Lost Masterpiece: Angelique Encens

Della Robbia Angelic Choir from pinterest.com

Many people seem not to like Creed.  So many that I find myself hesitating slightly to claim that a Creed actually was a masterpiece. Creed has been around  longer than Guerlain, though they did begin as a tailoring concern in London, offering one cologne with the suits, rather than as purveyors of pomade.

The story of Angelique Encens confuses me slightly.  The formula is supposed to have been composed in 1933 for the Bishop of Paris. So says the sometimes unreliable Wikipedia, but  many people claim that, Angelique was made for Marlene Dietrich.  Hm.  There is even one poster on Fragrantica who says it was the preferred perfume of Pope John Paul II.  I wonder about that since he was rather austere and who can imagine him spritzing or dabbing  vestments or anything remotely similar?Still the idea that this fragrance began life for a cleric (the bishop presumably) and not an actress, makes some sense because there is something rather ecclesiastic about this perfume.  Angelique Encens is not a standard amber fragrance, in fact it’s more of a frankincense one, and is quite unusual in my experience because it has what you might call an inverted progression.

Normally a perfume moves from  lighter ingredients to a darker heavier ones.  Angelique

So did John Paul II wear Angelique Encens?

does the opposite, and succeeds because it relies on ambergris- probably tinctured ambergris- as a fixative.  Now ambergris is seemingly light and weightless, but so expensive ( so often impersonated by  Ambrox these days) that most of us don’t know what it smells like.  I find that you get the best idea by either huffing vintage scents, or something of Afteliers’ because Mandy will often put ambergris at the tail end of her perfumes.  You notice it mainly the next morning when you wake up. You smell this slightly high pitched sparkling dust in the air around you and wonder what that is?  That effervescent air, slightly musty, slightly cool, abstractly floral, is ambergris.

There’s no point in trying to smell this from the synthetic versions, you have to smell the real ambergris.  So, to return to Angelique Encens.  The perfume is like a beautiful person, it gets handsomer by taking things off, rather than by putting things on.  That’s an illusion of

The aniseed and animalic beginning of AE, angelica

course, but the effect is that the vanilla, rose, jasmine, amber, frankincense, ambergris and angelica all create a rich elegant first impression, which wears thinner and thinner until  you are left with  tuberose and ambergris in the nude.

Wow, you say to yourself at first whiff, this is how the upper crust smell, this is the .09 %! This is Shalimar on steroids!  But wait… A half hour later you begin to catch the marginally animalic angelica with faint traces of aniseed.  The clever part here is that angelica foreshadows  that wonderful ambergris  of the very end .  At this juncture you’re saying well, I have had this sort of impression before from 40’s scents and while this is good…  But wait, because the rose, jasmine, and vanilla begin, and they last a very long time.  On me that dinner party of rose, jasmine, vanilla and amber went on so late into the night, that I figured that was the end of Angelique Encens…but no…

Tuberose from pinterest.com

Hours later the tuberose emerged.  The flower lasted, a faint tuberose trumpet, nearly overnight on me. Then finally you get the effect of the ambergris which is cloudy and pervasive here, because tincturing makes a component blend from the top to the bottom of a scent.  Ambergris is why you are left with what seems like a tuberose soliflore, with something sparkly and dusty about the petals. That lightness is the ambergris trademark.

One by one all the other ingredients, the angelica, the jasmine, the rose, the vanilla, the amber, and the frankincense have tiptoed out and only tuberose and ambergris are left.  This process has gone on for hours by the way.

Della Robbia Angelic Choir stripped down… from pinterest. UK.com

So do they make anything like this anymore?  Sonoma Scent Studio’s original Encens Tranquille was somewhat similar but had to be refo’d to meet IFRA standards and I don’t think ever contained ambergris.  So- short answer- not anymore.  Moreover Creed seems to have deep-sixed this perfume.  AE was not even in the vaulted category on the website when I checked the other day.

Angelique is angelic, and incense-y, and very strange, and I suppose you could wear it at the Vatican alright, but then, what would the pope wear?

To all my readers- a Happy Easter and Passover!

 

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Lost Masterpiece: Angelique Encens

  1. Happy Easter and Passover to you too, Blacknall Allen!
    I shelved my early interest in Angelique Encens when I realized I wasn’t going to land a bottle anytime soon. As I became more informed, I realized that the association with Dietrich (the primary reason for my interest) was probably fictional. From what I can tell, Creed perfumes go back no earlier than the 1970’s (or so say the sober Basemoters on the various threads devoted to Creed perfumes). Still, AE seems very desirable, even more now that I have read this post. I should order a sample and be done with it… On a similarly elusive topic, I think I smell ambergris in a few of my older vintages (Le Numero Cinq, Zibeline, and some really old Miss Dior) but it is hard to know for sure. Again, I should order some natural tincture and put my uncertainty to rest.

    • You probably do smell ambergris in old Miss Dior as Michael Edwards says it is in there, and I bet you might catch some late at night after a good spritz.

      Zibeline really does have it, those old Weil perfumes were quite luxurious and not shy of animalic ingredients. Here’s where I know it is: a bunch of Afteliers and old Creed Fantasia de Fleurs, and I would swear blind- in Moment Supreme but that’s just my nose. To be honest I’ve never read that Jean Patou used ambergris but I smell it all the same 🙂
      How old are Creed formulas? Will anyone ever know? I mean outside of Erwin Creed? They may have reformulated all their back catalog but some of the old ones do have (or I should say had) a complicated slow evaporation which might date from long ago. AE (no older than Tabu after all) was one of their very best!

  2. I am not sure if I have ever smelt this, and on hearing the name would almost certainly have ascribed it to Guerlain! Oops…I must say I rather like the notion of tuberose and ambergris in the nude. 😉

    • It sounds like a party atmosphere at the very least-doesn’t it? At the end.

      What surprises me is that His Holiness would have a perfume, however much frankincense was in there? Mind you, the last time I was in the Vatican Museum they were selling scented candles with names like Angelic Waft or something…

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