Worth the Time Travel: Parfums d’Empire

A Serov painting of the Tsar’s court.

There really aren’t many perfume makers I trust myself to these days.  I am afraid of boredom, and ugliness, or of being the recipient of a giant headache from an overdosed ingredient.  I don’t want to smell a “lily” which smells nothing like a lily- as I did recently from a trendy brand which had obviously never gone near a garden in its life. I won’t name names, but suffice it to say that I could not cream  the ersatz lily off fast enough.

That particular brand is not alone. There is far too much awful out there. So it’s a relief when you find that a few brands do know what they are doing and actually do it well.  Parfum d’Empire is one.     

Serov portrait of Prince Felix Youssoupov

The company seems to have begun in about 2005 and although I did not pay too much attention at the time, I tried out several of their perfumes. Immediately I knew I was in the hands of a professional of the highest order.  Marc Antoine Corticchiato’s art is subtle and skin friendly. He never seems to compose a perfume that does not wear easily and that is a very welcome ability.

Ambre Russe was the great hit of the line and I remember writing at the time of its release that it smelled like a drinks party at Tsarskoe Selo, but that was pretty close to Corticchiato’s intention. At the time I was also puzzled because, although the perfume was called amber, I didn’t actually catch any amber in it, no labdanum, no vanillin. What I did get, the vodka, champagne. tea. leather, and incense struck me as exactly what he wanted to recreate that vanished atmosphere of privilege and- what am I saying? That lifestyle is  back again, even the Faberge Easter

A Faberge egg… from faberge.com

eggs that Malcolm Forbes once collected and had on display at the Forbes offices on Lower Fifth Avenue.

What intrigues me  these days is the idea that there is ambergris in the formula.  There is probably Ambrox or another ambergris doppelganger in there like Ambrein but Basenotes lists the notes as champagne, and vodka over coriander, cumin, cinnamon and Russian tea.  The evaporation is Russian leather, ambergris, and incense.  How I do wish the ambergris were real.  Unhelpfully I adore the real thing, I like to wake up and smell the sparkling remains of ambergris and what could be more opulent than smelling it here?

At the other end of the Corticchiato spectrum, to be fair, was the much less well received perfume Trois Fleurs.  That scent did not get much approbation when it was released but  was interesting because no could say which of the eponymous three flowers dominated the composition.  Everyone had a different experience.

Another Serov portrait , of the sort of woman who might have worn Trois Fleurs

Some people claimed a predatory jasmine ate up all the other flowers, like the carniverous bloom in Little Shop of Horrors. Some found a monstrous tuberose swelling jurrasically in the center of the perfume, and still others -like me- found  Trois Fleurs a matter of roses (white roses) and only incidentally anything else. But keep your eye on the ball here. This is the mark of a clever perfumer.  He composed a symphonic accord that none of us could call accurately.

We were all rather like the blind men and the elephant, some of us reported snake, some wall. It all depended on which part of the elephantine formula we perceived.  Remember this was judged one of the weaker perfumes in the line, but let’s face it, if this is what you produce on an off day…what do you make on a good one? I have yet to run across a bad Parfum d’Empire.

Have a favorite from this line?

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13 thoughts on “Worth the Time Travel: Parfums d’Empire

  1. Amber Russe sounds magnificent. It’s a comfort to hear of new quality fragrances, real quality ones coming out in our day.

    Gotta love the Tsar, his beautiful daughters, his strange but spiritual German princess wife Alexandra, the tragic end. He was such a nice person, Czar Nicholas. Loved his Faberge eggs. Elegant taste.

    I love the Tsar and hate the Bolsheviks, Lenin, Stalin and all their ilk.

    The opulence of the Russian court–waft us back with Parfums d’Empire. I say, good show. My oldest daughter’s middle name is Anastasia.

    • What a charming middle name to have, so much nicer than us Southern girls with all the surnames parents tacked onto us! Anastasia has a ring to it.

      Ambre Russe was one of the most interesting of the Parfum d’Empires, I just loved the champagne element, but I also really liked Cuir Ottoman which was a big favorite with the husband-and he is picky.

  2. Hey there,
    I LOVE this house and have a bunch of the bottles. Amber Russe, Cuir Ottoman, Equistrius, Eau de Gloire, 3 Fleurs and Zuzu Fou.
    I think Equistrius is my favourite, one of the nicest iris I’ve ever smelled. It gets regular skin time around here.
    Portia xx

    • Yes- someone else who loves the house in perfumeland- yay!

      Particularly the 3 Fleurs and Equitrius choices. I broke my sample of Equistrius on the kitchen floor in New Jersey, and what a tragedy that was. “Uh, Mom, why are you wiping the floor into a tiny vial? Is this is the five second rule? Does that even apply to perfume? ” The answer was Equistrius of course ,and heck yes, the five second rule applied!

