The global financial crisis shows no signs of abating any time soon, which perhaps helps explain why ‘classical’ or ‘vintage’ olfactory symbols are continuing to enjoy a resurgence (see last year’s Mon Parfum Chéri and Bottega Veneta, which draw heavily on bygone aesthetics). After all, it’s a well-known quirk of our spending habits that any sign of gloom on the horizon prompts us to do a u-turn and view our history through an extremely flattering lens. It’s always interesting to try to determine which materials or accords spell ‘the past’ at any given moment in a culture’s development. For those of us living in Europe right now, hefty chypres seem to press our nostalgia buttons (especially when they come with warm, earth-mother-inspired patchouli notes) as does anything which features a significant dose of powdery aldehydes (eg Tableau De Parfums’ Miriam).
Chypre Palatin seems almost strategically designed to capitalise on this hankering for memory lane, although chances are that it’s been in development since long before the trend started. Upon first sniff, it calls to mind the structures of 80s blockbusters such as Sophia Grojsman’s Beautiful for Lauder, which was seen as fairly ‘vintage’ itself when it first appeared. Its floral mid-section (mainly roses, hyacinths and vivid lilies) sits atop an unusually clean, translucent base of mosses and woods, from which every vestige of the darkness inherent in chypre-ishness has been chased away. But whereas the Lauder places the emphasis on the flowers, here Bertrand Duchaufour focusses attention on the drydown.
Of course, the trick with looking back is to know where to draw the line; the boundary between homage and embarrassing pastiche tends to be thin. Thankfully, Duchaufour is nothing if not a modern perfumer and he knows exactly how to pull CP out of the time machine: weaving in and out of the basic framework is the astringent fruity note (possibly peaches and apples, with a dash of sweet citrus) which seems to have become BD’s current signature. When combined with a green aspect (another Duchaufour trademark) it gives the whole a sunny disposition and dispels any fears about wallowing in wistfulness.
But the piece that completes the puzzle is leather, present in the drydown in elegantly subtle fashion. Not only does it serve to bridge the gap between yesterday and today, but it also asserts the gender-neutrality of the composition, as per Creative Director Claude Marchal’s requirements. Most evocatively, it connects the smell to its name - there’s more than a hint of swords-and-sandals epics here - and, by extension, to the brand as a whole, which has never shied away from classical inspiration. If all this sounds like too much temporal confusion, don’t worry: Duchaufour ensures that his work remains lucid throughout. Yes, Chypre Palatin’s roots lie in several periods of history, but its gaze is fixed on the future and it is this balance which is perhaps its most commendable feature. It is never too diffusive. It never clamours for attention. It never allows one facet to dominate. Instead, it opts for soft-spoken authority and, as a result, becomes a top-notch masculine that could just as easily be worn by women. A Roman thumbs up.
In brief... Four soliflores from Annick Goutal have been re-launched as a sort of loose set “for one season only”. Le Muguet, La Violette and Rose Splendide are competent, smoothly-finished compositions, although none of them is especially memorable. The former serves as a reminder of how frail and soapy lily of the valley scents have been forced to become; the latter offers a not-uninteresting drydown in which musks flesh out the rose notes. Le Mimosa is probably the most worthwhile of the quartet. Aptly enough, the flower’s familiar, pollen-brushed yellowness is placed front and centre, but it’s allied with peachy melon, a piquant aniseed and what feels like a sprinkling of cumin to create an unexpectedly sensual effect. It may be a wintry perfume, but it comes with its own central heating.
Many thanks to everyone who entered the Neela Vermeire give-away draw. The winner of the Discovery Set is
and the winner of the Try Your India set is
Please send your details to persolaise at gmail dot com as soon as possible so that I can arrange for your prizes to be posted to you. My thanks again to Neela Vermeire for making this give-away possible.
To those of you whose number wasn't picked by Random.org this time: I expect it won't be long before I hold another draw.
And finally, I'd like to express my gratitude to everyone who left a comment or sent an email in response to last week's book news. Your encouragement and support mean a great deal to me.
Have a wonderful weekend. I'll be spending a few hours of mine getting ready for a trip to my childhood stomping ground... Dubai.