Alex1984Alex1984's Perfume Reviews

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That’s the word that makes the most sense when talking about Femme, one of Edmond Roudnitska’s finest creations and one of the jewels of Rochas.
Review based on a Parfum de Toilette from the 70’s.

In the early 1940’s, with the devastation of WW2, fragrances sought to bring optimism and joy. Miss Dior was one, joyous and optimistic. Femme was another. But Femme was different; it was more sensual, more voluptuous. Originally dedicated to Hélène, the young wife of Marcel Rochas, it soon won the heart of its exclusive clientele and went public in 1944. Although it was created during a period of scarcity and post war devastation, Femme was incredibly rich, both in beauty and composition, featuring the now famous Prunol base from De Laire. Edmond discovered it in an abandoned warehouse and made copious use of it, creating the signature of Femme, and setting the path for future compositions.

With a strong connection to Mitsouko, the fruity chypre from Guerlain, Femme amplifies the peach lactones, and marries them with stewed apricots and plums and prunes, creating a boozy fruit compote. Ionones, with their violet and rose tonalities, create a sepia haze of deep oranges and browns that shimmer in a silver ray of light. It’s fruity in a decomposing nature, almost rotting, honeyed; and it’s the most erotic ripe fruit accord in modern perfume history.
Femme also makes use of warm spices; cinnamon, cumin (which degrades over time, making the vintage richer but also giving the impression it lacks cumin), cloves, with spicy carnation and a touch of rose and jasmine to create a tantalizing melange that feels warming rather than spicy. Rosewood, civet and castoreum, leather, resins and oakmoss in all its glory...they anchor Femme on skin for hours on end. It’s a candlelit glow, the warm embrace of a loved one finally returning home. Femme is sometimes oriental, more often than not chypre, but always gorgeous and profound. And this worn, lived in sensuality, is what makes her all the most appealing, less cerebral and more human than Mitsouko; they could be relatives, but while Mitsy was brought up among royalty, Femme had to fight her way through, gaining the experience that life brings the hard way.

Femme, like many classics, was inspired by others (Mitsouko) but also inspired many; the rosewood in Habit Rouge is highly reminiscent of the woody accord in Femme. The bergamot, furocoumarin heavy in the vintage, has a dark edge just like in Shalimar, another inspiration that lends certain smokiness to Femme. Quadrille, Jubilation 25, Mon Parfum Cheri...tributes to the artistry of Edmond. Le Parfum de Thérèse; Edmond’s tribute to his own wife.
There is a certain sensuality, eroticism, that Edmond knew how to infuse in his creations. He worked with many bases, he aged ingredients and created his own accords. His signature is complex, multifaceted, and never duplicated. There isn’t a creation of his that doesn’t scream elegance, carnality and beauty. And that’s why reformulations of his work are very inferior; they lack the artist’s touch.

Femme was kept more or less loyal to Edmond’s formula until the late 80’s when it was reformulated to comply with the first big waves of the fragrance industry. From there on, Femme has been losing its chypre character and beauty to slowly become a spicy oriental, which is what is sold today. The complex formulation of the past, with its myriad of ingredients and accords, alchemically composed in a scarce period, as if pure magic, is now a simpler spicy peach that somehow still retains some of its beauty. It’s been facelifted, tummytucked and botoxed, but underneath there is still a glimpse of la grande vieille dame!

Vintage: a spicy chypre, full on sensuality. Impecable, complex, engulfing. Not a single flaw.

Modern: a less complex spicy ‘chypriental’, light on oakmoss and animalic notes, heavy on spices and cumin to make up for lost ingredients.

1 Awards
It took me almost a year to be able to grasp the beauty of N°19. While my vintage, early 70’s bottle was a wonderful discovery, and a wonderful experience every time it hit my skin, the golden liquid never unveiled its secrets to me. Yes, I could see the beauty of it, I could smell the marvel inside, but it didn’t resonate.
I decided to give it some time. After all, galbanum galore!
And all of a sudden, a month ago, I could finally understand. This is N°19 in all of its glorious beauty.

