Teo Cabanel

To anyone who´s spent more than five minutes reading my blog posts, it must be screamingly obvious that I am, how you say, no trained professional. I do not possess the impartiality or the discernment of the chemist or master perfumer who is capable of dissecting some fragrance with enormous artistic merits that s/he may, personally, hate. You don´t read tons of posts on rose fragrances from me, because I don´t like rose scents, so what can I do? If I stumble across a rose fragrance I actually like, and I do occasionally, you hear about it (off the top of my head: I like a couple of Rosines, SL Rose de Nuit, that nasty Rose Poivree). If resident Hermes genius Jean-Claude Ellena worked anise and lavender into, miracle of miracles, something I love, you´d have heard about it. Sadly, he did not, and thus no post from me on Brin de Reglisse.

When I picked up the Teo Cabanel bottles at Henri Bendel, the name was familiar, but I had never tried any of the three scents. Picking through the scant information on their website leads me to understand that the original firm was founded in 1893, existed at least until the 1930s in Paris, and was reborn in 2003. There´s a section in there about using “only rich natural ingredients” that I will grit my teeth and resolutely ignore in the interests of focusing on the scents, one of which is “me” and the other two decidedly not.

Oha, the first scent I tried, is a dark, spicy rose. Notes of: roses from Bulgaria and Morocco, jasmine, cardamom, vanilla, iris, tonka bean, woods, white musk. To the extent that any of these get any coverage on the fragrance forums, I think this is the most popular, but sadly I am unable to wax poetically about its charms.

I picked up Julia next, because Julia happens to be the name of one of my daughters. The notes are mandarin, rhubarb, blackcurrant, jasmine, hyacinth and violet, sandalwood, incense, citrus, musk. Their website blurb says: “Julia is the perfume for every woman, for all occasions. It brings to mind a bouquet of impressionist flowers. Both voluptuous and subtle, Julia is made for vibrant women with a strong love and passion for life.

With all due respect, this is wrong. Julia is the fragrance I want to give to a special girl, with all my love, on her 16th birthday. It is delicately sweet; the impressionist flowers´ bit is spot-on, a seamless blend of jasmine and hyacinth, the rhubarb and blackcurrant freshly picked rather than jammy. The base notes are a tidy basket to carry the flowers in. Julia glows like dewy skin on high-school girls who are, of course, too young to appreciate their own beauty the way an older woman would. It evokes innocence on the verge of something more. There is nothing winking or jaded about it, but it is not childish. It is gentle, reflective. It would smell absurd on me; I am not that young girl anymore. It is a verging-on-womanhood fragrance, fresh as a new rose at dawn. It is lovely. It knocked me sideways.

Alahine, the last of the three, I can´t stop thinking about. Notes of ylang, bergamot, jasmine, Bulgarian rose, neroli, pepper, iris, cistus, patch, benzoin, vanilla, sandalwood, musk. I went by the store and sprayed this on three times, waffling between the parfum and the EdP. I´ve finally decided I like the EdP better. I am not generally a parfum girl, partly because I almost never struggle with strength and/or longevity in scents. Part of it is clearly my scent personality – in a general sense, I am drawn to the rougher edges of an EdP concentration the way some other people are clearly drawn to the seamlessness of an extrait. Anyway, Alahine can´t be described as rough in any way. It´s a mannered oriental. I´m afraid I don´t have a sample to retest, but I was charmed by Alahine´s transformation. It starts out with a ladylike floral note, a generalized citrus/jasmine/ylang, very classic and expensive smelling. It is Julia´s immaculate mother, thirty years older. From there Alahine only gets better as the pepper, iris and the naughty bits start to bloom, but it’s sexy in a subtle way, the woman in the corner of the room who catches your eye, and suddenly compared to her quiet chic everyone else looks a bit overdone.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get a little tired.  Tired of the hoopla, the 2007-harvest narcissus LE, the petals plucked by blind nuns at dawn, the newest sex-shop leather bump and grind.  I don’t believe any of the three Teo Cabanel scents is an old formula; I can’t speak to the quality of their ingredients.  But they have the feel of something I long for — a scent that began with a brief that started with the words, make me something beautiful.

image of Alahine parfum: shop.teo-cabanel.com

image of Olivia Hussey, who will always be Juliet to me, dvdtoile.com

56 Comments
Nora McKay November 21, 2008

I agree with your description of Julia as a scent for a young girl. The Meloe and Oha are very beautifull. But I'm looking for an oriental floral scent so I've ordered a sample of Alahine. After reading this review, I'm really looking forward to it. The bottles are exquisite! Very classic!

