When I mentioned Inà¨s de la Fressange in my recent berry post, I was talking about the very-hard-to-find 2004 version in the skinny, upright bottle with the pretty gold embossed leaves on it and the acorn cap, not the plain, short, silver-capped original version from 1999 which is still all over the discounters for a song (e.g., you can get 1 oz. from BeautyEncounter for $22.). Anyhoodle, doing research I discovered that the 1999 version was a completely different scent done by Calice Becker. Notes of the 1999 effort are aldehydes, peach, bergamot, brazilian rosewood, carnation, iris, jasmine, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, rose, sandalwood, tonka bean and benzoin.
(For anyone who wonders: Inà¨s was a Chanel model in the 1980s and a muse for Lagerfeld. And if we ever get our image problem fixed I’ll show you, but googling will produce satisfactory results.)
I thought the notes for the 1999 version sounded really good – in fact, better than the 2004 one I own, which is a fun, lighthearted thing but pretty fruity/frivolous.
So … Someone sent me a decant of the original. Thank you, Someone! I was thrilled, because I’d almost bought it unsniffed, and my unsniffed buy history is dismal. I am guaranteed to hate something I buy unsniffed.
On Monday, when I reviewed Martin Margiela Untitled, I mentioned that the fragrance didn’t smell anything like what I expected, given the notes. With this version of Inà¨s, it’s the exact opposite – Inà¨s smells almost exactly (and quite pleasantly) like you would expect, if you found that list as intriguing as I did (uh, not to mention the Calice Becker part.)
The first impressions are aldehydes and peach – not canned peaches, or syrupy peaches, but the scent of standing in the vicinity of a basket of ripened peaches. I’m going to hop right in here and use the word restraint – peach in quantity can be pretty overwhelming. The aldehydes, while not particularly noticeable, do a wonderful job of creating a sense of openness and buoyancy; add the little herbal zing of the bergamot and something that might have been cloying is delightful and just a little tart.
The middle part of the scent, while not fascinating, is quite pleasant. I can’t pick out any of the individual floral notes except the iris, the sweet woodiness of which is made more pronounced by the rosewood; that stretch is “diffuse floral” and the rose is, thank God, muted if not outright bound, gagged and stuffed in the trunk.
The drydown’s soft and delicately pretty. The peach fades; I can smell iris and jasmine, but mostly it’s … sandalwood, tonka bean and benzoin. It’s more of a wallpaper scent than a powerhouse at this phase – Tam Dao or Samsara it is not. I assume the sandalwood is the same fake-y stuff most folks are using now, but it’s hard not to like sandalwood, tonka and benzoin.
Now, let me tease you for a moment: I began to think, sniffing over and over, of how Ines reminded me vaguely of something. Check out these notes of another perfume, and a popular one back in the day: honeysuckle, orange blossom, ylang-ylang, hyacinth, lilac, bergamot, aldehydes, peach, jasmine, rose, narcissus, tuberose, carnation, iris, oakmoss, sandalwood, amber, musk, cedar and benzoin.
That’s a more ornate list, and sweeter, but do you see any resemblance? Most of the notes of Inà¨s are in there. Guess what that is? Give up? It’s Chloé, the 1975 original, not the wan, pathetic thing on offer now. Original Chloé was a huge sillage monster – I never wore it myself, and I liked it better after two weeks (or two months) of drydown, on a friend’s scarf, or in the lining of my mother-in-law’s fur coat. Inà¨s is like that Chloé drydown, a scent writ on a smaller, human scale – the same fragrance “idea” made into a cashmere robe rather than a suit with big shoulder pads.
I get asked periodically about my interest in perfume by people who (clearly, albeit diplomatically) think the entire thing’s peculiar. As I sniffed this scent, I got to thinking about the types of reactions that a fragrance might trigger. Since I (and most likely you) sniff a lot of quite expensive, oddball, “niche” scents, more often than not I feel that I am placed in the position of receiving a “message” from a sample. Some fragrances seem meant to be puzzled over; some appear to be anti-fashion in the same way that, for example, some of Prada’s clothing is frumpy and peculiar in a quite deliberate way. A fragrance like Tubereuse Criminelle might have a particular element (camphor) that is designed, if it works for you, to highlight the beauty of the rest of the fragrance even more brightly. Some fragrances are fairy-tale strange (Byredo Pulp. Unicorn Spell.) Some are just … strange (L’Antimatiere.) Some are jolie-laide (Bandit, in my opinion. Niki de St. Phalle.)
If perfumes are sending us a message, what does the 1999 version of Inà¨s say? It says: I smell pretty. Nothing more or less. Calice Becker’s Inà¨s warms my heart because it is clearly pre-gourmand; there is nothing remotely candified or Lolita-esque about it. It is woman, not child or “old lady.” It is neither fruitchouli nor cotton candy. It is not “retro” – faux or genuine. No oakmoss, no civet, no martini-and-cigarette aroma. Inà¨s is more like the warm embrace of an old friend, one maybe from high school, a woman who makes you happy and with whom you’ve always clicked. You could run into each other after ten years and you’d be caught up in minutes. You sort of avoided her for awhile, entranced by your circle of more interesting, avant-garde friends. But you are older now. You’ve come to appreciate her lack of pretense, her kindness, her warmth. You always thought she was pretty, but a little quiet. Maybe she was just comfortable in her skin.
Addendum (prompted by mals’ comment): my late mother-in-law wore Chloé for years and years, before I was ever interested in perfume or knew what tuberose smelled like. I simply thought of it as … her perfume, although I didn’t know what it was. I kept some of her clothing, and if I take out the things that have been put away, even after four years, I get the ghost of Chloé — more warm benzoin and sandalwood base than anything else. I did a post on it here.
Source: private sample. As I noted up above, if you’re curious, this definitely falls in the cheap thrill category — it’s quite easy to find at the discounters for less than $30.