Category Archives: Floral Chypre

TO LIVE……….VIVRE by MOLYNEUX (1971) ; THE JOY OF VINTAGE PERFUME, AND WHAT TO WEAR WHEN MEETING LUCA TURIN.

 

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I recently picked up an old extrait de parfum of Vivre by Molyneux at the junk shop in Zushi for just three hundred yen ( £2.27 ). Not in prime condition, the top notes faded, perhaps, but still alluring – a mixture of dark and light. Inscrutable. I couldn’t quite resist it. The perfume intrigued me : it has a pull.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Far less well known that other famous couturiers of the time such as Balmain, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Madame Grès, Edward Molyneux (1891 – 1974) was a British designer who later settled in Paris and became known by those in the know for his ‘impeccably refined simplicity’. According to historian Caroline Milbank, Molyneux was the designer ‘to whom a fashionable woman would turn if she wanted to be absolutely right without being utterly predictable in the Twenties and Thirties’. His skills were thus much appreciated by the likes of Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Vivien Leigh as well as European royalty. A perfume line was launched with 1932’s debut fragrance, Le Chic.

 

 

 

 

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I first heard a mention of Vivre in the original French version of Luca Turin’s Parfums: Le Guide, first published in 1992 but which I never laid eyes on until around 2006, when Helen sent me a copy in the post. I would feast my eyes on it passionately instead of preparing for lessons in the teachers room, hiding it under other papers; exhilarated (this was the first time I had ever really read anything meaningful and beautiful like this about perfume and it excited me to the core, the marriage of the olfactory, and the linguistic as a way of conjuring a hidden world. It wasn’t very long afterwards that I embarked on similar journey myself, putting pen to paper in my first perfume that I ever wrote – Mitsouko, in 2008), but I still remember the sheer joy of being able to read about a topic that hitherto I had experienced, profoundly, but not seen expressed. Many of the perfumes in that original guide were not possible for me to smell; either discontinued or reformulated into unrecognisability. Lost in France. But while the exacting and very poetic descriptions of perfumes I did know in the book always produced a delicious frisson of recognition, the perfumes I had never smelled, nor was ever really likely to, produced even stronger a yearning in me; a vaguely masochistic ache of desire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Assessing the nobility of this perfume  – one of the writers on Fragrantica describes Vivre as having an ‘incandescent elegance’, with a smell as cold as marble on the skin of her mother –   I thought it would be interesting to ask New Hampshire based vintage perfume collector and connoisseur Gabrielle Baechtold about her thoughts on this enigmatic perfume – which I happen know is one of her favourites. It also turns out that Gabrielle was actually wearing Vivre vintage parfum, the very time that she met Luca Turin in person.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Black Narcissus:

 

 

 

 

I love the idea that you met Luca Turin while wearing Vivre and that he told you it was one of this favourite perfumes. How did this come to pass? Where did you meet him? Did he smell it on you directly and comment on it (knowing what it was?) What made you choose that perfume for that encounter?

 

 

 

Gabrielle:

 

Meeting Luca Turin happened through my friend Mark Behnke, who has his own blog Colognoisseur. He is a research scientist by trade and was in contact with Luca Turin, who at the time was doing research work in a Boston area university. There were three of us, along with Mark who met Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez; Ida, who you know ; Catherine Bromberg, from BaseNotes and myself. We all met at a cafe in either Cambridge or Somerville Massachusetts, near where Luca was doing research. I think I wore Vivre that evening because of a comment he had written about it on his on-line blog. It reinforced my love for the scent. I let him smell my wrist during the conversation and said it was Vivre and he waxed poetic about it for a few minutes and lamented it being extinct. He said it smelt very nice on me, again solidifying my fragrance choice.

 

 

 

BN:

 

 

 

How did you first come across Vivre?

 

 

G:

 

 

I had first heard about Vivre by looking through my mother’s magazines and seeing the advertisements for the scent. My first interaction with the scent came years later at the little shop I told you about, Colonial Drug, where I would buy all my Guerlains. I have to say, I was not in love with it upon first smell; I was pretty much a Guerlain cultist at the time, but I eventually purchased a small extrait of it and grew to love it over the years. Aldehydic, floral chypres had not my been my go to at the time, but as the years went by, I grew to passionately love them and for some reason I am wearing them quite often during quarantine now.

 

 

 

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BN:

 

 

 

Me too. I find that I am wearing aldehydes a lot during the lockdown as well. There is just something so otherworldly and yet comforting about them; you can disconnect from the harshness of reality.  A noblesse of refuge.

