Robert Piguet, old and new

Robert Piguet’s fragrance line was originally an extension of its couture fashion line, established in the 1930s. Its first fragrances, Fracas and Bandit, were developed with Germaine Cellier and quickly became big perennial sellers. The couture house closed in 1951, shortly before Piguet’s death, but the brand continued to develop and market fragrances into the 1960s. The house, now exclusively selling fragrance, was sold several times, the last time to Fashion Fragrances and Cosmetics in the late 1990s.

Since that time, Robert Piguet has reformulated its classics to adhere closely to their original versions, albeit with modern materials, and has also released several entirely new fragrances. The house nose seems to be Aurelien Guichard; I have only seen his name and no other perfumer’s connected with the newer fragrances, and we do know that he designed the reorchestrations of Piguet’s classic scents.

I very rarely get the chance to smell the newest, latest, hottest niche perfumery, much less all the indies, but for whatever reason, I’ve had the opportunity to test a fair portion of the fragrances from this house, and wanted to do a few thumbnail reviews here.

Image from the Piguet website

I’ve divided these as Robert Piguet has suggested in its marketing materials: unisex fragrances are highlighted in green. Women’s in (Fracas) pink, of course. Ones I’ve smelled are in bold. I have not listed limited-edition anniversary versions, because typically there is nothing special about the juice. (I’ve also not listed Fracas for Men, which is produced by a licensee of the name from the ’70s era and is generally not regarded as being a legitimate Piguet fragrance.)

Alameda 2013 – Modern chypre. Really, a sweetened patchouli-rose with lily, something like Calypso but without the cheerful fruit, heavier on the patch and castoreum.
Baghari 1954 – Aldehydic woody floral. I bought a small portion through a split. Obviously, vintage bottles age differently, but this thing was intensely animalic on me, so much so that the grocery clerk actually leaned away from me while ringing me up.
Baghari Refo 2006 – Still an aldehydic woody floral, but cleaner. Candlewaxy aldehydes, an intense orange, woods.
Bandit 1944, reformulated 2006 – Mean green chypre leather in both iterations, though the modern ingredients took some of the bulk out. Tried to shiv me in the nose, then went for the eye socket. I had to duck. Bandit indeed. (Hmph.)
Calypso 2010 (Original released in 1950s) – Floriental. Candied orange peel, rose and geranium, a greeny herbal patchouli, a bit of suede, and iris. Fun and pretty. I’d have bought it if I didn’t already own at least two other rose-patchouli scents.
Cravache Refo 2007 (Original released in 1960s) – Aromatic woody chypre.
Douglas Hannant 2011 – Fracas Lite, with pear (also see Petit Fracas, below). To be honest? I liked it. And I’m not sorry. I mean, it sho’ ain’t Fracas, but then absolutely nothing else is.
Fracas 1948, reformulated 2006 – Iconic Giant White Floral. My in-depth review is here. I’ve tried both 1960s parfum and the current EdP; both are very good, though the modern is streamlined (to some degree!) where the vintage was plussshhhh and narcotic.
Futur Refo 2009 (Original released in 1960s) – Green floral. I was sure I’d love this, but I don’t; it is standoffish and almost unfriendly, in my opinion, and now I understand why some people hate green florals. There is a ton of violet leaf in this, which I don’t mind, but also a ton of vetiver, and I wanted more florals than I got. There’s no reason Piguet should classify Futur as feminine, other than that the original was intended for women. I’m convinced a man could wear this successfully.
Gardenia 2014
Jeunesse 1975
Knightsbridge 2013 (Harrods exclusive) – Leather. This scent is still exclusive to Harrods and more expensive than the rest of the line (which is not exactly cheap), at $325 for 50 mls, but I found it really enjoyable. It’s a rose made out of smooth glove leather, sprinkled with nutmeg and drizzled with Calvados, resting on a bed of makeuppy iris powder. Not quite edible, almost addictive. If only it were priced reasonably . . .
L’Entier 2018
L’Insomnuit 2016
Nuit Velour 2017
Oud Delice 2015
Oud Divin 2015
Petit Fracas 2012 – Fruity floral. Like its name suggests, it’s a youthened version of Fracas; actually,  it’s Lite-Fracas-Lite, with a fruity topping and a drizzle of chocolate sauce. (I preferred Douglas Hannant for a modernized Fracas.)
Rose Perfection 2013 – Rose soliflore. Wisps of powdery violet and a little mean-green smack of geranium surround a very pure, pretty rose. I’d probably rather have YSL Paris, but this is nice.
V Intense 2014
Visa 1945
Visa Refo 2007 – Woody oriental. Part of this I liked (the candied-peach/vanilla/suede thing), part of this I really really hated (the Angel-esque, piercing patchouli). Overall, I found it nauseating, but if you liked Angel, give it a shot.

