

He had the same problem with Lily of the Valley. Perhaps it was because he grew up in the era of naturalistic bouquets - perfumes that did little more than try to replicate the scent of real flowers - in a romantic way perhaps - but with a mind set that was fixated on realism; and without modern sythetic materials that was the most they could aspire to. Coty's first masterpiece, the delicately beautiful La Rose Jacqueminot was naturalistic. It had many nuanced facets but never strayed far from being a pink rose.

And Eau de Muguet? It's not good. It has shiny realistic Lily of the Valley leaves, and the tender pale rosy bells leeching their hearts into the mix, but it's incredibly crude. It doesn't achieve anything more than a washed out lemony and feeble pink rosiness with a slightly woody and rubbery undertone, a highly approximate likeness to the real thing. Where his best perfumes are subtle portraits, Eau de Muguet is but an illustration.

Coty lacked the molecules that modern perfumers use to recreate these inextricable flowers like muguet; this along with his incapacity to finesse the problem into the abstract (he was after all a pre-modernist) and his enormously determined egotism, left Coty with no other recourse than to compose a functional, work-a-day, and utterly uninspired rendition of muguet.

It would not be until Edmond Roudnitska came up with Diorissimo in 1956 that a decent muguet would be achieved, and even then it wasn't a soliflor but a jasmin bolstered interpretation of the flower, not a direct portrayal. For that we have to return to the incomparable delights of mother nature.

If neither Coty nor Roudnitska could crack muguet, who will? and who really wants to any more?

**
18th September, 2017 (last edited: 05th October, 2017)

Pi by Givenchy

In part this is an orange version of Le Mâle. (Actually it's closer to Fleur du Mâle even though this came first.)

Pine and tarragon attempt to lift the heavy, sickly balsamic sweetness but as these lighter notes fade it sinks more and more into an orangey vanillic blob.

Whenever I go into a service station toilet the smell of orange urinal screen reminds me of this. Pi's orange flower and honeyed balsamic elements - with their affinities to certain nether regions - would certainly make a good masking agent, and IF it were the case that Pi was a source of inspiration for the sanitiser smell this'd be a classic case of trickle down, from fine to functional, from Pi to pee.

However, all laughing and joking aside, this is so excessively 'nice' it's unpleasant, and without any redeeming edginess, it fails.

**
18th September, 2017 (last edited: 21st September, 2017)

Neon Graffiti by Jazmin Saraï

Based on a Déclaration style cardamom and a mineral - grapefruit Terre d'Hermès accord, Neon Graffiti takes the two Ellena styles and revs them up into incense and concrete overdrive.

To get inspiration for Neon Graffiti, Dana El Masri says she fed the drum and bass 'urban jungle' sound of Sunshowers by M.I.A into her synesthesic brain, and what came out the perfumery end was like she had sprayed a lime green and shit brown tag on the Osmothèque. Nice rebellion! Except almost nobody noticed. Perhaps it washed off overnight. El Masri qualifies as A Disrupter because she did this a good couple of years before Peau d'Ailleurs' more studied milkshake and concrete vision of Urban Alienation hit the streets, or rather hit the niche perfumery boutiques.

Once again perfumery is oddly out of synch with fine art. Street Art, (the art world's posh name for graffiti) was all the rage years ago and now it has properly returned to being seen as just vandalism, whereas decorated concrete seems to have only recently emerged as an edgy underground theme in the perfumosphere.

As well as the cold concrete backdrop of the Menardo & Starck, there's also an earthiness, a spicy warmth that's thrust to the fore of Neon Graffiti which gives it a more accessible feel. The warm end of the spectrum makes it more wearable, but not much so because it builds to an intensity that simply bulldozes any questions about 'plagiarism' or its 'heavy use of cardamom and incense' which threaten to unbalance the composition.

Neon Graffiti goes ahead and imposes its vision, regardless of accessibility, and it is one powerful vision. And then, with the final trick that El Masri gleaned from Ellena, it fades to next to nothing in no time.

