Tag Archives: 1970s scents

RIVE GAUCHE by YVES SAINT LAURENT (1970)

 

 

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“There she goes, the independent woman. The girl who’s so contemporary –  she’s having too much fun to marry”

 

 

………..”Nothing like the past

 

 

proclaims a soap opera husk, concluding this clunky and hilariously gauche  late 70’s TV ad for this perfume, as a blowsy discolette sprays her legs up and down with Yves Saint Laurent’s Rive Gauche:

 

 

 

“…the right perfume from the left bank of Paris…..”

 

 

 

 

 

Which is funny, because I always in fact associated this legendary smell, this legendary perfume, with tights – that musky smell of stockings coming off at the end of the working day; the holy grail, perhaps, of a (not so) secret foot fetishist like Quentin Tarantino.

 

 

 

Not that there’s anything remotely unsavoury about Rive Gauche: quite the opposite – it is beautiful and delectably charismatic. But its flirtatious, polished exterior conceals a very animal sexuality deep down in the mix; a mossy, ambery musk that proclaims – unambiguously – real, flesh and blood woman.

 

 

 

Often compared to the strikingly similar Calandre – which preceded it by two years – and sometimes described as ‘a sculptured perfume’ – aluminium-cool; white contoured – the silvery finesse of Rive Gauche comes from a metallic, green/floral aldehyde opening, iris/jasmine; bergamot, peach, and a rosy, sandalwood, musked human heart.

 

 

Though I possibly prefer Calandre myself, with its melancholic, arched gaze, it can sometimes seem as if its tender green heart has gone cold. Rive Gauche is alive, knowing, and devastatingly attractive. The current version, as you will expect, has been tampered with (‘reorchestrated’), has less of the frank animal sexuality of the original, but is still a monument.

 

 

 

 

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26 Comments

Filed under Fetish, Floral Aldehydes, Perfume Reviews

CARON INFINI (1970)

 

 

 

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Infini is probably the vintage perfume I have found the most at flea markets in Japan:  I have had bottles and bottles of it. Some of which I have worn myself; many given away as presents, and far, far, too many that I have spilled. 

 

 

I grew up being told I was the clumsiest boy in the world and it was/is true (I even, and I can’t quite believe I am writing this), managed to drop and empty out two thirds of the most perfect Je Reviens parfum the other day, the one that was used to write my delirious review of that unearthly creation…….

 

 

 

Tragically, Infini has had a similar fate….the bottle you see in the picture has a stopper that comes off ridiculous easily and    oops..……..see, smell, that gorgeous golden liquid splash down and stain the tatami mats….I have done this so many times now that it no longer surprises me, yet to people who know how beautiful this perfume is in its vintage form, reading this must be like a pain in the spleen, lip-bitingly frustrating: such a terrible, terrible  waste……………….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(I know, I know, but there is also something so horribly decadent and deliciously nonchalant about not caring..)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I tell a lie. Infini may not be the absolute most common perfume I have  come across at the flea markets, but it is certainly one of those that I have bought the most and that have given me the most pleasure (the honour of most ubiquitous vintage perfumes on sale would probably go, in descending order, to N°5, L’Air Du Temps, Miss Dior, Madame Rochas and Diorissimo).  All those perfumes are well-know masterpieces, however, which in their heyday were in such high levels of production as emblems of ‘French Perfume’ to bring back home to Japan from trips to Paris that you would expect some unwanted bottles to eventually resurface. Infini is no way near as globally well-known, so I can only surmise that there must have been a surge of interest in all things French and futuriste at the beginning of the 1970s (around the time of the space age metallica of Pierre Cardin, Paco Rabanne and Courrèges) which Caron managed to exploit in the lemming-like fashion-conscious Japanese market. Perhaps this was the big Tokyo hit of 1970  (the year I was born, incidentally, and another reason I love the scent) : the burgeoning, post-war, and by all accounts quite electrifying,  Bubble Era of newly prosperous Japan. Rich, beautiful, knowing women in furs, trailing its delicious, dry, woody floral chic down the boulevards of Ginza…… a perfume marketed as an expertly blended liquid perfection to stretch, beckoningly, into the infinity of the air behind you…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Caron’s futuristic project, to bring the house of its powdered, spiced, and sometimes fusted shadows,  was apparently fifteen years in the making, as the perfumers in question attempted to find the most indefectible equilibrium of sharp green florals; woods; aldehydes, and musky, skin-lingering animalics, the result – unseamed, flawless – being in my view one of the finest scents ever made – elegant, refined, and mesmerically beautiful. A perfectly balanced, multilayered perfume.

