I usually have an encyclopaedic memory for perfumes. I can remember what all my friends wore, and their mothers, and their brothers : some perfume bottle in a teenage bedroom in 1983; a dusty old Balenciaga Ho Hang bottle in my grandparents’ bathroom in the 1970’s: random friends from university who I have lost contact with and whose full names I do not remember but whose signature scents I always will….from childhood onwards these coveted, talismanic, secret-holding bottles of scent belonging to a great variety of individuals held me mesmerized.
The voyeuristic fascination of someone else’s bathroom. Half used,precious liquids. The heightened experiences engendered by them- known only to their users ( and those subtly, or brazenly, influenced by their effects……)
The bottle of Patou Sublime, set carefully on a glass, mirrored space, in a pristine, wealthy person’s bathroom, belonged to someone or other’s mother ( in this one instance, the face and identity of the perfume’s owner has inexplicably escaped me- I see no faces), and as I locked the door firmly behind me I would have gone straight to it; clasped it; uncapped it and smelled it from the nozzle, and then wiped the eye of the spray onto tissue to know it further (spraying it would have been too obvious , too in flagrante delicto); deeply inhaled its un-Patou like contemporaneity : its creamy, big-boned; thick-fleshed luxury ambivalence caught somewhere between a rich, golden patina’d voluptuousness (all sandalwood, balsams, civeted vanilla and cedar painted thickly with neroli and ylang ylang, heavy jasmines) and a more civilized, and distancing, greener leafed note of bergamot, coriander, and tangerine. Not particularly ‘Patou’ ( any more than Samsara seemed representative of Guerlain ), but part, certainly, at that time, of a memorable, if short-lived, trend of bold, unabashedly burnished High Class Sex Perfumes – all décolletage, bare skin, and buttered, licentious and glittering scent trails, that brought to mind the imagined excesses of Versailles, just transported to a late eighties/ early nineties setting ( Sublime was released in 1992), the executing guillotine of waifs and grunge and anorexia soon to come in the skeketal aqueousnesses of L’Eau D’Issey, CK One and their emaciated, transparent sisters.
Sublime is most definitely in an oblivious, comfortably contemptuous class of its own. It is a mature woman’s perfume. It is sexy ( I found the vintage parfum you can see on the right of the picture at the back of my closet the other day, forgetting that I even had it) and it is flush, compact and radiant as ever in its dignified effulgence as I remember it. Smelling it again, the souffléd sandalwood comes immediately to the focus, the carnal id at the heart of a perfume that shares some similarities with other shamelessly flagrant Women of the day such as Creed’s Vanisia; Chloe Narcisse; and the for me more compellingly delectable ( and definitely undervalued ) Caron Montaigne.
All of these no longer fashionable perfumes share Sublime’s thick, balsamic and floraled vanilla and sandalwood base with sharper and orange accented sheens to give a patina of a certain well-off, tasteful respectability ( although I did in truth always feel that Narcisse – also released in 1992- was always too sweet and overegged/ oversugared personally with all its peach and overflowery sickliness, tipping easily into a more unadulterated vulgarity).
Vanisia, released five years before in 1987 at a time when Giorgio Of Beverly Hills had given the green light for perfumers of the day to go quite crazy with their smothering formulas to the point of annihilation, is a breathy, and heavily stealthy adult perfume: quite brazen in its lust, while managing to reside -just – by the skin of its lace-biting teeth – within the agreed upon realms of ‘respectable decency’, while Montaigne – a gorgeously idiosyncratic, even eccentric, precursor of Sublime, spikes the slightly obvious seductions of this kind of perfume with more interesting and unexpected angles. Like the Patou, it contrasts oranges and coriander with the undulous nudity of the base, but in Montaigne there is a glintingness- with violet, blackcurrant, green narcissus and mimosa – that adds a slyness ; a curiosity and intrigue.
Sublime, composed with a deft and intuitive hand by Jean Kerleo, is removed from all such extraneous experimentation. All is smooth, and balanced, and ‘effortlessly’ sensual. Quite womanly, solid – a perfume to hold your attention. Centered. Pedigreed. Well kept.
Still available, to my knowledge – if presumably altered from its original, generous formula – Sublime is a perfume for the grand occasion; a perfume to think secretly to yourself as you take your time before your mirror pondering what to wear for the evening, fuck it, I’m going for it tonight no matter what anyone else thinks, I WANT to smell like this, and to then spend the remainder of said evening- as you pass between people and conversations…. self-contained; perfumed; just basking, enveloped, in the warm acknowledgements of its glow.