  3. Parfums d’Empire is the brand, about which I have a good feeling – even though I cannot say that I love-love their perfumes. I really like, own (a decant – would have been a bottle had they not discontinued 50ml bottles) and wear Ambre Russe. I like Cuir Ottoman on my vSO (and got him a 50 ml bottle – before it got discontinued). I liked Equistrius and bought a decant but it’s gone bad, as I recently discovered. There were several more that I rather liked when tested but never went further – Azemour, Eau Suave and Wazamba. 3 Fleurs didn’t work for me, which isn’t surprising since it has tuberose, which I mostly hate. I wish the brand was more accessible here: I suspect I would have ended up with more perfumes from the line, if I had been more exposed to it, preferably in the form of a tester bottles, not tiny samples.

  4. Too bad that Equistrius went bad. Do you think that was a decant problem?
    It makes you think twice about buying older bottles of PdE if not.

    I am reminded of that post you did about the travel sized bottles because PdE only seems to do 100mls. Would love to buy a bottle but 100mls is more than I’d use. A 1 0z size is right for me. So could they please consider this? I mean I like so many from this line but I don’t want eternity in a bottle here 😉

    • I’m thinking about not buying decants any more: they seem to either go off or evaporate. So I’ll try to mostly stick to smaller bottles if I can find them. And decants – only if I plan to quickly use them and decide whether I need a bottle.
      PdE should do 30 ml bottles (or smaller)!

  5. Eau Suave, wow, that takes me back 8 years to meeting a German perfume blogger who chose it for her wedding day. An underrated house for sure, also by me. My brother has a bottle of the Yuzu Fou, if I remember correctly, so is ahead of the curve there.

    • Have you smelled some of the recent PdEs? I missed Corisica Furiosa but like Musc Tonkin and want to try Tabac Tabou.

      Your bro is ahead of the curve, Yuzu Fou got good reviews 🙂

      Eau Suave as wedding day perfume, sounds pretty and quite rosy. Myself I found his 3 Fleurs more interesting-not sure exactly why though.

  6. I have only tried a few PdEs. My experience with them is generally some sort of, “Oh, that’s nice. I like that. I’d probably wear that, if I didn’t already own [X fragrance] that I really love.” So, damning with faint praise, which is probably undeserved, but… (shrug) you love what you love, and you can’t force love when it doesn’t exist. Or something like that.

    Cuir Ottoman is wonderful, but I already had a decant of Tom Ford Tuscan Leather (and recently bought another when I finished the first). Yuzu Fou was fun for five minutes, but my general response to citrus is Meh anyway. 3 Fleurs I expected to love and just didn’t, probably because it was really faint on my skin when I wanted to swoon in a wearable bouquet. Eau Suave I do really enjoy and would probably have bought, if I didn’t already own L’Arte di Gucci and MFK Lumiere Noire pour femme, which are perhaps more highly colorized versions of Eau Suave. Tabac Tabou is also nice and a distant cousin to both my beloveds PdN Le Temps d’une Fete and SSS Tabac Aurea, but somehow less than either one; I don’t know how. Corsica Furiosa smells like a wearable Tom Collins (my favorite cocktail), but I would much rather drink Tom Collins than wear it. I thought Wazamba was just AWFUL, but it reminded me of SL Fille en Aiguilles, which I also hated passionately.

    So there it is. I seem to have the same reactions to Pierre Guillaume’s stuff, too: Really nice, well-done, solid, pleasant, but I don’t love ANY of it enough to buy. Oh well.

  7. Highly colorized is a great phrase and I know what you mean. Parfum d’Empire does do subdued versions of a lot of notes which other houses do louder. Eau Suave is a favorite of mine too, but not so much that I actually bought it. I suspect the house has been diluting. 3 Fleurs when I tried it was BIG, too big for me as a matter of fact, so I’m surprised by your description here. ES had also diminished and become a low talker when it used to be perfectly conversationally pitched. So dilution maybe?

    All of that settled, I do like their Musc Tonkin and I don’t usually like musk perfumes.

    • Hmm. Well, 3 Fleurs was new when I tried it. It just didn’t project.

      Osmanthus Interdite! I forgot that one. I really like it when I first put it on (someone sent me a decant), and it’s lovely and apricotty-rosy, and then it starts wearing on my nerves but I couldn’t say why.

      • I think we’re opposites on PdE’s because, again, I had a totally different experience with Osmanthus Interdite, just as 3Fleurs was like a Carnival float on me (Blacknall is that you in there underneath all that?) O I was…” Well, hm, OK I guess, actually not too bad this. Is that all there is left of this sample? Darn the sample’s empty!” It grew on me- though I never did buy it. It was quite ladylike I thought which made me wish that I was too 🙁

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