Nina Ricci – Farouche

Nina Ricci – Farouche


The Nina Ricci fragrance line is one that I did not traditionally have much exposure to growing up, as none of the women in my family wore it. I did have a distant aunt who sometimes wore L’Air du Temps, but we’ll save that for another post. No wonder then that the house’s 1973 release Farouche failed to catch my attention until now (there were after all plenty of other fragrances to keep me busy).

I recently purchased an assortment of vintage perfume minis, and one fragrance included in the assortment was Nina Ricci’s Farouche in the Eau de Toilette concentration. While I have a decent knowledge of French, I will admit that I was not familiar with the word “Farouche”. Interestingly, I did not look it up until after I had tested the fragrance several times, fearing it might skew my impression. In that vein, I will keep its meaning silent until the end of the post.

Farouche opens with some fizzy aldehydes adding lift to a soft orange and galbanum melange. While galbanum fragrances generally make weak in the knees, Farouche comes on like a whisper. The heart unfolds to a gentle floral bouquet of jasmine, lily-of-the-valley and geranium, to which iris lends a hint of powder, While carnation and clary sage add a bit of a twist, Farouche’s overall character remains moderate. The fragrance wafts up again after a about an hour or so, revealing a mossy, vetiver base, reminiscent of classics such as Ma Griffe, but executed with a subtle hand.

In fact, my main issue with Farouche was its faint presence, which made an otherwise lovely fragrance with all of the hallmarks of a classic, slightly forgettable in the face of other mossy, green giants. That being said, this lightness of character would make it a perfect scent for someone just starting to explore the genre, as it touches on all of the aspects of a mossy green floral. I can only imagine how lovely the parfum concentration must be, though I have heard that is subtle as well. The Eau de Toilette bottle is lovely, with its slender neck is reminiscent of a swan, while the flacon for the parfum (reportedly made by Lalique) resembles a heart.

And in case you are still wondering (and have not searched for it yourself), Farouche translates as shy. Perfect.

Floral Aldehyde

Notes: Aldehydes, Mandarin, Bergamot, Galbanum, Peach, Honeysuckle, Carnation, Iris, Lily, Clary Sage, Jasmine, Lily-of-the-Valley, Rose, Geranium, Cardamom, Sandalwood, Amber, Musk, Oakmoss, Vetiver.


Guerlain – Nahéma

Guerlain – Nahéma


Still from Benjamin ou les Mémoires d’un Puceau”

“Mon grand-père Jacques m’a dit un jour:

‘Mon petit, n’oublie jamais que l’on crée toujours des parfums pour les femmes qu’on aime, qu’on admire et avec lesquelles on vit’

Et c’est comme cela que tout a commencé.”


“One day my grandfather Jacques said to me

‘My little one, never forget that one always creates perfumes for the women one loves, admires and those with whom one lives.’

And that is how it all began.”

So begins the book “Parfums d’Amour” by Jean-Paul Guerlain, in which he describes the journeys, both literal and figurative, he undertook to arrive at his fragrant creations and the women who inspired him. Although the story behind the inspiration for Nahéma does not appear in Parfums d’Amour, this introduction could not more perfectly describe the fragrance, which along with Jicky, is perhaps among the more well-known of Jean-Paul’s amorous anecdotes.

What would a perfume inspired by the paragon of beauty, Catherine Deneuve, smell of? For Jean-Paul Guerlain, whose 1979 fragrance Nahema was inspired by the award-winning, supremely talented and breathtakingly beautiful actress, the answer was simple. The archetypal symbol of romantic love: the rose. And what a rose he created.

Legend has it that Jean-Paul made 138 attempts at the creation before reaching perfection. Nahéma, which translates as “born of fire” or the “fiery one” is an incredibly ripe, lush rose.  With its plummy and peachy facets, which give the fragrance a fullness and ripeness well beyond a simple soliflore, he achieved a rose so compelling that it takes on a nearly three-dimensional aspect. While rose fragrances are often dismissed as being “old-fashioned”, Hyacinth adds a delicious tension to the fragrance, making this a rose that could never be mistaken for anything less than a sexpot.

catherine deneuve benjamin 1

While I do not find Nahema to be particularly “fiery”, there are oriental aspects which when combined with the ripe fruit notes and Ylang-Ylang suggest a degree of feminine intimacy, not unlike Rochas Femme. Much like a young Catherine Deneuve, Nahéma is inexplicably lush and sensual, like a woman in a crimson velvet gown full of voluptuous curves.

