The perennially elegant, if no longer fashionable, classical aldehydic floral chypres are all crafted along quite similar lines: citrus and/or green notes suffused with the sculptural abstraction of aldehydes; a multitude of flowers with a heart of rose and jasmine; optional strokes and touches of herbs, fruit or spice; oak moss; and a warmer, more sensual finish of sandalwood, vetiver, patchouli; resins, balsams, musks, and other delicately handled animalics.
The symphonic complexity of these perfumes, the inherent contradiction between a closed-off, impenetrable chic (the primness of green floral accords and citrics doused in crystallic aldehydes) and the simultaneously, subliminally acknowledged animality of the warmer skin tones, is what makes this genre of perfume so deeply appealing to me, a genius of suggestion.
Yet while superficially similar and ‘perfumey’, registering to the person experiencing the fragrance as grown up, Parisian, refined, untouchable; the proportions of the ingredients used by the perfumer; the accent on particular, unexpected essences and on peculiar tensions deliberately fashioned within the scent make the most successful and enduring examples of this fragrance family also shine through with their own poise and individuality.
Thus, we have Calèche (cypress; lemon: arch, unrivalled) contrasting with Arpège (mellower, deeper, mossier, more motherly); Ma Griffe (leaf fresh, young Edenic gardenia overdose) quite different from Guerlain’s life-loving Chant D’Arômes and its spiced orchard notes of pear and plum, or else the tighter, patchouli -deepened honeysuckle that is Yves Saint Laurent’s first perfume, Y; the jasmine hysteria of Van Cleef & Arpel’s First, or the uncompromisingly soft green rose of Paco Rabanne’s exquisite Calandre.
Antilope, a similarly themed antique perfume by fourrier Weil, is also its very own, inimitable creature. Placed somewhere in the pantheon between Calèche and Ma Griffe, I find Antilope to be a perfectly named creation that, while certainly animalic enough to stress the rapidly beating heart of a graceful gazelle roaming single mindedly across the savannah, is also dry and grassy enough to evoke that very terrain. A sweet, bright, sun-dried hay-like facet formed of neroli and bergamot, clary sage and galbanum is made more nuzzling and textured with a persistent note of a coumarinic tonka bean and oak moss: gentle, affectionate.
Unlike other more garmented and city-fed floral aldehyde chypres – the crisp, green no nonsense bite of the original, tweed-suited Miss Dior; the silkily aldehydic flower sheen of Tamango by Leonard, Antilope, as its name might suggest, does indeed feel slightly less hidebound, more open. On this cooler, more thoughtful September day, I find it quite beautiful.