The seemingly infinite well of cheap, but classic, beautiful, vintage perfume always formerly available in the recycle shops, flea markets and antique emporia in the urban, and suburban, labyrinths of Japan is now drying up, finally in the clutches of yen-eyed e-bayers cannily extracting all the juice they can. The days of just wandering into a place and picking up a Mitsuoko extrait from a shelf for a song are fading.

And yet. I have discovered a treasure trove. A blissful place full of highly covetable bottles of perfume that make my heart ache with the anticipation of ownership. An assuming little shop down a side street whose identity and location I am not disclosing for the time being as I first intend to drain it like a vampire.

The owner of this place seems slightly bemused by me and my reactions ( he also sells bags, accessories, beauty products, makeup, hats – probably what draws in the younger clientele ), rather than the glass cabinet of vintage Chanel – I NOW HAVE A SAFE SUPPLY OF VINTAGE NO 19 : the 7ml extrait goes for ¥ 1800 – twelve dollars, eleven pounds – so I will be snapping all of those up along with some edt, some 22, Cristalle, and Coco parfum as the months go by); much of the rest of the shop varying from reasonably priced pristine editions ( an Hermes Amazone here, a Monsieur de Givenchy there…) up to expensive essentials – I have my sights already on a giant half liter of Shalimar going for ¥44000 – that’s my birthday present sorted then – as well as 30ml of verifiably vintage L’Heure Bleue parfum WHICH SHALL BE MINE.

I have already also bought such greatnesses as Paco Rabanne Metal – as fresh as if it had just come out of the factory in 1979 – on Wednesday I got a Vent Vert extrait – searing green galbanum top note gloriously intact – for a stupid ¥400 (£2.40!!); a divine Ricci Farouche boxed set; I fancy acquiring some of The Disappeared, just for the hell of it – Cartier So Pretty Eau Fruitee; Tentations Paloma Picasso; a full, very potent original bottle of Calvin Klein Obsession.

And speaking of seminal formulations of scents that are no longer with us, on the shelf the other day was a splash bottle of YSL’s either Champagne – its original title- or Yvresse – I didn’t see the name on the glass ; but that bottle is unmistakable, and so is the smell. I inhaled it deeply, staining my nostrils, imprinting the inside of my mask and my smell brain and possibly spilling the tiniest drop on my work clothes….. and all I can say is that, though I was in the shop for only fifteen minutes ( a gloriously secret sneak from work …) it has been HAUNTING me ever since.

Champagne : when first released, my young self found it dated; passé; an enamel melting lychee effervescence of sick peaches and mouldering; floral oldness; the tedium of diva, the soignee hostess with the mostest; true, I could smell the inherent panache involved here: the neo grand classique; the last gasp of an era as the metallic anorexia of the ozones took over ; Champagne was a last ditch effort, alongside similar perfumes like Ricci’s Deci Dela, to hold on to some of the richer textures; the orchestrated fullness.

And this, being a Sophia Grosjman rose perfume, is certainly orchestral. Swooningly fullbodied, multiplexed: carnation, roses, all the flowers, but also aniseed, caraway, mint, and a full, woozy, sickly tipsiness base accord of patchouli, vetiver, cedsrwood, vanilla, coconut, oak moss, cinnamon, styrax…… if this sounds vomitsome, as though you had been at an all-you-can-drink on a cruiseship and are now chundering seasick over the balustrade, I wouldn’t necessarily contradict you ( the young me always found this perfume to be putridly overloaded while still somehow very predictably French and unbearably ‘tasteful’ – allowing a woman to be respectable, but vivacious, even a little bit ‘giddy’ just for the one special night when she can ‘let go’).

Time has altered my perceptions though. Rarely have I been so possessed by a perfume in recent times – this was interfering with my thought processes as I was trying to teach; the deep heartache of the warm, plaintive bed of chypric fascination ( pure genius), lilting with the mellowed apricot and greener elements to create a deep PANG of perfumed longing. So even if this just turns me into an old fruit, if I am not one already, you can be very, very sure that this will be coming home again next week when I hurry to my private assignation before school, a bottle of YSL vintage, tucked somewhere —ecstatically, on my person.


Filed under Flowers

22 responses to “THE HAUNTING : YVRESSE by YVES SAINT LAURENT (1993)

  1. Leslie Stompor

    You’ve nailed that feeling perfectly! Coming across a treasure trove like that — wow! — and you honestly wonder if the proprietor knows what they have on their hands.
    And those “discontinued” fragrances! Amazing how just a sniff can take you back…
    Love your thorough descriptions — they really draw me in and I can almost smell it myself!

    • Oh good – very nice to hear.

      Do you know this perfume ?
      It really has got right inside me since last Wednesday. Utter brilliance on the part of a perfumer to be able to capture a specific, but elusive, emotion.

      And it is only $30 !

  2. matty1649

    No wonder you won’t tell where this wonderful shop is…what fantastic finds.

  3. Tora

    Literally drooling at your vintage finds. Go, Neil!

    • Anything you are drooling over in particular ? I can keep an eye out !

      • Tora

        Thanks, but I am good. Really sweet of you to offer! I have never been to a recycling store that had perfumes. I think that would be so much fun, especially at those prices. My only holy grail is vintage Roja Dove Diaghilev, which I doubt would be in a flea market. Also, I am having a significant downsizing effort. I hope you find so many things you love!!!

  4. So envious of that thrill of discovery, even if not for those particular perfumes (except Chanel No 19 extrait) as I have never smelled them! It’s one of the best feelings, isn’t it?

  5. emmawoolf

    Oh, how I love this piece: (although I do detest the perfume). x

  6. Hanamini

    Great post, and what an incredible treasure trove you have found! I’m very envious. I am imagining you looking just like Yves in the photo above. I did love this perfume, very much, when I first had it. But at some point I must’ve become less keen, for I gave it away to my mother. A few years ago I rediscovered it at my parents’ house; she had lost her sense of smell more or less permanently, so I retrieved it and I now have that very same bottle, with the original Champagne name, on my shelf in my home. Every time I look at it I think what genius the name change was; could anyone have come up with anything cleverer? I don’t wear it often; it’s too sweet, more like a Prosecco spilled on a frilly shirt than a good champagne with a bite. But I do love to open the ‘cork’ and go back to those heady days. Wish you happy shopping. Get in there.

  7. Oh how lucky you are to have found this place!!!
    I adore Champagne/Yvresse so much. Much more now than I even did when it was released. I still have my original bottle from the 90s, when it was Champagne. I purchased it in New York City, where I was on a getaway weekend with my boyfriend at the time. It brings back such glorious memories.
    I didn’t appreciate the scent too much when I first had it, but now I find it so intoxicating. I really must find an extrait of it.
    So lucky you will have this in your possession soon.

  8. Robin

    Hunted down one of my bottles of Champagne. Hadn’t worn it in ages. My goodness. It has aged well. It’s sensational.

    It smells a little different than I remember, and better for its years in the bottle. The stickiness, the yeasty peachiness, has been dialled back — good! — by time, and now more of those haunting base notes are audible: the cedar, the patch, the oakmoss, the benzoin. More my style, more beautiful, more intoxicating at the same time as being less boozy. Glad you wrote about it so I could revisit this one. I’ve tended to overlook it and I’m going to dust off my bottles and start wearing them.

    Understandable that you would keep this shop to yourself. I would. Really happy for you, especially about the No19. Quite the miracle, and few people understand how essential our very, very favourite vintage formulations are to us. Bravo.

    Also, fragrances with apricot as a dominant note: you’d asked about it a few posts ago. My favourite is SL Daim Blond.

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