Saturday, January 23, 2010

What I'm Wearing Today: Jacqueline by Jean-Jacques Diener

(image: Indian Waterlily, wikipedia)

Jean-Jacques Diener trained in Grasse as a perfumer; he worked at Givaudan during the 1970-1990s and is perhaps most famous for composing Must de Cartier in 1981. Cafe is another oriental scent he composed, less pricey and not as well known, it was released just a few years before Must. But my interest for today is his 1998 release, Jacqueline. Made by Z Parfums International (Hauppauge N. Y.), it is discontinued and already becoming a rare fragrance. However a few bottles of the edp can still be found online. I'm not sure how widely this perfume was distributed or promoted, even in it's heyday. I've only seen a few of the older carded samples, which bear an older photograph of Jacqueline Kennedy with her then two young sons. I don't know the story or the association between the lady and the fragrance (but please comment if you do). Jacqueline is an oriental fragrance. According to the promotional card, the top notes are white rose, Lily of the Valley, Chinese Orchid and Indian Waterlily.  The "soul" of the fragrance is Brazilian Amber, Mysore Sandalwood, Tahitian Vetiver and a touch of Fijian Vanilla and thyme. And its "heart & soul" is comopsed of musks, patchouli flower and cedarwood. I have the pure perfume version. My first impression is of something simultaneously spicy, herbal, dry and sweet, mainly due to the effects of the powdery cocoa tinged patchouli flowers, mingling with the white rose, waterlily and thyme. The amber provides a smoothness and richness that is immediately apparent as well. The florals do not read sharp or even particularly white to me, instead they lend an exotic impression of flowers whose petals have a succulent melon-like quality. Jacqueline is done in nearly an 80s power style with all of the polish of a big department store release. But as it settles, it rapidly becomes more intimate, softer and more powdery, and at least in the perfume form, wears long and close. The scents that emerge are of skin allowed to glow, but not quite sweat. The sandalwood comes through more and more to accompany the resinous and slightly herbal qualities, which with the amber gives the scent the character of a veil. I imagine this one could become someone's signature scent, a perfume that lingers on things and would associate itself to someone easily.

(image: cgi.ebay)

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

A Brief History of GODET Parfums (and a new Chypre for me)

(images: worthpoint)

Godet Parfums existed during the golden Art Deco era of Modern perfumery.  Conceived at the dawn of the 20th century in 1901 (some sources claim 1907 as the establishment date) and founded by Julien-Joseph Godet, the house released a profusion of new perfumes throughout the late 1920s.  It appears Godet was dormant during the 1930s and 1940s but may have been briefly resurrected, or possibly bottles of an older stock appeared and were marketed as new, as late as the early 1950s. Godet presentations were well produced; many were housed in numbered Baccarat Cristalleries flacons with artfully lables and highly detailed boxes.
 The perfumes must have earned for themselves a good reputation; several were admired enough that they were acquired, rebranded and sold by other houses.  History tells that Julien-Joseph died in 1913, leaving his wife Louise and Godet's director Abel Ravaud to carry on the company.  Ravaud was married with children at the time and it appears the relationship between Mrs. Godet and her new partner was purely one of business.  Nevertheless the two must have gotten on well because Godet went on to produce their most successful perfumes after 1913.
   (images from cmanas.files.wordpress and cgi.ebay.)

 The house eventually won a gold medal for their perfume presentations at the influential 1925 Paris Exposition Des Arts Décoratifs.  In fact, from this exposition the term Art Deco was coined.  The gold medal win was an important achievement for Godet.  The exposition was an international tour-de-force in which France staked a claim as the arbitour of good taste and high culture in a post WW1 world and you can bet they only sent their finest product to be judged in that arena.


(images: the european antiques store)

An incomplete list of the perfumes produced by Godet include: the popular and long lived Sous Bois in 1908 is possibly the earliest release, unless the notation I found for a Lilac Erasmic in 1900 is true. Concentre de Violettes followed in 1909. In 1911, Parfum d' Ambre, Envois de Fleurs and Tresor de Jasmin. In 1913 the singular Jerusalem and another called Marcinah. In 1919 was Cyclamen Fleuri, then in 1921 one of Godet's best selling perfumes, Petit Fleur Bleue- this one was later rebranded "Odeon"- and also in 1921, a Cuir de Russie was released.  In 1923, Godet released the Egyptian inspired Tut-An-Kham and in 1924, Divinite and Parmi Les Fleurs. In the year of their triumphant exposition win of 1925 they created Nuit D' Amour, which was later rebranded Soir de Lune by Brecher. In 1927 came the popular Folie Bleue and also Marjolaine, followed by a series of floral concentrates including Concentre de Lilas and Concentre de Rose among others. Chant de Soir is another unlisted Godet but it is common to find "new" or previously unlisted examples by this house. The perfume titled Weekend is credited much later, 1953, but this almost seems to be a hold over of an earlier time. I also own an example of an unlisted Godet perfume complete in it's lovely white leatherette presentation box.