 

 

 

 

 

I highlight that word because so many fragrances these days are more like simple accords : blocks of scent or smells ( I would even include a lot of my favourite perfumes such as those by Serge Lutens in this classification: scents I wear for their instancy and aromatic appeal, but which possibly lack a certain psychological complexity…..)

 

 

 

 

 

Infini was different. It was the last of a dying breed …the late progeny, direct descendant, and final refinement of the floral aldehydic innovations of Ernst Beaux’s N° 5, and more obviously, the aforementioned Madame Rochas. The Caron take on this well-loved theme and bears resemblances to these richly orchestrated jewels –  perfumes to be treasured, loved and worn for a lifetime because they had souls – but to my mind it is even better: deeper, more androgynous.

 

 

 

 

Intense woods (sandal, and a beautifully rich, dry cedar); vetiver, patchouli, and subtle, erotic animal undertones in the perfume underlie a gentle, light-fused masterpiece of floral construction:  jasmine, rose, tuberose, and, notably, a top note of yellow narcissus blooming hypnotically in the head notes at unusually high strength (backed with a sharp floral bouquet of muguet, iris, and night-blooming hyacinth), all layered, effortlessly, with fresher notes of  coriander, neroli, peach, bergamot, and aldehydes; fusing into a captivating, yet very understated and subtle perfume that lingers for hours and becomes part of your being.  It is an archetypal feminine urban feline in fur, yet  beautifully warm and sexy on a man also ( I love it on myself in summer in  a white shirt…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Note: as a person who has known many bottles of Infini, I can tell you that in the vintage they vary hugely –  a testament, I would say,  to the number of natural oils in the blend. Sometimes there are no green notes: no narcissus or hyacinth or even vetiver; at others all is simply faded musty,’old perfume’ smell. The new version, still available from Caron boutiques (editor’s note: I thought so, but having just checked the Caron website it seems to have been deleted from the catalogue: how sad!)  is recognisably Infini in its basic template but lacks the sex. Thus, angling for an e-bay purchase of this perfume is always a gamble: you never know how close the perfume will be to the original (oh to have smelled it! Even my best vintage purchases are up to forty years old, so undoubtedly lack the punch of the green notes and hyacinth that must have featured in the head notes of the original……)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Of the many different concentrations of the scent that were originally released, though, my own personal favourite by far is the parfum de toilette (see my almost empty bottle below….)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This is the bottle that made me fall in love with Infini and one that I am desperate to find again. At that point (about fourteen years ago) I didn’t even know of its existence, but of course knew the name Caron, so bought it, on a whim, when I found it at the flea market, for my collection, just to have. Just to see.

 

 

 

 

 

I couldn’t believe, as the notes settled into me, how much I was enjoying it, how beautiful it was.  I felt like an angel in the sand dunes; released…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

36 Comments

Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Flowers, Narcissus, Perfume Reviews

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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Filed under Depressed, Floral Chypre

“Come on Earle, we’ll be late for the arraignment” : : : : OPIUM (Yves Saint Laurent) (1977) VS CINNABAR (Estee Lauder) (1978)

 

 

 