In the beginning, I could smell the green splendor inside, the leather wrapping the iris..but now there’s a revelation.
The star of the show, shines fiercely. There’s an intense verdancy that grabs me by the head and spins me around. The galbanum is simply stunning; piquant, spicy, herbal. Mesmerizing on its own, and stellar when surrounded by the hyacinth, the lilly of the valley and the warm narcissus. It’s a green bouquet with the flowers doing second act. The vetiver and the oakmoss serve as the forest canopy, the leather provides, along with the musk (nitromusks?), the animalic growl that warms this fantasy dreamland.
There’s also a freshness all along; the neroli/bergamot duo feel as if a gentle mist, hovering above the skin until the late drydown, when a beautifully rich sandalwood engulfs my skin in creamy softness. It’s an edt, rich like an extrait, and made at a time when quality meant something. Unveiling its beauty, I’m transported back to the early 70’s with all of its dreams, big ideas and hazy beauty, ready to grab the world by the balls.

N°19 has always been considered a ‘cold’ fragrance. I find it to be quite the opposite. Warm, radiant, pulsating from the skin, all while keeping a distance. It’s strong willed, stubborn, and yet serene. Perhaps the association with Coco influences our perception, and while I could never picture her wearing something like N°5, the image I have of her persona is absolutely N°19. And while I can’t comment on her as a person, this and the latter Coco give me an idea of what her personality might have been.

N°19 belongs in the pantheon of lost beauties. My vintage bottle with all of its glorious Iranian galbanum, animal musks and rich absolutes, comes alive on skin like very few. The current, even in extrait, is a diluted watercolor painting that can only dream of such vivid green tapestry.
Sillage is moderate, but longevity is from morning to evening.
Absolutely and resolutely for every man and woman that loves green and chypre fragrances.

MEM. This is a tricky one.
I was fully aware (and expecting) to be surprised, and maybe even, be blown away. I love MAAI, which I don’t find remotely similar to any of the ‘it reminds me’ off, but I was kinda waiting for a roughened up Jicky.
Not here.

MEM and the late Vero’s Kiki Voile samples arrived together. Kiki I loved, as expected, but sadly it’s the only Vero that does not work on me. So after draining that sample, I waited a few days and gave MEM some skin space.
Off the bat, MEM is lavender, but not like you know it. Lavender syrup, lavender dragée, lavender’s lavender dissected, re-composed and amplified. And it’s not exactly my kind of thing. intrigued me.
In a sort of alchemical way, Antonio infused each lavender personality into the other notes, and when you think you actually know where this is going, the ride resets itself.
By the end of the sample, I needed more to try and actually figure it out.
But I can’t. With successive wears, I’ve come to notice the herbal side more, with the prominent geranium and mint, sometimes I could pick the ylang ylang, with it’s fattening quality, and sometimes the warmer ambery sweetness of the drydown. The natural civet and castoreum cocktail lends a wonderful smoothness, but it’s hard to pinpoint them; they simply hover and meow to the other notes, never making themselves fully apparent.

At the end of the day, and as crazy as it may sound, MEM reminds me of a mad scientist’s version of...

Angel. The vintage one.
Somehow, the raw, medicinal patchouli of Angel, finds its way in the lavender cornucopia of MEM, and my focus becomes to make the association go, try and find the invisible patchouli, and ultimately figure if I really enjoy MEM.
And while it’s a big, big, big rollercoaster ride, it kind of sucks the air around me. But I can’t be without a sample; someday, I might actually figure it out, and my infatuation with it might grow to become a love; i already like it.
In a kinky kind of way!

Sillage and longevity, as expected, are enormous.

Portuguese mandarin, Rose, Jasmine, Angelica, Tuberose, Violet leaf, Cinnamon, Bourbon vetiver, Mysore sandalwood, Myrrh, Cedar, Civet, Castoreum, Benzoin, Patchouli, Opoponax, Musk, Oakmoss.

These are the notes that are listed on the carded sample I received along with my 1987 bottle.
And it makes sense; I for one can't sense any pineapple and there's a distinct animalic feel that runs through the whole fragrance. There's an aldehyde feel in the opening, kind of like layering Coco and N° 5, but more oomph-y, more extravagant. Scherrer 2, for all its comparisons feels like a less strong Teatro Alla Scala, and like Coco edt. Sparkling, like a glass of bubbly, floral, but the deep kind of floral that feels demure, all in a gilded living room with wild animals running free. There's a deep boozy sensation just like in Fendi original, Teatro, that makes you feel numbed, a bit dizzy. They sure knew how to put you under their spell these bad babies.