(images: my collection and Coutau-Begarie)

Mine is simply "Chypre" and from auction records it is listed as a 1920 release. I was lucky to cut the cord on it and I can assure you of it's superior quality. A candy-sweet bergamot and lemon opening with a dry and light herbal tint (from heliotrope, the petit bleue fleur?) is followed by something simultaneously rich, sweet and light.  The florals have perhaps a touch of violet and the perfume has a soft powdery note within it- which given the big success of their early powdery creation titled Ma Poudre in 1911, makes some sense, if the house had consistent themes running throughout their creations. The oakmoss and labdanum base of this Chypre is clean, yet pronouned with maybe a bent toward woodiness, rather than leather or patchouli. Overall it is a sublime and tender perfume, not too spicy and I think very well preserved. It does not throw huge sillage, but has good longevity, which is only another sign, along with the character of the opening, that indicates this Godet was produced with only top quality in mind.

 I wish I could give you reports on the character of other Godet perfumes but they are truly uncommon. Prices and condition for Godet perfumes vary from just a few dollars for small vials with little contents to quite a bit more for the fancier presentations complete with box. If you fancy to look around a bit and be patient, you should be able to add something from this prestigious old French house to your collection. For myself, I am quite satisfied to have obtained an example from them for my beloved 'Chypre' collection and so now I'm on to go look for the next "new" old thing.

(image: my collection)

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What I'm Wearing Today: Lutece by Houbigant

It's a busy time for me at work right now so I'm still back-burning my next big review but today I'm wearing Houbigant's 1984 release Lutece. If you're familar with the scent, you probably recognize the bold, abstract floral design printed on the packaging for this perfume. The flower is a rose which of course makes sense, given that Lutece is built around Rose de Mai. According to magnificent over at MUA, it also has rosewood, geranium, peony, orris, tonka, musk, heliotrope, cinnamon, cedarwood, vetiver and vanilla. Going by the notes, Lutece sounds a lot like another old favorite of mine, Ombre Rose. I love Ombre Rose for the way its honey and beeswax notes play off the woody rosy notes, while Lutece is equally powdery it is less sweet and a bit more forceful and a little sharp around the edges thanks to a stiff dose of aldehydes at its opening. I'm enjoying the lotion and shower gel versions of Lutece which are a perfect way to ease from the dreamy world of a warm bed to the chilly, foggy days that start long before the sun rises.  I'll be  back soon with a proper review, in the meantime: what are you wearing?!

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Vintage Swap Perfume Sample Round Up; Patou Lasso, Dana Emir, Ciro Oh La La etc

I'm finally digging into my vintage sample drawer accumulations from last year and I pulled out a small blue bag of goodies, all tied up like a pretty Christmas package, sent to me from a fellow vintage perfume lover. It's a mixed assortment that includes a few things I haven't tried before. The past few days have been dedicated to test wearing a new acquisition of mine, another chypre for the collection. I've been working on a review of it but since it's from a rare old perfume house, my research isn't going so well. So today I'm taking a break from that project to do a quick sample sniffa- I just wish I'd thought to stick a little note inside the bag so I'd know who to thank (again) for sending me this particular package!

First up is Ciro's Oh La La parfum. This opens as a bright and full sweet floral, very universal and flattering but it quickly morphs beyond the pretty but common into a very French, tight green chypre with lemony soapy tones. Very womanly, enticing but neat as a pin; I really like this one. Next is Emir parfum, from one of my favorite old houses, Dana. This one is very spicy and almost medicinal with some animal notes but it stays somewhat sour/flat on my skin. It recalls Youth Dew but with less of a warm-sweet dry-down. Flair by Yardley is next, also a parfum strength. I want to say it has a scotch and lavander thing going, sort of a soft cologne style perfume with touches of aldehydes. Nice but not really my style. Lasso by Patou is one I've really wanted to smell. This sample is labeled an EDT but it has a richness, similar to one of these other parfums. It is my favorite of the whole bunch, with contrasting juicy tropical notes and herbal, hay-grass notes, a most original and satisfying perfume. There is an edc version of Shocking by Schiaparelli- this one I do have in parfum form. From what I can tell, the edc is very different than that version...I smell the herbal opening notes but the honey is nowhere to my nose and there is none of the complex layers and chewyness I find in the parfum. Possibly the edc is a newer reformulation, as all of my other Shocking examples have been quite a dark color and this juice is much paler gold color. Lastly, I spy a newer spray vial of Joy tucked into my package. As familiar as this one is, I sprayed on a little, just for fun. It's as narcotic and indolic as ever, a feast of jasmine and white florals. I like the edt, formula, it has a green qualityand sharpness that the vintage parfum lacks, but that makes it more modern (in a good way) and more wearable for daytime. Overall this has been a fun, if short and sweet, diversion. But now I have a serious hankering to procure myself some more of both of the Ciro and Patou scents. Oy vey!

