The Classics: Eau Sauvage by Christian Dior

Well, I happen to be writing this on the day of the eclipse (because sometimes I don’t leave things until the last second.) A minor eclipse fever has gripped the nation, including in Southern California, where we are nowhere near in the Zone of Totality (or whatever it’s called.) All I know is that it will get dark, and it’s to be hoped that the rapture will not have happened, since I bought a full tank of gas yesterday and would hate to waste it just feeding eternal hellfire. But if you’re reading this I guess we survived..

So spring had sprung for about ten minutes here in LA, then went back in it’s hidey-hole. We have had particularly obnoxious weather here for the past few weeks- glorious Monday through Thursday then rainy over the weekend. The past one broke that streak- it was lovely both days. So I took advantage by going for a long walk on Saturday and doing errands on Sunday, including going to Costco (our large, member-only warehouse store that’s famous for having everything in bulk.) I picked up cleaning supplies: A drum of laundry soap, six-pack of cleaner, etc and the main reason I keep the membership- the giant two pack of smoked salmon. That, and gas.

I had mentioned that I was treating myself to a few sundry things since the new car was very much cheaper than the one I had saved up for. The bottle of MKK I wrote about last week was the most extravagant- the second most (and I am telling myself, final) is a bottle of Dior Eau Sauvage I got on sale at Macy’s.

Eau Sauvage has been in my life on and off for almost 50 years (which is interesting since I am only 39..) I think it may have even been the first cologne I purchased for myself- my dad didn’t use it (too perfumey for him) being more of the Old Spice type. I must have seen it at the local Mall (being a small town, we had only room for one: we had one open in the mid 70’s that was a nail in the coffin of downtown shopping, and a few years later a newer, flashier one open across the street that put the nail in the coffin of what was later referred to as the “Dead” mall, only to pretty much die itself with the resurgence of a revitalized downtown and the rise of interweb shopping. Poetic justice.) and either whined my way into or more likely scavenged my allowance to score a bottle.

Eau Sauvage was created in 1966 and I am assuming at the time was kind of revolutionary. I believe that many men’s fragrances of that era were of the Old Spice variety, leaning towards spices or heavy ambers, or like Dana’s wonderful 1935 Canoe, light, airy citruses. Eau Sauvage took the latter route, but dared to add the jasmine hit of hedione, and not in a shy quantity either. I remember even in the 70’s that amongst the starchy WASP set I grew up in it was a rather daring thing to wear: Boys were supposed to smell of soap and clean laundry. Boys who smelled of jasmine were rather suspiciously French (or worse.) I loved it and didn’t give a rat’s patootey what old Mrs. Stickupherbutt next door thought. I was wearing Eau Sauvage. And Calvin Klein Jeans. And Ralph Lauren polo shirts in screaming shades of fuchsia, purple, or turquoise. My parents were simply amused and thankful that unlike my classmate, Mrs. Stickupherbutt’s son, I wasn’t dead drunk at 4pm on a Sunday and peeing in the fountain in the park that separated our houses, in full view of her bridge club and my mom’s garden party. A son in loud clothes and French cologne was a doddle in comparison.

So what does it smell like today, after doubtless many reformulations and the advent of scents for men that smell of everything from Apple Pie to Zinnia*?

It smells very fresh, very clean, very French, and completely timeless. It starts off with a Calabrian bergamot that is according to Dior especially grown for them, with a touch of mandarin and grapefruit. almost immediately joined by the hedione with that flowery jasmine punch.  Petitgrain and galbanum are in the middle with the base being green, stemmy vetiver. Dior came out with flankers (and I did veer into ES Extreme for a time in the 90’s) but none of them hold a candle to the original, not even the one hawked by Johnny Depp.

A friend posted an article on FacePlace about the suit Cary Grant wore in Hitchcock’s “North by Northwest” positing that it was the best and most influential suit in the history of cinema. That’s fairly accurate, but it also has to do with the wearer and that fact the thing was bespoke- an off-the-rack sack suit from Brooks Brothers would not have the same effect even on Cary Grant.

Eau Sauvage is Cary Grant, his suit, the South of France, that Sunbeam Alpine, Grace Kelly and a chicken picnic lunch, bottled. 

Eau Sauvage is available practically everywhere at various price points I purchased my bottle from Macy’s. Surrender to Chance has samples.

Photos are mine, Pexels, and Wikimedia Commons.

*Yes, I know Zinnias have no smell. Work with me.

  • alityke says:

    I am so sorry I’m late to this party but Eau Sauvage is much better than most other contemporary male fragrances, even in its current, somewhat neutered form. I’ve been head over heels about Eau Sauvage when I discovered it. Must have been mid to late 70’s, the same time as I went all swoony about Diorella, his sister.
    It’s offensive to have called Depp’s blue Sausage anything related to Eau Sauvage.