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Plagiarism lawsuits don’t seem to occur in the world of perfumery, and this is probably good news for fragrance houses, else writs would be hurled left right and centre. As the exact formulae for perfumes are always very well guarded anyway (Estée Lauder phobically supposedly adding the final 5% of ingredients herself behind closed doors to ensure secrecy), intellectual theft in the invisible, ephemeral world of scent would just too much for jurors, judges and witnesses to handle –  the stench and olfactory confusion in a closed courthouse is easy, and quite hysterical, to imagine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Opium was a direct challenge to the insipid sport greens that were taking over the perfume world at the time, and in its criminally erotic complexity, was daring, of the moment; dynamic. So was Cinnabar, which was undoubtedly a copy of Opium. But there are important differences, which I will come to. Opium’s mandarin/jasmine/husking tiger’s breathamber-cinnamon template – gorgeously erotic and overwhelming in vintage parfum – was copied and remodelled, redeveloped with varying success in a number of perfume imitators until its swansong in 1983, when Karl Lagerfeld released the seminal (at least in my opinion) KL; this delicious, eighties spice fest shed some of the weight of the heavier oriental notes in Opium, kept the lingering florality and piquant spices, but flushed the whole with a wonderfully sunset orange top note that surrounded, dazzled the perfume within; it was perhaps this genre of perfume’sconceptual apogée.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Conversely, though obviously very much still an ‘oriental’ and close to Opium in style, Cinnabar was not a spice-laden camel on its weary back home to the souk, but a juggernaut pounding the highway back to Orlando. The first assault of this perfume- and it is an assault – from the thick, trusty bottle, is a sinus-twisting rush of incredibly strong citrus-spice, delved rudely in a flawless, caramellized tang of orange, carnation and that ‘rich divorcée’ accord that is the base of all of Lauder’s creations from Youth Dew to Spellbound. These scents  – such a mainstay of the Reagan generation – are not always to my taste, though I have to say they do mesmerize me, like the houses down the back streets of Beverly Hills – those fortresses of wealth draped in the U.S flag and Mexican vines; the darkness and silence of the living rooms hidden from sight in the blinding California sun.

 

 

 

 

Cinnabar packs the spices in and it packs ‘em in tight, over stickily suggestive balsams and woods that are bonded as a calyx, yet somehow not in the least bit sexy. I have the vintage Lauder on my one hand and vintage Opium parfum on the other as I write, and in comparison the latter is a panting carnal flower exhaling its last breath; languid jungle lovers in a post-coital, satisfied sleep. Its American counterpart can only imagine such abandon with a fierce, stomach-clenched jealousy. Though a very well constructed fragrance (that I think probably yields more than I am letting on here), there is always something so zipped up, conservative and ‘gated community’ about Cinnabar; wigs, not hair; dressed up not naked: an unyielding pair of lovingly pressed slacks that somehow forever evinces frustrated, unfulfilled sensuality.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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36 Comments

Filed under 'Orientals', Flowers, Spice

THE DANDY

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Charles Baudelaire categorized the dandy as a man who has ‘no profession other than elegance….no other status but that of cultivating the idea of beauty in their own person. The dandy must aspire to be sublime without interruption…. he must live and sleep before a mirror….’

Yet the true dandy was no mere clothes horse. In cultivating a skeptical reserve with his direct opposition to the unthinking bourgeoisie, these beautifully coddled individualists were following a code which ‘in certain respects comes close to spirituality and stoicism’.

 

Dandyism was also not limited to the male of the species. There was, of course, Beau Brummel, but there was also Marlene Dietrich. And then Cora Pearl, the ‘quaintrelle’ (woman-dandy) courtesan, whose extravagant income was apparently sufficient to allow her to dance nude on carpets of orchids, bathe before her dinner guests in silver tubs of champagne, probably mildly bored as she did so.

 

Naturally then, the true perfumed dandy wears perfume for the beauty of the perfume alone; trends and petty concerns over seduction are of no concern. He might therefore wear any perfume in the pantheon; the flowers, the musks, the powders; she might pick a scent from the roaring masculines, a brisk citrus aftershave, and carry it off beautifully. This notwithstanding, the more established image of the powdered, exquisite gentle man or woman and her peacock consorts is served pretty well by some of the following scents and their decadent, nonchalant, graceful ambiguity.

 

“I wish to be a living work of art.’

 

(Marchesa Luisa Casati, renowned quaintrelle).

 

 

ACIER ALUMINIUM / CREED (1973)

James Craven at Les Senteurs told me that there’s a small but steady band of ‘epicureans’ who come to his shop for this obscurity from Creed, a most eccentric seventies’ concoction that is the perfumed equivalent of the decadent’s unlaundered nightshirt. A curious, metallic-noted orange blossom begins; then, ochred-acacia leaves of Autumn; musky, yellowing powders: leather: and a corrupt (but subtlely: this creature has taste) end of civet-hinged musks.

