Houbigant which is the creator of QF has a lengthy history. Arguably Houbigant is the oldest of the great French perfume companies having been founded in 1775 which makes it one year older than the United States. Francois Houbigant’s shop, A la Corbeille des Fleurs, was patronized by both Marie Antoinette and Madame du Barry, the familiar “basket of flowers” was the recognized sign not simply of the shop, but of the house, and has remained as a company symbol. You can see it on such late Houbigant perfume labels as Apercu from 2002.
It was Paul Parquet though who, after acquiring the company in 1880, really made the reputation of Houbigant. He decided to bring synthetics into his compositions, and two years into his ownership produced Fougere Royale.The second perfumer to revolutionize matters at Houbigant, was Parquet’s assistant, Robert Bienaime, who created Quelques Fleurs. It was the first true multi-floral fragrance.
Quelque Fleurs you see used synthetics, probably aldehydes, and a fruit note to commence the fragrance. Let me stop right there for one moment. Up until that point most feminine formulas were for simple floral fragrances that began with easy bergamot statements of a declarative sort. Here I am clean and ladylike, like say, Creed’s Fantasia de Fleurs. That’s a similar perfume not too distant in time from QF. How does Quelques begin? There is orange blossom, citrus oil, and tarragon, or in other words, there is an accord and it is complex: fruity and green and faintly herbal. It’s not simple, it’s complicated, but reads like the sunniest invitation to come in and sit on the veranda for a spell.
Then there is the mid section of QF which is complex too but creates one unified accord. This is to my nose lilac dominated. There is heliotrope in there and rose and jasmine and something else, possibly vanillin, and carnation, but the over all effect is of a lilac filled basket of flowers. This is just about irresistible.
The ending differs from perfume to edt. The QF L’Original features sandalwood and oakmoss, tonka bean, amber and civet. The older formulas have more vanilla, civet, honey, heliotrope and musk. I have the L’Original and I do smell civet in there and amber really more than any other factor. Still it is a sunny and friendly perfume that doesn’t let go.
This clinging power seems to be a hallmark of old Houbigants. They don’t suddenly dissipate like Patous, or burn down to a mousse de saxe ember like Carons, nor yet do they exit trailing their tonka/vanilla scented trains like Guerlains, no they just curl around you like house cats. They are animalic to a fault, familiar very quickly. More than any other perfume house they are cozy. That is their secret.
I already wear Le Parfum Ideal which was a most unlikely choice for me. Small, squat, and dark, smelling of wood, flowers, and cigarette smoke, I had decided fastidiously that L’Ideal showed its age and was not for me. BUT, the scent had character. Quelques Fleurs is even more easy to love. It is so deliciously girly, so overtly fond of pink velvet and feathers and small dogs and cats, and so obviously the sort of perfume that a femme would wear, that you just can’t say no.
Robert Bienamime created a masterpiece. Funny thing, nowadays it’s hard to suggest this with everybody ooing and ahing over Chanels and Guerlains, but trust me this- yes this- was one of the inspirations for Chanel No5. QF is softer, fuller, and more wearable. There is a bit of Joy coming along in QF, but not the drama you associate with that rose, jasmine and civet typhoon. This is Houbigant, and that means something you can’t ever forget, like Daisy Buchanon in a lace dress at eighteen. QF is functionally immortal, but all great perfumes are.