Notes: Peach, Bergamot, Citrus Notes, Aldehydes, Green Notes, Rose, Jasmine, Lilac, Hyacinth, Lily of the Valley, Ylang-Ylang, Peru Balsam, Vanilla, Vetiver, Sandalwood

Guerlain – Mitsouko

Guerlain – Mitsouko


Despite being named after the heroine in Claude Farrère’s novel “La Bataille”, if each perfume symbolizes a woman, Mitsouko would have to be the mythological Eve, the first woman and mother of all. For it is in her composition that we can find the DNA for many beloved and wildly successful perfumes including Rochas Femme, Diorama, Youth Dew, Opium and Coco Chanel. Mitsouko was the astounding creation of Jacques Guerlain. Reflecting the world’s fascination with Chypre by Coty, a ground-breaking creation which combined the somewhat odd bedfellows of bergamot, jasmine, labdanum and oakmoss into what would ultimately become a new fragrance category, Guerlain took this novel concept one step further with the introduction of a warm, creamy, ripe peach note. The original Chypre is often described as being a bit rough around the edges, a quandary solved by Guerlain with the introduction of the newly-discovered Gamma-Undecalactone, also known as Aldehyde C-14. Without getting overly technical, there is some debate over the use of the aldehyde reference to C-14, which is technically a lactone, a term which refers both to the molecule’s structure as well as to its fragrance which often has a creamy (milky) scent. Aldehydes are often used to give a fragrance that special opening “sparkle” (imagine the first moments of Chanel No 5), whereas C 14 has a very specific golden peach tone. Nomenclature aside, the introduction of this molecule beautifully rounded out the more angular structure of Chypre into an unforgettable masterpiece.

Mitsouko is at once bold and soft, womanly and earthy. It is the smell of the fall, the warmth and spice of cinnamon and the odd sweetness of decomposing leaves. Its beauty is, quite simply, astounding. While Mitsouko is perhaps one of the most beloved and written about fragrances, it can often be a difficult one to approach if one is just developing their appreciation of vintage or more complex scents. Thanks in part to the inclusion of oakmoss, a popular perfume fixative before restrictions limited its use, Mitsouko has a certain musty smell reminiscent of library books which some find challenging upon first sniff. Ironically, it is the diminution of this same note in the modern, reformulated version, that many perfume enthusiasts bemoan the loss of.

Approaching perfume is not unlike learning about wine: at first, one’s palate can more readily appreciate simpler, sweeter wines, but with time, one is able to appreciate the dry and more complex varieties. So it is with Mitsouko, so be sure to give it some time if you are unable to love it right away – this is one of the perfumes most worth knowing. While many have followed in her steps, Mitsouko is perhaps the finest example of the Chypre genre, if not one of the greatest perfumes of all time.


While I have various examples of Mitsouko in my collection, each with a slightly different scent due in large part to varying ages, the new reformulated version is in some respects a distinct departure from the original vintage. While the lasting power matches that of the original (my scent strip still held scent 48 hours later) the unfolding of the fragrance was decidedly different. While it is definitely still recognizable as Mitsouko, there were aspects throughout the drydown that seemed quite foreign to my nose, and at one point I thought I had mixed up my samples. Overall the fragrance seemed thinner and while I was comparing a modern EdP to a vintage parfum, I attribute the lack of depth more to the absence of oakmoss than to the concentration, as vintage versions of the EdT or even EdC seemed to have more weight than the modern EdP.

Indeed, an overall note on the vintage EdT and EdC Guerlains (and Chanels as well) – these are often excellent and substantial renditions of the parfum (with the exception perhaps of Chant D’Aromes). While they are often a touch more powdery than the parfum (especially true for L’Heure Bleue) they are a wonderful option if one is looking for a more affordable alternative to a vintage parfum.

