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  1. #1

    Default In Praise of Vintage

    I never thought I would be writing a thread in praise of vintage perfumes. I have recently decided to explore some of the perfumes of my youth in their vintage form. These have included - Patou Amour Amour, Le Galion Sortilege, Milot Crepe de Chine, Maja, Coty L'Aimant, Arpege, Chanel No 5, Quadrille, Farouche and Le Dix.

    My recent forays into modern perfumes had left me disappointed. There always seemed to be just one note that was discord among harmony. So, I thought, why not go back to the beauties of yesteryear? After all, I knew what I was getting there.

    There was a deep scepticism in me as I looked at the molasses coloured residue in many of the bottles being offered on Ebay and elsewhere. I read accounts where perfumes had lost all but a fraction of their notes, top notes being all but gone, and bottles were kept 'for reference'. That was never going to be my way. I wanted perfumes that were in pristine condition, eminently wearable and preferably not too expensive.

    So I set myself the objective of getting perfumes that were no darker in colour than aged whisky. I was very fortunate to purchase all the above in pristine condition. I haven't had a dud yet. I hope I haven't spoken too soon, because I'm currently awaiting a full bottle of Farouche from Germany and an unopened bottle of My Sin.

    A number of things struck me immediately with each 'new' vintage. The first was the breathtaking skill of those perfumers of long ago. They chose their notes with such care, blended with ultimate skill, produced a harmony of fragrance that filled the senses with joy. The second was just how incredibly beautiful these were, with subtle nuances that kept my senses engaged for such a long time, the lovely private cloud of fragrance in which I rested

    Okay, I do prefer many things that might well be classed as 'old lady' by the young of today, being a child of the 50s. France was the font of all perfume wisdom, women smelled intensely flowery feminine, and they dressed with style and grace - suits of silky fabric, gloves, a pill box hat, a Kelly handbag. My style icons were Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. I may never have looked like them, but hey, a girl can dream.

    This morning I received a mint bottle of vintage Le Dix. What a joy. The first thing that struck me was that it had such magical projection, compared to the bottles produced in the last years of its life. As with the Arpege and Chanel, there was a much more subtle use of notes than the later bottles had. The full bottle of Chanel 5 Cologne was a real eye opener. Not a harsh, chemical note in sight, and this stuff was potent and quite addictive. The Arpege proved what a travesty the current formulation is. This vintage is truly lovely stuff, as delicate as buttefly wings. (Note to self - search out a pristine bottle of extrait)

    So now I have joined the chorus of vintage lovers who bemoan the passing of such wonders. I wonder too, just what we have lost in our rush to satisfy the needs of profit. The history of perfumery is a sad thing, without its devotees, quietly searching out the details of the long lost beauties, combing popular magazines for hints of just what perfumes like Evocation de Orchidee were really like. Maybe these old perfumes were not worthy of being kept, but since they have sunk without trace, how do we know what we have lost?

  2. #2
    kumquat's Avatar
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    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Oh man, don't get me started. Farouche, you will love! Sadly, I don't know Le Dix. Some of my favorites include many of the Carons & Patous plus Carven-Magriff, Emeraude, and Dior. I'm sure I'll think of more later. Love 'em!

  3. #3

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Smelling some vintage perfumes is quite an experience. Probably the most stunning example for me was vintage Diorissimo parfum. So vivid, fresh, natural smelling.
    Even Bandit, my favorite perfume perhaps, smells even better in vintage form (though the current one is stunning too).

    Unfortunately, I don't have many vintage, so I can only imagine what others would be like.

    Actually, Arpege is one of those for which, in my opinion, the difference is less important. I have vintage Arpege parfum and like it, but I think that the current edt is good and gives a reasonable idea (unlike, say, Diorissimo) of the woody floral structure.

    I'm sure your My Sin will be good - in any case, the civet should keep very well, so you'll certainly be enjoying the wonderfully civety drydown.

    cacio

  4. #4

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Ah, I have my reservations about My Sin's animalic qualities. I'm sufficiently uncool not to want to smell like I've been scent marked by a feline. Yesterday's Perfume review was what pushed me over the edge to try it. As long as the floral heart notes are not overwhelmed by the base notes, I am sure I will love it. I was actually quite shocked at how animalic the base of both the vintage Chanel 5 extrait and the Miss Dior vintage extrait were. Thankfully, both fade to some extent and don't dominate throughout as much as they do in the initial spritz.

