Did aquatics begin with Apres l’Ondee? We are all habituated now to the inclusion of Calone and other such chemical diluents in out fragrances to simulate water, everything but the kitchen sink and the faucet since L’Eau d’Issey, but what about a hundred and ten years ago?
Apres of course is one of those scents that perfumistas always have in their collections. You can’t properly call yourself a perfumista if you’ve never worn or at least tried Apres L’Ondee, the reputation is that compelling, but these days the formula is not what it was.
Most perfumers try to re do Apres at some point. Jean Claude Elllena was the most famous experimenter, with Eau d’Hiver, which does not smell like much of anything to me, and again with Angeliques Sous La Pluie, which also to my mind did not quite work. Angelica will dominate a formula pretty easily and that was what happened to him. His Paul and Joe Bleu may be his best modernization of Apres, ironically, but I have not smelled that in years.
I have just tried Miller Harris’s version of the great classic called La Pluie and although I was supposed to smell lavender and mandarin and wheat in the top, all I got was the wheat. The heart notes are similarly pallid, no discernible jasmine, ylang-ylang or black current, only some indistinct white flowers. The base, which could have been a triumphant variation on Habanita with vetiver and vanilla in double harness, was no such thing. A ghostly evaporation of powder is all I smelled, and very briefly.
What I smelled sequentially: heliotrope, wheat, sugar, and powder. Bottom line, for the third time in a row, for two days running, I can’t smell this thing for beans. Color me, not an aquatic mauve and gray lavender, but red from embarrassment. I like Miller Harris really I do, and no one appreciates the price of London real estate more, and therefore the awful cost of running a business in England’s green and pleasant, but this is not a perfume so much as a short lived cologne.
Better I like En Passant, as an idea of how to translate the idea of Apres to the twenty first century, there is the ethereal quality, the floweriness that should be part of the perfume but also a reasonable staying power and the substitution of lilacs for the hedgerow hawthorn and heliotrope flowers of Apres is brilliant. En Passant puts me in mind of the song for voice and piano based on the Maurice Bouchor poem Le Temps des Lilas:
“ Le vent a change, les cieux sont moroses,
Et nous n’irons plus courir, et cueillir
Les LIlas et les belles roses:
Le Printemps est triste et ne peut pas fleurir”
Melancholy is one of the aspects of some perfumes most neglected by modern writers, and as it’s also one of those parts of life integral to all experience, not very well neglected. Well, maybe to smell like a rain shower is to weep, just a little bit.