Happy Valentine´s day, everyone! I got Feminite du Bois in the parfum concentration. It is outstanding – the focus more on the plum than on the woods, although I find it layers beautifully with the original FdB eau de parfum. It´s also exceedingly rich, and a little dab´ll do ya. For anyone who wants to try it in extrait and can´t quite stomach the price – eBay sometimes has little purse parfum pens (“parfum stylo”) on there, 1.8ml, so you can try it out for less than an arm and a leg. Maybe just a finger.
Please tell me – what delicious things did you get for Valentine´s Day?
Also, before I forget, here´s a link to Chandler Burr´s favorable coverage of several DSH scents – congratulations, Dawn! And thanks for the heads up, Posse reader Pikake (here’s a link to her new blog on natural perfumery).
So. On to perfume.
I got to thinking about Yves Saint Laurent´s iconic 80´s scent, Paris, after Olfacta´s thoughtful post on rose fragrances and how she decided they weren´t all horrors after all. (Certainly a Rosine might change one´s mind about rose.) Paris seemed like a good fragrance to revisit this time of year. The notes (from Michael Edwards´ Perfume Legends) are mimosa, geranium, bergamot, mayflower, hawthorn, juniper,Damascus rose, May rose, violet, sandalwood, iris, amber and musk.
In Perfume Legends Sophia Grosjman, the nose behind Paris, talked about her fascination with rose scents and the still relatively new damascones she jammed into her initial draft of Paris for YSL – yet another argument supporting idea that many great perfumes are driven by an overdose of one ingredient.
Love it or loathe it, there´s no mistaking Parisfor something else. You might not be able to name it in a blind test, but if someone stuck it under your nose and said Paris, you´d say, of course!! It doesn´t smell particularly like any other rose fragrance. There´s an enormous Phil Spector-esque wall of smell: tart, sharp, green and woody notes that draw attention from the rose without totally obscuring it. It wasn´t until recently in my perfume obsession that I realized Paris was a rose fragrance. (Interesting aside from Edwards´ book: inFrance the fragrance was marketed around the imagery ofParis itself, whereas theUS rolled it out as a rose fragrance with less than optimal results, because I´m not the only person afraid of rose.)
Browsing The Guide recently, I came across a review by Tania Sanchez of Annick Goutal Rose Absolue that summed up brilliantly my problem — and apparently Tania´s problem — with many rose scents: “I´m always disappointed by rose soliflores; the material seems impressively complex but too sour to enjoy, like those wines that taste like they´d rather be vinegar.” Elsewhere (Caron Rose) she says, “all expensive rose soliflores boast of sourcing only the best natural rose essences to capture the beauty of the flower, but somehow they all tend to smell a bit like this: part lemon soap, part wine vinegar, part green (as in boiled vegetables).” Well, amen, sister. The roses I can tolerate get busy doing something else – they get weirder (Serge Lutens´ Rose de Nuit), manlier (Rosine´s Rose d’Homme) or at the other end of the spectrum they become delicate and ethereal rather than liquor-like (MDCI Rose de Siwa.) Paris worked for me not due to less rose, but the sheer volume of the other notes. It´s like standing right in front of the orchestra.
So off I went to try it – first at Nordstrom where they told me it was discontinued and tried to sell me their last shower gel (discontinued being SA-speak for “I´m terribly sorry, we no longer stock Paris, perhaps you might try Macy´s down the corridor.”) They carry Paris at Sephora and Macy´s, which has the EDT and the EDP as well as some ancillary products like lotion. I picked up the bottle and sprayed a little on, waiting for the scent I loved and remembered.
Which brings me to the wistful, sad part of my post, because … maybe we won’t always have Paris after all. Has anyone tried Paris recently? Maybe it´s my nose. Or my skin. Or old bottles of juice killed off under the lights. But my first thought upon smelling the EDT at Sephora was, where´s the rest of it? A test of the second and third bottles at Macy´s produced the same results. I´m sure I wore the EDT, which is all I could have afforded, and in any case the EDP is a different animal – rosier and more vanillic.(The current EDP´s got an interesting, slightly animalic incense-y drydown, and I´m trying to decide if I could stagger through the first half hour for the payoff.)
Paris today feels thin and muted, like someone took out a restraining order on all the towering, tart florals and woods that made it unique. Eventually I gave up and went on a grocery run to Trader Joe´s. At that point I was wearing five test sprays from four bottles of Paris and realized (apologies to my fellow patrons) that´s several sprays too many. The weird thing was, while it smelled horrible on my skin, I kept getting the occasional waft of the old familiar around me. The next day I woke up, walked into my closet, and — boom, Paris! on the jacket I’d been wearing, although it was gone entirely from my skin — my skin, which soaks up scent like a sponge. I asked Robin at Now Smell This and she said the current version smelled mighty thin to her too (here’s her review of Paris.)
I cannot, no matter how I try, separate Paristhe fragrance from the time I wore it. Paris owned the mid-1980s. It went so well with Christian Lacroix bubble dresses and the champagne excesses that seem oh-so-sadly-familiar two decades later, particularly now that we´ve run off the cliff like Wile E. Coyote and it´s just a matter of seeing how far it is to the bottom.
In Perfume Legends, Grojsman cites Apres l´Ondee as an influence on her design – “the skeleton of a very creamy violet note. Then I worked on the rose to put with it.” I have always found Paris a wistful fragrance, and not just because of my nostalgia regarding it. Roughly 25 years after its introduction, I can smell it again and appreciate both its strange, transcendent beauty and the feeling it leaves me with – a slight melancholy sense of unfulfilled dreams.
image: 6-year-old Hecate in the outfit she picked to wear for her Valentine’s Day parties. She is a lovely, funny, quirky kid and she is definitely my valentine. (btw for recent alarmed readers: Hecate is her nom de blog. I did not actually saddle my daughter with the name Hecate. She shares her real name with a gorgeous fragrance, though.)