Perfume Reviews

Reviews by HauteParfumGourmand

Total Reviews: 2

Bal à Versailles by Jean Desprez

Copied from my Fragrantica review ~2018

-BASED ON THE ORIGINAL 60's FORMULA (15ml extrait)- (Apparently BaV was a reissue of "debutante a versailles", allegedly released in France in 1941, but then marketed for international release in 1958. BaV was most likely an improvement to the original due to the constraints of wartime conflict and trading difficulties being lifted, over time the quality of ingredients disposable to the perfumer would have been restored)

I was so so lucky to find this a few months ago, a pristinely preserved 15ml, still wrapped in its golden silk rope. The jus (no evaporation) was a light golden orange (golden yellow when in front of light), not a dark brown like I have seen of the ill-preserved 70s-80s vintages. It only takes me the smallest dab from the end of my finger to get the full effect. A lovely earthy, dark bergamot that has a very distinct but pleasant petrol facet, far removed from the more brisk and linear bergamot in today's compositions. This perfume is full of contrasts being melded together and smoothed over perfectly, the civet is the star of the show, it eases the bergamot's potency as the perfumes settles into a slightly herbal state, sinking further into an exceptional bouquet of orange blossom, rose, jasmine and ylang ylang. The spiciness of the ylang plays well with a tickle of eugenol, reinforcing the deep bouquet even further. The herbal element resurfaces, with a strange slight sourness, but not off-putting as a contrasting castoreum-like leatheriness appears, smoothed over by the civet. At this point a powdery diffusive nitromusk element also shows up, feeling like an animated cloud puffing from my wrist, all from this exceptionally tiny dab. As the bouquet and herbal spiciness melts away, a very sudden animalic earthiness takes over, there was not just nitromusk here, but a nicely diluted genuine deer musk essence! As the nitromusk puffiness softens, the real McCoy becomes earthier still, gaining a sweetness of its own before the resinous base fights for presence, with a whisper of velvety rooty orris, and subtle earthiness from patchouli, oakmoss and vetiver. At this stage the perfume has pushed the boundaries often, trying to repel you at times but you can't help but be drawn in, its the perfect chaos, completely balanced despite being feral in its own way. The resinous accord comprising of mostly vanilla, labdanum and subtle ambergris eventually runs its course, the party is over, at least you think it is, except the musk never left. At this point it is a exceptionally soft, dirty, slightly sweet muskiness hitting a soft patch of soil, this animated furry quality is different from the nitromusk, it blends with your skin and practically becomes one with you. You have to twist the angles of your wrist and nose to switch between extremely gentle earthiness and slight sweet feral.

Projection was strong at first and became a skin scent within a few hours (very good considering it was a tiny tiny dab), longevity of the perfume approximately 16 hours, longevity of the deer musk afterwards however, its been about two days and after enough showers, hygiene and chemical soap, it seems to have gone.

Overall this is one of the best perfumes I have ever smelled, I cannot speak for the slightly modified 70's vintage (check out MdM's descriptions on Basenotes), but the 80's onwards is more nagcham incense with no animated qualities or as much "animal" in it. The American version (00s onwards?) cannot hold a candle to the original in my frank opinion, it just lacks the magic and the richness overall, lacking in the florals by comparison, and the musk is more a linear powder to me, oh well.

Apart from the florals, the main component that blew me away was the animal essences, all of them extremely smooth and well dosed, the deer musk from what I have read to have been used at the time was the Tonkin/Tonquin variety from Vietnam , I would say it is more smooth, refined and less saccharine sweet than regular Himalayan musk, and does not have as distinct a chocolatey sweetness that Siberian musk has (I have sniffed those two types of deer musk from aged tinctures abroad, ageing before the CITES rulings). Although historically Tonkin was considered to be the most prized musk for perfume, I think that the Siberian variety with its more pronounced chocolate facet would appeal today, if dosed correctly of course. Even the synthetic nitromusk was an eyeopener, as I had no major reference point for it, considering that it has been barely used in a couple decades. I do feel guilty about how good these materials smell, especially when they meld together like they do in BaV.

