Roja Dove Diaghilev (The Imperial Collection)

A perfume with the feel of the past, concentrated as if distilled to its richest essence through the ravages of time, and brought back to life with a price tag from the future.

Source: Paris Gallery, UAE.

Source: Paris Gallery, UAE.

It’s hard to know where to begin in discussing Diaghilev, a 2013 release from the famous Roja Dove. The perfume has a history beyond just the ballet legend whose name it bears, a history that starts at an exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum in 2010, and indirectly goes back much further still to a Guerlain fragrance with which it shares enormous similarities for a good portion of its opening hours. Plus, Diaghilev has a huge buzz about it, and not solely because of the Roja Dove name, as you will soon see. Perhaps the real reason why I find it so hard to know where to begin is because I’m simply not moved by Diaghilev. No matter how many times I try it, I recognise its quality on an intellectual level, but it does absolutely nothing for me emotionally. From the first time I tried it last year in Paris, to repeated tests now… my emotions are always at a firm distance. 

Diaghilev is a pure parfum or extrait that was inspired by Serge or Sergei Diaghilev, the famous early 20th century ballet impresario who founded the legendary Ballets Russes. On his personal Roja Parfums website, Roja Dove describes the perfume and its notes as follows:

“Decadent Intoxicating Sophistication”

WARM, DRY, SWEET, FRUITY, SPICY, SOFT, & VERY SENSUAL

“I am immensely proud of this work. I love its rich opulence, its complexity and depth, volume, and sensuality. I was inspired by Diaghilev, one of the greatest creative forces of the twentieth century, who changed the world and totally re-wrote the rules – this creation is for exactly that type of person”. Roja Dove

Source: lth-hotels.com

Source: lth-hotels.com

INGREDIENTS
TOP: Bergamot, Lemon, Lime, Orange, Tarragon
HEART: Blackcurrant Buds, Heliotrope, Jasmine, Peach, Rose, Tuberose, Violet, Ylang Ylang
BASE: Ambrette, Benzoin, Cedarwood, Civet, Clove, Cumin, Guaiacwood, Labdanum, Leather, Musk, Nutmeg, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Peru Balsam, Sandalwood, Styrax, Vanilla, Vetiver.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

Diaghilev opens on my skin with a flood of oakmoss on the most beautiful, animalic, castoreum-like base. The base is truly spectacular, especially in the opening 20 minutes. It’s like beautifully darkened, oiled leather with velvety, musky, dirty, and skanky undertones. There is no castoreum listed in Diaghilev, but it really smells like it to my nose. The raunchiness is kept in perfect balance; a touch sweet, urinous, and earthy all at once. It is not feral or fecal, but, rather, akin to the most gentlemanly dirtiness around. The musk is delicately dusted with earthy, dry, cumin, and infused with the sweetened, “fuzzy, warmed skin” characteristics of ambrette seeds (musk mallow).

"Novemthree" by Olaf Marshall. Source: vitaignescorpuslignum.blogspot.com

“Novemthree” by Olaf Marshall. Source: vitaignescorpuslignum.blogspot.com

The overall bouquet is a simply perfect base for the vista of green that lies atop it. There is the carpet of oakmoss that is dense, pungent, lightly fusty, vaguely oily and mushroomy, and wholly amazing in its viscosity. The greenness is underscored by the small bits of earthy vetiver, which dance at the edges next to an extremely bitter lime peel. I don’t know quite how Roja Dove has replicated the feel of vintage, real oakmoss so well, but he’s done it in spades with something that feels like juices from the past that have been reduced down to a darkened thickness.

Source: wallpaperuser.com

Source: wallpaperuser.com

In less than a few minutes, the colours change. A bright yellow arrives to dapple the mossy forest floor, followed by massive dabs of orange. The first is the bergamot, the second is the peach. The freshness of the former is a muted touch, while the heavy juices of the latter are quite noticeable on my skin indeed. The ripened fruit combines with the cumin to add to the fleshiness underlying Diaghilev, creating the image of musky, heated flesh that merely happens to be lying on a well-oiled leather couch made from castoreum in the midst of an oakmoss forest.

Jubilation 25. Photo: Basenotes.

Jubilation 25. Photo: Basenotes.

It’s all very lovely, and all massively familiar. This is Mitsouko parfum, in vintage form, reduced to the level of an attar in density, and thoroughly infused with Amouage‘s cumin-flecked Jubilation 25 (Women). Every minute of Diaghilev’s opening two hours on my skin feels like Mitsouko drenched with Jubilation, right down to the light dance of the very well-blended florals. At this point, Diaghilev’s florals are an abstract, seamless blur that are hard to pull apart, though the jasmine stands out the most. Again, like Jubilation. (And later, it is the ylang-ylang, which is again like Jubilation.) There is even a light flickering fizziness of something nebulous like aldehydes, the way I would experienced with old Mitsouko. By the way, if we’re talking about echoes of famous perfumes, there is also a fleeting, tiny kinship to the post-1989, cumin-y, vintage version of Femme by Rochas as well, though Diaghilev is darker, drier, greener, more leathered, and less fruited.

Most of those differences can be chalked up to Diaghilev’s substantially concentrated Extrait formulation. It is certainly explains why Diaghilev’s oakmoss is much more dense than it is in Jubilation 25. And I’m sure the skanky bits in the Amouage perfume would feel heavily leathered and resinous as well, if the perfume had been amped up by a 1000 to an extrait level the way Diaghilev has been.

Source: RebootwithJoe.com

Source: RebootwithJoe.com

That said, I loved the opening 20 minutes of Diaghilev. The perfectly calibrated degree of cumin-y, skanky, leathered, castoreum-like velvetiness that rises up to bite you on the nose is glorious. And it’s so wonderful next to the dark oiliness of the heavy oakmoss, the earthy vetiver, and the bitter lime. The perfume has a real, substantial kick to it that makes it stand out at that point.

Unfortunately, the elegant meow of animalic bitchiness soon turns much more well-mannered, sedate and restrained in nature, as the dirty accords sink into the base. You can still detect them, quite easily if you sniff up close, but they blend into the overall blur of greenness that is dominated primarily by the dark, slightly fusty oakmoss with its peachy undertones. For me, by muffling the skanky whiffs, Roja Dove has de-fanged Diaghilev of its more modern, interesting touches, and moved the perfume squarely back a century to the well-bred, distant past.

Regardless, Diaghilev is a very nice, opulent, luxurious perfume in its opening stage. It is a perfectly seamless, extremely dense blend of green chypre notes with thick oakmoss, lime, bergamot, cumin, peach, amorphous florals, and touches of vetiver atop an oily castoreum-like, leathered, skanky base. It is monumentally heavy in feel at this point, as well, much to my great enthusiasm. Two big smears feel like the equivalent of 6 very large sprays of the most potent eau de parfum around.

Yet, to my surprise, the heavy Diaghilev wafts only 2-3 inches above the skin even in its opening. Spraying improved matters, but only moderately, by maybe another 2 inch at most. A friend and reader of the blog, “Tim,” was kind enough to send me a small spray atomizer of Diaghilev which I used in my 3rd test of the perfume, and there was no monumental increase in projection that I detected. The one difference is that spraying brought out the rose note after an hour, though it was still muted and muffled in that perfectly seamless blend of what really just seems like abstract “florals” from afar.

Source: 10wallpaper.com

Source: 10wallpaper.com

45 minutes into its development, Diaghilev drops in sillage, and also turns much softer in feel. 90 minutes in, the perfume loses even more of its body, heft and density. It’s primarily an oakmoss scent with sharp lime, bergamot, amorphous florals, peach, atop a velvety dark base just lightly flecked with cumin. Part of the problem in trying to dissect Diaghilev is that it’s so perfectly melded that it is really hard to separate out its tiny details at times. You get the plethora of greenness and the chypre elements up front, but many of the other notes lurk behind, peeking out in the most polite manner. And I’m only referring to 6 or 7 of Diaghilev’s 30 ingredients. The remainder is wholly subsumed within the larger whole.

At the end of the 2nd hour, however, I noticed new elements darting about, weaving their way through the top notes. Now, there is: clove, nutmeg, guaiac wood, mossy patchouli, and cedar. For about 5 minutes, there is even a really pretty touch of soft, earthy, delicate violets. Yet, with the exception of the new spices at hand, most of the elements were mere flickers and are not really a profound presence in a strong, individual, clearly delineated way.

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Much more noticeable instead is the sudden arrival of the ylang-ylang with its custardy, vaguely banana-like, rich undertones. It adds a lovely touch to the pungency of the oakmoss, and is also a great contrast to the skanky, leathered, darkly oily base. I also really like the introduction of the spices, especially the cloves which add a subtle heat to the scent, enlivening it. The guaiac adds a subtle undertone of smokiness, while the cedar brings a tiny burst of pepperiness. The overall effect is to veer Diaghilev straight back into Jubilation’s arms.

Every time that I’ve tested Diaghilev, I noticed what feels like a transitional bridge period that starts always about 2 and a half hours into the perfume’s development. Diaghilev starts to lose its purely oakmoss-chypre focus, and begins the slow move towards an oriental scent. After having reviewed a handful of Roja Dove creations at this point, I get the strong sense that he seems happiest and most comfortable when making Chypre-Oriental hybrids. Many of his best and most beloved fragrances certainly start off as Chypres before turning into pure Orientals, like, for example, Puredistance M and the two Fetish Extraits. At the very least, I think we can agree that he’s a master at the split genre.

Here, the transition is gradual. The visuals are the first to change. It’s as though an oriental autumn has hit the green, oakmoss-covered peach trees and florals in the cumin-dusted forest with its skankily leathered floor. The dark greens are now heavily covered by rich, spiced, brown-reds and by velvety, custardy, ylang-ylang yellow. Sprinkles of white appear from sweetened vanillic powder, as the benzoins and tonka stir in the base. The subtle patchouli element pops up its head to inject a wine-red colour, taking on a liqueured, sweet, jammy richness. The woods encroach on the dominant moss and peach duo, as the guaiac and cedar crowd around, casting dark shadows. Bitter nutmeg is countered by the first traces of a sheer, gauzy wisp of smooth amber. 

Source: 1ms.net

Source: 1ms.net

Technically, it’s masterful, and theoretically, it should all be right up my alley. Yet, I’m unbelievably detached and disinterested. It’s not the sense of déja vu, but something that is very hard to explain. For me, Diaghilev feels like a technically perfect evocation of the classique tradition, but without a soul or a spark of passion in its depths. It’s like listening to a cover band who is playing all the right notes in a perfect rendition of some classic hit, but it doesn’t fresh, alive, distinctive, or individual. At least, it doesn’t for me. I feel as though I’m stuck in a room listening to Stephen Hawkings giving the most technically correct elucidation of theoretical physics… in Aramaic. Diaghilev’s soul simply gets lost in its correctness, its technical mastery, and in its translation of the past.

Vintage Ballet Russe poster. Source: Pinterest.

Vintage Ballet Russe poster. Source: Pinterest.

The perfume continues its march towards Orientalism. At the start of the 4th hour, Diaghilev is primarily a spicy cinnamon, clove and nutmeg dominated, abstract “floral” scent on my skin, with earthiness and woody elements over a leathered, castoreum-like base lightly infused with skanky civet, labdanum amber, and a whisper of warm ambrette muskiness. By the middle of the 5th hour, it is almost a skin scent that feels extremely abstract. Warm, musky, earthy, sweet, and spicy are the dominant elements. Soon, there is the sense of dry earthiness like soil that has been sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and vetiver. Dancing at the edges is a dry, brown patchouli. The tiniest veins of labdanum amber, tonka vanilla, and musk run through it all like golden threads. Diaghilev is still strong if smelled up close with your nose on your skin, but it feels like a silken, brown-red sheath of earthy spiciness and sweetness, dappled at its base with musky skankiness from various accords.

At the start of the 7th hour, Diaghilev sets its course for the next few hours. It is primarily a gauzy, soft labdanum amber scent with abstract spices, skanky elements and a touch of vanilla powderiness. It remains that way for ages, until it finally turns into cinnamon, vanilla powder from the benzoins and tonka atop the thinnest smear of civet-y muskiness. In its dying moments, Diaghilev is merely spiced, sweet powder. All in all, Diaghilev consistently lasted over 14.5 hours on me when I applied moderate amounts, and over 16 or 17 hours with larger quantities.

"Copper abstract" by StarwaltDesign via deviantart.com. http://starwaltdesign.deviantart.com/art/Copper-Abstract-207268167

“Copper abstract” by StarwaltDesign via deviantart.com. http://starwaltdesign.deviantart.com/art/Copper-Abstract-207268167

It’s hard to review Diaghilev without bringing up its price. I never examine perfumes in a vacuum, but I usually state that price is an individual, wholly subjective assessment. That’s undoubtedly why most perfume bloggers rarely talk about the matter when assessing fragrances. However, when you have a perfume that costs over $1000 with tax — that retails for $990, €990 or £750 — then price becomes something more quantifiable and objectively critical. In fact, I’d argue that price becomes an integral part of the perfume’s fabric, as much as its notes or its olfactory genre. Intentionally so.

Roja Dove via his Twitter feed.

Roja Dove via his Twitter feed.

The basic bottom line seems to be that Roja Dove is aiming for a clientele that is part of the 1%. He’s aiming for the very rich, or, in the case of his special “Roja” perfume that costs well over $4,000, perhaps the super rich. He’s intentionally seeking exclusivity in a way that even Joel Arthur Rosenthal, the stratospherically expensive, legendary jeweler, isn’t trying to do with most of his JAR perfumes. It’s Roja Dove’s right to price his stuff as he sees fit, and there is no doubt that all his fragrances scream high-quality, expensive luxury. No doubt at all. But it is my right to think them over-priced at times, times like now.

I’ve pondered the issue of Diaghilev’s cost for days, and I can certainly see all the logical reasons why people would spend the money on it. But would I, even if I had the money to buy 10 Diaghilevs? I doubt it. I’ve thought about it in-depth, and I’m being honest. Diaghilev feels old in a way that never once crossed my mind when I wore Amouage’s Jubilation. I haven’t tried vintage Mitsouko in years, so I don’t know how I would feel about it now, but I never liked Mitsouko enough to be willing to spend $1000 on it. And, honestly, for me, the very best part of Diaghilev is its opening 20 minutes which are truly glorious. After that, when the skankiness subsumes itself into the base, it loses the one real spark of passion and distinctiveness that it exuded for me. It turns into a very expensive-smelling, beautifully crafted perfume that someone like Joan Collins would love. Glamourous, but dated.

Nijinsky and Pavlova, the two superstars of Les Ballets Russes. Vintage image. Source: jbtaylor.typepad.com

Nijinsky and Pavlova, the two superstars of Les Ballets Russes. Vintage image. Source: jbtaylor.typepad.com

There are quite a few reviews for Diaghilev out there, but the most fascinating one comes from The Non-Blonde. I will quote parts, but I encourage you to read the long review in its entirety, as it echoes many of my sentiments. And the opening two sentences are a doozy:

A very successful perfumer who’ll remain nameless described the perfumes from Roja Dove’s line as “belong in a museum”. After a few seconds of thought he added, “so does Roja”. I didn’t inquire further as to what specific aspect of Roja Dove’s public persona he was referring. Your guess is as good as mine. Diaghilev, a larger-than-life chypre is a perfect example for what the famous perfumer meant. Diaghilev, with its mélange of notes is so over the top that if I weren’t standing at the Bergdorf Goodman counter with the tester right in front of me when I first smelled it, I’d have thought (convinced even) that someone has mislabeled a vintage perfume sample. A very very vintage perfume. Something from the 1920s, perhaps, when leather, oakmoss, all the spices in the world, and a thick overripe floral bouquet could be thrown together and then worn in public without shame.

