Lubin’s Grisette (2015)

Lubin's Grisette © Victor Wong
Lubin’s Grisette © Victor Wong

If the scent progression of Grisette were a four-hour-long day, it begins with a sunny morning and a small glass of fresh grapefruit juice that is faintly sweet but not bitter. Quickly in the afternoon, scents of pink roses and cedar woods rise up under the hot sun. As shadows get longer, wispy incense, soft musks and light vanilla drift through the amber sky. The remaining glory of the day is reflected on a small river of ISO-E Super running through a small 20th century French city.

And how interesting is that the bottle cap of Lubin’s Grisette sets the tone of the perfume perfectly? The color is light Victorian pink (in the photo it looks orange), not pure pink, suggesting that it’s for young women who are vibrant and optimistic but a little bit reserved; it’s translucent, not some heavy opaque jade stones, suggesting that the scent is light, darling and a little whimsical. And so it is, Grisette, a simple but not non-sophisticated feminine perfume that is fun to wear casually in spring or summer.

Grisette actually reminds me of Le Labo’s Benjoin 19, which costs three times as much, but the rose and grapefruit in Grisette make it a much more worthwhile and interesting perfume.

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Lubin’s Gin Fizz (1955, reformulated 2009)

Lubin's Gin Fizz © Victor Wong
Lubin’s Gin Fizz © Victor Wong

I don’t enjoy drinking any alcohol beverages, and never have a craving for any, yet I have a vivid memory of me having a good time drinking gin mixed with 7 Up with my elder brother when I was a kid in the early 80s. My elder youngest brother, the “bad son” in the family (yet most beloved by my father) who never liked to study but bring explosive troublesome news to my parents, found out from a party that it was super cool to mix 7 Up with some Gordon’s London Gin and canned DeMonte fruit cocktail together and called it a “punch”. He smuggled a small bottle home and skipped the fruit cocktail part and let me have a glass. The gin portion was little and I didn’t get drunk at all, but I remember it tasted strange, somehow fragrant and bitter, and my brother had a handsome smirk on his face, which ultimately got a girl and her parents to come visit our home a few years later, for a matter my mom told me, “none of your business”.

Fast forward 30-or-so years, I was at a department store testing some Atkinson perfumes, and the British sales lady told me that the perfume 24 Bond Street had juniper berries in it, and the British absolutely loved it because juniper berries are used to make gin, and gin is the favorite spirit of the British. I carried this little piece of information with me and suddenly I understood why Penhaligons’ gin perfume was called Juniper Sling.

Later I became a bit obsessed with Lubin perfumes, I came across a few bottles on eBay called Gin Fizz (1955). According to Wikipedia, “a fizz is a mixed cocktail drink with some acidic juice (such as lemon or lime) and carbonated water. The fizz became widely popular in America between 1900 and the 1940s. Known as a hometown specialty of New Orleans, the gin fizz was so popular that bars would employ teams of bartenders that would take turns shaking the drinks. Demand for fizzes went international at least as early as 1950…” So here’s my wild guess: the “gin fizz” craze spread to France and Lubin created the hip and trendy Gin Fizz in 1955.

I thought it was fun to own a gin-themed perfume and I bought the modern reformulated version of Lubin’s Gin Fizz (2009). A spritz on the skin, I get a very refreshing gin note (juniper berries, lemon and lime), which I think it’s perfect for the summer (not sure if it is best for work), and quickly the gin gets shuffled to the bottom deck and the “perfume part” of the perfume kicks in, and it smells classy, floral, light, teasing with a little bit of warmth (jasmine, lily, iris, benzoin, oakmoss). While I definitely enjoy wearing it, it is most perfect if you are really at the bar scene wearing it; if you are a lady, I recommend walking in the room in an open back black dress and a good many sprays of Gin Fizz.

Lubin’s Korrigan (2012)

Lubin Korrigan © Victor Wong
Lubin Korrigan © Victor Wong

In front of you are two glasses of red wine, one poured from a bottle that costs 85 cents Euro, (yes, I have seen those in a supermarket in Spain; they are cheaper than bottled water), while the other costs $50 a bottle. Can you taste which one is from the more expensive bottle? May be? Now here’s another round. You are told that both glasses of red wine in front of you are of exceptional quality, but one is extra-extraordinary, ground-breaking even, and it got a rare 5 star rating from the world-renowned red wine expert, Duca Durin. I wonder, will you find yourself feeling a bit pedestrian, or inadequate, if you can’t tell which glass is the “unique” one? You pride yourself for owning a little basement stocked up with red wine of different sorts, and you have the perfect bottle to recommend to friends and family members for different meals and different occasions, but now you are uncertain about yourself. Or will you say, who cares about what experts say, I like what I like, and that unique red wine is not that unique anyway… but secretly you want to have that connoisseur tongue, able to tell the distinct subtleties that make it a masterpiece.

Lubin’s Korrigan is that unique “red wine”, which I simply don’t get why Luca Turin says it’s so great. I simply don’t. May be one day I will get it. I worry about, what if I own a perfume company, and the perfumer sends me his latest creation for evaluation and I dismiss it as “meh” but in fact it is a masterpiece? The town mayor telling Michelangelo that the nose of David needs to be chiseled down a bit because it’s “too big”?

Could it be Korrigan is both a whiskey and a cognac; an elegant saffron scent corrupted with a tinge of oud; a luxurious leather that also smells of cheap plastic flip flops; a piece of vanilla cake that doesn’t taste rich enough to be considered a dessert; a scent that doesn’t last for more two hours on my skin and reappears around my neck six hours later…what is it? I put it in a bin labeled “To be Determined”.