Dare I say I believe this is an improvement of accords in other vintages, the civet in BaV is dosed far better than I have smelled in fragrances like shocking (also with the spice there is a small nod to L'Origan/LHB). In that regard I believe the civet in BaV to the civet in shocking is like comparing the work of Jacques Guerlain to Coty, what Coty did as a rough sketch with harsher tones and accords Jacques smoothed out, gave a soft focus to, and depending on your viewpoint, made it infinitely more luxurious. And this is coming from a guy touching his 20's, so believe it or not perfumes like this really can appeal to anyone, just depending on memories or emotional connections to the many many reference points in this perfume. Even after this ramble there will probably be odds and ends I have forgotten to mention, it really is something else.

Addendum: I thought the deer musk was gone for good but if I focus and inhale harshly it is still faintly there, rubbing alcohol doesn't seem to remove it either, oh dear!
17th February, 2019

Russian Musk by Areej le Doré

In some cases I feel this fragrance has been misunderstood (subjectivity aside), in terms of how "modern" it is. If anything, it's predecessor "Siberian Musk" was comparatively more modern. It had an oakmoss illusion that is more akin to the "neo" Chypre structure (which have actually been around since the late 60's, see the trend starters Paco Rabanne Calandre & Guerlain Chamade) but SM does not include substantial doses of evernyl, which played a prominent role into the 70's onwards' "oakmoss bombs". Many vintage Chypre perfumes we romanticise from those decades actually contained exceptionally little amounts of oakmoss, but were mostly evernyl based with the inclusion of tree moss, phenols and quinolines at varying dosages (whether Mitsouko was tinkered with during this Chypre revolution I do not know). One of the reasons that we perceive the evernyl nowadays is due to tree moss and little amounts of oakmoss being tinkered with, as well as the tinkering of citrus oils, eugenol related molecules being restricted, other base note fixatives etc etc, so it becomes harder to achieve the same effect.

And how does Russian Musk stand up to it's predecessor? Well, in my opinion it is superior. It does not have the vegetal musk attar to boost the deer musk which is what made SM more animalic IMO.

Without trying to sound argumentative, I think there has been a misunderstanding in the concern that these perfumes with real musk in are not hugely animalic. It is strange to think it would be as animalic as sniffing from the pod or even the tincture. One of the key players that I think has been overlooked (and isn't talked about as much compared to oakmoss tinkering) are the citruses, particularly the bergamot. To my nose, the bergamot used in here is the proper kind, not the furocoumarin/bergaptene stripped version (and I did get one small dark spot on my arm a day or so after wearing this, so it's understandable why it's regulated in the EU (although I think there should be warnings rather than mandatory restrictions). This type of bergamot is powerful. Combine the smell of a fraction of pleasantly sweet petrol, slightly acidic sweetness of American brand "froot loops", dark earthiness, slightly bitter lemon rind, and mandarin. In comparison, the FC free we are used to is nowhere near this complex or penetrating and far more volatile. This is one of the reasons why, along with the equally lovely lemon note (also being held down by proper base note fixatives), the opening of RM is long lasting in terms of citrus.

This penetrating opening and the nature of true unadulterated bergamot is what actually helps prevent the deer musk from becoming totally animalic, I dare say if you smelled various vintage formulas (pre 80's) blended fresh today, you might get a similar effect of animal essences being rounded out by the citrus components, and being shocked that the era in which these oils became tampered with smell far more sharp and piercing in terms of animalic-ness.

