Calice Becker’s Inà¨s

When I mentioned Inà¨s de la Fressange in my recent berry post, I was talking about the very-hard-to-find 2004 version in the skinny, upright bottle with the pretty gold embossed leaves on it and the acorn cap, not the plain, short, silver-capped original version from 1999 which is still all over the discounters for a song (e.g., you can get 1 oz. from BeautyEncounter for $22.).   Anyhoodle, doing research I discovered that the 1999 version was a completely different scent done by Calice Becker. Notes of the 1999 effort are aldehydes, peach, bergamot, brazilian rosewood, carnation, iris, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, rose, sandalwood, tonka bean and benzoin.

(For anyone who wonders: Inà¨s was a Chanel model in the 1980s and a muse for Lagerfeld.  And if we ever get our image problem fixed I’ll show you, but googling will produce satisfactory results.)

I thought the notes for the 1999 version sounded really good – in fact, better than the 2004 one I own, which is a fun, lighthearted thing but pretty fruity/frivolous.

So … Someone sent me a decant of the original.  Thank you, Someone!   I was thrilled, because I’d almost bought it unsniffed, and my unsniffed buy history is dismal.  I am guaranteed to hate something I buy unsniffed.

On Monday, when I reviewed Martin Margiela Untitled, I mentioned that the fragrance didn’t smell anything like what I expected, given the notes.   With this version of Inà¨s, it’s the exact opposite – Inà¨s smells almost exactly (and quite pleasantly) like you would expect, if you found that list as intriguing as I did (uh, not to mention the Calice Becker part.)

The first impressions are aldehydes and peach – not canned peaches, or syrupy peaches, but the scent of standing in the vicinity of a basket of ripened peaches.  I’m going to hop right in here and use the word restraint – peach in quantity can be pretty overwhelming.  The aldehydes, while not particularly noticeable, do a wonderful job of creating a sense of openness and buoyancy; add the little herbal zing of the bergamot and something that might have been cloying is delightful and just a little tart.

The middle part of the scent, while not fascinating, is quite pleasant.  I can’t pick out any of the individual floral notes except the iris, the sweet woodiness of which is made more pronounced by the rosewood; that stretch is “diffuse floral” and the rose is, thank God, muted if not outright bound, gagged and stuffed in the trunk.

The drydown’s soft and delicately pretty.  The peach fades; I can smell iris and jasmine, but mostly it’s … sandalwood, tonka bean and benzoin.  It’s more of a wallpaper scent than a powerhouse at this phase – Tam Dao or Samsara it is not.    I assume the sandalwood is the same fake-y stuff most folks are using now, but it’s hard not to like sandalwood, tonka and benzoin.

Now, let me tease you for a moment: I began to think, sniffing over and over, of how Ines reminded me vaguely of something.  Check out these notes of another perfume, and a popular one back in the day: honeysuckle, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, hyacinth, lilac, bergamot, aldehydes, peach, jasmine, rose, narcissus, tuberose, carnation, iris, oakmoss, sandalwood, amber, musk, cedar and benzoin.

That’s a more ornate list, and sweeter, but do you see any resemblance?   Most of the notes of Inà¨s are in there.  Guess what that is?   Give up?  It’s Chloé, the 1975 original, not the wan, pathetic thing on offer now.   Original Chloé was a huge sillage monster – I never wore it myself, and I liked it better after two weeks (or two months) of drydown, on a friend’s scarf, or in the lining of my mother-in-law’s fur coat.  Inà¨s is like that Chloé drydown, a scent writ on a smaller, human scale – the same fragrance “idea” made into a cashmere robe rather than a suit with big shoulder pads.

I get asked periodically about my interest in perfume by people who (clearly, albeit diplomatically) think the entire thing’s peculiar.  As I sniffed this scent, I got to thinking about the types of reactions that a fragrance might trigger.  Since I (and most likely you) sniff a lot of quite expensive, oddball, “niche” scents, more often than not I feel that I am placed in the position of receiving a “message” from a sample.   Some fragrances seem meant to be puzzled over; some appear to be anti-fashion in the same way that, for example, some of Prada’s clothing is frumpy and peculiar in a quite deliberate way.  A fragrance like Tubereuse Criminelle might have a particular element (camphor) that is designed, if it works for you, to highlight the beauty of the rest of the fragrance even more brightly.   Some fragrances are fairy-tale strange (Byredo Pulp.  Unicorn Spell.)  Some are just … strange (L’Antimatiere.)  Some are jolie-laide (Bandit, in my opinion.  Niki de St. Phalle.)