Fruity Chypre

Notes: Bergamot, Lemon, Mandarin, Neroli, Peach, Rose, Clove, Ylang-Ylang, Cinnamon, Oakmoss, Labdanum, Patchouli, Benzoin, Vetiver.

Robert Piguet – Fracas

Robert Piguet – Fracas


There are some fragrances which are love at first sniff, as though the scent satisfied some intense longing we never knew we had. And there are those which we struggle with, knowing conceptually that they are the stuff of legacy, but which we are nevertheless unable to embrace. While most would pass on a perfume that failed to capture their immediate attention, many perfumistas have confessed to a struggle with one classic or another until either the relationship ended, or a lifetime romance began. For me, it was Fracas.

Perhaps it was not the fragrance itself as much as it was tuberose, the heady white flower which when used injudiciously can evoke images of a Hawaiian luau. The name also befuddled me, as fracas implies a noisy conflict or quarrel and I found none of that here. I had a vintage bottle which I kept for reference purposes mostly, taking it out every now and then to re-test, which I did regularly over the years. Perhaps there was some half-forgotten association from childhood, but whatever the reason, the lovely little bottle went unloved for many years.

And then something magical happened. The way an old friend who has waited patiently in the wings while you date the more flashy suitors, I found myself thinking of Fracas and wondering if there might be something there, some magic spark. Magic indeed. Fracas was created by Germaine Cellier in 1948, one of the few female noses and a master of her craft. In addition to other memorable Piguet fragrances, she was the genius behind Balmain’s Vent Vert.


While Cellier used a perfume base in her creation of Fracas, a dense, luscious tuberose dominates the landscape and indeed, it appears that any other flowers are there to support tuberose in its leading role. Upon application, one notices immediately that Fracas is like no other. The citrus opening is miles away from the ordinary, lush and rich, rather than sparkling.  As the tuberose unfolds, it seems impossibly large, buoyed by the presence of jasmine and violet, which lend to the fragrance’s deep indolic quality. There is an unctuous sensation to the fragrance, as though the tuberose had turned to syrup.  While iris helps to temper the creation slightly, Fracas envelops you in a thick velvety haze that is indolic one moment and pure butter the next. Fracas is tuberose on the point of turning, with animalic references throughout enforced by the depths of oakmoss and woods.

Fracas feels both sophisticated and sensual. It is a fragrance which one must give oneself over to, as it is completely enveloping, to the point of rapture. And now that I have given myself over, there is no turning back.


Notes: bergamot, orange blossom, greens, peach, tuberose, jasmine, violet, iris, lily of the valley, carnation, sandalwood, musk, oakmoss, and cedar.


Guerlain – Chant D’Aromes

Guerlain – Chant D’Aromes

chant-daromes21Chant D’Aromes was the first solo creation of Jean-Paul Guerlain after the retirement of his grandfather Jacques. Chant D’Aromes was released in 1962, before much of the social and political upheaval which would come to define the era. The name, roughly translated as “Song of Scents” is especially revealing for me, because within Chant D’Aromes, I detect the seedlings of all of the magnificent creations Jean-Paul would cultivate throughout his illustrious career. If Aime Guerlain was innovation, and Jacques contemplation, Jean-Paul would soon prove to be flirtation.

While overall, Chant D’Aromes gives the impression of a light-hearted floral bouquet with rich peachy undertones, within the opening notes, I detect the slightest sharpness that would be the unforgettable introduction to Chamade. As the seedlings begin to unfurl out of their sharp green hyacinth cases, the radiant fruity warmth of what would become Nahema is apparent. Chant D’Aromes also has a slight animalic note that would re-appear in many of Jean-Paul’s creations, subtle enough not to cloud the overall innocent impression of the composition, yet an unmistakable nod to the scent of the woman whom these flowers adorn.

While Chant is a lovely fragrance in its own right, it conveys all of the exuberance of youth not yet tempered by long years of experience. Chant is jubilant and smells of a celebration, as though Jean-Paul was able to distill a thousand disparate thoughts about love and perfume and harmonize them into a glorious nectar. While his later fragrances would achieve a level of sophistication comparable to that of his predecessors, Chant is a beautiful creation that captures the excitement and passion of a young man in love. This by no means is meant to imply that Chant is an amateurish creation – on the contrary, Chant D’Aromes reflects a level of craftsmanship that surpasses many of the perfumes available today.

chant_daromes_color_ad I am fortunate enough to have vintage versions of the extrait and eau de cologne which are similar in character, with the eau de cologne being slightly more powdery. I have not sampled the most recent reformulation, but understand that it bears a closer resemblance to Chant D’Aromes than prior attempts.

