My name is Hester Carstens and I have the great good fortune to live in Cape Town, at the very foot of Table Mountain, where I work as an Afrikaans fiction editor for a large publishing house. I came to the perfume world early: There’s always been a bottle or three in my cupboard (these days, more like 80), and my mother’s Knowing as she whooshes out the door in her shoulder pads is a strong childhood memory. The bug really drew blood in 2007, when I was copy editing at a fashion magazine, needed to check up on a perfume we were featuring . . . and discovered this blog and all the others. My life changed! So did the heft of my wallet. And now to the interesting part:
Eaudemoiselle de Givenchy is the kind of scent that makes me want to slap a bumper sticker on myself: My other perfume is a chypre! You know the kind, where you think no self-respecting perfume-lover with a few years of sniffing under the belt could possibly really like this. There’s no aura of the crypt (“mildewy” is my mom’s frequent assessment of other perfumes I wear), no intellectually stimulating dissonance or wildly unusual note to give you pause. Indeed, there’s no pausing here at all: it’s one smooth, comforting goodsmell.
The notes I find online are tangerine/mandarin (what? I can’t say I get that at all), Italian winter lemon, shiso, rose, ylang-ylang, musk, ambrette seed and tonka. Sometimes cedar and orange blossom is also mentioned. The promo material calls it “an imaginary rose in dewy morning”. And sure, that reads fairly true, although rose is not at all the main player here, but a modest ensemble actor. I smell an especially well-integrated lemon – no functional product aroma here – in a zesty, sweet and musky mix with a pronounced orange blossom feel. The first five minutes are quite strong, but just give it a little time for the soft deliciousness to settle in.
Up top there’s a rather interesting vegetal note that I’ve seen attributed to the shiso, and that seems right – I’d love to do a side-by-side comparison with Roger & Gallet’s Shiso; they share a family resemblence, from what I remember of store-spritzes of Shiso. What remains into the far drydown of Eaudemoiselle is mostly musk and ylang-ylang, I think, but something fresh and orange blossom-y stays present. Musk and ylang-ylang sounds languid and lazy, bu
t Eaudemoiselle retains an awakeness, a sprightliness, to the end.
Since my initial tester-sniff, it has reminded me of my very first perfume from when I was six years old, Petunia by Yardley. That should give you a good idea of the retro softness and well-blended feel of this scent – the kind of thing a little girl in the 80s would have found comforting and not intimidatingly sophisticated.
Eaudemoiselle didn’t get the best of press in the blogosphere when it was released. The smell of well-bred nubile virgins, commenter kaos.geo on Now Smell This memorably called it (although this was in one of the few positive reviews; I’m really quoting out of context), and it was widely dismissed for, you know, not having any moss or skank. Well, these nubile virgins at least have the good sense to want a “nice” perfume that’s not Essence of Sameyness: no shampoo here, nor froot or strident aquatic horror, but rather a charming retro-tinged floralcy. I think if a very young girl were to wear this, it would read as endearingly old-world, while it certainly could appeal to older wearers, too.
Eaudemoiselle has enormous lasting power (but yes, the “crystal” musk of the base can get a touch tedious if over-applied, which I tend to do in a big way – most people would never dare spray with my daily abandon). And as a bonus, it comes in a simply stunning bottle – hooray for the not-even-slightly-tacky cap, so unusual, so good to touch and such a pretty metallic shade.
Have you sniffed it, or did the initial bad press put you off? And don’t you all love the bottle, so smooth and pretty?