I was, in some ways, quite a weird child.The boys would be playing football, play-punching, or moronically shooting each other with invisible karashnikovs. The girls would be playing with dolls and each others’ hair, skipping daintily, bitching, and doing whatever else little girls do.
I was always off somewhere with my posse, imagining I was a warlock doing magic with my petalled potions; reading my secret collection of Flower Fairy books, or else pretending to be a black panther (which was my ultimate dream at the time…)I would lie in bed at night and see myself morphing, slowly, into that beast, feeling the power of the claws start to surge as I leapt off into the undergrowth…
Might these childhood urges be one of the reasons why I am so drawn to the sleek, pantheresque perfumes that follow; the rose/patchouli/ leather chypres, those taloned, ruminating creatures that come nearer to approximating that black cat in perfume than any other type? Those perfumes that have been replaced in the contemporary canon by industrial effluent and the drabbest of candyflosses, but which, when worn correctly (and knowingly), can be quite delectably pointed and erotic?
In Annick Le Guerer’s academic treatise ‘Scent’, the panther, long venerated by various cultures for the beautiful perfume of its breath, is said to have been historically viewed as ‘prudent, intelligent, and cunning…’, emitting an odour that is ‘agreeable to all other animals’, a blessing/curse of nature that allows it to hunt, furtively, by ‘remaining in hiding and attracting animals to it by its smell…’
And, like a beautifully-attired woman sat in some late night bar wearing Paloma Picasso, esconced patientlyin her corner with her trailing cigarette, ‘…. it conceals itself in a dense thicket, or in deep foliage, and is invisible; it only breathes. And so fawns and gazelles and wild goats and suchlike animals are drawn by the spell, as it were, of its fragrance and come close up…….
Whereat, the leopard springs out and seizes its prey…..”
MON PARFUM by PALOMA PICASSO (1984)
Probably the most successful of perfumes in the chypric rose genre, by contemporary standards Paloma smells hopelessly out of fashion and animalic: just smell the beaver. Less pronounced in the eau de toilette form, which is essentially a different fragrance and less impressive, in the eau de parfum, the oily, leathery note of castoreum, extracted from the sweat glands of the Canadian beaver – troubling, aphrodisiac – is very apparent in this perfume and verges on shocking. It is, nevertheless, with a flourish of Iberian magic, extravagantly cloaked in woods; lashes of patchouli; a spiced Spaniard heart of the deepest rose, jasmine and mimosa; and a sharp, sassy green top note like the click of glinting heels on a Barcelona sidewalk.
The perfume has been around for quite a while now, and despite the fact that the world’s tastes in scent have since changed irrevocably since its release, in a survey done by various global beauty editors and perfume people (and not so long ago, either), Mon Parfum by Paloma Picasso was voted the sexiest perfume on earth. While I am not sure if the perfume can definitively claim this title, it certainly is damn good on the right person who can carry it off, and it is very hopelessly difficult to resist.
Mon Parfum is just so…….cocksure of itself: an adult woman with experience, sexual confidence and power coursing through her blood. It needs a glammed up, lipsticked predator with attitude to do it full justice, to unleash its torrid potential – a woman, or man, who doesn’t mind, in fact loves, its eighties femme fatale clichés.
MAGIE NOIRE by LANCOME (1978)
Paloma’s darker, occultist, more serious elder cousin, Magie Noire has a similarly ensorcelling theme of sharp green notes contrasting with a rich Bulgarian rose heart, patchouli and provocative, animalic/woody finish. But in Lancôme’s finest scent there is very little sweetness (there is a touch in the heart of Paloma) and the sharp green/earth divide (a mesmerizing accord of galbanum, bergamot, raspberry and hyacinth, contrasting with a mossy patchouli note tempered with honey) only grows more potent and disturbing with time, stronger and more scary as the day, or night, progresses.
It is witchy, truly, but also tender, mysterious, elegant, erotic, and a touch sinister, as you are gradually drawn into the depths of a midnight forest. Or at the very least to a very edgy seventies dinner party hostess in a busy black dress.
EAU DU SOIR by SISLEY (1990)
Eau Du Soir, especially in vintage, is more dormant, and quietly explosive, than either of the above scents, a tasteful and intoxicating brew that, as its name suggests, is the evening perfume par excellence, absolutely made for black and grand occasions.
What I love about the Sisley perfumes is their lack of the saccharine ; where their first perfume, the classic Eau de Campagne (created by Jean Claude Ellena in 1974) is astonishingly green, almost unbearably so, as if you were trapped inside a giant basil or tomato leaf, Eau Du Soir is Campagne’s night counterpart, similarly dry and unsentimental: a ravishing patchouli, rose d’orient, seringa, juniper, and Moroccan rose absolute accord with a centerpiece of the perfume’s star ingredient, Egyptian jasmine absolute (less civilized, rougher, more animalic than its French counterpart), which purrs and insinuates itself beautifully within the radiant, effortless chic of the spicy chypre base. Eau Du Soir is a difficult scent, almost formidable.
