Roger et Gallet

Fashionable in 1862 Roget et Gallet fron

Fashionable in 1862 Roget et Gallet fron

Scented soap is one of my great pleasures in life.  Sometimes I take a pratfall in the suds though. My latest purchase of Zum’s Sandalwood was a case in point. It had a label that read: Channel your inner sexual siren with Sandalwood. Responsible for emotions, sensuality, intimacy, and sexuality. (AKA if you want to be a minx in the sack.)”

My brother and brother in law who read the back of the label (which was more than I’d done) were charmed by this and ran around for part of Thanksgiving weekend trying to convince my husband that he needed a shower.  My Hub was not going to be the butt of this Gallic humor and a hygienic standoff ensued.  Needless to say I really should flip bars of soap and read the back label from time to time.

None of this would have happened if I’d stuck by my old favorite Roger et Gallet.  You can count on a nice hard milled bar, a bit more drying these days than it used to be, but still well scented and lasting.  Back in the day, up to their purchase by YSL Beaute  which in turn is part of the L’Oreal group, Roger et Gallet were just about the best in the soap business, but that business wasn’t built on lather alone.

The current Extra Vielle bottle

The current Extra Vielle bottle

It’s an old house.  It goes back to 1862 when Roger et Gallet bought a recipe for cologne which they put into production.  The formula for this cologne ( Extra Vielle) dates to 1806 when the great nephew of the original Jose Maria, Jean Marie Farina sold a different recipe to Roger et Gallet.

To this day some people prefer  the classic Eau de Cologne and others like this Extra Vielle which contains many of the same elements.  You could write a whole post on that subject but the house itself is what interests me.  You see Roger et Gallet was once a great perfume house, on a par with Guerlain and long predating Caron. Unlike Guerlain they were innovative, but the quality of their scents was just as high as their competitors’.

An example is their Blue Carnation a cult scent which is now extremely expensive and hard to find, but rightly so since it is a true carnation perfume.  The perfume is the fragrance of living carnation flowers, which is to my nose: creme fraiche, faint clove, a rosy spice heart and a green tonality continuing throughout, as though you could smell the calyx through the petals.  Blue Carnation has the lift and the lasting power that you dream of but don’t find in modern perfumes however it remains understated. Even Golconda (which I liked a lot) Fleur de Feu, and Malmaison do not achieve this remarkable floral facsimile- although pre 1990′s Bellodgia comes close in its dry down.

Then you have Cigalia which is that earliest tobacco perfume. I wrote about it, and this R& G smells familiar initially. It’s a tobacco floral aldehyde and although you might say that you’ve smelled something like this before, you have seldom smelled anything this discreet or nuanced or interchangeably usable by men and women.  Cigalia is just about perfect.  You don’t mind the aldehydes to start or the tobacco-y and flowery midsection or the leathery birch tar ending.   What can I say? To me this is better than Robert Piguet’s Baghari.

A Bottle of Le Jade from

A Bottle of Le Jade from

Lovers of old bottles will know that Roger et Gallet’s Le Jade and Fleurs d’Amour were popular imports in the States from the 1920′s onward.  You sometimes find them at estate sales, and they’re worth looking out for, especially if you can find them in presentation boxes.

Still for Roger et Gallet it’s the cologne that made the company.  If you are a citrus lover try the Jose Maria Farina Extra Vielle which besides its heavily citrus opening and carnation neroli center ends on a rose accord rather than the famous Eau de Cologne or  the well known 4711 which ends in musk.*.  What could be better? Anyway it’s bound to be better than being told you need a shower and that Zum’s  Sandalwood aphrodisiac soap is the answer to your hygeine/romantic needs.   Just ask my Hub.


* These notes are said to be incorrect but date back to a H&R guide from which I found them. Since there appears to be some confusion, I will say that the recipes are apparently distinct and you may have to use your nose to note the difference.  4711 was created by Wilhelm Mulhens and is  another recipe again.

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10 thoughts on “Roger et Gallet

  1. Zum’s Sandalwood sounds gorgeous! I love the complexity of sandalwood: it’s clean and fresh yet has a beautiful darkness; and pheremonic and sensual but also so spiritual and elevating.

    • Actually this Sandalwood of Zum’s really quite nice, and when my Hub finally did use it no disappointment. Can’t say that it was particularly romantic but, like you ,I am a Sandalwood fan so it did serve the purpose of spreading that great paradoxical scent around. I like the term “beautiful darkness” to describe sandalwood!

  2. This is a lovely post and makes me feel nostalgic for something I’ve never experienced. Roger and Gallet is not sold where I live, and I’ve somehow never taken the plunge on blind buy on the perfumes. I have tried the soaps, and was a bit disappointed. The scent seemed to me to be overwhelmed by the scent of the soap base. I think I had Bois d’Orange, and maybe another, the osmanthus maybe.

    Mysore Sandalwood soap is the one to go for. A bit drying on my skin, unfortunately.

    • Has the Mysore sandalwood come back? I know the Indian government had protected the species and the crop was supposed to be regulated. Never found out if the production had returned to its former levels.

      Re R&G the nicest of those are 20th cen. ones. Although the newer perfumes have been done by name perfumers. The old carnation soap is really good if you can find it on Etsy and so is their Fougere and the Rose Te. Old R&G bottles I find are reasonable (unless you try for that holy grail of carnations Blue Carnation said to have been worn by Elizabeth II) certainly compared to Guerlains or Carons but comparable in quality. I was surprised by this house which gave me my only successful blind buy in years. (Do perfume bloggers really blind buy? Um… this one did.)

  3. I only ever had a sample of Blue Carnation, hopefully one day…
    I do have a oeillet Mignardise perfume from R&G which is now only famous as a soap I believe, quite funny actually, thinking of what brought you to this theme. I also have a small unopened extra vielle, which has remained unopened because it never called me, but having now read your description it sounds like I should give it a go.
    A great and a little nostalgic post :-)

    • Yes it is a little nostalgic. I do love soap and even find a bit of soapiness in fragrances to be quite alright which isn’t the majority opinion at all.

      Soapy though is often old aldehydes don’t you find? You know when you’ve spritzed something and think you’ve forgotten to rinse? New aldehydes don’t give that impression: Eau Premiere and Krigler’s Sparkling Diamond being two cases in point!

  4. I love Roger & Gallet soaps and am a particular fan of the sandalwood one in the blue plastic tub. Not tried the Blue Carnation but it sounds rather delicate and lovely, and I don’t care for the note as a rule, blue or otherwise, hehe. I must say I have had issues lately with a lot of quality soaps cracking – it moved me to blog about the phenomenon indeed. LOL at ‘hygienic standoff’!

    • This Zum soap gave my French Bro in law a rare opportunity to have a little good clean fun at the Hub’s expense. He certainly enjoyed himself!

      Oh you’re not a carnation lover are you? I certainly adore the Sandalwood R&G, though there’s an Indian brand Annemariec says that is tops. I hope that one doesn’t crack. None of my Roger et Gallets have so far…come to think of it, neither have the Zums.

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