The story goes that the designer Schiaparelli had two Venetian carved figures on either side of her front door in Paris in the thirties. They were human scale but carved out of wood and had cloven hooves, so some wag on his way in to a Schiaparelli party dubbed them Mr and Mrs Satan.
Schiaparelli had a distinctive taste, but when it comes to red hot and devilish fun, I can understand it. My own fondness is for any kind of red hot scent. I really will go out of my way for peppers, or cinnamon, or carnation (provided it’s good and spicy) and cloves, so it can’t be any surprise that one of my long term loves in the perfume world is Caron’s Poivre. There’s no use pretending that Poivre isn’t an emphatic perfume, because it is. Every time I put Poivre on I tell myself that I will sneeze my head off, only I don’t and instead find Poivre comforting and relatively easy to wear. If the theory that people ought to wear perfumes that express their true personality is correct, then Poivre is wonderfully well suited to me, the Queen of the Fidgets, and a past mistress of the hustle-bustle. The only
time I really do sit down is at the end of the day or now when I’m writing, otherwise I’m a perpetual motion machine.
Poivre I find keeps up with me and never offers an olfactory image that conflicts with the facts. It’s always a pleasure to wear, but there is one peculiarity about my Poivre: the difference between my vintage and my new extract versions. They skew masculine and feminine.
Let me clarify here and say that new Poivre adds an almost bold quality to the mix. The first note I smell is pepper and I think this is black pepper. The effect is direct up the nose heat and is followed by clove, rose and carnation, but the cloves predominate. This contemporary version of Poivre crowds spices to the fore and florals to the back of the accord, with a little incense to finish. I don’t smell any wood in Poivre no matter what listed notes may say, and the overall impression is one of savoriness. You could wear this Poivre to a restaurant and enjoy your dinner so long as you weren’t planning on a bland evening of white food and Pinot Grigio. This is the Mr Satan version and is the natural companion of beef and red wine.
Vintage Poivre is quite feminine by contrast. Don’t misunderstand, the old Poivre is still quite spicy, quite naughty, but the spice in the formula builds gradually. Old Poivre starts with a beautiful accord of roses and carnations and this lovely bouquet wears on skin for a good twenty minutes before you realize that things are getting hotter…and hotter. The clove component is definitely there and so is the pepper but the proportions are different, and the old perfume has a good deal more of the flowers and concomitantly less of the capsisin than the Poivre sold now. The old extract is very smooth, vermillion silk, the sort of thing Mrs. Satan might wear.
I love them both, also wear them both, and Poivre is timeless. I can imagine coming across this in a new niche line and having people become polarized over whether the perfume is good or bad. Poivre is that unusual.
If you have never smelled Poivre and want a comparative, the closest I can come is that of a very spicy Bellodgia, or of one of the A* Men series, specifically Taste of Fragrance with its pepper component. If you find Poivre overwhelming, Bellodgia is a good alternative and so is Parfum Sacre or- if you can find it- Coup de Fouet, the Poivre with myrrh, the edp version of the fragrance. However they’re all hot numbers, right down to the last smoldering ember.