30 responses to “PATOU SUBLIME PARFUM”
Oh, Neil, I wish I had those same kinds of old memories of fragrances worn by others as you do. I’m sad! Other than my mother’s Arpege, there were none: never saw bottles, never smelled scent on others when I was a kid. Maybe in Vancouver in the sixties it was still the outback in many ways. And maybe there was a silver lining: when I discovered perfume all on my own, it felt all mine, a world inhabited by no one else.
I haven’t seen Sublime in parfum in ages and ages. You are a lucky man. The vintage edp is rather good, as long as it’s pre-Proctor-&-Gamble, so before 2001.
I love how you capture its effect while letting it be its abstract self. The comparison with my beloved Montaigne is wonderful, perfect . . . and astute. I hadn’t put my finger on the connection, but now that you mention it — and I rushed to put on both, one on each hand, et voilà — YES. They are so damn . . . golden.
They ARE golden!
And I am really pleased to finally meet someone who appreciates the glorious weirdness of Caron Montaigne.
I have the vintage edp ( a half full bottle of which the delightful James Craven at Les Senteurs in London just tossed in a bag for me free many years ago when I went on a spending spree there), and though I don’t smell it much and it just sits on the dresser, Sublime the other day REALLY reminded me of it. Except Montaigne has so much more verve, and personality. Sublime, while lovely in many ways, is slightly the dullard -or at least the conventionalist – in comparison.
Exactly my impressions vis-a-vis Montaigne vs. Sublime. I do love Sublime and find it a nice little black dress of a scent. Vintage Montaigne is so much less “blended.” I find things jutting out here and there even within the space of a sniff, really keeping the interest up: that narcissus, which can read as an old-fashioned daffodil, the orange, that dense mimosa, the currant. It’s sunny and cheery but somehow subversive.
Which is why, presumably, it flopped.
I love Sublime. And I am not a Ylang fan. But it is one of my favorites. Nice to know someone else loves it. I was introduced to it by a fabulous lady of old family wealth. She was so fun and lit up the room, and that scent! So womanly, easy glam. She finally gave me a bottle I complimented her so much…
Fantastic story (and I don’t think the ylang ylang is noticeable, personally). The lady you mention here is EXACTLY the kind of image I have of the perfume. Perfect.
I know! That is what I thought too. It’s funny cause I was thinking about dusting it off. Haven’t worn it in awhile. Then I had to wait until my yoga students left today. My hair smells great. No- it doesn’t smell like heavy ylang…
My nose hones in on the gilded sandalwood mainly : everything else is just a wrapping.
A very nice way to put it – gilded sandalwood
I fell in love with Sublime as soon as it was released, while I was living in France in 1992. My husband was horrified that I spent so much on the biggest bottle, 100 mls (he was a cheap bastard). It doesn’t smell the same to me now but I keep a small mostly empty bottle just for the memories.
There’s a big story in here somewhere. Amazing the way perfume can represent so much.
All the Patous, no matter what the P+G people claimed, smelled no way near as good when they were reformulated. D got me a full edt of 1000 and I can’t wear it: there was a detergent-like nothingness at the heart of it that disturbed me. I would imagine that the new versions of this would be Diet Sublime : the original is positively DRIPPING
I had to smile when I read about that What-the-fuck-mirror-moment! Yes, I know that moment well! And in my case — quite often — then it‘s a gut reaction, and before I can rationalize my choice, it is all over me. Whoops, too late! Then the Oh-shit-what-did-you-bloody-do-moment kicks in: oh God, your in a meeting today smelling of far, far too much Fleurs de Rocaille … Well all you can do is embrace your perfum du jour with pride even though „warm acknowledgement“ might not be the main general feeling!
I think Fleur De Rocaille might be accepted with its warm, sensual geniality, but Fleurs De Rocaille might have the boardroom weeping in melancholia. Such a soft, tender thing that perfume : it is almost otherworldly.
Vintage Fleurs de Rocaille is another creature, isn’t it? You have described it wonderfully in one short sentence. For such a fragile scent, it has aged very well.
True, actually. You sense that it smells how it should.
Oh God, yes, weeping, or — as most of the boardroom members are no sensitive souls — sniggering …
DROWN the bastards in it!