 

 

 

In terms of Vivre, I don’t quite know how ravaged the bottle I got the other day is (the hyacinth notes have substantially gone ) but I can still feel that there is something quite distinctive about this perfume. It isn’t quite the usual soft floral aldehyde in the manner of Detchema, and yet it isn’t the leather chypre like Givenchy III etc : it is ALMOST like a hybrid in between. Would you agree? The perfume’s notes include artemisia and coriander;  a fresh green leaf accord; incense and myrrh too, which are unusual in a floral aldehyde. Would you say there was any correspondence in scent construction between Vivre and, say, Nina Ricci’s sententiously brooding floral aldehyde,  Farouche? I personally feel some similarities. 

 

 

G:

 

 

 

 

It is funny that you mention if there were any correspondence between Vivre and Farouche –  one of my all-time favourites –  and there is. They both start out with a big note that announces their arrival, but slowly they start to warm up to you and open up and become much more intimate. Kind of like the punk-rocker with spiked hair you meet, who then confides in you she likes reading Baudelaire in a gauzy silk dressing gown. I would definitely say Vivre and Farouche are cousins, either first or at least once removed.

 

 

 

BN:

 

 

 

Another thing I would say is that to me, Vivre feels almost mischievous. It is not a perfume of mere gaiety and joie de vivre. Would you say that musically this perfume was in a major or a minor key? For me a perfume such as Chanel No 5 is definitely major. I think this, like Farouche, is minor. It is not ‘happy happy’ as such; I feel it has a certain vigour and energy that comes from self belief – not as yielding and soft as some others. This person definitely knows who she is. 
G: I feel Vivre is definitely a minor key: it’s a more profound presence.

 

 

 

 

 

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1. You will love me. I know it. 2. You will be jealous. I know it. 3. You will take me to Venice. I know it. 4. You will never leave me. I know it. 

 

 

 

 

 

I KNOW WHAT LIVING IS.

I know what it means to live…..

 

 

 

 

 

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BN: Despite the elegant refinement of this perfume, I can see how the words in this seventies’ advertisement (You will never leave me ……...a self-knowing lover’s imperious command) definitely correspond to the smell of the perfume itself. There is something quite compelling, obsessive about Vivre; I think possibly  from the vetiver and leather and the aridity of the oakmoss/sandalwood/myrrh base but without the bitterness of some of the more acrid heavier chypre leathers. This treads a deliciously fine line.

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you personally feel when you wear Vivre?

 

 

 

 

 

G:

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I wear Vivre I feel alive, which is pretty ironic, considering the name, but it does make you feel aware of the moment you are in. There is a juxtaposition in the scent, between the sparkling notes and the dirty floral note. Almost as if you had put a touch of Chanel N°5 on then went out and did some serious gardening; getting your forearms all dirty and smeared with flower nectar. There is something oddly compellingly and comforting in the fragrance, something that makes you want to keep sniffing at your wrist. Something warm and nurturing. This could just be my take on it, though, because my Mama was fond of similar scents and it reminds me of her “skin scent”.

 

 

 

 

 

BN:

 

 

 

 

I agree, though. Calming, yet also somehow slightly unsettling.

 

 

 

Gabrielle, you are a great lover of vintage perfume – your collection sounds truly magnificent. Do you still hunt down vintage bottles of Vivre?

 

 

 

 

 

G:

 

 

 

 

 

I only wear 70’s vintage Vivre. Molyneux first released a scent named Vivre in the 30’s, but that was completely different. They also just released a newer version a few years back and that is utter garbage. The 70s version is the perfect one. I always try to hunt down vintage bottles, especially of the extrait, which can be quite pricey, but I love it.

 

 

 

 

Another thing I can say about Vivre, after wearing it now for most of the day, is that it develops into the most wonderful melange of hothouse flowers. I had never really noticed that aspect of it before. It is truly sublime. 

 

 

 

 

BN :

 

 

 

I hope one day that I can smell it on you in person!

 

 

 

 

 

A few years back, I remember you once very kindly sent me a very generous spray sample of another forgotten classic from the house – Fȇte (1962). Can you tell us more about that perfume and any others you might have by Molyneux?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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G:

 

 

 

 

I adore Fête so much. It’s like the lovechild of Mitsouko and Femme with a quick wit about her. Truly and underrated gem. Then again Molyneux as a whole is such an underrated house. I own Le Numéro Cinq by them which was more popular than Chanel’s 5 at one point, but Chanel’s N°5 won in the long run and Molyneux had to change the name to Le Parfum Connu so as to save face. Le Numéro Cinq is a gorgeous scent, aldehydic floral, but with a deep and enticing heart. I also own Le Chic, Rue Royale, Gauloise, Quartz and Initiation by Molyneux all of which are exquisite. Gauloise in particular is a stunner, but each is a treasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BN:

 

 

 

 

Gorgeous.