    My nose has been trained to detect so much more than I did in my carefree youth. I didn't perceive the animalic edge, perhaps seeing it more as an addictive aspect of these wonderful creations.


    Cacio you are not the first to say that the modern version of Arpege is reasonable. I find it has a chemical edge to one of its flower notes, possibly the Jasmine, that is in such sharp contrast to the delicate way it was used in the original. It's once again a discordant note that I find rather spoils the modern version for me. There is something similar in the modern Chanel 5 EDP, a coarse, hard edge to one of the notes that the vintage cologne lacks. It's a matter of degree as well as personal perception, so perhaps others are not bothered by these things.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Welcome!

    There is some common note to my vintage frags that I have yet to experience in modern scents, and those notes seem to make stright for my limbic system-I can't get enough of them. Near as I can tell, it's a mix of anisic aldehydes, clary sage, and some white flowers, possibly muguet and carnation. Antilope, My Sin, and Miss Dior are notable—for lack of a better word!— examples.
    What do insomniac perfumers do to fall asleep? They count chypres!

  6. #6

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Your thread inspired me to go spray some vintage Arpege extrait before going to bed (sweetest dreams...). I agree with you that the florals are richer in the vintage. But I don't perceive a coarse note in the current edp; I do perceive it as heavier and ambery, with some deep fruity sweetness (plum or the like) missing from the more delicate parfum. Re: Chanel no 5 edp(which is not my favorite form either), Luca Turin says that in his opinion polysantol, a chemical substitute for sandalwood, makes it too heavy and chemical. Perhaps that's what you are objecting to as well. Perhaps the current Arpege also has polysantol, though given the heavier structure of the perfume, it is less noticeable, or perhaps better fits the structure.

    My statement about current vs vintage Arpege is also that woody florals in the style of Arpege are not entirely out of the picture, so somehow the smell of the vintage doesn't surprise as much as others. Instead, the floral freshness and vividness of things like Diorissimo (or prereformulation Joy) is unknown in today's perfumes.

    Re: My sin, the beginning is all floral, the civet is just the usual floral enhancer. It's in the drydown that civet shines. But it is not Musc Koublai Khan or the like. It is the delicate warmth that recalls skin, and is not dissimilar to that found in, say, Joy vintage parfum.

    cacio

  7. #7

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Ah, I am so looking forward to My Sin. I hope I'm not building it up too high. When my expectations are too high, often even the finest things cannot measure up.

    My gripe with the modern Chanel No 5 is with the EDP. I actually very much like the EDT. In most cases I find the EDT of most of my favourites have a brightness and easy clarity that I enjoy. I find the pure parfums are often darker, heavier with a different mix of ingredients which make them somehow denser, less likely to be chosen on those bright sunny days when I want my spirits to match the beauty of the day. We had a day like that today, a clear, topaz blue sky, a perfect autumn day when all colours just sing in the landscape.

    I like my extraits when I'm feeling pensive and want to explore the journey that it takes me on. They take a little more concentration and more appreciation. There is so much more depth in what they offer, not like their shallow but cheerful cousins the EDTs.

  8. #8

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    I have a stupid question: is it possible that some of the difference might just have to do with the age of the perfume, and not just the difference in ingredients? For example, is it possible that my current bottle of Givenchy III (recent) could smell even better if I left it to sit in the dark for 30 years?

    I'm definitely not trying to deny that reformulations happen and that some perfumes are less well-made than they used to be. I also completely agree that the current Chanel No 5 edp just doesn't smell like Chanel No 5--the edt is much closer to the original; this is well-known. I guess I'm just curious about the effect of age itself on perfume. And could we really distinguish between that and a totally different formula?

  9. #9

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Quote Originally Posted by Kagey View Post
    I have a stupid question: is it possible that some of the difference might just have to do with the age of the perfume, and not just the difference in ingredients?
    I guess I'm just curious about the effect of age itself on perfume. And could we really distinguish between that and a totally different formula?
    Well, that's a very good question! I have several Arpege vintages and I personally believe that the differences are not only due to ageing, in particular since they were properly stored (boxed) and sealed. But I agree, Kagey, in many cases it is hard to tell. I have gotten a bit more hesitant with vintage jus. It's a special mood I need to be in to pull off a true vintage frag. Many samples and bits I have gotten over the years smelled partly ruined/turned/off to me. Most of all, it depends on the fragrance's notes and how prone they are to deterioration and, secondly, proper storage/amount of evaporation/sealed or unsealed. Just my two scents...