Opulent, glamorous, heavy florals, woody basenotes, heavy on musk that feels feral, with a nice fruity opening that is more preserve jam rather than lollipop.
If you enjoy any of the above, Scherrer 2 is a hidden treasure that surprisingly has fared extremely well. My first bottle was a current Designer Parfums formula and now that I have one from the first years of release, I can honestly say it's almost the same. Save from some minor sharpness in the animalic notes of the current one, and a bit lighter sillage/longevity, I can't imagine how they managed to keep it smelling so true and 'vintage' in 2017. By far the best reformulation I have encountered, actually the only one. Get vintage if it's reasonably priced or you have a deep deep love of dirty musks, otherwise the current one is still great if you don't mind a sharper synthetic civet and castoreum.

Just like I said Scherrer 2 has survived in excellent form, I have to say Scherrer also has, just not that good.

Credit is due where credit is due, but simply the color of a 1981 bottle, golden honey compared to emerald green today, tells something. And the nose test is the ultimate one. Whereas Scherrer today is a beautiful green 'chypre' (I say 'chypre' because what can be called a true chypre today? With all the limitations and although some brands try to do their best with what's available and permitted, a true chypre can't be made today like it used to 2 decades ago) the vintage one is a gorgeous leather chypre, in the vein of Bandit and Futur, and to some extent Cabochard/Azuree/Aramis.

The above three are decidedly more butch, rougher, but Bandit in its vintage form had some glorious florals hidden beneath the surface; way way hidden, and Scherrer vintage boasts a huge galbanum, leather and civet note, with hidden florals just like Bandit.
And that is what I mostly get; galbanum all the way in it's beautiful green bitterness, worn leather of a well made bag, an ambiguous floral heart to soften the edges, and a wallop of civet in the base that runs from the beginning to make Scherrer, ultimately, the Bandit of the 80's; powerful, a slap in the face big personality that feels so different from the orientals and florals of the day but so refreshing and revitalizing for the woman or man that wanted to take the big city by the balls.
Always walking the line of ambiguity, it is masculine and feminine and everything in between. Perfect for anyone that loves a tough leather chypre with no sweetness at all and no excess frills, just good ol' oakmoss, galbanum, animalic leather and some flowers in the heart. Today, Scherrer is more of a green floral, that still feels dry, sparkling, but the galbanum feels absent, as well as the leather, and the animalic notes feel sharper. Huge sillage and longevity on both versions, with the original one feeling just a tad 'bigger' and warmer. Definitely give it a try, because Designer Parfums are really working magic with the brands they own, Patou included. If you love Futur especially, with the galbanum/oakmoss duo singing together, Scherrer is a sure bet!

1 Awards
Loris Azzaro edt, the original 1975 formula, is one of many mid to late 70’s fragrances that somehow got lost in translation. Big in the day, they somehow fell out of style when the 80’s arrived, and got discontinued in the following decade. And it’s a shame really, because this is a descendant of the original Diorella, with a wonderful Prunol base, mossy florals, and warm animalic undertones.

Azzaro opens on my skin like many green and chypre florals of the era. For a brief moment, Fidji springs to mind. But there’s more brightness, more sparkle, and here is where Diorella comes to mind; there’s a ‘Diorness’ that is hard to miss.
Soon after, the floral side shows up. Cold florals, a green Gardenia, spicy coriander; a lactonic peach adds a layer of milky softness. Azzaro isn’t demure or light. Underneath the freshness that persists until the drydown, there are hidden secrets. The oakmoss, the animalics, they’re there, but they surround the fragrance in a dark green mist. It doesn’t become heady, but at the same time it is mysterious, mesmerizing. You just want to inhale deeper. One last drag, long and slow. Green, floral, but with a veil of civet hovering like a shadow.

While Azzaro is long lasting, on my skin there’s moderate sillage. While I can smell it hours after, it never screams. I was hoping for a big loud floral, but on me it is a green and elegant floral chypre, slightly fruity, in the vein of Fidji, Diorella, Chloé, with echoes of the original Scherrer. I’m not disappointed though; sometimes, a quiet elegance is more appealing. The magic comes alive once your body heat does it’s work. Then, under its crystal freshness, the beauty of it shows. Very 70’s in feel, elegant, bubbly, unisex, and very Bianca Jagger the morning after Studio54 and her white horse entrance. A lost gem.

Review based on edt splash bottle from the mid 70’s. Along with it, came a carded sample that confirms the notes listed bellow:
Rose, tuberose, gardenia, hyacinth, jasmine, ylang ylang, iris, vetiver, sandalwood, coriander, peach, musk, civet and ambergris.

