Oriza L. Legrand: Chypre Mousse, Horizon & Reve d’Ossian

Oriza logo. Sourc: the Oriza L. Legrand website.

Oriza logo. Source: the Oriza L. Legrand website.

An ancient perfume house whose fragrances have been brought back to life like Sleeping Beauty awakened with a kiss. Oriza L. Legrand (hereinafter just “Oriza”) is not a well-known house, but its perfumes have a unique character that is redolent of the past and the classic French tradition. Yesterday, I provided an overview of the brand, its history and how its fragrances have been tweaked from the 1900s to suit today’s tastes. Today, I’d like to briefly review three Oriza perfumes: Chypre Mousse, Horizon, and Reve d’Ossian. The remaining four, primarily floral fragrances — Relique d’Amour, Jardins d’Armide, Oeillet Louis XV, and Deja Le Printemps — are the focus of another post.

CHYPRE MOUSSE:

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Oriza describes Chypre Mousse (at the link imbedded above in the title) as the essence of nature in autumnal woods:

After the first rainfall in September nature exude scents of humus, peat and wetland. [¶] This is the time for a promenade in the woods to enjoy the freshness after the heat of summer. [¶] Autumn encourages us to contemplate, to observate nature that gently prepares us for the coming winter and its frostbite.

The mossy paths, precious jewels of the undergrowth, are brightened by the last rays of sun. [¶] Cyprus-Moss evokes in us our surrounding nature which soon will be covered by the first fall of snow. [¶] Smell of damp undergrowth of scorched leaves and the scent of moss before picking mushrooms and chestnuts.

Chypre-Mousse, a Fragrance of the House Oriza L. Legrand launched in 1914 for the dandies of this world!

Top Notes[:] tonic & balsamic: Wild mint, clary sage, wild fennel & green shoots.
Heart notes[:] aromatic & flowing properties: Oakmoss, Galbanum, Angelica, fern, wild clover, Mastic & Violet leaves.
Backgrounds[:] Notes mossy & leathery: Vetiver, Pine Needles, Oak Moss, Mushroom fresh Humus, Roasted Chestnut Leather, labdanum & Balms.

Source: it.forwallpaper.com

Source: it.forwallpaper.com

As outlined in my earlier post on Oriza, I went to the boutique with the goal of sniffing and possibly buying a very different perfume, Horizon. I’m generally not one who buys a perfume without testing, especially given my crazy skin and how voracious it is. So, I sprayed both fragrances on my skin and on the sweater that I was wearing, walked out of the store to think about it, and headed on my way to Serge Lutens to buy my precious bell-jar. I went four blocks, sniffing myself throughout, then stopped dead in my tracks, and headed back. I had to have Chypre Mousse, then and there, without further testing. Suffice it to say, that is extremely unusual for me.

Source: photocase.com

Source: photocase.com

I’m not sure how to best describe Chypre Mousse. It’s not the typical oakmoss fragrance; it has neither the dark grey, mineralized, dusty fustiness of some oakmoss fragrances, nor the bright green, softly plush, fresh mossy feel of others. To me, it smells like the damp forest floor, wet leaves, dewy violets, earthy mushrooms, drenched forests, and a symphony of green, brown, grey, and purple. Again and again, I go back to Oriza’s description of “green shoots,” because there is something of youthful life that is pushing through the wet floor of a verdant forest.

Source: Cottage Environmentalist blog at fifthlake.wordpress.com

Source: Cottage Environmentalist blog at fifthlake.wordpress.com

Chypre Mousse opens with a pungent but sweet oakmoss that feels as though it’s sprouted right off the bark of a tree deluged by rain. There is a dark leather underlying it, covered in resinous, piney tree sap, swirled with darkened mosses, and speckled with reddish mushrooms. The strip of leather lies atop a mound of leaves whose autumnal oranges and browns have turned darker with dampness and water. All around are bunches of fresh violets, pushing out through the soil, past the green shoots, and in the wet space left untouched by the gnarled, woody roots of surrounding pine trees. The dewy, sweet purple flowers form a bright spot of colour in the dark, green forest.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

The leather, wood, mushrooms, wet leaves, violets, grass, and moss are backed by traces of other notes. The sweetest black earth, the freshest of green herbs, the stoniest of grey boulders, the darkest of tree sap, and just the subtlest hint of smoky incense. The forest has come alive in a symphony that is leafy, earthy, green, woody version of Serge Lutens‘ delicate floral masterpiece, De Profundis. There is the same sort of haunting delicacy, of dewy wetness, of youthful life. The two perfumes are fundamentally different in notes, but they share a very similar feel. And, oddly, there is something of a chrysanthemum undertone in Chypre Mousse. Perhaps it’s the slightly piquant, peppered, floral greenness created by the other accords together that creates that strange impression. Whatever the cause, Chypre Mousse has the same haunting, evocative impact on me.

