The dark side?

Happy May Day. To my joy, at least one of the lily of the valley I planted last autumn might well bloom. Though late. The weather here has been impossible. We’re due gales again.

Last week was mad. Usually the last week of the month is quiet work-wise, but no go. And frustratingly I am working for the evil client Monday as while it’s a holiday here it isn’t one in the US.

After I referenced Guerlain Djedi in last Monday’s post it sent me off thinking about where I’d first heard about this I believe very-long-gone fragrance which was in an article published quite a number of years ago in UK Elle. Called “Scents of Desire”, it’s about dark fragrances – per the article, “…perfumes that get a girl into trouble”. Usually, perfume articles in women’s magazines are fairly banal. This was just the opposite, focusing almost exclusively on classic perfumes that are decidedly stanky in a very erotic way.

Anyway, I have a copy of the article pasted into a sort of diary. That’s how I know the article is fairly old – the diary dates from when I lived briefly with my then husband in Amsterdam, where he was working for a period. Which means the article may well be more than 20 years old.

I got rid of quite a lot of stuff when I packed to move into storage/the rental house while my house was having work done. I had definitely packed the diary (a large artist sketch-book-type) because it was definitely not something that was excess to requirements. I’m crap at diary keeping – I have a lot of respect for people who are consistent at writing about their lives, even if they don’t expect anyone else to read what they write.

So mid-last-week I went hunting for the diary which I discovered on the bottom shelf, pushed way back, of a bookcase. I had a small a ha jolt – the ‘I knew it was somewhere’ kind.

The article starts out referencing Severine in the film Belle de Jour who leads a double life – as a bourgeois housewife and as a prostitute. Severine wears Mitsouko – and given the size of the bottle she has it looks like she bathed in it.

The article (I have realised I have no clue who the author is, as it’s not listed on my printout) makes a point of saying Chanel No 5 is definitely not a dark woman fragrance.

After I read this article I made a point of sourcing samples of some of the perfumes mentioned, one of which was Djedi, which is described by parfum raconteur Roja Dove in the article (he’s quoted a fair bit) as “One of the driest, duskiest perfumes I’ve ever smelt. Unbelievably strange”.

Anyway, so I don’t go on endlessly, here are the perfumes referenced in the article (in addition to Mitsouko and Djedi): Chanel Cuir de Russie; Balmain Jolie Madame; Schiaparelli Shocking; Guerlain L’Heure Bleue (playdough on me) and Vol de Nuit; Donna Karan Chaos (the only marginally modern one); Caron Narcisse Noir, Coup de Fouet, Bellodgia and Tabac Blond; YSL Opium; Lancome Magie Noir; and Robert Piguet Fracas. I managed to bag older samples of Djedi (exactly as Dove describes), Bellodgia (louche floral pepper, like the old style carnations – the little wild ones); Narcisse Noir (almost dank); and I’m pretty sure Coup de Fouet (no memory whatsoever which is really too bad given the trouble I went to to find a sample). In any case each of these was a tiny amount in a tiny sample vial. Just enough to, in the case of Djedi and Bellodgia, give me serious want monsters.

The closing sentences of the article state: “To weave their magic, dark side scents have to be lived-up-to. Wear them when you’re vulnerable, and you’re lost. Wear them when you’re strong, and the effect is nothing short of devastating. Don’t say I didn’t warn you”.

So, has anyone else read this article? If yes, what did you think? And in any case, what are your thoughts on the premise – and which perfumes do you think fit it?

  • Patty says:

    Have not read the article, but Djedi is a revelation for sure. I do remember Coup de Fouet, I think it is the EDT verstion of Caron Poivre, very much a strong carnation. I love both, but it’s not for everyone. Haven’t had any in a long time, which makes me really sad. Now I need to find that article. But, yeah, some thing you smell and they break your heart because you know it is an only time. The Gobin-Daudes are like that. I still have very small amounts of some of them tucked away, but time and evaporation will eventually get them, no matter how I protect them. But in my head they will always be there.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Arg, the Goban-Daudes. I didn’t discover I loved them till they were gone. I had samples and then revisited. I recall when they were on deep discount somewhere and thinking I should check the bottles out and didn’t. Every once in a while I look to see if she’s doing something new or even reissuing them. so far no luck.