There’s cumin in the top notes which the husband detected immediately while my own skin smoothed it over. I can smell traces of many thick and plush perfume ideas, the ghosts of  famous perfumes the way they smelled back when Louise Brooks, Dorothy Parker, Lillian Gish and Marlene Dietrich used to wear them. Diaghilev is rich, plush, and very animalic, padded with a thick layer of oakmoss that I can smell throughout the perfume’s development. It’s everything I can ask for in a scent. In a different time and place (ok, and a different personality) Diaghilev could have easily been a contender for my signature scent.

They no longer make them like that. They no longer sell them like that. And if you want to wear this type of perfumes you probably need to run with a very specific crowd who appreciate things like that. There aren’t all that many of us around these days, which is probably the reason that Diaghilev stands out so much and feels so shocking. You just don’t smell perfumes like this unless you’re well-versed in vintage perfumes. […]

Here’s the thing: Diaghilev is a magnificent perfume. It’s a very fitting tribute to Sergei Diaghilev and his uncompromising artistic vision. But I almost feel like an oblivious Gwyneth Paltrow prattling about in her GOOPy ways as I’m writing this, because it’s nearly impossible in this case to separate the excellent perfume from its positioning at the very top of the fragrance market. Roja Dove has made sure of that. [snip]

You should read her piece in full. In my case, I doubt I would be inspired to wear Diaghilev, whether it were gifted to me or cost $100. From the very first time I sniffed it at Jovoy around the time of its release, I shrugged and moved on. “Very well done, nice, but …. eh.” I suspect my problem is the lack of strong personality, and not the very dated, “museum” feel of the perfume. I love vintage perfumes, but this feels far too well-bred, dull, and old. Plus, given how very little time I have to wear perfume for myself these days, I would never waste a precious “free day” on Diaghilev. It wouldn’t even cross my mind. (The fascinating Jubilation 25, however, would be a very different matter….)

Diaghilev, the original EDT limited-edition bottle.

Diaghilev, the original EDT limited-edition bottle.

Speaking of museums, there is an important issue I need to cover: the original Diaghilev. A few commentators to the Non-Blonde’s post brought up the fact that Diaghilev was originally released in 2010 as part of an exhibition that commemorating Les Ballets Russes at the Victoria & Albert museum. It was a limited-edition fragrance which cost £75, and supposedly only 1000 bottles were released, though there is mention of Roja Dove selling refills in huge 250 ml aluminium bottles on his website. I paused at the comments, like the one talking about “the earlier EDP version’s affordability” and how it felt like “naked manipulation of the consumer.” And I very much agreed. It seemed like bloody cheek for a man to sell a perfume for £75, but then, 3 years later, stick the exact same thing into a crystal-capped bottle and sell it for exactly ten times as much at £750. It seemed outrageous, as if he were pulling the wool over your eyes, while laughing all the way to the bank.

Except that is not what actually happened. I did some digging, and the facts are different. It’s true, as Roja Dove discusses in old blog posts on his website, he made Diaghilev for the exhibition and, yes, he did release it back the for a substantially lower price. There are two key differences, however, between the original Diaghilev and the one released in 2013. For one thing, the original was an eau de parfum, though a number of people also state that it was a mere eau de toilette. Regardless, the new one is an Extrait, and, as noted, has the dense viscosity of an oil in feel, at least in the first few hours. For another, the current Diaghilev is supposedly remastered and changed.

The website, Cosmetopica, writes about that last fact in a glowing review for the new Diaghilev where she also explains the differences between the versions. Her article reads, in part, as follows:

Why the change, I asked Roja’s PR? Because Roja visited the Kremlin, he said. Once he got to Russia, he completely reformulated his ideas about Diaghilev and his oeuvre, and the perfume had to change with it.

The immediate effect of the opening notes of the ‘new’ Diaghilev is identical to the ‘old’ Diaghilev but it only lasts a second before there is then a massive bloom of citrus like falling head-first into a vat of bergamot. You might not get out alive, but it would be a good way to go. To this untutored nose, the citrus melange smelt above all like tangerines (a note that I see is absent). It is also strong enough to knock a horse over at 20 paces.

This phase of the perfume lasts a good 30 minutes – a very long time for citrus – and is fabulously rich and oily, not light and sparkling. […] [It] has the richness of the real deal, due to its use of natural materials in abundance.

I loved this phase of the fragrance, but it got even better in the second act. The floral heart emerges over time like a full orchestra tuning up and to be honest, I found it impossible to pick out the notes. It is at this point that the fragrance morphs back into the character of the original Diaghilev – true, old-style grand perfumerie. Ten hours later, it’s still going strong, wafting up from your clothing whenever you move or sweat, but “curiously well-behaved,”[.]

The next morning, the animalic facets are still there, which I love. I like a bit of skank in a perfume […] So the base notes of civet and musk that hang around for about 24 hours on clothing are just fine by me. […]

Source: scent-intoxique.com

Source: scent-intoxique.com

As for the issue of Mitsouko, Cosmetopica writes:

Diaghilev mark 1 smells like Mitsouko should and no longer does, and that, apparently, is no accident. Having read that Diaghilev the man used to spray his curtains with Mitsouko, this is partly Dove’s interpretation of what that atmosphere must have been like.

Does it smell like Mitsouko? Well no. It smells like a Guerlain we haven’t met yet – no accident, I guess, given that Dove worked for the company before it was swallowed up, masticated and vomited back out by LVMH.

I agree that it doesn’t smell purely and wholly like Mitsouko. However, to me, it starts off strongly as a mix of Mitsouko with Jubilation 25 (Women), before eventually shrugging off the Guerlain and turning more into Amouage territory. And I’m not the only one who thinks that. On Fragrantica’s page for Jubilation, 8 people noted a resemblance to Diaghilev, while 3 voted for Mitsouko. There are the same 8 votes for Jubilation on the actual Diaghilev entry as well.

On Fragrantica, the reviews for Roja Dove’s creation are almost all uniformly admiring. The shortest, flattest comment comes from one person who writes simply, “If Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit met and had a baby, their offspring would be Diaghilev.” Others, however, wax rhapsodic. Here are two of the shorter reviews representing the general consensus:

  • As usually with Roja Dove’s fragrances, Diaghilev as well is strongly inspired by big fragrances of the past. In this case, the old-fashioned chypre structure, comes directly from huge compositions such as Mitsouko and Sous Le Vent. A wonderful fizzy citrusy opening evolving into an extremely refined floral middle phase to then turn into a fresh and rich mossy vetiver drydown which is not so distant from the latest phases of Onda Extrait. [¶] The level of appreciation of Diaghilev is strongly related to one’s personal preference towards extremely classic fragrances. That said, if you like the genre, this is one of the best chypres currently available on the market.
  • Insanely opulent and suave chypre that, hilariously, reminds me of Aromatics Elixir. A smooth oak moss flanked by top-shelf patchouli and vetiver with minuscule touches of citrus and culinary herbs floating around. Ambrette and civet are present, but highly civilized; many of the myriad fruit / floral notes are there, but not prominent enough to isolate. The whole thing is big, round, and undeniably impressive, but it’s hard not to snicker at the kind of over-the-top luxury it’s signifying. Excellent, beautiful, stunning, and a tad ridiculous. [¶] Break out your Liberace furs and bling, slap some of this on, then go stomp around the neighborhood like you *own* the damn place.
Source: 10wallpaper.com

Source: 10wallpaper.com

Both those reviews come from men, by the way, which should alleviate any concerns that you may have that Diaghilev is a woman’s fragrance. As for the price, well, a good response comes from “Tymanski,” my friend who so generously sent me a small atomizer from his own bottle:

i never EVER thought i would even contemplate spending a week’s pay on a bottle of perfume. i made the fateful step of trying this juice out the other day and over the course of the day this smell just got better & better & better. i was extremely sceptical of roja dove – tried several and thought “what’s this guy pulling here”, but with Diaghilev, i take it all back. this is just spectacular on every level. a chypre of such depth, elegance, balance, simply a perfect fragrance. i am not going to start with notes, as this is prodigiously complex; i will say that the rose middle is the finest i’ve ever smelled. the sillage is quite discrete but very solid, and longevity is where it should be for an 850 euro (!!!) parfum. the long drydown has a beguiling affinity with amouage epic man (another favouite). some say this is similar to vintage mitsouko, i really can’t say. it does embody everything i love about chypres in the end, i was seduced.

The bottom line for you is that you should seek out a sample of Diaghilev if you’re a lover of rich chypres, vintage perfumes, Mitsouko, Jubilation 25, and/or very heavy, strongly classical fragrances. Do it for the experience, particularly you’re relatively new to perfumery and want to learn about opulent chypres done in the vintage manner. (Consider it an expensive educational lesson, if you will.) For those who don’t fall into any of the aforementioned categories, I am somewhat dubious as to your reaction. I suspect that you might find Diaghilev overly heavy, very dated and museum-like indeed.

As to what will happen once you smell it, well, then the issue of price will come back to bite you squarely on the nose. You will either: be unable to separate the issue of the cost from the smell, much like The Non-Blonde; think Diaghilev is worth it and be in a quandary; or be like me and intellectually recognize Diaghilev’s quality, but be utterly unmoved nonetheless. One thing is absolutely certain, though: the price tag is the 800-pound gorilla in Diaghilev’s room. £750 to be precise.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Diaghilev is a pure parfum or Extrait which is available in a 100 ml/3.4 oz size which costs $990, €990 or £750. In the U.S.: Diaghilev is carried by New York’s Osswald and Bergdorf Goodman. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can buy Diaghilev from Roja Dove at his Haute Parfumerie on the 5th Floor of Harrods London, from Harrod’s online, or from Roja Dove’s e-store at Roja Parfums. In France, Jovoy Paris seems to be the exclusive distributor for Roja Parfums and sells Diaghilev for €990. In the UAE, the Paris Gallery has Diaghilev for AED 5,175. For all other locations, you can use the Roja Dove Locations listing which mentions more stores from Poland to Germany, Switzerland, Lithuania, Russia, and the Ukraine. By the way, in Russia, Roja Dove is supposed to be at Moscow’s tsUM, but I couldn’t find the brand listed on their website when I did a search. There are no Canadian, Asian or Oceania vendors. Samples: I purchased my main, core sample. It came from Surrender to Chance which sells Diaghilev starting at $7.49 for a 1/4 ml vial.
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Parfums MDCI Chypre Palatin: Baroque Grandeur

Blenheim Palace. Photo: WilowbrookParkBlogspot.com (Website link embedded within.)

One small part of Blenheim Palace, England. Photo: WillowbrookPark.Blogspot.com (Website link embedded within.)

Somewhere in an alternate universe, there must surely be a European palace that smells of Chypre Palatin. The massive, stony Neo-Classical structure opens onto a vast entrance hall decorated with mossy, emerald velvet and gold in an opulently ornate Baroque and Rococo style. An enormous chandelier hangs from the vaulted ceilings painted in citrus yellow, ambered gold, delicately pastel florals, and more mossy greens. Light sparkles off the prisms, bouncing into ambered air filled with just a trace of incense.

Photo: Andrew Yee for How To Spend It Magazine via FashionGoneRogue.com

Photo: Andrew Yee for How To Spend It Magazine via FashionGoneRogue.com

The vast hall gives way to a long, mirrored passage way filled with dancing ghosts called Shalimar, Bal à Versailles, Sacrebleu Intense, Coromandel, Habit Rouge. and Yvresse/Champagne. They blow you scented kisses, and the aroma melts into the citrus and mosses that waft off the velvet covering the walls, mixing with the vanilla that seeps up from the floors. The Bal à Versailles ghost is particularly naughty, flashing you her knickers and a glimpse of her musky, naked breasts. It seems as though you’re in that ornate passageway forever, but after a few hours you enter the heart of the house. The royal bedchambers are decorated with more velvet, this time in shades of resinous black, vanilla custard cream, golden amber, and refined patchouli brown. There, you curl up to sleep, covered in aromas like the finest, sheerest, but richest, silks that glide over you in a whisper of softened, ambered sweetness. That is the palace of Chypre Palatin.

Drottningholm Palace, Sweden. Photo: CubeFarmEscape at http://cubefarmescape.com/2011/06/pick-a-palace-or-two/

Drottningholm Palace, Sweden. Photo: CubeFarmEscape at http://cubefarmescape.com/2011/06/pick-a-palace-or-two/

Chypre Palatin is an eau de parfum created by the famous Bertrand Duchaufour for Parfums MDCI. The French niche house was founded in 2003 by Claude Marchal with a specific philosophy: that perfumes “should be an art more than an industry, a source of pleasure, pride and beauty more than a commodity.” Mr. Marchal was inspired by the luxurious opulence of the Renaissance, and the masterpieces that came out of it: the palaces of Catherine de Medici; the lush gardens of the Luxembourg; Greek and Roman antiquities; gold and rock-crystal vases; the vast treasures of Louis XIV, the Sun King, or those found in Florence’s Uffizi museum and Vienna’s Treasure Room.

Parfums MDCI decided to ask the world’s most famous perfumers to make a small number of fragrances with almost total freedom, and a no-holds-barred, unlimited budget. There were only two caveats: use the most expensive, richest ingredients possible; and don’t create scents that copy trends or caters to the crowd. The cost didn’t matter, but excellence did, no matter how long it took. Parfums MDCI is not one of those houses that puts out several fragrances at year, let alone several collections every few months. (Tom Ford, I’m glaring straight at you.) In fact, Parfums MDCI had only 5 fragrances in their line at first, but the number has slowly risen over the years to include 8 more scents. Chypre Palatin was released in 2012 and, as noted earlier, was made by Bertrand Duchaufour.

Chypre Palatin, regular Tassel Bottle. Source: First in Fragrance.

Chypre Palatin, regular Tassel Bottle. Source: First in Fragrance.

First in Fragrance has what looks like the official press release description for Chypre Palatin, as well as the most complete set of notes that I’ve found. I think the description is accurate to large degree, so I’ll quote it in full, even though it is quite long:

The opening is green, a warm, woody and strong green, peppered with a few hyacinths, garnished with the fragrant ripe flesh of clementines, spiced with a sprig of lavender and a hint of thyme. All this creates cozy, warm frissons, intrigues and generates a great appetite for more.

The skilled use of aldehydes lets Chypre Palatin shine, but without getting into too-familiar waters. We can already imagine the soft growl of a wild cat. She lolls pleasurably, full of devotion and delight on the sun-warmed forest floor, crushing the dark velvety roses, iris, gardenia and jasmine. It is so mysterious that our senses are in turmoil. Here and there, dried fruit and peppery Oriental spices join this lascivious game of the lioness as her birth-giving becomes more enticing and the fire blazes.

Here is masculine animality and feminine lust perfectly united and masterfully enacted. It is an indulgence and a stroll in brocade and velvet, courted by the most beautiful leather and the delicate touch of Immortelle. Balsam of Tolu and vanilla show themselves along with the extreme complexity of benzoin and storax that perfectly harmonize with typical chypre oak moss.

Chypre Palatine seems to have fallen directly through time where nostalgic, magnificent ball-nights combine with wild cat-like grace and flirt with the melting of feminine and masculine fragrant notes on the skin.

Top Note: Hyacinth, Clementine, Aldehydes, Labdanum (Rockrose), Galbanum, Thyme, Lavender
Heart Note: Rose, Jasmine, Iris, Prune, Gardenia
Base Note: Benzoin, Storax, Leather, Vanilla, Balsam of Tolu, Castoreum, Costus, Oakmoss, Everlasting Flower [Immortelle].

Photo: Jimpix.co.uk

Photo: Jimpix.co.uk

Chypre Palatin opens on my skin with mossy sharpness infused with bright, sun-sweetened tangerines, zesty lemon, and tons of smoky sweetness from the styrax resin, along with a hint of its leathered underpinnings. In the base, there is a rich plumminess mixed with incense and leather. A quiet floracy weaves through the top notes, though it’s impossible at this point to tease them out. Seconds later, the castoreum and animalic costus root arrive. Costus root is something that gave vintage Kouros is urinous growl, but here, it add a civet-like muskiness that is perfectly balanced. Sharp and definitely a bit skanky, but never urinous. It’s damn sexy. My God, is this a sexy perfume.