You would never mess with someone wearing this.
SINAN by JEAN-MARC SINAN (1984)
Sinan, an obscure fragrance not so easy to find these days, is another taut, chypre animalic with a full-bodied, sweetly lingering rose twined with woods and patchouli: one more fur-clad siren leading her black-widow victims to their (always willing) fate….
The perfume bears some similarities with Paloma, and also Lauder’s fabulous Knowing (which took this essentially European idea and Americanized it), but where that perfume has a certain seamless infallibility (present in all Lauder’s creations) prone to exaggerations with its honeyed electric rose, Sinan presents a similarly perfumed face but less emphatically; not a white-gated mansion in the centre of Florida, but a house, near the woods, somewhere in the depths of France…
44 responses to “THE WITCHY CHYPRES : Mon Parfum by Paloma Picasso (1984) + Magie Noire by Lancôme (1978) + Eau du Soir by Sisley (1990) + Sinan by Jean-Marc Sinan (1984)”
have tried all mentioned with the exception of the Sisley- and while I rather enjoyed Magie and Paloma when they first came out it was the severely underrated (in my humble opinion) Sinan that captured my heart. Ironically I never owned a full bottle! For back in the mid 80s the SAs in the department stores would hand out free samples like they were candy! I made everyone I knew get their hands on samples of Sinan for me so I had about 10 vials. It was strong enough that a little went a long way so they lasted me quite a while.
Sinan is quite hard to find nowadays but I do believe that the Miniature Perfume Shoppe might carry a mini of it for those who are interested in trying it….
Great post… and I am not surprised that you were a warlock and panther in youth…a ballet dancer in the making..you obviously missed your calling!
( and I LOVE your Sinan story by the way. I only know it from an antique shop miniature: was it a major release? I have no memory of it ever being in England though I gather it was well known in France for a while..
Would you like my mini? I can’t vouch it is pristine but I can live without it. You might enjoy smelling and wearing it again…
To answer your question regarding Sinan- the release was not exactly a major one as we are not talking Chanel or Guerlain…and I do not believe it was doing so well in the major department stores for, as I said, the SAs were really pushing the samples and I do not believe that it was kept on the sales floor for all that long. Yet is has a cult following now and people who love it are frantic to find it ANYWHERE !
On a completely different note I have to share with you this very endearing story. My daughter’s best friend Liz, who is obsessed with anime and hates make-up and fashion, has developed a love of perfume (thanks to her younger sister who a year ago literally told her that she “stinks” which prompted Liz to begin buying and wearing perfume). I just found this out today for, whilst everyone was in Aeropostale looking at clothes, Liz and I were in Sephora sniffing perfume and she was giving me some pretty interesting opinions for a 14 year old! She fell madly in love with LaVanilla Vanilla Coconut so this “Mother Teresa” could not resist in buying her a bottle! My daughter is secretly hoping that this interest will turn into an obsession with Liz and steer her away from “anime- land” !
Sadly my Sephora does not carry Atelier (that is what I was looking for) so hopefully your perfume fairy (Daisy) will come through for you!
Fantastic, though I worry about the poor girl turning to perfume because she has been told she stinks….a life of neurosis and drained bank accounts awaits…
That was a cool theme! Loved it!
Thank you. Have you worn any of these panthers yourself? Are you drawn to them?
I think I’d like to be a panther myself, to properly use them. I truly admire a couple of them, but most are too “vampy” for my fashion, though Eau du Soir fits me like a glove, thank you 😉 .
Glad to hear it. I have never understood why Luca Turin is so vile about it. I think it smells amazing and is quite unique.
To answer your question I would not mind a small sample vial for my collection ( I do not want to take your mini!). I have been going through my vial collection and because I am anxious to get things out to you I may be sending you sooner what I already have and then more later when my clean vials finally arrive. I will e-mail when it goes out!
And thanks for the offer!
The bottle is yours. Just put your address on the back of the envelope!
Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:
ROSES FOR SORCERESSES….
I used to wear the Paloma Picasso, and the Sisley Eau de Soir (I still have a vintage bottle of that one), but I would have to say that my very first perfume love when I was very young was Magie Noire. I was devastated when they stopped making it. I heard the reincarnation is not even remotely like the original.
No, it is its similarity that is so disturbing. I actually have a new iteration and it is strong, and appealing, and definitively patterned on Magie Noire. But it is as if all its internal organs, blood and flesh had been drained out; just a sturdy, convincing skeleton.
I get what you are saying as I have had that experience with other fragrances (and people). I love reading your blog–your descriptions and comments are so right on. I will have to give Magie Noire another sniff–it’s been years and since that time I have had more “disturbing” things in my life so I will be prepared. Thanks for your response!
Pale imitations of their former selves?
