Fashion Fragrances & Cosmetics Ltd - the company that currently owns the licence for Robert Piguet Parfums - was always going to face a tricky, 'turning the corner' moment at some stage of its growth. Its re-working of classic scents such as Bandit, Fracas and Calypso has largely been met with approval from critics and consumers, but a brand can't rest on past successes for ever. FFC took its first steps towards the future in 2011 by carrying out a canny interim move: it used the Piguet brand as a vehicle for designer Douglas Hannant's perfume. But now, the firm is venturing into wholly uncharted territory by issuing no fewer than five 'nouvelle collection' scents, all of which have reportedly been put together by Givaudan's Aurelien Guichard, who was also responsible for the re-creation of some of the classic fragrances.
Of the quintet, Notes and Bois Noir are the least compelling. The former is, I'm sorry to say, another Cool Water wannabe with nothing novel to offer. The latter is an attempt to place various woody notes on top of each other (cedar, patchouli, sandalwood, you name it) and it works fairly well up to a point, but as with many such scents, it ultimately suffers from a lack of contrasts. It isn't as flat as Wonderwood, and its powdery, balsamic elements do provide a certain amount of elegant understatement, but it definitely isn't anywhere near noir enough to sustain one's interest for very long.
Casbah is something of a puzzle. Its name would suggest that it might be a riff on warm North African temperatures and desert winds, but in fact, it seems to want to keep the heat at bay. So although it opens with a peppery, nutmeg-y, not-entirely-welcoming incense note, it then proceeds to cool things down with a strong iris-like facet. An intriguing idea that should probably have been executed with greater boldness.
Mademoiselle is the instant smile-inducer. A soft, sweet, pretty-as-daisies citrus-floral (complete with aldehydes and a powdery, vanillic base) it radiates naive charm and an almost adolescent optimism. In those selfish moments when parents of girls hope that their little princesses won't ever grow up, this is probably the scent that accompanies their tender imaginings.
And then we have Oud. In the interests of brevity I'm going to put aside the tired subject of the agar trend and cut straight to the chase. This is a perfume that helps you understand why Luca Turin gave Sécrétions Magnifiques 5 stars. Now, before you bombard my Inbox with messages asking if I've taken leave of my senses, let me say that I'm not recommending Piguet's Oud as a perfume to be worn. I certainly can't wear it myself, despite several attempts. Why? Well, let me put it this way.
About ten minutes after I'd first sprayed the stuff on a blotter, Madame Persolaise walked into the house and exclaimed, "What on earth is that awful stench?" She then proceeded to compare it to the scent of a bathroom after someone has had an... ahem... especially eventful stint on the toilet, and has subsequently tried to cover up the olfactory evidence with a cheap lemon air freshener.
As it happens, I'd say her description is spot on, although personally, I'd shift the 'action' from a domestic setting to an agricultural one (think: barns, hay, a pig sty, a breeze blowing from a river several hundreds yards away). But while she couldn't get away from the odour fast enough, I found myself returning to the blotter, fascinated by the fact that such an arresting smell had been bottled. Whatever else it may be, this Oud is ballsy. A sort of 21st century version of Kouros, it takes no prisoners and does not try to be endearing in any way whatsoever. It is also - toilet analogy notwithstanding - pretty original. So despite my better judgement, I have to say that if you see it in a shop, you absolutely must smell it. But whatever you do: don't buy it blind!
[Reviews based on samples of eau de parfum provided by Robert Piguet in 2012.]