If perfumes are sending us a message, what does the 1999 version of Inà¨s say?  It says: I smell pretty.  Nothing more or less.  Calice Becker’s Inà¨s warms my heart because it is clearly pre-gourmand; there is nothing remotely candified or Lolita-esque about it.  It is woman, not child or “old lady.”  It is neither fruitchouli nor cotton candy.   It is not “retro” – faux or genuine.  No oakmoss, no civet, no martini-and-cigarette aroma.  Inà¨s is more like the warm embrace of an old friend, one maybe from high school, a woman who makes you happy and with whom you’ve always clicked.   You could run into each other after ten years and you’d be caught up in minutes.   You sort of avoided her for awhile, entranced by your circle of more interesting, avant-garde friends.  But you are older now.  You’ve come to appreciate her lack of pretense, her kindness, her warmth.  You always thought she was pretty, but a little quiet.  Maybe she was just comfortable in her skin.

Addendum (prompted by mals’ comment): my late mother-in-law wore Chloé for years and years, before I was ever interested in perfume or knew what tuberose smelled like.  I simply thought of it as … her perfume, although I didn’t know what it was.  I kept some of her clothing, and if I take out the things that have been put away, even after four years, I get the ghost of Chloé — more warm benzoin and sandalwood base than anything else.  I did a post on it here.

Source: private sample.  As I noted up above, if you’re curious, this definitely falls in the cheap thrill category — it’s quite easy to find at the discounters for less than $30.

  • Susan says:

    March – Sorry for such a late reply. Are you interested in a sample of Chloe EdP from my half-full bottle purchased in 1981? It has been living in my dresser drawer since then – & I would love to send you some for comparison.

    Sorry its not the parfum. In 1981 I had just started my first “real” job after grad school & was really poor!

  • Claudia says:

    The “old” Chloe that you’re talking about, is that the one in the bottle with the top shaped like a calla lily?

    • Musette says:

      yes, that’s it. Chloe has some run memories attached, at least for my mean self. Back in my Fashion Sprout days @ Marshall Fields had a pretentious girl who drove all us Mean Girls up the wall with her airs (we, of course, were airless, don’tchaknow 8-|

      Anyway, she was always correcting our pronunciation (I could swear that is incorrectly spelled) calling things like Chloe ‘shlow’ and Etienne Aigner ‘agner’

      We =))

      We were young.

      We were Mean.

      xo >-)

    • March says:

      The “old” Chloe parfum (extrait) is I believe the one in the calla lily bottle. The “old” Chloe perfume (EdP) is still easily found on the internets, in the same round, lumpy bottle with the orange box, but other commenters have said it doesn’t smell as good as it used to, which doesn’t surprise me.

  • Shelley says:

    Leaves (Morillas) on the left of me, modernist (Becker) on the right…

    I came into my IdlF when I was researching Deneuve a while back. (Wow, closer to two years than one!) Must’ve been a reference to another french beauty with an eponymous perfume that sent me to a fleaBay listing, which showed the pretty leafy bottle (I have a thing for leaves), and the mystery of why the auction bottle was so clearly different from the bottle available at the discounter…

    Anyway, today what I get is a denser, tonka hinting thing on the left (not in the notes, I know); more unsweet champagne-y thing on the right. Which leads right to what you said: Ines in the stout column is pre-sweetened fruit, a kind of unthinking beauty, the kind that just has it all together in the classic with a long enough neck and posture just right way. The leaves are comfy and fun but connected to this era. They are different types of easy choices, and there’s room in the bag of reasonably priced tricks for both.