Galbanum

Galbanum

Completing the picture are sparkling aldehydes, and the dark, green pungency of galbanum. Now, I normally struggle with both notes, as galbanum can be painfully sharp in its green-blackness, while aldehydes often turn to pure soap on my skin. Not here. Not with Chypre Palatin. They are so perfectly calibrated, I can’t get over it.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

The aldehydes combine with the utterly spectacular, velvety, rich oakmoss (how can this perfume be IFRA compliant???!) to conjure up the fizzy, sparkling elegance of YSL’s gorgeous fruity chypre, Champagne or Yvresse. The galbanum somehow manages to evoke the famous Bandit from Robert Piguet, only in approachable, less dangerous or brutal form. There is something of Bandit’s green leathered feel lurking about that normally difficult note, but it’s just the faintest suggestion and somehow serves to amplify the overall depth of the oakmoss. The latter never feels fusty, dusty, or like grey mineralized lichen, but it’s not the bright, fresh, springy moss note generated by patchouli, either. On my skin, it smells like really expensive oakmoss — and a lot of it. I really have no idea how this perfume passed IFRA/EU compliance tests. Whatever combination of elements or tricks Bertrand Duchaufour used to create this vision of endless, forest-green velvet, it really feels genuine.

Bal à Versailles.

Bal à Versailles.

The overall effect of the avalanche of notes that falls over me is not just the impression of incredibly baroque grandeur, but a flashback to the past. Chypre Palatin feels like a greatest hits remix of: Bandit, Shalimar, Habit RougeChampagne/Yvresse, Coromandel, and vintage Bal à Versailles. I’m not complaining. Not one bit. In fact, I gulped at the opening, said “Oh my God,” promptly dabbed on some more, and then felt like one of those possessed figures you see in horror movies whose head spins around and around. Only here, I was joyously possessed by such incredibly opulence, such intense deepness, and sensual headiness in such a seamless, luxurious blend that I didn’t know what to take in first.

The Green Velvet Room at Hardwick Castle, England. Photo: NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie.

The Green Velvet Room at Hardwick Castle, England. Photo: NTPL/Nadia Mackenzie.

Yet, Chypre Palatin is more than various parts of its ghostly, perfume predecessors, and is quite its own thing. Yes, it is retro and classique; the fougère elements, the aldehydes, galbanum, oakmoss, and skanky touches all harken to the past. However, it also feels modern with the definite oriental foundation. This isn’t a Chypre to me, not even at first, but a Chypre-Oriental hybrid done with a lightness that belies the heaviness of its super-rich notes. Perhaps the most modern aspect of Chypre Palatin for me is that careful calibration that I talked about earlier. There is none of the excess of the past, whether it is vintage Bal à Versailles’ hardcore, dirty, skank, Bandit’s brutal bite, or the tidal waves of aldehydes in any number of classics from the 1920s Chanel No. 5 to the 1970s Van Cleef & ArpelsFirst. Everything here is measured, to the point of being super refined, even muffled to an extent. Perhaps that is why I keep envisioning extremely thick, forest green, velvet curtains around a four-poster bed, drowning out the sound.

Source: beauty-places.com

Source: beauty-places.com

Yet, there are dainty touches that subtly waft around the baroque splendour. Delicate hyacinth adds a floral pastel colour to the opulent decor, while the iris brings in a touch of sweet, powdered suede. Initially, I don’t detect the lavender in any concrete, individual way, but after ten minutes, a definite strain of something herbal creeps in. It’s not the revolting, pungent, almost abrasive dried sort that evokes barber shops or something medicinal. Instead, it’s creamy, slowly turning into lavender-vanilla icecream. Tiny pops of bright colour come from the yellow citruses, while the orange tangerine brings in a dash of sweetness.

Chypre Palatin sometimes feels more like a seamless movement of notes, a piece of richly elaborate music, or a mood than a set of distinct notes. It rolls over you like a plush, seamless mix that is simultaneously mossy, fresh, dark, bright, animalic, fruity, leathered, smoky, resinous, vanillic, skanky, and sparkling. It overwhelms my senses, in the best way possible. Coincidentally, around the time that I sat down to do a full, proper test of Chypre Palatin, I put in a DVD of Carmen, the opera from Bizet. (No, I swear, contrary to what it may seem like these days, I don’t listen only to opera! My favorite groups are actually Rammstein and Depeche Mode, and I also tend to listen to a lot of ’80s music.) In any event, Carmen’s overture is pretty famous, one of those things that many people will recognise once they hear it, and I’ll be damned if the movement of the music didn’t feel exactly like the movement of Chypre Palatin in the first hour.

So, the best way I can convey to you how Chypre Palatin’s opening feels like to me is to share with you this short, 2 minute clip of Carmen’s overture. Take note of the rapidity of the musicians’ movements, their enormous precision, the music’s moments of daintiness, the occasional bursts of something darker from the drums, and how seamlessly everything fits together. They manage to create a mix that has sparkling vibrancy, symphonic complexity and opulent intensity. For me, it’s not only catchy but representative of Chypre Palatin’s initial deluge of notes:

 

It’s hard to decide what is my favorite part of the scent’s opening phase. At first, my favorite part of Chypre Palatin is the skank naughtiness that lurks in the base. It strongly evokes Bal à Versailles, but MDCI’s version lacks the powderiness and extreme dirtiness of the famous legend. Ten minutes later, like the most fickle person imaginable, I decide the real beauty is not the faintly raunchy take on oakmoss, but the way the fruits are so beautifully nestled into the dark styrax. Out of all the resins, that is the one which is the least sweet, the most smoky and leathered. Then again, the growing flickers of labdanum is gorgeous, as is the subtle patchouli. They show up after 20 minutes, with the labdanum giving a quiet touch of nutty toffee in the base.

Tolu Balsam. Source: somaluna.com

Tolu Balsam. Source: somaluna.com

On the other hand, Tolu Balsam is my second favorite resin (after Peru Balsam), and it adds a rich, opulent, treacly layer to the base. It is faintly spiced with what feels like cinnamon, but it is also infused with a growing sense of vanilla. Something about the overall combination of the citrus-flecked oakmoss on top, with the smoky, leathered, animalic, resinous and vanillic accords at the bottom, keeps bringing vintage Shalimar to mind, as well as Shalimar’s cologne counterpart, Habit Rouge, and Shalimar’s descendant, Parfums de Nicolai‘s Sacrebleu Intense. Shalimar has Peru Balsam (a brother to the Tolu kind in Chypre Palatin), along with citruses, vanilla, civet, rose, jasmine, orris, and leathered, smoky touches. Those notes are either the same as, or one tiny degree apart from, the notes in Chypre Palatin. It’s the same story with Habit Rouge, though I think that has Chypre Palatin’s styrax instead of either Tolu or Peru Balsam. In contrast, Sacrebleu Intense is more overtly floral but also shares fruits, vanilla, cinnamon, smoke, patchouli and the same tolu balsam base. 

There are obvious differences, however, primarily the heady and hefty amounts of greenness in Chypre Palatin. For the first few hours, that is the dominant colour of the scent, mostly from the oakmoss but also from small strains of the galbanum and patchouli. The oakmoss is thoroughly lemony and slightly fruity, though the latter is never strongly sweet. The herbal and lavender accord fades away extremely quickly on my skin, thereby ensuring that Chypre Palatin never ventures into cologne or barbershop territory.

Chandelier reflections

Source: pbs.org

It’s very hard to deconstruct Chypre Palatin because it is a prismatic scent. By that, I mean that the perfume throw off different notes like light hitting crystals on a chandelier, with each wearing revealing different facets at different times. Part of it, again, is how beautifully Bertrand Duchaufour has blended the fragrance, as well as the obviously expensive, high-quality of the ingredients. Chypre Palatin doesn’t change dramatically in its core essence for the next few hours, but different notes feel highlighted at different times. Sometimes, it is the vanilla; at other times, the skank, the leather, citruses or resins take turns. At all times for the first 4 hours, those notes radiate out from the green-velvet oakmoss core. The weakest elements on my skin are the hyacinth, lavender, orange, iris and jasmine. In fact, the overall floral accord is the hardest to tease out into individual notes. The jasmine might be the most noticeable one, but, as a whole, you merely have the sense of a truly lush, velvety, oakmoss-infused “floral bouquet.”

The more obvious change to Chypre Palatin over time is not the development of a particular note, but the perfume’s sillage and weight. At first, it wafted out about 3 inches from the skin. The overall bouquet feels much thicker and heavier than it actually is, since the perfume itself is quite airy in weight. Chypre Palatin is so potent up close, that it feels opaque, concentrated and ornate. That is deceptive and fools you into not realising how the projection is slowly dropping, but it’s hard to miss after 45 minutes. Chypre Palatin turns thinner, lighter, and less rich in weight. It also becomes very soft and discreet in projection, wafting an inch above the skin by the end of the first hour.

90 minutes in, Chypre Palatin is a blur of vanilla, citruses and oakmoss, trailed by incense, dark resins, and a subtle, muted touch of very abstract florals. Unfortunately, you have to sniff hard to detect all the layers and details because, from afar, Chypre Palatin seems primarily like a vanilla-oakmoss scent with some citruses. The vanilla is lovely, though. Smooth, deep, air-whipped, and with only a dash of sweetness. It’s too gauzy to feel like custard, but there is a wonderful eggy richness to it.

Still, everything else seems to have collapsed on each other like a house of cards blowing over. It’s partially the fault of how well-blended and seamless the fragrance is; all the secondary notes have melted into each other. Only the prism’s core — that triptych of oakmoss, vanilla, and vaguely citrusy fruits — really stands out easily. I just wish it hadn’t happened so soon, especially as Chypre Palatin feels as though it’s about to turn into a skin scent any moment now. It doesn’t, but it’s a frustrating feeling that continuously plagues me. In reality, Chypre Palatin tenaciously hovers just above the skin for several more hours, and doesn’t turn into actual skin scent until the 5.5 hour mark. I’m constantly taken aback by how rich it is up close. The weak sillage is very misleading.

The more immediate change is that the scent turns more and more vanillic. By the start of the 3rd hour, when I smell Chypre Palatin from afar, I primarily get a blur of sweet, rich vanilla that sits atop a layer of vaguely spicy, smoky, dark resin. The fruited-oakmoss duo occasionally joins the vanilla, but, more and more, it lurks in the background.

Source: Wallpaperscraft.com

Source: Wallpaperscraft.com

With every passing hour, the resins move closer and closer to the surface. By the start of the 5th hour, Chypre Palatin is halfway transformed into an amber scent dominated by toffee’d, caramel labdanum. There are strong veins of smoke, Tolu balsam, vanilla, and lightly spiced, brown-red, woody patchouli, all blended within the amber’s golden-brown folds. But every time I think the oakmoss-citrus accord has finally vanished, it somehow pops back up. On two occasions, I briefly thought that Chypre Palatin had reverted back to being a vanilla-oakmoss fragrance, only for the amber to push the duo back and take the lead again. The overall effect is a beautiful, concentrated richness that belies Chypre Palatin’s sheerness.

New elements arrive to weave their way through the amber. There is a really subtle, muted hint of booziness that lurks about Chypre Palatin’s edges, no doubt thanks to the patchouli in combination with the labdanum. There is also a lovely cinnamon that is sprinkled over the vanilla. Much of this is due to the Tolu balsam. According to Fragrantica and other sites, Tolu balsam has a deeply velvety richness with a vanilla aroma that is much darker than that of benzoins. To my nose, however, it is always a very spiced, slightly smoky, rather treacly, dark note with a subtle leathered nuance; it doesn’t feel like a truly vanillic element. To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here are a some of the perfumes listed by Fragrantica as scents that feature Tolu balsam (or its close sibling, Peru balsam, in some cases): Bal à Versailles, Opium Ormonde Jayne’s Tolu, Estee Lauder‘s Youth Dew and Cinnabar, MPG’s Ambre Precieux, Mona di Orio‘s Ambre, Guerlain‘s Chamade, Rance‘s Laeticia, Memo‘s Italian Leather, Reminiscence‘s Patchouli Elixir, and many others.

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

Source: footage.shutterstock.com

If I’m spending more time talking about all these ambered or dark elements than the florals that technically make up a “chypre” fragrance, it’s simply because Chypre Palatin isn’t really a floral scent on my skin. It was muted and largely abstract at the start, and it soon becomes the last horse in the race. By the start of the 3rd hour, I’m not sure it’s even there any more. It certainly isn’t by the time Chypre Palatin enters into its heart phase which is dominated by the aforementioned tolu balsam, then labdanum, vanilla and refined patchouli.

And what patchouli it is too! Beautifully red-brown, slightly spicy, and wafting tendrils of incense-like smokiness. Like the Tolu balsam, it has a subtle nuance of something leathered, but there is nothing earthy, green, minty or “head-shop”-like about this note. Actually, the overall combination strongly — strongly — conjures up Chanel’s glorious Coromandel for me. It has to be the way the patchouli is simultaneously vanillic and smoky. The only difference here is that Chypre Palatin feels significantly darker. There is white chocolate or visuals of chai lattes. Also, there remains the faintest hint of skankiness that occasionally waves its musky arm at you from the edges.

Source:  dianafabrics.com

Source: dianafabrics.com

For hour after beautiful hour, Chypre Palatin radiates a plethora of brown, golden, umbered, and ambered hues. The notes are perfectly balanced between dryness, sweetness, and darkness. Somehow, to my utter confusion, Chypre Palatin almost seems to have increased in projection, or perhaps the resinous balsams are simply so rich that they’re throwing out little tendrils in the air. I could have sworn it had turned into a skin scent but, when the wind blew as I took the Hairy German out for a walk around the 10th hour, I could feel the flickers of Chypre Palatin’s incense-patchouli-balsam notes lightly swirling around me. Chypre Palatin remains that way until its very end when it fades away in a blur of abstract, dry sweetness. All in all, 3 medium-ish dabs gave me 14.75 hours in duration. I’m astonished, especially given my wonky skin. It really is a testament to the richness of the notes in question. No expense spared, indeed!

In case it wasn’t obvious by now, I’m rather in love with Chypre Palatin. If the perfume were the imperial official that the “Palatin” part of its name references, I would ask him to… well, never mind. Just trust me when I say that… No, on second thought, really, never mind. All I’ll say is that I wasn’t alone in having an intensely strong reaction to the fragrance. I made The Perfume Snob #1 try it, primarily because my sophisticated, haughty mother has loved and wore every opulent, over-the-top, oriental, chypre and/or skanky classic ever made, from vintage Bal à Versailles to Joy, Opium, Femme, Jolie Madame, and many others.

However, she’s extremely hard to please with modern scents, unless it’s an Amouage. Otherwise, whenever I’ve approached her lately at the weekend dinners, wafting some new scent that I’ve been testing, she’s given me a definite “don’t even think about it” look. (One scent that I shan’t name resulted in an ultimatum that I leave the house if I didn’t scrub it off immediately.) Many of my favorites from Fille en Aiguilles to Fourreau Noir, De Profundis, and Ambra Aurea trigger a dismissive Gallic shrug, while the glorious Mitzah resulted in a violent shudder. Perfume Snob #1 is often impossible to please, but she took one sniff of Chypre Palatin, clutched her wrist, and went glassy-eyed. She then spent the rest of the time until I left sniffing her wrist compulsively and, by her reserved standards, raving about it. I’m still blinking thinking about the intensity of her reaction.

Source: 1ms.net

Source: 1ms.net

For The Scented Hound, Chypre Palatin also “struck a nerve upon first sniff[.]” My sample was a gift from him, and he clearly has phenomenal taste. However, his experience was very different from mine, and shows another side to this very prismatic scent. In his review, he writes, in part:

Chypre Palatin’s first offered up a rush of citrus and cedar and then quickly a warm amberish lavender and what seemed to be eucalyptus (but I’m not seeing eucalyptus in the notes?? hmmm).  The fragrance goes on very warm without being heavy and it’s very comforting.  In a little while the scent then moves to an even warmer almost floral setting.  It’s very peaceful and serene.  The kind of scent where you want to close your eyes and breath in its aromatherapeutic qualities.

