THREE HAIRY SCENTS BY ROCHAS, PARIS : : : : MOUSTACHE (1948) + MONSIEUR ROCHAS (1969) + + MACASSAR (1980)

 

 

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I woke up yesterday feeling macho. And so I went into Kamakura for my twice monthly Japanese lesson wearing Paco Rabanne Pour Homme, a nice, classic, soapy, barber-shop fougère that I use on such occasions, walking along the road feeling broad-shouldered, manly, and hunked (in the nicest possible way).

 

 

 

 

 

As luck should have it, after the lesson, in the antique shop I often frequent, down one of the back streets, a place that always stocks a selection of unwanted vintage perfumes, they had just had a new influx of curiosities for me to peruse at my unhurried leisure. While mainly overpriced (yet ultimately, pretty reasonable considering), the proprietors usually give me a discount anyway, and, my eyes immediately startled, I pounced, straight away, upon a full bottle of unused Creed Royal English Leather: a discontinued, unusual beauty that I couldn’t quite resist at the bargain price of 2500 yen with its sense-flushing, powdered rush-plush eiderdown softness of floral, mandarin amber and cuir: a richness, and, indeed royal flounciness, that could almost put one in mind of vintage L’Heure Bleue. It is sitting now, proudly, by my bed. I know its time will come.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What else? Among the haphazardly placed bottles there yesterday was a torridly bitter, straight leather eighties scent I had read about before but never smelled – Morito Or Black (1982) in its original, very decade-specific plastic flacon. I surreptiously sprayed some on the back of my hand as the lady was busying herself doing something in the corner, realizing quite quickly that this was a fine, dark, scent in the taut, no-nonsense, Yatagan mode, and one that might suit Duncan. I might have to go back and get it. Then, also, another bottle that I couldn’t help but tilt onto my wrist ( out of view of the bonneted lady who was sitting among her rose-covered English tea cups, lace, and general daintinesses):  Macassar, a scent I have never seen anywhere in the fleamarkets before: a beautifully complex, spiced and ambered men’s scent of rich, classical contours that was co-authored by Nicholas Mamounas, the intricate genius who created the divine Mystère that I was raving about the other day and which I wore to delicious effect all weekend; and Roger Pellegrino, the man who came up with Armani Pour Homme (1984 – my first perfume love). Like all these scents, Macassar feels very much of its time (this is so eighties, taking me vividly back to a Lynx -now Axe – deodorant that I once had called Africa, or something, as a seventeen year old), but as its scent progressed on my wrist, as I took the train the short stop home, I realized that I was rather liking it. Macassar, of course, was the the hair oil worn by Victorian gents, smeared over more parted, formal hair styles to keep the hair stylishly in place and the reason that the ‘antimacassar’ (a piece of cloth put over the back of upholstery to prevent it from getting stained by grease) was invented. This ubiquitous product was composed of coconut and palm oil infused with ylang ylang flowers, spice, bay rum and various other ingredients, and some of this sweet, colonial exotica has made its way into the now largely defunct perfume by Rochas. While the expected fougère ingredients are all in place : cedar, geranium, oakmoss, pine tree needles, artemisia, carnation, patchouli and bergamot, as well as the usual woods, musk and amber in the base, there is also a rather curious dolcezza here that takes the form of coconut, jasmine flowers and a piquant ‘rare fruit’ top accord steering things in a different direction from the usual grunting, gorilla-breasted brutes of that decade. While sensual, and very compelling, in its loveable ‘all-roundedness’, Macassar – like Mystère I think- also manages the feat, which I truly love in all the finest perfumery, of capturing something beyond: an aspect of intrigue you can’t quite put your finger on or pin down: that sense of a person being far more than the sum of their parts, or at least those sides that they have allowed you to view. A simple idea, well-executed, is a great thing in perfume, but for me, far too many perfumes come across as simplistic, even dumb, and an elaborate masculine is a pleasing idea that is not that often successfully achieved. Come to think of it, I might have to go back and investigate further, to see if this is something I need or could wear (would it be too dating? middle-ageing? Would my shoulders, on impact, become even broader; would more wiry, manly hair start growing on my chest and stomach?) For collector’s purposes alone, though, it might be worth the purchase as it is, by all accounts, quite a rare perfume, now, especially in its original, vintage incarnation, and I have been thinking that in any case, I should probably get it merely for a simple sense of completism, to have all three Rochas classic masculines at my occasional disposal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Even though I had never worn, nor even smelled them properly until last night when I retrieved the bottles from the back of one of my perfume cabinets to spray on and sleep with, also in my dusty old collection I realized that I do have the original incarnations of Moustache and Monsieur Rochas, both picked up at fleamarkets – obviously – and both also virile and elegant creations by this house, very different in execution but equally effective and seductive in their delicately constructed auras.