 

 

 

Thank you so much, Gabrielle.

 

 

 

 

G:

 

 

 

 

My absolute pleasure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

18 Comments

Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Floral Chypre, Flowers, Vintage

TOKYO CHYPRE: : : INOUI by SHISEIDO (1976)

 

 

 

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Japan is justifiably famed as an ingenious imitator of other cultures’ inventions, while usually adding that perceptibly nipponesque something to the mix to makes them its own – tucked guilelessly under powdered kimono sleeves.

 

 

 

In terms of fragrance, Shiseido, perhaps the most famous cosmetic company here, has a domestic perfume range that is somewhat run-of-the-mill and prestige-free for most Japanese women (while remaining unattainably exotic for some perfumistas overseas), comprised of mainly elegant, if unexciting, japonified versions of western classics: Murasaki (a green iris clearly based on N°19), Koto (any fresh floral 70’s chypre), Concerto (Patou 1000), Memoire (a whiff of L’Interdit) and More (a copy of Nº 5 or Detchema.)

 

 

 

 

 

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Inouï, though, which presciently signifies ‘extraordinary’ or ‘unprecedented’ in French, seems on this one occasion to have pipped its jealous Paris to the post and been a very clever innovator. A fantastic, green-balsamic chypre that predated Lancôme’s Magie Noire (another masterpiece of this genre) by two years, its reputation in some quarters as ‘the perfect chypre’, which I cannot dispute, has allowed its cachet to grow to the extent that a bottle of this  perfume will now regularly go for $1500 at perfume specialists and internet auctions (and aside one tiny mini, it has tellingly never come up at the fleamarkets either….)

 

 

 

 

 

Like many, I myself had also only read about this perfume and had assumed that I would never get to smell it, but then was lucky one day to have access to an intact version when a Japanese dressmaker friend of mine happened to go back to her parents’ house one weekend in Kamakura and retrieved an old bottle of the Inoui eau de parfum that she had hidden away, long ago, somewhere in her bedroom closet (she had got rid of it when the boyfriend who had given it to her twenty years ago suddenly finished with her…the scent was still too much of a painful reminder and she had no plans on wearing it any more,  holding onto her bottle now more as an investment for the future).  Despite this, she generously let me borrow the bottle for a whole weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This really is a compelling and delightful perfume.  While the forested, chypre-animalic finish of the scent, played out with a dry, resinous blend of oakmoss, myrrh, cedar, civet and musk, with evergreen tonalities of juniper, thyme and pine needles, is slightly reminiscent of Lancôme’s finest black magic hour (but without all the patchouli), the top notes of Inouï are a different affair altogether: a peerlessly crafted, assured, and very upliftingly green accord of galbanum, lemon, peach and raspberry-breathed freesia that reminds one a little, just briefly, of the dewily sylvan opening of vintage Y (Yves Saint Laurent).

 

 

 

 

Elegant and mysterious, the final result on the skin, lingering and insistent, is confident, sexy, and inscrutable, with none of the red-nailed and gold more obvious vampishness of other perfumes in the category. It is perfect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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14 Comments

Filed under Floral Chypre, Flowers, Japanese Perfume

VERT ET BLANC: : : MA GRIFFE by CARVEN (I946)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Guest post by Gabrielle

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I sit here about to write I cannot help but have a profound longing for the springtime.  Outside there is enough snow to make one think that this was a village in the Swiss Alps, yet the first day of Spring is less than three weeks away.  Such disparity is the fate of those who live in New England I guess.

 

I am someone who does not mind the snow, I am usually enchanted by it, but with another snow-fall on its way this evening…well, I have had enough.  I want to see green grass and flowering buds, I want there to be a rebirth of nature… I need to see green grass I tell you!

 

As you can tell, I am now anticipating – longing for would be more truthful – the arrival of Springtime; more than I can ever recall. Seeing that it is still further off than I would want, I have decided to apply one of my favorite scents, one that will make me feel that greener, brighter days are not too far off.  That magical scent I have worn for most of my life, one that always feels like Springtime in a bottle,  would be Ma Griffe by Carven.  A truly spectacular fragrance that never fails to put me into a sort of optimistic, nice weather is almost here, all things are possible, kind of mood.

