Parfums de Nicolaï Sacrebleu Intense

Some perfumes have a quiet prettiness that weave their way around you over time, or that touch you with a feeling of comforting familiarity. Sometimes, they are also about a study in contrasts, contradictions that work together seamlessly in a way that becomes more important than the individual notes. Sacrebleu Intense from the Guerlain descendent, Patricia de Nicolaï, and her company, Parfums de Nicolaï, is one of those perfumes.

The 30 ml and 100 ml bottles of Sacrebleu Intense. Source: Luckyscent

The 30 ml and 100 ml bottles of Sacrebleu Intense. Source: Luckyscent

It is an eau de parfum that appealed to me the first time I smelled it, but it didn’t bowl me over and throw me into a state of maddened lust. It still doesn’t, if truth be told, but Sacrebleu Intense quietly squirreled its way into my thoughts, and I ended up succumbing to a relatively blind buy months after the fact. It has a quiet solidity and classical appeal with just enough of a nod to the past to be comforting at times.

What I like is the feeling of contrasts that have been superbly blended into a seamless whole. There is sticky, chewy darkness, but also, airy, white sweetness. Bitter green leafiness lies side-by-side with boldly fiery, red cloves, brown cinnamon, smoky blacks, and twiggy, petitgrain, neroli orange-browns. Sometimes, the contrasts are just about the stark black and whites: black licorice and smoke, against white Church incense and spicy red carnation. Sometimes, they are about gender, as femininity collides with touches of masculinity. Often, they are about boldness and strength mixed with refined quietness; or the contradictions of weightless heaviness.

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source:  fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source: fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Sacrebleu Intense is about all those things. It is fierce and potent, but understated and quietly elegant. It is a nod to the past that is also very modern. It has a simple beauty whose appeal grows stronger with time, and it manages to stay in your head, long after you’ve smelled it. At least, that was the case for me. I first encountered the perfume in Paris where I was trying the full Parfums de Nicolaï‘s line at one of her shops. (From this point out, I hope you will forgive me if I spell Nicolaï as just “Nicolai” for reasons of speed and convenience, as it takes a while to put on the dots, or Trema.)

Sacrebleu Intense stood out immediately amidst the Nicolai offerings. A few of the other scents were pretty, but too subdued or restrained. A good number felt too damn thin by half, but Sacrebleu Intense made me do a wee, tiny double-take, and I sniffed my wrists appreciatively. However, I almost never trust first impressions and needed a sample to test to see how it would develop over time, especially on my wonky skin. Unfortunately, the Parfums de Nicolai line doesn’t seem to believe in that practice, and I was always told, “I’m sorry, we don’t have any vials.” So, I skipped it. Upon my return to America, though, the memory of Sacrebleu Intense nagged away at me for months. I finally said, “to hell with it,” and ordered a bottle.

Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue via radiobresil.com.

Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue via radiobresil.com.

I did so for one reason, and one reason only. Every time I had tested Sacrebleu Intense, the same thought rang in my head: “L’Heure Bleue. This is a definite nod to L’Heure Bleue, only it’s more modern, fruitier, with different spices, and possibly a more unisex feel.” Now, vintage L’Heure Bleue is one of my two, absolute favorite Guerlain scents. In fact, it is only fickleness and a slightly fiercer love for vintage Shalimar that prevents L’Heure Bleue from ranking as my favorite Guerlain of all. Plus, vintage L’Heure Bleue can be a wee bit powdery for my tastes, though none of it matters in the face of the reformulated modern version. Sacrebleu Intense reminds me of vintage L’Heure Bleu, though with enough differences for it to be its own scent. It feels more modern, and not as wistful in nature.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

Patricia de Nicolaï, via her own website.

The strong connection to one of Guerlain’s masterpieces should come as no surprise to anyone who knows about Patricia de Nicolai‘s background. I’ve written about how she is part of the Guerlain family, a grand-daughter of the house’s founder, Pierre Guerlain, a niece to Jean-Jacques Guerlain, and a relative of the famed nose and current Guerlain family patriarch, Jean-Paul Guerlain. Madame de Nicolai is also on record as saying that she absolutely loves L’Heure Bleue, though she stopped just short of saying that it is the Guerlain scent that has had the most impact on her own perfumery. Still, her love of L’Heure Bleue shines through in Sacrebleu Intense, though I have to emphasize that I think they are very different scents at their heart.

Sacrebleu Intense is an eau de parfum that was released in 2008. It seems to have been intended as a bolder version of the original Sacrebleu which has now been discontinued, though I’ve also read in one place that the Intense was meant to highlight the floral notes more than the original. According to Fragrantica and Luckyscent, Sacrebleu Intense has:

Top notes: mandarin orange, red berries and fruity notes; Middle notes: carnation, tuberose, cinnamon and jasmine; Base notes: peru balsam, sandalwood, tonka bean, patchouli, olibanum [myrrh], woody notes and vanilla..

Source: CaFleureBon

Source: CaFleureBon

Sacrebleu Intense opens on my skin with massive amounts of carnation cloves, followed by cinnamon, dark resins, and green notes. There is a strong spiciness to  the scent beyond just the cloves, a sort of piquancy that makes me think of peppery, fuzzy geranium leaves, as well as of bitter neroli and petitgrain. Petitgrain is a citrus tree’s twigs, distilled down into the bitter, pungent woody, masculine notes, while neroli is a different method of distilling the trees’ orange blossoms. Honestly, on my skin, I don’t smell mandarin oranges in their traditional, sweet, sun-ripened juiciness. There is the strong bitterness of neroli, and the woodiness of petitgrain instead.

FrankincenseThere are other elements as well. Lurking in the base is a black, leathery smokiness from the styrax, the least sweet of all the resins or benzoin-like notes. There is also a heavy presence of olibanum or myrrh. It is nothing like the High Church, soapy, chilly, dusty character that it usually manifests, at least not yet. Instead, it smells like chewy black licorice with a hint of anise. There is a definite sense of smokiness, though. A sweet incense note that feels like sweet myrrh, rather than pure, dry, black frankincense.

Clove Studded Orange. Source: DwellWellNW blog at DowntoEarthNW.com

Clove Studded Orange. Source: DwellWellNW blog at DowntoEarthNW.com

The odd thing is the nature of the floral notes. I’ve worn Sacrebleu Intense a few times, and only once did I ever really detect tuberose. It was brief, very muted, and had a slightly rubbery, black undertone to it. However, the tuberose was so thoroughly blended into the other elements, it was extremely hard to pick out and I don’t think it lasted for more than perhaps 10 minutes at best. The main flower on my skin instead is always the carnation, though it is barely floral at all. Carnations can take on a peppered rose aroma or a clove-like one, and it is the latter which shows up on my skin. In fact, Sacrebleu Intense is heavy cloves from start almost to finish, with only a touch of actual carnation.

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

Geranium pratense leaf, close-up. Source: Wikicommons

I keep imagining a clove flower with a spicy neroli heart, bitter petitgrain twigs and peppery, pungent, green geranium leaves, all dusted with cinnamon. The “flower” grows out of soil made from black licorice and the stickiest, chewiest, balsamic resin around. It’s a base that is faintly leathered and smoky, but the main impression is of bitter fruits heavily dusted with cinnamon and cloves.

For the most part, Sacrebleu remains that way for the majority of its long life on my skin. This is a fragrance that is beautifully blended, and each time I wear it, different parts seem to be emphasized alongside the clove carnation. Never the tuberose, but the green bits and the smokiness seem to fluctuate in degree. On one occasion, all that came to mind was black, chewy, resinous smokiness on a white, airy background that felt only vaguely fruited and was heavily dusted with spices instead. As a whole, Sacrebleu Intense is a scent that is very hard to pull apart. The notes move into each other seamlessly, and, as indicated, that makes the perfume a bit linear in nature. For that reason, this review will be a little different than most of mine, and will focus mainly on the perfume’s overall development and feel.

Pez. Source: Wikipedia.

Pez. Source: Wikipedia.

The one thing that does change (and is quite constant each time I wear Sacrebleu Intense) is the touch of powderiness that creeps in after a while. When it precisely occurs seems to vary, and I’ve noticed that one arm (my right, which is not my usual testing arm) reflects very little of it as compared to the other, but there is always some degree of powder. At first, it’s only a subtle touch that is almost iris-like at times. It’s definitely sweetened powder, and its combination with the bitter neroli and petitgrain-like accord creates a distinct impression of Pez candy. A sort of Sweet-Tarts or Pez powderiness, if that makes sense.

I have to admit, I’m not very keen on it, and I become less keen as time passes because it turns into quite a distinct myrrh incense note that I always struggle with. It’s a spiced, slightly dusty powderiness, though much more sweetened than most High Church incense fragrances. As regular readers know, I’m not particularly enthused by High Church or Catholic Mass tonalities, let alone powder, so I must admit, I struggle a little with Sacrebleu after about 5 or 6 hours. Still, as noted earlier, the perfume is well-blended and there are enough spicy clove, carnation, and resinous elements to make up for it.

 Source: darulkutub.co.uk

Source: darulkutub.co.uk

In its final stage, Sacrebleu Intense is a blend of myrrh incense, spiciness, and sweetened Pez powder, lightly flecked with bitterness and a hint of something vaguely fruity. In its last moments, it’s powdered sweetness and myrrh. I like it… from afar and as long as I don’t smell it up close too much.

All in all, Sacrebleu Intense consistently lasts 12 hours or more on my wonky skin, depending on how much I apply. It generally becomes a skin scent about 4-5 hours into its development, though it requires absolutely no effort whatsoever to detect the perfume if you bring your nose near your arm. Furthermore, you can push both time frames if you spray on a lot. With 3 big sprays, I once experienced a 14 hour duration, even though I had to put my nose on my skin and sniff extremely hard to detect the faint traces after the 12th hour.

I’m glad I bought Sacrebleu Intense, though I have mixed feelings about the drydown stage. In fact, if some of my discussion sounds a little like blind buyer’s remorse, there is that on occasion, but only because I really don’t like Churchy myrrh incense or powder. That said, there is something about the opening moments of Sacrebleu Intense that really compensates for it all.

I can’t really explain in any logical way except to say that there is a mood and feeling which overcomes a lot of the sticky details down the road. Something about Sacrebleu Intense feels like elegant familiarity, perhaps because of that distant, tiny kinship to L’Heure Bleue. It’s such a classic, refined scent that it makes me feel as though I should sit up straighter, put on my best clothes, and get ready for a garden party. It feels like something suited for High Tea at the Plaza Athenée, or a walk through the Jardins de Luxembourg near the Louvre. It lacks the va-va-voom luxuriousness of vintage Shalimar, or the emotional power of vintage L’Heure Bleue‘s haunting melancholy, but Sacrebleu Intense has a definite, quiet charm.

