There are whole genres of perfumes out there which are supposedly familiar terrain, only I find that in fact they’re almost completely uncharted territory, I’ve never really explored them properly at all.
Take, for instance, the green floral. The very first one was supposedly Vent Vert composed by Germaine Cellier in 1947. I had a bottle of the 1992 reconstruction and never found it wearable because there was a tendency towards thinness. In fact, I’ve always noticed this in regards to green florals, and it wasn’t until the other month or so when I read an interview with Pierre Guillaume the perfumer and founder of Parfumerie Generale on Grain de Musc that I understood why.
He pointed out that most green florals don’t have basenotes properly speaking. Instead, the last evaporation of the heart notes serve as a basenote.
Now that, to me at least, explained a lot. Why it was that most green fragrances were not long lived, and why they had this truncated feeling to them. Were they like the American lives F. Scott Fitzgerald used to cite, possessing two acts but no final one? It was an interesting thought.
To me though, the image that comes to mind most persistently is not of lives long or short but of the old fashioned two stroke engine. It was the dominant design in motor engines for the first several decades of the twentieth century ( actually I stand corrected. It was not the dominant engine model but it lives on in lawn mowers) and then someone came along and invented the four stroke engine and we’ve had faster acceleration and more powerful cars ever since, but what if you’re stuck with antiquated technology?
I smell the problem in old green florals such as Jean Patou’s Vacances (a lovely fragrance it is true but not the most complex of the Patous) Vacances is all about the duo of mimosa and lilac underneath a very green veil of galbanum and hawthorn, but once that duet is over, so is the fragrance, and the same has to be said for the Pierre Bourdon green The Mistresses of Louis XIV that he did for the Romea d’Ameor line. It starts out hyacinth and daffodil, then it becomes a modern day version of Guerlain’s Chamade and then dies off. No one is getting these green engines to rev seriously. They just choke and stall at a certain point in the evaporation process and then it’s over.
This is even true of one of this Fall’s new releases Diane by Diane von Furstenburg. It’s an actual green floral with no fruit in it, frangipani over violet and is quite a lovely, classic fragrance, elegant and easy to wear, but it too, does not have a final drydown. Properly speaking it gets up to fifty five and then it’s done. There will be no breaking of the speed limit in that little vehicle.
Oh well, I’m not advocating the development of a new fleet of road hog green florals dominating the highways and by-ways of olfaction like so many airbourne Mr. Toads out for a spin, but it might be nice to find a way to drive green from morning till night that did not drift into Chypre’s lane and cause a taxonomic smash up.