The most interesting aspect of Chypre Mousse may be the more unexpected notes. I have no idea what the “hummus” reference in Oriza’s list means, but the mushroom-y touch is fascinating. So is the combination of that leather note which has somehow been transformed by the other elements into something familiar, and yet not. This is leather that has been left out in the rain to have Nature and the forest absorb it, transforming it into something that is more a part of their world.

Source: modavesen.com

Source: modavesen.com

Yet, what I consistently found myself thinking about were the violets or pansies, whose tender refrain wraps its ribbons around you. The funny thing is, I never knew Chypre Mousse included them in my four or five early wearings, and I thought I was quite mad for detecting their delicate, purple hues in a scent intended to be a mossy, mushroom, earthy, forest one. In fact, long before I actually looked at Oriza’s list of notes, I sprayed Chypre Mousse on four people, and asked if they could detect violets. They merely scrunched up their eyes, responding with some form of dubious: “I guess.”

For them, Chypre Mousse was something indescribable, inexplicable, odd, but utterly mesmerizing. A swirl of unusual notes in a well-blended, seamless, elegant bouquet that they couldn’t place or categorize. One Paris fashionista who tested it took a single sniff of her arm, and immediately said, “I’ve never smelled anything like it. Where can I buy it?!” She couldn’t describe it, and neither could two others. A fourth tester was an experienced perfumista, and just looked at me with bewilderment. “What is this??!” Her initial response was uncertainty, but every passing minute changed that. She loved how she couldn’t put her finger on the scent or what lay underneath it. Even more so, she was astounded by the trails of aroma that followed in the air around her. As someone whose skin squashes both projection and longevity, she couldn’t get over it.

Source: wallpaperup.com

Source: wallpaperup.com

That brings me to Chypre Mousse’s sillage and longevity. It’s outstanding, even on my crazy, perfume-consuming skin. Two small sprays will create a large cloud all around me for the first hour, followed later by projection that extends about six inches. Later, when the sillage drops around the end of the third hour, Chypre Mousse continues to send out ribbons of scent in the air around you. And it lasts for ages. On average, I get around 10 hours with two small sprays, and well over 12 hours with more.

There are no entries for Chypre Mousse on Fragrantica thus far, but Ida Meister wrote a piece entitled Fragrant Snippets on a few of the Oriza scents. Like me, she was knocked off her feet by Chypre Mousse, and ordered a bottle right away. Her summation for the scent reads as follows:

It is Confession Time. I didn’t want to wait for another week: I ordered this edp PRONTO. 😉

Chypre-Mousse sings to me. All that lurks in the forest, humid and expectant after the first September rains. The exquisite aromas of the undergrowth; peat, mushrooms, humus. Moss and more moss; sheer delight for me, who craves that velvety green aromatic cushion beneath the nose, the feet, my fingers! A carpet of russet leaves underfoot, the seductive aroma of grilled chestnuts around the corner. Oriza may have had dandies in mind for Chypre-Mousse, but it is my ongoing intoxicating love affair with all things Green. I will wear my velvet cloak of chypre gratefully.

Chypre Mousse sings to me as well. I think it is an absolute masterpiece. To me, it doesn’t smell old-fashioned or dated for one simple reason: I’ve never smelled anything quite like it. From any age.

HORIZON:

Horizon. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Horizon. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Horizon was originally released in 1925, and Oriza describes the fragrance as the embodiment of its decade:

After World War I, the Roaring Twenties reflect the desire of the exotic and the need also through fashion and decoration. [¶] The East and particularly Asia, provide new HORIZONS. [¶] The frenzy for exotic travel and encourages artists to transcend the culture of the East in their creations: new silk, fine embroidery, pearl beads, woody scents, heady and sweet …

In the euphoria of the Roaring Twenties, the female body is revealed, it abolished the corset, the flappers open the eyes and smoking languidly.

Slumming it in the salons of Paris!

The materials, colors, shapes symbolize a new freedom and portend, at the dawn of the Roaring Twenties, the hope of a new HORIZON. [¶][…] [An] Oriental fragrance for boys and tomboys, fragrance of Precious Woods and Ambergris agreements Tabac Blond and Soft Leather.

Top Notes: Bitter orange, Tangerine Confit & Dried Rose.
Heart Notes: Cognac Amber, Aromatic Tobacco Leaves, Cocoa, Roasted Almonds, Old Oak & Patchouli.
Base Notes: Benzoin, Amber Gray [ambergris], Peat, Tabac Blond, Vanilla, Honey & Soft Leather.

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Horizon called its siren cry to me the minute I read that long list of notes. Bitter orange and cognac? Patchouli and leather? Ambergris and tobacco? I was almost certain I would buy it, though things ended up differently when I smelled Chypre Mousse. But it was a very close thing. Horizon bloomed on my thin sweater with an explosion of Armagnac that was rich, nutty, and boozy beyond belief. I felt as though I’d actually had a bottle of aged brandy poured on me. Tendrils of smoke, patchouli, amber, and tobacco stirred underneath, but the main bouquet was a forceful explosion of booze in a kaleidoscope of reds, browns, amber, and gold.

