They kiss: and the smear of her lipstick, the taste of her mouth, her hair, her skin – this scent, in all its complexity, kissed in a furl of hands, of gently undone white shirt and leather coat, is the imprint left on your lips: your eyes: your brain.
Fresh, light-pink top notes of peached rose, jasmine, artemisia, melon and bergamot – a most intriguing top accord – don’t attempt to mask the urgently animalic soft leather whip of the base, in a deliciously ambiguous chypre that is perverse, stylish, and clever.
Like a striding, soft-shelled armor of extreme chic, Empreinte, particularly in vintage parfum – though the eau de toilette has its own breathy exhalations – is an immaculate example of the genius of French perfumery as it once was – the layers of veneer, poise and sexuality, all concealed effortlessly beneath an outwardly respectable semblance of stilettoed, modish glamour.
La Nuit, that petite, guileless maelstrom from Paco Rabanne, is Empreinte’s younger sister.
A wildebeest in tulle who wears tiny, summery floral-patterned cotton dresses, thigh-high, degenerate, but can barely keep them on herself for five minutes.
None of us mind in the least.
The pretty, fatty, pink floral departure of jasmine and basil-tinted rose in this perfume cannot even begin to disguise the lust that is underpinning it; clinging, tongue-smearing civet, honey and beaver at alarmingly high dose (read into that what you will); sweet woods, oak moss, patchouli, and musk. It is hard to imagine what the perfumer had in mind, but the result is certainly disturbing, arousing, and one of the most animalic commercial perfumes that was ever released: a million miles away from the designer’s demurely fragranced beginnings (Calandre, Metal, and the later banalities that have come since this time such as XS Pour Elle, Black, and Lady Million). La Nuit was a sweet, grotesquely attractive eighties anomaly, and I’d always wanted to encounter someone who could carry it off successfully, as my own bottle is used only sparingly for private, night-time pleasure and reminiscence. I wondered though: what contemporary woman could possibly carry this off with the right combination of earnest love for what is ultimately a great scent, yet with a wink at its undoubted ridiculousness? A blonde, definitely, and in fact, since writing this, I have found my La Nuit girl; Carla, night club chameleon, linguist, and make-up scientist from Australia. She tames it, makes it her own.
La Nuit also has a very sentimental place in my heart for a rather amusing reason. In 1987 or so, my father came back from a Paris business trip and, in a hurry, had mistakenly picked up a bottle of La Nuit, which he had thought was the classic Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, at duty free. He came in reeking of it – flowers; a rind of nymphomania – and we were in hysterics. It would have been scarcely possible to find a less suitable scent for him, and I smile every time to this day when I smell it. The bottle lay around the house, dusting and secretly loved by me in the outside veranda, for decades, where I would spray it in the air or on myself: imprinting, indelibly, its strange, lustful, piggy pinkness on my young, adolescent brain forever. It is a scent I thus know inside from out; a unique and bizarrely unintellectual scent that I can picture in my memory – that I can feel vividly in my smell brain, without even having to go upstairs to search for the bottle – very intimately.
Vintage bottles of both of these scents can be found at online sites quite reasonably if you look.