Not exactly the Writing on the Wall, but this is evidently a woman to watch.

***/*
18th September, 2017

Jardin de Kérylos 16 by Parfumerie Generale

Fig with all the usual nuances : woody, green, milky, bitter sweet, juicy, but this isn't quite a rerun of Premier Figuier, it's more floral than that with a pink tinge from peach and a tuberose with a pronounced metallic edge. At heart it's still a fig though, and while it could work in the hot southern sun, up here in the north I tend to see fig as more room fragrance than fine perfume.

***
11th September, 2017 (last edited: 15th September, 2017)

Aqua Allegoria Flora Nerolia by Guerlain

Neroli, orange flower and jasmin. That sounds like a lovely combination of flowers, and it could be... But this is no 'hello birds, hello sky, what a beautiful day' kind of scent. The delicate neroli and petitgrain head has barely time to settle in when it's brutally assaulted by an indolic orange flower and, I would guess, jasmin sambac with their dominating crunchy dry undercurrents.

The heart of white flowers turns what could be a gentle orange cologne into a perfumey onslaught of indole, its rotting blast of tooth decay sharpened by tiny pricks of incense; these are flowers with attitude, and they bite!

Flora Nerolia is crude, yes; direct in its simplicity, undoubtedly; and it's daring, it couldn't give a damn about the rules. It overturns the structure of the floral by boosting up what is normally a polite modifier (which adds a little smoothness, or in larger quantities backbone to a pretty floral composition) until in the end the indole takes over and dominatinates like a thug.

Flora Nerolia brutally mashes up the gender codes and demands that we ignore them. You can't wear something as challenging as this and remain a perfume innocent for long, you're obliged to abandon easy gender conventions and cross into unknown territory. See it as a virago cologne, or as an old fashioned dandified floral from the pre-gendered age (if you prefer), but you won't find it easy to wear this as an ordinary cologne; that it is not.

It is extraordinary though, to find something as radical as this coming from a perfumer like Jean-Paul Guerlain - who struck me as a conservative, even establishment figure. It seems his inherent sense of rigour went completely over the top this time, leading him to produce a work that's closer in spirit to the iconoclastic oeuvre of Germain Cellier than his grandfather Jacques' romanticism.

Hardly surprising to see that something this difficult should have been culled since Jean-Paul left the helm, and that's a shame. It would make a natural jumping off point from the spiky woods if it were still around, and if a young buck were to dare...

***/*
07th September, 2017 (last edited: 20th September, 2017)

Art Collection #08 by Jacomo

Being a spicy extravert #08 is quick to grab the limelight but being composed around what I read as synthetic fruity notes it turns out to be disappointingly shallow. A one dimensional bitter-sweet black tea accord, with mainly black Pepper spice and a bit of woody amber; 'spicy chai' allegedly. It's a superficially interesting perfume but it fails because of its poor, skimpy execution.

As in life, it's often the quiet ones who turn out to have the best stories, and of the two available in one of the many discounters on the rue la Boétie in Paris, it was the least commercially successful Art Collection #02 that I found more satisfying in the end.

For this one, #08 : **
06th September, 2017
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Smoke for the Soul by By Kilian

You may be amused, you may be irritated, you may even want to get the bong out, but if you don't know what black hash smells like you won't get the joke.

And that's all Smoke for the Soul is, a joke. A devastatingly accurate portrayal of black hash ; a mere prank, not a mature fragrance idea.

Don't wear it going through customs!

***
04th September, 2017

Magic by Céline

Sophia Grojsman's cloudy pink roses are always well made and in this one there's a swirl of fruity nuances around the Milk of Magnesia floral that adds an extra layer of interest.

The real source of fascination, however, comes from the grist of coriander - patchouli in the heart. It's like meeting the cousin of Paris and finding there's something a little masculine about her that reminds you of Aromatics Elixir.