As Chypre Palatin continues it’s drydown it moves into a very familiar what I would call barbershop phase.  It’s traditional and old world and masculine at this point.  But stop, don’t let me confuse you by thinking this fragrance is old-fashioned and masculine.  It’s not.  The opening and the dry down make it much more universal and modern.  In the end, Chypre Palatin quiets down to a nice oak moss and vanilla scent with just a touch of powder.  However, depending on what you’re doing, those middle warm aromatic notes will still come to surface as the day wears on.

Longevity is average as is the sillage.  Chypre Palatin is a lovely surprise that feels old and new world at the same time and I think would be perfect for men and women alike.

Alexandre III bridge, Paris. Source: wallpaperscraft.com

Alexandre III bridge, Paris. Source: wallpaperscraft.com

For Suzanne of Eiderdown Press, Chypre Palatin wasn’t masculine but more akin to Amouage’s Jubilation 25 (Women), and a scent that swept her off her feet by bottling the majestic grandeur of Paris. She writes, in part:

This is one of the richest smelling chypres I’ve ever worn; to the degree that I’m not sure I would have identified it either as a chypre or as something created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour if I had smelled it blind without knowing its name or maker. […] Chypre Palatin smells stately, grand and what I think of as classically French in terms of its construction … and maybe because it is a Duchaufour creation, it doesn’t go overboard in this direction. It’s got just enough heft and richness to suggest opulence without crossing over into ostentation.

Before I describe it further, let me say that while it’s marketed as a masculine, I wouldn’t characterize it that way at all (for maybe all of thirty seconds it is masculine-smelling on my skin) and would go so far as to suggest that Chypre Palatin would appeal to women who love scents like Amouage Jubilation 25, which it reminds me of, except that Chypre Palatin is more refined and less challenging, not having the cumin and animalic emphasis that Jubilation 25 possesses, while still smelling every bit as expensive.

The rest of the review is too long for proper etiquette to let me quote it in full, but, for Suzanne, Chypre Palatin basically has a gentle touch of fruitiness in its floral heart, “hypnotic custard-creaminess,” “golden richness, seamless blending” and cashmere-like oakmoss. You can read her review for the full details.

Remember how I described Chypre Palatin as prismatic, throwing off different notes each time you wear it? Well, for Angela at Now Smell This, a full week of Chypre Palatin seemed to reveal several different olfactory profiles. Her review describes each day; how Chypre Palatin seemed like Seville à L’Aube‘s big brother on one occasion, to a fragrance that seemed to reference fougères with its “floral-lavender aspects” on another. Sometimes it conjured up an entirely different impression with its “spicy-mossy amber” and “complex tapestry.” She was fascinated by “how Chypre Palatin could be so intricate, but yet so robust.” As she writes:

The result is a fragrance with the structure and delicacy of an 18th century French table. I’ve been wearing Chypre Palatin all week, and every day the fragrance reveals something new.  […][¶]

Ultimately, Chypre Palatin seduced me with its beauty and craftsmanship, but like a Versailles-era oil painting, it isn’t quite “me.” If my budget didn’t limit me, I’d order a bottle in a second to sniff when I wanted reminding of the skill and imagination of a gifted perfumer. This is the sort of fragrance that rewards the nose you’ve developed through all the years you’ve sniffed through piles of samples. It also rewards a mind open to beauty that melds tradition and modern sensibility.

Blenheim Palace. Source: Liveinternet.ru

Blenheim Palace. Source: Liveinternet.ru

On Fragrantica, reviews are split, primarily because a number of women think the scent is too masculine for them. One person put it best: it’s really going to come down to skin chemistry. I would also add personal tastes and experience with the classics into that equation as well. If you are the sort who finds Shalimar to be too heavy or “old lady-ish,” don’t bother with Chypre Palatin. If you dislike any bits of lavender with citruses in the opening of your fragrance, or your skin amplifies herbal notes, then you may find Chypre Palatin to skew too masculine. If you’re not a fan of even a tiny bit of naughty skank in your scents, or fragrances with a leathered, dark undertone, this won’t be for you, either. But if you love the legendary classics or deeply opulent scents like the modern Amouages, then I think Chypre Palatin is a must sniff for you.

On Basenotes, there are several discussion threads raving about the scent, but the official entry page only has 6 reviews, 5 of which are positive. The lone negative rating seems to be from a woman who finds Chypre Palatin to be too expensive, too masculine, and a bit old-fashioned, though classically elegant. For almost everyone else, Chypre Palatin is a “luxurious chypre,” or “Proudly classicist and grand in scale” like Habit Rouge or the Amouage Jubilation.

One repeated theme in the discussion pertains to Chypre Palatin being “old-fashioned” in feel. Most posters approve of that fact, but one positive review actually disagrees on the retro issue, finding that the perfume isn’t vintage enough in feel. “DrSeid” experienced a rather powdery scent for the majority of Chypre Palatin’s lifetime, not the super-rich oakmoss fest that I had, which probably explains part of his review:

Chypre Palatin is billed as a “throwback” vintage chypre, but I have to respectfully disagree. I find it quite modern, and that is my biggest problem with it. The powdery nature of the scent just does not remind me of the best chypres of old, instead Duchaufour plows new ground in having Chypre Palatin remain classy and elegant in its mild powdery nature throughout but it just does not mesh with my tastes. I personally like my chypres heavier on the oakmoss and lower on the powder showing a bit less polish and a bit more “spunk.” While I won’t be buying a bottle, I can see why many folks who have tried this have really fallen in love with it as it is top quality. If you like powdery modern scents Chypre Palatin is absolutely worth a sniff and maybe even a purchase if you can afford its relatively lofty price tag. I give Chypre Palatin a solid “good” rating and 3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars.

The two different 60 ml bottles of Chypre Palatin. Source: Luckyscent.

The two different 60 ml bottles of Chypre Palatin. Source: Luckyscent.

As you may have noticed, the issue of price comes up a lot. Chypre Palatin does indeed have a “lofty price tag.” A 60 ml bottle called the “tasselled version” costs $250. And that’s the “cheap” version! Apparently, Parfums MDCI really takes its whole philosophy about art very, very seriously. Their regular bottles are famous for having a Roman or Renaissance-like bust statue on the top. The price: $375 for 60 ml. (There is the additional option to have your statue in exclusive Limoges china if you should so wish for the princely sum of €1200!) 

Frankly, the “discount” version sends me rather into a tizzy as it is, given the measly 60 ml/ 2 oz size and, more importantly, Chypre Palatin’s weak sillage on my wonky skin. Others had way more luck in that last regard, but I’m still frustrated by the situation. Nonetheless, if I had endless spare cash lying around, I would have ordered not only a bottle of the scent already, but a back-up as well. Low sillage, be damned! Instead, it’s going straight to the top of my Wish List.  [UPDATE: one of my readers, The Smelly Vagabond, informed me in the comments that the bottle is actually closer to 75 ml but MDCI’s owner decided to list it as 60 ml due to bottle variations. They’re all hand-blown, so he wanted to err on the side of caution. Also, there is a special deal exclusive to the MDCI website where the cost of a sample set will be credited to the cost of buying a full bottle. In short, things are looking much better than I had thought, in terms of price-per-ounce value, decants, and accessability. See the DETAILS section at the end for more.]

The Marble House, Vanderbilt "cottage," Newport. Photo: Gavin Ashworth. Source: http://blog.newportmansions.org

The Marble House, a Vanderbilt “cottage,” Newport, RI. Photo: Gavin Ashworth. Source: http://blog.newportmansions.org

Bottom line, I think Chypre Palatin is grandeur and sensuality on a scale that would have made Leonardo, half the Medicis, and all the bloody Borgias wet their pantalones. It’s been a months and months since I had such an immediate, intense reaction to a scent, such awed amazement, and a lemming turned into Moby Dick. (The last time was for Hard Leather, lest you’re curious.) I’m all in a tizzy, discombobulated, and hot under the collar. In fact, I better end this now before I spend a few thousand more words raving about Chypre Palatin and its baroque glory.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Chypre Palatin is an eau de parfum that comes in two different sorts of a bottles. There is a regular 60 ml bottle called a “tasselled” bottle which costs $250 or €215, and a fancier bottle with a bust statue on it in the same 60 ml size for $375. {UPDATE: One reader let me know that the bottles are much bigger than 60 ml and closer to 75 ml, or 2.5 oz. Various readers as a whole have also kindly shared that Parfums MDCI has a deal exclusive to their website involving their discovery sets. Apparently, if you order either of 2 discovery set (set of 5 or set of 8), that amount is credited towards the purchase of a full bottle. The sets are, respectively, €90 or €140 with shipping. At today’s rate of exchange, that comes to roughly $123 for the small set, or $191 for the larger one. One reader informed me that you can get all of the bottles in the same fragrance, i.e., all Chypre Palatin. To buy the sets or a bottle, you apparently send the company an email with the catalog # of the item you wish to purchase. The catalog numbers are listed on the page in the link. Afterwards, you pay MDCI directly via Paypal.} In the U.S.: Luckyscent has both bottles of Chypre Palatin, along with a Discovery Set of 8 different Parfums MDCI fragrances in a 12 ml size for $210. Regular sized samples are also available for purchase. Osswald also has both versions, but sells the basic bottle for $263, not $250. Outside the U.S.: Parfums MCDI has a website which shows pricing on its bottles, but no e-store for direct purchase. (You have to follow the procedures outlined above.) In Canada, the Perfume Shoppe carries the full line and sells the regular Chypre Palatin for $230, as well as a travel size of your choice of Parfums MDCI fragrance for $50. I’m not sure those are Canadian prices, even if that seems to be a Canadian link, but then I find the company quite confusing. It is US-based, so Canadian readers may want to email them to be sure. In the UK, Parfums MDCI is available at Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie at Harrod’s. In Paris, Chypre Palatin is available from Jovoy for €215 in the regular bottle. The perfume is also carried at Sens Unique, but they don’t have an e-store. In Italy, Sacro Cuore Parfumi sells the bust version for €325, but doesn’t have the cheaper bottle. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells the regular bottle for €215. The Netherland’s Lianne Tio sells Chypre Palatin for €229. You can also find the perfume at Hungary’s Neroli Parfum and Russia’s Lenoma. For all other European countries, you can use the MDCI’s Retailers List to find a vendor near you. However, there are no sellers listed in Australia, Asia, or the Middle East. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Chypre Palatin starting at $5.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

YSL Vintage Champagne/Yvresse: Sparkling Elegance

Source: evollt.com

Source: evollt.com

Bubbling joy, effervescent gold, the emerald of a mossy forest floor, glowing orange and pink jewels cocooned in French elegance, and a warm smile on the sunniest of days: Champagne. It is liquid gold, but so much more than that in the case of the extremely well-named, vintage fragrance from Yves Saint Laurent. Some things simply make you happy, and Champagne (or Yvresse, as it was quickly re-named) is one of those things for me. I always stand a little straighter when I wear it, feel brighter, with more of a kick in my step. It makes me feel elegant and sophisticated, even when I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt. I feel smoothed out, covered in gold, and dripping glowing jewels of orange and pink.

Photo: Jimpix.co.uk

Photo: Jimpix.co.uk

It doesn’t make a lot of sense on the face of it because Champagne or Yvresse is very far from my usual style. At first glance, it appears like a simple, extremely sweet, very feminine fruity-floral. Look closer and take a deeper sniff, however, and you will see a dark, lush forest of green carpeting those fruits and flowers, a base of oakmoss of such high quality that I’ve only smelled its like recently in $400 and $900 fragrances from Roja Dove.

Source: parentium.com

Source: parentium.com

There is green aplenty in Yvresse, but perhaps the real joy stems from the effervescent, incandescent bubbles of gold that hit your nose from the very start. Clever uses of menthol create a chilled sensation that very much evokes the subtle, sparkling tingle of really good, expensive champagne. Yet, the bubbles are only half the story.

Tart, tangy juiciness drips from lush nectarines, lychee, and peaches with a joyful abandon that feels like the best of summer. Yvresse is most definitely a chypre first and foremost, but the fruited touch makes the scent as warm and as sweet as a big, infectious grin. All of the haughty, aloof, cool distance that the dark green oakmoss in a chypre can create has been replaced by bright, sunny plushness. Even when the fragrance turns drier and less sweet, the lingering touches of peach and vanilla create a softness that is approachable elegance at its best. It’s not the stark, perfect beauty of Grace Kelly (who is perhaps a perfect representation of a chypre’s aloof coolness), but the warm smile of Audrey Hepburn. Yvresse/Champagne is bright joy and sunniness mixed with elegant sophistication and sweet femininity — all in one very affordable bottle.

YSL Champagne ad showing the small, squat parfum bottle, not the EDT one. Source: ladies-with-bottle.blogspot.com

YSL Champagne ad showing the small, squat parfum bottle, not the EDT one. Source: ladies-with-bottle.blogspot.com

Yvresse was created by Sophia Grojsman, and was originally released as Champagne in 1993. The French champagne industry immediately had a snit-fit over the name, outraged that something could be called “Champagne” that wasn’t a French sparkling wine. (Technically, champagne is terroir-specific, as sparkling wines from other regions have a different appellation. To give you just one example, in Spain, they are called “Cava.”) The champagne industry sued for trademark violation, and if you’re rolling your eyes, you’d be right. Yves St. Laurent lost the lawsuit and was forced to change the fragrance’s name to Yvresse, which essentially means a state of intoxicated joy. All that changed was the label on the bottle and its look, not the ingredients themselves.

Yvresse in a 2 oz bottle to the left, Champagne in a 3.4 oz to the right. Photo: my own.

Yvresse in a 2 oz bottle to the left, Champagne in a 3.4 oz to the right. Photo: my own.

The fragrance is most commonly available as an eau de toilette, though a rare parfum version was also released. This review is just for the eau de toilette. I have bottles of both Yvresse and Champagne in that concentration, and find them to be virtually identical. The greatest difference between the two is sweetness and the price, as vintage Yvresse is extremely inexpensive and widely available on eBay. You can find a small bottle as low as $29 right now, but the same size for Champagne costs significantly more. (Almost a $100 more.) For that reason, in part, I used my bottle of Yvresse to test for this review, though the main reason is that my bottle of Champagne is running dangerously low and I want to keep it as long as possible. I’ll repeat that, in my eyes, the two fragrances are almost identical. The reason for the difference in pricing is that far fewer bottles of “Champagne” were released, so they are more of a collector’s item. The smell, however, is the same.

Otto Rose, named for Otto de Jager. Source: ludwigsroses.co.za

Otto Rose, named for Otto de Jager. Source: ludwigsroses.co.za

Fragrantica lists Yvresse’s main notes as:

nectarine, anise, menthol, Otto rose, blue rose, litchi, oak moss, patchouli, vetiver.

Ozmoz has a more complicated list, but, despite its entry date of 1993, shows a photo of the new, modern, very different Yvresse. So, taking things with a grain of salt and the possibility that Ozmoz is providing the reformulated fragrance’s new notes, the olfactory pyramid is supposedly:

Note of Top : Peach, Apricot, Star Anise / Chinese Anise, Cumin

Note of Heart : Jasmine, Carnation, Rose, Cinnamon

Note of Base : Castoreum, Vanilla, Cedar, Styrax

Source: hqdesktop.net

Source: hqdesktop.net

I’ve never seen any list for the original Champagne or Yvresse that includes carnation or jasmine, never mind cumin! I certainly don’t smell either of those three notes, and they’re not mentioned on the note list that came with my bottle of Champagne. Stranger still is Ozmoz’ omission of nectarine, which is commonly known to be a major part of the scent.

To my nose, the notes in vintage Yvresse include:

nectarine, peach, anise, menthol, Otto rose, blue rose, litchi, oak moss, patchouli, vetiver, castoreum, and vanilla. Possibly mandarin orange, cedar, and cinnamon as well.