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source:  fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Photographer: Carl Bengtsson. Source: fashionproduction.blogspot.com

Sacrebleu Intense doesn’t take me back in time or feel dated. I don’t feel as though I belonged in the 1920s or 1950s. Perhaps because there is an airiness to the scent that seems to belie the strength and potency of its spicy, piquant notes. It doesn’t feel opulently heavy at all, to the point that I don’t think of luxuriousness when I think of Sacrebleu Intense. Rather, I think of spiciness — intense spiciness and resins. Peppered, resinous, smoky, chewy blackness and white daintiness, speckled with every shade of red, brown and green.

In some ways, Sacrebleu Intense feels a little like an attractive girl whose appeal grows stronger over time. She may not blow you away at first, and, in fact, she may not even sweep you off your feet after you’ve known her for years, either. But you’d definitely miss her if she weren’t around, and, whenever you’re with her, you enjoy the experience. Something about her stays with you — her good humoured spiciness, perhaps — and you can’t forget how comfortable she makes you feel.

Almost all the blog reviews out there are for Sacrebleu, the original, and not for Sacrebleu Intense. There is said to be a difference. It’s not only that Sacrebleu was an eau de toilette, while the Intense is an eau de parfum, but the notes seem to be different. The original is said to have included: black currant bud, peach blossom, jasmine, tuberose, vanilla, tonka bean and incense. I also vaguely remember one Parfums de Nicolai sales lady telling me that the focus of the two scents is different, though for the life of me, I cannot now recall how.

Cellists. Source: Nathan Branch

Cellists. Source: Nathan Branch

The one blog review for Sacrebleu Intense comes from Nathan Branch who writes:

For a couple of hours, Sacrebleu Intense is mesmerizingly beautiful — rich, full, deep . . . like a roomful of cellists all playing the same sad, sweet song, but then everything starts to sound (or, in this case, smell) a little off — too much noise, too many notes crammed up close together and discordantly overlapping.

It’s a shame, too, because when the stuff is pulling together it really shines, but the last half of the scent’s lifespan is a sloppy mess — well, until you hit the patchouli/balsam drydown, which deserves some praise.

Maybe the original, less pumped-up Sacrebleu is better, less messy, than this Intense version?

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com

On Basenotes, one person has the following thoughts on the two versions:

Sweet but not fruity once the initial orange has departed. Close to, the jasmin is not wholly evident, but floats a nose- distance away until displaced by carnation (not cloves). The cinnamon is a mere hint (according to the assistant in PdN in Paris the ‘intense’ version has vanilla instead of cinnamon, but it’s still there to me). Overall less spicy than sacrebleu and therefore easier to wear. Intense is an edp rather than the original sacrebleu which is an edt. However the difference is not just in the concentration, they smell noticeably different, so worth trying both

As a whole, forum and website reviews for Sacrebleu Intense are mixed, with the vast majority being very positive in nature. I also think the reason for the split is that Sacrebleu Intense is a perfume best suited to those with specific tastes, starting with an appreciation for L’Heure Bleue. After that, ideally, you’d love a heaping amount of cinnamon, myrrh incense, and the bitter petitgrain and neroli aspects of orange. It might also help if you like Pez powder or Smarties, the latter being a comparison that was raised in two Fragrantica reviews.

One Fragrantica commentator, “vitabhaya,” has what I think is a good summation of Sacrebleu Intense:

Call me nuts, but the topnotes on this smell like a blend of Guerlain’s L’Heure Bleue and Smarties–you know, those colored, super-sweet candies that come in a roll. It is melancholy but energizing, sweet yet with a great mellow depth, really a mezmerizing fragrance.

After an hour or two, the tonka bean, patchouli, sandalwood and olibanum lilt along the edge of a vanilla that is neither quite sweet nor spicy. It feels rich, sensual and downright sexy. It reminds me of late afternoon sun drifting through the curtains after a lover’s rendevous. There is something hypnotic about this blend, and I find myself lingering with my arm up to my nose long enough to wonder how long I’ve held this pose. Suddenly I feel as if I enjoy the longing for past lovers for pure memories’ sake. I cannot at this point decide if it is slightly melancholy (L’Heure Bleue?) or if it is rather dusky and languid. Oooooh, how I love it!

This goes on the “must have” list.

Source: Fragrantica.ru

Source: Fragrantica.ru

Other Fragrantica commentators seem equally enamoured, with one saying that Sacrebleu Intense had replaced L’Heure Bleu in her heart:

  • For a very long time, since we first met in a candy-box perfumery in Salzburg decades ago, L’Heure Bleue was my absolute favourite scent of all. With all due respect and nostalgia, the Pefume Queen’s Throne in my heart is now occupied by another sovereigh: Sacrebleu. (Especially that L’Heure Bleue’s new formula does not have the perfection of its predecessor.) It is the softest, most embracing, soothing, calming scent about, and I absolutely enjoy its elegant velvety dark character. Mind you, Sacrebleu’s darkness is not menacing, it’s mistery is not dangerous. It is a peaceful night, when you know you are safe, loved and can relax without a hint of worry and care. It is related to L’Heure Bleue, but more modern, less melancholy and much more life-affirming. [¶] To my nose and mind this scent is so perfect, that while wearing it I never once try to isolate it’s notes…it is a perfect harmony, and I don’t care the least what single notes make up this wonderful olfactory symphony. Truly wonderful!
  • I think Sacrebleu Intense is one of the sophisticated and finest scents I have sniffed. Very feminine [….]  I do not get candies from Sacre Bleu, but sacred feel yess. I have also L´heure Bleue and this might be kinda sister, but they are standing quite far from each others. Sacrebleu is more sensitive…. but eaven if she is sensitive do not take her to be not strong!
  • Prepare yourself to be granted a sweet redemption, to gain a second or third youth, to leave the ground and premises in bliss… [¶] Concentrate on happiness! […][¶] Olibanum and Peru Balsam control the -harsh- tubereuse. Carnation and Tonka Bean rule over the omnipresent cinnamon. Mandarin, Jasmin and Sandal turn your face to the light! [¶] Sacrebleu Intense has lifted me with joy.
  • I got this sample from the lovely Carnation. I smell hot spice! This is warm and intense and perfect for me. There is a sweetness to it that could be vanilla but its not cloying. This is a perfect combination of the things I love, Sandalwood, Patchouli, Vanilla and Spice (must be the cinnamon) I love it!
Photo: mypham.us

Photo: mypham.us

One male commentator loved Sacrebleu as well, writing:

A fruit and floral aroma that embraces you with power, quality and exuberance.
The heart is beautifully made of jasmine and tuberose, going to a soft side of the fragrance, surrounded by peru balm, olibanum (frankincense), woods and a delightful vanilla.
It starts completely feminine and then, goes to a more unisex scent during its evolution on the skin. Fierce yet delicate, strong yet romantic…nice work!

Smarties. Source: imgarcade.com

Smarties. Source: imgarcade.com

However, not everyone was quite as thrilled, whether from the fruit or the spices. In fact, I think the following comments underscore the importance of a love for cinnamon, not to mention skin chemistry, of course:

  •  very fruity and sweet. vitabhaya mentions Smarties and L’heure Bleue. I agree about the Smarties, but feel it’s only got a nod in passing from L’Heure Bleue. I purchased a sample because I love cinnamon and hoped for more cinnamon/carnation effect – but fruit tends to overwhelm my nose. Should have checked more carefully, because the top notes are all fruity, and they tend to hang around. Altogether not bad, won’t be one of my favourits, though.
  • Sweet,juicy fruity opening,but I could not detect any spices throughout this at all. […] It’s probably one of the worst I have smelled-cloying and rubbery would describe this perfectly.
  • I get cinnamon, but the horrid thing is that on my skin it smells like a cheap cinnamon candle. [¶] You ever been to a candle store, and then felt a bit yuck after smelling a tonne of candles? That’s this scent on my skin, unfortunately.
  • Hmmm, no. Opening is sweet orange, then comes cinnamon that has a very synthetic feel to me. A whisper of flowers, then some Tonka in the dry down. Average longevity and projection. L’huere bleu made me realize that I have a strong desire to smell like carnations and I was hoping this would be an interesting, well rounded composition with a clear carnation note, but it seems to have been hidden by the cinnamon. So disappointed.

On my skin, as noted, the clove-like smell of the carnations was far more dominant, but Sacrebleu Intense has a few resins or benzoins that can manifest a cinnamon side. Given that the perfume contains actual cinnamon as well, then you bloody well better like the spice if you’re going to try the perfume!

You should also like strong perfumes. On Surrender to Chance, one person commented that they liked the juicy, fruity opening but that Sacrebleu Intense was “too strong.” Well, it is, but that’s why I gravitated towards it, instead of the thinner scents in the line. Sacrebleu Intense is definitely a scent for those who like their fragrances to be bold and full-bodied.

The 30 ml bottle. Source: randewoo.ru

The 30 ml bottle. Source: randewoo.ru

One of the big positives about Sacrebleu Intense, and the Parfums de Nicolai line in general, is affordability. There is always a small 30 ml size which is very reasonably priced. For Sacrebleu Intense, the 1 oz size costs $65 or €51. It may be too tiny for some, but it’s great if you have a vast number of scents in your collection, or if you just don’t want to spend a fortune on perfume. Plus, as noted earlier, a little Sacrebleu Intense goes a long, long way.

Lastly, I think Sacrebleu Intense skews a little feminine, but not overly so and really only at the start. The incense, resins, spices and piquant neroli certainly make it very unisex in nature. My only hesitancy is the slight powderiness of the scent. It’s not at Guerlainade levels, and is much more myrrh-based in nature, but it’s something to keep in mind.

All in all, if you’re looking for a more spicy, modern version of L’Heure Bleue that is strongly centered on carnations with orange and neroli, dark smokiness that turns to white myrrh incense, and very piquant green leafiness, you may want to give Sacrebleu Intense a sniff.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Sacrebleu Intense is an eau de parfum that comes in two sizes. There is a tiny 30 ml/1 oz bottle that costs $65 or €51, and there is a large 100 ml/3.3 oz bottle that costs $165 or €153. As a side note, I think that there might have been a recent price increase for the Nicolai line, as I see a number of sites selling the large bottle for $185 now.  In the U.S.: Luckyscent sells both sizes of the perfume, with the large one at the old price of $165, and also offers samples. Beautyhabit sells the small and large sizes of Sacrebleu Intense at the same price. In New York, the New London Pharmacy is selling the 100 ml bottle for $150 on its website. OsswaldNY lists the 100 ml bottle as retailing for $190, which is way above retail, but is currently discounting the large bottle for $150. Parfum1 sells the large 100 ml bottle for the new price of $185. Outside the U.S.: For Canadian readers, the US-based Perfume Shoppe sells the small 30 ml size for US$65, and you can email them to ask about Canadian pricing. Their Canadian website offers Sacrebleu Intense in a 4ml travel spray for CAD$30. In the U.K., Parfums de Nicolaï has a shop in London on Fulham Road. You can check the Store Link below for the exact address. For all European readers, you can order directly from Parfums de Nicolaï which sells Sacrebleu Intense in both sizes for €51 and €153, respectively. In France, the company has numerous boutiques, especially in Paris. First in Fragrance sells the large 100 ml bottle for €152. In the Netherlands, ParfuMaria carries both sizes of Sacrebleu Intense, as does Annindriya’s Perfume Lounge. In Spain, I found the perfume listed in the 30 ml size at Ruiz de Ocenda for €52. In Hungary, you can find the perfume at Neroli, and in Russia, there are a lot of retailers but one of them is Eleven7. For other locations in France and the one store in London, you can turn to the Nicolai Store Listing. It doesn’t show any vendors outside France or the UK. I found nothing in Asia, the Middle East, or Australia. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells Sacrebleu Intense starting at $3.99 for a 1 ml vial. You can also order from Luckyscent.