So after this ramble, what is there to say? This perfume is not like a 70's oakmoss/evernyl bomb. It is truer to an early 20th century Chypre, with proper oakmoss that is rich but not shouting like the aforementioned sub-genre, proper bergamot, a big orange blossom/neroli heart with indolic jasmine-like qualities, tempered by a touch of rose. A deft touch of eugenol-ic nutmeg spice. Ever so slight non-cosmetic powder from tonka and smooth sandalwood. A labdanum-esque dry distilled amber, the resinous aspects being reinforced by the fir and pine which at first contributed to the complex opening, then turning resinous and slightly smokey. Proper patchouli and vetiver that supports the oakmoss instead of filling in for it as you see in actual modern Chypres. I only detect a little (but very judicious use of) tree moss and galbanum, which provide a little lift as the perfume develops, and the cypress turns cedary on me.

This is a true Chypre through and through (in some respects it can be more like the traditional cypriot concept which predates Chypre de Coty, some sources differ on whether Coty used oakmoss absolute or some form of "infusion"), and it can very easily confuse you. With the proper bergamot opening, the linaloolish aspects can trick you to think Fougere at first, or rosewood. Once the bergamot eventually starts to step aside as well as the beautiful 3D orange blossom, the natural absence of them hours into the evaporation curve can trick you into thinking oriental and dark, but the truth is still Chypre. It is the best of both worlds in terms of both having the characteristic Chypre abstraction and richness, but having just enough flags to be able to analyse how each component fits, the role they play also. The inclusion of aoud also reinforces the longevity of the perfume, on my skin it is more of a characteristic thickness that seamlessly melds with the other materials.

There is so much more I feel like I have not said, I will probably edit this review in the future. Apologies if this review turned word salad or repetitive, this perfume and its wormhole through time is like a drug to me. Addictive from furocoumarin beginning to oakmoss and musk finish. I am not one for aromatherapy, but this elegant perfume feels like tiny fireworks of pleasure inside the nose in places (not in the aldehydic way) and it grips the psyche.

Edit 1: The animalic and clean contrast of the musk makes you realise why nitromusks were so readily used as a replacement for deer musk, the facets aren't the same of course, but a little textural feeling and an important part of the musk profile. To my nose Adam has processed this Siberian-region musk and made it into a more magical Vietnamese tonkin grade musk, a perfect balance of facets rather than an overt sweet chocolate or excessive urinous facets. If some people wanted this fragrance to be more mossy, then I'd say decant some into an atomiser and add evernyl and quinoline to preference if a more green/leathery bite is needed.

Now to ramble on about the oakmoss, which I think is an under-appreciated part for being not as excessive as vintage perfumes that used materials like evernyl to boost the mossy nuances. Combined with the touch of tree moss, there is a sense of forest floor, but also a lovely leatheriness and savoury-sweetish black liquorice feel, far more complicated than just "forest floor". This is only heightened further by the deer musk, whose animalic side also has a smooth leathery facet, which is more noticeable during the last few hours of the evaporation curve as the oakmoss and musk become the only noticeable elements.

For such a complex perfume, I feel that the approachability of Russian Musk is understandable, especially with the embracing opening. I think Chypres have been romanticised as being almost like marmite, in which case any quinoline can have a very love-or-hate reaction, depending how they are dosed. The original Chypre de Coty parfum I think is actually more tame compared to its children, I can imagine a sunny bergamot opening making it very approachable, it was popular for a reason. I'd say leather focused chypres would be closer to the "defiant" / love it or hate it Chypre romanticisation. Quite a few vintages would have been somewhat mass appealing in the context of the times in which they were created, otherwise they wouldn't live in infamy today.

Edit 2: Recently noticed a dark fruity furocoumarin smell during a shower about 20 hours after applying. Apart from the dot on the arm that one time, my skin hasn't had a random dermal reaction or sensitivity to UV. I appreciate the citrus oils used all the more now, the bergamot lasts insanely long compared to the vacuum distilled type, shame the traditional type isn't used in most perfumes anymore to a significant degree.
15th July, 2018 (last edited: 17th March, 2019)