Source: forwallpaper.com

Source: forwallpaper.com

Yvresse opens on my skin with intense fruited sweetness that dissolves instantly into tangy, tart nectarines, orange fruits, a pink rose, and oakmoss. There is a hit of bitter citric zestiness like when you peel a baby tangerine and the oils squirt on your skin. Soft ripe peaches join the parade, but there is as much tartness in the Yvresse’s opening as there is sweetness. There is also brightness, so much brightness that it positively glows. It infuses the deep, dark oakmoss with incredible vibrancy, transforming it from the typically drier aroma of real mousse de chene oakmoss absolute. There is still a massive amount of the dark note in Yvresse, but it’s fresher than the usual scent of dry tree bark with a touch of salt and slightly fusty, dusty, mineralized grey lichen. Instead, it feels like bright emerald green that carpets the forest floor with thick, bouncy plushness.

Other notes soon appear. There is a watery, sweet lychee lurking around the edges, along with a deep, pink, Damascena rose and whiffs of a velvety castoreum. Deep in the base, there are flickers of cinnamon, alongside a bright, fresh, green, almost minty vetiver. The whole bouquet sparkles as effervescently as champagne. There is a fizzy quality as the notes dance around, buoyant, fresh and happy like young girls on a red carpet, only this one is dark green, emphasizing their golden and orange glow even more.

Source: Miriadna.com desktop wallpapers.

Source: Miriadna.com desktop wallpapers.

For all the sweetness in the opening minutes, Yvresse is always much less syrupy on my skin than others have reported and a definite chypre from the very start. The dark, emerald moss is really the key to the fragrance; it’s a solid, dominant note which gives Yvresse a firm, sometimes dry, green spine from head to toe, and from start to finish.

Interestingly, I tried Champagne in a side-by-side test, and the fragrance was both significantly sweeter on my skin, and less mossy. I think the intense syrup stems from the fact that my bottle of Champagne is exactly 20 years old. The inevitable evaporation that occurs over time thereby concentrates some of the fragrance, and that amount of sweetness ends up overwhelming the dryness of the oakmoss in Champagne. In contrast, my much newer bottle of Yvresse (that may be about 10 years old, or a little bit younger) is drier, greener, less sweet, more chypre-like, and with significantly greater brightness. It also fizzles and sparkles from the start. Nonetheless, all of this is a question of degree, mere fractional differences that don’t change the primary essence of the fragrance.

In all cases, both Champagne and Yvresse open with enormous potency and sillage for a fragrance that is a mere eau de toilette. The strong sillage wafts about you like a cloud, projecting a good 4-5 inches of a cloud that is tart nectarines, zesty tangerines, sweet peaches, delicate lychee, a dash of rose, and endless vistas of dark oakmoss. The potent cloud softens a tiny bit after 20 minutes, and hints of other notes appear. There are spices, noticeably dry cinnamon, but there is also something fiery that feels like star anise with almost a chili-pepper, pimento bite. They’re subtle and very muted, however, and you have to really sniff to detect them. 

Source: mport.bigmir.net

Source: mport.bigmir.net

One of the things I love the most about Yvresse is the fizzy sparkle. Originally, I thought it may be the result of the contrast between the deep velvet of the foresty base and the tangy, tart, top notes. Later, I thought that it may be merely the power of suggestion. If so, then everyone who tries Yvresse is equally suggestible because they’ve all noticed the same thing. Something in Yvresse really and truly replicates the nose-tingling bubbles of champagne, subtle though it may be amidst all the powerful accords. However, having stared at the notes for this review, I’ve finally figured out the cause. The “menthol.” It’s a note that initially left me scratching my head, because nothing in Yvresse reads as anything medicinal, camphorated, or even very minty. It translates instead as a cool, almost icy, frosted chill. Yet, menthol makes sense. It serves to amplify the more mossy, green elements in the base, while also diffusing the sweetness at the top. It transforms those fruity accords into something more chilled, while also giving a little fizzy tingle in your nose the way really expensive champagne can do.

Source: Forwallpaper.com

Source: Forwallpaper.com

Thirty minutes in, Yvresse is a sweet, fizzy rose scent infused by tart, sweet fruit, a whisper of dry cinnamon and anise, and endless amounts of dark, dry oakmoss. The oakmoss feels as though it dominates the top, middle, and bottom layers, taking over every part of the fruit and rose accord, balancing it all out in the most elegant, sophisticated mix of green. Deep down in the base, the first touches of vanilla become noticeable, but it will take a while for it to rise up to the top.

"Pink & Green Tree Painting by Artist Louise Mead." Source: ebsqart.com. (Website link embedded within photo.)

“Pink & Green Tree Painting by Artist Louise Mead.” Source: ebsqart.com. (Website link embedded within photo.)

At the 90-minute mark, the fragrance starts to shift. Yvresse loses a lot of its fizzy, champagne quality, along with its sweetness. As they recede to the periphery, the cool, crisp greenness takes their place, imbued with some sharpness and with the faintest hint of spiciness from the star anise. Equally subtle is the whiff of castoreum in the foundation with its quietly animalic, brown velvetiness. All the base notes are muted, and detectable only if you really sniff hard; the general impression from afar is of a deep, multi-faceted, seamless blend of emerald green, foresty moss infused with roses and fruited sweetness.

Both the fragrance and the individual elements have softened, with projection now limited to only 2-3 inches above the skin. It’s still fantastic for a mere eau de toilette, though. In fact, in every way, from richness, depth, body and projection, Yvresse is really more like an eau de parfum than anything else. It’s certainly ten times stronger and more full-bodied than any current Hèrmes parfum from the ultra-minimalist Jean-Claude Ellena.

Yvresse remains largely unchanged for the next few hours. There are subtle differences in the order or prominence of the notes, but the most noticeable thing about the scent is that it gets drier and darker. Around the start of the third hour, there is a subtle smoked woodiness that appears, leading me to think that the fragrance may indeed have cedar in it as Ozmoz states. The nectarine fades to the sidelines, letting the peach take over, while the vanilla slowly rises to the top. Yvresse becomes a beautifully balanced mathematical equation of fruits and florals; sweetness and dryness; joyful, bright warmth and dry, restrained darkness in a blend that feels like a very grown-up, elegant take on a fruity-floral.

Audrey Hepburn in "Breakfast at Tiffany's."

Audrey Hepburn in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”

For me, modern interpretations of the fruity-floral genre always feel very young, very girly in a teenage-like way with its abundance of syrup and purple, fruited patchouli. (Exhibit A would be the terrible, banal, and simpering Chypre Fatal from Guerlain.) Originally, however, the fruited chypre genre was for sophisticated women, with scents like the legendary Mitsouko which is also based on peach and oakmoss. Yvresse is different, because it lacks the powerful bit of “skank” that makes Mitsouko so sensuous (or sexual, in some people’s eyes). It is a much sweeter, sunnier, happier scent without that overly sensuous underpinning. It’s not sexy like Sophia Loren, or a grand dame like Catherine Deneuve (who would perfectly embody Mitsouko). But it’s also not girlish and youthful like a Gigi.

Source: npr.org

Source: npr.org

For all the happy bubbliness of Yvresse’s start, there is too much underlying elegance and sophistication. It is Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, with her charm, genuine warmth, and her open smile, all in a very classique, elegant body. In short, Yvresse is approachable chic and sophistication that never loses sight of its playful side. In modern parlance, Yvresse might perhaps be a very grown-up Reese Witherspoon going to the Oscars.

"Shades of Leaves," abstract photography by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. (Website link embedded withinphoto.)

“Shades of Leaves,” abstract photography by Bruno Paolo Benedetti. (Website link embedded within photo.)

In its final phase, Yvresse is a soft blur of oakmoss infused with abstract floral and fruited elements. For a while around the end of the 6th hour, you can still vaguely distinguish the peach, rose and cedar notes, but they are increasingly folded into that plush, soft, smooth greenness. The nectarine has vanished, as did the lychee and spices hours earlier. There is a subtle vanilla element in the base that feels as airy as mousse, but it’s blended in as well, and feels quite muted. In its final moments, Yvresse is merely a delicate haze of cool, somewhat dry, faintly sweet mossiness.

All in all, Yvresse consistently lasts between 9 and 9.75 hours on my perfume-eating skin, depending on the quantity I apply. With a larger dose, the fragrance takes 5.5 hours to become a skin scent, while a smaller amount yields about 4/25 hours. These are exceptional numbers for a mere eau de toilette, but as noted earlier, Yvresse feels very much like an eau de parfum in strength. 

I absolutely adore Yvresse/Champagne, and it is one of my “happy scents” that I turn to when I need a little energizing boost, or Prozac in a bottle. It always makes me feel more elegant and put-together, even though blazing femininity is not my style of perfumery. I would not recommend Yvresse for most men, as I think the bouquet would be viewed as too feminine by those with more conventional tastes.

However, I know a few confident men who love the fragrance, perhaps because of its mossy chypre character. Men who wear fruity-chypres like Mitsouko and who enjoy sweet scents may like Yvresse. On the other hand, Mitsouko is much drier and with significantly more pungent oakmoss, so don’t expect a very close kinship in that regard. Yvresse may actually be closer in feel to Andy Tauer‘s Une Rose Chyprée, taking a lot of its rich moss with a sunny, happy rose facade, and then tossing in a dab of the tart fruit in his stunning PHI Une Rose de Kandahar. Again, though, Yvresse starts at a much sweeter level.

YSL vintage golden couture, 1967. Photo by David Bailey for Vogue. Source: Styliista.com

YSL vintage golden couture, 1967. Photo by David Bailey for Vogue. Source: Styliista.com

Another fragrance that comes to mind is Viktoria Minya‘s exquisite Hedonist. Yvresse is a very different scent and lacks the boozy, oriental qualities of the niche scent, but the two share that same fizzy feel at the start, a fact I remarked upon even in my review of Hedonist. They also have the same very sunny, opulent, golden sophistication and joyousness. That said, Yvresse very much demonstrates the signature of its maker, Sophia Grojsman, who is responsible for such intensely feminine, sweet fragrances as YSL‘s classic Paris and Lancome‘s Trésor. In short, it definitely skews very feminine in nature.

Champagne.

Champagne.

Yvresse is extremely affordable for such an elegant, vintage scent, though the same fragrance under the Champagne name costs significantly more. On eBay, you can find Yvresse for as low as $29 in the smallest 50 ml/1.7 oz size. It’s an absolutely fantastic price for a scent that shows the same complexity, elegance, richness, and nuance as a $200 niche fragrance. Actually, I’ve tested a number of $275 to $425 florals that don’t have one tenth of Yvresse’s sophistication or complexity. I don’t think the $29 figure is the norm, but Yvresse is still a bargain even at its more typical, slightly higher price.

As shown in the Details section below, you can generally find Yvresse on any number of discount or outlet fragrance sites for somewhere in the $42-$65 range for a 60 ml/2 oz size. In the UK, I’ve seen Yvresse sold cheaply for £33.31 in that same size, and for £50.05 for a huge 125 ml/4.25 oz bottle. Online retailers are a more steady, permanent option than relying on the vagaries of what may be offered on eBay, but you’ll sometimes get much better deals on the auction site, so you should check both. Unfortunately, I’ve never seen Champagne offered on any site other than eBay.

Vintage Yvresse but slightly newer and without the wide gold band around the top, and with much paler font in the writing. This version is still vintage Yvresse though.

Vintage Yvresse but slightly newer, without the wide gold band around the top, and with much paler font in the writing. This version is still vintage Yvresse though.

In all cases, it’s cheaper to buy Yvresse than Champagne. To give you an idea of the comparative range of prices for Yvresse versus Champagne on eBay, here are some links which, it goes without saying, will soon become obsolete once the auctions end in a few days: an unopened, boxed Yvresse EDT in a small 1.7 oz/50 ml size is going for $29.99; a 2 oz/60ml boxed Yvresse for $57.19 from FragranceNet; five bottles of boxed Yvresse in a 3.3 oz/100 ml bottle, each for $70.25; or a huge 125 ml/ 4.25 oz boxed Yvresse for $89.99. In contrast, the cheapest starting price for a boxed bottle of Champagne in the small 1.7 oz size is $125, with larger sizes averaging about $195-$200 before a single bid has been placed. For those who are reading this review months down the road, you can use the following search which should work regardless of time and which should not become obsolete: Yvresse and Champagne options on eBay, including the rarer parfum version.

Older vintage Yvresse with the gold band and much deeper, darker font in the writing.

Older vintage Yvresse with the gold band and much deeper, darker font in the writing.

One word of caution regarding names and boxes. No matter which name it is sold under, the eau de toilette always comes with a gold box and the bottle is oval-shaped, like a football. Slightly newer bottles of Yvresse don’t have the wide, dimpled, gold band going around the top of the bottle or dark font for the writing, but they are still vintage Yvresse. In fact, that is the version I own and used for this test. You can compare the bottle shown to the left with the one posted immediately above. They are both vintage. However, any fragrance with a red box is Yvresse Legere, which is a different perfume that was released in 1997 and which has a very different aroma profile. (It’s centered around mimosa, for one thing.)

New, modern, "La Collection Yvresse" from 2011. Source: Fragrantica.

New, modern, “La Collection Yvresse” from 2011. Source: Fragrantica.

Also, you will want to stay far away from anything in an opaque, cream-coloured bottle as shown in the photo to the right. In 2011, under L’Oreal’s ownership, YSL released a new Yvresse in 2011 called La Collection Yvresse. This is a totally different fragrance, no matter what its name purports to be. As that Fragrantica link will show you, the notes are substantially different and limited to 5 things: litchi, nectarine, rose, violet, and patchouli. In short, it is missing half the notes of the original Yvresse, most particularly the essential oakmoss base. I haven’t tried it out of protest, and I never will given my loathing of every single thing put out thus far by L’Oreal under the modern YSL name. They’re all terrible. (You don’t want to get me started on the revolting, emasculated eunuch that is the modern, current “Opium.” It is an utter travesty.)

Yvresse isn’t for everyone, but its cheerfulness makes it a favorite of mine, even if I don’t turn to it as much as I once did. In a few weeks, it will be New Year’s Eve, a time when champagne abounds. This year, I think I shall take my fizziness in a perfume bottle, with vintage golden bubbles from Yves Saint Laurent. It’s the perfect way to ring in 2014:  a note of boundless joy and bright optimism, all wrapped up in sparkling elegance. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Yvresse/Champagne is available in a variety of different sizes and concentrations. This review is only for the vintage eau de toilette version. I’ve seen bottles of the fragrance in a 1.7 oz/50 ml size, a 2 oz/60 ml size, a 3.3 oz/100 ml size, and a very large 4.25 oz/125 ml size. Prices range from $29 to $95 for Yvresse, but bottles with the Champagne name are consistently higher by a significant amount. The larger sizes of Champagne can even go up to $200. As noted in the review, I don’t think there is any significant, substantial difference between the two. The name change was done for litigation reasons, not reformulation ones. Outside of eBay: Yvresse is sold at a number of different outlet or discount fragrance sites. I found one in Czechoslovakia, others in Russia. In the U.S., Overstock.com sells Yvresse for $43.29 for a 2 oz/60 ml bottle, and they ship internationally to over 100 countries. Yvresse is sold in the same size for $42 from Sophia’s Beauty, and around $47 from Fragrance Original. Another world-wide site selling a lot of Yvresse at a good price is FragranceX which has 2 oz/60 ml bottles priced at $56.62. The PerfumeLoft sells it for a bit higher. Outside the U.S.: A number of the discount sites listed above ship worldwide. However, in the UK, I found Yvresse sold in two sizes at London Perfume Shop for £33.31 for a 60 ml/2 oz size, and for £50.05 for a large 125 ml/4.25 oz size. In Australia, I found Yvresse at ShopandSave for $64.95 (AUD?) for a 2 oz/60 ml bottle. In the Middle East, Yvresse is sold at Bustan PerfumesSamples: if you want to test the fragrance, you can order Yvresse from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3 for a 1 ml vial. The site also offers Champagne (which it lists with the exact same notes) for the same $3 starting price.