It’s a different matter on skin. Very different, in fact, and significantly softer. I have to say that I’m glad I didn’t end up purchasing Horizon in the end for the simple reason that my skin seems to eat it up like a wolf who hasn’t seen food in weeks. I also can’t decide if Horizon is less complex on actual skin, or simply so much milder that all its layers aren’t as easy to detect. Whatever the case, Horizon is, for the most part, primarily just a boozy, cognac patchouli on me. You can definitely detect the other notes if you sniff closely and pay close attention, but, from afar, it is primarily a very soft patchouli cloud. I much prefer the deeper, more potent, robust version on fabric, alas.

Source: wallpaperswa.com

Source: wallpaperswa.com

On skin, smelled up close, Horizon opens with leather, patchouli, and cognac, followed by faint hints of bitter dark chocolate that grow stronger with the passing minutes. There are whiffs of caramelized, candied orange and something smoky. This is a true patchouli scent, in all its brown, red, amber glory, smelling spicy, leathered, ambered, and chewy, all at once. Lurking at the edges, there is subtlest hint of something nutty. It never smells almond-y to me, but more like toasted hazelnuts. The whole thing sits atop a base of ambergris that has the element’s special, unique characteristics: a very salty sweetness that is also slightly musky, marshy, sweaty, and rich.

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

There is a definite chewiness and earthiness to Horizon’s opening that soon changes into something lighter on my skin. For the first 25 minutes, the perfume is a dark, dense, orange-brown-black mass in visuals, but it turns creamier, smoother, gentler. There are slow stirrings of a very custardy vanilla in the base. At the 45-minute mark, Horizon seems softer and thinner in weight, with sharply reduced sillage, and a movement away from that very dark, leathery, chewy patchouli and leather opening. The orange bits have receded, the boozy cognac has started to evaporate, dark chocolate has turned into milk chocolate, and the patchouli feels infused with cream.

Source: popularscreensavers.com

Source: popularscreensavers.com

I’m consistently saddened by how quickly the fragrance becomes airy and light. It sits soft and low, with a scent trail that really only lingers for about 40 minutes before it drops to hover an inch or two above the skin. And then it drops even more. At the end of the second hour and the start of the third, Horizon sits right on the skin as a blur of creamy patchouli amber with the tiniest hints of milk chocolate, vanilla, and cognac. By the 6.5 hour mark, Horizon fades away as a blur of patchouli sweetness. It has to be me and my wonky chemistry, for Horizon feels quite potent and forceful in the first ten minutes. And a mere spray on my shirt continues to pulsate in full force days later.

Those with normal skin seem to have fared much better. Take, for example, Ida Meister whose Fragrantica piece on Horizon talks about the perfume’s longevity, along with how beautiful and modern it felt:

1925. Really???

Horizon smells utterly contemporary—it brings to mind Bois 1920’s Real Patchouly and Chantecaille’s Kalimantan. Truly well-aged patchouli is a joy, even for many who are phobic about it, having been previously traumatized by the cheap 1960-1970’s “head shop” astringent nostril-singeing variety.  😉  Horizon is as suave as it gets: ambery, boozy, honeyed and oaken. It feels utterly without gender. Horizon is a resinous silk duvet which enfolds you tenderly and possesses remarkable longevity. You can be a throwback to the Summer of Love or a CEO in an Ermenegildo Zegna couture suit; either way, it fits. It is heavenly in its own right, and a perfect illustration of classicism: if the design is excellent, it will remain so in the future. [It DID.]

On Parfumo, the lone review for Horizon is extremely positive, and talks about 12-14 hours of duration. The chap also mentions that his immediate reaction to testing the scent was “this smells like vintage Yohji Homme.” I may be remembering things incorrectly, but I believe I read somewhere that Yohji Homme was one of Luca Turin‘s favorite fragrances, and something whose loss or changes he’s mourned. Going back to the Profumo review, the commentator describes Horizon’s development, in part, as follows:

Horizon opens with a quick dash of almond before a slight powdery cocoa note emerges, mingling with a subtle dark dulled rose. As the fragrance enters the early heart the cocoa turns less powdery, blooming to full milk chocolate, as it mixes with the primary heart accord of boozy cognac and benzoin-laced semi-sweet amber. Natural woods and a touch of underlying anise join the remnants of the dull rose in support. As the fragrance enters the late dry-down, the cognac and dull rose dissipate while the relatively sweet amber remains dominant, now joined by traces of sanitized patchouli and suede-like leather. Projection is average and longevity is excellent to outstanding at 12-14 hours on skin.

You have no idea how utterly envious I am of such longevity. I loved the opening minutes of Horizon on me and, even more, the complete cognac-fest that exploded on my clothing. On the basis of smell alone, Horizon’s initial bouquet is extremely close to the ideal patchouli that I’ve been looking for since my old favorite from the 1980s, even if the subsequent development became very different. Alas, Horizon doesn’t ultimately work for me, but I’m sure that you will have better luck. It’s a lovely fragrance.

