Paloma Picasso’s Paloma Picasso (1984, Splash)

Paloma Picasso Splash Bottle © Victor Wong
Paloma Picasso Splash Bottle © Victor Wong

Paloma Picasso comes in a glass bottle housed inside an elliptical plastic donut-shaped black plastic casing, which reminds me of everything from the 80s – big, bold and chunky. Not surprisingly, this perfume was indeed created in the 80s. What bugs me most is that I can see it wherever perfumes are sold in Toronto – “You again? But I don’t like your face!” I had never bothered to pick it up to take a sniff – until the sales lady at my local perfume shop ran out of perfumes to recommend and shoved it in my face, saying with an unenthusiastic voice, “It’s nice. Smell it.”

Was it nice? Well… I thought it’s quite nice, but no dice (reformulated version). Then, one day, a question popped in my head – does this brand have any other perfumes? It’s obviously a hit, (it’s still here after more than 30 years) and I can see it being sold brand-new in department stores everywhere. Why stop there? I began doing some research and this is my discovery:

  1. The perfume was actually designed by the daughter of famous artist Picasso…
  2. who was a jewelry designer for Tiffany and this was her first perfume (!!!) …
  3. and the “proper” category which the perfume belongs to is “Animalic Chypre”… (from the book “The Perfume Guide” by Susan Irvine)
  4. because it has a big dosage of beaver and civet musk

and I stopped right there – wait, it doesn’t smell animalic to me at all. When I think animalic, I think furry musk, Serge Luten’s Muscs Kublai Khan, and poopy oud.

I began looking for a vintage version of it to study more and luckily I came across a vintage splash bottle version that’s actually very cute. It smelled like a lot of perfumes from the 80s – a strong floral chypre, OMG! stop! stop! stop! Too much patchouli, with a very strong patchouli and sandalwood base that almost makes it very soapy and green (like Robert Piguet’s Bandit). It also has a sweet ambery side fencing off the patchouli from raping the jasmines and roses.

As for the notorious civet and castoreum musks that are supposed to be very apparent, I am still looking for them…

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