Roja Dove Fetish (Woman)

Succumb To Your Desires.

Fetish for women in pure parfum extrait.

Fetish for women in pure parfum extrait.

That is what Roja Dove tells you when he talks about Fetish, his line of chypre-leather fragrances. Yesterday, we explored the men’s version of Fetish Extrait, and, while it didn’t awaken any desires in me, I certainly concede that it is a leather scent. However, I’m wholly unconvinced on that matter when it comes to Fetish for Women (also in pure parfum Extrait form). There was nothing remotely leathered about this white floral chypre on my skin.

On his Roja Parfums website, after he’s ordered you to succumb to your desires, Roja Dove offers the following description for Fetish:

WARM, DRY, FRESH, SWEET, & LEATHERY

“Nothing is darker than leather in all its guises. Beware once you have entered there is no escape, as I have created a perfume that once under its spell there is no return”. Roja Dove

INGREDIENTS

TOP: Bergamot

HEART: Jasmine, Rose, Tuberose, Ylang Ylang

BASE: Castoreum, Cedarwood, Cinnamon, Clove, Galbanum, Musk, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Vetiver

Galbanum

Galbanum

Fetish for Women Extrait (hereinafter just “Fetish“) opens on my skin with galbanum sweetened by jasmine. It’s a combination of great crispness, freshness, and greenness, but without the usual pungent froideur, distance, and iciness that I typically find with galbanum. The ingredient’s sharp edge and unapproachability render it something that I often struggle with, but here, it’s very different. The jasmine adds a fragrant sweetness and warmth, while the galbanum keeps the usually indolic, sometimes heavy flower quite crisp, clean, and green. There is the faintest trickle of jasmine’s sweet syrupy nature lurking underneath, but it’s always kept in check and balance. 

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

On the heels of the two main notes is the oakmoss. It feels simultaneously pungent and mineralized, but also a wee bit plush, fresh, and lightly sweetened. In Fetish’s middle layer, hints of dry, woody vetiver and slightly sweet, green patchouli round out the tableau of variegated greens. The one exception to the colour spectrum are the flickers of aldehydic soapiness that dart about. In Fetish’s depths, there are elements of tuberose and extremely dry cedar. Even deeper below, the castoreum briefly stirs. Here, it thankfully lacks the animalic raunchiness or sweaty perianal parts prevalent in Fetish Pour Homme; instead, it merely feels like something velvety brown and soft in the base. A mere drop of animalism, if you will, instead of whole bucketfuls.

For the most part, however, Fetish for Women is primarily a triptych of jasmine, galbanum, and oakmoss on my skin. The degree of each note fluctuates in prominence and strength, but the perfume’s core essence never changes. Not once.

Source: dilei.it

Source: dilei.it

What happens instead is that Fetish goes through a small shrieking period. The galbanum becomes more forceful and incredibly sharp; so, too, does the oakmoss. Something about the two notes in tandem, along with that aldehydic soapiness, consistently creates an almost synthetic sharpness that I find abrasive. I tested Fetish three times, and there is always a brief 20-25 minute period when the jasmine retreats. The loss of its sweetness permits the galbanum’s inherently icy, sharp edge to come out, along with the more fusty, pungent aspects of the oakmoss. I don’t know to what extent the latter may be partially synthetic in nature, but the effect of the overall combination repeatedly causes a tightening sensation in my nose. It’s almost like something verging on sinus pains, but not quite.

"Evernia Prunastri" lichen moss. Source: via supermoss.com

“Evernia Prunastri” lichen moss. Source: via supermoss.com

I want to take a moment to briefly talk about that oakmoss which I suspect is mousse de chene. It is actually a specific type of oakmoss (Evernia prunastri) that is an oakmoss absolute according to The Aroma Connection blog, and, in some people’s eyes, seems to be considered the “true” oakmoss. It’s a grey lichen which grows on trees and has an intensely dank, pungent, fusty aroma that can also be salty and smell like tree bark. Still, “real” oakmoss of any type is largely banned out of perfume existence, and substitutes are often used, either by themselves or as complements to smaller portions of the real thing.

There is a very interesting, detailed, and somewhat technical discussion of the different types of oakmoss on The Aroma Connection, including the various synthetic versions or additives thereto:

we are left with a few synthetic oakmoss chemicals, such as Evernyl (methyl 2-4-dihydroxy-3-6-dimethylbenzoate) and formerly, the less popularly-utilised Orcinyl-3 (3-methoxy-5-methylphenol), which the hype from synthetic aroma chemical producers would try to persuade you ‘represent the essential character compound of oakmoss’.

… It should also be mentioned that a range of commercial oakmoss products exists, some offering a warm, leathery-mossy character, whilst others offer have woody, mossy – almost marine-like aspects.

Here, the oakmoss never has a leather aspect on my skin, but it does have an incredibly sharp character that occasionally smells a little salty and like the bark of a tree. There is a subtle smokiness, but it is mild and overwhelmed by the more pungent, almost acrid characteristics. More importantly for our purposes here, the oakmoss has an undertone that, to me, smells synthetic to me. I don’t react with the equivalent of a sinus headache or pinching otherwise, and it happened to me with both men and women’s versions of Fetish.

On all three occasions with Fetish Woman, the shrieking phase was brief, and never lasted beyond 20-25 minutes, ending about 50 minutes into the perfume’s evolution. Part of the reason why is because the jasmine returns in greater strength to counterbalance the green notes, tame them, and turn them into something less forceful. A Fragrantica commentator described Fetish Pour Homme as being very “shouty,” and I think Fetish for Women has a brief period of the same thing, despite being a considerably softer, tamer fragrance. Actually, “shouty” isn’t so accurate in this case, and a more apt description would be “unbalanced.” Regardless, it’s not a very long period, and Fetish soon calms down.

In fact, it turns a little too mellow and goes too much the opposite extreme. On each occasion where I tested Fetish, a little after one hour, the perfume dropped in sillage, hovered just an inch over the skin, and became a virtual blur of white florals with green notes and oakmoss. By the 90-minute mark, it’s a skin scent.

At times, the oakmoss turns so gentle and muted, it felt like the description that one reader emailed me about with regard to another very oakmossy, green fragrance: “green tea and honey.” To my surprise, the oakmoss in Fetish’s base might truly be described that way from afar. Something about the green accords has the soft, fragrant gentleness of green tea, albeit a very concentrated one that has been infused by a very delicate touch of sweet, white floral syrup. Unfortunately, the somewhat synthetic elements remains, lurking far below, and whenever I take whiffs that are too forceful of my arm, the sharp tightening in my nose returns instantly.

Source: bioloskiblog.wordpress.com

Source: bioloskiblog.wordpress.com

There really isn’t much more to be said about Fetish’s development on my skin. It remains as a blur of white florals atop a chypre base. For a brief period, the jasmine and oakmoss are vaguely distinguishable in their own right, but the notes are generally a haze, overlapping each other, and rarely having any definitive, firm shape. In its final moments, Fetish is merely a nebulous floral smear with something vaguely green about it. All in all, it lasted just over 7.5 hours with 2 large sprays, and a little under 9 hours with double that amount.

I liked Fetish for the most part, but what manifested itself on my skin was also a big disappointment. If I hadn’t been told that this was a “leather” fragrance, I never once would have guessed it. For me, Fetish is exactly and precisely the “floral chypre” that Fragrantica classifies it as on their site. My skin always amplifies base notes, and that includes leather, yet none showed up in any of my 3 tests of the perfume. I was also a little taken aback by the lack of complexity, nuance, and body of the largely simplistic scent that appeared on my skin. Fetish was a perfectly nice — even occasionally lovely — white floral perfume, but nothing more. I’d still enjoy wearing it, however, were it not for the synthetic feel in the base and the fact that it consistently became a skin scent on me between the 60-90 minute range (depending on quantity). For $425 or €395, I expect more. A lot more.

On Fragrantica, the only review for Fetish Woman in extrait version comes from Dubaiscents, a reader and a friend who loves the fragrance. She describes it as “both elegant and feminine but, also tough and a little dirty. One of my all time favorite leather scents!” It sounds infinitely more interesting on her skin than on mine, and I envy her her complex experience. If I had experienced some grit, some toughness, something other than linear two-dimensionality, then perhaps I wouldn’t have been so bored. As it is, I’ve struggled to write this review from sheer lack of inspiration, enthusiasm, and interest. In fact, Fetish bores me so much that I will end this here and now.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: The Fetish for Women Pure Parfum is available in a 50 ml/1.7 oz size which costs $435, €395 or £345. In the U.S.: Fetish is available at New York’s Osswald. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can buy Fetish directly from Roja Dove at his Haute Parfumerie on the 5th Floor of Harrods London. Roja Dove also has an e-store at Roja Parfums for his personal line of fragrances, and he sells Fetish Extrait for £345. In France, Jovoy Paris seems to be the exclusive distributor for Roja Dove fragrances, and sells Fetish in both the Extrait and Eau de Parfum versions. (The Homme EDP costs €265.) In the UAE, the Paris Gallery carries the whole Roja Parfums line and sells the women’s Fetish Extrait for AED 2,050. Samples: I obtained my sample from Jovoy in Paris. If you’re in the U.S., you can test Fetish Homme in the Extrait version by ordering samples by phone from OsswaldNY. They offer a deal of 10 samples for $10 (shipping included) for domestic customers. Their phone number is: (212) 625-3111. As for Surrender to Chance, it only carries Fetish in the men’s EDP version, but doesn’t offer any version of the women’s fragrance. So, your best bet is really ordering a sample from OsswaldNY.

Roja Dove Fetish Pour Homme

Roja Dove. Source: The Glass Magazine.

Roja Dove. Source: The Glass Magazine.

Roja Dove is an enormously respected, admired Master Perfumer, in addition to being a fragrance historian with an appreciation for the grand, classical tradition of haute perfumery. I had the opportunity to try a few of his fragrances at Paris’ Jovoy, and was struck by his Fetish line which was released in 2012. The scents come in both a men and women’s version, with each one then broken down further into an eau de parfum and extrait (or pure parfum) concentration. This review is for Fetish Pour Homme in extrait form.

Source: Roja Parfums website.

Source: Roja Parfums website.

Osswald Parfumerie quotes Roja Dove’s description of the scent:

“Succumb To Your Desires”. Warm, Dry, Sweet, Spicy, Leathery, & Very Sensual. “Leather can be so compulsive that for many it becomes a type of fetish. I then thought of leather in a man’s world. I thought of the soft sensuality of it against the skin, and the timeless appeal of a successful, masculine man and the things he surrounds himself with. Beware, as I have created a perfume that once under its spell there is no return”. Roja Dove

According to Roja Parfums, Fetish Pour Homme (hereinafter just “Fetish“) includes:

TOP: Bergamot, Lemon, Lime

HEART: Fig, Jasmine, Neroli, Violet

BASE: Ambergris, Benzoin, Cardamom, Castoreum, Cinnamon, Elemi, Labdanum, Leather, Musk, Oakmoss, Patchouli, Pepper, Pink Pepper, Vanilla, Vetiver.

Source: leatherchairs.co.uk

Source: leatherchairs.co.uk

Fetish opens on my skin with crisp lime and zesty, clean, slightly soapy citric notes followed immediately by contrasting animalism from pungent, brown, musky castoreum. The latter has an oily feel that is also plush, velvety, and slightly sweet. It is leathery, but leather in its own right soon appears. It has a slightly raw, rubbery facet, but it also feels very aged and burnished. It is heavily infused by cardamom that is nutty and dusty.

In essence, Fetish’s initial bouquet is of a very expensive leather sofa in a gentlemen’s club that has been cleaned with a sharp, waxy, slightly soapy and very bitter lime peel oil, then further oiled by musky, animalic castoreum, before being finished off by a heavy sprinkling of sweet cardamom that was taken from the bottom of a very dusty spice drawer. It’s all spice, bitter lime, sweetness, dust, muskiness, and animal secretions over aged leather — and it’s quite a discordant jolt to my nose.

I struggle with Fetish’s opening sharpness which I find hard to blame on any one, single note. The accords have combined to create enormous bitterness that is one part pungent green, one part smoky tar, and three parts animal. I suspect the oakmoss, smoky elemi wood, leathery fig, dry vetiver, and bitter lime are also partially responsible for a combination that feels as though raw animal hides have been tarred by the most bitter distillation. The fusty, mineralized, almost fossilized, dusty oakmoss and lime peel oil are joined by what seems like bucketfuls of castoreum.

Leather Tanning in Morocco. Photo by Burrard-Lucas via http://www.burrard-lucas.com/photo/morocco/leather_tanning.html

Leather Tanning in Morocco. Photo by Burrard-Lucas via http://www.burrard-lucas.com/photo/morocco/leather_tanning.html

Fetish’s increasingly powerful animalism takes on nuances that aren’t easy for me to bear. Forgive my forthcoming rudeness, but there is no other way for me to describe how the castoreum smells here except to say that it repeatedly reminds me of sweaty anus with a dash of dried urine on genitalia. There is also a sub-tone of fur to the musk, which brings back memories of a sick, elderly German Shepherd Dog that I had with some bowel problems. I never had problems with Serge LutensMusc Kublai Khan, a fragrance that has been described in the most explicit of terms, but Fetish? Fetish is tough, and it evokes all the things that others seem to have encountered in the Lutens fragrance. When that leathered, animalic side is mixed with the oakmoss-lime duo, the final result is one that I found painfully abrasive for the first 10 minutes.

Castoreum, a secretion derived from beaver anal gland sacs.

Castoreum, a secretion derived from beaver anal gland sacs.

Fetish softens a fraction thereafter, losing a minute portion of its musky, anus-like, castoreum aggressiveness. What’s left behind is a bitter, pungent, lime-infused, leathered muskiness that is very oily at its core. The cardamom, subtle tinges of soap, and smoky woods stand close by, on the sidelines, and are soon joined by the arrival of sweetened amber and patchouli. They turn the leather into something slightly gentler, more rounded, and richer.

Fetish continues to subtly change. Twenty minutes in, it is a leather chypre with contrasting undertones of green, mossy bitterness, clean soap, and oily castoreum body parts. The smoky, tarry, phenolic aspects slowly grow stronger, mixing with the very sharp, almost synthetic-smelling soapiness to create a combination that is as much a problem for me as the castoreum-oakmoss pairing. In all honesty, I am not a fan of a single part of Fetish’s opening moments, and find Roja Dove’s earlier leather-chypre creation, the famous Puredistance M, to be a smoother, better balanced, less aggressive, more refined, and infinitely easier fragrance. At the end of the first hour, a dark chocolate aroma begins to become noticeable, undoubtedly from the patchouli mixed with the dark, nutty, toffee elements of the labdanum amber. It would be enjoyable if Fetish weren’t also wafting huge amounts of bitter lime peel oil and fusty oakmoss at the same time.

Early into the third hour, other elements become noticeable. There are tiny hints of violet, neroli and jasmine that pop up in the background, but they are extremely faint and minor. Much more pronounced is the tarry undertone to the leather which feels almost burnt on occasion. The smoky elements may be from the elemi wood, but whatever the source, there is a disagreeably sharp, almost abrasive touch that lingers under the top bouquet of leather, oakmoss, and patchouli-amber.

Source: caffiendsvictoria.com

Source: caffiendsvictoria.com

Things only improve for me at the start of the 4th hour when Fetish finally turns soft, mellow, smooth and attractive. It is now an ambered leather with a well-balanced amount of chypre-y moss. There is an additional, quite unusual, undertone as well: the labdanum, patchouli and castoreum have somehow melded together to create a distinctly coffee-dark chocolate aroma. It’s delicious, neither particularly sweet, nor particularly bitter. Fetish’s sillage is soft as well, hovering right on the skin, though it is easily detectable if sniffed up close.

