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.
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.
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.