 

 

 

Ma Griffe, which translates roughly to “my mark” or “my tag/label” was created by Jean Carles in 1946.  The fact that Jean Carles was capable of creating such a glorious scent at that point in his career is truly amazing, since by this time he was already completely anosmic and had to rely on his vast fragrance knowledge to compose the fragrance. But if that was not challenging enough, he managed to create a scent that marries green and white, Madame Carven’s signature colour combination, into a masterpiece that is still relevant almost seventy years after its launch.

 

 

Whenever I wear Ma Griffe I am completely dazzled by the way the scent combines green notes along with creamy white florals and seamlessly transitions from top notes through to the base notes without missing a beat.  Which makes me think of how whenever I wear Ma Griffe I always find my self humming Grieg’s Morning Mood: I tend to have a multi-sensory experience whenever I wear particular scents, Ma Griffe being one that truly opens me up to colour and sound as well as imagery.

 

 

 

Upon application, the first thing that strikes you in the opening are the aldehydes; such beautiful nose tickling aldehydes. Not to worry though, Monsieur Carles has tempered the aldehydes so they will not become too rowdy and take over.  But, before you have too much time to indulge in the aldehydic opening, here come the green notes, courtesy of galbanum and clary sage, which balance the aldehydes so perfectly you do not feel too overwhelmed by them, much in the same way that the opening of Morning Mood is balanced perfectly between the flute and the oboe, neither taking over too much, each just there to compliment the other and move the piece along.  You then notice the slightest hint of citrus there also, the effect of walking outside on a Spring morning and experiencing the glorious freshness, but then becoming aware that the sun is gently caressing your skin.

 

 

Before you have realized it, you are aware of the flowers.  A bouquet brimming with all the glorious white flowers one could imagine, the jasmine in particular catching your attention.  But this is not a dirty jasmine: this is a soft, velvety, creamy jasmine.  One that caresses and soothes, one that makes you feel as if you have just been wrapped in luxury.  Yet you are still aware of the lingering greens in the opening, perfect. You then start to notice that the jasmine is not alone, and slowly become aware that gardenia is there also; rich, creamy, sweet and sensuous, yet never cloying nor overbearing.  Before you know it the ylang-ylang, also accompanying them, makes herself known.  This is when you start to understand how reserved she can truly be, when added so perfectly by the hands of a master parfumeur such as Carles.  Truly, the ylang-ylang just adds depth and dimension to the the scent: it never takes over, never takes the scent into exotic territory, marrying perfectly with the other white florals to lend balance and polish to the greenness of the scent.

 

 
Wait, though -there is still yet another presence joining in… the rose. How could we ever have such a glorious bouquet without the rose?  While not knowing if the rose is red, or pink, or white, I have always preferred to believe the essence used was of the white variety.  In such a lush, dewy application of rose absolue, one can only imagine that creamy white roses were used. Such is the nature of the rose used in this: pure creaminess and smooth.

 

 

 

The perfection with which the florals are executed is an amazing accomplishment.  It makes one shake one’s head in disbelief that Monsieur Carles could not perceive any of this while composing the scent, yet he composed with such aplomb.  This also brings me back to Morning Mood, the way in which the orchestral movement opens up so seamlessly after the oboe and flute play their part.  Yet the oboe and flute are consistent throughout the piece, just in the same way the green notes remain with us lingering in the background throughout the scents development.

 

 

 

 

Now we have a shift, and every thing starts to relax as we begin to recognize the vetiver.  Are we at the base notes yet?  Has the scent run its course?  Or has the vetiver been lingering in the background the whole time?  Well, after many wearings I have come to understand that the vetiver starts to make itself known from the beginning, in a very subtle way.  We are just so enraptured with the aldehydes, the citrus, the greens and of course the glorious creamy white floral notes, that we just have not taken notice of it.  It is only as the green and floral notes start to move along and soften that vetiver comes into its own, a vetiver that is not left to its own devices, but is tempered, on its best behavior, not trying to steal the spotlight.

 

 

In much the same way as Morning Mood keeps interjecting different movements towards its finale, we notice that there are other notes here as well. One of the most intriguing is a spicy note.  I am always so profoundly surprised when I become aware of a hint of spiciness.  But it is so delicate that it takes a few moments to understand which spice it may be.  I am always so tickled when I become aware that it is cinnamon. Cinnamon!  Yes, cinnamon. Who would have ever thought to add cinnamon to a green, floral, chypre scent?  Well Monsieur Carles did and it is amazing.  It not only never truly smells of cinnamon, it somehow manages to smell as if we are thinking of what cinnamon smells like, just the reflection of spiciness, just the subtle personification of cinnamon.  It melds so perfectly in with the whole it never feels out of place, again adding to the overall seamless quality of the scent.