3 Awards
Genny, from 1987 and originally released by Rivara Hanorah (considered quite expensive to make, according to Roberto Garavaglia from Diana De Silva), was created by Jean Delville from Firmenich. For better or for worse, it smells almost identical to Aromatics Elixir in its vintage formula. Review based on 1987 parfum de toilette spray.
Rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, Iris, marigold, petit grain, cardamom, patchouli, oakmoss, musk and ambergris according to the raiders of the lost scent.
Aldehydes, bergamot, green notes, coriander, orange blossom, geranium, rose, Iris, lilly of the valley, jasmine, oakmoss, musk, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, civet and cistus according to parfumo.

On my skin, Genny opens with a huge herbal blast; aldehydes fuel the coriander, there must be a bit of chamomile as well, and geranium. I get the sense the notes on parfumo are truer; I love geranium which I smell intensely, and cardamom which doesn’t quite please me, feels absent. Moreover, the rose/patchouli/oakmoss trifecta shines just like in Aromatics, but it smells a bit different; it’s stronger than I thought, it’s more dry, as opposed to powdery, and there’s more floral sweetness than Aromatics. The Iris shines more later on, and the orange blossom simply sweetens very slightly what would otherwise become very heavy. Musk and civet; they’re there, but in the background. Only in the late drydown do they become far more discernible in their dirty lick of skin, making Genny far more sensual than the opening would suggest.

For better, Genny was launched when Aromatics was already well established and loved. It came when Italian perfumery was booming, when there weren’t briefs, and when only the best would do; Aromatics is the core, but in 1987 it is made stronger, bigger, and à la Italiana; far more sensual and animalic, never becoming shy. If you don’t enjoy Aromatics, the herbal masterpiece chypre, you won’t enjoy Genny. They’re the two sides of the same coin.

For worse, like most perfumes of the golden decade, Genny was discontinued somewhere in the late 90’s to be replaced by the current version and flankers that bear no resemblance. The original, albeit hard to find, comes in splash and spray, in plain black boxes that state Genny. Rivara Hanorah and Diana De Silva versions, clearly written on the bottom of the box, are the ones to go for.

As a side note, I don’t think of Genny as a copy; Opium was inspired by Youth Dew, Cinnabar and KL are very similar, Aramis and Cabochard are twins and Poison/Giorgio/Carolina Herrera play with the same theme of grape bubblegum tuberose in varying degrees. Aromatics is (was?) so unique, so recognizable, so one of a kind, that any fragrance similar to it, would be considered a copy. Genny simply showed a different version of it. Both are absolutely stunning, and both are a lesson in perfume history. Buy it while you still can!

1 Awards
Oh my La Nuit! Why do the best fragrances are the ones getting discontinued?! My quest for La Nuit started with my love for skank and the quest for something stronger than Kouros. Even though Kouros stands out even today, not only among masculine fumes, but as a chypre, it's not what it used to be. I have memories from my childhood of men smelling of Kouros and it has definitely been castrated. The essence is there but it has had its voice muted. I prefer the memory of what once was...
So the idea of La Nuit intrigued me until I finally found a vintage (the only formulation known to me, as it was discontinued soon after it's launch) edp, sealed, 100ml, ready to come home with me.
I don't recall Tabu, though I'm sure that as a child I must have smelt it, but La Nuit fits the description of a powerful animalic.
The opening blast is a full on rich civet, covered in real oakmoss, along with a touch of honey to further dirtify things up, just how I like my animalics. For the first hour or so the sillage is huge, embracing me in a warm furry way and making me swoon until it settles down a bit letting the indolic jasmine and rose take center stage for a while, before settling in a leathery muskiness.
The animal has growled, and now even though it still makes its presence known, it murmurs, never shouts, unless you lean closer. Civet is up front from beginning to end, which on my skin is about 12 hours. This fiery animal has some similarities to Bandit mainly from the leather-oakmoss-civet trinity, but where Bandit is a cold hearted dominatrix, La Nuit is a warm, skin-on-fire wild cat begging to be caressed. Highly sensual, it evokes thoughts of desire, lust, erotica... One of the best animalic chypres I have ever tried, and one which I will definitely use without moderation, as I don't believe such a torrid love afair should be kept secret. Still easily available on ebay, if you love perfumes of yore and the sensuality of a REAL perfume, don't miss out the chance to try it, it's a breathtaking perfume!