Eileen January 25, 2008

A bit late to the party, but.. "To anyone who’s spent more than five minutes reading my blog posts, it must be screamingly obvious that I am, how you say, no trained professional." That's what I like about your comments, though! You're ahead fo me on the road, but not so far ahead of me that I can't undertand what you're smelling. ;)

Divalano January 24, 2008

From one rose-a-phobic to another, I thank you. Also lavender. I love your reviews. Your scent vocabulary is sufficiently more sophisticated than mine that you can explain things to me that I hadn't previously understood, but not so trained that what you're observing bears no resemblance to my experience. The things I find in common among all the perfume bloggers I read: they relate to scent emotionally, they have a good command of vocabulary to describe that experience, they know very clearly what they like & don't like but are open to new experiences. Oh, and a sense of humor helps ;) Also re: trained vs untrained. I had a photo instructor once who told me that her arts training had almost ruined her ability to create. It had made her so self conscious about the intellectual/academic process & meaning in everything she did that she lost touch with her emotional relationship to the work. I've heard that often from my more schooled colleagues. I've had a few classes & am mostly self-taught.Training is a good thing but too much of it can kill the joy.

sweetlife January 24, 2008

I'm so glad to see these lovely reviews -- was just commenting on NST regarding the new solid form of these that I've never seen anyone review Oha, which I really love (rose lover that I am), or even mention the line, really. Now I'm dying to try Alahine. I got my samples from a very nice rep I met on the Sniffa in NYC a year ago. He was repping the Divine line as well, and sent the Teo Cabanel along unasked, so I always think of them together somehow. They both have that classic perfumery feel, I think. And I agree with you that its a nice change, now and again.

grizzlesnort January 24, 2008

Thank you for NOT buying into that all ingredients blather: what the heck is the difference between Moroccan/ Bulgarian/ Kashmiri/Tacoma rose or Tunisian/ Provencal/ Ft Lauderdale jasmine? As if.

violetnoir January 24, 2008

Isn't Olivia Hussy lovely? What ever happened to her? I tried Oha some years ago, and it was okay. I will keep my eyes peeled for Alahine on TPC. Hugs!

Robin January 24, 2008

Kept meaning to try these! Only one I've got is Julia, so have just put some on. Your review is spot-on, it's lovely, but too innocent for me. There is maybe something kind of Annick Goutal-ish about it? And have a feeling the one I need is Oha.

Debbie January 24, 2008

"Plucked by blind nuns at dawn"? =)) I don't know if it's a blessing or a curse when we can't get a fragrance out of our mind(s). A blessing if we can get more of it....a curse if we can't?

Dain January 24, 2008

Mmm... thank you for the lovely review, I have not heard of these perfumes before but... no, no... must not... give... addictive personality... full rein. :(( I think you are very right on a lot of points throughout your post. I found myself expressing some very similar sentiments only a few days before, so I can only but heartily agree. And if you take a lot of care and time, truly, it shows in the quality of your reminiscences, because you bring these particular perfumes to life.

sarah patton January 24, 2008

Hi March! Am happy to hear about Julia. I've committed to getting all my neices some perfume when they turn 16 and I have another one coming up in April. Remember I got the last one Petite Cherie... didn't get much more than a "smells nice" out of her but there you are. I'm sure she'll think fondly of me at some point.

Patty January 24, 2008

I do think these three are beautiful, each in a different way. I don't know that any of the three fit me that perfectly. Alahine is definitely more you than me. :) But I admire them because they are straightforward, aren't trying to be all loud and obnoxious to get attention... and, hence, they get very little attention. PdN suffers the same fate, which vexes me overmuch.

Flor January 24, 2008

They all sound sooo lovely!! I don't have a beautiful princess to give beautiful perfumes or anything to. I have two boys, and my best friend has an adorable girl, but she's a bit of a tomboy and doesn't like sparkly or pretty. So sad. Anyway, when I make my trip up there I'll have to check them out, my list is getting longer and longer.