Serge Lutens Nuit de Cellophane: Bipolar Extremes

Olfactory bipolarity, a perfume holding you hostage with assault weapons, Michelle Pfeiffer in “Married to the Mob,” 80s big hair, prepubescent girls, Pantene, and generic facelessness that “is not worthy of the Lutens name” — you better hold on, because this is going to be a bumpy ride. All those disparate things (and more) are reactions to Serge Lutens’ Nuit de Cellophane, and not just from me, either. This is a perfume that gave me olfactory whiplash, and whose opening almost verged on the oppressive. It takes a lot to make me cower, but I would have whimpered like a child, were it not for an extreme shift due to the aforementioned bipolarity.

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

Nuit de Cellophane is an eau de parfum that was created with Lutens’ favorite perfumer, Christopher Sheldrake, and released in 2009. On his website, Lutens describes the perfume as follows

When, beneath its cellophane, Haute Couture was but yet an idea.

Are you familiar with the scent of osmanthus? The flower is white or tinged with orange.
From the tight clusters of its petals bursts the scent of jasmine laced with mandarin orange.
On hot summer days, it provides a breath of fresh air.

According to Luckyscent, the notes seem to consist of, at a minimum:

Green note, fruity note, jasmine, osmanthus, carnation, lily, muscs, almond, wood, honey.

I first smelled Nuit de Cellophane on a paper strip in Paris at a Sephora boutique, and I really liked its plummy sweetness. It seemed heady, and like a very opulent fruity-floral. On skin, though…. Oh God. Oh God. Nuit de Cellophane opens with the aforementioned plums, followed by something akin to mandarins, and apricots. Seconds later, a metallic, dewy blast of white lilies arrives on the scene, accompanied by the fiery bite of red carnations and something that smells distinctly like a big, fat, white peony rose. 

White Peony. Photo: Will Borden on Fineartamerica.  (Website link embedded within photo.)

White Peony. Photo: Will Borden on Fine Art America. (Website link embedded within photo.)

It’s a visual of heavily petaled, loud whiteness tinged with vermillion, as if blood were dripping from a long, taloned nail onto snowy flowers. There is a subtle greenness to the scent, along with a concentrated bitter-sweet almond, but neither element is strong enough to cut through the intense florals. The whole thing is encased in fleshy orange, from pulpy, sticky mandarin oranges to a vaguely nutty apricot-peach. All of it feels extremely loud, and a thousand times more vulgar than anything that I’ve tried thus far from Serge Lutens. Part of me likes its unbelievably concentrated forcefulness, while the rest of me feels a little stunned at the assault. 

Source: Wallcoo.net

Source: Wallcoo.net

Five minutes in, a very metallic, synthetic element arises, making me wonder if Nuit de Cellophane was, in fact, the first in Serge Lutens’ recent line of quasi-metallic florals. Here, the note smells simultaneously soapy, clean, like hairspray, and like shampoo, all in one. It lingers around the lily aroma that is increasingly overtaking Nuit de Cellophane and becoming the main note. I love white lilies, but the version here is really quite something else. It is over-the-top in its sweetness on my skin, more dense and syrupy than even LutensUn Lys. At the same time, though, it also has a cool, synthetic steeliness and hairspray quality underlying it, something that wasn’t apparent in its lily sibling.

Michelle Pfeiffer in "Married to the Mob." Movie still from Listal.com.

Michelle Pfeiffer in “Married to the Mob.” Movie still from Listal.com.

Something about the overall combination continually makes me imagine a very big-haired, vulgar woman, like Michelle Pfeiffer’s character in the film, “Married to the Mob.” (It’s a hilarious film, by the way.) The connection in my mind stems from Nuit de Cellophane’s hyper-femininity, blowsiness, excess, loudness, and sweetness, with a very tough-as-nails swagger. And did I mention “big hair”? That too, especially as the floral hairspray element in Nuit de Cellophane keeps growing in volume. I do like Nuit de Cellophane a bit more than that description may sound, but not by much. And certainly not for long.

The perfume just keeps becoming sweeter and more shampoo-like on my skin with every passing minute. I realize my skin amplifies both sweetness and synthetics, but this experience leaves me feel utterly overwhelmed. That’s pretty unusual for someone who likes such forceful, powerful scents as Amouage‘s Ubar, Fracas, and Opium. Nuit de Cellophane’s florals, however, will either stomp on you with 9-inch high, plexiglass stripper heels, or drown you in a vat of sweetness, holding your head down in syrup with the longest, crimson dragon nails. You’d think that the spicy, clove-like note from the carnation or he almonds would counter the sweetness, but they don’t. Somehow, on my skin, they merely add to the wild disparity, especially when the almonds take on a cherry-like subtext.

Osmanthus. Source: blog.proxisante.com

Osmanthus. Source: blog.proxisante.com

I truly don’t smell osmanthus in the way that I’m used to, and it actually made me start doubting my own understanding of the note. I’ve always encountered the flower as a sweet, delicate, white thing with nuances of apricots or tea. Occasionally, it even seems to have a dark, leathered subset. Here, however, my skin is really radiating a quasi-rose peony note with some sort of peach-plum combination. I was bewildered because, even if no-one knows the actual notes in a Serge Lutens fragrance, I’d never seen a list that included “rose” or “peony.”

So, I looked up Nuit de Cellophane in Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez‘ book, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. Well, it seems that Tania Sanchez and I may have the same skin. She categorizes Nuit de Cellophane as a “plum peony” fragrance, and writes, in part:

Nuit de Cellophane is another dramatic lapse in judgment: a fruity floral derived from J’Adore, boiled down to a syrup, and in desperate need of dilution. Clearly, some osmanthus was harmed in the production, and in general the florals are much better than you usually get in this genre. But it never manages to overcome a depressing banality and feels a step down fom the creativity of Sarrasins and El Attarine. [Emphasis to names with bolding added by me.]

20 minutes in, I still didn’t smell the osmanthus, but the shampoo and scented hairspray tones were beating a steady drumroll. Nuit de Cellophane remained as a really intense blast of white lilies, white musk synthetics, and peony rose, infused with heavily fruited sweetness. It wafted about 3 inches until the end of the first hour, when the perfume finally began to soften and the projection shrank.

It takes 90 minutes, all in all, for Nuit de Cellophane to calm down enough for the osmanthus to come out from the shadows. Finally, I smell the note that this perfume is meant to celebrate, but it feels as though there were a hostage situation where the lily held the osmanthus for ransom for a while. As the lily retreats to the sidelines, the thick wave of fruited sweetness sharply drops and is cut in half. The shampoo and floral hairspray impression lingers, but it too is much less aggressive. The whole thing is now a blur dominated primarily by osmanthus, then that peony-like note and an increasingly abstract fruitedness. There is a very hazy, blurry feel to the notes, but I think I can still detect small traces of the clove-y carnation and some peach. However, the overall effect from afar is of a very soft, fruity-floral with few distinguishing characteristics other than sweetness and cleanness.

As time passes, Nuit de Cellophane devolves further. The osmanthus, the peony-rose, and the fruited elements become even more nebulous, and the perfume feels like a generic, department store floral. The problem really seems to be two-fold: shapeless and cleanness. The florals elements don’t stand out in any way except as a blur of some generalized “white flowers,” while the clean musk creates an artificial sterility.

Source: hdwallpaperplace.com

Source: hdwallpaperplace.com

At the end of the 4th hour, my greatest impression of Nuit de Cellophane was of towels which retain the vaguely floral scent of fabric softener and dryer sheets. The softness has a certain fluffiness, which one might argue is a positive, but the scent as a whole has a complete facelessness which is most definitely a negative. When I smelled Nuit de Cellophane really hard up close, I could pick out a vaguely rose-like, white floral scent with some vestige of fruitiness, but it took serious effort. And it may have been wishful thinking.

From the start of the 6th hour until its very end, Nuit de Cellophane was nothing more than a generic blur of floral cleanness. If you put it in a lineup next to any department store fragrance, even earlier on in its development, I honestly doubt I could pick out the Lutens. Regular readers know how I love the house and how much I admire Serge Lutens in particular, so none of this was easy to write, but I really disliked the fragrance that much. All in all, Nuit de Cellophane lasted just shy of 11.75 hours on my skin, and I was unhappy for all of it.

Source: telshopmobile.com

Source: telshopmobile.com

The one thing I kept thinking of when assessing the perfume is how Nuit de Cellophane compares to some of the Lutens florals of the past few years. As many people have noted, 2009 seems to mark a time when Serge Lutens embarked on a course of exploring scents with a light, watery, silvery and/or metallic floral twist. There was his L’Eau Serge Lutens in 2009, Vitriol d’Oeillet in 2011, L’Eau Froide in 2011, La Fille de Berlin in 2013, La Vierge de Fer in 2013, and the upcoming Laine de Verre (i.e., Fiber Glass) next month in February 2014. It feels to me as if Serge Lutens began with L’Eau Serge Lutens, took a detour into a hyper-sweetened (but partially metallic, piercing) Nuit de Cellophane, then decided to keep stripping away at the baseline until he arrived at the recent, metallic, icy, shrieking hairspray lily of La Vierge de Fer.

On my skin, Nuit de Cellophane begins like the earlier 2007 Un Lys, only much sweeter (if you can believe it) and without the narrow lily soliflore focus. It actually fits closer on the scale to La Vierge de Fer given the piercing white musk, yet it has the Serge Lutens’ signature of plummy fruits. La Vierge de Fer feels like the apotheosis of Lutens’ metallic or icy floral trend that Vitriol d’Oeillet and La Fille de Berlin also reflect to some extent, and so, it fits into a definite pattern.

Nuit de Cellophane doesn’t. It has some of the traditional Lutens signature with the plummy fruits, and also, some of the loud schizophrenia of the 2001 Datura Noir. Yet, it lacks the latter’s lushness, more balanced, interesting aspects, as well as the steelier, iciness of recent Lutens florals. Nuit de Cellophane is a bit of everything and nothing for me, as it lurches from one extreme to another. One minute, it holds you hostage with such strongly delineated, syrupy, piercing florals that they feel like assault rifles; the next, it is a faceless girl simpering in a department store in the cheap hairspray and shampoo aisle. Between the discordant notes and the extremes, the whole thing feels quite bipolar to me. As should be quite clear by now, I don’t understand the perfume. I’ve tried but I don’t, no matter how much I search for a pattern. I just don’t get it.

