Just for the fun of it, I thought it would be nice to take a look at some perfumes that never quite caught on, despite being good or original, whether recently or not. This week I thought I’d go back to Weil’s strange old green floral Weil de Weil.
Weil used to sell furs, and back in the day in the late twenties, their perfumes all had animal names, like Zibeline (sable) 1928, and Antilope, also 1928. Both were floral aldehydes, but Zibeline was the darker end of floral aldehyde alley while Antilope stayed on the sunny side of that street, near neighbor to chypres like Ma Griffe. (If you can find old bottles of Zibeline btw, they are well worth buying in order to enjoy the luxurious ambergris dry down.)
The Weil family had to escape Paris in WWII, and it was in the States that they had their monster success Secret of Venus in 1945. By all accounts Secret is a heavy oriental, and I’ve only smelled it once, but in the seventies the house of Weil produced other perfumes including Weil de Weil (1971). Continue reading
The story is that when Carven came out with Ma Griffe in 1946 the company dropped little bottles all over Paris from tiny white and green parachutes. Not long afterwards, the company found itself with a best seller.
Carven has always stressed youth and pert petite-ness in its designs, and the perfume first conceived for the designer was also youth oriented, a bright floral chypre. The fragrance ended up being one of those that everyone who was a young in Paris at the time either wore or remembered. The trick of the scent was a combination of new aroma chemicals that Jean Carles* put together to give Ma Griffe its distinctive scratch, a new gardenia and citrus accord that was sharper and fresher and springier than anything that had gone before it. Continue reading
Ever since the famous study about moths and railway soot in the mid-nineteenth century England, it has been apparent that evolution proceeds not at a steady pace, but in bounds. Things don’t just go along at a predictable pace, they leap forward and then step backwards.
It’s the same way with perfume. Whenever something new and wonderful comes along, it does so when you were least expecting magic.
L’Accord 119 from Caron is one such event. When the scent was released a couple of years ago it was reviewed and briefly talked about as interesting, the more so since it was a fruity floral, but then the subject of 119 was dropped. Evidently among the perfume smelling and buying classes, it was not a hit. Continue reading
Patou’s 1000 came out in 1972, which was when my family lived in Rome. Back then, Roman real estate was relatively cheap, and we were right in the heart of old Rome in a penthouse apartment of the sort that I suppose few people could afford now. Anyway, there were little perfume and makeup shops around every few corners, and one of them was on my route home from school.
Not being of an age yet to wear perfume, or make up, for that matter, I still was compelled to go and stick my nose into bottles out of curiosity, and would stop by. That proprietress must have been fond of the young, and pretty indulgent. Most shopkeepers would have tossed me and my tatty book bag out the door. Instead, if she was not too busy, she would tell me about what was in the bottles, and let me smell things on a finger (no paper strips then). This was how I first met the Balmains, Balenciagas, and Cotys of the era.
Periodically perfume people mourn the death of the chypre. It’s supposed to be down to the restrictions on oakmoss which was the constituent that gave the chypres so much salty depth and dryness. Now you cannot use oakmoss in amounts large enough to produce the chypre effect, or you have to use low atranol oakmoss which is, from the chypre’s perspective, rather like trying to pass off a gelding as a stallion. You just know something is missing.
Among those who comment about perfumes these days the positions on chypres are mixed. Perfumistas sorrow over their absence but in practically the same sentence they also accuse them of formality, of masculinity, or of being difficult to wear. Still there are many good ones to be found on the internet. Continue reading