Wednesday, July 17, 2013

L'Authentique Eau de Cologne de l'Empereur Napoléon 1er

L'Authentique Eau de Cologne de l'Empereur Napoléon 1er
Today, I smelled a sample of the much acclaimed cologne attributed to the Napoleon, himself. This fragrance is also supposedly certified by the Osmotheque as substantially similar to the cologne worn by Napoleon. The manufacturer, Cosmalia, added the “1er” part to make sure we knew it was Napoleon I and not the III for whom Guerlain’s Eau de Imperiale was fashioned.

The opening itself id quite nice built around neroli and bergamot of great quality, but this phase only lasts for a moment. There is a brief floral stage and a slightly musty, sweaty base that perhaps contains some synthetic civet similar to what I have smelled in Czech & Speake Citrus Paradisi.

L’Authentique certainly is a nice cologne, but I do not feel that it rises to the level of what the emperor himself would have worn. Further, the civet base is a departure from the cleanliness typically associate with Napoleon who supposedly doused himself with several gallons of the stuff per day.

There are many better options available today including Guerlain Eau de Imperiale and Coq, Roger & Gallet Extra Vieille, Lorenzo Villoresi Acqua di Colonia, and even vintage flacons of Farina Gegenuber on eBay from time to time.

L’Authentique, unfortunately, is not a cologne I can endorse as authentic or vintage-styled. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

F. Millot Crepe de Chine

F. Millot Crepe de Chine

Another day and yet another classic vintage perfume to review. Today’s perfume is none other than Crepe de Chine by the lost F. Millot Company. I was expecting a powdery, sweet, aldehydic concoction, but I was happily surprised that these qualities (which I generally despise) are controlled—granted I am wearing the EdC concentration—these properties could be more outrageous in higher concentrations.This is what I expected given its release in the roaring Twenties alongside such greats as Caron's Tabac Blond, Chanel no. 5, and Molinard's Habanita.

The opening is lightly aldehydic, a far cry from monsters like Chanel no. 19. It is light, elegant, and restrained. The focus of the fragrance, however, is twofold. First, is the luminous floral bouquet of ylang, jasmine, muguet, rose, and possibly a bit of neroli. Second, the base is where it gets interesting. CdC reminds of Coty Chypre though, at least in EdC concentration, it is lighter and cleaner with a bit of old-fashioned French soap. There is a whack of genuine oakmoss, musk, cistus labdanum, and perhaps a touch of civet or ambergris. In a way, it does resemble the sheer silk fabric for which is named—creamy and velvety. While Crepe de Chine does lean a bit feminine, the EdC would be suitable for either gender and I doubt anyone would recognize it as a popular ladies’ fragrance from the 1920s.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Vintage Rosine Nuit de Chine c. 1920s

Review: Vintage Rosine Nuit de Chine

Today am reviewing another Paul Poiret masterpiece from the long lost vintage house of Rosine. Not the rose garden Rosine of today,  but back when it was a high end competent French house that held its own with the likes of Guerlain, Chanel, Jacques Fath, and even Houbigant.

Upon first smell, I noticed much of the top is no longer with us, but that was to be expected from an 80+ year old perfume. At first blush, I would categorize Nuit de Chine as an oriental fougere and its similarity to Mouchoir de Monsieur is uncanny though not unusual as they were released within eight years of each other and probably of popular style at the time.

The opening is dull and unexciting, but the coumarin/tonka accord so cherished from MdM comes to the fore except that Nuit de Chine uses real—yes, that’s right—real civet and deer musk in the composition. I have smelled these tinctures before and can say with much certainty that this is so. The longer it sits on my skin the fecal yet floral nutty aspect of the civet becomes greater.

Nuit de Chine is also known for its resplendent sandalwood note—natural Mysore, of course. It is restrained and adds a light buttery texture and slight hints of Chinese incense.

I am not sure why Rosine chose to name their fragrance “Chinese Night”—perhaps it was to inspire visions of the Orient. Nuit de Chine was also a popular French song in the 1920s, though it was released after the perfume. Poiret had originally named his fragrance Nuit d’Orient as he favored Oriental perfumes.