 

POIS DE SENTEURS DE CHEZ MOI / CARON (1927)

 

A collection of old-fashioned flowers for the modern dandizette; she or he who wants to spoil themselves in musky, forlorn sweet-peas, those fragrant flowers scaling trellises in summertime. ‘The sweet peas from my garden’ are powdery, rosy, infused with heavy, trembling lilacs.

 

 

EAU DE QUININE / GEO F TRUMPER (1898)

Trumper is the ultimate emporium for the London gent (really, you have to go), and this, to me, is one of their crowning glories. Echoes of the Empire and tropical malaria cures are conjured up by the curative sounding name, and the scent – a gorgeous, luminous and powdery thing laced with rosemary – is odd and beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SIRA DES INDES / JEAN PATOU (2006)

A warm, overripe breeze. A foetid satiety, and a perfume perfect for the bronzed, sybaritic woman who wants nothing more than to lie down flat on her sunlounger with her gin. One can’t help but think of Sylvia Miles in Morrisey & Warhol’s Heat.

 

A pronounced banana-leaf top note conveys the sense of the tropics: full bananas, unswaying in the dead, still air: champaca flowers with their drowsy torpor, and an apricot-hued osmanthus over a salivated sandalwood/civet, these listless ingredients adding up to the most ennui-imbued scent I have ever smelled. Sira des Indes is smooth yet enticing, almost angry; and devastating on a woman over forty who just doesn’t give a shit.

 

 

 

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PARFUM D’HERMES / HERMES (1984)

Recast as Rouge (which see), Parfum d’Hermès, which has the same basic structure, just dirtier, can still be found in various corners of the world, and I know an antiques shop near my school that has a 400ml bottle that no Japanese person would ever touch (I will, eventually). I know they wouldn’t buy it because the rude animalics here are so blatant that all the flowers, spices in the world just can’t hide its intent. It smells of a dirty mouth covering yours; a Sadeian perfume that would work shockingly well on one of his followers, female or male.

 

CARNATION / MONA DI ORIO (2006)

Mona di Orio, the perfumer behind Carnation (pronunciation: in the French manner – meaning ‘complexion’ not the flower) seemed to be seeking here the smell of a virgin’s face after a day in the sun – easy prey, perhaps, for the creatures above from Parfum d’Hermès (or Pasolini’s Salò). It is a weird smell at first, something paint-like and sour in among the dirty blooms (wallflower, geranium, jasmine, tinted with musks and styrax), but progresses to a heavenly maiden’s cheek, white; the thick, healthy skin just ready to pinch.

 

HAMMAM BOUQUET / PENHALIGONS (1872)

The maiden’s male counterpart is Hammam Bouquet; fresh from the Turkish baths with a blush on his face.

Hammam is musky, powdery and pink, with rose otto, orris and lavender over the more manly exhalations of civet and musk. Once the boy gets his breath back, he dons his white powdered wig, his cape, and rushes back earnestly to the Old Bailey.

 

 

FRENCH CAN CAN / CARON (1936)

One of the lesser known perfumes from the illustrious stable of Caron (surely one of the Dandy’s favourite parfumeurs…)is French Can Can, made especially for the post-war American Market for a bit of imported ooh la la: a strange, naughty, and now rather anachronistic perfume that treads the line between coquettish and coarse without descending to banality. Can Can is of very similar construction to En Avion (a cool, spicy, violet leather) but overlaid with more garish, extravagant bloom: rose, jasmine and orange blossom kick out from under the tulle. Behind faded, musty curtains lies a decadent heart of lilac, patchouli, iris, musk and amber.

Thinking of a candidate for this perfume (who wears tiers of fluffy petticoats that I know?) I hit upon my friend Laurie, who is never afraid to dress up in extravagant numbers – I can even see her actually doing the can-can – and with the slogan ‘Dancers: powder, dusty lace’ presented her with the scent. She came back to me later (after I had sprayed her bag with the stuff) ‘No: greying crinoline’.