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Fetish continues to lose its moss, smoke, and bitterness, turning into a beautiful amber at the 5.25 hour mark with richly burnished, aged, smooth leather, a light dose of spices, and warmth. It has a touch of dark-chocolate caramel from the labdanum-patchouli, along with saltiness from the ambergris. As time passes, Fetish turns almost entirely ambered, taking on an actual cognac aroma along with that hint of dark, dry, bitter chocolate and leather. It’s lovely, and addictive to sniff. The cognac-amber phase continues to the very end when Fetish finally fades away in a blur of golden warmth and sweetness. All in all, it lasted 11.25 hours on me, with initially moderate sillage that dropped about 90 minutes in to hover about 2 inches above the skin. It became a skin scent on me by the end of the fourth hour, but it continued to be easy to detect if you brought your nose to your arm until the end of the seventh hour.

There aren’t many detailed blog reviews of Fetish Pour Homme in Extrait form, but the lone comment on Fragrantica is for the pure parfum version. It’s too lengthy to quote in full here, but the poster, “deadidol,” seems to have had an experience similar to mine and, like me, much preferred Puredistance M. His review begins with talk about the “chypre bitterness” which dominates the scent, followed by “a faint soapiness.” After that,

[a] bulky castoreum, sprinkled with cinnamon, hums along underneath, and I get a gourmand texture that I believe might be patchouli. It’s massive scent, with a lot of individual components at work, yet oddly, I’m not getting that much leather from it—or at least not as much as I expected.

It settles into a scratchy cardamom musk over bronzed resins that come across as a touch candied, yet the tart, bitter notes remain as a reminder of the citric opening as it begins to fade. The whole thing winds down to a very tasteful vanilla musk that manages to sidestep predictability through the residual bitterness that reads as touch mentholated.

This has a wide profile: it’s a very loud and prominent composition which, like its infamous sibling M, is extremely tenacious. […][¶] For me, M keeps the gold medal out of the two, but that’s mainly because Fetish is playing a deck that I’m personally not that drawn to. There are several notes in this that don’t sit right with me, but they sit perfectly within the composition itself, and certainly within its genre. Objectively speaking, it’s an impressive scent although perhaps a tad too shouty; but subjectively, it’s not quite my cup of tea.

His last paragraph encapsulates my views down to a T. Fetish Extrait is well done, but it is also extremely “shouty” in my view, with discordant, sharp, abrasive elements that aren’t my personal cup of tea.

Source: Fragrantica

Source: Fragrantica

Elsewhere, Basenotes has a whole thread to Fetish, but it focuses almost entirely on the Eau de Parfum which most people conclude (again) is extremely similar to Puredistance M, but dirtier, darker, and not quite as nice. I’ve included the link here because there is quite a difference in price between the Eau de Parfum and the Extrait (which is $425 or €395), and so the former may be of greater interest. Some people talk about the Spanish leather and the animalic base in the Eau de parfum, which I can only assume have been ratcheted up a lot in the Extrait judging by what appeared on my skin. Others mention some problems with longevity and projection.

Puredistance M in its various flacons.

Puredistance M in its various flacons.

As regular readers know, Puredistance M is one of my favorite fragrances, but I don’t see it as being a pure leather. I actually see it as being a hardcore Oriental instead. I don’t think Fetish Pour Homme Extrait is a pure leather fragrance either, but it’s definitely much more of one than the M in my view, as well as being more of a chypre. For me, the intensity of the skanky, oily castoreum, along with the pungency and bitterness of the green elements, and the duration of the tarry, phenolic leather stage make the Extrait quite different from Puredistance M. I thought the latter had a much smoother, more balanced chypre opening, with a short leather phase that never felt skanky, dirty, raw, or tarred. When M takes on its main amber oriental characteristics, it not only does so sooner than Fetish, but its notes are profoundly richer, deeper, more molten, and heavy that the amber drydown in the Fetish Pour Homme Extrait. M is never “shouty.” It’s always smooth and refined, and it feels much richer.

As you can tell, I prefer M a thousand times over, but if you’re looking for something with a much stronger leather characteristic, with truly tarry, at times raw, and intense Spanish leather, accompanied by serious chypre elements and some aggressively musky, animalic skank, then Fetish Pour Homme Extrait might be your cup of tea.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: The Fetish Pour Homme Extrait or Pure Parfum is available in a 50 ml/1.7 oz size which costs $435, €395 or £345. In the U.S.: Fetish Pour Homme Extrait is available at New York’s Osswald. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can buy Fetish directly from Roja Dove at his Haute Parfumerie on the 5th Floor of Harrods London. Roja Dove also has an e-store at Roja Parfums for his personal line of fragrances, and he sells Fetish Extrait for £345. In France, Jovoy Paris seems to be the exclusive distributor for Roja Dove fragrances, and sells Fetish Homme in both the Extrait and Eau de Parfum versions. (The Homme EDP costs €265.) In the UAE, the Paris Gallery carries the whole Roja Parfums line and sells Fetish Pour Homme Extrait for AED 2,050. Samples: I obtained my sample from Jovoy in Paris. If you’re in the U.S., you can test Fetish Homme in the Extrait version by ordering samples by phone from OsswaldNY. They offer a deal of 10 samples for $10 (shipping included) for domestic customers. Their phone number is: (212) 625-3111. In addition, Surrender to Chance carries Fetish Homme in the EDP version starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Tauer Perfumes PHI Une Rose de Kandahar

Dior Haute Couture 2007 by Galliano. Source: theberry.com

Dior Haute Couture 2007 by Galliano. Source: theberry.com

A jewel glowing orange, pink and red, nestled in the embrace of emerald green. A woman wearing the most feminine of opulent haute couture ball gowns. A Paris café whose decadent apricot tart is based in the richest of vanilla custards and lightly flecked with almonds. The faintest curls of smoke floating in the crisp fall air from a pipe whose tobacco is infused with sweetened fruit. Seemingly unconnected images, but images that are all rooted in one fragrance. 

PHI Une Rose de Kandahar (hereinafter sometimes just “PHI“) is a new eau de parfum from Andy Tauer, the founder and nose behind the much-adored Swiss niche house, Tauer Perfumes. PHI is one of Mr. Tauer’s “Collectibles,” a perfume that will be produced in limited quantities due to the rarity of some of its ingredients. As Andy Tauer explains on his website:

Phi is a luxurious scent, inspired by a natural extract of roses produced in Afghanistan’s rose region, Nangarhar. This rose oil is extremely rare and of highest quality. Inspired by these roses, growing in a dry and rough land, Phi is a rare gem, complementing contrasting lines, rich in natural raw materials that add depth and authenticity. Due to the limited amount of the rose oil, une rose de Kandahar is not guaranteed to be available all the time.

PHI. Photo: Hypoluxe.

PHI. Photo: Hypoluxe.

On Fragrantica, PHI is classified as floral, but it seems more accurate to me to call it a chypre with oriental and gourmand touches, or a hybrid. The Tauer website supports this impression, describing PHI as having both “woody and gourmand notes,” along with such chypre standbys as mossy patchouli, and such oriental highlights as ambergris. The perfume’s full list of notes are as follows:

Top: apricot, cinnamon, bitter almond, and bergamot;

Middle: rose of Kandahar essential oil, Bulgaria rose absolute, Bourbon geranium, and dried tobacco leaves;

Base: patchouli, vetiver, vanilla, tonka beans, musk, and ambergris.

Source: forwallpaper.com

Source: forwallpaper.com

I tested PHI three times, and, each time, it opens on my skin with a forceful, jewel-like glow of ruby reds, soft pinks, blushing peachy-orange, and emerald greens. The red and pink visuals come from the most concentrated rose essences, feeling sweet and spicy all at once. The soft peachy-orange is from the apricot, which is tart, juicy, and tangy. Apricot is a note that I rarely see used in perfumery, and I’m a bit of a sucker for it. Here, it’s absolutely beautiful, feeling like bushels of the fruit have been rendered down into a smooth, concentrated purée.

The two shining stars of PHI Une Rose de Kandahar are nestled in a cocoon of emerald green foliage that is pungent, peppered, spicy, and dark. The base is filled with notes that smell like soft, fresh, plush oakmoss, thanks to the effects of patchouli. Yet, to my surprise, something about it also has the darkly mineralized, grey, musty feel of actual oakmoss (or mousse de chene), even though there is no such note in the fragrance. Rounding out the imagery of leaves surrounding a flower is the geranium. It smells like the flower’s fuzzy, green leaves with their piquant, peppery, spicy, pungent aroma. 

Source: forwallpaper.com

Source: forwallpaper.com

The green accords are covered with a heavy dose of Mr. Tauer’s beloved ISO E Super. Though it was less dominant in some wearings than in others, it was always a part of PHI Une Rose de Kandahar. I will never (ever!) share Mr. Tauer’s views on the ghastly synthetic, but I’m relieved to say that it didn’t give me a headache in PHI, despite its sometimes heavy touch. In many ways, the aromachemical that he believes is the perfect photo-finishing touch does work here. It doesn’t smell antiseptic or like pink rubber bandages the way it sometimes can, but, rather, like something that is extremely peppery and a bit spiky. It underscores the feel of the other notes and amplifies, in specific, the geranium.

Source: Patisserie Deschamps, France.

Source: Patisserie Deschamps, France.

Five minutes into PHI’s development, the hints of vanilla that lurk below the surface explode onto the top. It smells just like highly buttered, rich vanilla custard. My skin always amplifies base notes, and I noticed that the vanilla was never prominent on a friend who I let try PHI. On her skin, the perfume’s opening was all rose and greenery, with very little apricot and absolutely no vanilla extract or vanilla custard. PHI was lovely on her skin, but I enjoyed the custard that showed up on me. Something about its combination with the apricot purée that is lightly sprinkled with sweet, spicy cinnamon brought to mind the glazed French apricot tarts that I would have when I lived in Paris. It’s a deliciously edible touch that just verges on the gourmand, and it adds a tasty richness to PHI.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

The overall combination with the deep rose and the oakmoss also made me think of Amouage‘s new Fate Woman which is another rose chypre with fruited overtones and a slightly gourmand vanilla base. The two perfumes are very different in their notes and core, but something about them feels similar in the opening moments. They both have a very intense chypre start with concentrated roses and fruited notes over a dark green heart with touches of rich vanilla. They also share an opulent, luxurious, feminine character that is very sophisticated, and have great sillage and potency in their opening phase. From 3 small sprays, PHI bloomed in a cloud about 4-5 inches around me, perhaps a little more, and it remained that way for about 40 minutes. It was very potent up close, but always extremely airy in feel and weight.

Dried tobacco leaves. Source: colourbox.com

Dried tobacco leaves. Source: colourbox.com

Forty minutes in, PHI starts to change. There are quiet pops of vetiver in the base that add a different touch to the dark foliage around the floral-fruity notes. The base elements now feel a bit less pungent and peppered, more dry and woody. There are also the very smallest, faintest hints of dark, dry tobacco lurking about deep down. Neither note, however, is very prominent in an individual way at this stage, and they never detract from the main trio of apricot, rose, and patchouli-moss.

Around the same time, there is the first whisper of an almond note that will become increasingly more prominent in PHI’s development. The nut is bitter but sweet and fresh, and it adds another delicious gourmand touch to the vanilla and apricot purée. The vanilla has also started to change, probably due to the impact of the drier notes at the periphery. The note is now airier, softer, more like whipped vanilla mousse than thick, buttered, rich custard.

At the end of the first hour, PHI is a smooth bouquet with top notes of apricot purée, spicy rose, and mossy-patchouli-geranium-ISO E Super, and bottom notes of almonds, vanilla mousse, woody vetiver, dry tobacco, and musk in the base. The sillage has dropped, and the perfume hovers about 1.5 inches above the skin, though it is extremely potent and strong when sniffed up close. It’s a beautifully refined, elegant bouquet that is never too sweet and never quite as simple as it appears from a distance.

Source: rbgstock.com

Source: rbgstock.com

PHI remains that way for another few hours, never changing drastically in its core essence, though some of the notes (like the cinnamon) fluctuate in prominence. The notes blur and overlap, blending seamlessly into each other, with only the apricot and the rose really standing out as significant forces in a very distinctive, individual way. It feels very gauzy on the skin, and I must confess that I wish PHI were not quite so sheer and intimate quite so soon; I was rather entranced with it, and wanted more, more, more! Instead, it feels as though the apricot or the rose take turns peeking out seductively like a glimpse of the lace trim on lingerie under a beautiful, jewel-toned dress. I wanted less sheer lace and sheer silk, and much more heavy velvet, but it is a matter of personal preference. PHI is clearly intended to be an elegant, refined fragrance without a sonic, nuclear blast — and it succeeds in its goal admirably.

Source: rexfabrics.com

Source: rexfabrics.com

PHI continues to soften and change. Midway during the third hour, PHI turns into a skin scent of cinnamon-flecked apricots and almonds, atop a sheer vanilla base. The rose is still there, but it is secondary to the other notes and has retreated to the sidelines. Unfortunately for me, the ISO E Super remains like a haze over everything. At the 6.5 hour mark, a dryness creeps into the perfume as flickers of tobacco return. It’s sweetened and mild, like fruited pipe tobacco infused with a large dollop of apricots. There is also a quiet touch of cinnamon mixed in. The vanilla has largely disappeared, but its place has been taken by ambergris with its wonderfully salty, sweet, golden character. A sexy muskiness dances all around. The perfumed jewel now gleams with gold, bronzed apricot, and light brown. All greens and pinks have vanished, leaving PHI as a subtle oriental with dryness and just a touch of warm sweetness.

In its final moments, PHI is merely a nebulous blur of sweetness with abstract dry, woody touches, and a hint of something vaguely fruited. All in all, it lasted just short of 7.75 hours on my perfume consuming skin with 3 small sprays, and around 6.5 hours with less. The sillage starts off as extremely strong, before dropping with every hour to something that is quite soft in feel. And I enjoyed every bit of it, despite the ISO E Supercrappy. Andy Tauer’s exquisite Une Rose Chyprée remains my absolute favorite from the line, but it has very close competition with this new PHI Une Rose de Kandahar. Both of them are absolutely beautiful fragrances whose sophistication always evoke Haute Couture elegance to me. I would absolutely wear them myself, and I say this as someone who isn’t particularly enamoured with rose scents to begin with!

If you’re a man and think that all this sounds too feminine for you, you might be surprised. Though PHI is too new to have a lot of reviews out, one blogger found the perfume to be a masculine rose with a gourmand touch. The Scented Hound wrote:

WHAT I SMELL: PHI goes on with a rather flattened apricot with tinges of cinnamon and almond.  It’s kind of a muted sweetness in that when you smell it, it seems layered with the cinnamon hovering on top.  At this point, I’m thinking PHI is nice (nice = just OK), rather personal and relatively close to the skin, and more apricot than rose which I think is a bit strange.  Then at about the 10 to 15 minute mark, the rose begins to bloom.  And bloom it does.  It’s like the rose suddenly opens its petals and unleashes its glorious fragrance.  I don’t think I have ever experienced a rose fragrance that literally unfolds on my skin that way PHI does and I love it.  The rose is rounded and deep, and to me more masculine than feminine and rather gourmand.  But wait, we’re not done yet, after some more time, the rose becomes creamy.  Still further, PHI reveals its patchouli, making the fragrance a bit sweeter and more heady as its mixed with vanilla and amber gris.  Hours later, add in some tonka for a bit of a growl that helps to take the edge off of the sweetness.  In the end PHI ends up big, but not loud.  This rose is no wallflower, but she’s demure enough to be a bit coy.

The other blog review already out for PHI is an unequivocable rave from I Scent You A Day who writes:

PHI Rose de Kandahar has a Middle Eastern richness to it. Initially it’s honeyed Roses and Almonds and dried Apricots: it reminds me of a scented Souk. At first this edible combination was very Turkish Delight, just for a moment.  But what happens next is that it transforms into, unless I’m mistaken, something not unlike a good Arabian Oud.  I often find Oud too strong for me, but in Rose de Kandahar it’s like a robust backdrop to something altogether more delicate. The irony is that there is no Oud in it, but the combination of Tobacco, Ambergris, Vetiver and Patchouli gives this a very rich and almost prickly base.  It’s like serving an aromatic Bacchanalian feast on a rough granite table.