****
04th September, 2017

Y by Yves Saint Laurent

Another spiky wood - the 'roid rage syndrome of modern perfumery, this time with cough syrup and ginger.

*
31st August, 2017

cK one by Calvin Klein

CK One : that unmistakable muguet and green tea accord. Luminous and aloof, androgyne and hard ; with its pretentious manifesto 'clean is the new sexy' CK One squared the circle to become the first ever puritan perfume. No mean feat : some mean fume.

****
27th August, 2017 (last edited: 16th October, 2017)

Men's Club by Helena Rubinstein

Groucho Marx once quipped that he wouldn't join any club that would have him as a member. And after wearing this plain sketch consisting of little more than an orange coloured peppery musk I have to agree with the bandy legged cigar chomper and avow that I would never join this particular men's club if it came with a lifetime's supply of nose plugs.

**
25th August, 2017

Façonnable by Façonnable

Who needs Façonnable when you can layer any old Cool Water clone with the strident piquancy of Cerruti Image and get the same horrible result?

The packaging deserves mention if only because the box - with its fuddy-duddy crest in gold and British Racing Green, and the bottle - ripped off straight from Giorgio for Men just confirm how confused and derivative the whole thing was.

*/*
22nd August, 2017

Tentations by Paloma Picasso

Full bodied creamy pink floral with a side of apple pie. Not tempted either way.

**/*
19th August, 2017

New West for Him by Aramis

Somewhere inside this spearmint and bubblegum oriental there's an aquatic trying to get out.

Spearmint and sweet bubblegum head up the profile along with herbal and green notes, and because this accord is linked to an oriental base they create an unsympathetic environment for the airy and salty aromatics. How can a perfume be salt watery airy on the one hand and sweet dry and seductive on the other, and still be coherent? Its like trying to catch a sea breeze in a boudoir.

New West for Him was probably, in its oriental phase, rather too feminine for some young men. The spearmint bubblegum note was also perhaps too frivolous for a Youth which was becoming more and more concerned with saving the whale, protecting Gaia - mother earth, and the environment in general. The gourmand direction of NWfH seems instead more attuned to the - by then - passing era of eighties style conspicuous consumption.

It was 1988, the year that - after a massive resurgence in popularity - the Beach Boys were elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The same year the Surfing and Sun phenomenon known as Baywatch appeared for the first time on TV, and in perfumery Cool Water was launched. Together with others like l'Eau d'Issey and CK One it would sweep away the old school of Giorgio and Poison with a new wave of puritan perfumery.

In a time when all things marine were influencing popular culture, it was that other, distinctive and more legible aquatic that cleaned up. Cool Water rode high on the wave of an emerging post-eighties backlash that just wanted simplicity and cleanliness from a perfume. New West was too complex, a confused gourmand - oriental / aquatic which failed to articulate the spirit of the times and got left behind, largely to sink without trace.

***

Disclaimer : This review was done on a 7ml miniature with no box. The thick juice is amber coloured; it could be nearly thirty years old. It may be an original formula - some people say NWfH was reformulated.
On the other hand, this is for sure; in a head to head with vintage Cool Water, NWfH was noticeably different in overall character and clarity of the head notes, and this influenced the slant of my review. WG
09th August, 2017

Rive Gauche pour Homme by Yves Saint Laurent

It's not certain. Exactly where does the sweet and classy charm of this suave 70's style fougère come from? Is it the hint of patchouli mildew that makes an ordinary grey barbershop into something more intriguing?

Knowing La Collection to be a reformulation, the critic resolved to approach the juice in a spirit of objective scepticism. All resistance proved to be futile however as any doubts were effortlessly swept aside by its colossal loveliness - like a gnat in a blizzard.

The easy sophistication of this revised version (composed by Jacques Cavallier under the brilliant art direction of Tom Ford) completely ravaged the heart of the critic.

