Cryptic's Perfume Blog

05.06.2014
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Fancy Francy: Exploring the House of Chabaud

Don't you just love it when you encounter a new perfume house? There's that same sense of excitement and possibility surrounding an unknown fragrance line as an unfamiliar but interesting author or a new musician/musical group. All credit here belongs to MiaVonTrost for discovering this low-key but promising line, as well as being generous enough to share samples of their perfumes.

The trajectory of Chabaud's development seems to mirror that of Diptyque in that both houses began life selling candles and high-end room fragrances, only to branch out to the realm of perfume proper. Chabaud is headquartered in Montpellier, France, and gives the impression of aiming for an understated but elegant image in both their presentation and their fragrances. Their simple, austere bottles place this house squarely in the same "less is more" aesthetic camp as Jo Malone, Serge Lutens and Le Labo, which seems to be a departure from the recent niche trend of coming up with the most blinged-out bottle conceivable, embellished with sequins, crystals and other assorted doodads. In contrast, Chabaud uses apothecary bottles with white labels and square caps that are designed to resemble crystal stoppers, which will no doubt gratify anyone with a streak of minimalism in their nature.

When I began testing the line, I had a preconceived notion that the perfumes might be similar to those of Jo Malone, but with a dash of French élan thrown in to distinguish them. A few sniffs demonstrated that they have more in common with Annick Goutal in their comparatively generous usage of natural essences, as well as a certain quirky touch that characterizes some of the more simple Goutal perfumes. However, while the house of Goutal has always been completely oblivious to fad and trend in the perfume world, Chabaud seems to be courting buyers of the current fragrant fashions by including an oud and a few gourmands in their line.

"Chic et Bohème" is Chabaud's Big, White Floral offering, and one of the standouts of the line. A perfect wedding fragrance, in my humble opinion, this perfume delivers all of the heady richness that one would expect from this genre with none of the skank. While I'm a devoted fan of filthy perfumes, there are certain occasions where the goal is to smell opulent and intoxicating in a chaste and decorous way, especially in a public versus private setting, and this fragrance fits the bill by virtue of showcasing an exuberantly vegetal orange blossom as opposed to a more animalic, indolic white flower. Although "Chic et Bohème" contains plum, that note is more of an accent than a star player, so be not afraid, those of you who happen to be averse to the Fruity Floral. I'm assuming that the inclusion of patchouli was meant to render this polished fragrance somehow "Bohème." If that was the intention it was an abject failure, but that doesn't detract from an otherwise lovely fragrance.

Vintage is a fascinating number, between the heavily gourmand list of notes and the incongruent name, which would appear to suggest anything but that relatively recent addition to the perfume family. Mr Cryptic, who, in spite of being unable to wear perfume (long story) is nonetheless something of an olfactory idiot savant, commented, "Mmm... that's nice. It doesn't smell anything like Chanel No.5 but it reminds me of it for some reason." Aha! According to the list of ingredients, Vintage contains Citral and Amyl Cinnamal, both of which are members of the aldehyde family which features so prominently in No.5. Not being any sort of aficionado when it comes to gourmand perfumes I can't say whether the gourmand/aldehyde combination is some ingenious novelty or completely derivative, but I thought it was a clever idea, and very well-executed at that. In my estimation, Vintage would probably appeal to fans of Hypnotic Poison and is a deft marriage of old and new perfumery trends, as unexpected and seductive as wearing pearls with bare feet. There are three additional gourmand fragrances in the Chabaud line, each in eau de toilette concentration: "Lait de Biscuit," "Lait Concentré" and "Lait de Vanille." Although foody perfume is not my thing, I would wear all three because the sweetness utilized is pleasant and appealing as opposed to cloying and overblown.

"Fleur de Figuier" is a rather creative take on pine and fig. Many fig perfumes accentuate the sweetness of the fruit by emphasizing it with something equally sweet, like coconut. I also find that lots of popular pine perfumes feature that distinctive "Christmas tree" smell that is so lovely but at the same time so specific to the holiday, for me at least, that they don't get worn unless I'm feeling nostalgic. "Fleur de Figuier" injects enough bitter greenery, especially in the opening, to set it apart and render it interesting. It's not an especially well-balanced perfume, but I happen to be a staunch believer in the wisdom that “there is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” This particular scent reminds me of an insect caught in amber -- odd and beautiful in equal measure. So, if you happen to be a fan of things green and strange, this may be right up your street. On the subject of leafy and figgy, "Vert d'Eau" unites citrus and fig leaf quite well and would be luscious on a steamy, sultry day.

After testing the entire Chabaud line of twelve perfumes, I ended up discovering two that I was besotted with and would buy, several that were extremely pleasant, a few that were impressive and interesting though not for me, and one ("Mysterious Oud") that I'd just as soon forget I'd ever encountered. Sadly, the line is not available in the US at the time of this writing. The only retailer who currently seems to be carrying this house is Aus Liebe Zum Duft, but hopefully that will change in the near future. Cheers and thanks to the most wonderful Mia for the opportunity to test drive this new line. :)

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