I was lucky enough to find a small bottle of this vintage perfume, with its intaglio black glass stopper and art deco lacquer-and-paper box. The extrait itself had darkened to the color of old cognac, and I wasn't sure what to expect. I wasn't disappointed: Pretexte announced itself with a rush of fine leather, followed by a spicy-herbal, ambery warmth. Sometimes, as the scent unfolds, I can detect a floral note, sometimes a whiff of vanilla. It seems very much a fragrance of its time (late 1930s) and place (France) and that's a good thing. For an approximation, imagine Messe de Minuit or Black Cashmere, left to mellow in an expensive handbag, and you might get some sense of Pretexte.
Black Cashmere is an important winter perfume for me. It doesn't come out of the drawer before October, but in cold weather, its dense, spicy, resinous depth becomes very appealing. I'm fond of incense scents: Messe de Minuit, Avignon, Angelique Encens, and L'Air du Desert Marocain are all favorites. But they are rather spare, and for me, Black Cashmere has a touch of caramel that rounds out the piney/rosemary notes, making it addictive. I don't find it as fleeting as some others.
While I'm not a fan of other Lauder fragrances, this one was perfect for the April day it arrived in the mail. To me, it smells like all the soft flowers--apple blossoms, grape hyacinths, tulips--in bloom right now, with water-splashed violets and a whiff of fresh raspberries. I think it would lovely for spring and summer, lovely on a young girl. As fresh as a cotton dress.
After all of Ellena's journeying through Egypt for lotuses and green mangoes, I was anxious to try this scent. It was a disappointment, then, to discover that, on me, it smelled like the urine of someone who has eaten a large quantity of grapefruit--rind and all. I waited, and a half-hour or so later, a marshmallowy note (the lotus, maybe?) replaced the stinky grapefruit--and promptly disappeared.
A big, beautiful fragrance. I tried this once on the advice of an opera-singer friend, and just had to laugh--it was such a mismatch, I felt I was walking around all day in costume. This requires a bold personality and serious decolletage. Hard to find, but worth seeking out, if you are a diva.