BEAUTIFUL POISONS: FOUR PERFUMES FROM THE EARLY 90’s : Allure, Cabotine, Dolce & Gabbana Pour Femme + Tendre Poison







The perfumes of the nineties do not have the ‘loud’ reputation of many eighties blockbusters, though this was still a period when the big houses – Dior, Lancôme and so on, still invested a great deal of time and money on development before launching an ‘event’ perfume, and the results were usually equally characterful (which is why all four of the perfumes below are still worn today: will today’s mainstream releases (La Vie Est Belle, anyone?) have similar longevity?




I have never liked this perfume personally, while admitting that it is a perfect execution of its obvious ideal – to turn a pale-skinned girl into a flesh and blood (ginger) lily.

It is beautifully done; a host of fresh white florals with green overtures; in essence a ‘soliflore’ ginger lily achieved with other notes, but there is, to me, a false modesty here: this innocence just doesn’t compute (that might be just my distaste for the sandalwood/neroli/green accord, though, which I personally find gratingly ‘coquette’.)

This sly perfume achieved a lot of success, especially in Japan where almost every woman wants to be as girlish as she humanly can, and on whom this perfume did smell rather erotic when I arrived here in 1996.


A touch dated now, but if it works, it works.







I have always felt that Tendre Poison, though attractively poised, is a somewhat presumptuous perfume, making steamy claims on your attention that you may not be willing to give.

Unruffled, this sharp-eyed vamp just comes on loud and sticks her claws in anyway – venomous, stalk-green galbanum over orange blossom and sandalwood; the embittered older sister perhaps of Cabotine ( more demure), Red Door (lower IQ), and Fleur de Rocaille (pseudo-chic).


It is very slinky, and sexy, to be sure, and recommended, but absolutely not tender, as its name erroneously suggests.












A big hit for Chanel worldwide and still going strong –  a ‘multifaceted’, warm, floral-sheened scent with vanillic undertones that doesn’t obey the usual structure of perfume in that what you see is what you get: no top notes, dry down, no secrets (surely the key to true allure?), no real development. Department store perfume workers apparently often recommend this as a solution to those who have no clue about perfume, or those who are just dilly-dallying, as many consumers seem to acquiesce quickly to its simple lack of pretence and apparent modernity:






I loathe this fragrance, while fully seeing its easy appeal. It is a true ‘all-rounder’: ‘sultry’ yet mild mannered: womanly, smooth-edged; clean, suitable for ‘office wear’ and ‘special occasions’ one and the same. It is well blended, and can smell acceptable on the odd lucky person, but for me is simply extraordinarily vulgar and crass. Whoever thought such a thing could be written about Chanel?


I woke up one summer morning at my parents’ house, and on opening the bedroom door was shocked to see that the feeling in the house had mercurially transformed; thick with banality: some throat-coating, oyster-pink air sludge.


And it wasn’t until my mum cheerily called out ‘I’m just trying Allure today’ that I realized what had happened.


A woman who smells so beautiful in her chosen favourites (First, Joy, Jardins de Bagatelle) had been rendered into a marketing-led dotard.







When they came out, I overdosed on both the Dolces, and ‘Pour Homme’ is the only scent that I’ve ever had strongly derogatory comments on ( I was so into the novel tarragon top note I didn’t realize how harsh I was smelling to the world).  I could never wear it again.


The signature scent for women, in that red velvet box ( in its original incarnation – I haven’t smelled the tamed down reformulation which was launched recently), is similarly problematic. That top note, that rich, gorgeous mandarin and basil petitgrain melting powderfully into those piquant divine florals – it’s all extremely addictive, and I was quite frankly obsessed with it for while. But with the potent, skin-clinging vanilla-musk-santal finale, as things start to get very messy with Basil, it is as though an Italian opera singer were having a nervous breakdown live on stage; foundation and mascara merging in a sweaty, oily mass of face powder under the breakers.  It can all get a bit much; a big smudge of olfactory OTT.



So, one for special occasions only, and in moderation. Dolce & Gabbana is certainly a gorgeous perfume, but it is overwhelming. I personally prefer it on older women.