RÊVE D’OSSIAN:

Reve d'Ossian label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Reve d’Ossian label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

The romantic, 19th-century poetic style of Ossianism with its poems of fairies, dark forests and mysterious wood are the heart of the inspiration for Reve d’Ossian. Oriza’s detailed explanation on the fragrance and its backstory reads, in part:

Reve d'Ossian bottle. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

Reve d’Ossian bottle. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

The [Ossian-style] poems achieved international success (Napoléon Bonaparte was a great fan) and many writers, painters and artists were influenced by the works, including Ingres, Schubert and Oriza L. Legrand Perfumes. […]

“Rêve d’Ossian” is a perfect perfume for those who claim a difference and the rich heritage of the History. Dark and precious essences, wooden notes filled with the mystery of the forest with fairies and pixies…

Top Notes: Frankincense and Pine woods.
Heart Notes: Cinnamon, Benzoin, Tonka Bean and Opopanax [sweet myrrh].
Base Notes: Tolu Balm, Sandalwood, Leather, Labdanum, Amber and Musks.

Reve d’Ossian opens on my skin with sharp black pepper, myrrh’s white incense, warmly sweet cinnamon, aromatic pine needles, and dust. It’s like an old monastery’s library in the middle of some German forest. For me, the dominance of the dust and incense makes the opening share some thematic similarities to Bertrand Duchaufour‘s Dzonghka for L’Artisan Parfumeur and, to a lesser extent, Heeley‘s Cardinal. I’m not generally a huge fan of High Church fragrances with olibanum or myrrh, and even less so for things with great dustiness, so I’m rather pleased when the latter quickly disappears. Less than five minutes into Reve d’Ossian’s development, it vanishes, a small soapiness takes its place, and the whole thing turns more ambered.

FrankincenseQuickly, Reve d’Ossian turns into a warmer, woodier fragrance with flitting bits of green pine needles that feel as though you’ve crushed them on your walk through the forest and on your way to church. There is a dark resinous feel underlying the white incense smoke, a pungently aromatic overtone reminiscent of a wintery forest, and the feel of crisp, sweet, piney sap. Less than 60 minutes in, Reve d’Ossian turns soft, a hazy blur of the two types of myrrh incense — olibanum and opoponax — with a touch of amber and only a hint of the great, green, woody outdoors.

Source: de.123rf.com

Source: de.123rf.com

At the 2.5 hour mark, the focus of the perfume shifts away from the incense. Reve d’Ossian is now largely an amber scent infused with nutty, warm, soft sweetness of myrrh and a hint of olibanum’s soapy whiteness. It lies right on the skin with extremely weak sillage. The fragrance turns into more of a blur, and, at the start of the 6th hour, all traces of amber and sweet myrrh opoponax fade away. In fairness to Oriza, a greater application (around 4 sprays from the atomizer) yielded far better results, just close to 7.5 hours. The sillage, however, remained moderate to soft.

Reve d’Ossian is one of the few Oriza fragrances to have a Fragrantica entry. With regard to longevity and projection, the majority of the votes put it at “moderate,” though a few also vote for “weak” in each category. The few reviews thus far are all positive in nature with the most detailed, descriptive one stating:

It’s quite close to a balsamic Baghari by Piguet.
A surprising opening, aerial and metallic (aldehydes and terpineols?) notes of pine, old wood and foam on wet stone but it’s warming gently, blowing a strange impulse to this myrrh fragrance. The smell of warm lightly ambered paper, dry almost dusty leather binder. An impression of moor in the autumn.
It is so at odds with our modern conception of the perfume he could be the last release of Comme Des Garçons: Odeur 1900, without changing anything.
Truly a beautiful work of resurrection of the house, all these completely forgotten fragrances are high quality, both modern in their treatment and completely faithful to the spirit of time: a real success.

I haven’t tried Piguet‘s Baghari or the Comme de Garcons‘ scent to be able to compare, but I do agree with much of his description, especially the parts about a dusty leather binder and the dominant role of the myrrh. I also agree that it has a high-quality smell. That said, I think Reve d’Ossian has some problems with it: it has a linear aspect, it’s not enormously complex, and it has sillage issues.

Nonetheless, I liked it, even though it’s not the sort of scent I normally go for, and I thought it was done with a lot of graceful elegance. There was something very appealing about Reve d’Ossian, very softly comforting in its amber heart. I actually don’t think it smells very dated at all, and it’s hard to believe that it was originally created in 1905, more than 107 years ago. When you think of how many scents from the early 1900s were floral orientals or chypres like Mitsouko, while today niche fragrance counters abound with a plethora of “churchy” incense, amber scents, it seems clear that Oriza L. Legrand was far ahead of its time.

Next time, we’ll visit the remaining four creations of Oriza L. Legrand which are largely floral fragrances that are centered around carnation, lily, and assorted spring bouquets.

