SUPERCILIOUS: RACINE by MAITRE PARFUMEUR ET GANTIER (1988)

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The last time I was in Paris was 2005, a five day perfume whirl in which D and I did literally nothing but take in perfumeries; no time, even, for art or sightseeing, though the diamond brilliance of the December light illuminated every building with a beauty that was breathtaking and formed a constant backdrop as we skirted from one place to another, all the places I  I had long wanted to visit, such as Serge Lutens and Les Parfums de Rosines at the Palais Royal; the stunning Guerlain flagship store on the Champs Elysées; Anémone, Colette, JAR, Caron, Montale (which you could smell from across the street, and where I bought the glorious Aoud Queen Roses); the Etat Libre d’Orange headquarters in the Marais, and, perhaps most exquisitely, the gorgeous Maître Parfumeur et Gantier on the Rue Des Capucines, in which, after losing our way, and a big steak lunch in the brasserie opposite, we entered and lost ourselves; a range of perfumes – poetic, restrained, tasteful – that somehow gets lost in the forest of blogography words written on the newer, sharper, iconclasts…

Yet its founder, Jean Laporte, who sadly died in 2011, was also a great olfactory innovator, founding L’Artisan Parfumeur in the seventies and beginning the niche revolution alongside, other French luminaries such as Diptyque, in the process. As L’Artisan became more commercial/twisted ( I don’t know about you, but I personally lament what has happened to the house, no matter how devilishly clever the current creations by Bertrand Duchaufour may be: Vanilia vs Vanille Absolument; Tubéreuse vs Nuit de Tubéreuse, Patchouli (exquisite, exquisite ) vs Patchouli Patch? Vétiver vs Coeur de Vétiver Sacré? No contest bébé, the originals, all cruelly discontinued, were all infinitely better – simpler, yes, but more lovely, in my view); but whatever the reasons (perhaps he was bought out), Monsieur Laporte set up a new company, Maître Parfumeur Et Gantier, which, as its names suggests, does in fact sell scented gloves in lambskin, deerskin and peccary, among other uselessly luxurious accoutrements, a throwback to other centuries, a feeling that is accentuated by the silence and otherworldliness of spending an afternoon in the boutique with the gracious assistants who come alive as you enter the premises like reanimating, magic mannequins against a backdrop of red.

What comes across in the house’s creations is a deep subtlety; the scents in the range all feverishly delicate, mysterious, tucked inside of themselves; beautifully androgynous, or flamingly aristocratic, as in their gorgeous purple magnolia poudré, Magnolia Pourpre, a lavish scent if ever there was one, but still with that watered air of restraint that seems to characterize all the creations on offer. I could happily have bought up half the shop – the myrrh, tarragon and coffee-laced curiosity L’Eau Des Isles, and the glass-eyed, foppish Iris Bleu Gris were particular highlights for me,  but there was one of the scents I just couldn’t resist: Racine, a perfume I am extremely fond of, and the scent I will finish this week of vetivers with.

As I have previously discussed, citrus top notes are the most common addition to vetiver blends, particularly those aimed at men, and in the present dicta, there should also be pepper, black or pink, in addition to harsher, woody backdrops, grapefruit, and possibly even a little drop of oudh or its synthetic equivalent if ya pleasey, just to keep it sexy and au courant with that sillage that says darlin’ I mean business.

Usually in perfumes of this type, the lemon or bergamot in the opening will disappear fairly quickly and be taken over by the usual contemporary architecture of cashmere woods and the like, and this is where Racine is different: rather than the constrained urbanity of Tom Ford Grey Vetiver or Lalique’s Encre Noire and their debonair, besuited attractiveness, Racine, from the Les Caprices du Dandy collection, entwines a predominant, fresh-as-a-vine, sinuous vetiver from the Réunion Isles with a sucked-on-a-lemon, imperious citrus note, combined beautifully with a mauve-hued, satin plum cushion of prune, oakmoss, geranium, and, gently intertwined, a touch of equally dry, deep-octaved patchouli.