Les Celestials de Knightsbridge Collection:
La Lune 2017
Les Etoiles 2017
Les Soleil 2017

Nouvelle Collection:
Bois Bleu 2013
Bois Noir 2012 – Woody incense. Sometimes I like a nice woody incense (Comme des Garcons Zagorsk, anybody? Amouage Jubilation XXV?), so I tried Bois Noir. Smoky guaiac, aromatic cedar, frankincense and some fairly harsh woody aromachemical lead into dirty patchouli and labdanum. Sigh. No.
Casbah 2012 – Oriental spicy. This one is what I expected Bois Noir to be: woods and incense, with nutmeg added. Not something I’d buy at this price point, but really nice.
Mademoiselle Piguet 2012 – Floral woody musk. Basically, soapy orange blossom, screechy neroli, and shaving-cream tonka on me. I didn’t love it.
Notes 2012 – Herbal fougere. I didn’t realize it was a fougere before trying it (Fragrantica calls it a chypre), but IT SO IS. And therefore, Not My Thing.
Oud 2012

Pacific Collection:
Blossom 2012
Chai 2012
Jeunesse 2012 – Fruity floral. I thought I might enjoy it — I like a good fruity floral, emphasis on good — but the Pacific Collection was patently made for the Asian market, which tends to favor very light florals, and Jeunesse (“Youth”) is an olfactory raspberry macaron, sugared berries over a floral background so light it’s almost not there.

Overall, there are only a few Robert Piguet fragrances I would wear on a regular basis: Knightsbridge and Douglas Hannant (forgive me, Fracas, but that cold-cream orange blossom sometimes just does me in). Maybe Calypso, if I wasn’t already stocked up on rose-patchouli scents. On the other hand, I think the line is fairly well-composed and varied, and Fracas is so iconic that everyone should at least smell it, even the modern iteration.

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Tuberose Series 18: Fracas

It would be pointless to review tuberose scents and leave out The Queen of Them All: Robert Piguet Fracas, of course. It would likewise be pointless to refuse to review it just because everyone else has reviewed it.

fracas adA brief history: Created in 1948 by perfumer Germaine Cellier for designer Robert Piguet, Fracas was designed as the pinkest, girliest, swooniest Big White Floral ever. It’s The One BWF to rule them all, if you will. Piguet’s fashion house closed in the 1950s, and its fragrance arm folded some time in the 1970s-’80s (a shame, really – Cellier’s gigantic floral and its butchy leather counterpart Bandit would have fit perfectly into the ’80s More Is More zeitgeist), and then the name was sold to a company called Arpel in the mid-1990s. The Piguet fragrance business was revived in 1998, with perfumer Aurelien Guichard reportedly responsible for the reorchestrations of most of the classic Piguet fragrances, from Fracas and Bandit to Calypso and Baghari.

It was the 1980s which saw restaurants banning the use of scents such as Giorgio Beverly Hills, or more correctly the overuse of that decade’s popular go-big-or-go-home bludgeoners, but Fracas is also one of those big, and I mean B I G, fragrances that can clear a room. Or a concert hall. (Or a football stadium, for that matter.) Ergo, everybody has an opinion on Fracas, and it largely depends on whether you like big white florals or not. I do!

I’m always surprised to see Fracas referred to as being THE tuberose perfume, because it isn’t just tuberose. There’s a big slug of creamy-soapy orange blossom in there, too, and jasmine and lily of the valley and half a dozen other florals, plus peach and moss and woody notes. It is, in fact, symphonic and baroque and dramatic densely constructed. I tend to see it in my mind as being one of those gigantic ball gowns one saw in the mid-1950s, made of iridescent flamingo-pink satin, with layers of ruffles. (The dress in the Piguet ad at the top of the page is far more streamlined than the one in my mind.) It’s so femme as to be almost ironic, and you will either find it intoxicating or ridiculously over-the-top.

tubeyFracas wasn’t the first tuberose-centric fragrance released (that would be Le Galion Tubereuse, created by Paul Vacher and released in either 1937 or ’39 – see Grain de Musc’s post here), but Fracas was an immediate commercial success. It has always been iconic and instantly recognizable, worn by countless women and inspiring just about every tuberose fragrance since.

I have only tested the modern eau de parfum, though I’m quite sure I smelled the old version on other people when I was a child – when I first tested my sample, it was familiar to me in a lovely way. On me, Fracas opens with a beautifully green, fresh tuberose. Hyacinth and a very crisp green menthol are noticeable, but I never get the citrus. Gradually the green notes tone down, and the white florals become very creamy and buttery. The orange blossom is very noticeable to me. Occasionally I get a whiff of jasmine and gardenia, and occasionally a tiny hit of violet. The basenotes are far less distinct than the florals, to my nose, but they are pleasant. The drydown is lovely, a sweet white-floral woody musk that smells like clean skin and goes on for hours and hours.

Sometimes when I wear Fracas, the orange blossom comes to the fore very quickly and the whole thing smells like cold cream. Other times, the tuberose stays front and center, but the orange blossom always shows up for me no matter what. This aspect is probably why I don’t adore Fracas. I like it, I almost love it – but that soapy, creamy orange blossom interferes to a degree that precludes my personal adoration. Still, it is amazing and there is nothing else quite like it. If you like tuberose, or BWFs at all, you simply must, must try it.

For further reading (see whuttimean about everybody reviewing it?): Robin at Now Smell This, Kafkaesque, Yesterday’s Perfume, Bois de Jasmin, The Candy Perfume Boy, Perfume Shrine, Marina at Perfume-Smellin’ Things and Donna at the same blog, just for starters.

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