  10. #10

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    A huge percentage of my collection is vintage; I always smell like an old lady. Only in certain niche perfumes do you find any moderns that approach the sublimity of the oldsters like Patou's Que Sais-je, Caron's Infini and the vintage Guerlains and Chanels.

  11. #11

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    If there is evaporation, age concentrates the juice. But the profile shouldn't improve - there can only be loss, especially of top notes. Some claim some perfumes do improve over the first year or so after production, but that's about the length of time it takes.

    cacio

  12. #12

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Quote Originally Posted by cacio View Post
    If there is evaporation, age concentrates the juice. But the profile shouldn't improve - there can only be loss, especially of top notes. Some claim some perfumes do improve over the first year or so after production, but that's about the length of time it takes.
    I respectfully disagree. The profile can and most certainly does improve with age (just like fine wines, many of which are meant to be cellared) even after a year or two, especially with certain fragrances. In my experience, Chanels always improve - they become richer and smoother without losing any of their original character, and it's most noticeable after about four or five years (this is of course, provided that they're kept under good conditions.) I've had this experience with No5, BdI, Coco, No22 and No19 among my Chanels, and with Guerlain, I've noticed this beautiful maturing process in Chamade and Samsara (comparing bottles produced in the same year, of course, while one has been stored and the other used for several years.) It's a fact - aging happens - and I'm fairly sure that this accounts for so many cries of "reformulation" when none has taken place.
    Science is not only compatible with spirituality, it is a profound source of spirituality. When we recognize our place in an immensity of light-years and in the passage of ages, when we grasp the intricacy, beauty, and subtlety of life, then that soaring feeling, that sense of elation and humility combined, is surely spiritual. ..Carl Sagan

  13. #13

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    I had heard about the initial improvement - but i thought it was only over a year or so, not five ... good to know it can be a longer process. I only own one or two current perfumes (Tabac Blond, CdR) - so we shall see ...

    As for the reformulations, unfortunately, most cries are true.

    cacio

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    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Quote Originally Posted by jujy54 View Post
    Welcome!

    There is some common note to my vintage frags that I have yet to experience in modern scents, and those notes seem to make stright for my limbic system-I can't get enough of them. Near as I can tell, it's a mix of anisic aldehydes, clary sage, and some white flowers, possibly muguet and carnation. Antilope, My Sin, and Miss Dior are notable—for lack of a better word!— examples.
    Most likely it's oak moss. The forbidden nectar of the gods!

  15. #15

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Count me in as somewhat who wears mostly vintage perfume, anywhere from the present back to about 1950. First of all, perfumes vary a lot as to how well they last. Bigarade, by Nina Ricci, holds up remarkably well. So does Yanky Clover. A big factor, in addition to heat and light, is how full were the bottles. The fuller the bottle, the less oxygen is inside it to interact with the perfume. As to the concentration, I've found that the extraits are more likely to go bad than the edt's, edp's, or colognes. I don't know why that is. If someone has used a bit of the perfume and had their skin in contact with the juice, then that could explain it, but sometimes perfume bottles which have never been opened have thick dark brownish sludge, or bits of debris, etc. Who knows. Generally, though, having bought probably over 100 bottles of vintage perfume on ebay over the years, the clarity of the juice in the bottle is probably a good indicator of how in tact the fragrance will be. My old faves are Miss Dior, Coty's Chypre, vintage Intimate (!!), vintage Chantilly, Dioressence, Murasaki, Vivre by Molyneux, Avon's Emprise, Matchabelli's Chimere, Leonard's original Fashion, Ma Griffe, Givenchy III, Cardin de Cardin, Bigarade, Balenciaga's Prelude, the original Galanos, Woodhue, Aphrodisia, and Tigress just to throw out a "few" names!