PRACTICAL DETAILS:
WebsiteOriza L. Legrand. There is an actual e-Store that sells the perfumes and offers perfume samples. All 7 fragrances in the range are offered in 2 ml spray vials for €9. Shipping is listed as €9 extra, but a friend said he was charged only €7. The perfumes themselves are all eau de parfum in concentration, at around 18% perfume oil, and cost €120 for 100 ml/3.4 oz. Other vendors in Europe: For a few other French vendors, like Marie-Antoinette in Paris’ Marais quarter, as well as one store in Sweden and one in the Netherlands, you can check Oriza Points of Sale page. The Netherlands retailer is Parfumaria.

Oriza L. Legrand: The History, The Store & The Perfumes

When perfumistas with vast, expensive fragrance collections and tastes similar to yours urge you repeatedly to do something because “you’ll love it,” a person tends to listen. Again and again, before my Paris trip, I was told that I had to go to Oriza L. Legrand, not because I am a history fanatic, but because of the sophistication, complexity, depth and elegant luxuriousness of their perfumes.

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

I’m glad I listened, because I was utterly entranced. The history is fantastic, the boutique utterly adorable and filled with quirky personality, and the perfumes are lovely. In one case, so absolutely incredible that it stopped me in my tracks while on my way to buy my precious bell-jar from Serge Lutens. Those of you who know me (and my feelings about Serge Lutens) will realise that it takes a hell of a lot to make me turn around in my set journey to my perfume mecca — let alone to get distracted enough from Serge Lutens to buy another perfume, then and there, and after a mere 15 minutes!

But that is precisely what happened with Oriza L. Legrand‘s Chypre Mousse, a fragrance that I will review (along with some others from the line) in another post. The funny thing is that I had actually gone to Oriza with plans to investigate a completely different perfume, a patchouli-cognac-amber fragrance called Horizon whose lengthy list of notes had called to me like a siren song. It’s a beautiful patchouli-amber, but, in the end, it could not compare to the utterly haunting, unique loveliness that is Chypre Mousse. To me, Chypre Mousse is the damp, mossy, forest, leafy version of Serge Lutens‘ delicate floral triumph, De Profundis. My fellow blogging friend, Undina, once described De Profundis as a “homage to life,” and I think that beautiful phrase is also the ideal way to describe Chypre Mousse. I mean it quite seriously when I say that I think the perfume is a masterpiece.

Oriza logo. Source: the Oriza L. Legrand website.

Oriza logo. Source: the Oriza L. Legrand website.

I was impressed enough by Oriza L. Legrand (hereinafter just “Oriza“) that I decided to begin my coverage with a little overview of the brand. So this post will address Oriza’s history, its return to the perfume scene, and, at the very end, some of the fragrances that stood out for me. It will also focus on how the perfumes may have changed from their very original formulation. I was lucky to stumble across a superb interview with one of Oriza’s new owners in which he explains how he’s dealt with perfume formulas that go back to 1899 and the early 1900s, the tweaks he’s made in order to offer a slightly modernized version, some very famous fans of the new fragrances, and more.

In addition, I have to include some photos from my own time in the boutique. I loved the time-capsule feel of the store with its vintage posters or adverts from the early 1900s, its quirky collection of bow-ties made from vintage silk, and its brightly coloured window displays. As usual for this trip, my tiny camera wasn’t very cooperative. Nonetheless, I hope it gives you a little sense of what the Oriza boutique is like, especially if you are planning a visit to Paris. At the very end will be a discussion of some of my favorite Oriza perfumes thus far, along with their notes, and an explanation of how you can try the line for yourself.

THE HISTORY:

1720, King Louis XV, and famous beauties. Far before Guerlain, Grossmith, Creed or the like, there was Oriza L. Legrand. The brand originated with Fargeon the Elder who set up his first shop in the Louvre Palace’s central court, and who made a fragrance for the young king. It probably helped Oriza even more that Fargeon’s potions and creams were rumoured to be the secret of Ninon de Lenclosa great courtesan known for her beauty and eternal youth.

Composite of old Oriza photos and adverts, created by forevergreen.eu .  http://forevergreen.eu/a-fleur-de-peau/reliques-parfumees/

Composite of old Oriza photos and adverts, created by forevergreen.eu .
http://forevergreen.eu/a-fleur-de-peau/reliques-parfumees/

In a 2012 interview with the French blog, Flair Flair, one of Oriza’s current owners, Franck Belaiche, explains both the company’s name and what happened next:

As for the name of the house, it derives from Oryza Sativa, the latin name for rice, which was part of the cosmetics’ ingredients.

Then in 1811, Louis Legrand took over the house as he understood all the potential prestige it had. With its fragrant creations, he pushed it to its full extent. It is him who introduced the perfumes in the house although Fargeon, in his time, had created a fragrance for Louis XV, the young king.

He created the most refined, the most exquisite, the most complex things. Legrand was a true fragrance artist, like the perfumers one encounters in [Patrick Suskind’s book] Le Parfum. […][¶]

[Eventually] Oriza was one of the rare houses that provided the Courts of Russia, England, Italy and France. In France, it lasted until Napoleon 3. The house was also one of the firsts to turn its fragrances into lines of products. It has become the most natural thing now, but it wasn’t back at that time. For Déjà le Printemps, you had a perfume, a powder, make-up, soaps… You see, when I saw the industrial, powerful and innovative aspects of the house, I fell in love right away. I wanted to give it a second birth and give it its prestige back.