Lubin’s Black Jade (~1790, reformulated 2011)

Lubin Black Jade 100ml, EDP. © Victor Wong
Lubin Black Jade 100ml, EDP. © Victor Wong

A member of a Facebook fragrance group started a poll not long ago asking people to name fragrances that says “Boss Lady” but not “Super Bitch”. (A lot of people participated in the survey. I remembered Chanel No. 19 got a lot of nods.) I had a particular fragrance in mind, but it neither says “Boss Lady” or “Super Bitch”, in fact, it says “The Lady of the Boss” to me, and it’s Lubin Black Jade.

I can make it even more specific with my imagination; Black Jade smells like it belongs to the wife of the owner of a Shanghai gambling house in the old days. No, there’s no smell of cigarettes and booze in the perfume, but it smells “mature” (not granny, uh-huh), “content” and “confident”. The woman wearing it does not need to seduce anyone (but she totally could), for she already has all that she wants, and she is wearing it to complete the look. An oriental fragrance with just the right amount of cinnamon, incense, rose and patchouli, nothing stands out particularly; it’s not an unique fragrance, but it is sophisticated. It is not loud, and the sillage is little; but it’s a fine classy fragrance, may be only the lucky one very close to her can smell it.

When I first heard of the name Black Jade, my immediately reaction was, “So, is it jade or not? Can you call an emerald gem stone green sapphire?” I thought jade only came in green, but the Internet told me I knew too little. In fact, black jade and Black Jade were much more than I initially had thought…

“Black Jade” was originally designed by perfumer Jean Louis Fargeon as per ordered by Queen Marie Antoinette. The queen took it everywhere in a small flask of black jade that protected it from daylight by wearing it around her neck. Dramatically, the French Revolution broke out, the queen entrusted Duchesse de Tourzel, the guardian of the royal children, with her last vial of that perfume on the eve of her departure to the Conciergerie prison. Tourzel and the perfume survived, but Queen Marie Antoinette was executed. (Ironically the French called her a bitch, so may be Black Jade really says Super Queen Beeouch.) The young apprentice of Fargeon, Lubin, who had copied his master’s formulae, set up his shop in 1798 (what a scumbag, j/k) and recreated his master’s perfumes, including the famous eau de toilette that the queen had always carried with her.

Sources: Black Jade: On the Trail of Marie Antoinette’s Last Scent, Vanity Fair; http://www.lubin-parfum.fr; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marie_Antoinette.

Lubin’s Nuit de Longchamp (1932, reformulated in 1980)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

My partner Tim occasionally hosts BBQ gathering for his friends. Among them there is a small group of women who are buddies within their own circle. Tim will tell the “big sister” about the upcoming BBQ, and she will tell the rest to come along. There’s one who never shows up and Tim wonders why. “She said she wasn’t invited. It’s improper to go to someone’s house without an invitation. It’s improper,” says the “big sister”. “Everything must be proper, according to her.”

I finally had a chance to meet her at a dinner and she was indeed very “proper”. Tall and slender, beautiful and well- mannered, with perfect dinning etiquette. I had been told that she never ever wore jeans and she played piano at the Sunday church, and her mom fantasized about being in the upper class and taught her everything needed to be a lady.

The second time I saw her was at her wedding. She was at her 40s; although I barely knew her, I could tell she couldn’t wait for her duke from Downton Abbey to rescue her anymore. She was marrying a professor, excellent for her, but compared to her, he was almost vulgar. Stupid jokes, high-fiving his lab buddies for finally getting a trophy wife, yahoo yahoo, I felt a little embarrassed for her.

And so, I would like to play a little game of “Scent-me-please” on her. I choose Lubin’s Nuit de Longchamp – a vintage floral full of grace and elegance with a demure projection; it doesn’t wow anyone the first time you smell it, but only if you want to know it better then you will detect its complexity. An aldehydic floral with a touch of chypre, a little bit of nutmeg and cardamom to get the conversation started. I wish her the best.

Lubin’s L de Lubin (1974, reformulated 2008)

© Victor Wong
© Victor Wong

L de Lubin is a perfume created in 1974 by a perfume company with a 200 year old history; it got reformulated “identically” in 2008 (info from Temple Fragrantica), and given a redesigned packaging featuring art nouveau style artwork inspired by Gustav Klimt. To me, everything is interesting about this perfume; from the shape of the bottle to the fiery bi-colour cosmic cloud acrylic cap, yet the most interesting thing about L de Lubin is that it smells modern.

I hope that my lack of proper descriptions of this perfume would not demean it, but the more I wear it, the more it reminds me of mouthwash. Modern floral mouthwash used by affluent ladies and gentlemen of the old days (hence the irony). I know mint is not a listed ingredient, but it smells so mouthwash-fresh. Sniff closer to your skin, it suddenly smells rich, spicy, woody and floral.

L de Lupin is an awesome new discovery. A lot of people say that it reminds them of the original Dior Diorella, which I have never smelled before.

Lubin’s Idole (2005)

Lubin Idole, 75ml, EDT
© Victor Wong

Lubin’s Idole has one of the most creative and beautiful perfume bottles I have ever seen. The nose behind Idole is Olivia Giacobetti; the perfume reminds me of Serge Luten’s Ambre Sultan and some L’artisan Parfumeur’s woody/oriental perfumes.

Last year I saw this bottle at a perfume store but didn’t get it because my nose was not open to very herbal oriental perfumes. But the shape of the bottle already had grabbed my attention. As I’ve done more research and questioned the weird shape of the current Lubin’s perfume bottle shape, I suddenly realized that I had forgone a little treasure (as a perfume collector) that was not very widely available. Glad that they still have one bottle in store!