Lest you think this is all just me and hyperbole, let me reassure you that I’m hardly alone in my reaction to Nuit de Cellophane. Take Bois de Jasmin who gave it a rare Two-Star review, and whose bottom-line conclusion was…. shampoo. In fact, try as she might, neither time nor a year’s worth of additional testing could change Victoria’s feelings about the perfume:

… I have held hope that one day I would smell this bland fruity-floral and … figure out what Serge Lutens was trying to achieve with it. It has been a year since I have first smelled Nuit de Cellophane and no such revelation has occurred—it still smells like shampoo to me and I still do not care for it. […]

The opening stage of Nuit de Cellophane is the aspect I dislike the most. The sharp, fruity note that comes through evokes not the velvety softness of apricot skin but rather some drugstore peach shampoo. It is neither pleasant nor interesting, and while eventually it softens enough to reveal the osmanthus heart, the banality of the first impression stays with me.

As the composition develops, the apricot-leather accord becomes stronger, with jasmine and rose highlighting its appealing sweetness. The animalic accents are subtle, never rising above the osmanthus, even in the late drydown. It is a pleasant fragrance at this stage, light and easy to wear. Considering that such compositions are easy enough to find (and often at a much lower price point, I should add) I cannot find any other quality that makes Nuit de Cellophane appealing to me.

However unpleasant her experience, I still think mine was worse. In fact, parts of Nuit de Cellophane on her skin sound almost interesting. Animalic accents? Would that I have been so lucky! At least I’m not crazy in smelling roses in the Nuit de Cellophane.

For I Smell Therefore I Am, Nuit de Cellophane is a pretty white floral (with lilies) that “is not worthy of the Lutens name.” The review states:

Nuit de Cellophane does not smell particularly like osmanthus. Instead it is a bright, joyous and billowy white floral, heavy on jasmine, lily, champaca and some fruity citrus. Nuit de Cellophane is a beautiful white floral but it is not worthy of the Lutens name. There is absolutely nothing unusual, unique, jarring or unexpected about Nuit de Cellophane. It is very pretty, very well done and very mainstream. [¶][…]

I must admit that my first thought after wearing Nuit de Cellophane was, “the SL brand must need a mainstream success very badly; they must need some easy sales in a tough economy.”

On Fragrantica, the very first review you see at the top of the page also happens to be the most amusing, in my opinion. “Arabian Knight” sums it up, quite simply, as:

If you want a cheaper alternative to this overpriced scent, shampoo your hair with Pantene, blow dry it and then shake it back and forth. It smells exactly like freshly shampooed hair….

Baffling :/

On Luckyscent, the comments are split between the haters and those who love what they describe as soft, clean sweetness. On balance, though, the haters seem to win out:

  • On me, this smells like Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific, the shampoo all the cool girls used back when I was in seventh grade. Two stars for nostalgia, but I wouldn’t wear it.
  • Very boring. It smells like a generic department store scent, nice and wearable, but just not something from dramatic and tasteful Lutens.
  • This is a very soapy jasmine reminiscent of dryer sheets. Piercing and relentlessly dull, it is a huge disappointment coming from Serge Lutens.
  • A full, brash, sharp floral fragrance. This is almost identical to Michael Kors’ Very Hollywood. There are cheaper perfumes that smell similar to this.
  • I’m really confused by this one… I definitely agree that is smells like “Very Hollywood,” but would venture to say that there is absolutely nothing noteworthy or exceptional about this flat, high-school smelling fragrance. If you like to smell like Victoria’s Secret or the generic department-store fragrance, look no further.

I haven’t sniffed Michael Kors’ Very Hollywood in ages, so I can’t speak to the details. All I can remember is that it was a very sweet floral with little character.But I can tell you one thing with absolute certainty, though: the retail price is not $130 for a 50 ml bottle. (In fact, you can find it on a discount perfume site in a bottle twice that size for $28, while the Lutens’ discounted rate is still significantly more.)

In fairness, and to demonstrate the other side of the picture, there are people who truly love Nuit de Cellophane. Some of the positive reviews on Fragrantica:

  • This is truly an exercise in subtlety. Yet it does not smell like anything else. It is peppery carnation, fresh green, osmanthus, a breath of jasmine, a drop of sweet honey, with a bit of lily dust and soft musk to hold together. [¶] It is a quiet, delicate work of art, for the person who wants to keep her (or his) little secret, that they are wearing something special. Not for the person who wants to announce their presence before they have stepped into a room. I think that winter is not the best season; I think this is an ideal early March through end of April scent.
  • I love this fragrance. It’s juicy fruits supported by heady white florals makes it truly swoon-worthy. The opening is brief and to die for, albeit a bit too short lived in my opinion. It dries down to a soft and clean soapy smell. Even though it doesn’t project as much as I would like, I still adore it.
  • OMG, how could I live without this fantastically well done Osmantus scent??? I`m an Osmantus lover, but never I heard this note so pronounced, so clean, tender, innocent but not simple, simple but far from being primitive… it`s hard to describe, it`s a little sweet, a little acid, you keep sniffing it, trying desperately to disclosure the secret: what is this evasive beauty… It smells like a prepubertal girl must smell… Innocent and vicious in the same time. [¶] I love it.

Honestly, I don’t think smelling like a prepubescent girl is a compliment, but it takes all kinds. All the more power to her. Still, it noteworthy that a few commentators — on both sides of the fence — have brought up youthfulness, whether mentioning preteens or seventh grader girls. I do think the fragrance has an innocuous, safely generic, floral freshness that somehow translates to some noses as innocence. Intellectually, there is logic to the perception, even if I don’t understand it personally or emotionally. (The thought of actually wanting to smell like a prepubescent child brings my mind to a skidding, screeching halt. I’m completely flummoxed.)

I suppose if you’re looking for a fresh, clean, sweet Lutens (or for a department store floral with the innocuousness of a shampoo-drenched gnat), then you may want to try Nuit de Cellophane. There are cheaper alternatives, though, even if you buy the Lutens fragrance at the massive discount offered by some US retailers. Frankly, I found the perfume’s bipolar nature to verge on the alarming, and its extreme shift from one end of the spectrum to the other initially gave me whiplash, before leaving me feeling quite exhausted. It was not an experience that I enjoyed. 

DETAILS:
General Cost & Sale Prices: Nuit de Cellophane is an eau de parfum that comes in a 1.7 oz/50 ml size, and costs $130, €85, or £69. However, you can find it highly discounted at a number of U.S. retailers. On Amazon, Nuit de Cellophane costs $64.99; at FragranceNet (which ships worldwide), it is $68.16 with a coupon; and at Beauty Encounter, it costs $69.95 with the coupon code they provide as well. Serge Lutens: you can find Nuit de Cellophane at regular, full price on the U.S. and the International Lutens website, with other language options also available. U.S. sellers: Nuit de Cellophane is available for $130 at Luckyscent, Barney’s Aedes, and a number of other stores. Outside the U.S.: In the UK, you can find Nuit de Cellophane on Amazon UK for £59.35. At the regular £69 price, you can find it at Harrod’s, Liberty London, and SpaceNK ApothecaryIn France, you can buy Nuit de Cellophane from Sephora for €84, though it’s cheaper at Premiere Avenue which sells it for €79. In Germany, you can find Nuit de Cellophane at Essenza Nobile. In Australia, you can find it at FragranceNet Australia for AUD$78.34 with the coupon. For other countries, you can use the Store Locator on the Lutens website. Samples: You can test out Nuit de Cellophane by ordering a sample from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.99 for a 1/2 ml vial. There is also a Four Lutens Sample Set for $18.99 where the vials are larger at 1 ml each, and you get your choice of 4 Lutens Export fragrances (ie, not those that are Paris exclusives).

Téo Cabanel Méloé: Summer Citruses & Freshness

Portofino on the Italian Riviera. Source: yachtcharterfleet.com

Portofino on the Italian Riviera. Source: yachtcharterfleet.com

It snowed here yesterday, after days of endless, bleak, icy greyness. For many of you, snow is hardly a big deal; for where I live, however, it’s akin to Hell freezing over. So, as a sign of rebellion, or perhaps as escapist fantasy against those miserable grey skies, I reached for Méloé, the one fragrance explicitly intended to represent “the heat of long-awaited summer days.” Mind you, I’m not all that crazy about my area’s particularly hellish version of summer, but I was suddenly in desperate need of sunshine in a bottle. And Méloé promises a “fresh haven” of all the best that the Mediterranean can offer, from Tunisian Neroli to Sicilian mandarin, from fresh basil to orange blossom and lavender.

Source: Hypoluxe.

Source: Hypoluxe.

Méloé is a creation from one of the most unsung gems in the niche world, Téo Cabanel, a Paris niche house whose history goes back over a century and a relatively unknown brand which consistently puts out extremely refined, polished perfumes. I have a huge soft spot for Téo Cabanel, as they make one of my favorite perfumes, the glorious oriental, Alahine (which is one of the few rose-based perfumes that I adore.) Alahine is fierce, potent, boozy, and with such intense spicy smolder that I often say it requires a form of Stockholm Syndrome to fall in love with it.

Méloé (which I’ll just write from here on out as “Meloe” for ease and speed) is the polar opposite of Alahine in every possible way. It’s as though Téo Cabanel intentionally sought to make Alahine’s counterpart with a fragrance that was a crisp, light, airy eau de toilette with the most easy-going nature. If Alahine takes you to a Moroccan souk spice market, and then to opulent palaces filled with lush roses and amber, then Meloe represents someone sitting in a café in Monaco wearing a cool, crisp shirt, and spritzing themselves with the aromatic cologne equivalent of a chilled lemon Perrier. They just chill and hang out, and, as the day progresses, the sun’s heat eventually brings out a musky, warm sweetness on their skin. It’s all very easy, smooth, and polished, but none of it is complicated, edgy, or heavy. It’s not meant to be.

David Niven relaxing on the French Riviera. Source: therakeonline.com

David Niven relaxing on the French Riviera. Source: therakeonline.com

Freshness and lightness is such an intentional part of Méloé that the fragrance was even originally called Méloé Eau Légère or, in some listings, Eau Fraiche. Emphasizing the point even further, Meloe is an eau de toilette in concentration, not an eau de parfum like Alahine. Meloe was created by Téo Cabanel‘s in-house perfumer, Jean-Francois Latty, and was released in 2008.

The company describes the perfume as follows:

In the heat of long-awaited summer days, the Méloé lover has found a fresh haven. Her elegant summer signature is underlined by her light, green, fruity eau de parfum.

Méloé’s Epicurian symphony generously draws its top notes from citrus and spices. Bergamot from Calabria, mandarin and lemon from Sicily, lavender and basil play their part in perfect harmony. 

The sparkling citrus notes linger until a dainty floral bouquet of Neroli from Tunisia, orange blossom and jasmine with just a touch of nutmeg comes to full bloom to make up the heart notes.

Unexpected sensual base notes of musk, amber and just a hint of woody notes. Lavish elegance and mystery, Méloé fully reveals its modern and distinctive character

Meloe is categorized as a green, fruity floral, and First in Fragrance offers the full list of notes:

Top Note: Bergamot, Tangerine, Lemon, Lavender, Basil

Heart Note: Neroli, Orange Blossom, Jasmine, Nutmeg

Base Note: Musk, Ambergris, Woods. [Some places mention “crystal moss” as a base element as well.]