At the start of the 1900s, Oriza continued to enjoy success. It participated in the World Fairs, which were very big things back then and one of the rare occasions when the very best artisans, merchants, and luxury lines could present all their wares in one place. In essence, it was a sort of prestigious Olympics.In 1889, Oriza took home the Gold Medal for its perfumes but, in 1900, it received the very top honours with the Grand Prize. I’ve found a photo of the perfume which may have won and which may have been named after Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort.

One of the ancient Oriza baccarat bottles, as many used to be. This one seems to be for "Violets Prince Albert" and the winner of the First Place prize at the 1900 World Fair winner. Source: lylouannephotos.blogspot.com with the original on Flickr.

One of the ancient Oriza bottles, in baccarat crystal as many used to be. The name of this one translates to “Violets Prince Albert” and it seems to be the Grand Prize winner at the 1900 World Fair. Source: lylouannephotos.blogspot.com with the photo originally from Flickr.

Then, alas, things came to a crashing halt in the 1930s, and obviously WWII didn’t help matters. The house completely died.

THE RETURN OF ORIZA L. LEGRAND:

Franck Belaiche. Source: Flair Flair.

Franck Belaiche. Source: Flair Flair.

Decades later, a perfume lover stumbled across the Oriza name while doing research in a library. It was Franck Belaiche. As he told Flair Flair in the interview linked above, his background was in the movie and television industry, but he loved perfumes. So, he bought the brand with the goal of putting it back on its feet:

I’d spotted Oriza Legrand while doing some research and reading in libraries. Soon, I was fascinated by its story and how it was a precursor of so many things. The house seemed to me like it was one of the creating actors of today’s perfumery.  […]

What did you think when you bought it? What did you want to do with it?
I wanted to make it modern while keeping its essence and soul intact. I first had to select, among the 80 fragrances that had been created, which ones were likely to be adapted, reworked from their original formulas, and still be appealing. A good number of them are not easy to wear, especially since Raynaud and the steam extraction technique gave birth to many florals. But there were also a few synthetic molecules which allowed the creation of what we would call today “orientals”. I’ve had to work with the labs to see what we could do based on the formulas and also on the juices, since I have managed to get hold of some old, full bottles. I wanted to get close to the old perfumes while making them modern, without betraying them.

So from the beginning you wanted to make these formulas contemporary? It was never about saying “This is exactly what perfume smelled like back then”?
No, and let’s face it, that would have been impossible. First because of the raw materials that we can no longer use, and also because it would have mean making sent-bon (French for smell good). Besides, although these fragrances were high quality, they correspond to a time that is not necessarily ours. With Déjà le Printemps, just like the three others, we are very close to the original, but there is this little something that makes it modern. Careful though, reworking a fragrance does not mean making it attractive to a majority. Right now, I am working on the next two perfumes, which will come out at the end of January.

The whole 2012 interview is fascinating, excellent, and really informative. I urge any of you who may be interested in the technical aspects of how ancient fragrances are brought back to life, to read it in full. It addresses everything from the work process with the laboratory in Grasse and its chemists and perfumers, to the way that perfumes have changed since the time of Louis XV, and the company’s future plans. You can also learn more about Oriza, its current ownership, and the reconstruction of its scents from the lovely Caro of Te de Violetas who interviewed Mr. Belaiche back in September of this year.

One part I found interesting in the Flair Flair interview was Mr. Belaiche’s explanation for why all the new “re-edits” of the original Oriza line pertained to its 1900-era fragrances, instead of the 1720s one. As he explains, it would not have been easy to do a tweaked version of something like Violette du Tsar, a perfume created for the Tsar of Russia. Moreover, “not a lot of people would have enjoyed it, and then starting with old perfumes didn’t seem to me like a relevant way of bringing the house back to life.” (But aren’t you dying to know what that may have smelled like?!) Clearly, Mr. Belaiche is not trying to recreate fragrances merely for the sake of nostalgia and historical curiosity. Instead, he wants to do the house proper justice by making Oriza a viable, current, commercially successful brand with a long-term future. In other words, he’s not trying to create a museum, but a living and breathing house that has a chance of success beyond just the initial curiosity factor.

The Relique d'Amour.  Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

The Relique d’Amour. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

Judging by the interest of two famous clients who are known for having exquisite, expensive tastes, I think he’s off to a good start. In the Flair Flair interview, Mr. Belaiche mentioned that the great Catherine Deneuve and Isabelle Adjani are fans of the line. According to Mr. Belaiche, Oriza’s customers generally fall into two groups:

either they are foreigners from Russia, America or the Middle East, fascinated by the house’s story; or they are demanding customers from France who don’t want to wear what everyone is wearing. We were pleased to welcome Catherine Deveuve and Isabelle Adjani, who fell in love with the house. […]

[Their perfume choices:] Déjà le Printemps for Catherine Deneuve and Relique d’Amour for Isabelle Adjani.