 

 

 

 

Of the three, the one I am probably most naturally drawn to is Monsieur Rochas, a sharp, nutmeg-laden, citric fougère that smells very similar to the gorgeous Equipage by Hermès (a complex, deeply aromatic and benevolent autumnal scent that I save for October afternoons to be worn in thick arran jumpers after going for a walk in the woods, or just for sitting at home reading the newspapers in the leisure of my dotage…..)

 

 

 

 

Equipage is a classic, quintessential Sunday perfume if ever there were one,  but the similarities between the essential framework of these two scents are not co-incidental, as both were created by Guy Robert, the brilliantly skilled perfumer behind such timeless and seminal creations as Calèche, Doblis, Dioressence and Madame Rochas, both these masculine creations containing similar levels of refinement as well as intelligence. Equipage, the more famous of the two, was released one year after Monsieur Rochas, and it is perhaps more mellow and rounded in its floral, mace-touched tobacco and carnation/jasmine top notes, in some ways an advancement over its Rochas counterpart, but there is also a lemon freshness in the Monsieur that renders it more vibrant and fast-paced, quick-thinking, brow-knitted, pensive: a citric, matinal briskness that is combined with lavender, clary sage, bergamot and cardamom over the usual geranium/carnation, vetiver, patchouli, oakmoss masculine tropes of tobacco-stained, artfully rough hands. I find it to be expertly composed, and sexy in a self-knowing, understated way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Yet another scent in the classic Rochas male stable (all either discontinued or reformulated, incidentally, but easily found for good prices at online discounters) is Moustache, which was also composed by a well-celebrated olfactory genius, Edmond Roudnitska, a man who needs no introduction for perfume aficionados as the ardent inspirator behind such well-loved classics as Diorissimo, Diorella, Eau Sauvage, Eau d’Hermès, and Rochas Femme, each an epitome of the French style of citric or floral freshness in the top notes, and a carnal, almost decaying animality lying underneath in the base notes, achieved, mischievously, with the use of civet, musks, honey and other ingredients that hint at overt sexuality from the moment they are sprayed on the skin, even as the exquisitely orchestrated bouquets scintillating in the droplets above speak of elegance, flowers, and an exclusively Parisian, demure, chic.

 

 

 

 

 

Moustache is no different to this deliberately calibrated French technique, and with a name like that, how could it be? From the very first moment that you smell it, this scent is frank and upfront in its intentions: the clipped and well-tended facial hair in question may not be confined to brushing your mouth but is surely destined to reach down further: a citrus/animalic contradiction explored in a similar emphatic, pulsating vein in Guerlain’s Jicky and Mouchoir De Monsieur, Yves Saint Laurent’s YSL Pour Homme, and Monsieur De Givenchy, all lemon scents that explore the tensions between filth and fraîcheur, polite, witty and flirtatious conversation and the wordless, sweating physicality of what is quite likely to follow. In Moustache, we can sense the template of what was to come later in Roudnitska’s work in Eau Sauvage (the bergamot, lemon, lavender, basil, carnation and jasmine over more sensual woody and amber notes), but Moustache is, ironically, much more savage: while the addition of verbena and petitgrain make the beginning of this scent more immediately citrus-focused, aided flirtatiously by the urinous lick of basil and lavender, its civet and honey-musk finality make it, ultimately, more rude, in the best, Frenchest, most possible way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was thinking last night: how interesting it would be to be at a lively and enjoyable party talking to three attractive, captivating but very idiosyncratically different people that you were meeting for the first time, each of them fully realized as people, totally themselves, dressed-up instinctively in one of these unfaded Rochas scents, allowing the scent to speak for them as much as the words they were letting escape from their mouths: a double approach, if you like, as their eyes met yours ; an invisible touch. And I was wondering which one I would be likely to find more seductive………… Moustache, with its poetic, forthright heart; its impassioned soul (there is something of the starving artist in the garret about this perfume: a desperation, a purity); Monsieur, with its sharp, muscled, keen-eyed, but softly-dressed suavity; or Macassar, and its full-bodied, hot-blooded, man-of-the-world knowingness.

