April in Transition


Happy April.  Our weather is still very much a study in contrasts — much colder than usual, with sunshine and flurries.  I’ve been jokingly calling it “spinter.”  I suspect this is one of the years we will bypass spring in D.C. and go directly to summer.  I’ll walk out the door in my Polarfleece jacket one fine morning later this month and it will be 83 degrees.

In the spirit of the changeable weather, here’s a candy samples post on fragrances with sharp contrasts: old version vs. new (the first); top vs. bottom (second) and expectation vs. reality (third.)

Coty Emeraude – has there been any fragrance house more bastardized and debased than Coty? I did a quick sniff of Emeraude at CVS at Christmas, just to refresh my memory. It smells like Pine-Sol and Glade Powder Fresh. It´s ghastly.  Its cologne formula manages through some sort of perverted alchemy to be both screechingly strong and one-dimensionally thin at the same time. Which is why sniffing a vintage bottle of the parfum (yes, dolls, apparently at one time Emeraude actually came in parfum), I´m guessing from the 1960s based on the packaging, brought tears to my eyes. Emeraude used to be lovely – soft and warm and alluring. On my wrist it smells vaguely like Shalimar, only with less tension between aggressive citrus and cloying vanilla, a Shalimar I could actually embrace. Browsing the comments on various fragrance sites, I can see this is hardly my original idea — the gist of several comments is, Shalimar, only softer. I was surprised, though – given the modern, sharp iteration I expected the vintage to smell more aggressive, perhaps a green chypre. Given how long Emeraude´s been around (since 1921) fans of vintage fragrances and soft classic Guerlains might want to scare some up – you can find it online from vintage dealers and eBay pretty cheap.

Gianni Versace – another lost masterpiece? From the drecky, trashy house of Versace? Seriously? (Although I´m very fond of the Dreamer.) Fragrantica calls it a floral chypre, launched in 1981, notes are aldehydes, spices, bergamot, carnation, tuberose, gardenia, orris, jasmine, muguet, narcissus, benzoin, leather, sandalwood, amber, patchouli, oakmoss, incense, myrrh. It shows up periodically on eBay for $75 – $100 a bottle. I didn´t like the top at all – sweet big-hair 80s floral, plus maybe the top notes are off a bit (I´m pretty sure these are old bottles.) But the bottom? An almost unimaginable transition to an exquisite focus on the last half of that list of notes. The narcissus, benzoin, leather, oakmoss and incense are dominant, creating a drydown reminiscent of: the burnt-candy edges of Bal a Versailles; the almost acrid leather of vintage Femme; and the dusky strangeness of Guerlain Vol de Nuit. Um, yeah, I mean that as a compliment. I´m warning you though, for fifteen minutes I kept thinking, why did this dear, wonderful person who knows my tastes send this to me? The answer was worth waiting for.

Schiaparelli Shocking (vintage parfum). This was humorous. The same benefactress who gifted me with this (and some other astonishing things) also sent Santa Maria Novella´s Cuba, which has That Honey Note. I love honey in fragrance, but it´s tricky – depending on the nose, the skin, the lunar cycle, I have no idea what, you can get honey´s less optimal aspects – specifically, urine (see Serge Lutens’ Miel de Bois) or that male essence I won´t type in right here to spare you from seeing the word sperm again in one of my posts (oops!). Both Lee and I were visited by the latter when we tried Cuba in London (and for more honey posts, see Satan´s Beehive and Doctor Strangebuzz). Anyway, X stated in her note that she had both Cuba and Shocking on at the same time and coincidentally noticed some similarities. And there you have it. Schiaparelli Shocking, which I´d never smelled, is shocking to me because based on the name I´d have expected something ballsier. It is a fairly straightforward, rich, vintage honey smell on me – fortunately, without the gamey bits. We´re also supposed to have rose, jasmine, cloves and civet, but after we get past the (mostly gone) aldehydes and citrus at the top, I´m smelling delicious honey. Sign me up.

  • Olfacta says:

    I wore Emeraude in middle school. Have made a couple of attempts to get some vintage; one is very old (the little brass bottle “purse” bottle, L’Aimant came in that one too) but I think it’s pretty well turned; then a small bottle of parfum that is ok, but doesn’t have any highs left. I think the crown-top bottle is the one to get.