 

 

 

 

The final appearance to be made is the tonka bean and benzoin combo.  Why do I say combo and not treat them as individual notes?  Because the two meld so perfectly it really takes a bit of work to discern what is what.  The two add just enough weight to the base of the scent as to prevent it from floating off into the ether, or just fading away.  They help carry the remaining impressions of the scent on for quite a while after initial application, just as in the closing of Morning Mood.  Yet, just as in Grieg’s piece the familiar theme is there until the final note plays, the greenness and creamy floral notes linger on until the scent finally and gently fades to its close, which I am happy to say almost fifteen hours later is just happening.

 

 

 

The most amazing thing about Ma Griffe is the ability it has of making me feel so optimistic, youthful, and hopeful while also giving the effect of being perfectly polished and put together.  You feel as if you are a worldly ingenue, if that is even possible, no matter what your age. Definitely a scent worth experiencing in vintage form: mine is a bottle of extrait from the 1940’s that was still sealed in its outer paper when I found it years ago.  It is truly not only a classic scent, but should definitely be regarded as one of the masterpieces in the art of scent from the 20th century.  This is a fragrance which does not show its age, nor does it ever feel “dated”.  This scent is as much relevant today as it was almost 70 years ago when it was released.  It is the fragrant equivalent of an older woman who looks 20 years her junior, at the least.

 

 

 

Even some of the greatest scents cannot say that, but then again, so many of the greats have had a lot of work done…even Ma Griffe.  Since I have not smelt the recently re-released version, I am not able to tell how much it has in common with my beauty…hopefully it was only just a little nip and tuck, not an overhaul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gabrielle is the writer of the perfume blog Brielle’s Musings. 

22 Comments

Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Floral Chypre

Cranky floral chypre: FAROUCHE by NINA RICCI (1974)

 

 

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Politics and fashion obviously influence all fragrance houses, so while the fifties perfumes tended to scream ‘madam’; the sixties ‘young and beautiful’ and the eighties ‘sex and power’, the seventies, in general, to me at least, shout ‘depressed.’ Yes, there was disco and emancipation, but the dark, masculine chypres that abounded for women in that difficult decade were just that: dark. If they had a colour it would be brown. This was fine for houses like Givenchy, whose Gentleman and Givenchy III were convincingly hairy, animalic and horny, ready to get out the velours and groove.  Nina Ricci, however, whose lady-like fragrances of the prettiest porcelain pink and yellow are some of the lightest and most feminine scents ever made, could never be described as brown (incidentally my most hated colour).

 

It is fascinating, then, to look at the scent that Ricci released into this velvety seventies environment, ‘Farouche’ (which translates as sullen; shy; lacking social graces…) a strange choice of theme and her only ‘moody’ perfume, a weird floral chypre that Michael Edwards, world authority on perfumes and author of many a seminal text, lists as one of the all-time greatest perfumes ever made. Though on Fragrantica, where you can still get vintage bottles of this long forgotten creation, there are  fans clamouring for its return to the main Ricci lineup because they love its delicacy (no chance in hell, ladies!), I must say I personally agree with one reviewer who phrased it perfectly:

 

 

“It’s very dated; cranky like it’s wearing polyester, and shy because it’s older than everyone else at the party and wants to go home; put comfy shoes on and be wild in the only way it knows how: dancing alone to Neil Diamond”.

 

 

 

 

 

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I once had a beautiful vintage parfum of Farouche in Baccarat crystal flacon, but could never fathom its mysteries no matter how many times I tried it (just couldn’t connect to the crestfallen, more narrow-eyed formation of the classic Ricci template – those strange additions of galbanum, clary sage and cardamom to the usual aldehydic florals and musks), so I gave it to my Japanese dressmaker friend Rumi, who immediately pronounced herself in love. To her it has a dignity and mystery, an emotive sense of detachment, and is also redolent to her of Japanese paper and of incense in temples – the smell of the wood after decades of smoke – and, most crucially, intelligence.

 

 

 

I could agree. But there was just something in that sour, dusty, exacting and ill-humoured perfume I could not abide.

 

 

 

 

 

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22 Comments

Filed under Depressed, Floral Chypre