Perfume Reviews

Reviews of French Line by Révillon

Total Reviews: 10
French Line is a lark of 1980's design: it holds itself to the barbaric bergamot opening and heavy moss thump of most 80's powerhouse masculines, but it doesn't roar with civet, castoreum, styrax, or heavy woods. Instead, French Line relies on a dark floral heart and uncommonly forward-thinking blend of citrus and coconut to give it a unique character which stands out without needing to shout. Sadly, Révillon Frères would cease to exist after the venerable fur maker and perfumer was absorbed into the Cora chain of French "hypermarkets" around 1982 (think Walmart in scope), and then spun off into the Cora-Révillon Group just to have a shell company to sell it's products outside of the Cora stores. Some time after the turn of the millennium, this whole venture ceased to exist and Révillon perfumes all poofed from existence outside of unused old stock. This masculine was released two years after this corporate absorption, so we should count ourselves lucky it exists at all. French Line's leathery dry down gets compared to Antaeus (1981) quite a bit, but I don't really see it personally, as the "fruitiness" of French Line never goes away and thus this never gets to play dirty. To be honest, it's almost a dandy scent, much like the later Azzaro Acteur (1989), with a prominent rose note floating throughout the entire wear, but French Line is actually sweeter and even darker than that later Azzaro mystery, with a stronger leather component to boot. French Line is indeed very French, and not afraid to flaunt it with it's historic title, as the SS Normandie, one of the most celebrated cruise lines ever built (Saint-Nazaire 1932), was often just referred to as "The French Line" itself since it was the flag ship, being seized and renamed the USS Lafayette by the US during WWII before it sadly caught fire and capsized at a Hudson River dock in 1942. The bottle's singular red stripe and overall design mimics the motif of the ship, which is really cool.

This one opens with typical 80's bergamot but also some juicy lemon. The rose and coconut are apparent right away even though the former is in the heart and latter in the base, forming an odd ghost note of black cherry schnapps, which immediately makes this striking as no typical 1980's masculine. From there, artemisia, basil, coriander and honey form the rest of the opening. The heart note of that very aggressive rose is joined by an almost equally aggressive carnation, with orris root, jasmine, and caraway softening things up in that classic French floral bouquet way. If you couldn't tell, this one really isn't a "man's man" kind of masculine perfume, and has very fuzzy gender lines, if any. Leather, subtle amber, musk, restrained oakmoss and only a slight patchouli note mingle with that extraordinary coconut in the base, and when the whole thing lays to rest comfortably on skin, one might almost feel delicious. I wouldn't exactly call this a prototype gourmand, but with honey, lemon, and coconut well... you get my point. French Line isn't a go-getter, and it doesn't pound you over the head with sillage, but rather just hums along nicely, being dark, juicy, leathery, and very sensual without the raw lust of it's peers. It's the powerhouse with performance measured in stamina and technique rather than brute force, and is definitely dinner date material rather than night club sex juice. If you're going to take somebody dancing in French Line, it had better be a ballroom or a swing dance. I find the leather is very restrained here, another oddity given it's time of release, and compares very favorably to more suede-like modern leather compositions. There's no nose tinge in the leather note at all, and alongside the immaculate blending of moss, musk, and amber, almost becomes a smaller part of a larger whole, much like Maxim's Pour Homme, coincidentally another ode to French history made in the 1980's, but that's the only way in which they compare. This is much more of a rose-dominated scent otherwise, so fans of the elusive masculine rose genre take note. The coconut is awesome too. Think I mentioned that already. Oh well, it's so strange and beautiful, I'm mentioning it again.

In conclusion, French Line is one weird little chypre. It has gourmand notes, it has floral notes, it has lots of traditional French class and structure, bound into the body of a beating, throbbing 1980's masculine. The commanding bergamot/leather/moss triad are forced to engage in mortal combat with more charismatic honey, lemon, coconut, and rose, with no clear victor in sight. It's 1930's Clark Gable teleported into 1984 France, and forced to trade in Brooks Brothers duds for gaudy 80's Haute Couture. He's still quite keen on keeping his dapper appearance and gentile manner, but he's working with 1980's materials and making the best of a situation for which he's unprepared. That to me is the nature of French Line: a legacy fragrance made with what were modern sensibilities for it's era, giving it uncharacteristic amounts of class and poise compared to it's competition, but also angular dynamics, thrusting it into the kind of obscurity deserving of a cult following, especially now that both it and Révillon itself are just historical anecdotes for collectors to wage fiscal war over on auction sites. This is another one that I say could easily be re-released as a niche scent to widespread acclaim. Definitely for fans of the aforementioned Azzaro Acteur, Paco Rabanne Ténéré (1988), or even something like Penhaligon's Hammam Bouquet (1872). Coty would try something like this more than 20 years later when they made Stetson Black (2005), but it's just a pale shadow of this idea. Now if you excuse me, my cruise is about to depart.
15th March, 2018
My take on French Line is very much in line with drsaid’s, as he expressed it below. (And speaking of drsaid, after an absence myself, I see that he has not added a review in a year, which is a loss.) Since I disagree with nothing in that characteristically precise review, I will just elaborate on two details of this successful composition.

First, the carnation note: Why is the smell of the classic male nosegay of old -- “clove-pinks” or carnations – so absent in perfumery today? Here the carnation is only part of a harmonious whole, but it is distinct enough...and carnation’s current rarity makes this note seem all the more bold.