PS: this review was originally written years before I finally found my vintage Kouros stash. Therefore, the Kouros mention at the start.

4 Awards
Carolina Herrera is mostly a wonderfully deep and rich jasmine. Not green, fresh, screechy. It’s the deeply sweet and carnal variety, more like night blooming jasmine. The tuberose, present and strong lends its buttery fullness to the jasmine, while the other floral notes simply enhance and balance the formula. The base notes are rich and ambery, slightly dark, and the civet casts a slightly powdery/talcum veil that at once lends more carnality to the whole, and on the other hand creates a dreamscape. The vintage original formula is obviously stronger, richer, fuller; every note is amplified and feels decadent, while the base is darker, mossier, and far more animalic. It feels Beverly Hills, Rodeo drive shopping, New York businesswoman all at once. But at the same time, I picture a southern belle. Unlike other florals of the era, Carolina Herrera has a certain innocence, down to earth laid back attitude. She can be the perfect hostess, dress up for dinner, and unwind in her porch sipping spiked iced tea. Like a true 80’s fragrance it exudes class, sillage and power. It never smells artificial, but always mesmerizing and grand.

The current formula is still quite good; it has a present sillage and longevity, the smell leans more towards a fresh green jasmine with a bigger dollop of tuberose to counterbalance, and the base is more woody. The cons? It’s lost it’s animalic beauty, the flowers smell more artificial (cellophane wrapped bouquet straight from the florists fridge) and the mossy feel is gone. The new one is similar to Gucci Bloom, albeit nicer. While it’s obviously different, it still smells like Carolina Herrera. If you can find vintage, go for it. Both edt and edp pack more than current edp.

Review based on a mid 90’s edt, in the big black polka dotted box.

1 Awards
Fidji - the scent of paradise.

Created by the late Josephine Catapano (of Norell, Youth Dew etc), Fidji embodied a new style in perfumery, a green fresh spirit, inspired in part by L’Air du Temps, and later on inspiring the mythical Anaïs Anaïs. It was a dreamscape, faraway islands, exotic beaches and the magic of the orient. But not in a heavy oriental manner; Fidji was the daytime version, a more hip hippie fragrance giving its emphasis on patchouli and sandalwood, and bitter green notes.
Back then, when tropical didn’t mean fruity pink drinks and coconut suntan lotion, Fidji was seen as a breath of fresh air. And righty so; galbanum in abundance, aldehydes, hyacinth, jasmine, ylang ylang, cloves, orris, ambergris, oakmoss, sandalwood... a fresh but sensual fragrance that read in its first ads ‘a woman is an island, Fidji is her fragrance’. Review of early 70’s edt splash.

And indeed it was. Seen through the lens of a gauzy dreamscape, Fidji startles with its soapy aldehydes and bitter herbal opening. Fresh, savonneux, the cool touch of skin freshly showered. Lemon and bergamot add further sparkle without making the opening citrusy, instead enhancing the galbanum, and making way for the florals. Flowers that are caressed by the Pacific breeze. Rich but never demure, the flowers are enhanced by the spicy cloves, with a slight carnation feel, hence the association with the more serious and mature L’Air du Temps; Fidji was younger, carefree, emancipating. Exploring new lands, breaking new boundaries. But even though there’s an innate breath of fresh air running through, Fidji still manages to smell sensual at the same time. The ambery base with ambergris for its lick of salty skin, sandalwood from Mysore that conjures the exotic and faraway India, sensual musks, oakmoss... notes that anchor Fidji on skin for hours, developing and mesmerizing, enveloping the fragrance in sensuality and transitioning it to the night.

Fidji was seen as a perfect scent for young ladies. The allure of the exotic was becoming a reality, Woodstock was about to take place, and the hippie movement was in auge. But while a young lady could perfectly wear it, a green fresh floral, so could a more rogue one. Deep basenotes, rich patchouli and sandalwood, animalic beauty running through. Fidji was the dream of a generation, a perfume that made a reality the new world and the breaking of boundaries. A still frame of a generation that was breaking free of restrictions and embracing opportunities. Fidji is and was for everyone, and today it feels more unisex than ever. In its early 70’s formula, which is the one I own, it positively sings on skin for hours on end. The version sold today, while thinner and flatter, still manages to convey the smell of exotic islands and faraway lands.
A woman is an island, but Fidji can be worn by anybody. Green, fresh, sparkling. A true masterpiece and what exotic fragrances should smell like!

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