I met Mr. Belaiche when I went to the Oriza boutique, along with his business partner and fellow Oriza owner, Hugo Lambert. They were both charming and very kind, though Mr. Belaiche seemed to blink a little at the extent of my enthusiastic outbursts over the fragrances and their quality. I don’t think he’s used to someone babbling a thousand words of English a minute, mixed in with French, while sniffing everything, taking photos from every angle, suddenly stopping in their tracks to announce “Aha! Armagnac! This has aged cognac in it!” in response to one fragrance, and being the sort of whirlwind that is rather uncommon to the very restrained French. I hope he took it as the compliment that it is — there are many niche perfume houses these days, I’m extremely hard to please, and I rarely find a brand to have impressively sophisticated, high-quality, original, creative or luxurious offerings almost across the entire line.

Relique d'Amour poster. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

Relique d’Amour poster and perfume label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

I’d like to thank Mr. Belaiche for letting me take photos of the boutique, and I can only apologise to him for my camera taking such poor photos. While I’m at it, I’d also like to thank Mr. Lambert for providing me with a small decant of the beautiful patchouli scent, Horizon, to go with my purchase, even though he had to dig up a long vial from the back. As a side note, I wish I had managed to take photos of all the vintage Oriza posters and adverts framed under glass in the store. They were fascinating, and I’m so glad the new owners have kept the brand’s aesthetic, both in terms of the feel of their boutique and their perfume’s packaging. I’m a complete sucker for Art Deco, so I love Oriza’s brightly coloured labels with the old-style, vintage fonts.

Without further ado, here are a few photos of the Oriza store on rue Saint-Augustin:

The exterior of the colourful store.

The exterior of the colourful store.

Oriza 4-B

One Oriza store window, featuring Chypre Mousse and some of its collection of vintage bowties.

One Oriza store window, featuring Chypre Mousse and some of its collection of vintage bowties.

Some of the soaps from the Oriza line.

Some of the soaps from the Oriza line, along with boxed perfumes wrapped in wonderfully old-fashioned, patterned paper.

Oriza 5 B

Part of the Oriza collection of bowties made out of vintage silk fabric.

Part of the Oriza collection of bowties made out of vintage silk fabric.

One of the bowties up close.

One of the bowties up close.

Some of the original 1900s posters and adverts for Oriza fragrances, now framed and under glass.

Some of the original 1900s posters and adverts for Oriza fragrances, now framed and under glass.

THE PERFUMES TODAY:

I think Oriza is going to go places simply because the majority of its perfumes really don’t smell like anything else that I’ve encountered. (Chypre Mousse…. oh, Chypre Mousse!!!) They have the classique feel of fragrances created in decades gone by, much like the very old Guerlains legends. It is a feel that — somehow, I don’t know how — seems miraculously untouched by the impact of IFRA. Like Sleeping Beauties put to sleep in 1900 and awakened today, the Oriza fragrances have body, layers of notes, a very rich, concentrated feel, and the elegant signature of something that is both very French and very “perfume.”

That said, I don’t think the perfumes are generally something that a novice perfumista with commercial tastes would relate to very well. These are not scents that someone used to Estée Lauder‘s Beautiful or Viktor & Rolf‘s Flowerbomb would understand. I think that perfumistas whose tastes skew towards uncomplicated, light, clean, and wispy scents would also struggle a little. None of the Oriza fragrances that I’ve tried thus far would qualify as “wispy” or simple — thank God. They’re nothing like the By Kilian‘s with their largely straightforward, basic nature, or sometimes gourmand fruitiness. They’re too purely French to be like an Amouage or a Neela Vermeire, though they sometimes share both those house’s opulent sophistication. They’re full-bodied and with a vintage feel in terms of both their potent richness, their complexity, and their sophistication. If you like the early Guerlains, the complicated originality of some Serge Lutens creations, or the sophisticated weight of Roja Dove’s fragrances, then Oriza L. Legrand will be for you.

Oriza's list of perfumes with their original date of production.

Oriza’s list of perfumes with their original date of production.

Thus far, Oriza has seven “returned” fragrances. The list of the eau de parfums with their original date of creation:

  • Relique D’Amour (1900)
  • Rêve d’Ossian (1900) -(Fragrantica gives a different debut date for Reve d’Ossian which it lists as a 1905 creation, but I’m going by what was listed in Oriza’s own shop window in Paris.)
  • Oeillet Louis XV (1909)
  • Jardins d’Armide (1909)
  • Chypre Mousse (1914) (Fragrantica incorrectly states that this one is from 1920.)
  • Déjà Le Printemps (1920)
  • Horizon (1925).
Jardins d'Armide. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

Jardins d’Armide. Source: Oriza L. Legrand website.