    Actually, I think Ines by Becker succeeded in a way that Isabella Rossellini’s attempt did not. (I am thinking of Manifesto, which I think was the first of her offerings, and –interestingly– was done by Morillas.) Rossellini’s offering looks more intelligent in a daring way when you look at the notes (basil? whose ahead of whom??), but doesn’t wear as much as a perfume as a cologne. Which really bummed me, ’cause I wanted to like it more than I did. But I find I have to be in the right mood to even consider wearing the Rossellini, whereas the Ines could be one of those pack it in the bag for a trip and you can’t go wrong scents.

    At a much better price for the risk of losing it, spilling it, or having it confiscated by airport security than the Chanel I’d put in the same category. /:)

    • Shelley says:

      oops, by “pre-sweetened fruit” I meant BEFORE sweet, fruity stuff. Would that that were the only place my rambling :-@ could use some clarification…need more tea… ~o)

      :)>- >:d<

    • March says:

      Um … you want to start writing reviews? Because really, that’s a beautiful comparison. 😡 I love “unthinking beauty.”

      And … I never tried Manifesto, even though I love her, because for some reason I was thinking it wasn’t “me.”

      Hey — did you ever try Deneuve the fragrance? I haven’t looked for it recently … people rave over it, I think it’s difficult to find?

      • Shelley says:

        Hugely difficult to find. I gave up…the few times it would come up, it was too rich for my purse. Then, a very nice perfume person sent me a squidge…which I sampled, and squirreled away for later, because what I recall of my first go of it was that it smacked surprisingly–ready for this?–old fashioned. Which maybe I’m ready for now. But it wasn’t whatever my brain translated those raves into. (In fact, that will probably be tomorrow’s entertainment…with part of the entertainment value being the hunt itself.) :”>

        • March says:

          Deneuve is, I think, a “woody chypre” and I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if it smelled old-fashioned. But I’m trying not to fall in love with the unattainable — I saw a bottle for $300. 😮

      • Flora says:

        Manifesto just disappears on me – I am amazed that it was marketed as a feminine scent, because it’s really leaning toward a masculine, but it’s gone so quickly on my skin that I can’t really get a handle on it.

        I love the 1999 Ines so much – I think it may have been my very first unsniffed online buy – and when I ran out I got the BIGGER BOTTLE. :d

    • mals86 says:

      S, interesting that you’re getting “champagne” out of the CB one. It always makes me think of the college brunch parties where we’d drink mimosas (hey, champagne and fruit).

      • Shelley says:

        Makes sense to me…if you toss a little Gran Marnier or Alize or something like that in the mimosa to fruitly soften up the citrus edge. 😉 Which makes me think of Yvresse (/Champagne)…I think I’m concocting me a party. =p~

      • March says:

        That makes perfect sense. Mimosas. Bellinis?

  • Ann C says:

    Like Tiara, the phrase “embrace of an old friend” caught my attention. Also, I can’t resist a bargain, especially if it smells lovely as this one sounds.

    My unsniffed bottle is on its way. 🙂

  • Gretchen says:

    Yep, another one here who wore and loved the original Chloe. I still have a mini of parfum and a little shaker of bath powder (divine!) but just sniff them for the memories. It was my “signature fragrance” when I thought that was a required thing, but I’ve moved on, though I still love florals among many other types of scent. I must say I now prefer closer-to-the-body frags, too; still, if one applies with restraint one can wear Chloe discreetly. Not possible with Giorgio, which appalled me even more than the other big bruisers of the 80s.
    So: Ines de la F– break a wise rule and buy unsniffed? Hmm. . .

    • March says:

      Ugh, Giorgio. And now I’m sad that everyone says Chloe’s ruined. I had my mother-in-law’s bottle but it disappeared somewhere. 🙁

      Hey … do you remember Fidji? I wonder if that still exists?

      The unsniffed buy — I can’t help you 🙂 Mine are usually cursed, but lots of folks have great luck.

      • nozknoz says:

        I never smelled Fidji back in the day but was always fascinated by the ads and the bottles. So I got a vintage mini from ebay and liked it, then got a small perfume. It’s not super expensive but it’s not cheap, either – it must have its fans. There seems to be new EDT, but you KNOW it can’t be the same!