Malena January 24, 2008

though i know you weren´t fishing for compliments ;) i have to stress how much i like your perfume reviews! you write emotional, entertaining & witty & one feels your love for perfume. i think it´s complete nonsense if some people think you have to be a trained professional or whatever to have "the right" to give your opinion about perfumes, otherwise you don´t have the knowledge to write about it. that´s really crap 8-|! after all it´s people like us who buy perfumes, why not write how you feel about them?! it´s so interesting to hear other opinions! about the cabanels: i´ve samples of oha & julia, but never cared to test them :"> after reading your reviews, i think that must be changed. i´m also (very) tempted to order a sample of alahine. could you comment on the difference between extrait & EdP? Is it just a matter of strength or do they smell different? i´ve very seldom a problem with lasting power, so that would never be a reason to purchase an extrait. if i purchase an extrait it´s because it´s more complex, deeper or even smoother.

Elle January 24, 2008

Perfume is all about emotional connections and responses. It's not for the analytical part of my brain that I put on perfume each day. Consequently, when I read about perfumes, I want the opinions of a fellow enthusiast who also happens to be a brilliant writer and you most certainly are that. I've somehow missed Alahine. Sounds divine - like something I'd love in the same way I love 24, Faubourg. I'm going to have to retry Oha, but I seem to recall it wasn't dark enough and I like my roses *dark*.

Katie January 24, 2008

Hello March, Another great post ! I really don't Julia (and I'm sad about it). I wish I could smell everything you can in this one. For me, it's all about one note I can't deal (some fruity note). I smell the same note in some fragrances I can't remember now (maybe J'Adore?). Now I want to try Alahine.

Anne January 24, 2008

This post is why I read perfume blogs. I rely on the honesty. Nothing brutal needed, mind you, I can read between the lines (usually). I appreciate that it is possible to find something positive to write about every scent (most of the time) even if it is the bottle or the label. I don't often go to the actual perfumer website and I don't read a lot of fashion mags so I don't encounter the Mad. Ave. copy. Better that way. What bothers me also is the number of releases. There isn't enough time to savor what needs to be savored. And finally, thinking about someone this morning. ((((Lee)))) :)>-

chayaruchama January 24, 2008

I'm in complete agreement with your sentiments on these ! I passed up Julia one year ago, and then Alahine 3 months ago... Rest assured, in April, I'll rectify THAT. The price point is certainly more reasonable than many; perspective tells me that, one year ago, I thought it was costly enough, LOL. Alahine reminds of Cadolle #9- another exquisite oriental. The reviews were just marvellous and heartfelt, sweetheart.

MattS January 24, 2008

I count on you guys for your wit, style, and uncanny ability to give me, through words alone, an idea of how a scent smells. I'm not looking for scientists or sensationalists, just my lovely Perfume Posse. I've been out of town for a few days and I've missed you guys terribly. These scents sound lovely, by the way. Understated, which of course, I struggle with, but lovely nonetheless.

Louise January 24, 2008

March, your nose is plenty learned for me. Cute, too. My last run through Bendel's was so fast I missed the Teo Cabanels entirely (and nearly missed my bus home, too). Just from your description I think I would like the rose-infused (ahem) Oha a lot, and would admire the others. Your Julia would do Julia justice in a few years. Are all the bottles so lovely?

Lee January 24, 2008

Truth and beauty, baby, that's what it's all about. Read the crapola about the Tom of Finland release, have you? Tiresome, isn't it?

Lisa D January 24, 2008

I'd much rather hear your, how you say, untrained opinion of a scent than a professional's dissection (or, at the other end of the spectrum, regurgitated ad copy). When you say that you can't stop thinking about Alahine, that actually means something to me, and I believe you. Keep those subjective, inexpert and nonprofessional thoughts coming.

tmp00 January 24, 2008

I think that there's no reason for anyone to discount their opinions whether in a blog or real life because they are not some sort of "Trained Professional". Firstly I doubt that most critics in other genres are have any sort of training in the field they review: did Pauline Kael go to film school? Is Ada Louis Huxtable an architect? Sometimes passionate amateurs with a decent vocabulary can be as insightful and certainly as entertaining, if not more than some "experts" At least that's what I tell myself.. So where can I get a decant of Julia? Sounds perfect for the godchild...

Bryan January 24, 2008

March, Absolutely lovely reviews. A romantic review so to speak, of what seem to me to be very romantic parfums. I must try them. If they are anything like you describe (and scents usually are very much as you describe) I will love them...at least for their beauty, if not their timeless/picked at dawn, etc flowery prose. I get tired too, I must say, but a beauty is worth sifting through the purple prose. Thanks lovely.