On the menu of Serge Lutens’ Oriental Cafe, there were quite a few of desserts for you to choose from. Most people ordered “Borneo 1834”, “Chegui”, and “Five O’Clock Au Gingembre” but on the bottom of the list there’s one called “Bois et Fruits”. I was curious and ordered one. The waiter brought it out in a beautiful bowl with an Arabic motif. The dessert smelled like a fruit cake, but the fruits were of not the typical kind – plums, figs, peaches and apricots. What’s also unusual was spices that they used; I could smell nutmeg and cloves. The strangest part was the topping – the waiter asked if I wanted some, but really he didn’t expect me to say no, and he started grinding his mill. I looked down on my bowl, and to my horror I saw a bunch of pencil shavings. “Trust me, it’s good,” he said.
My perfume addiction started only about two years ago. My focus at that time was niche perfumes, and I learned about different brands through Google search. I remember the search results back then always included L’artisan Parfumeur. That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone; they are one of the pioneers of niche perfumes. Today, the number of niche perfume houses have increased probably by tenfolds and the interests in L’artisan Parfumeurs perfumes have slowly been washed away from the shore of Google Search into the far away seas of ignored links. (My subjective observation, of course.)
One of the more famous L’artisan Parfumeur’s perfumes has to be Olivia Giacobetti’s Premier Figuier (1994). It’s the first perfume based upon the fig scent. I actually had never eaten fresh figs before I arrived in Canada, and now I have fallen in love with them. I even have a potted Italian fig tree (too bad it bears few fruits), so I know what the leaves and freshly pruned branches smell like. Premier Figuier captures the scents of leaves and fig fruit very well (together with the milkiness of a broken stalk), but I found it too bitter, and even smell of plastics. And the longevity is also pretty poor. It was really Olivia’s second fig perfume, “Philosykos” that stole my heart. It is in my opinion, a more polished and loveable version of Premier Figuier. But now I have discovered this irresistible limited edition of Premier Figuier (released 10 years ago?), I really don’t mind another fig perfume.
The tourist board of Eden (1994) wants you to visit their “paradise”. On the pamphlet it shows a great illustration of a lush garden full of exotic flowers and greenery. People who have come back said great things about Eden, so I blindly joined the tour. When I arrived there, I knew something was wrong. Flowers didn’t smell exactly like flowers, and fruits didn’t taste exactly like fruits. Feeling a little bit bewildered, I decided to get back on the tour bus, but it was too late. A violent beast named chypre jumped out of a patchouli bush and sat on my face, forcing me to smell its giant butt. After struggling for a few hours, I managed to escape this horrific claustrophobic incident. Crazy as it might sound, the tour wasn’t so bad; it’s quite thrilling, if you like that kind of thing, although I know there are some people didn’t survive the tour.
Vent Vert (1947) is one of those perfumes with a long history and is still available in the market. What it does not have is integrity and foresights from perfumers who were responsible for its reformations over the years. It has gone through at least three reformulations, and Luca Turin announces in his book that Vent Vert, is dead. If it is dead, Balmain reformulated the corpse one more time and has given it a new packaging and a new price tag, 75 Euros for 75ml instead of $50 for 100ml.
The bottle I have, I believe, is the 1999’s reformulation (the dead one), and it smells ok. Actually very good, but as I have read enough negative reviews, I do not dare to say it’s great. (Kind of like saying the latest Adam Sandler’s movie is great very loudly in a movie critics convention.) But I like it as is – a little bit green and bitterness, rosy and a little bit powdery, and I do not feel like spending more money trying to find the vintage vintage versions on eBay. But I can imagine the glory Vent Vert had had when it came out – “With its famous overdose of the ingredient galbanum, which imparts a bitter-green freshness to scents, Vent Vert is herbs, bent stems and roses.”, writes Barbara Herman in her book, Scent & Subversion. Let’s be complacent that I have the better version of Vent Vert at a greater price than the newest one.
P.S. Actually I have never smelled the newest one. I wonder if it is better?
[A reader has informed me that my bottle, in fact, is not the latest reformulation (which is dreadful), but a still good reformulation.]
If a perfume is named “Sun”, it might smell bright and warm; if a perfume is named “Moon”, it might smell romantic and floral; if a perfume is named “Stars”, it might smell exciting or solitary. But when a perfume is named “Sun, Moon, Stars”, it smells like 90’s.
My general perception of a typical 90’s perfume is fruity, rosy, light, fresh and non-confrontational. (Tommy Girl, CK One, Gio, Cool Water) Sun, Moon Stars fits this description quite well. In my opinion, It is not a teenager fruity scent, but more for a mature, sensual woman. May be she would wear it to work, but more likely she is wearing it for a romantic date after work. The slightly powdery floral notes mingle with the fruity notes, making it rich but non-suffocating, almost shampoo-y scent.
