vendredi 11 juillet 2008

My top vintage scents (I): The Dearly Departed

My vintage perfume collection (found mostly on eBay, sometimes in flea markets) is starting to take alarming proportions.
Some bottles were bought blind in a learning frenzy; others, because their current version, though disfigured, made me suspect that their original formula would seduce me. Others still because though I enjoy their current version, I was curious to see what they smelled liked with ingredients still available at the time in which they were composed…

This is a short list of my favourite vintage perfumes. I’ve only included those that I actually own, in pristine condition (which leaves out quite a few). When a current version exists, and I’ve made the comparison, I’ll say so.

So this is in no way a comprehensive list. Only a small selection based on my personal experience. I’ll be reviewing this as I go along.

1. Jacques Fath Iris Gris, Vincent Roubert (1947). Is it as beautiful as it’s made out to be? Yes. It might be relaunched in some foreseeable future by Parfums Panouge, who’ve just bought the licence for Jacques Fath Perfumes.

2. Coty L’Ambre Antique, François Coty (1910). An ode to amber underscored by mulled fruit notes.

3. Coty Chypre, François Coty (1917). The brutal, Fauvist forerunner of Mitsouko (which I tend to prefer).

4. Balenciaga Fleeting Moment, Germaine Cellier (1948). An aldehydic rose-jasmine underlined by unusual aromatic notes of thyme and tarragon.

5. Lanvin My Sin, Madame Zed (1925). All fragrances in one: aldehydic, floral, woody, animalic.

6. Lanvin Scandal, André Fraysse (1933). The leather lover’s Holy Grail, aldehydic, supple and animalic, highly admired by the great Edmond Roudnitska, no less.

7. Guerlain Cachet Jaune, Jacques Guerlain (1937). Jean-Paul Guerlain’s mother wore this beautiful ambery vanilla laced with cinnamon. It seemed for a while that Guerlain would re-edit this (it’s in the “microwaves” at the 68 Champs Élysée shop) but doesn’t seem to be in the program.

8. Guerlain Djedi, Jacques Guerlain (1927). Dry, leathery, dusty, aromatic vetiver, the epitome of dryness. Relaunched as a limited edition in 1996.

9. Guerlain Parure, Jean-Paul Guerlain (1975).
A lovely floral chypre with plum notes. Could be relaunched (according to its author), but not programmed yet. Will certainly be de-oakmossed.

10. Hermès Doblis, Guy Robert (1955). The reference leather. Relaunched as a limited edition in 2004. No foreseeable re-edition, according to Hermès.

11. Jean Patou Moment Suprême, Henri Alméras (1929). Surprising lavender top note dressed in flowers and amber.

12. Jean Patou Colony, Henri Alméras (1938). A pineapple-topped chypre, as lusty as Carmen Miranda.

13. Le Galion Tubéreuse, Paul Vacher (1937). The forerunner of Tubéreuse Criminelle, totally modern with its minty camphorous top notes and its oak moss base.

14. Bienaimé Chypre Impérial, Robert Bienaimé (1935). Dry, aromatic (bergamot, clary sage, tarragon), on an Animalis base. A rare find.

Coming soon: The Better Off Dead or Terminally Facelifted

Image: Sir John Everett Millais, Ophelia, (1852), Tate Gallery.

20 commentaires:

  1. We like so many of the same's a fuzzy feeling :-)

    You know my profound feelings on Djeji, Doblis and the discontinued Patous of course, as I was quite mouthy in my reviews already (LOL)!
    Coty's Chypre has historical value which should de juro make it still available for purchase :-(
    But Parure was something I never understood why it was pulled. The re-issue in the bee bottles didn't sell? Of course there is some slight difference with the previous version; I am lucky enough to have secured an old bottle before that. Shame if they de-oakmoss it, though. It just won't be the same!

  2. E., Parure has not been re-issued in the bee bottle: for the moment, the only thing I've heard of it was by Jean-Paul Guerlain himself, whom I met last April at a book festival. It's not scheduled for 2008. But Mr. Guerlain said he was reformulating it, which points to de-oakmossing.
    I think it was pulled for two reasons: 1) it was not such a good seller and 2) it had oak moss but wasn't enough of an institution to go through too much trouble, unlike the public outcry caused by Mitsouko, thanks to Dr. Turin.
    I've also secured a large cologne, but as it's not one of my absolute favourite, I've decided not to hoard -- if you know what I mean... ;-)

  3. Oui, c'est çà le vrai problème : si Parure avait été un succès commercial , on aurait trouvé une solution...
    Mais alors le revendre plus cher, dans une collection supposée élitiste, après une reformulation : cela me laisse dubitatif...
    JP Guerlain vous aurait-il dit qu'il avait modifié Derby ?
    Je ne le retrouve pas identique à mon souvenir de la fin des 80's.

  4. I'll answer this one in English: I only met M. Guerlain briefly before a formal dinner, and couldn't bring up Derby. I've never smelled the original so I can't say about reformulation, but I find it outstanding as it is.