      • Gretchen says:

        My god, March, I’m wearing Fidji this morning! I had never smelled it back in the day (it’s d/c now), but last summer bought a mini of edt on *bay because like Nozknoz I’d always loved the bottle shape and the old ads. Guess what. . . I now own Fidji in parfum, edt, and bath powder, all via the evil bay.
        And yes, when Chloe became unavailable in anything but edt it wasn’t worth a sniff. The edt always smelled thin and lacking in something. (Oddly, the body lotions and body cremes never smelled right either, but the bath powder was superb). Back in the day I always wore it in edp because I couldn’t, or thought I couldn’t, afford parfum.

        • March says:

          So …. what’s it smell like? G’wan, give me a lemming!

          • Gretchen says:

            Fidji? I need to improve my powers of describing scents, but here goes: a light-hearted green floral? Not all galbanum-forward like Aliage, or dark and broody like Niki de St. Phalle (which, however, I haven’t smelled in years, so what do I know). Anyway, Fidji is a very wearable scent for me in warm weather, and sometimes in winter too for a pick-me-up.

  • Disteza says:

    My mother used to wear the Chloe edp all the time back before they ruined it sometime in the mid 90s; shortly thereafter it must have pulled from distribution or something becuase it was impossible to find.

  • Tiara says:

    I may have to try this just for the “warm embrace of an old friend” reference. And it’s a cheap thrill. All for that these days but it sounds lovely.

    I’m so amazed at how much I missed by never wearing perfume when I was younger.

    • March says:

      Yes, well, me too. I mean, I wore a bottle of whatever back in the day — Poison, Paris (really dating myself there.) But I envy people with old stashes.

  • Meliscents says:

    I had a couple of old Chloe minis sitting around that I finally decanted into a spray bottle
    & whenever I use it I’m always surprised at how pretty it is. The dry-down is smooth &
    velvety & I don’t see it in the notes, but I swear I smell a hint of coconut. It smells warm &
    summery to me. Very much the comfort scent.
    Another 80’s scent that is really loud, but really nice is FOREVER KRYSTLE from 1984.
    It seems to have a pretty heavy berry note.

    And I do so love the cheap thrills! :d

    • March says:

      You know … unless I’m losing my mind, coconut WAS in some list … wonder if it was one of the Chloes? I usually look for notes a couple different places for comparison (although they’re all kind of bs to be honest.) 🙂

      No way. Forever Krystle?!?!? That sounds so lame I’m tempted.

    • mals86 says:

      Definitely coconut in the Chloe.

      I’m glad that people still enjoy wearing the old thing. I don’t think I could wear it now, not even for Old Times’ Sake. Wearing it for the review was like wearing my old drill squad uniform: nostalgia, and the recognition that not only have I outgrown it, there’s no place for it in my current life.

      • March says:

        I’d love to find a vintage bottle and try it. I doubt I could wear it either, as it would reek of mother-in-law, but it would be fun to sniff.

  • Nava says:

    From your description, Ines sounds like another one of those “way before its time” scents. My favorite in that category is Uninhibited by Cher. That woman knew her vanilla before I’d ever considered wearing vanilla as a scent. Shame…

    The other day, I picked my uncle up at the ummm…how can I say this diplomatically: the “home for the aged”, where he participates in some day programs a few times a week. He’s been telling me about this gentleman who’s part of a twice-a-week discussion group whose father was a furrier here in Toronto, and made a coat for my grandmother and two coats for my mom. When I met him the other day, he said, “Your mom was quite the classy broad.” I laughed at this comment and responded (quite flustered), “Really…I’m sure she’d be flattered by that.” Then he said, “She always smelled like that Chanel stuff.” I just smiled, since that “Chanel stuff” could have been No. 5 or No. 22. There is no way to be sure.

    I know the expression, “out of the mouths of babes”, but sometimes, it’s the old folks who really get you. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.

  • Ann N. says:

    Another (original) Chloe fan weighing in here. A boyfriend back in the late ’70s gave me the bottle Fiordiligi mentions above and I still have it somewhere. It sparked my love of calla lilies which I ended up using in my wedding flowers. Thanks for the great (as usual) column. Now I’ll have to go rustle up some for a lovely walk down memory lane …

    • March says:

      That calla lily bottle sounds just stunning, I’ll have to look for a picture.