 

 

 

 

 

The answer?

 

 

I honestly don’t know.

 

 

 

 

 

25 Comments

Filed under Hairy Masculines

25 responses to “THREE HAIRY SCENTS BY ROCHAS, PARIS : : : : MOUSTACHE (1948) + MONSIEUR ROCHAS (1969) + + MACASSAR (1980)

  1. Natalie

    I’m not sure which would be more appealing in real life, but I’m loving everything about that Moustache ad. I’ve never heard of it, and it’s actually a really great name for a fragrance, isn’t it?

  2. ninakane1

    There’s something strangely intriguing about the word ‘Macassar’ and sensuous. It instantly conjures men in tail coats and images of c19th theatres for me. I love using the word anti-Macassar – it’s a word that’s clinging on to its existence and I’m not sure whether it’s one that I actually use totally correctly anyway… People still have them on their chairs and sofas… Not only on the backs but on the arms… We need some on our armchair in the kitchen which has become threadbare – I said to Jules the other day ‘I want to get some anti-macassars for that but I don’t know where I’d get any that fit – might have to make some’ – and both kids said … ‘What’s that?’ It’s a word that’s solely becoming extinct…but I still like saying it! And of course who wears Macassar on their hair – the original Macassar oil that led to the invention if the anti-Macassar.. ? All those men with slicked-back hair leaning their heads back …and being yelled at – ‘don’t get grease on that’!… Both these perfumes sound divine. Want to try both. Was in Paris this week and as a base for days wore Spiritual Sky Patchoulie doused thick as treacle all over topped up with Francis Kurkdijan Absolue pour la Matin and Aqua Universale. In the mood for thick heavy macho… Will have to try these x

    • I love the idea of you in them, and reckon you could get cheap vintage versions online. Paris sounds fabulous.

      • Will have a look. Paris was great. Very familiar in the way that London is – felt more at home there in some ways as my clothes were totally in line with what other people my age were wearing. I suddenly remembered having long conversations as a teenager with my French teachers and my uncle’s girlfriend who was French, about what French fashions were like and them telling me that the fashion rule was one or two bold colours used plainly, so I consciously adopted that as my style at the time. I’d completely forgotten that until this visit. I suddenly realised when I was there that I’ve never stopped doing that, and whereas I’m always getting told in England that I look’ colourful’ and even a bit OTT, in France I blended in – rainbow harmony!! Hahaha. And on that note, hooked up with Gay Pride too! Back to perfume however – the Kurkdjian that I called Aqua Universale is actually called Aqua Universalis Forte and it’s like a posh White Musk. Extending the heavy scent theme today wearing Palais Jamais and a sample of Eau Noire by Christian Dior that I snaffled in Harrods. Eau Noire is bizarre – you get a heavy whack of Coriander and I think black pepper when it’s first on – big-time – like you’ve slathered your arm in Garam Masala – and then it gives way suddenly to this toffee-sweet vanilla and rose, and a velvet powedery something – raspberry leaf and perhaps violet leaf…It reminds me of vintage Youth Dew in its sudden change to sweetness. First time I’ve worn this combo – will let you know how it goes.

      • ninakane1

        Still prefer Berlin however! I couldn’t live in Paris, but wouldn’t mind having a reason to be there for a year just to spend a bit more time in it.

      • Oh god you know I feel the same. I would suffocate. The odd weekend, though ( and for the perfume alone ) can be quite gorgeous.

      • Absolutement! And on that note, just did a little google search on Eau Noire and it turns out it’s a Francis Kurkdijan creation! So I’m in fragrant flow there – a French masculine continuum that’s sat under my week. It lists the ingredients as Cedar, vanilla, lavendar and thyme. He uses thyme brilliantly. Definitely Coriander in there too. But lavendar and cedar give it that tight dryness. He’s definitely emerging as my favourite parfume-maker. Anyway, thanks for a fab review x

      • Could you do some Kurkdijan reviews for the Narcissus? I would love that: your second guest appearance is overdue!

  3. I would love to! Thank you! I’ll muse over it and try and get something scribbled in the next few weeks. Looking over a list of his creations this morning I’m realising he’s been a bit of a recurrent perfume influence without me realising it. Strangely on Emily too, who bought me a bottle of Elizabeth Arden’s Green Tea for Mothe’s Day (which he composed) and has been wearing it herself pretty regularly since! He was originally going to be a ballet dancer. He’s young too- our generation b. 1969! I’ll gem up a bit more on him and immerse then will send something to you.

