Monthly Archives: October 2015

Blowing Smoke: Opium

Opium in the original release

Opium in the original release

When Opium came out in the late seventies it was the adjunct of Yves Saint Laurent’s  Chinese couture collection.  Useless to ponder what effect all those coolie hats and quilted  gold lame jackets might have had on ingredient selection, the perfume was then owned by Squib/ Beechnut, the formula a matter of corporate calculation.  Yves Saint Laurent and his partner Pierre Berge no longer owned the YSL perfumes.  Instead they received a five percent royalty and the right to veto products inexpressive of the Saint Laurent aesthetic.

There was one change though, according to a source Chandler Burr quoted in  The Perfect Scent, Opium represented the first time a fine fragrance oil was made very cheaply.  You can draw the same conclusion from Edmond Roudnitska who described Opium as “L’Origan without the flowers”.  Stripped down, mostly basenotes by 1977 the return to the soft floral oriental was not surprising. The YSL backer Richard Salomon of Charles of the Ritz  had  risen through the ranks at Coty before he founded his business and  when more YSL perfumes were required after the perfume arm was sold, the American  productions were revamped versions of earlier Coty successes starting with Opium. Continue reading

The Long Hello

Perfume counters from caffeineandprayer.com

Perfume counters from caffeineandprayer.com

In 2014 the last year for which we have completed figures, there were 1620 perfume releases.  This was up by only ten from 2013 when there were 1610.  Also, be it noted that in 2014 the number of flanker perfume releases were rising at 275 up from 245 the year previously, and that the numbers of niche perfumes dropped significantly to 448 from 540  the year before. My figures come from Perfumer & Flavorist by the way.

It’s not an encouraging picture is it? The cheap and the mass market seems to be outnumbering anything that tries to attempt individuality and the likelihood is that most of what is produced is dreck. Chemicated, direly unambitious and headache inducing, the sort of stuff that gives perfume a bad name.

Continue reading

Rethinking Jicky

Guerlain advertising for Jicky

Guerlain advertising for Jicky

It’s such a perennial it seems that everyone has worn Jicky at one time or another including Mick Jagger and Jaqueline Kennedy Onnasis and Colette and Proust, well that was according to Colette, but it seems quite likely doesn’t it? What else was Proust going to wear? Fougere Royale? I don’t think so.

Of course by now everyone has read the stories about Jicky.  The one about vanillin and the  mixture of a slightly impure grade to get the offbeat, faintly smudged vanilla of the scent.  The admiring comments of Ernest Beaux (creator of No5) about Jacques Guerlain’s use of vanilla, and the melancholy tale about Aimee Guerlain’s lost English love referred to as “Jicky” although that may equally well have been Jacques Guerlain’s nickname. Continue reading

Cachet Jaune: The Real Vanilla

Cachet Jaune in the stopwatch bottle

Cachet Jaune in the stopwatch bottle

It’s curious that fond of vanilla as most of the world seems to be we are mostly unfamiliar with the actual scent in perfume.  Most of the time we are smelling vanillin, the old molecule responsible for so much vanilla flavor and fragrance.

Cachet Jaune or Yellow Seal from 1937 is one of the obscure old Guerlains that contain the real thing. It is also among the perfumes that have been resurrected  through the work of Thierry Wasser and one of his assistants Frederic Sacone. Cachet was an unusual Guerlain because it was never released as a perfume, instead the formula came as a cologne and was offered in the stop watch bottle design presumably to be more affordable to Depression era shoppers. Continue reading