Filed under Basil, Flowers, Lily, Orange Blossom, Perfume Reviews, Powder

24 responses to “BEAUTIFUL POISONS: FOUR PERFUMES FROM THE EARLY 90’s : Allure, Cabotine, Dolce & Gabbana Pour Femme + Tendre Poison

  1. Marina

    gawd this brought be right back to my perfume selling days! the headaches from Poison and Poison related scents! My Top three nausiating scents of that time: Escape, Poison, Ysatis.

    • ginzaintherain

      As you know, I personally adore Ysatis, and Poison in a way, though I can understand the aversion. Escape was so new, with that melony sea smell, but it was VERY offensive in high quantities, really unpleasant. I suppose at this time perfume was very much a set, fixed, glamorous thing with a ‘designer’ name on it, instantly recognizable, sometimes annoying, but somehow I miss those times..the sheer colour and dressed-up quality of it all. Fruity dames, out on the piss….

      • Marina

        that is exactly true and reminds me of the alsorans of that day: Red Door, Oscar de la Renta, the grotesque Giorgio was another let us not forget White Diamonds and Cher’s Uninhibited.

    • jennyredhen

      All those Poison perfumes used to give me head ache as well… I couldnt believe they kept bringing out new varieties of them.. People actually wore them??? Oh yes and how… you could smell them a mile off when they were arriving and for hours after they left. Thank God they have gone out of fashion … though some people still persist.

      • jennyredhen

        Its interesting you say that about Oscar de La Renta. It had an intriguing smokiness when you first put it on but that soon disappeared and then it smelt very watery and a bit like urine… as if the wearer had wet their pants. I could see where they were trying to go but they missed the mark.
        Any depth at all was gone after 10 minutes.

  2. ginzaintherain

    ……. but wouldn’t you love to smell them at the disco?
    I really would.

  3. Lilybelle

    I don’t think I could stomach any of those today. I love the painting at the top, the girl In red sunglasses.

  4. I rather miss some of those distinctive scents. I never wore any of them myself, but I enjoyed Cabotine and Poison on others in moderation, and at least all the young women of that decade didn’t smell exactly alike. I have a young colleague who wears the original Poison, and wears it to work, and because of her judicious dabbing habits she smells beautiful. And when she walks down the hall there is a faint haze of tuberose and other good things, not icky strawberries and peach air freshener. I think your point is pithily stated, Ginza; check out the perfume counters at any department store and try to imagine any of those scents still being around in the next decade. Not, of course, that I am opinionated.

  5. I can truly say that I do not miss any of these scents even though I may have used a few of them during that time period and enoyed them to a certain degree, but none of them remained my favorites.

    • I know what you mean; I think I am more nostalgic for the fact that they are memorable than anything else.

      Can you remember YSL Saharienne? Or Lancôme Magnifique?

      The recent commercial perfumes have NO personality.

      • I have to say, though, that for those few of us who save images of wonderfully hideous bottles to giggle over, the last few years have been very fruitful. Perfumes like Meow! and Police To Be and Pink Friday will no doubt move on to well-deserved oblivion, but images of their bottles will linger on in online galleries and provide ill-mannered snorts of amusement long after the bottles’ contents have disappeared into the haze of fruityfloralsomethingorother. So if we think of this as the Era of Truly Awful Bottles, and accept that current marketing requires only that the scent smell like all the others, we may at least get some amusement value out of them.

  6. ninakane1

    I’m not overly familiar with these but like the sound of the Cabotine so will try. I recently bought a little vintage bottle of Tocade by Rochas and adore its sweetness and simplicity. There’s something quite complete yet understated about some 90s perfumes. They evoke vagueness; being absorbed in poetry or the tune of a particular song.

    • I like this idea of vagueness and song: what causes this?

      • ninakane1

        I don’t know. It’s just been occurring to me recently trying various perfumes that i later discover were early 90s concoctions… something distinctive and self-contained but a little undefinable. perfumes that take themselves off to a corner somewhere and seem quiet and unassuming but gradually make their presence felt.. I’ll perfume-rove and think about it, then write something more specific.

      • ninakane1

        One thing, I suppose- the scents seem very bound up together in one big melange, rather than having phases.

      • This is it exactly, you are right; a melange, not something broken down into movements. Tresor is one sweet melody, as is Tocade, as is Gigli G, also; Amarige is one blasting pop hit

    • Like Ginza, I would like to hear more about this. It feels right about the scents of the 90s.

  7. Priceless reviews, especially…”like an Italian opera singer having a nervous breakdown live on stage.”
    You and your writing are without equal.

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