Source: 550px.com

Source: 550px.com

Meloe opens on my skin with a strong blast of bitter neroli, followed by unsweetened tangerines, and crisp, zesty lemon that feels much like the oils from a peel that was freshly grated. There is also one of my most hated notes in perfumery: lavender. As many of you know, I’m a lavender-phobe, and, yet, I actually like the note here. It is sharp, but also soft. More importantly, it doesn’t smell like the revolting, dried kind with its concentrated, vicious pungency. Instead, it smells more aromatic, like the plant in nature and in bloom. The lavender weaves its way throughout the various citrus notes, and the whole thing is sprinkled with peppery elements and a good pinch of bitter nutmeg.

The overall effect is to create something that is very brisk, incredibly bright, and fresh, but also somewhat spicy. None of it feels like a “fruity floral,” thank God. That is a category of perfumes I rather dread, for the modern sort are all too often dripping with goo, syrup and sweetness. And I have to admit, for a good half of Meloe’s lifespan, I find myself perplexed by the categorization because Meloe feels like a really fantastic cologne.

Source: societeperrier.com

Source: societeperrier.com

It’s not only the fougère-like traits of using cool lavender, citruses, green herbs, and woods, but some sort of ineffable quality that reads “unisex cologne” to me. Meloe’s fruits are refreshing and unsweetened, dominated more by crisp lemon and bitter neroli than by any heavy, sweet, juicy oranges, and the whole thing is definitely aromatic with the very dominant lavender note. Yet, it never feels masculine or akin to an old-fashioned barber-shop scent. Perhaps it’s because the lavender lacks the aggressive pungency of the sort often used in masculine colognes, or perhaps it’s because the notes are all very well-balanced. My greatest impression is of something sunny and yellow, but also chilled like Perrier — Perrier that merely happens to be infused by lemon peels, neroli, lavender, and nutmeg.

Nutmeg. Source: Kootation.com

Nutmeg. Source: Kootation.com

As the minutes pass, Meloe starts to change. The nutmeg softens its early forcefulness and loses some of its bitterness, as does the neroli. At the same time, the basil makes a tiny appearance on the sidelines, but I have to confess, I wish there were more of it. It’s so subtle, I sometimes feel I’m imagining it. The tangerine feels muted, such that I’d never smell Meloe at this stage and think “orange fruits,” but I think it has an indirect effect that helps ensure the more bitter elements are kept in check.

Perhaps its subtle sweetness is why Meloe loses some of its bright zestiness after 10 minutes and starts to feel much less brisk. The lemon no longer smells like you just dug your nails into the peel and grated the skin to release bitter oils. It’s smoother, thinner, and softer. The neroli starts to turn more abstract, too. At the same time, a hint of woodiness creeps into the top notes, perhaps from the unspecified “woods” listed for the fragrance.

Whatever the reason, Meloe settles into being a much smoother, lighter, seamless blur of crisp citruses and lavender aromatics that are perfectly balanced with a quiet spiciness, subtle woodiness, and hint of bitterness. It’s odd how the notes overlap each other and feel almost as if they lack delineation, yet, when smelled up close, you can still pull things apart. By the same token, Meloe sometimes feels very thin and sheer, yet it initially projects about 3 inches above the skin and is very rich up close. I have to think that the current arctic weather in which I’m testing the fragrance is hampering it to some extent. I suspect this is one perfume that would truly bloom in the summer heat for which it was intended.

Orange blossoms via the Pattersonfoundation.org.

Orange blossoms via the Pattersonfoundation.org.

As some of you may have noticed, I’m in the midst of doing a series on floral fragrances, and Meloe is technically supposed to focus on orange blossoms. Well, on my skin, and perhaps due to the current freezing temperatures, the flowers don’t make an appearance until 90 minutes into Meloe’s development. Even then, they are extremely delicate. Instead of the heavy, lush, ripe, indolic sort of orange blossoms that you often encounter, the ones here feel like the young buds on the actual tree. There is a crisp, Spring-time vibe, a softness that separates Meloe’s fresh take on orange blossoms from something like Serge LutensFleurs d’Orangers. These flowers never feel syrupy, mentholated, blackened, or concentrated. In fact, they’re quite muted and restrained. At times, there is the faintest suggestion of an expensive orange blossom soap underlying the notes, or perhaps it’s the odd sense that these flowers are virgin clean.

The actual orange fruit lurks behind the flowers, more akin now to a sliver of fresh, baby tangerine than to any bitter oils from the rind. The bitterness of the neroli has also vanished, but its slightly piquant woodiness remains. As a whole, Meloe is now primarily a very cool, thin blend of soft, clean orange blossoms, crisp lemons, and baby tangerines in an aromatic, woody nest. It still feels like a light, delicate eau de toilette that has been stuck in a refrigerator, but it’s not quite as crisp or zesty.

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

Sometimes, one has the sense that the different stages of Meloe capture the different parts of the full citrus tree. The fragrance starts first with its unsweetened fruit nestled amongst cool, waxy, bitter green leaves and petitgrain twigs, along with the equally bitter, piquant aspects of neroli and the aromatics growing all around the plant. Later, though, Meloe moves up to focus on the tree’s youthful blossoms, tossing in a dash of now sweetened baby mandarins, and a whisper of abstract warmth. As for the lavender, it is now quite nebulous in feel, adding merely a touch of aromatic freshness.

Source: fantom-xp.com

Source: fantom-xp.com

All lingering impressions of a cologne fade away at the start of the third hour, when Meloe turns into a more floral fragrance with unsweetened fruits and lingering traces of woody aromatics. The sillage slowly drops and, by the end of the 3rd hour, Meloe lies right on the skin. It becomes a skin scent about 4.5 hours in. Around the same time, the tangerine and orange blossoms surge to the foreground, taking over completely. The two notes are accompanied by a soft, musky warmth, though it never reads as actual amber to me, let alone ambergris. There are the tiniest flickers of something woody and aromatic in the background, but they are very indistinct.

Source: singer22.com

Source: singer22.com

The whole thing is very soft, sheer, and pretty. It’s very simple, yes, but also elegant, polished, and easy-going. It has a very relaxed summer vibe, like someone hanging out on a boat and sipping cocktails on the Cote d’Azur after a long day in the sun. Their skin holds the tiniest traces of the crisp citrus, orange, and lavender notes of their early morning cologne, but the summer heat has evaporated their chilled freshness, leaving behind only their sweetened essences on warmed skin. In its final moments, Meloe is merely a blur of oranges with a vaguely woody feel. All in all, it lasted 10.5 hours with 3 medium-sized dabs, which is excellent for an eau de toilette.

Téo Cabanel clearly had a very specific goal and feel in mind in creating the perfume, and I think they accomplished it really well. Nothing about Meloe is uber-complicated, let alone rich or heady, but it’s not trying to be with a name like “Eau Légère.” Yet, Meloe still has more body and depth than many Eau de Toilettes that I’ve tried (not to mention quite a few eau de parfums). Plus, it’s very reasonably priced (between $50-$70 for the smallest bottle, depending on where you buy it) with moderate sillage and good longevity.

Putting all that together, Meloe comes across as straight-forward simplicity with absolutely no pretentiousness at all, something I really like a lot. Meloe may have easy affability and versatile freshness, but it is also a very polished, refined take on a summertime citric-floral. It’s not quite as simple as it may appear, and it certainly feels more nuanced than some fragrances in this genre. In fact, as compared to many commercial “fruity-florals,” especially the syrupy fruit-chouli messes that you find in department stores, Meloe is almost a paragon of sophisticated complexity.

The thing that I keep thinking of is Creed’s much-hyped Aventus, which is really another twist on a fruity-florals with aromatics. To be clear, the two fragrances are very different in terms of their flowers and fruits, as Aventus is centered on pineapple, apple, ashy birch, and citruses, among other things. Meloe is initially much more lemony, aromatic and unsweetened, with a very robust lavender that makes it fougère-like, before it later turning orange-based and warmer. In my opinion, it’s also actually much less thin, watery, and weak in projection than Aventus, and more unisex. Yet, both fragrances share the same spirit and goal of fresh, bright crispness where fruits are nestled into an aromatic, woody base. They may smell completely different, but they want the same things. And I prefer Meloe’s journey to that goal.

There are no blog reviews that I could find for Meloe, and the fragrance isn’t entered on Basenotes, so we have to rely on Fragrantica for other people’s perceptions or experiences. Interestingly, there isn’t a single negative review of Meloe. Everyone seems to enjoy it, whether it is a man who shares the scent with his wife, or women who normally can’t stand “fruity-florals.” In fact, many seem quite surprised to like it as much as they do, perhaps because Meloe really isn’t a “fruity floral” by modern standards. One commentator, “Mals86,” actually referenced colognes in her comment:

I generally struggle with citrus scents, and traditional cologne-formulas that are meant to be refreshing, like this one. But I found it light and pleasant, and indeed very refreshing: not too floral, not too lemony, not too fleeting. [¶] It was even better on my daughter, and makes a wonderful alternative to the fruity-syrupy stuff her friends are wearing.

Source: Chef Keem at chefkeem.squidoo.com

Source: Chef Keem at chefkeem.squidoo.com

Another poster barely realized there was citrus in the perfume, and notes how well Meloe is blended:

Like Mals86 I always feel that citrus and I are no friends. But I got a sample today and tried it without knowing about the citrus. [¶] Well…citrus didn’t even come to my mind! I guess that it is because it is so very well blended with all the other notes that I wouldn’t detect it…
Might well be that the lavender calms down the citrus and spices and that, on the other hand, the citrus and spices lift up the lavender… [¶] Lavender on it’s own can be quite dull as if it was meant as an invitation to sleep without any dreams promised… [¶] Here dreams come alive while serenity remains… [¶] The amber warms up within the sillage so these dreams soon will float on the air that you’ll be happy to breath…

Smelling it, I see bright white clouds against a clear blue sky, I see Dolphins jump up out of turqouise coloured water with their friendly, smiling faces. [¶] Beautyful fragrance…

For everyone else, the citric burst was clear from the start, though some found it more fruity and sweetened than purely lemony crispness:

  • Méloé is obviously a great harmonic summer signature scent with spicy citric carnival in the beginning and intriguing soft light green fruity floral vibe with a naughty bread’ish faint sub-scent that tickles me! [¶] Without any hint of classic perfumery, it stand some steps higher than every fresh feminine perfume I know. The quality of citruses and lavender is superior. [¶] Méloé is chic, first class, easy going, generous and rich..
  • MELOE is like a windy summer day, it started with a sugary citrus and mandarin orange combo with bits of neroli and orange blossom. It was not too sweet, but more fresh fruity. The heart arrived with warm jasmine and amber. It dries down to a beautiful amber/citrus base, very light, but noticeable. [¶] I think MELOE is a very good floral fruity choice for summers for those who are too tired for synthetic mess most current floral fruity perfumes offer. This is a nice, natural, breezy and simple perfume

In terms of sillage, everyone notes that the perfume isn’t “overpowering,” and one person said the projection was “minimal,” with Meloe soon turning into a skin scent. For longevity, most people voted for “long lasting” (7h-12h) in terms of duration, and one commentator mentioned that it lasted 8 hours on her skin.