Floral Chypre

Notes: bergamot, mandarin, peach, tuberose, ylang ylang, , gardenia, honeysuckle, jasmine, helichrysum, iris, cedar and sandalwood, musk, oakmoss, frankincense, vetiver, and tonka bean.

Christian Dior – Diorella

Christian Dior – Diorella

If Diorella had a face, it would be the exquisite beauty of Jane Fonda in Roger Vadim’s 1968 sci-fi, B-movie masterpiece Barbarella. Both reflect a beauty which is disarming, innocent, sensual and yet somewhat strange. Dior released Diorella in 1972, yet another masterpiece created by Edmond Roudnitska.


Diorella first tempts you with the freshness of lemony greens rounded out with a touch of melon and floral notes, giving the opening a hint of ripeness. Were it to end there, Diorella would have been an attractive, linear warm-weather fragrance, perfect for after a shower. But as is often the case with great beauty, Diorella has an underlying complexity which must be experienced if its beauty is to be fully appreciated.

Regardless of how many times I smell the opening, I am always surprised by a sense of underlying strangeness just beneath the surface, not unlike smelling an approaching storm before one feels the first drop.  As the top dissipates, a savory note of basil begins pushing toward the surface, which seems both out of place and brilliant, hinting at the richness of soil which lies underneath. Diorella is not unlike a flower blooming in reverse, its petals collapsing onto themselves and rolling up into the stem, which then plunges below the surface back into its damp, musky bulb. Diorella takes its time unfolding, each layer becoming increasingly sensual as the earthiness of oakmoss and vetiver settle down into the warmth of patchouli and musk.

If Diorella had sisters (or daughters perhaps), for me they would be Calyx Prescriptives and Cristalle for their green ripeness and Ma Griffe for its mossy magnificence.diorella


Notes: Lemon, Peach, Basil, Bergamot, Melon, Green Notes, Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Violet, Rose Bud, Carnation, Cyclamen, Oakmoss, Vanilla, Clove, Sandalwood, Vetiver, Musk, and Patchouli.

Rochas – Femme

Rochas – Femme

rochas-femmeIt is said that Grasse in Southern France is the farthest point north at which jasmine can grow. As a result, the jasmine from the region is reportedly shorter in stature than most varieties, but the quality of its fragrance is more potent. While none of us inherently enjoy hardship or strife, it is sometimes under the pressure of external forces that humans manifest their most inspired creations.

The 1940s were an era characterized by conflict the likes of which the world hopes to never see again. While the decade was largely dominated by WWII and its aftermath, the latter half of the decade also saw several civil wars, struggles for independence and the Arab-Israeli war.

While the citizens of the world lost much of their former innocence during this time, they rebounded with sweeping advances, evidence of the strength of the human spirit. The United Nations was born from the ashes of the ineffectual League of Nations and huge advances in science were achieved. The 1940s saw the advent of computers, nuclear power and jet propulsion. On a more mundane level, new inventions such as Velcro, television, Tupperware and the microwave oven all appeared on the horizon, changing the way we would manage our lives forever. Abstract Expressionism was born, as we struggled for a way to re-conceptualize our world. The ravages of war were too sharp not to be felt, and life needed to be viewed through a new lens if any sense was to be made at all.

There were, also during this time, acts of sheer beauty. Edmond Roudnitska created Femme in 1943, in the midst of the ruins of war-torn Paris, then besieged by German occupation. It is supremely fitting that Femme was created in what is arguably one of the most beautiful cities in the world, at a time of extreme and powerful emotion. It is as though the fragrance embodies all of the intensity of its time.