He is, consequently forced to admit that (whether or not the work was motivated by sly pastiche, retro heroics, or is simply a case of Watch out Azzaro!) todays Rive Gauche pour Homme is not only one of the most classically elegant and civilised masculines on the planet; thanks to the aforementioned fusty nuance it becomes, for the critic, one of the most chic Man Perfumes to be found anywhere in the known universe.

In the light of such a worthy opponent, Azzaro aka King of the Fougères, really should be a tad concerned.

****/*
01st August, 2017

Fahrenheit Absolute by Christian Dior

Although Absolute tried to replicate the schwarz und stark gloom of its outlawed ancestor, its completely reconstructed formula came nowhere near to conjuring up the magnificent petrol and violet leaf black hole at the heart of the original that made it such a masterpiece.

In this iteration Fahrenheit takes on the guise of a Haribo motor mechanic - fruit goo and engine oil molasses, cucumber, incense and peru balsam. Then after that, there's a completely novel base of sweet milky-sour myrrh.

Its astonishing how such a composition can, by picking out a few key features and fitting them into a completely different structure, evoke just enough of the old magic to nearly have you believing again.

But, when put head to head with the original they are clearly nothing like each other.


Bringing out a tiny precious sample of vintage Fahrenheit to compare with Absolute has made me sad to be reminded of just what we've lost : as Carrie Underwood laments

Once you've tasted a love that strong,
you can't go back and you can't settle on
anything less, and that's what gets me,
its like having wine after whisky.

**/*
27th July, 2017

Lalique pour Homme Equus by Lalique

Pale sweet powdery woods - with a tang : a bit like Dior Homme invited to Gin and Tonics at the Polo Club (his having renounced the cocoa).

Doesn't quite have the sophistication (or stamina) to gain membership... not a bad sort though.

***
23rd July, 2017 (last edited: 24th July, 2017)

Gingembre by Roger & Gallet

On its own, ginger oil smells flat and dry, not so much like the root and not very interesting, so Jacques Cavallier built on this core material by extending it in a variety of ways.

Gingembre is called an eau but it isn't a citrus - its no heat busting fresh cologne. It is however, warm, balsamic and lightly spiced which makes it feel like an old fashioned Eau de Cologne Ambrée given a make over.

Not bad but it doesn't last.

***/*
19th July, 2017

Euforia by Atkinsons

Vinegary rose on a jumbled set of notes, bits sticking out all over. Unpleasantly sour, poorly composed, just plain bad.

Liable to cause hysteria in children and animals.

*
13th July, 2017 (last edited: 14th July, 2017)

Modern Classic by Brocard

One half of Modern Classic is a shiny warped out syrup of black cherries while the other is matt and pale, a milky praline with vanilla and salty notes and these come wrapped around a core of orange flower and jasmin.

This description may sound banal but in toto the effect is oddly compelling, like a glossy hyper-realist painting that looks like a giant photo; strangely plastic, larger than life.

The balance is great - to begin with, its perfectly judged, but persistence isn't great on skin - its only on cloth that it really holds up. So, if you do want to smell like a fruity nouvelle cuisine dessert on acid get this on your clothes : and as the late great film critic Barry Norman was wont to say ... and why not.

****
11th July, 2017 (last edited: 18th July, 2017)

What About Adam by Joop!

Blackcurrant bud, grapefruit, tomato leaf; an effervescent rainbow of colours. A bit like a meditation on Eau de Campagne, cut off at the knee and transposed into a cologne.

The tutti-frutti and green acid freshness of What about Adam is a model for how the aggressive top accords of the spiky woods genre (Invictus, Sauvage etc) could have been handled. The impeccable quality - and treatment - of volatile materials is what makes this pocket masterpiece so good. It never allows the sharpness to escalate into an all out assault on the senses (in the way that synthetics do) but keeps them hovering, tantalising, for as long as possible without ever really resorting to the faint amber base.

Every perfumery school should have some WaA to train their young noses on. If they did, perhaps one day, one of them may rework it and take it in a new direction. But in the mean time, Joop! might see the light of day and bring back this rare gem. We live in hope.