Here, there is none of the synthetic bolstering that constantly gets on my wick; instead the scent comes across as effortlessly aerated; refined, heads above, and positively supercilious, a quality that I realize is not desirable on a daily basis, but which, like a feline, I sometimes need to just get through the day, to rise above it all, stay intact and not let the banal shit of the dreary, brainwashed weekly ‘reality’ get me down.  Though my bottle is now empty, save a drop or two for the sake of reminiscence, this was always, along with vintage N°19 and Calèche, my go-to for days when I wanted to feel detached; high-spined.  From the very name of the scent, referencing the renowned seventeenth century writer Jean Racine and his elegant, ‘diamond-edged’ prose, to its direct allusion to the vetiver plant itself (‘racine‘ means ‘root’ in French), to the almost ludicrously ‘royal'(and slightly overdone) design of the flacon, the whole experience of Racine was a great, regal pleasure, while simultaneously remaining very wearable; one of those perfumes I could spray on at will and always trust to deliver the goods – the vetiver/lemon throughout the day interlaced, the purples of its velvet-lined garments consistently, pleasingly, presumptuous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

38 Comments

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38 responses to “SUPERCILIOUS: RACINE by MAITRE PARFUMEUR ET GANTIER (1988)

  1. brie

    As much as I love this review I ADORE the initial picture of that cat!! And I have heard about those scented gloves… brings to mind the harsh winters in NYC when I would subway to work in Manhattan heavily perfumed and my fur lined leather gloves would reek for several months after. I would love a pair of MP gloves but I believe they may be a bit out of my price range.
    And perfume shopping in Paris with D? Lord I am jealous! Last Paris trip was 1995 with someone whose interest in perfume was nonexistent. I am sure today there would be so much more to shop for perfume-wise as opposed to when I was there.
    But I digress…Racine sounds rather good…do you think I would like it, now that you have converted me to vetiver?

  2. ginzaintherain

    Dear Dandy

    I can see no reason why not because it is lovely: simple, unpretentious (yet snobbish), beautifully made and gently emphatic. I love it myself.

    And you are right: The D (who appreciates, and has a nose for, and likes, but is not obsessed with by any stretch of the imagination, perfume), was an absolute saint on that trip, and I will always thank him for it.
    x

  3. ginzaintherain

    Now that I realize that I am talking to Brie, and not the Dandy, I have to say that NO, I don’t reckon you would like it (too harsh in a way, and astringent), but who knows? You could secretly spray it in your husband’s closets….

    • brie

      I am laughing hysterically at the thought of spraying hubby’s closet as you know with his allergies there is no love lost with fragrance and him! The only “scents” I can get away with are essential oils and I preface it by saying it is medicinal (ie: tea tree oil for Brit’s acne).

  4. Dear Ginza

    It is The Dandy here – though I am deeply flattered to be mistaken for Brie or vice versa.
    Setting aside the heavenly name of this collection – for some reason I can’t get a line from a minor popular music song ‘stop this caprice it has to cease’ out of my mind – the fragrance itself sounds quite wonderful.
    Whilst I enjoy some of the more baroque vetivers that you mention, there is undoubtedly a huge amount to be said for the aerated quality that you sight as being so attractive here and you absolutely sealed the deal when you talked of the air of detachment this gave you.
    ‘Detachment’ or ‘distance’ perfectly summarise my experience with No.19, Caleche and to and extent with Ma Grife and whilst not for each and every day is necessary every once in a while.
    So in search of this scent I must go – I failed to visit the store on my recent visit – Paris is become one preposterously large perfume shop making it impossible to fit everywhere in!
    Thank you for your very welcome introduction.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • ginzaintherain

      Oh my god Ma Griffe! I love you. I am in the middle of clearing/cleaning out my perfume closets as it is the spring holiday and there it is: vintage edt and parfum. What a divine, underrated perfume!

      The dry down……so delicate, as beautiful as a gazelle….tell me more!

      (re Racine: let’s hope it hasn’t been reformulated, but for a dandy such as yourself, surely that place is a must…VERY singular scents there, monsieur!)

  5. Nancysg

    The supercilious cat image is absolutely wonderful. Vetiver is a note that I am enjoying more as I become more engaged with the world of perfume. Paris was never a particular choice for me to visit, until I became aware of all those magnificent perfume shops. Thanks for your memories of your visit.