    • Brilliant. Just immerse yourself, as I have not been that exposed to his work: so prolific and versatile though, from Le Male to the gorgeous vanilla Tihota. I would love to know more about his own range: Apom, etc. They smell nice in passing, but the snooty mannequins at Isetan will never give you samples , although I do have Soir, lumiere noire ( femme) and aqua universalis – none of which I love. I await illumination.

    • ninakane1, I love so many Kurkdijan scents, and am looking forward to your reviews.

  4. Dearest Ginza
    Oh, a Dandy is never without his Moustache.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

  5. Just tried modern Moustache side-by-side with the vintage one.
    It’s quite another scent.

  6. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:

    BECAUSE THE EDICT ON FACIAL HAIR AT MY COMPANY BUGS ME EVEN MORE THAN THE ONE ON WEARING PERFUME. I HAD TO SHAVE TODAY AFTER THE ‘GOLDEN WEEK’ HOLIDAY AND I FEEL LIKE A TOTAL DELILAH.

  7. Lilybelle

    “Hunked”. Lol! 😀

    What an interesting read. I always love Guy Robert’s fragrances whether or not I’m aware that he was the nose, including Rochas Femme (though I’m not sure I could really wear it out). I have a fragrance friend who wears/has worn the fragrances you liken to Moustache – Jicky, MdM, YSL Pour Homme, and Monsieur De Givenchy. I will ask him whether he knows Moustache as well. He must!

  8. jennyredhen

    Makassar is a very exotic city in Indonesia, Makassar sometimes spelled Macassar, Mangkasara’ – is the provincial capital of South Sulawesi, Indonesia. It is the largest city on Sulawesi Island in terms of population, and the fifth largest city in Indonesia after Jakarta, Surabaya, Bandung, and Medan. From 1971 to 1999, the city was named Ujung Pandang, after a precolonial fort in the city, and the two names are often used interchangeably. The city is located on the southwest coast of the island of Sulawesi, facing the Makassar Strait. Beginning in the sixteenth century, Makassar was the dominant trading center of eastern Indonesia, and soon became one of the largest cities in island Southeast Asia. The Makassar kings maintained a policy of free trade, insisting on the right of any visitor to do business in the city, and rejecting the attempts of the Dutch to establish a monopoly.Beginning in the sixteenth century, Makassar was the dominant trading center of eastern Indonesia, and soon became one of the largest cities in island Southeast Asia. The Makassar kings maintained a policy of free trade, insisting on the right of any visitor to do business in the city, and rejecting the attempts of the Dutch to establish a monopoly.

    The trade in spices figured prominently in the history of Sulawesi, which involved frequent struggles between rival native and foreign powers for control of the lucrative trade during the pre-colonial and colonial period, when spices from the region were in high demand in the West. Much of South Sulawesi’s early history was written in old texts that can be traced back to the 13th and 14th centuries.

  9. jennyredhen

    I didnt know you had 2 blogs.. Ginza in the Rain and The Black Narcissus… why?? saw that new Tilda Swinton movie The bigger splash.. the other day.. depressing .. unless you like movies about tragic old people lusting after young people and playing weirdo mlnd games with each other. Great location beautiful people.. the critics seem to love it .. as usual I am out on a limb here … sigh….

    • I don’t have two blogs actually : Ginza is just my user name…

      And I didn’t know that there even was another Tilda Swinton movie as films get released up to three years later here in Japan, as you probably know. But I do think that, as we have discussed before, you see films rationally and intellectually rather than aesthetically (even if you have an objective appreciation of that side of it). You seem to react to ideas and feelings more than to the visual pleasure of cinema -which I receive as a feeling of warmth in my chest, like a life-giving force. We are all different. I would never be able to watch a superhero film, for instance. I mean I COULD, for example if I were teaching with it, or had nothing else to do on a plane, but that can of thing just wouldn’t do anything for me.

  10. jennyredhen

    I am sure you will love The bigger Splash its very sensual and beautifully filmed in gorgeous location.

    • With me I never know. I am very perverse when it comes to these things and could just as easily hate it, as I did The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) a film that was supposedly beautiful but actually bored me to death. If something actually sets OUT to be ‘gorgeously beautiful’ if often isn’t to me, somehow. Will definitely watch it, though!

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