To be honest, I bought it for the bottle. It reminds me of a Lampe Berger wick-lamp from France, beautiful and whimsical (but also a potential fire hazard. Please no kids should ever see you light up a Lampe Berger.) When I saw that bottle, I knew I would buy it, but I did the standard and almost unnecessary procedure of asking the sales person to let me smell the perfume, but really, my wallet is on the counter, wide open. To my surprise, it smelled really good. I went home and did some research – here comes the shock – it was designed by our famous Sophia Grojsman.
Some time ago I mentioned the difficulty of getting a new bottle of Gucci Envy for Men. However, I have never felt the pressure of getting a bottle of Gucci Envy for Women because I can see them in every discounted perfume shop in Toronto. (Not in great abundance, but at least one or two bottles.) But, all discontinued perfumes will someday get sold out, I think it’s better be safe than sorry, so I bought a bottle a few days ago.
While appreciating Envy for Woman for the first time, I suddenly realized that I had smelled it before, at least a few times. I don’t remember when, who wore it, or the location, but the smell was so distinct and pretty that I somehow recognized it. It is like watching Disney’s Dumbo when I was a kid, I don’t remember a thing about it now, but I knew I had watched it in a cinema.
I would compare Envy for Women to Prescriptives’ Calyx (both are 5-star perfumes in Luca Turin’s book); they share similar structure – fruity tops, rosy/lily-of-the-valley middle notes, but Envy is lighter, fresher, more distinct, and has a surprisingly strong longevity.
I wonder why there are more bottles of Envy for Women than for Men. May be it was so good and had sold so well that Gucci had over-produced Envy for Women. Or may be men tend to buy the same perfume when a bottle is finished and hence the remaining stock gets depleted faster? Either way, I am glad that I have all the Envy – and can see how brilliant the two minimalistic bottle designs can suggest the envy of men and women.
I saw a bottle of Chanel Egoiste in a duty-free shop at the Frankfurt airport about a year ago, took a sniff, and put it down. I thought, “Nice, I will get a bottle when I feel like to in Toronto.”
A few months later, I went to my local department store and looked for a bottle but couldn’t find one. The sales person told me, “It’s been discontinued for quite some time. You can probably find one, if you are lucky, at some European airport duty-free shops.” What followed instantly was some loud dramatic lightning and thunder, casting sharp shadows of me standing like a dumbfounded moose in the middle of a road.
Later I sold a little bit of my dignity and bought a bottle from eBay.
To me, the opening of Egoiste resembles a little bit of the brilliant Bois de Iles, also by Chanel. The difference is the yummy candied fruit notes found in Egoiste. I’ve read that the vintage version is much better, but right now I am happy living with a reformulated bottle instead of none.
This is my second bottle of Gucci Envy for Men. The first bottle, only half-used, is now probably buried in some landfill, glass-broken and heart-broken. Yes, I threw it away a few years ago because I hadn’t used it for more than 10 years, and as I was preparing to move to a new home, I thought I could “de-clutter” my life.
Since I have caught the perfume bug, I wanted it back badly. I feel very puzzled by myself – from throwing away perfumes to collecting perfumes that would take me ten lifetimes to finish. It’s like a kid who hates ketchup and as he grows older suddenly he wants ketchup on everything.
Out of all the five or fewer perfumes that I threw away, I only missed Envy for Men. (Clinque Happy for Men, I am glad that you are gone.) Although I still don’t think I am the right man to wear this perfume, the ginger/spice/floral/leather combo is boozy and unforgettable. Now I have this perfume back, somehow I miss my old self.
While taking photos of this perfume bottle, I suddenly felt a little bit sad – look at the face on that cap! It looks like a sad puppy.
The fate of a discontinued perfume sometimes is like a pet waiting to be adopted. In this case, this bottle of Salvador Dali Le Roy Soleil (1997) has been sitting on the back of the shelf for nearly 17 years. I mean, give it one more year, it can vote for our Canadian prime minister.
The fate of a collector is often tragic too. A collector is the opposite of a monk. Never satisfied, always tempted; the joy of owning something hard to get lasts only a short moment. But let me tell you how happy I was when I found this 100ml bottle (yes, not a 50ml, not a 100ml without a box) at my local perfume store, at a normal retail price. The sales person in fact had never seen what the bottle looked like, and she said “wow” as she took it out of the box.
Really, the scent is almost unimportant. (Sorry, this is so wrong.) It’s important, and it smells like a peach cooler with a metallic dry down. Very nice.
Continuing my new-found interest in Salvador Dali’s perfumes. The bottle of “Salvador” (1992) looks like the cross-section of an epidermis under a microscope, zoomed-in, looking at the amber fatty cells. Slightly disturbing, but I appreciate the effort they put in making this design unique.
The opening of Salvador is a disappointing “typical citrus cologne, again?” smell. But honestly, I shouldn’t get disappointed smelling a lime. Slowly, the middle and base notes start revealing themselves – carnation, rose, tonka beans (yeah baby), vanilla, leather, making it a yummy cologne, and also making Guerlain’s Tonka Imperiale look like an eunuch.
Gerard Anthony was the co-creator, his works include Azzaro and Balenciaga Pour Homme. (I will talk about this monster soon).