    The more I read about regulations and reformulations, the more I want to get these vintage fragrances while they’re still around.

  • Meliscents says:

    I’m so glad a review was written on vintage Emeraude! I’ve been singing its praises for a long time but the new version has forever tarnished its image. I have a cologne & perfume and it’s just heavenly. Emeraude is very similar to Shalimar but I think with an even brighter top note & not so much vanilla. I also have some old Shocking and I have to admit I was also a little disappointed at how un-shocking it was. For sure though, if you like honey, this is the one for you. I’m going to have to try layering it. I understand the name was for the color and not the fragrance, but you’d think they could have made it a little more “scary”!

    • March says:

      Thanks for the comment and your impressions. I keep trying to decide why I like it so much, honestly, I don’t care for Shalimar at all, although at least smelling the vintage Shalimar parfum I begin to understand what people like. But of all the classic Guerlains I find it very, very difficult. And yes, it’s shocking pink! Not shocking fragrance. But that honey is very nice.

  • Shelley says:

    So, my mom wore Emeraude, and I can’t remember a thing about it. I went off searching for some, a la Grandma’s Norrell experience, and as a result have a semi-vintage bottle. Nice enough to have raised a flag to look for some truly vintage…have what I think is *nearly* the good stuff…will have to see if I can at least get a hit on some to locate myself on the Emeraude map.

    As for Shocking…I remember being all excited that I liked something, well, “Shocking” early in my perfume journey. I tried to share with Musette, thinking I was bringing on something all that…should have known that something I assumed was there was missing when she suppressed a raised brow and said…”uh-huh.” (Remember, M?) Too funny. Mmm-hmm–lol. It’s nice, no naughty bits. And “lol” because no wonder I had no trouble with it so early on. Anyway, I was so enamored of it that I tried to land some vintage via the Bay…but wouldn’t you know, those transactions went awry. 🙁

    Narcissus leather oakmoss???? I need me an estate sale with some Versace on tap…

    • March says:

      I liked Shocking a lot — enough probably to try to get ahold of one of those vintages Carmencanada is talking about, but not battling the bottle collectors for the torso bottle.

  • Robin says:

    Am nearly brain dead & can’t think of anything intelligent to say about those 3 perfumes, but wanted to add DOWN WITH SPINTER! I want my spring. Now.

  • Teri says:

    I’ll join in with mourning the bastardization of Emeraude. On a college spring break trip to Ft. Lauderdale in the late ’70s, I purchased a small bottle of Emeraude. I’d forgotten to tuck my current fragrance in my suitcase and, of course, could’t go without a scent! As a result, I’ll forever associate Emeraude with sunshine, beaches and nights of youthful excess. I can attest that Emeraude was very different in the ’70s then it is now, and I suspect it was different in the ’30s than it was in the ’70s. I’m not at all sure I’m a fan of evolution in fragrances. What’s been done to Emeraude is a crime. And Givenchy, if you’re listening, I still haven’t forgiven the travesty that was the reformulation of L’Interdit. (Grrrrr)

    On a related topic, I wore Faberge’s Aphrodisia yesterday, thanks to a recent e-bay score, and was thrilled by the strange and wonderful ‘time warp’ experience. I just know there’s a 1940s girl trapped in my body somewhere. I do love me some vintage fragrances.

    • March says:

      Aphrodesia! What a wonderful name. What’s it smell like? Aren’t those old fragrances glorious?!? Today’s the perfect day for some vintage, kind of cloudy and cool-ish. Waffling between Femme and Jolie Madame, as usual.

      And that is a great association with Emeraude — what a happy combination of memories to carry with you. And again, given how long it’s been in production, I’m grateful that it’s not that hard to get ahold of some of the older bottles.

      • Meliscents says:

        I just got a bottle of Aphrodesia bath oil from an estate sale & it’s Heaven! It starts off with a strong Ivory soap smell but drys down to a rich spicy musky chypre. Wow, now that’s a mouthfull!