  16. #16

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Quote Originally Posted by paloma54 View Post
    The fuller the bottle, the less oxygen is inside it to interact with the perfume. As to the concentration, I've found that the extraits are more likely to go bad than the edt's, edp's, or colognes. I don't know why that is. If someone has used a bit of the perfume and had their skin in contact with the juice, then that could explain it,

    the clarity of the juice in the bottle is probably a good indicator of how in tact the fragrance will be!
    Good points for the vintage buyer, however, although you are much more experienced than I am, I have found the opposite to be true when it comes to concentration. I have been lucky in general, but less so with the lower concentrations.

  17. #17

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    I think luck must play a huge role in how good a vintage turns out to be. I'm a great believer in the notion that it should, where possible, look as close in colour to how it was when produced. I bought a very dark Balenciaga Michelle, and I don't think it aged particularly well. It lacked the clarity of notes of say my Le Dix or Quadrille, and was rather dense and muted. That may not mean much to others who may love it, but it left me a little suspicious of what I had probably lost.

    The Farouche arrived today. What bliss, what magic, what purity, what intensity. And a whopping 200 mls. To say I am delighted is rather understating things.Once again, I am at a total loss as to why anyone would discontinue such a gem. It's by no means an outdated style of perfume, just yet another of those glorious, feminine, complex florals that the French produced so well for so long.

    There's an invisible gossamer thread that keeps pulling my wrist up to my nose to appreciate again and again, just what a delight I have. This is one of those rare things that could easily be selected to go to the desert island with just one perfume to enjoy alone in my exile.

  18. #18

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    How I agree about the superiority of so many vintage perfumes compared to their thin, sour reformulations. They were created in an age when quality, not quantity, was sought. More time and effort were given to the formulations; the creativity of the perfumer, not the market-driven mass appeal, was the deciding factor in the final version; ingredients were restricted only by availability, not by ill-thought-out legislation; and customers were prepared to pay for that quality, not looking for a cheap bargain. I love vintage scents for the same reason I admire vintage clothes, because they remind me of that almost-lost world of quality. Though some contemporary versions of vintage frags are acceptable, in cases when they're not (IMO including current 1000, Joy, Shalimar and First) I'd rather save up for a vintage than make do with an inferior imitation.
    Thank you for a thoughtful thread which is sending me back to EvilBay.

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    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    Quote Originally Posted by LiliB View Post
    I think luck must play a huge role in how good a vintage turns out to be. I'm a great believer in the notion that it should, where possible, look as close in colour to how it was when produced. I bought a very dark Balenciaga Michelle, and I don't think it aged particularly well. It lacked the clarity of notes of say my Le Dix or Quadrille, and was rather dense and muted. That may not mean much to others who may love it, but it left me a little suspicious of what I had probably lost.

    The Farouche arrived today. What bliss, what magic, what purity, what intensity. And a whopping 200 mls. To say I am delighted is rather understating things.Once again, I am at a total loss as to why anyone would discontinue such a gem. It's by no means an outdated style of perfume, just yet another of those glorious, feminine, complex florals that the French produced so well for so long.

    There's an invisible gossamer thread that keeps pulling my wrist up to my nose to appreciate again and again, just what a delight I have. This is one of those rare things that could easily be selected to go to the desert island with just one perfume to enjoy alone in my exile.
    You make me realize I must wear mine more before I die!

  20. #20

    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    I think we all must make a conscious effort to wear our beloved vintages before they turn. I still catch myself thinking that some are too good to wear. But then, I remind myself, that perfumes were made to wear and to revel in.

    A good perfume is a joy to the senses that so few other things can be. And it's cheap in comparison to so many other things. You pay a couple of hundred dollars for years of pleasure. You pay the same for a dress and lose the joy after a few wearings.

    So let's spritz and dab with great abandon. Remember if they're left behind after we're gone, they'll probably end up a flea market being sold for pennies, or given to the neighbour's children to play with, or worse still, sniffed and thrown away in disgust.

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    Default Re: In Praise of Vintage

    I just want to put in another good word for Coty Chypre. Also, I just got a perfect bottle of Givenchy III that is so lovely! Oh man, that oak moss is like mother's milk to me! And my old bottle of Dioressence is just yummy. Every time I hear someone hatin' on that I think, they just haven't had the real thing. Don't forget about the original Caron-Fleurs des Rocailles, ​WOW! Now I'm going to put on some Farouche and zone out!

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