This 2012 release, composed by Michel Almairac and packaged in a soft celery green, is a muted modern chypre, soft and pretty and elegant. Let me be perfectly honest here: I hated Chloe eau de parfum with a passion, and not just because of its bathroom-cleaner industrial product vibe. I hated it especially because I wore the original Chloe, a rich white floral concoction on a base of woods and moss, for a decade, and I still consider that the new version is a total travesty. (Yes. I have been known to whine.)
I fully expected to hate this one too. But this L’eau is very much in the line of, say, Idylle eau de toilette, with citrus, rosewater and just a hint of muguet, some clean patchouli and pale woods in the drydown, and I’d swear there’s a ghost of iris in there too, because it is a satiny-powdery thing. Pale, of course, but who says there’s no need for a pale chypre eau, especially in summer? I say there is. I say this is pretty. It smells the same pretty celery green as the color of its liquid, and I’m quite fond of that shade. I’m not going to buy it myself, but at least I won’t whine if I should encounter it in elevators.
Apparently the original Eau Sans Pareil, first released in 1976, was a real chypre with some backbone. People who were familiar with it immediately began thundering that the new one is NOT A CHYPRE. I don’t remember the old one – Penhaligon’s not being a company with widespread US distribution, or at least not in the 70s – but I like the new quite well, and it has enough chypre DNA in it that I’m not disturbed in the least by the description. The reorchestration was done by Bertrand Duchaufour, whose work I generally admire rather than love.
There is some citrus up top, followed by a powdery iris and some pretty, pale florals (jasmine and rose, I think), undergirded with a tiny bit of moss and vetiver which eventually is joined by a smooth benzoin note. There’s a bit of sweetness to the scent, something I can’t pin down but which reminds me of (unfrooty) fruit. Peach? Yellow plum? I’m not sure. This is another pale chypre eau like L’eau de Chloe, albeit more delicately done and in watercolor pastels rather than all pale green. It lasts for about five hours on me, getting prettier the longer it’s on, and it reminds me a lot of something my Aunt Cindy, the chemist, used to wear when I was a kid.
The list of notes (which I went and fetched from Fragrantica after writing this), is surprisingly long and includes: aldehydes, neroli, mandarin, bergamot, kumquat, raspberry, pineapple (aha! that’s it), cypress, pink pepper, tagetes, jasmine, damascus rose, muguet, orris, ylang, orange blossom, licorice, clove, patchouli, vetiver, cedarwood, oakmoss, musk, vanilla, cistus-labdanum, benzoin, amber crystals.
It smells to me like a classic 70s ladies’ scent, reinterpreted for more modern tastes. I honestly don’t expect it to sell well, since the people who remember this kind of ladylike chypre fragrance want it to smell the way they remember, and the people who don’t remember ladylike chypres with any fondness wouldn’t touch this thing with a twenty-foot pole, lest they be labeled old-fashioned.
I like it – a lot. I think it’s even prettier than L’Eau de Chloe. But I’ve discovered that I do like reinterpretations of classic ladylike chypres, because some of the angularity, the basilisk stare of green chypres, is smoothed out. I can understand that if you truly love the Fierce Greenies, you’d be ticked off by this sort of thing.
Reformulated Parfums de Nicolai Le Temps d’une Fete
Now this one I was extremely ticked off about. At first, anyway. Regular readers will recognize that LTdF is one of my Top Three EVER, of ALL TIME, True Loves. And, yes, it’s been messed with. Which we could have predicted, right? There’s moss in there, and oakmoss usage is now restricted by IFRA. (Click here for my review of the older stuff, compared to Guerlain Chamade.)
The first thing I noticed about my new bottle is that the packaging is slightly different. The label is smaller, and the typefont, strangely, even more cheesy than my original bottle. PdN has never been known for its art direction, but instead of improving the look of the packaging, the company seems to have gone the other direction, farther into “amateur” and away from “professional.” Which is a shame, because I like quite a number of PdN fragrances and think the company is doing itself a disservice by not giving the packaging a makeover. People do, in many cases, “smell with their eyes,” and if they love a bottle, they might give the liquid inside it more of a chance to impress them.
So how does the new stuff smell? Well, breathe just a little bit: it smells like itself. It is completely recognizable. The casual enjoyer might not notice a whole lot of difference, unless deliberately trying the two versions side by side. The galbanum, the green notes, the hyacinth and narcissus – all are present and correct. The woody notes, opoponax, patchouli and moss – these are also there, but the base has been adjusted. It seems to me that the basenotes are consistent in proportion to each other, but the proportion of top and heartnotes has been increased.
Old LTdF was weighted toward the base, in my opinion; it was one of the few fragrances in my possession that was less tilted toward straight-up floral. The new is definitively more floral, and lighter. I used to wear two or three spritzes of the old stuff, and that would last for six to seven hours with light sillage; I always thought that it wore more like an eau de parfum than an eau de toilette. The newer version behaves in a way more consistent with eau de toilette – I can wear five to six spritzes of it without being overwhelmed, as five spritzes of the older version would probably have done. It lasts less long, which I’d expect with a more top-heavy version. I get about four hours of wear.
The other thing I notice is that the older version was more “perfumey,” for lack of a better word, perhaps because of the moss. Despite its green-and-yellow, outdoorsy, polleny goodness, it was a more formal smell. Now, me, I love “perfumey” and “formal.” But not everyone does, and I’m hoping that the new formula might appeal to even more people, so that it stays in production for ever’n everamen.
After having worn my new Le Temps d’une Fete several times, I’m less upset about the change. I still love the old stuff best, and I do in principle decry the move away from mossy, perfumey, solidly composed fragrances. I’ll be treasuring the remaining amount in my 30ml old-formula bottle. But I’ll also be using the new version with abandon and enjoying its more lighthearted, less formal character.
All images via Fragrantica.