As everyone notes, Meloe is simple and breezy. It’s the furthest thing from challenging, bold, or edgy, and definitely not an original take on either colognes or fruity-florals. But it’s not trying to be any of those things. All it wants to do is to deliver a very elegant, polished take on a traditional genre. As Téo Cabanel told the Sniffapalooza magazine, their goal is create

scents in the true French perfume tradition, to rediscover the concept total sophistication. We take the greatest care in offering high quality products. The name Téo Cabanel is a promise of the quality of our essences and the elegance of our bottles and packaging.  Our perfumes deserve the finest natural elements, 100% pure and natural.

For the price, I honestly don’t think you can beat Téo Cabanel for great perfumery with a very classique, elegant feel at a bargain price. It is one of the most unpretentious brands I’ve encountered, with zero flash and a lot of substance. They quietly dedicate themselves to creating high-quality, polished products in the French tradition, and just hope that someone notices. In fact, they seem quite humble about it all.

In the specific case of Meloe, I think if perfume were offered under the Creed or Tom Ford label, people would be falling all over themselves and proclaiming that they had found their new summer scent. It is definitely unisex, versatile, and something you could wear to the office. It is also simple, but it certainly feels richer to me than Tom Ford’s very bland citrus offerings in the new Atelier d’Orient line. And I won’t even start on the issue of Aventus, or some of Hermès’ colognes.

In short, whether you’re looking for year-long freshness, summer in a bottle, or an escape from “the heat of long-awaited summer days,” I definitely recommend that you give Meloe a sniff.   

DETAILS:
All the Téo Cabanel fragrances in a sample set. Source:  Téo Cabanel e-store.

All the Téo Cabanel fragrances in a sample set. Source: Téo Cabanel e-store.

Cost & Availability: Meloe is an eau de toilette that comes in a 50 ml/1.7 oz size that retails for $70 or €50, or a 100 ml/ 3.4 oz bottle that costs $110 or €80. You can order Meloe directly from the Téo Cabanel website (which also has a French language version), along with a Sample Set of all 7 Cabanel fragrances in 1.5 ml vials for a set price of €8.50. (There is also a 9 ml rollerball of Meloe that costs $28, but that isn’t commonly available except from the company.) In my opinion, the best place to get Meloe right now is also the cheapest: eBay! You can find the 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle of Meloe in the old glass bottles for as low as $50, while the larger 100 ml bottles go for around $75. 

In the U.S.: Téo Cabanel’s U.S. retailer is Luckyscent which now carries four of the Téo Cabanel line, but Meloe is not one of them. The reason is that Téo Cabanel’s U.S. distributor is waiting for summer to bring out Meloe, and I’ll update this post when it does. It was actually extremely difficult for me to find an online vendor (outside of eBay) that currently carries this particular perfume. The Posh Peasant seems to have it, but it’s unclear to me if they are sold out. All their entries have the word “Sold” next to it. For those of you near Minneapolis, there is a store that already carries Meloe, but it does not have an online e-boutique. It is “La Petite Parfumerie” and the phone number is: (952) 475-2212 or you can email at orders@lapetiteparfumerie.com.

Outside the US: In Canada, Cabanel’s website lists Fritsch Fragrances as its primary vendor. In the UK, Téo Cabanel is usually carried at Fortnum & Mason’s, but I don’t see it shown online. Liberty’s sells Meloe in the 100 ml bottle for £75, and ships throughout the EU. Germany’s First in Fragrance sells Meloe for €50 or €80, depending on size. Another European vendor is Natural Skincare Emporium which sells the 50 ml bottle of Meloe for €59. In Denmark, Happel carries the entire Teo Cabanel line, including Meloe. I’ve also read  that the perfumes are available at: the Hotel George V in Paris, Les Galleries Lafayette, Douglas (France, Lithuania, Russia) Kadewe Berlin, Oberpollinger Munich, and Albrecht in Frankfurt. For all other countries or specific cities, you can use the company’s Store Locator guide on their website.

Samples: Meloe is unfortunately not one of the Téo Cabanel scents carried by Surrender to Chance. However, the Posh Peasant Sampler Set which includes 5 of the Téo Cabanel scents, including Meloe and my beloved Alahine, starting at $15 for 1 ml vials. The other option is to order from Téo Cabanel website with their more complete, larger sized sample set that includes the new amber oriental release, Barkhane as well.

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.

Parfums de Marly Safanad

The lushness of an orange orchard under a turquoise Mediterranean sky. The juice of fruits lying heavy and ripe on the branches mixed with the heady, languid whiteness of their white blossoms. Orange in all its manifestations dances a duet with custardy ylang-ylang and vanilla, until… suddenly… the scenery changes and you’re in cool, grey Paris in a garden filled with irises.

Source: Fragrantica.

Source: Fragrantica.

That is a portion of my journey with Safanad, a new fragrance from Parfums de Marly which was released earlier this year. Parfums de Marly is a house founded in 2009 under the direction of Julien Sprecher, and its name refers to the beautiful, 18th-century horse sculptures by Guillaume Coustou called “Les Chevaux de Marly.” All the fragrances in the line carry the name of a particular horse or equine breed, and Safanad is no exception. As the company description quoted by Jovoy Paris explains, Safanad was inspired by a present from the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon:

A Safanad horse. Source: straightegyptians.com.

A Safanad horse. Source: straightegyptians.com.

Safanad, is from the ancestor of an Arabian horse breed that exists for several thousand years. The queen of Sheba presented to the wise king Solomon this thoroughbred horse named Safanad, meaning “The pure”.

This fragrance from perfumes de Marly reflects the grace of a thoroughbred. Besides the excellent quality the daring elegance, the concentrated energy and the unique temperament completes the fragrance.

The unique beauty of this fragrance is poured in with the top notes of Orange and pear.

Amber, sandalwood and vanilla harmonizing excellently in the base with the heart of Orange Blossom iris, and ylang-ylang.

The succinct list of the perfume’s notes is:

Top Note: Orange, Pear

Heart Note: Orange Blossom, Iris, Ylang-Ylang

Base Note: Ambergris, Sandalwood, Vanilla.

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

Source: Telegraph.co.uk

Safanad opens on my skin with an explosion of concentrated orange, followed by sweet, heady orange blossoms. The fruit is intense, as if the pulp of a hundred oranges had been reduced down to a few teaspoons. There is a syrupy sweetness to Safanad that is augmented by the orange blossoms which are heady, opulent, and potent. For all their lushness, they don’t feel indolic, and never have that almost excessive, blowsy, sometimes rotting feel that white flowers can occasionally have.

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Ylang-Ylang. Source: Soapgoods.com

Other notes soon appear. There is a subtle whiff of pears that are dewy, watery, fresh and green. It’s more like pear nectar, and it’s lovely, which makes it a shame that the note is so fleeting and overwhelmed by the orange-orange blossom duo. Much more noticeable is the ylang-ylang which is a powerful part of Safanad’s opening. It has a very custardy, almost banana-like aroma which is extremely rich, and supplemented by an equally custardy vanilla. Together, the pulpy orange, the lush florals, and the vanilla create a bouquet that is intensely feminine, sweet, and syrupy.

The top bouquet is pretty, but significantly less interesting to me than the base. There are the faintest touches of something ambered, wet, and very musky lurking down there, but it never feels like actual ambergris. In fact, on my skin, Safanad never felt very ambered at all in any concrete, distinct way. Instead, there are suggestions of something abstract that merely has the feel of something golden, if that makes any sense. There is also something synthetic, noticeable primarily in the opening minutes of Safanad, a sort of buzzing around the florals that I can’t pinpoint. It was there on two of the four times that I’ve worn Safanad, but always when I applied much less of the fragrance.

What is much more distinct and interesting is the unexpected, odd darkness in Safanad’s base. It smells resinous, smoky, almost like incense, and at times has a distinctly leathered feel. If there is “amber” resin in Safanad, to my nose it smells like Styrax with its slightly smoky, spicy, leathered undertones. It makes me wonder about the notes provided for Safanad, because there is definitely something dark lurking in its depths that doesn’t fit with what is listed. Unfortunately, the accord is subtle, extremely minor, and quite fleeting. It pops up about 15 minutes into Safanad’s development, and lasts only about 30 minutes on my skin.

Source: hercity.com

Source: hercity.com

For the most part, Safanad’s opening is a simple, uncomplicated orange blossom floral with extreme sweetness. In my notes, I wrote a few times: “orange custard,” or “orange creamsicle with ylang-ylang.” Yes, from afar, I smelled like both for a good portion of Safanad’s first hour, and I have some mixed feelings on the subject. My skin tends to bring out and amplify basenotes, so I sprayed some Safanad on a friend who loves florals. Safanad was different on her skin: less vanillic and syrupy, and with more of a pure, almost fresh, non-indolic, gauzy orange blossom aroma than the richer, custardy ylang-ylang. She found it simple and incredibly sweet, but she didn’t mind it. Yet, when I asked this floral lover if she would ever want to wear it or buy Safanad for herself, she looked dubious. She also looked distinctly unenthused about the version of the fragrance that appeared on my skin, and commented on how different it smelled. As always, skin chemistry makes a difference.

What shocked me is how quickly the perfume’s sillage dropped from an intense forcefulness to a skin scent — on both of us. With one big spray, Safanad turned into a skin scent on me after a mere 45 minutes! With two huge ones, it took 75 minutes. I first tried the fragrance at Jovoy in Paris, and was quite drawn by the orange blossoms, so I sprayed on quite a bit, but the same sillage problem reared its ugly head. My skin has longevity problems, not sillage ones, so the fragrance is clearly intended to be something soft, gauzy and translucent — no matter how much you apply. But 45 or 75 minutes is still too little!

Bearded iris via scenicreflections.com

Bearded iris via scenicreflections.com

About 50 minutes in, Safanad’s bouquet start to change. First, the iris emerges, slowly growing stronger and diffusing the fragrance’s fruity sweetness. It’s a floral iris, not a carroty, dank, earthy, rooty one or even a highly powdered one. A more surprising change to me is that Safanad starts to take on a distinctly jasmine aroma. I know both ylang-ylang and orange blossom, but my skin is somehow emanating something that felt very much like jasmine (with all its own distinct, particular nuances) as well. Safanad’s base alters too, primarily with the vanilla which loses a lot of its custardy richness and turns more sheer. The hints of something dark, leathered, and smoky recede; the fragrance becomes less syrupy; and the fruity orange pulp lessens. At the same time, a slight creamy woodiness appears, though it never smells to me like actual “sandalwood,” and is a pretty abstract, nebulous thing as a whole.