    • Gretchen says:

      Aphrodisia! In the 60’s, my mother had a Faberge threesome on her dresser: Tigress, Woodhue, and Aphrodisia. Someone must have given her the set, as I hardly remember her wearing them, but I do recall her wearing Tabu– another proud franchise fallen into decline. Later she went on to Youth Dew and Norell. At least YD has stayed the course.

      I’d love to smell the “real” Emeraude– L’Origan was my own first fragrance purchase, a solid stick (like a fat chapstick) in the late 60’s. Even then I could tell it must have been something great before Coty went cheap. I’ve never tried any vintage L’Origan, afraid I’ll cry.

      • March says:

        Vintage L’Origan shows up pretty regularly on the ‘Bay. Teh best bottles IMO are the black ones with the compressed spray, there must be a name for that … they’re pressurized. They seem to keep the fragrance really well preserved.

    • Meliscents says:

      I totally agree with you on the vintage fragrances. To me they are the closest thing to traveling back in time. My husband is convinced I was born in the wrong time. I told him he should be happy I was born when I was or I’d be too old for him. 🙂

  • carmencanada says:

    I own some 60s Emeraude (no concentration stated on the bottle, but from the size I’d say it was cologne) and back then it was still a thing of beauty.
    Now Shocking, one of the few of my vintages I wear on some sort of regular basis… I do get lady bits from this one. In fact, in my post on it, I compared it with a silk brief put on the morning of a night with a lover, and slightly splashed with rosewater… The sandalwood + civet base is what Guerlain’s Elixirs Charnels wish they were… Shocking wasn’t intended to qualify the fragrance, though, but the packaging: Schiaparelli’s trademark color was shocking pink, the name she gave to hot pink.

    • March says:

      There must be variations between the bottles? Also in the vintage fragrances the civet tends NOT to be the thing that disappears, you know? And yes, I was just admitting my ignorance publicly — I’d assumed (for no good reason) that the fragrance itself would be shocking in some way. I think Shocking and Femme should swap names… I am very fond of that pink, and I want one of those glorious torso bottles.

      • carmencanada says:

        I have the 70s re-edition of the torso bottle (I was a very precocious perfumista), but the vintage extrait I got in flat rectangular bottles. They go for much less. And, no, civet doesn’t tend to disappear… There are certainly variations and you may have had a not so old version. My old ones are from the 50s or 60s.

  • Nava says:

    I used to joke about the non-existence of spring up in New York saying the same thing you did: you walk out of the house one day and it’s 80 degrees all day, every day for the next 6 months.

    My mom wore Emeraude way back when and I’m sure she’d be appalled by its current incarnation. I could provide you a list of scents longer than my arm that have been bastardized beyond any and all recognition. Shame… Maybe that’s why I am so reluctant to embrace anything vintage; the disappointment would likely kill me. 😉

    • March says:

      I’ve turned into a shameless vintage slut. When it’s gone I’ll be sad, but there are days when nothing else will do. 🙂

      Today: cloudy and ugh.

      • carter says:

        Shameless vintage slut! Yeah, baybee!

      • carter says:

        When I read the inevitable disparaging remark along the lines of “Ugh, smells like an old lady!” on makeupalley or luckyscent in reference to something magnificent like Chanel No. 5, I just laugh and think “yeah, hon, because Marilyn Monroe didn’t understand sex appeal”.

  • mals86 says:

    I am embarrassed to admit that as a teenager I thought Emeraude was beautiful. This was the early/mid 80’s, and Emeraude was available at drugstores at the time, so I’m sure it was the thin crappy synthetic mess deplored by anybody with nasal cells.

    Maybe I should go hunt up some of that vintage; I bet I’d love it.

    • moon_grrl says:

      I had a small dab-on bottle of Emeraude in the mid-eighties and I think it smelled MUCH better than today’s incarnation. I spent a lot of time smelling that particular Emeraude when I knocked it over and it spilled over my floor. 😉

      Maybe we should all email Coty and ask them to release the fabled reworked version that Turin talks about-the one which smells wonderful and uses all EU approved modern materials.