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Last Year's Confessions and New Years Resolution, or why vintage is your best bet in fragrance...

(image: daily contributor via crunchgear)

Happy New Years Day! This morning I arose very early and as I normally do, spent the first 30 minutes or so reading. When the mood strikes me, as it often does, I typically apply a perfume to wear during this reading time. Not only does it help me meditate on my daily verses, but I also find my sense of smell unparallelled at this time. Today for example I applied the latest scent I've acquired as part of my growing collection dedicated specifically to antique chypre scents. I could call them vintage or classic perfumes, but those terms have so many permutated meanings, and really my collection is all about 1900-1950 chypres. I think with perfumes, since few survive in wearable form at the traditional 100 year mark, the 50 year mark may be appropriate for calling something an antique. Definitely this won't work for people (!!) since we're only beginning to hit our stride, some of us, at 50.  But for the sake of personal perfume lexicon and practicality, it seems fair game to consider anything over 50 years to be an antique (or nearly so) scent.


In any case, today I'm taking stock of the past year, and thinking about perfume budgets and planning for next this year's purchases. And I've come to a conclusion, but first let's backup a bit... As many of you have, I've become more accustomed to paying larger and larger sums for perfumes. It used to be (for me, anyway) that $100 was some kind of breaking point, marking an uber-expensive purchase. Under that mark, I spent relatively freely, without really considering the import of a perfume purchase, or considering it's place in my collection. Then seemingly all of sudden, and only a couple of years ago, with the advent of many new exclusive, speciality and luxury lines and especially as the niche perfume market expanded,  exploded, the $100 mark became passe. At that time and really this past year, the mark jumped up to $200 and just as quickly to $250... Chanel Exclusives/Les Exclusifs and Guerlain Elixir Charnels and even Tom Ford's Private lines are prime examples of this trend from the past two years. Now I'm not really into super high volume purchasing at this level, and I just can't afford monthly purchases along those lines. Not that I still can't find a bunch of stuff to sniff for way, way below $100. But I'm not talking about perfumista-on-a-budget finds today.


Today, I'm contemplating "top-shelf", front-line perfume collectibles. And that stuff costs big $$$, right baby? I know those of you who crave at the higher end, be it bespoke, Clive Christian, Jar or exotic Arabian oils, may pfiffle and scoff at these figures, but for the average or even-above average income-earning American today, and given how many perfumes enthusiasts tend to collect, it's still plenty expensive to maintain a top-rate collection. This past year, I probably *only* purchased 3 new releases at that level. Needless to say, carefully considered purchases, collection wise. And I stayed +/- 1 or 2 of that same number for my vintage collection as well. So do the math; that's one major purchase every other month or so.  (I won't even address the lower-end purchases, those charming little numbers we all come across, by so many well known but not-to-be-addressed-here-and-now methods, that end up costing us much less than even one top shelf purchase and that we seem to accumulate without end.) So this past year, it was a 50/50 mix of vintage/antique and current release purchases. And in looking at what I got for my money, I've come to the conclusion that I've done much, much better with my vintage purchases than my current release purchases. It really comes down to a few key points. First, quality of packaging... Sorry folks, but penny for pennny you'll get much more extravagent, luxurious packaging from well preserved pre 1950's packages than from anything more modern. If you've any doubt, compare the labels, bottles, stoppers, the boxes used to house the juice. It is common that older presentations include crystal bottles, hand cut and ground stoppers, boxes covered in silk, hand decorated pressed paper, leather and everything made by hand, down to the lettering and art on the labels. You seldom get this level of luxury in the smaller details from anything made today. And the perfume contained within the bottles is probably an even sadder story.

(image: dealcatcher)

You see, perfumes of yesteryear were made with a wide variety of ingredients, some complex synthesized blends to be sure, but those were carefully considered back then and created with a critical eye, especially considering the wealth of natural essences, oils, animal products and wood distillates and the like that were more freely available then than now.  I know there are far more specialized aromatic molecules around today and many of them have astounding scent characteristics... but very few of them are really exclusive. You will smell most of them, even the very best ones, in your grocery store isles. Truth be told, that's where the real money is spent on fragrances today. But when I shop vintage, I know I'm really going to get something of value, something that is scarce and only destined to become more so.  Try a little experiment: give yourself $275 and go shopping, first at your choice for any current release, then see what you can get for the same amount in Ebay's collectible perfume category. See ? So, really for a perfume lover, the choice is pretty simple- this is the year I resolve to spend my entire budget on vintage fragrance.

(image via flickr)

The Vintage Perfume Vault, where the scent of yesterday's vogue lives.