Orange Blossom. Photo: GardenPictures via Zuoda.net

Orange Blossom. Photo: GardenPictures via Zuoda.net

At the end of the second hour, Safanad is a smooth, gauzy orange blossom scent infused with jasmine-like notes, followed by iris and ylang-ylang. The whole thing sits above a base of a gauzy, thin vanilla that is flecked by something vaguely ambered, and musky. A subtle, wholly abstract, creamy woodiness lies even deeper below, but sometimes I think it’s merely a figment of my imagination. It’s honestly hard to detect all the nuances of Safanad beyond the florals and vanilla, in part because the perfume is like a breath or suggestion that clings to the skin like a translucent film. I have to put on a lot of it to really get at its essence in the first few hours because, on the surface or from a distance, Safanad really seems like nothing more than syrupy, fruited orange blossom with ylang-ylang custard.

Photo: Mary Foster Creative, Etsy Store. (Link embedded within photo.)

Photo: Mary Foster Creative, Etsy Store. (Link embedded within photo.)

It is only at the start of the 4th hour (with a regular dose) that Safanad suddenly transforms. (If you apply a large amount of Safanad, it will take longer.) At that point, to my surprise, the iris suddenly takes over, increasingly dominating the now muted orange blossom. Eventually, Safanad is nothing more than a cool, powdery iris fragrance, lightly dusted with vanillic powder. It essentially smells like the inside of a suede handbag, with powdered vanilla. Safanad remains that way until it finally dies away. It lasted around 6.5 hours with a regular application, and a little over 7.25 hours with a really huge quantity. The sillage on my skin was weak after the first hour, and the perfume was incredibly hard to detect even with a lot of sprays after 5 hours.

I couldn’t find any detailed blog reviews for Safanad, but it was briefly covered by Mark Behnke of CaFleurebon. He didn’t experience any iris, mainly just orange blossom:

[It] opens on a crisp pear note before diving head first into the orange blossom which seems to arrive very rapidly on my skin. It is further supported with iris and ylang-ylang but this is a very complex orange blossom note. I’m not sure but I think this must be a particularly high quality version of this raw material because there seems more subtlety and depth to it than I normally experience in an orange blossom note. This ends with a smooth amber, sandalwood, and vanilla base.

I’m torn on the issue of Safanad. One part of me thinks that Safanad is an elegant choice for anyone who loves discreet but really sweet, intensely fruity orange blossoms scents, especially with a side of vanilla. The other, more critical side of me struggles intensely with the fact that Parfums de Marly is charging $275 for a fruity-florals that isn’t very complicated, that is extremely unobtrusive and sheer, and that doesn’t substantially change in any way until its final blur as a powdery floral with vanilla. Safanad is well done, but it’s a largely conservative, classic, unoriginal take that isn’t very distinctive.

Then again, the orange blossoms are lovely, as is the burst of photo-realistic, concentrated orange pulp at the start. Really and truly lovely. The part of me that adores both notes is happy, but the devil on my shoulder keeps tapping me, insisting that I smelled like an orange creamsicle for a good portion of the first hour, and that it became skin scent after 45 minutes unless I sprayed on a hell of a lot. The devil then points to Safanad’s price, and laughs his head off.

I’m afraid the devil wins out in this argument. If Safanad were more unusual, twisted, perhaps with a little grit and more of that mysteriously smoky, almost leathered touch, then I would be much more enthusiastic as a whole. I would still take a look at the perfume’s price and my sillage/longevity numbers, and have criticism, but I wouldn’t be struggling to write a review about a wholly conventional fragrance. If Safanad were priced at $100-$130, I would gladly recommend it as a choice for women who love very sweet, white fruity-florals, and orange blossom in particular. It may not be distinctive or original, but it is an elegant, pretty, extremely feminine fragrance with a luxurious opening. At $275, with the problems that it has, I find it much harder to recommend with any enthusiasm.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Safanad is an Eau de Parfum that only comes in a 2.5 oz/75 ml bottle which costs $275 or €159. Parfums de Marly has a website which is incredibly frustrating and not particularly user-friendly, no matter how pretty it may be. It also has no e-store, and Safanad is not even listed amongst its fragrances. In the U.S.: the perfume is available at OsswaldNYC which offers samples of the fragrance, if you call by phone. They offer samples of any 10 fragrances in 1 ml vials for $10 with free domestic shipping. I also found Safanad on sale for $220 at a site called Chifo Perfumes, but I have never heard of them so I don’t know how reliable they may be. Safanad is available at Parfumerie Nasreen (which also sells samples), and at The Fragrance GroupOutside the U.S.: I found Safanad on sale for $149 at Kuwait’s Universal Perfumes. At the normal price of €179, you can find Safanad at Premiere Avenue in France (which ships worldwide, I believe). The fragrance is also carried at Paris’ Jovoy, and Germany’s First in Fragrance, which also sells samples. In the UK, the line is supposedly exclusive to London’s Fortnum & Mason, but they only show 3 Parfums de Marly items on their website. Safanad is not one of them. In the Netherlands, Safanad is available at ParfuMaria and Parfumerie NL. In Denmark, it’s sold at La Schiller. There are a number of Russian vendors, one of which is Ry7. Parfums Marly has 3 stores in Dubai and the United Arab Emirates. For all other countries from Qatar to Hungary, you can use the Store Locator guide on the Parfums Marly page. Just go to the top right in the midst of the dark bar at the top of the page, and you will find the category written in somewhat spidery, white script. Samples: I obtained my sample of Safanad while browsing in Jovoy Paris. A number of the vendors listed above offers samples of the fragrance. However, Safanad is not offered on the usual decanting sites.

Phaedon Tabac Rouge, Rouge Avignon & Pure Azure

Pierre Guillaume. Source: Fragrantica

Pierre Guillaume. Source: Fragrantica

While in Paris, I had the chance to sniff fragrances from Phaedon, the Paris niche perfume house founded in 2011 by Pierre Guillaume (who also owns Parfumerie Generale and is behind Huitieme Art). The line previously had seven eau de toilettes, but, this summer, Mr. Guillaume launched seven more fragrances that are all “High Concentration Eaux de Parfums.” The new creations were all made by Pierre Guillaume in collaboration with various perfumers.

I obtained samples of three of the fragrances, thanks to the kindness of the Paris niche boutique, Sens Unique, a fantastic store which I will rave about in another post one day. The perfumes in question are: Tabac Rouge (Turkish Blend), Rouge Avignon, and Pure Azure. For reasons that will soon become clear, I’ve decided not to follow my usual course of doing a lengthy, comprehensive review for each fragrance individually. Instead, I’ll merely provide a brief synopsis and my impressions for all three perfumes in a single post.

TABAC ROUGE:

Tabac Rouge. Source: Fragrantica

Tabac Rouge. Source: Fragrantica

Phaedon describes Tabac Rouge (Turkish Blend) as follows:

Turkish Blend is a quintessentially Art Deco composition. Turkish tobacco absolute and incense make up the core accord, spare, dry and perfectly balanced. As in Tamara de Lempicka’s paintings, the “color” palette is pared-down and vibrant: ginger, cinnamon and a lick of honey. In the base notes, musks, bolstered by warm, powdery Siam benzoin, blend the scent with your skin. Androgynous, stylized and luxurious.

Fragrantica‘s list of notes, oddly enough, excludes the main ingredients in the scent which are Turkish tobacco absolute and incense. Adding those in, Tabac Rouge’s ingredients would include:

Turkish tobacco absolute, incense, ginger, cinnamon, honey, musk, powdery notes and benzoin.

Source: Basenotes

Source: Basenotes

Tabac Rouge is, in a nutshell, a simpler, slightly less forceful, lighter version of Tom Ford‘s Tobacco Vanille. The major differences to me are that the Phaedon version is fractionally less sweet than its cousin, lacks a fruited base, has weaker sillage, less density, and doesn’t quite take on the Yankee Candle Plum Pudding undertone of Tobacco Vanille.

Like Tobacco Vanille, Tabac Rouge starts with a strong blast of honeyed tobacco that is infused with incense and vanilla, and dusted with spices in a potent blend that eventually turns softer, airier, more powdered, and more vanillic in nature. The differences that exist are largely minute, and one of degree. As noted above, Tabac Rouge lacks a plum pudding undertone, but it also feels much more honeyed to me. In fact, the honey was much more pronounced on my skin than the vanilla which seemed less significant than in Tobacco Vanille. A much bigger difference is that Tabac Rouge feels much softer and lighter than the Tom Ford fragrance. It doesn’t have the latter’s dense, thick chewiness, but it does have its longevity.

In essence, it’s very sweet, it’s pretty, and it’s a much better deal than the Tom Ford fragrance at $160 for 100 ml, instead of $210 for a mere 50 ml. Nonetheless, it’s obviously treading water that’s been explored before, which is why I agree, to some extent, with Mark Behnke of CaFleureBon whose entire summation of Tabac Rouge amounted merely to this:

Tabac Rouge, travels a well-worn path of combining tobacco and incense. It is fine but it didn’t ever rise to a level of something I would be reaching for when I am in the mood for tobacco and incense. If you like these notes and want a lighter simpler take on them Tabac Rouge could fill the bill.

I like Tabac Rouge more than he did, but I too would get my incense and tobacco fix elsewhere.

ROUGE AVIGNON:

Rouge Avignon. Source: Fragrantica

Rouge Avignon. Source: Fragrantica

Phaedon describes Rouge Avignon as follows:

A Gothic composition, as opulent and dark as the shadow of the Papal Palace looming over nations and centuries… The carmine red of the papal stole is conjured with a fleshy, spicy rose facetted by ylang-ylang and raspberry. In the heart notes, waxed woods, cocoa bean, black truffle and earthy smoky vetiver lure us into the private apartments of the Supreme Pontiff. Gilt moldings and religious ornaments glint in the firelight while gray tendrils of smoke rise from a censer burning sandalwood chips mixed with musk and amber.

The succinct list of notes is:

raspberry, ylang-ylang, rose, cacao pod, hinoki wood, tuber [black truffle], vetiver, sandalwood, musk and amber.

Rouge Avignon opens on my skin with a bouquet of honeyed sweetness and delicate florals that soon turn into a fleshy, fruited, purple rose. A strong heaping of sharp, almost clean musk ensues, and deep down in the depths, there is a very noticeable dose of cocoa powder. The latter is soon overwhelmed by the syrupy, jammy rose, and doesn’t really appear again until a few hours later. I honestly don’t smell raspberry as the fruit, per se, in its own right but, instead, an amorphous, almost berry-like fruitiness.

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com -

Source: nature.desktopnexus.com –

Something about the overall combination and my skin chemistry has produced instead an accord very similar to a patchouli rose. It’s a profusion of abstract dark berries and syrupy sweetness, much like the purple patchouli I loathe so much. In fact, I’m reminded of Frederic Malle‘s Portrait of a Lady, only Rouge Avignon has a greater degree of musk that feels a little synthetic, along with extremely muted, minor hints of something dark in the base. I’m not the greatest fan of fruited, syrupy, patchouli-like roses, and I don’t like Portrait of a Lady, so I confess that I’m equally underwhelmed here.

