Robert Piguet’s Blossom (2012)

Robert Piguet's Blossom (2012) 100ml © Victor Wong
Robert Piguet’s Blossom (2012) 100ml © Victor Wong

Robert Piguet’s Blossom (2012) sounds like it’s made out of many different flowers, but in fact, it’s a very simple, demure, “you don’t like to talk much, do you?” orange blossom perfume. Well, it has more than just orange blossoms, but also neroli (which is also orange blossom but smells a little different), petitgrain (bitter orange leaves), and orange itself – practically almost the whole orange tree. If I were an orange tree in Robert Piguet’s orchard, I would shit all my leaves and run.

Blossom is soft and quite elegant, but I wouldn’t say it’s sophisticated. It’s balmy and fleeting, but not invigorating, because the base is a bit resinous and slightly sweet. Now let me destroy the romanticism by saying a citrus cologne is to Orangina as Blossom is to a diet orange smoothie.

But I want to appreciate Blossom from two different points of view.

  1. From a target audience’s point of view: Blossom is part of Robert Piguet’s “Pacific Line” trilogy (Blossom, Chai, Jeunesse), which caters to the Asian market. My sister and my long time girlfriend living in Hong Kong both told me that Asian women prefer simple, fresh, and quiet perfumes (Crabtree and Evelyn, anyone?). You don’t want to wear heavy-plated armour perfumes such as Angel, Opium or Poison in a perpetually hot and crowded day in Asia, because people will probably stab you all over the body with piercing eyes as you walk down alleys and streets. So it’s understandable why Blossom is relatively simple and quiet.
  2. From an artist’s point of view: Here’s my imagined scenario of the owner of Robert Piguet talking to Blossom’s perfumer, Aurelien Guichard: “I like your work. I want you to be the perfumer of my perfume house and create 20 perfumes for me over the span of 5 years. Make me and yourself proud.” Aurelien Guichard has so far been Robert Piguet’s only perfumer, and he has created a few hits for them already – redesigned Fracas and Bandit, Visa and Knightsbridge, all are very complex, heavy and bombastic perfumes. I imagine Aurelien as an “artist”, given the trust to create a rather big library of scents for Robert Piguet, would like to create one or two perfumes that are different, a little out of his typical style for variety’s sake. In my opinion, Blossom and Casbah (an incense perfume) are his indulgence and small break – minimalistic and ghostly.

I guess I have been thinking too much. Yeah, Blossom is a nice orange blossom perfume.

Robert Piguet’s Petit Fracas (2010)

Robert Piguet Petit Fracas © Victor Wong
Robert Piguet Petit Fracas © Victor Wong

Hong Kong in the eighties had only one good English TV channel and they always showed popular American and British sitcoms. I used to watch some Roseanne with my sister, (the Chinese title of Roseanne was “Fat Mama’s Dairy”) and she once said, “I don’t get it, how come the parents are so big and their kids are so skinny?”

Well, my lovely friend Fracas has a daughter and she named her Petit. She has all her mother’s genes, looks almost identical to her mom, but really, not petit. She is almost as big as her mom, but cuter and younger. In their fabulous super-femmed-up home and you will find lovely photos of them enjoying some quality times together: one shows them making chocolate cupcakes together, one shows them spreading chocolate icing on a chocolate cake, and oh, a baby photo of Petit with chocolate pudding all over her face. You really can’t help but notice that Petit Fracas has a serious sweet tooth for chocolate.

If you’ve watched the Youtube footage of Joe Carces, the CEO of Robert Piguet, explaining why he created Petit Fracas, you would know that his daughter in her thirties does not like Fracas. (I can relate to her; It took me some time getting used to it before loving this famously huge tuberose fragrance from the fifties.) To convince her to wear Fracas, he added chocolate and pear notes to make it more romantic and youthful. However, he denied Petit Fracas being a flanker to the original Fracas. And I wanted to tell him that naming it Petit was quite a genius marketing move; it creates an illusion that you are wearing something light but in fact, it is almost as heavy as the original Fracas, and when are sick of chocolate, step up to the real thing.

Robert Piguet’s Bandit (1944, reforumated 1999) & Balmain’s Jolie Madame (1953, reforumated)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

Perfumer Germain Cellier had two “daughters” who shared similar personalities. The elder one, whom no one really knew her real name, had a nickname, “Bandit” (by Robert Piguet, 1944), for her fearsome demeanour and untouchable “love it or hate it” beauty. I suspect Germain was secretly very proud of Bandit’s notoriousness. The younger one who was 9 years junior, lived a much more ordinary and subdued life; she had a softer feminine side, but still emitted a “don’t you dare to to take advantage of me” toughness. People called her Madame Jolie (by Balmain, 1953.)

Bandit and Jolie Madame are both leather-based perfumes for women. Although by today’s standard, it’s everyone’s game. Bandit is such an iconic perfume, it needs to be preserved in the world of perfumery. It has been “faithfully” reproduced by Aurelien Guichard of Robert Piguet, for anything less is really a waste of effort. It is a rather “hard to digest” perfume, and I vividly remember the moment I smelled it (one of my bravest blind-buys) – my brain was yelling “I can’t get a refund because I’ve opened the shrink-wrap,” and before my regret was fully formed, I died half-way crawling out of the car. But, I accepted fate, and slowly grew to appreciate and like it like hugging a porcupine. If you like Etat Libre D’Orange’s Rien, I don’t see why you would repel Bandit. It has a much more complex floral notes and your daily dose of three truck loads of leather.