 

 

 

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POT POURRI / SANTA MARIA NOVELLA (1828)

Only the dandy would wear a perfume called Pot Pourri. Bizarrely, this has recently become a massive hit with the art crowd in Tokyo (the brand’s reputed naturalness is popular with the refined eco-conscious). It is unusual, androgynous and beautiful: spiced roses, herbs, berries and grasses from the fields of Florence, fermented in Tuscan terracotta urns with darker, interior notes of resins and balsam. The result (medicinal, meditative, aromatic) is very individual; very…..dandy.

 

 

 

What else should be placed in the Dandy’s wardrobe?

26 Comments

Filed under Flowers, Herbal, Musk, Orientals, Perfume Reviews, Powder

RARE BLONDE: Ivoire de Balmain (1979)

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One Sunday morning, Duncan and I went to a Cassavetes retrospective in Tokyo. Although it was something of an effort to get up so early to be at the cinema by 10.40am, I knew it would be worth it. Having seen ‘Opening Night’ (1977) twice before, but never on the big screen, I knew that it would be a rare opportunity to gaze at the mesmerizing face of possibly my favourite actress, Gena Rowlands, who, as the character Myrtle Gordon – a confused, emotionally flailing star, plunges willingly into a masochistic rabbit hole of self-doubt, hallucination and tragedy in the pursuit of theatrical technique and authenticity.

 

The first time I saw the film I was alone. It was Autumn, about twelve years ago, and I had never even heard of Cassavetes. I had just randomly picked the film from a video shop in Fujisawa, and sat down on the tatami to watch it as the crisp October sun dappled on the garden outside. A shadowy melancholia was present already in the room, and this set the mood perfectly for a film that had me wide-eyed in love: I had never seen anything so seamless, and while stylized and oddball, so real. It was the ultimate ‘star gone mad’ film, and somewhat tediously and obviously perhaps on my part perhaps, I reached out for my vintage miniature of Ungaro’s Diva (a gorgeously rich Turkish rose chypre), this forming the scented backdrop to the film (eyes on the screen, back of hand attached to nose: a frequent pose in my cinematic viewing).  I have forever associated its rich complexity with Ms Rowlands ever since: this WAS the smell of Opening Night for me.The character – glamorous, chic, fiercely intelligent and feeling, but troubled and angry (and rightly so), I imagined would wear a scent that is full bodied and carnal at heart, yet with an unpenetrable enamel of enigma at surface.

 

Watching that day, enraptured by the beauty of this film and totally unable to take my eyes off Gena Rowlands: the flick of those hard-hitting blue eyes, her thick, blonde-curled hair, that alabaster skin, another perfume suddenly floated up into my consciousness, particularly in the scene where she is about to ascend in the elevator with Ben Gazzara in a long cream fur coat…..

 

IVOIRE. Yes! Ivoire de Balmain, that deep, feminine creation from another age when scents were orchestral and beautiful, and embraced the full female corporality, rather than the one-note pink sex bunnies we too often get these days. Thinking about it now, though both perfumes came out after the film, and Diva seemed perfect at the time, the Balmain somehow wins out. Diva is too joyous, too throaty. Ivoire is more brittle and vulnerable, yet so attractive, out of reach.

 

Yes, this is how she would smell.

 

Also because this scent truly strikes me as being a perfume made for blondes. Although I bought it for my (brunette) mother over twenty years ago (having spent an entire day in Birmingham department stores trying out scores of different perfumes to find the ultimate scent for her birthday), she found it too sweet. Too something. Not quite right. And thus I soaked a pale-leather diary I took with me to Rome that year (it still vaguely smells of Ivoire), and everytime I wrote about any experience there, on the train to the coast, on the streets of Testaccio, this scent would waft up and mingle with my associations.

 

 

I first encountered it, though, at Cambridge when I was nineteen. A friend of mine at Queen’s, Dawn – a sybaritic, self-indulgent History of Art student with blonde honey hair who lazed about half the day in shiny cream satin pyjamas – wore this (or the divine Courrèges in Blue) and she always smelled incredible. Quite dazzling. Sweet, soapily fresh, sensual, yet somehow out of reach. Divine. She would send us out for cigarettes and sandwiches on blustery sunny days and for some reason, like idiots we always complied, possessed by the feeling in that room.

