There’s a lot of anti-Chanel feeling around at the moment. Before the venerable house had given everyone an opportunity to recover from the various Chance flankers, they released Bleu which – quite rightly – elicited a torrent of opprobrium. So perhaps it was inevitable that some people would see No. 19 Poudré as the last nail in an increasingly embarrassing coffin.
The original No. 19 is a masterful study in detachment, at least in the 80s formulation currently in my collection. Resplendent in its coldness, it combines greens, florals and aldehydes with uncompromising, haughty abstraction. This new offspring isn’t anywhere near as brave. Indeed, it appears entirely to misunderstand its parent's raison d’être. But although I could allow myself to get terribly high-minded about it and construct an indictment of its construction, the fact of the matter is that I actually quite like it. Yes, it’s unnecessary. Yes, it’s much more predictably legible than the original. And yes, it’s probably been released because 19 needed a bit of a kick up its Arctic backside (apparently, some French perfumeries go for months without selling a bottle). But I wore it for several days and tried it out on other people’s skin, and results were far from disastrous.
The iris note is still present – steely and convex – as are the green heart and the aldehydic lift. But now the whole feels much warmer, as though Cruella has spent the last forty years learning the value of forgiveness. She still likes nothing better than greeting her mornings with a deep breath of Alpine air, but these days she makes sure she doesn’t open the chalet window without first lighting a fire in her bedroom. And as for the eponymous powderiness, well yes, I suppose it is present in a distant, subtle form, but I think a better adjective would have been ‘soapy’… although I can see that Chanel’s marketing bods wouldn’t have been overly excited by‘savonneux’. Far from being a travesty, Poudré is wearable, it’s long-lasting, and during much of its development, it feels quite elegant. There may be more memorable ways of bottling the scent of atonement, but this is a perfectly respectable effort.
One of Poudré’s flaws is that it doesn’t quite pull off the trick of transposing a bygone age to the second decade of the 21st century. Polge and Sheldrake could have picked up a few tips from Andy Tauer: instead of merely paying homage to the past, his new Miriam - the first release in his Tableau De Parfums range - fills it with warm blood and brings it back to life. A nostalgic blend of aldehydes, rich floral essences and metallic woods, it’s the sort of perfume I cannot imagine any mainstream house daring to release at the moment. As seems to be the way with recent Tauer creations, it doesn’t display the nuclear-powered radiance and persistence of Orange Star or Le Maroc Pour Elle, which some will no doubt find disappointing. But the sandalwood drydown is so compelling, that I was content to reach it fairly quickly, and then indulge in a re-spray and start the whole show from the beginning again. Somewhere, in Perfume Utopia, there’s a gorgeous corner reserved for the indefinable likes of No. 5, Chamade and Gold Woman. Miriam may be shyer and quieter than them, but I think they’d be more than happy to have her as a new friend.
[Review of No. 19 Poudré based on a sample of eau de parfum obtained in 2011; review of Miriam based on a sample of eau de parfum provided by Tableau De Parfums in 2011; fragrances tested on skin.]
And here's the bit many of you have been waiting for. The 5 winners of the sample of Miriam are:
The Gastronomic Goddess
and Jennifer Edwards
Congratulations to you. Please send your address to persolaise at gmail dot com so that I can get your prize off to you as soon as possible. Many thanks to all of you who entered; I really enjoyed reading your entries. Don't forget that a draw for more Miriam samples is currently being held on Olfactarama.
Please come back to www.persolaise.com on Tuesday for a chance to win some rather special goodies related to my recent holiday...