They say men mellow with age. Whether the statement is true is up for debate - last time I checked, grumpy old codgers weren't exactly thin on the ground - but it certainly seems to have been on François Demachy's mind when he was composing the new 'parfum' version of Dior's classic Fahrenheit. Jean-Louis Sieuzac's 1988 original was a study in brazen intensity: an unmistakable combination of hyper-green, attention-grabbing violet leaf with resolute woods and a leather that appeared to have been doused in gallons of petrol. It divided the public almost as deeply as Poison: many flocked to wear it (including yours truly) but others turned away in revulsion. To this day, Madame Persolaise insists it makes her think of fly spray and several card-carrying scentusiasts claim they'd be happy if they never encountered it again. The current EDT is unquestionably different from the original - is there any pre-90s scent that has travelled to the 21st century unscathed? - but I'd assert that its signature is still pretty recognisable, even if its middle section lacks some of that striking, chest-pumping Fahrenheit vitality.
This new 'parfum' iteration comes at a time when Demachy is continuing to make his own mark on Dior's back catalogue. Its existence suggests that 2012's 'parfum' formulation of Eau Sauvage was sufficiently successful to warrant further exploration in the relatively uncharted territory of 'masculine extraits', which might also help to explain the olfactory similarities between the two creations. Eau Sauvage Le Parfum took the revitalising, citrus-heavy spirit of Edmond Roudnitska's masterpiece, quietened it down and placed it over a bed of smoky vanilla. Fahrenheit Le Parfum essentially follows the same approach: the violet leaf and woods are present, but they are considerably less strident and their more confrontational edges have been tempered by a suspiciously familiar, skin-hugging, smouldering vanilla.
The effect is certainly very attractive, but it does beg the question 'What for?' Vanilla is seen by many perfumers as an easy short-cut to customers' pennies and its prominence here betrays a lack of adventurousness on Demachy's part. Perhaps that's the whole point. Maybe we're supposed to see this as a sign that our clean-cut, 80s cad has settled down. His sharp cheekbones have been softened by the effects of time and he's now happy for the spark of his personality to be concealed beneath several layers of post-recessionary, touch-feely affability. If that is, indeed, the mode in which we're meant to take this release, then Demachy has completely achieved his aim. But I can't help wishing that this piece of work was just a tiny bit more exciting. Yes, it's suave and elegant, but every now and then, you want to grab it by its cotton-clad shoulders and give it a firm shake, just to see if there's any hint of the past left in the old rake.
[Review based on a sample of parfum provided by Christian Dior in 2014.]