Since there’s such an ocean of perfume out there now I think it helpful when mentioning old classics to pair them with something that is still in production, and similar. I wish someone had done as much for me when I first started to love perfume. You could search for years looking for a particular note and not come across it.
There are services that can help. Michael Edward’s database is a good place to start, but unfortunately he does not list discontinued perfumes and so if you grew up loving a particular scent, or want to find something your mother or grandmother wore, you are fresh out of luck.
My first pair is the old Balenciaga perfume from 1973 Cialenga and Diptyque’s L’Ombre dans L’Eau from 1983. Cialenga has become obscure but if you knew it, then you found it very sophisticated indeed, a greener version of Coty’s Chypre.
Cialenga is one I know well because I adopted it as a young girl for summertime and wore it until the stuff became hard to buy. Cialenga should be classified as a dry chypre, but was unusual because the formula skewed to the dark green side of the spectrum.
The top of Cialenga had a notable black currant ingredient and the heart was a very elegant bouquet with iris prominent in the mix then rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, and clove. The black currant and the clove gave Cialenga a shadowy fascination slightly similar to Rochas’ Mystere. The base too did not disappoint. I remember a lot of oakmoss which made it very dry, but patchouli and cedarwood, and a little sandalwood rounded out the finish so there was nothing parched or harsh about it.
Altogether Cialenga was versatile, cool smelling, and actually cooling on a hot day. I wore it on walks around Rome in the heats of July and August. Cialenga stood up to those travels well, and ducked inside old churches like Santa Maria sopra Minerva beautifully where the scent complimented the incense.
Trouble is that Cialenga is now very expensive. No perfume company would release such a formula anymore unless the price charged was in the hundreds for a an ounce-what to do?
For those who love the rose and cassis (or black currant) accord I would recommend Diptyque’s L’Ombre dans L’Eau. It is not a chypre, but then chypres are not in production anymore because of the effective ban on oakmoss. L’Ombre does however have that wonderful green fruit/ rose accord so cooling in heat, so lasting, and such a hallmark of Cialenga.
L’Ombre has been a strong selling part of the Diptyque line for thirty three years and still has the same striking scent that it had when introduced. This Diptyque does trail the same woody base, but you could layer it over Tam Dao, the Diptyque premiere woody perfume, to get a similar effect in an up to date manner.
If L’Ombre has a fault it is in the tail of the perfume which does not emphasize its
ambergris. You can smell a better version of this kind of ending in some old Creed perfumes, especially Fantasia de Fleurs . Still, this is to quibble. Spray the lyrical L’Ombre maybe in edp over something which contains a good deal of wood and let it burn off slowly. You will get an idea of how wonderful some of the old chypres were. Like good novelists, they knew how to write good endings.