 

The composition of that scent is complex, yet as smooth, and cool, as marble. Rich and full: yet cold, the departure a fresh, green aldehydic sheen of galbanum, bergamot, mandarin, violet, and lily-of-the-valley, blended effortlessly with a lushly creamy heart achieved with an interesting juxtaposition of flowers and spices: Turkish rose, ylang ylang and jasmine overlayed with a dusting of nutmeg, cinnamon and berry pepper (the scent has something in common with L’Air Du Temps and Fidji in this respect: those ethereal spiced garlands that encircle the flowers and lift them up higher to the heavens). Then: a slow, langourous base of labdanum, sandalwood (which dominates), vetiver, tonka bean and vanilla.

 

The concept of ivory is realised around the intense binding of all these ingredients together so we experience at once a smoothness – the scent as clean and fresh as a newly laundered blouse in tulle – yet underlying it all a buttery, emotive decadence…..

 

 

Myrtle Gordon ultimately triumphs with her voyage to the heart of her instincts.  And backstage, where buckets of champagne lie on ice, she is drunk on her success. The effect would be, I believe, deliciously, heartbreakingly, compounded with Ivoire.

 

 

 

Note: I have two bottles of this perfume. A vintage eau de toilette found in a Zushi recycle shop (how my heart leapt when I saw it!), and a new, reformulated edition from The Perfume Shop in Solihull. The difference is astonishing. What was flat, and disappointing to me (was this really how it smelled? Had I exaggerated it in my mind?) is alive and glowing in the vintage. I hope you have the opportunity to try it.

56 Comments

Filed under Floral Aldehydes, Green

ANAIS ANAIS by Cacharel ( 1978 )

 

 

For the writer Anaïs Nin, if you dare enter the diluvial self-obsession of her journals, life was a neverending rush of hypersensitivity.  She was  too precious, almost, to live. With complete contempt for the trivialities of daily life,  she survived on her emotions, indulged her impulses and crushed conventions – seducing even her own father on a sudden morbid whim of narcissism. For Anaïs, to be desired was to be alive: without sex, the mirror glass of her soul would shatter. She was sensuous, fragile; huge-eyed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A woman such as Anaïs, then,  might seem unusual inspiration for an unthreatening perfume such as this – Cacharel’s first fragrance from 1978, a classic that went on to great success in the eighties and remains ever popular today. Yet despite its commercial appeal (she would have been horrified), the scent did in fact succeed in capturing some aspects of this creature’s nympho-purity with its spray of white lilied delicacy. It is a very romantic perfume that inspires devotion in its admirers because few scents are of comparable mood; a scent for women who seek reticence, or almost  studied shyness in perfume: delicate, feminine, and young.

 

 

Under the pallid white and pale pink tendresse of the opening chords lie more carnal, shadowy undertones though – veils of musk, patchouli and Russian leather – a dusky quality foreshadowed in the perfume’s original packaging: I have the parfum de toilette concentrée from 1979 in my collection, a wonderful, somewhat eerie dark velvet grey box adorned with creeping flourishes of dark green leaves and pink petals, the scent inside also darker, more ambiguous than the current cleaned up version with its neat, white, perfect-for-bathroom cylindrical flacon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anaïs Anaïs’ floral wistfulness comes from a concentration of glorious white Madonna lilies interlaced with other white flowers: crisp, vernal meadows of fresh hyacinths, blackcurrant leaves, galbanum, muguet and ylang, a bridal bouquet softening gently to a warmer hue of lilies and rose that always retains something of its rather insistent chastity.

 

 

 

 

 

Your reaction to this mélange might therefore be of rapture, if breathless tendrils are your thing: irritation perhaps at its undeniably conservative tones (it is a somewhat tame scent that renders a woman pliant and demure in an instant): or, like me, you may enjoy its mysterious, immaculate form, its creamy melancholy – the cool, sepulchral sweetness of a funeral bouquet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘The new self she offered him, created for him, appeared intensely innocent, newer than any young girl could have been, because it was like a pure abstraction of a woman, an idealized figure, not born of what she was, but of his wish and hers. Outside of this room, this bed, was a black precipice……’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(Anaïs Nin, ‘A spy in the house of love’)

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