I think that “prickly” edge that she references is the bloody ISO E Super that Mr. Tauer loves to stick into everything. It also explains why she associated PHI with oud, since the synthetic is used by many perfume houses to accompany their agarwood or woody creations. (Montale, I’m looking at you in particular, but Parfumerie Generale, you’re almost just as bad. And Amouage, you’re not off the hook either, after Opus VII.)

Early reviews on Fragrantica are equally positive. One commentator writes how PHI “is a very unique apricot rose scent. I’ve never smelled another rose like it and I have dozens of rose perfumes in my collection.” Someone much less fond of rose perfumes is equally enthusiastic, saying: “I often find rose scents either too sweet,too watery or too green and wan but no-one does the deep, dark sensual fragrance of a rose like Andy. His roses are blood RED and seriously velvety. […] I will be ordering myself a FB asap.”

I share their enthusiasm, and am considering getting PHI as part of Mr. Tauer’s new Explorer Set. While the perfume costs $141 or €105.30 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle, it is also available as part of a set of three 15 ml bottles for $138 or €102. (See the Details section below.) You can choose between a number of different Tauer fragrances, and I have to admit that Une Rose Chyprée is calling my name just as much as PHI. Whether you get one 50 ml bottle for $141 or a total of 45 ml of three different perfumes for a little bit less, I think it’s quite a decent deal given the quality and richness of the ingredients.

All in all, I’m a big fan of PHI. Its apricot-rose chypre opening is elegant, sophisticated, full-bodied, and opulent; its gourmand stage is delectable, creamy and smooth; and its oriental finish is sexy with a touch of masculinity. It’s lovely — from start to finish.

DISCLOSURE: My sample of PHI Une Rose de Kandahar was provided courtesy of Hypoluxe. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: PHI Une Rose de Kandahar is an eau de parfum that comes in a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle that is currently exclusive to the Tauer website where it costs Fr. 130.00 / USD 141.70 / EUR 105.30. The perfume is available now for pre-order. It will remain a Tauer online exclusive for 2013. (See note below at the very end for a special exception in the UK.) Tauer Perfumes also sells a sample 1.5 ml/ 0.05 oz glass vial of PHI Une Rose de Kandahar for: Fr. 6.00 / USD 6.50 / EUR 4.90. Please note that the Tauer website can’t ship to a number of places in Europe right now. The website explains that they can only ship to customers in Switzerland, France, Germany and Austria, and cannot ship “Great Britain, UK, Russia, Belgium and the Czech Republic.” As a side note, the Tauer website also sells a sample Discovery Set of 5 different Tauer perfumes in 1.5 ml spray vials, and that set includes a sample of PHI. There is free shipping to most places in the world, and the 5 perfume samples of your choice costs: Fr. 31.00 / USD 33.80 / EUR 25.10. Lastly, there is now the new Explorer Set of 3 perfumes of your choice (including PHI Une Rose de Kandahar) for Fr. 126.00 / USD 138.00 / EUR 102.00. Each perfume comes in 15 ml spray bottles, and I think Tauer Perfumes can ship the set to more places, thanks to the fact that the 15 ml size won’t be a problem for many countries’ postal regulations (which have problems with full bottles). The exceptions, unfortunately, are Italy, UK, Russia, Spain. The full details are:
Can’t decide which scent to get? Is a sample just not enough? We cannot ship full, 50 ml, bottles to your country? Here’s the treat: Get a set of 3 EXPLORER size scents, in solid glass flacons with a fine spray and a little metal cap : 15 ml each with free choice(*) of scents from Tauer range, shipped inside our in decorative glide-cover metal box. The perfect gift! And the best: It comes with free shipment(**)
UK Availability: you can order a sample vial of PHI, or pre-order a full bottle from Scent and Sensibility. It sells the perfume for £115, with samples available for £4.50.
Samples: As of 11/21/13, Surrender to Chance now offers samples of PHI, starting at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial.

Guerlain Chypre Fatal (Les Elixirs Charnels)

A pretty, very sweet, fruity, unoriginal, and very over-priced little trifle in a lovely shade of purple. That’s Chypre Fatal from Guerlain, an eau de parfum that is part of the Les Elixirs Charnels (The Carnal Elixirs) prestige collection. The line was created by perfumer Christine Nagel in cooperation with Sylvaine Delacourte, and was released in 2008.

Guerlain Chypre FatalOn its website, Guerlain describes the perfume as an “aphrodisiac for a femme fatal,” and adds:

Both chic and sexy, Chypre Fatal brings to mind a rebellious woman with extreme elegance, an icon with devastating seduction. It’s a fruity chypre with an intense aura. An imperial rose with hints of woody patchouli is heightened by vanilla and white peach, which sensually soften the accord.
The fragrance dresses up in a bottle with pure lines, adorned with a metallic silver label inspired by the intimate ambience of the boudoir.

The notes are simple:

White peach, spicy rose, patchouli, and vanilla.

Source: TheCleverCarrot.com

Source: TheCleverCarrot.com

Chypre Fatal opens on my skin with delicately sweet, dainty, white peach nectar, followed by a spicy red rose, purple patchouli, and a light, sweet musk. It feels as though the watery delicacy of the pale peach quickly turns to the same shade as Chypre Fatal’s liquid once the patchouli hits it.

This is the modern type of patchouli (or fruit-chouli), with its syrupy, sweet characteristics of jammy, grape-y, fruited molasses, not the black kind of patchouli from the hippie days of the ’70s. It’s potent, and quickly overwhelms the lovely peach note. Within minutes, Chypre Fatal turns into the sweetest of summer roses infused with fruit. As regular readers of the blog know, I’m not a fan of purple patchouli, and I really regret how it squashes my favorite part of the perfume like a bulldozer. 

Source: Shutterstock.com

Source: Shutterstock.com

For all Chypre Fatal’s concentrated grape-y blast, the fragrance feels oddly translucent, almost like an Impressionist watercolour painting. It’s initially very strong in smell, but gauzy, wispy, and incredibly sheer in weight. I had applied about 3 big smears of Chypre Fatal, but it feels almost as though the fragrance were evaporating off my skin. So, I applied 3 more — and even with that astronomical quantity, Chypre Fatal still seems to lose body and depth. The peach, in particular, seems to disappear, no matter much I applied, though it occasionally pops up like a ghost later in the opening phase. What’s left in the first hour is primarily a very sweet ruby rose, gleaming with the purple hues of a grape fruit-chouli and just lightly flecked by a subtle, sweet musk. Thirty minutes later, the smallest rumblings of vanilla stir in the base, adding a soft warmth.

Source: stockhdwallpapers.com

Source: stockhdwallpapers.com

At the end of the first hour, Chypre Fatal is a soft, gauzy blur of rose with just whispers of a spicy edge, the vaguest hint of peach swirled in, and a lot of very syrupy sweetness. The soft musk and a thin layer of vanilla finish it off in the base. It remains that way for a few hours, though it turns into a complete skin scent around the 2.5 hour mark. In case you hadn’t noticed, I really am not keen on the purple patchouli, so it’s quite a relief when its extremely sweet fruitiness starts to slowly recede around the middle of the third hour. Finally, and at last, Chypre Fatal seems a bit better balanced and modulated.

The end of the fruit-chouli’s bullying dominance also lets some of the other elements come out to play. First are the green touches in the perfume’s base. Regardless of its actual name, “Chypre” Fatal isn’t actually a chypre fragrance by technical standards as it contains no oakmoss in it. Nonetheless, there are lurking glimmers of something softly plush and green in the base which begin to occasionally pop up at this stage.

Source: popularscreensavers.com

Source: popularscreensavers.com

The peach also has the chance to come out of the shadows. While it waxes and wanes in prominence, it really is much more noticeable now as compared to the opening phase, and adds a pretty touch to the scent. By the end of the fourth hour, Chypre Fatal is a sweet, peachy-rose scent with a lovely sliver of warm vanilla in the base. An hour later, the perfume is mostly just peach with the tonka Guerlainade note that is the house’s signature. Here, it’s not powdery the way it can often be, but simply a warm, slightly fluffy, very sheer vanilla.

In its final moments, Chypre Fatal is a nebulous, abstract blur of fruited sweetness with just a sliver of vanilla. All in all, the fragrance lasted 10 hours on me with a walloping 6 big smears, but a mere 6.75 hours with a more normal, regular dosage of 2 large smears. In other words, the longevity was not particular great unless you applied a lot, and the sillage was consistently weak after the first forty minutes.

Chypre Fatal is a pretty little thing, but it also seems like a very well-done version of mainstream, department store fragrances. It’s neither complicated nor nuanced, and certainly not very original. It’s like a higher end version of any number of fruity, jammy rose scents with patchouli. Parts of it even remind me of Chanel‘s more recent (and much cheaper) variation of this twist: Coco Noir. The only difference is the translucence of the Guerlain scent, that subtle whisper of peach that isn’t hugely common to a lot of perfumes today, and the fact that Coco Noir is a much more complex scent. If the peach part of Chypre Fatal dominates on your skin, then you may even find it to be extremely similar to Gucci‘s Gucci Rush, a fragrance with a very dominant peach-patchouli-floral accord.

Midnight Bakula via Fragrantica.

Midnight Bakula via Fragrantica.

In Chypre Fatal’s Fragrantica entry, seven people think the perfume is a lot like The Body Shop‘s Midnight Bakula. I know nothing about the fragrance, and I doubt it could have the same high-quality ingredients or a lack of synthetics. Still, it’s certainly something worth noting! Midnight Bakula’s Fragrantica listing shows that it, too, is a “chypre floral” whose notes are patchouli, rose and nectarine (in that order). I don’t know if the fragrance is discontinued as one Fragrantica commentator states, but I found it on Amazon for $23 (plus $5.49 shipping) for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle. It is currently available for an even cheaper price on eBay for $15.99! Now, I repeat, I don’t know the scent, and I doubt it would smell quite as high-end as the Guerlain. That is not my point, however.

My point is the Guerlain’s Chypre Fatal seems extremely over-priced, to put it mildly, for what it is. This very simple, uncomplicated, overly sweet, 4-note perfume dominated by very inexpensive purple patchouli costs $260. Even apart from the issue of a supposed Body Shop dupe, Chypre Fatal is simply not interesting or different enough for $260! Presumably, one spends money on Guerlain’s higher-end, prestige lines to get something different from the masses of department store fragrances out there with their generic, somewhat predictable profile. The fact that many of those actually have more notes, and more complexity, than Chypre Fatal isn’t exactly a plus.

It’s not just my opinion, either. Commentators on various perfume sites feel largely the same way. A number offer other perfume comparisons, ranging from commercial fragrances to mid-range niche ones. Since I try to avoid that revoltingly sweet, cloying, purple, grape-y fruit-chouli wherever and whenever possible, I’m not familiar with all of them, but those that I have tried are substantially more nuanced or richer than Chypre Fatal.

Let’s start with Basenotes, where the Chypre Fatal entry has four reviews with two being neutral, one positive, and one negative. We’ll split the difference and go with the “neutral” assessments which read as follows:

  • I think that maybe was a mistake when they created this fragrance. I imagine that someone heard Chypre Banal instead of Chypre Fatal, and then they produced it. Chypre Fatal is your standard modern chypre fragrance, and it does achieve every single point that other more affordable chypres does, like shiseido zen and guccy by gucci. It starts fruity, then it`s dominated by a sweet, almost camphorated, patchouli, supported by a luminous musky base similar to the one found in narciso rodriguez. […] If it`s a more exclusive fruity chypre that you want, i suggest you trying Mon Parfum by M. Micallef, that for now you can find for a better price at ebay and it`s more lovely and less facelless than Chypre Fatal.
  • I”m a fan of Guerlain’s exclusives, but I do have high standards for them and am more harsh in my reviews. This is a good perfume, in the $100-$140 range, but at the price point sold I have to wonder what they were thinking. [¶] This is a basic patchouli/rose chypre, which I’m comparing to Sublime Balkiss, Lady Vengeance and Kurkdjian‘s Lumiere pour femme. This is most expensive of the four, and in my opinion, hte least interesting. What I”m wanting is some ‘OOH!!!’, like Kurkdjian’s spicy rose, Balkiss’ blueberry note or Lady Vengeance’ edge. [¶] But peach and vanilla are just too safe. I”m wondering who the intended audience is for this line, because I don’t think it’s those who want something unique and trend-setting. [Emphasis to names with bold font added by me for ease of reading.]

On Makeupalley, the 5 entries are somewhat more positive, but also include two comments like Chypre Fatal is a lot like department store fragrances. For example: “As the fragrance settles down to its basenotes, it acquires a non-descript “perfumey” smell that is just kind of average, department-storeish, etc… Ho hum.”

Gucci Rush. Photo via Target.com

Gucci Rush. Photo via Target.com

Fragrantica commentators are largely torn, with even the fans finding the price hard to swallow or preferring other department store perfumes. Some examples, with the comparative names highlighted by me:

  • Opens with a delectable, floralized, sweet peach but quickly dries down on my skin to a semi-sour fruity rose patchouli. I’d take Gucci Rush over this any day if I want peach and patchouli. There’s nothing new or interesting or different to help this stand out in a crowd of fruitchoulis. Not worth the price in my opinion.
  •  I got a sample and was looking for some proper chypre. All i got was something between Shalimar parfum Initial and Euphoria, jimmy Choo and so on. Sweet, chemical, cloying. It`s not chypre and definitely not fatal 😀 Can`t believe it`s Guerlain!
  • This goes on like cough syrup, that’s what i detect, the red cough syrup LOL. However , once it dries, it reminds me of a more sophisticated Gucci Rush which I do love .
  • Nice Guerlain scent but still does not reach that grade of a really special perfume. This one is sickly sweet and headache inducing, though pleasant at first. Not worth the price.
  • Chypre Fail. It reminds me of Tom Ford‘s White Patchouli, so I suppose that’s how they arrive at calling it a chypre. However it isn’t a real patchouli, perhaps there is some attenuated aromachemical that mimics a facet of patchouli. [¶] The drydown – seriously Guerlain? Yves Rocher has many better perfumes than this. […][¶] It is an insult to the consumer to put such a cheap juice in an overpriced “exclusive” bottle. It fails as a sales tactic since the only plausible consumer of a pricey exclusive is a perfumista, who will most likely detect the fraud.

I think some of those commentators may be harsher than I am. I do think that Chypre Fatal improves once that tidal wave of ghastly, cloying, purple patchouli lets some of the other notes come out, but it’s all highly relative. And it certainly doesn’t change the perfume’s largely unoriginal, simplistic profile. As one of the Basenotes’ commentators said, “Chypre Banal,” not Chypre Fatal. And that’s a problem at this price. For $60, I’d recommend it, but for $260? There are far better perfumes out there. 

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Chypre Fatal is an eau de parfum that costs $260 or €180 for 2.5 fl. oz/75 ml. It is available at Guerlain boutiques, and is listed on its US website, but Guerlain doesn’t seem to sell the fragrance via an e-shop of sorts. (There is no shopping cart, for example, in which to put the fragrance for purchase.)In the U.S.: Chypre Fatal is available on the NordstromSaks Fifth AvenueNeiman Marcus, and Bergdorf Goodman websites. (With the exception of Bergdorf Goodman which definitely carries the more exclusive line of Guerlain fragrances in-store, I don’t know if it is available within the other shops themselves.) Outside the U.S.: In Europe, you can order Chypre Fatal from Guerlain’s European website where the fragrance retails for €180. In the U.K, you can find Chypre Fatal at Harrods and, apparently, London’s Selfridges, but neither store offers the fragrance online. In France, the fragrance is obviously available at Guerlain stores, as well as at select Paris Sephora shops. For all other countries, you can use Guerlain’s Store Locator on its website. Samples: If you’d like to give Chypre Fatal a test sniff, you can get a sample from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.99 for half of a 1/2 ml vial.