Wow, what an interesting review of Sublime. Several years ago I happened upon a review of it and was sure that I would like it. Shortly after, I was at a flea market and found a 5 ml mini of the parfum. I liked it so much that I went on ebay and was lucky enough to find an all gold 30 ml bottle of the EDP natural spray. I really enjoyed it for a while, then I stopped wearing it for years. A couple of years ago, I decided to purchase a bottle of Caron’s Montaigne, unsniffed. When I received it, I thought it was just, okay so I put it away. Just last week I suddenly decided to revisit Sublime and found that I’m in a phase where it feels too syrupy sweet to me, so back away it went. Then I read your review and immediately went to the bottle of Montaigne and sure enough, it is so similar to Sublime that I am feeling the same way about it…it’s a little on the too sweet side for me. However, I completely agree with you that the Montaigne is much more interesting. I will keep testing both periodically with the hopes that my nose will come back around. I sometimes go through phases with certain types of scents, like these.
Love the coincidences here : also, when I was writing this I was thinking of you at the back of my brain, assuming you liked, and owned, Sublime. Perhaps you have mentioned it somewhere before?
I used to own Sublime and Montaigne, I purchased both when they were first released. Sadly, I went through a phase when I purged many of my scents and sold them on eBay, Sublime and Montaigne were amongst the 100 or so fragrances I sold; many Guerlain limited editions also 😔.
I really wish I had them all back, because now I am going through a phase where I want to be surrounded with rich, sweet, cocooning scents and so many would fit that description, Sublime and Montaigne in particular.
After reading your wonderful post, I think I will peruse eBay and try to find these two again.
That makes complete sense to me.
Why did you suddenly purge your collection though?
I was going through a phase where I wanted to streamline my life and only be surrounded by things I used and really enjoyed on a regular basis. Since I had so many perfumes, I figured that was a good place to start.
Sadly, I foolishly sold a lot of things I wish I still had. Of note, I got rid of a lot of Caron eau de parfums, almost all of my Guerlain limited editions; Geut Apens, Cherry Blossom, Muguet 1999, Metallica, and a few others. I really sold off a lot, I do regret that now. A few I have been able to repurchase at reasonable rates, a few are very pricey now.
I just wanted to live that whole minimalist aesthetic, I guess I fail at it though.
This makes me sad!
I have to say, I’ve been tempted from time to time to do the same thing — it’s encouraged out there in “You Should Really” land: the post-post-post-Minimalist Movement, the “decluttering lifestyle trend” — and, not being a materialist, particularly, I find the approach has a certain appeal. I like the idea of less is more. And my perfume collection takes up a lot of room, inconveniently.
But I have resisted. And reading your cautionary tale, I think I’ll keep on resisting. 😉
Very glad to hear that you’ve been able to replace some of those beauties, and at not-exorbitant prices. (Yes, it’s starting to get pretty crazy, the prices of good vintage bottles.) Hopefully you were able to get fair prices when you purged . . .
Robin, I am pretty sure I did not receive a fraction of what the scents would be worth, but I was very naive about selling on eBay. Definitely keep your collection intact, don’t purge, you will regret it. Find other ways to streamline your life, just keep your fragrances.
One of the bottles I sold was a Mystère de Rochas and all I received for it was around $40 usd. Now they are selling the same size bottles for over $220 usd. I really could kick myself.
I LOVE Mystere! I crave it sometimes and only it will do – that strange, creamy earthiness. The parfum is incredible.
Brielle, of the few things I did get rid of when I last moved, every single one I regret giving away, and they weren’t even really stellar ones. Lesson learned.
That’s incredible that you mention Mystère. That is the ONE vintage I’m actively looking for, of all the ones I’d grab if I ran into them. I have a number of vintage fragrances and that now is my Holy Grail of missing compositions in my collection. I am sorry that you don’t have yours now, especially given the prices these days. I can imagine how you feel.
Mystère is a glorious magical scent. I have my eye on a bottle and I may make it mine very soon.
Good luck Robin, I hope you get one soon also.
Neil, the one I am watching is a parfum, that must probably be beyond exquisite.
VERY smooth and rich, though I love the creamy silver of the other strengths too.
I hope you are well Brielle, that spring will bring new hope and life for you. X
I am doing as well as I could be, thanks. I have good days and not so good days, but remain positive overall. Spring does bring about a sense of rebirth, so hopefully I will feel more genki.
It is interesting we started talking about Mystère de Rochas, Mama loved this scent so much. She really enjoyed her Rochas fragrances. She is with me every day, in even the smallest details.