****/*
07th July, 2017

Bouquet Impérial by Roger & Gallet

A petitgrain and geranium floral bouquet on a base of powdery amber and glossy musk.

There are also some fleeting citrus notes on top and a bitter dark bergamot, with lavender, jasmin (and maybe neroli) floralisers, and even a herbal note comes through in the background, along with a praline-like vanilla that pops out from time to time later on.

This makes for a decent if rather straightforward orange powdery affair, and the quality is ok (except for a metallic undertone that emerges later on), so if there's nothing wrong with Bouquet Impérial why the neutral rating? The reason isn't down to this specific example but to the Amber Eau de Cologne in general.

At first, the idea of mixing Cologne and Amber seems to be a good one; orange - bergamot - amber could potentially be a harmonious structure to build on, but in practice the spirit of cologne and amber are diametrically opposed. The sweet heaviness of amber tends to pull citrus down and rob it of its éclat, the light sparkling notes of citrus are in danger of being submerged by the dense enveloping amber. Instead of a lively contrast they cancel each other out. In the case of Bouquet Impérial, with its citrus sparkle muted and the sensual fullness of amber scaled back, the resulting compromise is largely a middling, bland, dry-sweet powderiness with an orange direction thats somewhere between citrus and amber.

The Eau de Cologne Ambrée enjoyed some popularity in the earlier part of the last century. On the back of new production methods, materials like vanillin enjoyed a massive fall in cost and hence a huge rise in their use by perfumers, especially at the lower end of the market. Amber Eaux were cheap and easy to make and legacy bottles made by obscure brands can still be found occasionally on the flea markets of Paris. I have one or two and they don't smell that much different from the Roger & Gallet, just less finely crafted.

Bouquet Imperial was not bad, if a little dull, but to me this type of Eau de Cologne Ambrée smells stuffy and dated. It evokes dusty images of Tsarist princesses in floor length gowns. No surprise then that this outmoded museum piece has been discontinued.

(For a good Eau de Cologne Ambrée the soap made by Mont St Michel is pretty hard to beat.)

***
28th June, 2017

Eau de Coty by Coty

For his first job in perfumery, François Coty was put to work to knock up a cologne for a small Paris pharmacy where he was employed as lab assistant. His boss was eventually so impressed with the results that he sent young François off to train at Chiris, a prestigious oils house in Grasse.

Years later, when he came to think about composing his own Eau de Cologne, Coty was already a master perfumer with ground breaking works such as La Rose Jacqueminot, L'Origan and Chypre under his belt. Coty was evidently not content to follow convention and present just another citrus eau to the market, he wanted to strike out in a new direction, and in composing his cologne he brought to it the same level of care and creativity as he had lavished on his celebrated perfumes.

To see what it was Coty produced that was so different from the competition I am going to compare Eau de Coty (1920) with three other venerable colognes that were around at the time and are still available today: 4711 (1792), Roger & Gallet Extra Vielle (1806) and Guerlain's Eau de Cologne du Coq (1894). Even though its impossible to know what the original formulae smelled like (vintage samples are extremely rare and anyway colognes are highly susceptible to decay) its still possible to compare Eau de Coty with the modern versions of the others.

Broadly summarising them, this is how they stack up. 4711 is largely bland sweet powder with a slight citrus tang; Extra Vielle is a pithy citrus of moderate strength over a pale and powdery bland body, and it has a little floral and some pronounced bitterness; and Eau de Cologne du Coq is a delightful sparkly citrus accord with a pinch of herbes de provence, set to sweet powder and florals. This 'good cologne with a drop of Jicky in it' as Luca Turin calls it is definitely the best of the three. In fact the Guerlain's finely wrought citrus head is better than that of the Coty but its base is inconsequential.

Eau de Coty on the other hand keeps its crackling mossy lemon and citrus verbena head largely intact as it transitions into a lovely floral heart not shy of expression. This then fades into the most ravishing sweet brown woody and long lasting base.