  5. I feel as if I'm on a repetitive loop...
    We cherish all the same; those I've not yet sniffed, I dearly wish I had, or will....

    So it goes.

    Such immearurable loveliness- olfactory art.

  6. I can only rejoice that we're onto the same vibes across the Atlantic! If you should ever come to Paris, you know you've got your private Carmenothèque visit!

  7. Don't TEASE, ma belle...
    I MIGHT just take you up on it !

  8. I didn't know you were also privy to Cachet Jaune! Did Mr. Guerlain happen to mention this one at all? It seemed like Sous Le Vent and Vega got a good response after they were reissued--I would love to smell something cinnamon-y for fall. I'd love to get your extended take on this one in the future. Oh, and I'm sure you've seen this by now on Octavian's blog, but here, another chance to add a pristine Guerlain bottle to your quite enviable vintage collection....

  9. I wasn't even aware Parure had been pulled. Shame, it's such a beautiful chypre - I envision Diane Lane wearing it in "Unfaithful", you know that summer storm scene when the wind is messing up her clothes and hair? :)
    Would love to see Parure relaunched but the thought of it being de-oakmossed makes my heart sink.
    P.S. I'm very much intrigued by this list and plan to use it as a point of reference in my explorations of vintage perfumes. :)

  10. Billy, I did discuss Cachet Jaune with M. Guerlain because I was actually wearing the few drops (given by a friend) that I owned... I was totally sucking up to him! But alas, no forthcoming reissue.
    Sous le Vent is in the same ballpark, with lavender on top. It's actually great in summer.

    I've seen the Kadine. I'm not bidding on that type of stuff anymore, the bottle collectors just drive the prices up like crazy, especially for well-known stuff like Guerlain. Plus, I've had bad surprises with stuff wrapped in boxes (spilled inside with no way of knowing it).

  11. Dusan, that's a beautiful image to wear Parure to...
    There is, of course, lots more to explore in vintage. A proper guide would be in order, but then, bye-bye to the few remaining deals to be gotten! That's always the problem with writing about vintage perfumes: you're actually inviting rival bidders in! ;-)

  12. Ooh, that's disappointing! Did he actually say that plans for the Cachet Jaune had been scrapped, or did he just leave it ambiguous?

  13. Left it ambiguous. I didn't press... You must understand that I didn't quite have all my wits about me because:
    1/ I was too excited to meet him
    2/ It was a book *and* wine festival and I'd partaken
    3/ I was on a buzz because I'd just learned that my book had received an award.

    But more seriously, M. Guerlain's position in the house is a bit delicate: because of his age and health, he's kind of being edged towards the exit, I think, and might not have an enormous say in what comes out or not... So I couldn't really insist.

  14. Many vintage scents in your list I have yet to try; Doblis, Iris Gris...
    My list is mostly Caron perfumes, Narcisse Noir, En Avion, Tabac Blond, N 'Aimez Que Moi... I don 't buy the present reformulated Caron versions, instead I spend a fortune trying to score well preserved bottles on ebay.
    Also love love love Lanvin My Sin and Scandal, Le Galion Sortilege, Jean Patou Caline and Normandie, Givenchy III, Balenciaga Le Dix and Quadrille, Houbigant Parfum Ideal and Quelques Fleurs...


  15. I've omitted the Givenchy III and both the Balenciagas in this list because they're still around. The re-edition of the first is not identical, but all right. I haven't smelled the Balenciagas at Roja Dove's, but they're still around, though hard to find.
    And I have yet to go to Caron to smell the damage...

  16. D,

    of course Parure had been re-issued in a bee bottle, a while ago! It was when almost everything got issued in them, LOL.
    Here are pics:

    I meant I was wondering if it didn't sell well, even though it was "cosmetically enhanced" in its new bottle :-)
    Guess it did not, just like you surmiss. Now it goes for a pretty penny.

    We're lucky I guess, although I love it more than you.

  17. Ok, *that* bee bottle... I was thinking of the Les Parisiennes collection which now hosts most of Jean-Paul Guerlain's fragrances, and which is the non-atomiser bee bottle. Yes, of course, that's the last form in which Parure was sold, and the current one for Après L'Ondée and Chant d'Arômes edt.
    Thanks for clearing up the mix-up!

  18. You have Cachet Jaune.

    I think I'll kill myself now.

    I've been besotted with this one, and more recently with its sister Kadine, from the micro-waves at the Champs boutique. I don't know how the actual, liquid version is, but its reconstruction is marvelous, a glorious, creamy floral-vanillic wonder glazed with smooth, mellow spices... I'd give much for it, except, of course, ebay prices ;)

    This upcoming-but-then-again-not-really ballet with the Il Etait Une Fois collection is driving me insane, I swear. Last time I talked with the ladies at the Champs, Ode was "to be released, but they've been saying that for three years". Joy.

  19. Six, I have exactly two drops of Cachet Jaune left. I had a couple of milliliters. I used up most of them when I knew I was meeting Jean-Paul Guerlain, at a book and wine festival. He said he could get me some more. I'll be taking him up on that. It's a wonderful scent.