I was surprised to see that Mark Behnke of CaFleureBon also struggled with the forceful combination. On him, the fruited element definitely seemed like raspberry in its own right, as opposed to some amorphously red-purple fruit syrup, but he still wasn’t fond of the overall effect:

I really enjoyed the foodie heart of Rouge Avignon but I must confess the strength of the rose and raspberry in the top notes took some getting used to. I think I will revisit this in the chill of the fall.

By the standards of CaFleureBon with their positive, laudatory take on everything, that simple confession speaks volumes. As for the issue of seasons, it’s almost December here, and I’d like Mr. Behnke to know that Rouge Avignon is still a painfully sweet, berried rose from start to finish.

There are only a few minor changes in the fragrance’s primary backbone and theme. After a few hours, a subtle touch of sweetened powder emerges, as does a slightly earthy, murky, brown funk with a faint undertone of cocoa. On my skin, it’s never the “foodie heart” that Mr. Behnke talks about, at least not in any dominant or substantial way. Still, there is some minor darkness deep down in the base, and that turns Rouge Avignon from a scent that begins as Portrait of a Lady into something closer to Tom Ford‘s Noir de Noir. Rouge Avignon is lighter, airier, thinner, and more synthetic in feel than both those fragrances, and it also lacks Noir de Noir’s powdered violet nuance, but the similarities struck me repeatedly nonetheless.

At the end of the day, I simply don’t find the sum-total of Rouge Avignon to be all that interesting. Actually, I grew to hate it quite intensely. The rose is painfully, almost torturously sweet for my tastes, and the perfume feels wholly unoriginal. The list of notes is fantastic, but the reality on my skin is primarily of a very fruited rose with sharp, very synthetic musk, and only a modicum of a dark, earthy heart. However, if you’re looking for something in the general vein or family of Portrait of a Lady, but much lighter and airier, then you should consider Rouge Avignon. It is a much better bargain at $160 (or €120) for a large 100 ml bottle, than Portrait of a Lady which costs $340 for that same sized bottle. The same goes for Noir de Noir which Tom Ford sells for $210 for 50 ml. Rouge Avignon has moderate sillage, turns into a skin scent after four hours, but has good longevity.

PURE AZURE:

Pure Azure. Source: CaFleureBon

Pure Azure. Source: CaFleureBon

The description and advert for Pure Azure are meant to transport you to Mykonos in summer:

This giddy balancing act of a scent carries us high above the cliffs of the Aegean Sea, where azure skies contrast with the blinding whiteness of fishermen’s villages… The fragrance of fig trees and orange blossom, the warmth of vanilla and spices, the sensuousness of jasmine rise from the shores of the Mediterranean. In the base notes, the mouth-watering warmth of tonka bean is brought out by a delicately salty note. A “Mediterranean Oriental” hovering between the radiant and the animal….

The succinct list of notes is:

fig, orange blossom, vanilla, spicy notes, jasmine, tonka bean and salt.

Orange Blossom. Photo: GardenPictures via Zuoda.net

Orange Blossom. Photo: GardenPictures via Zuoda.net

Pure Azure opens with an explosion of whiteness that is both clean and verging on the florid. There is orange blossom, tinged with hints of a more bitter, woody, spicy neroli, and then a big burst of saltiness that is truly wonderful. It’s a visual landscape of white with orange blossoms that are languid, sweet, indolic, utterly lush, and, yet, also fresh. There is spiciness and a definite sense of greenness underlying those orange blossoms, but it is the initial sprinkling of saltiness that really captured my interest.

Unripe Figs via Giverecipe.com. (For recipe on Unripe Fig Jam, click on photo. Link embedded within.)

Unripe Figs via Giverecipe.com. (For recipe on Unripe Fig Jam, click on photo. Link embedded within.)

Unfortunately, it soon fades, but it is replaced by an interesting fig note. Like the orange blossoms, the fruit is simultaneously sweet, fresh, and green. There is none of the leathery darkness that figs can sometimes take on. Instead, there is an almost milky quality that evokes a slightly unripe fruit in late Spring, before the summer heat has turned it fleshy, dark, and gooey. Deep down in Pure Azure’s base, there are touches of vanilla, but it’s never custardy, heavy, or rich.

Pure Azure has a beautiful medley of notes, but what is initially so great about it is the paradoxical mix of freshness and lushness. The orange blossoms have hints of lush, heavy, indolic ripeness, but not quite. It’s as though the sweet flowers are almost green, with a dewy, light feel that truly feels fresh.

The scent is crisp (though not like a cologne), feels very summery, and most definitely meets Phaedon’s goal of recreating the Mediterranean coast. (I actually saw Capri more than an Aegean island, but let’s not quibble about lovely places where fresh flowers bloom in the warm, salty air.) The best way I can describe Pure Azure’s feel in my mind is to refer to a crisp white shirt worn against a man’s tanned skin (à la Kilian Hennessey), instead of the more common or traditional visual associated with indolic white flowers, namely, languid courtesans reclining with ripe, white flesh and heaving bosoms.

On the negative side, however, Pure Azure’s opening has an undertone of soapiness, as well as an increasingly strong blast of white, clean musk that, unfortunately, feels very synthetic. Both elements help underscore the fresh crispness of Pure Azure’s opening, but I would have been happier without the splitting headache that the musk gave me for a few hours. Despite that, I generally liked Pure Azure’s opening stage because of the green touch to the flowers and fruit.

Agave. Source: Self.com

Agave. Source: Self.com

The freshness doesn’t last long. About 75 minutes in, Pure Azure turns into a simple, honeyed floral, as the jasmine emerges and the white musk recedes to lurk underneath. The jasmine soon becomes fully integrated into the orange blossoms, and both are completely drenched in sweetness. The honey is not heavy syrup, however, but more like agave nectar which is both sweeter and lighter. Despite the lack of density, it’s very potent, transforming even that clean, laundry, white musk into something warmer.

Pure Azure soon turns rather abstract, feeling like a soft cloud of blowsy, ripe, white florals, with heavy honey, a dollop of musk, and the faintest smidgen of salt. It’s like a floral cousin to Mona di Orio‘s Eau Absolute, only lighter, airier, and without citric elements. In its final moments on my skin, Pure Azure is a nebulous smear of honeyed sweetness with just a vague hint of something floral behind it. I like honey, which my skin tends to amplify, but I have to admit, I was taken aback by how quickly and by how much it dominated Pure Azure. I know it’s probably my skin’s fault, but it was all too much for me by the end. Too linear, too simple, too boring.

Source: picsfab.com

Source: picsfab.com

At this point, I have to bring up Mark Behnke’s review again, because Pure Azure is where we part ways a little. He loved it, finding it his favorite of the new Phaedon line. I’m less enamoured. His review reads as follows:

My favorite of the new collection was a surprise to me as with a name like Pure Azure I was expecting a variation on an aquatic theme. Instead I was treated to a fantastic summer floral which appealed to me on many levels. Fig and orange blossom open Pure Azure on a bright accord. Vanilla and jasmine turn things sweeter and deeper. Tonka and a bit of a marine accord cut the sweet without making it go away. For almost the entire time I wore Pure Azure I was in the midst of a grove of fig trees, orange trees and jasmine swirling in and out of each other. I ended up wearing this on a day the thermometer hit 100 and it was perfect for that kind of heat. It wasn’t cloying or too much it was just right.

Pure Azure was significantly less interesting on my skin than on his, but I can see why he liked it so much. I smelled pretty much all of them at Sens Unique, and Pure Azure captured my interest the most at first sniff. Nonetheless, my feelings are highly qualified because I struggle with the potency of the clean, fresh synthetics, as well as with the way Pure Azure veers so sharply to the other extreme of warm, almost indolic sweetness. I also wish Pure Azure had a more complex evolution than mere honeyed florals in its later stage.

ALL IN ALL:

My problem with the new Phaedon line isn’t that many of them seem derivative, but, rather, with their extreme sweetness. Pierre Guillaume is a chap known for having a very gourmand touch with his Parfumerie Generale fragrances, and the Phaedon line doesn’t seem to be an exception. It’s simply too, too much for my personal tastes.

I also struggled with the synthetic feel to some of his fragrances. During one test for Rouge Avignon, I became completely exhausted by the deluge of syrup and roses, and tried to scrub it off. “Tried” should be the operative word here. It took me over an hour to get most of it off my skin, using everything from rubbing alcohol (3 times), nail varnish remover (2 times), soap, dishwashing liquid (2 times), and Tide laundry detergent (2 times). Even after all that, I still could smell lingering traces of that damn fruited rose on parts of my arm later that evening. Only something with definite synthetics in the base will be that impervious to cleaning agents. (As a side note, a few of the fragrances I sniffed at the store had ISO E Super, an aromachemical that Pierre Guillaume loves to use in his Parfumerie Generale line.)

The synthetics may also help explain why the line has such good longevity on my perfume-consuming skin. The Phaedon fragrances consistently lasted over 11 hours, with some tests almost approaching 13 hours, depending on quantity. The sillage was potent at first, and the fragrances very forceful, but they are all uniformly airy in feel, lack density, and turn into something that is generally quite soft. On average, it took between 4 and 4.5 hours for them to become skin scents, though they were usually easy to detect up close.

Judging by what I’ve sniffed as a whole and tested in specific, I think the Phaedon line is generally pleasant, and good value for those who want a more affordable, lighter, softer cousin to some existing fragrances on the market. They’re not my personal cup of tea, but I can see the appeal.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Tabac Rouge, Rouge Avignon and Pure Azure are all eau de parfums that comes in a 3.3 oz/100 ml size and which costs $160, €120, or £95. In the U.S.: you can purchase Tabac Rouge, Rouge Avignon and Pure Azure from Luckyscent, though the first two are currently sold out and can be back-ordered for December delivery. Pure Azure is in stock. Samples of all the fragrances are generally available for purchase. Elsewhere, the Phaedon line is at NY’s Osswald Parfumerie, which also offers a US-only sample program for telephone orders. 10 samples for $10 with free domestic shipping. Outside the U.S.: You can buy all three perfumes directly from Phaedon, which also offers samples of all 14 of its fragrances (7 EDP, and 7 EDT) in a Discovery Set which costs €40 for 14 x 1.5 spray vials. The set is sold out at the time of this review. I should add that Phaedon doesn’t provide any information as to the countries they ship to, and if they limit things just to the EU. In the UK, you can buy Phaedon from London’s Bloom Parfumery which sells each Eau de Parfum for £95, along with samples. In Paris, Tabac Rouge, Phaedon and all Pierre Guillaume’s other brands are carried at Sens Unique in the Marais district. They don’t have an e-Store, but they have teamed up with DesFragrances for online orders. In Switzerland, I found Phaedon at Osswald Zurich; in Russia, I found the line at Lenoma and Lesse Parfum; in Poland at Galilu; and in Italy at Profumeria Gini. For the full list of retailers carrying the Phaedon line, you can turn to the company’s Stockist page. Samples: many of the sites linked above offer samples for purchase. I obtained mine from Sens Unique in Paris. For American readers, Surrender to Chance does not carry any of the new Phaedon Eau de Parfums at this time, so your best bet is Luckyscent.

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.