Jolie Madame, on the other hand, is now discontinued and no one gives a damn. It’s a pity for it is a much more wearable perfume than Bandit (if you are chicken shit). It’s a half-and-half split between leather and violet leaves, quite soapy and doesn’t last long on my skin. If you go to Fragrantica to check out its notes breakdown, it is almost identical to Bandit, only the proportion of the ingredients used is different. I can imagine Jolie Madame being Grey Flannel’s wife.

If I ever want a perfume whiplash, I will wear Bandit. (Awesome during winter season!!) If I want a quickie of leather-violet leaf with a vintage smell, I will invite Jolie Madame for tea.

Robert Piguet’s Fracas (1948, reformulated, 1988)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

Now that the ice bucket challenge has subsided and no one embraces the boiling water challenge, I propose a new idea for all perfume lovers – the Fracas challenge for men (women are welcome). You will wear three sprays of this legendary perfume and go to work or any public spaces with tons of people without feeling insecure about your manhood. I am challenging Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia – if he couldn’t do it, he has to stop invading Ukraine and make peace with the world.

I categorize my perfumes into two simple groups – scents that I can wear to work (it contains perfumes for men and women), and scents that I wear at home only. In the latter group I have perfumes that have poor longevity, ones that are too challenging/pungent/skanky for work (e.g. Le Labo’s Oud 27), and sadly, ones that are just too feminine even for me. (That makes me a hypocrite because I like to tell my friends that perfumes are supposed to be unisex.) I honestly think that a lot of men (straight or gay) can wear Fracas beautifully, particularly to formal social gatherings – the key is moderation. (i.e. maximum one spray. More than three and you will grow boobs.) Luca Turin mentioned that perfumes that were designed in the old times actually smelled very masculine in today’s “standard”, and Fracas was designed in 1948 and the reformulation is supposedly faithful to the original.

Fracas is the legendary tuberose perfume that put Robert Piguet on the map. His fashion house did not survive after his death in 1953, but his perfumes did. Each bottle of Fracas contains a cumulus cloud of buttery, potent, kaleidoscopic vintage-smelling floral peachy scent that is one-of-a-kind. Give it a sniff and see why it’s so famous.

Robert Piguet’s Knightsbridge (2013)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

I have two bottles of Robert Piguet’s Knightsbridge. One is sitting among my perfume collection, well taken care of, and the other, I really don’t know where it is now. Either it is in some UK landfill, or some postal worker is wearing it now.

I was lucky enough to find someone super nice from a Facebook group who lived in England to help me get a bottle of Knightsbridge, a UK Harroh’s department store exclusive perfume. All went fine, except that I made a fatal mistake of asking her to send the perfume by regular Royal Mail. Well, you probably know how the story goes – Royal Mail detected it was a very expensive niche perfume and forbid it to leave the country, for safety reason, because that 100ml bottle perfume would leak like a garden sprinkler, and catch fire and burn the airport down to cinders. The bottle was confiscated, and no question asked, please. (In a British accent.)

My heart was very broken, and I was so upset. Months have passed, and an opportunity came. My friend who visited her friend in London was able to help me bring back a bottle. Now to be frank, this was a complete blind buy. I wanted it because I am collecting Robert Piguet’s perfumes. It’s very senseless, but anyway, let’s talk about Knightsbridge.

Knightsbridge is a warm, rich and luxurious, tonka-nutmeg-iris yummy mommy. It’s one of the best Robert Piguet perfumes among its modern line. (Please don’t roll your eyes.) But there is a big butt – if you have already owned a bottle or two perfume designed by Aurelien Guichard (such as Chinatown), I could say you have smelled Knightsbridge, and if you don’t care about Chinatown, then you are not missing anything, although I’d say it is probably his best but safest creations. Kind of like if you like Enya, and you own one of her albums, you almost own all. Or, if you have Bois de Violette from Serge Lutens, you really don’t need Bois et Fruits or Feminite du Bois.

Robert Piguet’s Baghari (1945, redesigned 2006)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

I’d say aldehydic perfumes are like Coca Cola – no one really gets too bored with it, but when they release a new flavour, like Diet Lime Coke, some people go very excited over them. Robert Piguet’s Baghari (2006) has that effect on me for, yes, it’s an aldehydic perfume, but a candied-orange-flavoured one.

Surprisingly, Baghari doesn’t smell refreshing, but rather, quite solemn and too matured for its true candied-orange-flavored personality; it’s like a naturally vivacious girl being too disciplined in a Catholic school – where’s the fun? Wearing it doesn’t bring me any smile, but often it challenges and puzzles me – big pendulum swings between happiness (aldehydic florals) and uneasiness (heavy amber/vetiver basenotes).

Robert Piguet’s Futur (1960, redesigned 2009)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

The original Futur was introduced in 1960 by Robert Piguet, and I imagine they wanted to market it as “a perfume from the future” but you can smell it now!

I have never smelled the vintage version, but I bet it doesn’t smell like any contemporary perfumes, which are supposed to be “the future”. In 2009, nearly 50 years later, they relaunched Futur with a new formula. I blind-bought a bottle because I wanted to know what a “revived future perfume” would smell like.

Futur smells like nothing I have ever smelled; it is a cocktail of different era and genre. It smells retro but not vintage; it smells green and cedar-ly like a forest but the flowers are bigger than the trees. It is just f**king weird to me. It reminds me of Bandit, not of the smell, but under what occasions I would wear it and leave home, which is none. But, I do wear it at home frequently, for its strangeness and addictive quality when you know it well enough.

Again, I showed it to my coworker, and he said, “Why would I want to smell like a hospital?” I looked at him and said, “You know nothing, Jon Snow.”