  6. Hey Buddy,
    I stole a paragraph for my review. I have linked back and attributed.
    Portia xx

  7. I’m not familiar with the MPG line, but I’m on an amber binge and their Ambre Precieux has been recommended to me. Are you familiar with it?
    Beautifully written piece, as always, and I loved taking a vicarious perfume whirl through Paris.

    • Merci madame.

      I can picture the smell of Ambre Precieux in my brain but not perfectly. All the perfumes in that shop are soft and sharp in perfect proportion; very French, like champagne. I really really like them. Unusual and extremely elegant. I would check the Ambre out. Their white florals are great as well. Racine was just so distinctly……wearable. I need to get some more.

  8. Rafael

    I recall reading that Jean Paul Guerlain’s girlfriend wore MaGriffe (My Claw; dont you just love that?) that Summer Carven launched it and adored it (what’s not to love? I have apretty good stock in myself)! He couldn’t abide her wearing a competitors perfume so for her he created Chant d’Aromes. The romance didn’t last but the fragrance did. Do you ever find parallels between the two? Of this genre my favorite of all time is still Vent Vert.

    • I own, and adore, all three.

      Vintage Ma Griffe is heavenly; so strange, green and fresh. Chant D’Aromes is so…unanalyzably mossy and velvet sweet, and to be honest, there is a bottle of Vent Vert at a shop in Tokyo I really want. She is asking 85 dollars, but I know that come spring time I need it. I just can’t ascertain which vintage it is. Do you know the difference or how to distinguish between bottles/packaging etc. I only have a miniature, and it is almost empty. I LOVE It.

      We have similar taste, monsieur

  9. I love your posts. Your writing is so descriptive, articulate and most of all completely honest without reservation. I happen to agree with you (I am astounded at the many years I have been a perfumista–way before the word was coined) but I have been into perfumes long enough to remember the early days of L’Artisan. Their fragrances were simple back then, more one dimensional but all lovely. The first one I bought was Tuberuese. However, I truly love Nuit de Tuberuese–it’s actually my favorite among the many newer L’Artisan fragrances I own…and I do like Couer de Vetiver Sacre–it is addictive to me but the sillage is low and it is not long-lasting (even on my clothes, unlike lots of other perfumes). They have such a huge line but only a few really stand out like Tsonga (sp) and Dsing! They went from being one of the first niche lines with completely different fragrances than those sold in the department stores to being just one of the crown. Now they have another new line–three of which I have sampled. I like one–“Skin on Skin” and another somewhat. But none were outstanding or could find a place in my perfume collection. They almost seem like they are no longer niche but more “mass-producing”. I still have one of LaPorte’s scents after he left L’Artisan. I did know he passed away but thought it was more recent. In any event, said to know that he is no longer among us and our perfume pckin’s are and will be even slimmer.

    • Thanks for your kind words, and am I glad that you know the old L’Artisan perfumes as well. I agree they were more simplistic in a way, but somehow just….better. More soul. But you make me want to smell Nuit de Tubereuse again. I am not really a Duchaufour man, but he is at the very least always intriguing.

  10. I thought I typed “one of the crowd” not “crown”. That the opposite of what I was trying to say. Sorry.

  11. Thank you for this beautiful review that took me back to Paris and introduced me to Racine. I hope to somehow smell it someday.

  12. Racine, it excusez-moi monsieur for neutering a male genius, he has to be. I Will send this post to a friend of mine who shared her life with just a Cat as this one: The late lamented Ella, whom I christened Ella Bella, with just The same green haughty eyes and the disdainful turned up nose. And no mistake: a great mouser despite her Candy floss delicate French marquise appearence. Love The Hat!!

  13. I adore MP&G fragrances. One of my favorites was Secret Datura. So happy to see the love is shared.
    You have exquisitly captured the simply majestic quality this company conveys through scent. No bells and whistles; no fireworks and light shows; no double entendres to be found: just wonderfully crafted and elegantly packaged fragrances.
    I also adore L’eau des Iles. I find it most bewitching.

  14. Got the Racine on Ebay! Hope this smells well, as it is of this Side of the century!

  15. My best friend Chantal adored the cat. And drank in your words. It made her feel homesick for Paris and left her longing for a scent binge ..

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