      • Musette says:

        it was very cool. Chloe was my “dang I wish I could wear this” scent. I had it but it didn’t suit me. Went to Paris instead (sometime I’ll tell you the Really Fabulous Story about how I acquired my first bottle of Paris. Too weird and fabulous by half. but that was in another city and besides, the wench is 50lbs heavier!:-w

        xoxo >-)

  • Silviafunkly says:

    Another (original) Chloe fan here, wore it for years. Still have a smidge of the parfum in the Lalique bottle Fiordiligi mentions above, the rest is memory.

    Off to check if IdlF is also cheap in the UK. Thanks.


    • March says:

      …. and I probably should have said so in the post — you can still GET Chloe over here. I mean, it’s around. Probably at the same discounters as the other stuff. I don’t know that it smells the “same” as it did 30 years ago 🙂 but it’s close — I whiffed it at the mall store recently.

      • Silviafunkly says:

        It is also easily available in the UK but it has been butchered. It is still recognizable but smells horribly cheap, brings tears to my eyes.
        I am sure there is some of the old stuff still around but as far as I can tell the packaging has not changed and I haven’t figured out how to date the bottles, if at all possible.
        May be someone here knows how. I would love to have some for old time sake !

        • March says:

          Oh that’s so sad! Well, I can’t say I’m shocked. As I think you know, I feel both Poison and Coco (esp Poison) have been tinkered with. I don’t know any way at all to date the bottles.

  • Fiordiligi says:

    Oooh, the original Chloe! My then-boyfriend bought me a bottle of the actual perfume with the Lalique-style calla lillies on it back in 75 or 76. I just adored it.

    Not sure I will race to try and find this one, but I thank you for the memories! Oh, and Ines de la Fressange is impossibly chic and involved with Roger Vivier shoes these days (got to get some more of those).

  • ChickenFreak says:

    Oh, these cheap thrills are so dangerous. I normally never ever ever buy anything unsniffed. I even ordered a pre-purchase decant of Ivoire, the modern version, and it’s practically free from the discounters.

    That good discipline has broken down recently. I currently have five unsniffed bottles on the way. (For a total of less than $100.)

    I’m tempted to make this number six. I love peach, and I’ve never yet found one in perfume that isn’t syrup.

    • March says:

      I don’t blame you for sampling — I end up getting rid of a lot of my unsniffed buys. I just don’t have good luck with it :-w although it’s kind of fun. Around here at least it’s relatively easy to find someone to fob my mistakes onto …

      Well, you can’t hate me if it’s syrup. But I could pick the peach out right away, before I saw the notes, without thinking, GAG, which is often my response (and I love actual peaches.)

  • Musette says:

    I like the Becker a whole lot. But (and don’t hit me) I think I like the Alberto Morilla version a bit more. I like that cheery bombasty-green thingy it’s got going.

    xo >-)

    • March says:

      You know, the Morillas version seems much more like you — you’re the Brillante fan, y’know? I think its bombastic tartness would suit you better. As you noted. :d But I’m gonna get one of those $20 cheapies of this one, I lurve that peach.

      • Musette says:

        what’s weird, though, is that I get no alds from the MOrillas but I know what you mean. It’s just a ‘bigger’ fragrance. Predictably, I guess, it also seems to register as ‘perfume’ more than the Becker – when I wear the AM I get lots of direct compliments from folks who like straight-up perfume, knowmean?

        xo >-)

        • March says:

          I do know what you mean. And I didn’t marinate myself in it, but the AM is a much bigger fragrance. The CB isn’t precisely a skin scent (at least at the top) but it’s subtler.

  • violetnoir says:

    Ines sounds very pretty. But oh my, March–Chloe!!

    I loved that fragrance back in the day. It was my favorite, and the one fragrance that always brought compliments from both men and women. My best friend in grad school, Harold, even bought me a small 1/4 ounce bottle of the parfum direct from Paris back in 1982. We lost Harold in 1985, and I’ve since used up that parfum, but I’ll never forget how special that fragrance was to me.