      • March says:

        I just referenced you below, and I think you’re probably right. I had no idea Emeraude could be so lovely. Of course, having smelled vintage L’Origan and L’Aimant and … I’m missing something … I knew how great they were. L’Origan is probably my favorite.

      • Musette says:

        This is so weird – I was just in Fairfield IA, in an antiques store (where I picked up a bottled of Bandit for $6 – thank Floyd! La Bandita is baaack! That other, laser/taser-grapefruit smell all gone! Yum.

        Anyhoodle, there was a little bottle of Emeraude perfume creme or something – and I tried it and – meh. I suspect that age and air and possible contact with body oils might’ve altered it. But i should’ve picked it up nonetheless but I got distracted by this really nice dog and ….dang. It def smelled better than the PineSol dreck they sell these days.

        And Shocking is not shocking – but it is warm and rich and delightful. I dunno if I get honey – never really considered it. But I do love it, both vintage and contemp. I’ll have to try it(perhaps to morrow) and see if I get a honey note. I went a little hog-wild with the 31RC today, then sat in a stuffy room – the back of my throat hurts now!


    • March says:

      MoonGrrl already said it, but I dunno, I bet the 80s Emeraude might well have smelled great — or at least significantly better than the current version. I think it’s been in the last 10 – 15 years they REALLY got busy selling out.

      • mals86 says:

        (Blush) I just found a little vintage bottle on ebay and am bidding on it as I type… um, please nobody outbid me! It looks to be earlier than the 80’s iteration, based on the packaging (rounder bottle, little crown-shaped cap).

        I love Shalimar Light but can’t wear the original — too much patchouli, ugh.

        • mals86 says:

          My Emeraude PdT arrived today, and it smells wonderful! So sofffft. It is a 15ml crown-top bottle, and I don’t know how old it is – certainly older than the rectangular 80’s bottle with the white plastic top that I had. Gorgeous. I’m considering going back for a bigger bottle…

  • carter says:

    If we’re not talking about sperm I got nothin’.

  • Melissa says:

    Studies in contrasts? What I want to buy vs. what I can realistically afford. Wasn’t that easy? Though I do seem to find some winners at decent prices, the real drool-inducers (The Party in Manhatten, Enlevement au Serail) all seem to be a bit out of reach.

    As for your three, Shocking is just a little too honeyed for my tastes, but maybe I need to try the vintage parfum. I can’t remember which strength/formulation I tried, but it was very sweet. Haven’t tried the others, but the Versace in particular sounds utterly delicious in the drydown. Love that powerhouse list of notes!

    • March says:

      The Versace drydown was just gorgeous, but even dabbing I had difficulty with the opening. I can’t imagine spraying it.

      You need a bottle of that mushroom thing. Tell me you got some. Mushroom on me, not on you — it was tremendous. The Malle? Dancing in My Bra?

      • carter says:

        Beeaytch! Do not be dissing my ‘shroom juice or I’ll sulk and then no one will be speaking to you 🙂

        • March says:

          It smells AMAZING on Melissa. One of those things, I said — buy that NOW, you have to buy it. It smells terrible on me. Must be a skin chemistry thing.

  • Elle says:

    I think we are going to jump from winter to summer here in NC as well. We’ve actually had some very summery days already – sandwiched between utterly frigid ones.
    Just ordered a sample of vintage Emeraude. Sounds lovely! Will shut my eyes or cross myself for protection when I see it at CVS. Disrespectful reformulations are the essence of evil imo. As an aside, I just want to take this opportunity (which I will probably be doing shamelessly at every chance) to send my love to Amouage for such a fantastic reformulation of Ubar.
    Versace really is *all* about that dry down. Love the stuff! It seems to me to more clearly reflect Gianni while the other scents reflect Donatella. And, like you, I was surprised at how unshocking Shocking is on me. I got some of the edt recently just to see how it would compare to the parfum, but it’s just somewhat less rich – no emphasis on different, perhaps skankier notes.

    • March says:

      Well, thanks for all the goodies. 🙂 And I need to dig up my new Ubar, I know it’s here somewhere. That Versace was so interesting, I didn’t even know it existed. How is it sprayed on?

      I just realized Patty blogged on Shocking too, and said, nice, but where’s the dirty bits?