  • Dina C. says:

    Great post Cinnamon! I never read the article, but it’s intriguing. I think that for folks like me, of the 80s generation who were raised on wispy, powdery scents like Love’s Baby Soft and Revlon Jontue, French perfumes were all pretty mysterious and exotic. I’ve either sampled or owned Fracas, Cuir de Russie, Vol de Nuit, Mitsouko, and L’Heure Bleue. Haven’t yet tried the others.

    • Cinnamon says:

      My copy is old, starting to fall apart, and for some reason it cuts off on the right side. Thinking of scanning it so I at least have it for perpetuity and can send it to people if they want a copy. I had Love’s Fresh Lemon, never Baby Soft, and never smelled Jontue. Am I correct in remember jonquils on the packaging?

      • Dina C. says:

        Jontue had a watercolor print in the background, and featured a tuberose – mimosa – chamomile – rose – geranium floral over an oakmoss and vetiver base.

  • Portia says:

    Hey there Cinnamon,
    OOOHHH! I am loving most of these and have bottles in my collection. There’s even a Djedi sample.
    Bellodgia is a huge love of mine from my earlier perfumistahood. Back then it was easy to grab well priced bottles, especially the extrait, so I have a small hoard here.
    Portia xx

    • Cinnamon says:

      Oh, to have backups of such perfumes. I have a love, not sure relationship with Bellodgia. I think that has to do with the dry down which gets a bit sweet on me. But those old style carnations are lovely, with that sharp, peppery fragrance.

  • Musette says:

    I wasn’t ‘into’ perfume in the 80s (though I wore it) – so don’t remember this article. I have a couple of iterations of Djedi (samples) and I love it, though it’s not a perfume to wear carelessly. The original Femme is a skank monster on me, the current is a little cuddlier. Jolie Madame gives me a snigraine, alas.
    This is a pretty terrifying list, at least for me. I bow to them – but am unlikely to wear them.


    • Cinnamon says:

      Hmmm, think the article was late ’90s, but I may be wrong. I think I heard about it on Makeup Alley fragrance board, which was certainly a treasure trove of information years ago. It remains my plan once I’m fully vaccinated and things open up more here to start trawling the charity shops for old bottles. Just because.

  • Alityke says:

    Yes I remember reading that or a very similar article!!!
    Got some Narcisse Noir – hated it
    Love Opium, the Guerlain though I don’t think L’Heure Bleue is dark, it’s just plain miserable & Magie Noire was gorgeous.
    I’m old enough to have worn 20th Century perfumes & surprisingly so many were not just dark & complex but pure filth!
    I miss them ?

    • Musette says:

      omg. that made me lol (the L’HB ‘miserable’ reference). It can sad a gal up, that’s for sure! xoxoxo

    • Cinnamon says:

      I didn’t ‘get’ Narcisse Noir either. But loved Opium. Indeed, L’Heure Bleue is play dough on me, but I guess that’s the joys of chemistry.

  • datura5750 says:

    I remember reading that article! I also ordered samples immediately, and am grateful to this day for tracking down a decant of the 90s Djedi reissue, it was my birthday scent last week.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Djedi was re-issued in the 1990s? I googled and can’t find anything. Was it a limited edition or limited time thing? I would have loved to get a bottle of that.

  • Morgana62 says:

    I remember it well. At least 20+ years ago. I thought I read it in Vogue. I did collect articles from the ’60’s-’70’s Vogue. The one I do have is from ’83 titled Sense Memories by Joan Juliet Buck. It could be from the May issue, as Vogue used to make that issue their fragrance one. I cannot say if all those Wonderful and dreamy articles set my mind and nose on the vintage classics that are so hard to secure now unless one is willing to part with thousands. L’Heure Bleue, Femme, Rumeur, Jolie Madame, Fame, Magie Noir, Ecusson, Secret de Venus, Narcisse Noir, Jungle Gardenia, Nectaroma, come find me!

    • Cinnamon says:

      I’ve put my diary away, but I’m pretty sure the article was in UK Elle. Your list makes me want to visit the perfume ‘museum’ near Paris all the more.