One of the strengths of Eau de Coty comes from the quality of its neroli oil, which to quote Wikipedia is sweet honeyed and somewhat metallic with green and spicy facets, and it is these notes which form the core of the profile. Add to this some jasmin absolute, an herbaceous verbena accord and top grade Sicilian lemon with mossy overtones, and you have - broadly speaking, the top half of Eau de Coty.

The real brilliance of Coty, however, was to pair this with a fully worked out base. By this bold move he took a good citrus cologne and turned it into a (more or less) fully worked out perfume structure with a wonderfully satisfying drydown. The base gives the composition the stability of an Eau de Toilette, and truly impressive longevity (several days on paper) while the second half still manages to release the odd whiff of citrus from time to time. This makes the structure logically coherent, but it pays the price for this intransigence - the crisp lemon citrus can feel a little bit out of place against the warm round notes of the base. Like certain other of Coty's works the quality is impeccable but it somehow lacks that final degree of perfection.



Before Coty, even great perfumers like Aime Guerlain were essentially rewriting their own versions of the Eau de Cologne. Each of the iterations referred to here was an improvement on the last but none of them sought to change the fresh and fleeting structure of the cologne. The reason for this reluctance was historical.

In an 18th century book the Manuel de Beauté, Louise d'Alcq asserted that the Eau de Cologne was 'universally accepted' (by polite society). "It bothers nobody" she wrote "its perfume pleases everyone" [quoted from Le Roman des Guerlain by perfumery historian Elisabeth de Feydeau]. The social convention of the time was that cologne was held to be the sillage of the chaste woman while patchouli marked the odour of the courtesan. It was in defiance of this, by then, rather dated idea that Coty dared to combine the wholesome citrus cologne with the dark animalic perfumes of the night. Until then, ne'er the twain had met and he evidently felt the time was right for a rapprochement.

Even though he became a powerful industrialist and one of the richest men in France, Coty always remained something of an outsider [François Coty by Ghislaine Sicard-Picchiottino, Albiana Press]. He seems to have shown an equally scant regard for received perfumery wisdom as high French society had for the arriviste; low born Corsican, merchant in a world of Old Money.

But Coty was self assured and forceful, as well as being a naturally gifted perfumer. The cologne form had ossified, it hadn't really changed since the days of Jean-Marie Farina and Coty was going to shake it up by showing how it could be developed after its initial burst of citrus. To this end he forged a beautiful base of vetiver, patchouli, vanillin, woods, moss, eugenol, and probably elemi resin (along with who knows what else) to complement the citrus and floral accords of the first half.

The resulting composition was Eau de Coty - the first Cologne de Toilette. With its revolutionary dark Perfume base it went way beyond the purview of any previous citrus composition. Not only is it revolutionary its also very beautiful. The further Eau de Coty goes into the depths of its resonant brown base the more ravishing it becomes; a veritable masterclass in base construction.


The innovative form of Eau de Coty, lemon centred citrus on a demerara vetiver base, turned up years later in Lubin's excellent Eau Neauve and the vintage version is a good substitute for those who would like to know what the Coty smells like.

Eau de Coty's influence spreads much further and wider than straight up copies however. It can also be felt in the many fresh cologne type flankers that appear in the summer. More significantly many original compositions have developed Coty's idea further. A few of the more notable examples are CK One, Pleasures for Men, Declaration Cologne and to a lesser extent 1881 for Men.

It is very sad that Coty's brilliantly original composition is no longer known and enjoyed today but it couldn't be made now - the amount of moss would disbar it from production.

This is not only a great perfume, it is historically important too. It represents the birth of a new chapter in the history of perfumery - the point where the Eau de Cologne hybridised into the Cologne de Toilette, which would later give rise to the modern Fresh Eau de Toilette genre. Every fresh summer flanker is genealogically a distant descendant of Coty's visionary work.

As the product of salutary colognes first encounter with the dark seductive perfume, Eau de Coty is Perfumery's missing link.

*****
13th June, 2017