You know you are in safe hands with Bernard Chant. Master of the complex, but effortless, patchouli powdered chypre, this genius perfumer created the inimitable, emotive, and very distinctive adult sillages of Grès Cabochard, Clinique Aromatics Elixir, and Aramis (as well as the underrated rose patchouli quiet fervour that is Aramis 900) : all scents with his muted animalic signature, an allusion to sweat and the bedroom – particularly in the later, ultra-suggestive stages of Aramis Devin – when the moment is right, much later – after dinner – after drinks – but always with that Trans-Am panache and committed All-American French elegance.
While sometimes all of this compressed, pressed-pant-suit-and-teased-out-bouffant style that is quite prevalent in this perfumer’s work (each ingredient minisculed and moleculed into place in a symphonic exactitude that is astonishing) can arguably become a little Florida retirement home – see my piece on Estée Lauder’s Cinnabar, another Chant creation I personally find too stuffy (I am not familiar with Aliage, nor Halston Original : : : : enlighten me), the incredible muted luminosity of his moted creations – the concentrated perfume trailing the wearer like talced dust particles of scent in the air; an incredible presence – is justly revered the world over by perfumers, and perfume lovers alike, so much so that just four years ago Parfums Dusita even directly referenced the wonderfully dry and emotionally arid end notes of Cabochard in its densely chypric Sillage Blanc, a modern reworking of the style that conveys perfectly its continuing relevance. Bernard Chant perfumes are still worn the world over – Beautiful, a creation for Estée Lauder in collaboration with Max Gavarry, whose Dioressence shares some olfactive similarities with this perfumer’s style, and Sophia Grosjman, more overtly feminine and rose-based, is still one of the most successful perfumes in existence.
Although Bernard Chant’s résumé is mainly focused on the dry and aromatic chypre, the perfumer did also work with floral accords, such as Ralph Lauren’s wonderfully wide-eyed debut perfume Lauren, and later, the very unique rosewood freesia modern American classic that is Antonia’s Flowers. However, even when moving into fresher territory, there was also something niggling underneath; a suppressed emotionalism that you could always detect beneath the primmer surface. An awareness. In essence, this perfumer was simply incapable of the simplistic.
While Bernard Chant’s work for Coty – his only contribution to the house – has perhaps less iconic immediacy than some of the other masterworks in his catalogue, this sly, aromatic leather/fougère fragrance occupies a special place : somewhere between the flowers and the earth : the woodland in between. Fitting in with perfumes such as Lentheric’s Tweed from the first part of the twentieth century when society flirted with modes of masculinity in dress and scenting, the notes of the two perfumes are almost identical, with the exception of a prominent lavender note in the latter. Neither are typically ‘feminine’; both strike me as active and on the go. If there is anything unexpected about the perfume (‘imprevu’ means ‘unforeseen’), it is in the way that the standard, slightly dusty – and admittedly, slightly boring – aldehydic opening of bitter orange, bergamot, coriander and neroli and the expected carnation, jasmine/rose and orris heart, gradually morphs into a highly engaging, androgynous warm, oakmossed ambergris woody musk / vetiver / sandalwood dry down that on me is very reminiscent of vintage Paco Rabanne Pour Homme: on skin this perfume just gets better and better. While the Coty is a tad lighter, more ‘elevated’, the end impressions of the two, on me at least, are still virtually indistinguishable. I am enjoying it. Available quite reasonably online – in the past I have had the parfum de toilette and edt but was not moved until now to write anything about it, the parfum D got me the other day for nothing from a flea market is the reason I am writing this review: in its subtle ardor and expansiveness, and its internal sensation of happiness, it has become quite clear to me that this pleasing – and indeed unpredictable – perfume was yet another string in a brilliant perfumer’s bow.