    • March says:

      I should have known that all these Chloe fans would be on here!!! The parfum must have been extraordinary… as I’m sure you know, you can still find the original Chloe around, although I can’t say how much it smells “identical.” It’s certainly close, I sniffed it at a mall discounter not too long ago.

      Hugs back, and I’m sorry about Harold.

  • nozknoz says:

    I find IdlF fresh and clean in a good way. It’s one of the scents that I wear to work in July-August, when stepping out of a chilly air-conditioned building into the Washington summer is like suddenly being encased in steamy cotton wool.

    Interesting that you mention Chloe, one of my favorites back in the day; perhaps there IS a connection. Now I’m curious to do a comparison sometime soon.

    Thanks for searching out and sharing the cheap thrills!

    • March says:

      Oh, another fan! You’re talking about the Becker version, yes? I think I’m going to have to get one… I thought it would be too much in summer?

      And yes, sniff away and let me know if you see any connection at ALL. And I love cheap thrills.

      • mals86 says:

        It’s good in summer. Lighthearted but not sweet. FWIW, I don’t really care for citrus, so I’m still wearing florals all summer.

      • nozknoz says:

        Yes, it’s in an octagonal, frosted glass bottle with a cylindrical silver top. I got it more than a year ago from the Beautiful Perfumes (now Beauty Encounter) very inexpensively. It’s not nearly as memorable as the famous muse herself, but often in the summer I don’t want to smell memorable, just fresh, and not in a calone way!

      • Flora says:

        It’s fabulous in summer – it is never too sweet and stays fresh for hours. I would not be without it for humid days!

  • mals86 says:

    “Soft and delicately pretty,” and “delightful and just a little tart.” Yes. Two thumbs up. I got my 1 oz bottle for $15, and I think it’s fab.

    I am utterly stumped at its relation in your mind to Chloe, though. I DID wear Chloe for several years – in fact, my bottle lasted me probably a good nine or ten years, all the way through my teens and into college. Also snagged a mini bottle on ebay recently, which smells just the way I remember it, in order to do a review series on tuberose scents.

    That’s not to say that you’re totally off the wall with the comparison, and I suppose if you were most familiar with the drydown of Chloe… nope, still not gettin’ it. However, I’m coming at the issue from years of Chloe memories, and I think that makes a difference. Chloe, to my nose, has so much tuberose and orange blossom, and so much oakmoss in there with the sandalwood and tonka, that the difference between IdlF Vol 1 and Chloe is like the difference between Degas’ pen-and-ink studies of ankles, and his oil paintings of ballerinas on stage.

    But who knows how our minds work, really? Why does smelling Ivoire de Balmain make me think of my best friend’s dorm room? (It was a guy’s dorm.) Why did Black Orchid Voile de Fleur remind me of Ysatis? Dunno. But I enjoy tracing the connections, however tenuous they seem.

    • March says:

      Hah! I just added an addendum to this post, after reading your comment.

      When I think of Chloe, I think of it in a large space, like my mother-in-law’s dressing room, in the far drydown. The ghost of Chloe in the air… granted, the tuberose is big, and maybe saying “Chloe without the tuberose” is like saying Mona Lisa without the paint. 😉 But having never worn it myself, I experienced it as a remnant, in a way that made it beautiful for me. And not about tuberose.

      Your fragrance connections? I can’t help you there. But I agree that those mental connections are interesting to discover.

  • sweetlife says:

    Aaaaah…lovely train of thoughts and the perfume sounds very pretty, too. I hear an unsniffed lemming scratching around somewhere quite near to me.

    More and more it is all about being comfortable in my own skin, and surrounding myself with people who are comfortable in theirs. I still have room for the anxious and the obsessed (Clearly! Since I am one!) but a certain amount of basic good sense and humor is required.

    • March says:

      I think … for a long time … my perfume obsession let me toward the strange. And the interesting. The intense. I don’t think that’s unusual. It’s been more recently that I’ve been able to appreciate more quiet scents. They don’t measure up in the bombast department, but sometimes nothing else will do. @};-