Mini-Reviews Roundup, October 4, 2012

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Vintage Rochas Femme parfum de toilette – I have tried the reformulated Femme from the 2000s and enjoyed it. Yes, even that cuminy stuff some people say smells like B.O.? Just smells like spice-cabinet, Mexican-food cumin to me. I like it. I like it with the peachy-plummy stuff and the ambery-woodsy stuff. So I figured I’d do great with vintage Femme.

Uhhh, nope. Big FAIL. Stewed MESS. Remember Kevin’s hilarious post on NST reviewing Serge Noire (which, for the record, I like)? Well, that’s how this vintage Femme comes across to me: a big ol’ witches’ brew of way-past-ripe. Stinky, even.

Weird, huh? I mean, I’m perfectly used to vintage perfumes, how dense they can sometimes be, and how patient you have to be to let them settle in and get comfortable and bloom on your skin. And sometimes they might look just fine in the bottle, and still be age-damaged. However, when that happens and age has damaged a perfume, there’s usually a sense that something smells wrong, or there’s a “hole” in what you’re smelling, or a fadedness, a sense of something missing. This bottle has none of that. Nothing about it seems age-damaged: no nail-polish, no maple syrup, no holes or fadings or erasures, no sense that it’s moldered. No mustiness.

It’s just doing the same sort of thing that fruity chypres usually do on my skin: curdle. The comment that people usually make about older Femme is that it smells like warm skin. (Sometimes they say it smells like post-coital skin.) But this is more like a vat of stewed fruit that has rotted and gone garbagey. There is just something about fruit + oakmoss that goes really horrid on me, I confess. I did okay with that ONE 1990s Mitsouko parfum, but the fruity-chypre genre really disturbs me in general.

I’ve already found a new home for this little bottle of vintage Femme, and I hope both the bottle and its new owner will be very happy.

Esteban Classic Chypre – This one started off really lovely, a bergamotty rose-jasmine accord made serious with oakmoss and woods and patchouli, very classic, very pretty. Eventually it settled into something that smelled most horrifyingly of Calvin Klein Obsession, which I hate almost as much as I hate Opium and Youth Dew. I did not scrub it. But I wanted to.

Accord Parfait Chypre (Bergamot & Black Tea) – what can I say? The bergamot’s pretty obvious, and so is the black tea. Did I ever mention that I love the smell of brewed black tea? Or black tea leaves, for that matter. I do. I make a gallon of sweet iced tea every other day (The CEO mainlines the stuff, and I might have a glass every couple of days myself), so I know what plain black tea smells like, and I like it. This smells delightfully like strong, unsweetened black tea… for about twenty minutes. Then it’s gone, leaving behind a faintly mossy-woody drydown. Honestly, I think this fragrance is more like a strongish tea cologne. Might be truly wonderful in summer heat.

Accord Parfait Boisé (Heliotrope & Santal) – well, this is very pleasant. It’s built along the same woody-vanilla lines as Serge Lutens Un Bois Vanille and Smell Bent One, but instead of the dark roasted effect of UBV or the chai-tea spices of One, it has a delicious lacing of heliotrope (and not the Play-doh variety), and I think I’m also getting a hint of cedar and a sprinkling of pink pepper too. This was another Surrender to Chance sample, and the brand’s perfumes are apparently not sold in the US – apparently this is another set of niche perfumes that are not too complex but very attractive anyway, probably due to some a) decent raw materials and b) restraint.

Accord Parfait Famille Fleurie (Mirabelle & Gardenia)– again, what an attractive fragrance this is. Nothing earth-shaking, nothing strikingly unusual… just pretty. It is, to be honest, like a little piece of Mary Greenwell Plum or the top/heart of Juicy Couture parfum, without the different drydowns of those fragrances (modern chypre or caramel wood, respectively). There may be a very quiet woody-musk base in Famille Fleurie which serves to extend the pretty floral heart, in which I smell tuberose, jasmine and a hint of rose. It doesn’t seem particularly gardenia-specific, lacking the overripe and heady aspects of the flower, but most “gardenia” fragrances do, anyway. The fruit is tangy and unsweetened but quite present. Really nice

Tom Ford Jardin Noir Ombre de Hyacinth – on the opening, I’m reminded of Bas de Soie and Penhaligon’s Bluebell, only less strident. There’s a really nice quality to it that makes me think of dirt in spring, damp and just waiting to start growing stuff. Metallic dirt, does that explain anything? They could have called it “Silver Shadow,” that would have been appropriate.

After awhile, it begins to smell a little bit like Prada Infusion d’Iris, without that silky-powdery musk thing that Id’I does so well. After that, it goes thin and slitty-eyed. Having gotten me into a mood calling for “green and iris,” it got all stabby, so I went and covered it up with a goodly spritz of Jacomo Silences parfum de toilette, which was completely delightful.