Femme speaks of the beauty of a woman in all her facets, the sublime, the sexual, the beautiful, the bold and the vulnerable: because every woman is each of these things. Femme is at once elegant and provocative, but above all expresses a respect and reverence for woman. It is a beautiful and emotional fragrance which conveys a certain vulnerability as well. It is as though Roudnitska was able to read the soul of a woman in all its complexity and distill it into a plush, velvety essence. I am deeply moved every time I smell it and am inspired by the spirit of the man who sought and created such beauty when the world seemed intent on revealing its basest qualities.

Femme has a warm enveloping presence, often likened to the smell of warm skin. Despite a spicy floral opening, the most prevalent note throughout is plum, which is harmonized and softened by wood and musk notes. While Femme conveys the richness of lush, ripe fruit, it does so in a manner strikingly different to the overly-sweet interpretations common in modern compositions. This is the spicy fruit of winter, not the syrupy, sugary fruit of summer. The scent is that of a woman, not of a girl. The depth of the composition is what I find most striking. While the sillage is potent, it is comfortable and yet I always have a three-dimensional experience of Femme. I can almost see it wafting, rising from my arm as one sees smoke rising from a high tower.

Note: Femme was re-formulated in 1989 by Olivier Cresp, the nose behind Thierry Mugler’s Angel. Part of this reformulation included the introduction of a cumin note in the opening over which there has been much debate. While I prefer the original Femme and guard my tiny vintage bottle like a treasure, I do also enjoy the peppery spark that cumin lends it. There has been much speculation over why the formula was changed in this manner. Some surmise it was a desire on Cresp’s part to bring Femme into the present and make it once again memorable and provocative. I can only offer my own impression and interpretation. The first time I smelled Shiseido’s Feminite du Bois, I was delighted to find the outline of Femme, now transformed into a woman of the eighties. A bit leaner, a bit drier for the years, but still magical. Feminite du Bois is silk where Femme is velvet. The first time I tested the reformulated Femme I was reminded not so much of the original Femme in the opening (though I find more similarity in the dry down) but more so of Feminite du Bois, as the cumin renders the overall composition drier and thinner than the original. And so the reference comes full circle.


Notes: bergamot, peach, prune, rose, immortelle, jasmine, ylang-ylang, ambergris, musk, oakmoss, sandalwood. Femme may be purchased from many online discount retailers, as well as certain stores. I acquired my vintage version on Ebay.

Shiseido – Feminite du Bois

Shiseido – Feminite du Bois – A Twilight Walk Through an Enchanted Forest


When encountering new fragrance releases, I am often tempted to “edit” the formula to suit my liking. A little oakmoss here, a touch of civet there and voila, the fragrance would be perfect. With the exception of certain houses which continue to produce thoughtful, quality fragrances, the current “race to release” phenomena has resulted in a number of momentary fragrances which are not likely to withstand the test of time, let alone the next marketing launch. It is during these times that I re-trench and seek out those golden standards who await me like so many old friends.

Even more frustrating is the alternate scenario: perfumes so sublime as to be nearly mythical in their compositions which mysteriously vanish from the shelves, driving us to scour the dark corners of the internet to seek out lost treasures. One of these treasures (of which I will freely admit to having a secret horde) is Shiseido’s Feminite du Bois. For our French speakers, and those who do not mind reading subtitles, here is Serge Lutens himself discussing the reformulation issued under his brand name.

Launched in 1992 as a collaboration between Christopher Sheldrake, Pierre Bourdon and Serge Lutens this groundbreaking scent ranks highly in my list of fragrance perfection. And yet… I cannot help but wish for one tiny change. While the name Feminite du Bois aptly describes the perfume’s highly successful and innovative transformation of cedarwood into a beguiling feminine scent, the name does not in any way prepare you for the magic and beauty of this composition.

Experiencing Feminite du Bois for the first time is much like a twilight walk through an enchanted forest. The fragrance opens with a dusky scent of spices, an inviting delicate breeze of cardamom, ginger and cinnamon, beckoning you deeper into the forest. The dark quality of these opening notes is rendered in a shadowy manner, a gentle whisper of the exotic wonders that await you.