Second, coconut. Whereas today the use of coconut often is relegated to fragrances that seek to channel the vapid and dippy beach bunny vibe of Gidget and Annette Funicello, French Line shows the use of coconut in an unmistakably masculine fragrance from the mid-1980s. It is merely a blending element that contributes to the plush rounder features that makes timeless what might otherwise be a time capsule from the powerhouse go-for-the-glands era. (In this regard, it oddly reminds me of Guerlain’s feminine Terracotta Le Parfum, where coconut is subtly used to soften the sparkling zest just enough to make the composition all the more charming. Going further afield, the wine analogue might be the use of Viognier, a white grape, in the reds of Côte-Rôtie.)

In these two regards at least, carnation and coconut, it seems that the march of history – that great and often merciful aesthetic trash compactor – has mistakenly minimized what surely should be reclaimed.
17th April, 2017
Thumbs up for vintage French Line by Revillon, although it may have some harshness in the opening - did someone roast the patchouli? It steps back from the sternness to be softer, and even slightly sweet, as it develops, and the quality of fragrances from the 1980s makes itself smelt.
20th February, 2017
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Dark fruit and woods without the powder and civet; a less sophisticated version of Antaeus.

***
10th February, 2017
Brutal Bergamot, Herbal start of many Masculines of the Era. This blooms with a slightly dry Floral Bouquet, that of Jasmine, Rose and light rigidity of Narcisse. A quiet sharpness of Patchouli weaves with Quality Musks. Coconut barely noticeable adds a buttery succulence in the background. Another beautifully put together perfume from the 80's. Although it shares a Chanel finesse and similar structure of Antaeus, it has none of the skank of the one and only. Surprised that it is not talked about so much. If you see it, pick it up.I will!!
03rd December, 2016 (last edited: 07th January, 2017)
Stardate 20151102:

Oakmoss,honey, carnation, rose and leather along with mild spices and jasmine.
Very similar to vintage Antaeus but a bit more floral and spicier and has lower longevity and projection.
Redundant, in my opinion, if you have the mighty Antaeus from same era
02nd November, 2016 (last edited: 03rd November, 2016)
drseid Show all reviews
United States
French Line goes on with an aromatic mix of mild, slightly powdery rose, carnation and jasmine with hints of subdued coconut and more substantial sanitized patchouli support, before quickly moving to its heart. As the composition enters its early heart, the now supporting rose, carnation and jasmine floral melange gains slightly more powder as it pairs with powdery amber from the base, now joining a significant co-starring moderately rough leather and patchouli tandem that takes the fore. During the late dry-down the amber-laced florals take a back seat, as remnants of the sanitized patchouli and subdued coconut join slightly animalic musk through the finish. Projection is excellent and longevity very good at around 10 hours on skin.

French Line is a real find. On first glance, one sees a relatively unimpressive looking bottle that doesn't inspire confidence in its contents, but looks can be deceiving and indeed in this case they are. As soon as one applies the composition on skin you get a quick whiff of wormwood before the sublime rose and carnation florals take over. When the jasmine, patchouli and leather join the fold, the composition smells absolutely heavenly and probably is at the best part of its universally great development. The powder, shortly thereafter, gains some steam, firing a warning shot that it might go too far, but the perfumer skillfully stays just under the "danger line" for the powder averse like this writer to enjoy the composition while providing enough of the stuff for powder fans too. The late dry-down is probably the least interesting aspect of the composition's development, not because it smells anything less than exceptional, but rather because it is rather subdued, as the aromatics largely vacate to shift to a slightly animalic musk driven finish with patchouli and coconut support adding subtle depth. Speaking of the coconut, while it never is a huge player in the composition's overall fragrance profile it deserves special mention. When one envisions coconut they probably are thinking tropical drinks and climate, but the stuff used in French Line is much more subdued and skillfully used than that. There is no "tropical island" vibe in French Line at all, with the coconut used more as a softener to the aromatics and later to the musk. At the end of the day, French Line proves that one should not let a fancy bottle (or in this case the opposite) drive whether one should or shouldn't try a composition, as if you skip sampling French Line due to its unimpressive housing you are missing yet another one of the 80s wonderful smelling greats. The bottom line is the long since discontinued French Line is very difficult to find and will most likely cost one dearly to acquire on the aftermarket, but with its extremely polished mix of florals, leather, patchouli and even coconut, this "excellent" to "outstanding" 4 to 4.5 star rated rare gem is absolutely worth the effort and cost to acquire. Superb!
04th February, 2016 (last edited: 03rd February, 2016)
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom
The begin is green and fresh, with a bit of basil giving it a bright note. In the drydown oakmoss takes over, assisted by a touch of wood. This is an oakmoss-based fougere in it full beauty. Very good longevity of about five hours, at times over seven hours, with decent projection and sillage. The quality of the components appears very good, without any synthetic hint. A classic oakmoss fragrance.
04th August, 2012
I get cinnamon pepper and spice. Nice blend and many compliments and enquiries. Sadly not in production.
05th January, 2009
A spicy fougere? Chypre? A mix of the two? It's got oakmoss in the drydown and sandalwood as well but it has a very spicy opening that's almost aquatic yet green. A little on the potent side. Decent sillage. Good scent.
27th July, 2008