Far more terrifying. Important to never get brainwashed, to stand your true ground.
Not just pale imitations of their former selves but a different self entirely. Reinvention but not necessarily a better version of their former selves–just like some re-formulated perfumes. I always stand my true ground. I am in the “what you see is what you get” category.
Witchy. I knew I was drawn to this genre for a reason. I have a thing for the rosy chypres of this era (broad arc–70s-80s). They are personal in a way that few mainstream perfumes currently in production are. They ask you to stop and consider the wearer. I don’t quite know why, but they’re my antidote to the notion that something gains value if it is witnessed publicly, preferably by millions simultaneously. Scherrer by Scherrer, Paloma, Aromatics Elixir, PR La Nuit. These are effectively anti-twitter. The participants/audience/followers can only take part in the experience on a scale/range of silage.
Fantastically put! I love this idea, of spatial limitation: the antithesis of the shallow dazzle.
whoops…funny, a typo on the last word. silage.
As a regular punter, I wore Magie Noire in the 80s – more than one bottle in fact. Given the fumehead I have become, with my more diffident tastes, I still marvel at that. The civet didn’t even both me, and it would have been the real deal back then.
What are you into these days, out of curiosity? Would it seem strange to be wearing Magie Noire now?
Ginza, you are quite wonderful! The image of you as boy warlock is, literally, bewitching. Do you still do that? I hope so. It seems to me that one of the basics of spirituality may be a sense of the magic and mystery in daily life. It’s one of the basics of perfume-love, too, and of a lot of other things. People in long-term happy relationships hold some sense of the magic of the other person, floating around and through the routine stuff. Surely perfume helps with that; visceral, limbic awareness of the presence of the other carries a unique loveliness, summed up for me in the post in which Duncan said he “couldn’t see you, but could smell you.” Here’s to more witchery in the world, and this is the season for it.
But this is wonderful too: you have got to some kind of essence here, acute, that I would not be able to put into words myself.
Yes, beautiful, the idea of the magic and mystery and seeing beyond the mundane is essential for sanity, for people like me anyway, and I think that is probably also why, as you say, me and the D are happily together after twenty years. We both HAVE to float: we refer to it as the ether.
Now I have to decide what perfume to wear to the Marigold Parade, our local Dia de Los Muertos celebration. It’s a very homegrown, sincere, sweetly ramshackle affair and I hope it never gets slicked up.
but all i care about is whether you got my package
A splendid selection… I chose Magie Noire as my literal Halloween Scent and have been luxuriating in its casually plush violence all day.
It truly casts a spell.
The Perfumed Dandy
PS Your dream of being a Black Panther… was that an animal or a revolutionary civil rights activist? I have a feeling it could have been either in your case…
O no: I wish I were more civil minded ( I am no Aquarius)..
No, purely in a fantastical, literal sense: wanting to MORPH
ps. casually plush violence is a genius way of nailing it, and that is part of why I love it…it IS strangely comforting when someone is wearing this perfume and yet there is something deeply taut, as though the person in question would then kneed you viciously with sharp elbows.
or is it knead?
Is Mon Parfum the same as Paloma Picasso? Nothing I’ve found online seems definitive. I bought a bottle of PP for my sister years ago. Her interests at the time were money, white leather jackets, and mean men, and I thought it would be perfect. (She didn’t care for it; it turned out she was really more of a Clinique Happy woman.) I don’t remember Sinan at all but I love that bottle.
I started wearing perfume because a classmate told me I smelled bad. (Being the first girl in school to hit puberty is no picnic.) Neurosis, check. Drained bank account, check.
Oh, and knead.
When I was a little girl I used to play at flower potions, too. I suppose I was aiming for hermit in the woods / hedge witch, though I wouldn’t have known to call it that. With maturity I’ve morphed in a soft and light type. The black panther scents are not right on me, but I am captivated by them — drawn into their exhalations, prey to the predator. 😉
Me too, although I do try and pull them off occasionally. I probably, though, just smell like a tomcat
Great read ! I’ve loved Magie since I was 10 years old (in 1980) Becoming harder and harder to come by over the last decade, I am delighted to discover Cartier La Panthere parfum. Very similar!
Really? I love both but find Panthere much more a rich, fruity tuberosey sex bomb type prism, whereas Magie Noire is is dark and sorceressy.
still loving my mini Sinan……sadly they don’t make them like that anymore…..
Oh yes I wondered why I couldn’t find it…
At least it has a happy home!
I know it’s a hard question, but I’d like to know the years both Magie Noire and Paloma Picasso has been reformulated.
It seems the first went under reformulation first in 1986. I haven’t found further informations.
Thank you and have a nice Sunday!
I am afraid I don’t have access to that kind of information (is it ever released to the public?)
“(is it ever released to the public?)”. That’s the problem 🙂
I am afraid I don’t have access to that kind of information (is it ever released to the public?)