You may remember that last year, I was bowled over by Thomas Fontaine's reworking of the 1927 Jean Patou scent Chaldée, originally composed by Henri Alméras. The release of the reformulation marked the debut of the 'Collection Héritage', an attempt by the Patou brand to revisit and, if possible, recreate various highlights from their perfume archive. The Collection now comprises no fewer than nine fragrances. As they're all worthy of attention and as I'm in something of a completist mood, I've decided I ought to address the fact that many of them have been rather conspicuous by their absence here on this blog.
I covered Eau De Patou (1976) and Patou Pour Homme (1980) in my regular series of mini-reviews, but I will just say here that they stand out from the rest of the range because they're both from the latter part of the 20th century, whereas the youngest of the others (L'Heure Attendue) was originally unveiled in 1946. As such, the two babies of the group form an interesting point of reference when it comes to thinking about what gives a fragrance that whiff of 'vintage'. Powderiness certainly seems to be one of the key characteristics, but there's also an intriguing combination of opacity, largesse and assertiveness. At this point in the 21st century, when perfumes are plentiful and affordable, most members of the public seem to reach for rather faceless creations. In the past, when fragrances were relatively unattainable and therefore any scent, no matter how restrained, was likely to stand out, the prevailing taste seemed to be for bold, fearless pieces of work. An interesting paradox to ponder as you breathe in the bitter, hairy-chested lavender of Patou Pour Homme or the part-sour, part-soapy chypre accord of Eau De Patou.
The second trio to be released under the Héritage banner slipped into a somewhat less endearing mode. Adieu Sagesse (1925) is little more than a musky, soapy floral, although it tantalisingly hints at the oomph that might have been possessed by Alméras' original. Deux Amours (1925) starts off like a tender, powdery Guerlain, and although it never becomes anything less than pleasant, its rose and ylang heart is perhaps too pale to make a lasting impact. The most intriguing of this set is Que Sais-Je? (1925) wherein a metallic cloud sidles up to peaches, honey and florals before settling on a bed of mosses to create an old-fashioned chypre. Opaque and harmonic, it certainly has enough vintage charm to keep nostalgia buffs glued to their wrists for a while, although its conclusion is rather thin.
A few months ago, Patou released another threesome. The call of the past remains loud and clear in Colony (1938), an almost stereotypically (and politically dubious?) 'exotic' banquet of tobacco, leather, grapes and apples. Cultural sensitivities aside, this works rather well as an expression of a leap into a dark, potentially treacherous interior. The aforementioned L'Heure Attendue is a polar opposite of sorts, using aldehydes and wafer-delicate floral notes to portray an idealised vision of rosy-cheeked innocence. My favourite is, without doubt, Vacances (1936). An exuberant harmony of galbanum, mimosa, lilac, pine and cedar, it is an intricate, pastoral oil painting, rich with details, yet never overwhelming. At times, this version comes pretty close to Olivia Giacobetti's En Passant for Malle, but it's sufficiently different (greener at the start and sweeter in the base) to warrant serious attention. Wear it... and feel Provence come sailing towards you with chirruping cicadas and crystalline sunsets.
[Reviews based on samples provided by Jean Patou in 2015.]