Though I haven’t finished testing the whole line yet, the ones I have loved the most thus far have been three. Chypre Mousse wins, hands down and by a landslide, as one of the most fascinating, haunting, evocative chypres I’ve smelled in ages. It is then followed with Horizon and Reve d’Ossian in a neck-and-neck position. The florals that I’ve briefly and cursorily tested thus far have sometimes smelled dated to me, though generally not in a bad way. Only one of those triggered a strongly negative reaction: Jardins d’Armide, which felt too painfully difficult and old-fashioned with its heavy powder and its soapy feel. However, my perception has to be put in the context of one who dislikes powdery scents, and who loathes anything soapy, even expensive floral soap!

So, what are the notes in some of my favorites? Oriza provides the following details for my top 3:

CHYPRE MOUSSE:

    • Top Notes tonic & balsamic: Wild mint, clary sage, wild fennel & green shoots.
    • Heart notes aromatic & flowing properties: Oakmoss, Galbanum, Angelica, fern, wild clover, Mastic & Violet leaves.
    • Backgrounds Notes mossy  & leathery: Vetiver, Pine Needles, Oak Moss, Mushroom fresh Humus, Roasted Chestnut Leather, labdanum & Balms.
Reve d'Ossian label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Reve d’Ossian label. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

REVE D’OSSIAN:

    • Top Notes: Frankincense and Pine woods.
    • Heart Notes: Cinnamon, Benzoin, Tonka Bean and Opopanax [sweet myrrh].
    • Base Notes: Tolu Balm, Sandalwood, Leather, Labdanum, Amber and Musks.
Horizon. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Horizon. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

HORIZON:

    • Top Notes: Bitter orange, Tangerine Confit & Dried Rose.
    • Heart Notes: Cognac Amber, Aromatic Tobacco Leaves, Cocoa, Roasted Almonds, Old Oak & Patchouli.
    • Base Notes: Benzoin, Amber Gray [ambergris], Peat, Tabac Blond, Vanilla, Honey & Soft Leather.
Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

Chypre Mousse. Source: Oriza L. Legrand.

One thing that I need to emphasize about many of these note lists is that I don’t think they accurately convey the real nature of the fragrances. One reason is that the perfumes are superbly blended and a bit linear, so that you often get an overall effect, rather than a detailed, distinctive sense of each of their parts. For another, something about many of these fragrances is… well, for lack of a better term, other-worldly. I’ll be honest and say that one reason why I’ve put off reviewing Chypre Mousse is that I’m not sure I could even BEGIN to describe it properly and in-depth. I’m not one who is usually at a loss for descriptors or olfactory adjectives, but Chypre Mousse may be beyond my abilities. The smell is simply like nothing I’ve encountered.

Given how many of the perfumes really are a “sum total” effect due to their seamless, fluid, often linear structure, I fear I’m merely going to have to give descriptive snippets of each. At times, my account may amount to instinctive abstractions, as in the case of Relique d’Amour:

RELIQUE D’AMOUR:

    • Top notes: Fresh Herbs, Pine.
    • Middle notes: Powdery Notes, White Lily, Pepper, Oak, Incense, Myrrh, Elemi.
    • Base notes: Musk, Moss, Waxed Wood, Woody Notes, Pepper.

Oriza describes it as “the smell of an old chapel of Cistercian abbey.” I think that gives a misleading impression of the perfume, as do the notes themselves. It is far from a dusty, cold, dark, foresty, woody, High Church olibanum/myrrh scent. To me, it’s a very complex, unusual, quite twisted take on a lily scent that actually feels like a Serge Lutens, only very old in nature. Relique d’Amour is different, original, and stands out a mile away — and it won’t be easy to summarize it in the upcoming review. [UPDATE 11/6 — You can find my reviews of the full Oriza line at the following links: Chypre Mousse, Horizon and Reve d’Ossian in one post; and the 4 remaining, largely floral fragrances in this second post.]

All in all, I think Oriza L. Legrand is a line that is definitely worth exploring. Though there are no U.S. retailers (yet), it’s easy to order directly from the company. In addition to the full bottles of the perfumes, they offer a sample set of the complete line. It’s quite inexpensive at €9 for 7 fragrances that come in 2 ml vials, thereby giving you quite a few test wearings. I think it’s well worth the minimal cost, and I believe Oriza ships the samples world-wide. If you’d like to sniff very elegant, very French, perfumed Sleeping Beauties, brought back to life after more than a century and in a largely unchanged form, give Oriza a try.  

PRACTICAL DETAILS:
WebsiteOriza L. Legrand. There is an actual e-Store that offers perfume samples. All 7 fragrances in the range are offered in 2 ml spray vials for €9. Shipping is listed as €9 extra, but a friend said he was charged only €7. The perfumes themselves are all eau de parfum in concentration, and cost €120 for 100 ml/3.4 oz. Store address: 18 rue Saint-Augustin, 75002 Paris, France. Hours: Monday – Friday: 10:00 am to 7:30 pm; Saturday: 1:00 pm to 7:30 pm. Metro: Opéra ou 4 Septembre. Phone: 01 71 93 02 34. Other vendors in Europe: For a few other French vendors, as well as one store in Sweden and one in the Netherlands, you can check Oriza Points of Sale page. The Netherlands retailer is Parfumaria.