You should just go buy Silences instead. Or wait for the revamped version, Silences eau de parfum sublime, instead – Chaya Ruchama mentioned the EdP Sublime on her Facebook page, commenting that the new one is actually nice and she might even call it full-bottle-worthy. (I mean, it isn’t as if Tom Ford really needs my cash to fund his lifestyle.)

Vintage Caron Bellodgia parfum de cologne – oh, this is niiiiiiice. Very nice. After a ten-minute soapy stage, it’s all beautiful carnation floral. I get the jasmine and rose in here, too, but carnation is center stage. So pretty. (Thanks, Shelley!!) The downside to wearing this is the recognition that Caron has Totally Screwed This One Up. I suppose all perfume carnations are doomed at this point, due to IFRA restrictions on eugenol, but I for one am kinda ticked off about it. Carnation fans are all in mourning.

Malmaison! The original Metallica (stupid name anyway)! Old-school Old Spice! Bellodgia! All gone or messed with. Grrrr. I do still have Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s really beautiful Oeillets Rouges. And Fragonard’s pretty-pretty Billet Doux was available on the website last time I looked. (Why do I not have a bottle of that? I’d probably wear the heck out of it.)

But do not even talk to me about Vitriol d’Oeillet. I think that’s a good fragrance, but it doesn’t smell much like real carnations, ergo I am Not That Interested.

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9 thoughts on “Mini-Reviews Roundup, October 4, 2012”

    1. Since I love carnations so much I had found a vintage mini on ebay and tried that… COMPLETE. DISASTER. It was just wrong. And then someone sent me a sample of modern Bellodgia, and it smelled largely of rose soap. Also wrong. But this tiny decant of vintage shows what a glory Bellodgia was meant to be.

  1. The minute you wrote about vintage Femme, knowing your taste, I felt like I was watching a car wreck in slo mo. No way, no day was Mals ever going to like this stuff. For the record, I cherished a mini of original until it got emptied. It was BAD, it was naughty, it was way too naughty for me and it did smell of skin (in parts of the body that seldom see the light of day!) Not a nice girl perfume. But wait a sec, isn’t Plum a modern fruity chypre? Therefore descended from…aah! pew! Femme?

    1. Heh.

      (Ouch.)

      ANNNNYway, I was blindsided by the enormous difference between modern Femme and vintage. I did not realize that there was so much oriental in the genes of vintage Femme, or that the oakmoss would slug it out with the fruit compote so violently. (MG Plum’s modern-chypre base is very light on the moss – it’s there, but softly-softly-catchee-monkey.)

    1. Maybe you’ll do fine with it, though. You never know… I mean, *I* didn’t know I was going to have so much trouble, and maybe you won’t. 🙂

  2. Sorry to hear about your experience with that vintage Femme. I love the modern formulation to bits. For comparison I did buy a half full bottle of vintage Femme, concentration unknown (probably EDC). Its top notes have definitely turned. I like what I smell after it has recovered itself – it is heavy on the moss and the patchouli and that’s okay with me – but it is nothing to die for and unfortunately the longevity overall is poor, less than two hours. I don’t know how old it is but what if my vintage Femme dates from a period when the perfume had been allowed to get very run run down? Maybe this explains why it is a bit unimpressive.

    People rave about vintage Femme but maybe mine is from a low period in its history. Maybe the Rochas license changed hands after that and whoever took it in decided to put some proper money into reformulating Femme with good better materials, a good perfumer, updated packaging and a proper ad campaign? In those circumstances I’m not going to lament a reformulation. A good reformulation that represents a clean and obvious break from the past is better than a long slow death, such as is seen with some of those reformulated Carons, eg Bellodgia. Okay, I’ll stop ranting!

    1. I didn’t looooove the modern, Annemarie, but I liked it. It is rich and distinctive (especially in comparison to your average fruitchouli mall frag) and I can easily see why someone would love it. And you’re right, the refo is a good one – very wearable, full of character, doesn’t have a hole in the middle where all the good stuff was taken out.

      I don’t even want to talk about modern Bellodgia… okay, I will: hideous. Like a person who looks, in real life, like a Picasso drawing.

      I do really think the PdT bottle I had was in good shape. It wasn’t one of the beautifully-shaped “Mae West’s hips” design, which is honestly one of the most attractive perfume bottles I’ve ever seen, and I think it had been stored in the box, so not terribly age damaged. Still, it was NOT for me. The person who bought it says it’s wonderful and smells like it should; it doesn’t sound like your vintage bottle had been treated well. Left out on the dresser, perhaps, damaged by sunlight? Buying vintage is such a gamble…

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