Happy April. Our weather is still very much a study in contrasts — much colder than usual, with sunshine and flurries. I’ve been jokingly calling it “spinter.” I suspect this is one of the years we will bypass spring in D.C. and go directly to summer. I’ll walk out the door in my Polarfleece jacket one fine morning later this month and it will be 83 degrees.
In the spirit of the changeable weather, here’s a candy samples post on fragrances with sharp contrasts: old version vs. new (the first); top vs. bottom (second) and expectation vs. reality (third.)
Coty Emeraude – has there been any fragrance house more bastardized and debased than Coty? I did a quick sniff of Emeraude at CVS at Christmas, just to refresh my memory. It smells like Pine-Sol and Glade Powder Fresh. It´s ghastly. Its cologne formula manages through some sort of perverted alchemy to be both screechingly strong and one-dimensionally thin at the same time. Which is why sniffing a vintage bottle of the parfum (yes, dolls, apparently at one time Emeraude actually came in parfum), I´m guessing from the 1960s based on the packaging, brought tears to my eyes. Emeraude used to be lovely – soft and warm and alluring. On my wrist it smells vaguely like Shalimar, only with less tension between aggressive citrus and cloying vanilla, a Shalimar I could actually embrace. Browsing the comments on various fragrance sites, I can see this is hardly my original idea — the gist of several comments is, Shalimar, only softer. I was surprised, though – given the modern, sharp iteration I expected the vintage to smell more aggressive, perhaps a green chypre. Given how long Emeraude´s been around (since 1921) fans of vintage fragrances and soft classic Guerlains might want to scare some up – you can find it online from vintage dealers and eBay pretty cheap.
Gianni Versace – another lost masterpiece? From the drecky, trashy house of Versace? Seriously? (Although I´m very fond of the Dreamer.) Fragrantica calls it a floral chypre, launched in 1981, notes are aldehydes, spices, bergamot, carnation, tuberose, gardenia, orris, jasmine, muguet, narcissus, benzoin, leather, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, oakmoss, incense, myrrh. It shows up periodically on eBay for $75 – $100 a bottle. I didn´t like the top at all – sweet big-hair 80s floral, plus maybe the top notes are off a bit (I´m pretty sure these are old bottles.) But the bottom? An almost unimaginable transition to an exquisite focus on the last half of that list of notes. The narcissus, benzoin, leather, oakmoss and incense are dominant, creating a drydown reminiscent of: the burnt-candy edges of Bal a Versailles; the almost acrid leather of vintage Femme; and the dusky strangeness of Guerlain Vol de Nuit. Um, yeah, I mean that as a compliment. I´m warning you though, for fifteen minutes I kept thinking, why did this dear, wonderful person who knows my tastes send this to me? The answer was worth waiting for.
Schiaparelli Shocking (vintage parfum). This was humorous. The same benefactress who gifted me with this (and some other astonishing things) also sent Santa Maria Novella´s Cuba, which has That Honey Note. I love honey in fragrance, but it´s tricky – depending on the nose, the skin, the lunar cycle, I have no idea what, you can get honey´s less optimal aspects – specifically, urine (see Serge Lutens’ Miel de Bois) or that male essence I won´t type in right here to spare you from seeing the word sperm again in one of my posts (oops!). Both Lee and I were visited by the latter when we tried Cuba in London (and for more honey posts, see Satan´s Beehive and Doctor Strangebuzz). Anyway, X stated in her note that she had both Cuba and Shocking on at the same time and coincidentally noticed some similarities. And there you have it. Schiaparelli Shocking, which I´d never smelled, is shocking to me because based on the name I´d have expected something ballsier. It is a fairly straightforward, rich, vintage honey smell on me – fortunately, without the gamey bits. We´re also supposed to have rose, jasmine, cloves and civet, but after we get past the (mostly gone) aldehydes and citrus at the top, I´m smelling delicious honey. Sign me up.