It is difficult to give a note construction for such a long lost perfume that is so disconnected from what we know as fragrance today. I would guess that it contains an opening lavender-coumarin accord for the basic fougere effect inherited from Parquet’s not so distant Fougere Royale in addition to some florals and spices perhaps jasmine, tuberose, cinnamon, orris, and rose. The base is a coumarin haze augmented by civet, musk, sandalwood, and vanilla. There may also be traces of vetiver and cedar here.

Overall, if one has smelled Mouchoir de Monsieur, especially a vintage formulation, one is not missing much in Nuit de Chine. However, if artistry and the best ingredients available are important, Nuit de Chine is not to be missed (also note that Turn of the Century perfumers likely had easy access to the best perfume ingredients ever available). Unfortunately, Nuit de Chine and Poiret’s other masterpiece, Le Fruit Defendu, are probably the things of which perfume dreams are made—far outside our grasp.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Unveiling the Next Myth: Rosine Le Fruit Defendu “The Forbidden Fruit”

Unveiling the Next Myth: Rosine Le Fruit Defendu “The Forbidden Fruit”

I must confess that this article will be rather short as I have never smelled Le Fruit Defendu, there is almost no information available, and it is unlikely that anyone will be able to sample it (dreams come true though as a full bottle sold at Christies New York a few years back for only $700—it was probably worth ten times that).

Really, the only solid information there is comes from a couple of blogs in French that recount interviews with Jean Kerleo discussing his recreation for the Osmotheque. Mr. Kerleo describes Le Fruit as a flowery woody amber fragrance with strong overtones of almost overripe peach and apricot peel and says that it reminds him of a sweet and salty toffee candy with peach. Bettina Aykroyd, Les Parfums Paul Poiret a l’Osmetheque, Faire le Tour de Monde en Parfums (Jun. 30, 2013),

Another source, Olfactorum, recites an interview with Marie Rogeon, the current owner of Parfums Rosine, who reinvented the company as a rose garden in 1991. She tells that Le Fruit was one of the first uses of galbanum and also employed peach, apricot, and almond blossom.

So in summary, it is safe to say that Le Fruit Defende comprises largely of semi-sweet, almost fermented peach and apricot skin (which may give an almost boozy aura) with the green effervescence of galbanum and nutty sweetness of almond blossom over a simple bed of sandalwood, amber, and vanilla. 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Vintage d’Orsay Le Dandy

Vintage d’Orsay Le Dandy

I recently had the opportunity to smell a sample of the long lost d’Orsay Le Dandy eau de cologne (c. 1950s). I expected it to be on par with the current version—at least the less recent eau de toilette that has been supplanted with an even more hollowed out formulation. I expected sweet rum, vetiver, tobacco, ginger, cardamom, amber, and clove in the vein of the current formula. I was taken aback when I first sniffed the applicator as I removed it from the vial. It had nothing to do with the modern rendition at all.

The modern Le Dandy rendition is likely based on our current notions of the personality of an Edwardian/Belle Epoch dandy fashioned in the style of the inimitable Comte d’Orsay of perfume legend. When we think of dandy, we think of the flashy, outrageous, and pompous when in fact we ought to think of the restrained, elegant, and understated. Vintage Le Dandy is soapy barbershop fragrance with a little musk, civet, oakmoss, and Mysore sandalwood. The top is composed of French lavender, bergamot, and possibly clary sage. The heart is a light floral bouquet perhaps of Grasse jasmine, rose de mai, and verbena while the base is adds a little orris root for a dusky effect on top of a light animalic component. This is the portrait of a Turn of the Century dandy; it contains many ingredients that would have excited the dandy: musk, civet, possibly ambergris, rose, and jasmine. I would also surmise that it contains carnation and ylang ylang in the style of Rigaud’s old Eau de Kananga, but with more body and more soap.

I find more often than not that vintage perfumes are much needed breath of fresh air in today’s chemical synthetic fragrance industry where there is no more  art, no more craftsmanship, and no more heart. It is treated as though we were selling pork belly futures or disposable razors—mass marketed muck to turn as much profit as quickly as possible.

Next week, I should be able to post on the legendary Crepe de Chine (vintage EdC).