As you make your way slowly through the warm dark opening notes, you suddenly smell light blossoms of orange, violet, and rose on the breeze, each coming together to form an impression of tiny flowers carving out a space in the forest floor. In keeping with Shiseido’s minimalist aesthetic, the floral notes are subtle and silky. Moving closer in, you notice a small gathering of trees, each bearing perfectly ripe peaches and plums, the fragrance of which catches on the breeze and makes its way to you. Animals are drawn to the soft sweetness as well, and you detect a soft honey note and remnants of beeswax as its inhabitants eagerly seek out the source of the sweetness. All of these scents here in the quiet of the forest lull you into a light dream and you stand for a moment, just breathing in the beautiful warmth, when suddenly you see her, the Lady of the Wood.

mode, architecture, beautŽ,

She has stood there all along, watching you as you made your way through the dusky paths, silently beckoning you with the warmth of woods and the slight musky wetness of the forest so as not to startle you with her presence. As you stand there beholding her, you are awed by her stealth, subtlety and beauty, and you are without words. For she is a wonder to behold.

Spicy Woods

Notes: cedarwood, orange blossom, peach, honey, plum, beeswax, clove, cardamom, and cinnamon.

Coty – Les Muses

Coty – Les Muses
Continuing with the Coty theme this week, the last Coty fragrance that I was fortunate enough to obtain a sample of was Les Muses. Based on the research I did, it appears that Les Muses is the 1986 adaptation of an earlier Coty fragrance known simply as “Muse” which was released in 1945. Unfortunately, I do not have a copy of the pre-1980s release to compare it to, but it is my understanding that Coty reissues are not always necessarily true to original form. Les Muses was re-released along with Le Rose Jacqueminot and Chypre.
My overall impression of Les Muses is of a sweet, fruity, floral underpinned by a slight animalic and woody base. While I could not locate any official notes for the fragrance, most prominent is a melange of peach, tuberose and jasmine, supported by heady white florals. While Les Muses had the potential to be a terrific fragrance, this one unfortunately failed to fully capture my heart. While the white floral notes had a nice phenolic aspect (tar-like smell), once the base set in and the revealed a vanilla and amber duo, the fragrance had simply become too sweet. The fragrance seemed top-heavy and lacking in a stabilizing force. While animalic notes in a fragrance can often serve to offset sweetness, the amber (and perhaps musk) utilized were not of sufficient quality to balance the fragrance. If you, like me, enjoy the odd sweet tar-like smell of certain florals, the Shiseido’s Zen is a better option.
Fruity Floral
Notes: Peach, Jasmine, Tuberose, White Florals, Vanilla, Amber, Woods and Musk

Coty – Ex`cla-ma`tion

Coty – Ex`cla-ma`tion



Continuing with the Coty theme this week, Ex`cla-ma`tion was launched by Coty in 1988 and is truly a product of its time. Ex`cla-ma`tion was created by Sophia Grojsman, the extraordinary nose behind such innovative fragrances as Estée Lauder White Linen (1978), Prescriptives Calyx (1987), Calvin Klein Eternity (1988) and Lancôme Trésor (1990). One of the hallmarks of Grojsman’s creative process is her ability to weave groundbreaking scents out of minimal ingredients. While it is not uncommon for perfumes to be a formulation of hundreds of different scents, Grojsman’s typical fragrance may contain fewer than 10.

While violet is not listed anywhere in the official notes, my overall impression of Ex`cla-ma`tion is of a powdery, light, woodsy violet with vanilla overtones. The fragrance opens with a fruity mix of apricot and peach, brightened by the effervescence of bergamot and green notes. The beauty of Ex`cla-ma`tion appears in its middle notes, a combination of orris root, jasmine, heliotrope, lily-of-the-valley and rose, which together create a light, innocent floral sensation. As the base notes appear, the main impression is of a lush vanilla rounded out by woods thanks to sandalwood and cedar. The woodsy impression is enhanced by notes of amber and musk, however, the fragrance maintains an overall floral character.

Ex`cla-ma`tion would be perfect for a young woman just beginning to explore the world of perfumery. It is delicate enough to be age-appropriate, and yet has sufficient depth to serve as a gateway perfume.


Notes: apricot, green notes, peach, bergamot, orris root, jasmine, heliotrope, lily-of-the-valley, rose, sandalwood, amber, cinnamon, musk, vanilla and cedar.