  • Portia says:

    There is a bottle of Eau Sauvage around here somewhere Tom. I think it might be the leather special edition that was around for a hot moment. There might even be an old bottle of the original but for some reason I can’t remember wearing it much… Next time I’m in the vintage DIOR box I will give it a memory spritz.
    Portia xx

  • Maggiecat says:

    I sniffed ES a while back and remember thinking it was amazing! Maybe I need to find a bottle ” for my husband”.

    • Tom says:

      Yes! For your husband! So caring, so selfless!

      I think your husband needs a spa day. You should audit several spas in the area to test drive them. You wouldn’t want to gift him a disappointing one..

  • cinnamon says:

    I wouldn’t mind a zone of totality of some sort.

    And I sometimes wish men would return to wearing suits. They don’t have to do the tie thing, and definitely not the stupid 1980s finance bro double breasted. Just decently cut jackets & trousers rather than jeans falling off your flat bottoms… and stop wearing awful cologne when you smoke (either cigarettes or that stupid sweet fruity vaping shit). It just makes things worse.

    Anyway, ES. Great stuff. Interesting, classy, absolutely gorgeous bottle.

    • Tom says:

      The only issue I have with the packaging is that I wish Dior would bring back the black-on cream houndstooth boxes.

      I’ll tell you, I don’t wear a suit (and tie) that often, but when I do I feel like a million bucks..

  • Erica says:

    Gorgeous fragrance on a man and one that is timeless, my husband still wears it. The current Eau Savage (blue bottle) leaves a lot to be desired, I think it’s more generic. Why did Dior give it the same name as the classic? One can only wonder. Visions of Cary Grant in that suit – goodness the man could have worn a sack and still looked gorgeous! Loved your writeup…

    • Tom says:

      Isn’t the blue bottle just “Sauvage” without the “Eau?”

      I think of that one as “Eau no.”

  • Maya says:

    I’m glad that Eau Sauvage is still worth buying. I have never tried it but it does seem to have a large number of online devotees. Most of them love love love the vintage and have no interest in the newer bottles. I can’t fault that because there are a few perfumes that I feel that way about too. It’s the real deal or nothing.
    I will give the current Eau Sauvage a try though the next time I see it anywhere.
    I like the image of a South of France (road) trip. It would be really cool in the car pictured above! Yes?

    • Tom says:

      Oh totally! I would love that car. Although the one I really want is the Aston Martin that ‘Tippi’ Hedren drives in “The Birds”

      • Maya says:

        Well, you made me look…..1954 Aston Martin DB2/4 Mk I Drophead Coupe. That is one seriously cool car!

        • Tom says:

          Yes it is! I’ve actually driven the road she took from San Francisco to Bodega Bay. In a minivan, sadly.

  • March says:

    Oh, man. I need to get a bottle of this … pretty sure I gave my dad a bottle but he preferred his Old Spice / Grey Flannel (remember that one?!) and I think I used it up myself, I thought it was wonderful. “… suspiciously French (or worse.)” hahahaha. I miss all those bright polo shirts and Nantucket pants.

  • Ellen says:

    I originally bought Eau Sauvage for my husband, because I had read somewhere that Frank Sinatra wore it!! It became my husband’s signature scent. I wear it now as I think it is definitely unisex and gorgeous and oh so much better than the flankers or the Johnny Depp variety. I recently bought it for one of my sons and he now enjoys it as did his father. His wife loves it on him. Great scent. As for Cary Grant’s suit, my observation is that Cary Grant would have looked good in anything. He epitomized elegance, class, charm, sophistication, refinement, and worldliness.

    • Tom says:

      Yes he did and he would look good in anything- which is why I think Hitchcock dragged him through a cornfield and crop dusted him. Even then he was dapper. Charade even put him in the shower in his suit..

  • Dina C. says:

    Sounds like you were a preppy dreamboat back in the 70s! So much better than today’s grunge youth wearing pajama pants and a hoodie with Crocs and hanging around Starbucks quaffing an overpriced coffee milkshake. Eau Savage sounds like my cup of tea. Love all those notes. If it skews too masculine, I’ll get the hubby to wear it. The sartorial perfection of a BB custom-fitted suit can still be had, for a price!, but sadly the line at Starbucks is longer.

    • Tom says:

      I don’t think it’s too masculine at all. It’s a delight.

      Not casting aspersions on BB for the sack suit. Fitted it’s gorgeous. Seems people don’t get suits fitted anymore. And could someone explain to me the recent fashion of suits that look two sizes too small? It looks like Mom is waiting for your growth spurt to end before buying you new clothes..

      As for “dreamboat” I doubt it, but at least those Calvins made me look like I had a butt! And the RL polo shirts were much softer than the ones from Bean or Brooks or Lacoste. And I really liked the jewel tones.

      • March says:

        Those pants! I blame… what is his name? Thom Browne (I googled.) Although I caught an episode of Miami Vice online recently and had to chuckle at those giant ice cream suits. I vote for somewhere in the middle.