Retro galore: chypres, florals & other ladies' things

Ladies' things.


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Cristalle by Chanel (1974)



Cristalle opens with a delicate and slightly metallic herbal accord comprising several "organic" pungent and natural nuances (basil, mint, grassy notes), citrus notes, fresh and lively white flowers, dry resins, a really subtle vanilla-amber-woody base which provides a light, but at the same time elegant and Oriental warmth embracing the "freshness" of the scent. Honestly initially the oak moss is not that perceivable in my opinion, after a while the only thing I could link to it is a vague greenish-mossy note, humid and slightly dark, but without all the stale earthiness of oak moss. However I was surely not expecting a Puig's Quorum in drag, so no big deal. The name Cristalle perfectly fits this scent, which in fact has a "cristalline" personality, where crystal means transparency, freshness, angular cleanliness, almost an abstract architecture. Clean, understated and geometrical, elegant but somehow a bit anonym and pale (not in a good way: imagine the smell of a "faded" scent), plus with a really short longevity. Interesting, but nothing amazing to me.

7/10

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Eau de Givenchy by Givenchy (1980)



Eau de Givenchy is a nice, pleasant, relaxed chypre which brilliantly manages to combine a fresh, minty, summery breeze, almost "iodine" in a way, with a denser, darker and stickier base line of notes more typically found in classic chypres – the usual musky/animalic mossy base, not particularly earthy or heavy here, but still carrying that kind of slightly skanky-sweaty smell. In the middle, a bouquet of flowers ranging from carnation to rose, then sandalwood, patchouli, perhaps vetiver. Shortly a classic Oriental chypre on the mossy-woody side with a remarkable fresh twist – halfway mineral and fruity, azure and refreshing, played not on calone but rather on a combination of balsamic, floral, fruity notes which delivers a colourful, fresh breath, slightly aqueous too. Totally refined, a kind of "weekend" relaxed elegance. Perfect elegant drydown (which despite the name "Eau de...", is quite long-lasting). A good one for sure!

8/10

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Chamade by Guerlain (1969)



Chamade (vintage mid-'80s bottle here) is a dark, powerful herbal chypre opening with a foggy, grey, masculine austerity all over: a bouquet of herbs, humid flowers, musky notes, a powdery side, a dry leather base. But most of all, herbs, like in a man's fougère. The reference here seems to be halfway classic chypres à la Guerlain or the (unfairly underrated) great Guy Laroche, and Cabochard or Habanita, that family of "bitchy", skanky feminine scents, although more refined and adorned here by a beautiful, impalpable cloud of lively, radiant, graceful hyacint-soapy talc notes which are not "on skin" but you can clearly smell them in the sillage (an "effect" I totally love). Basically a classic structure which recalls echoes of memorable chypres, with flowers, woods, herbs and resins, just fairly darker, greener, bitter, more ambiguously sensual and nastier, especially for the first hour or so, almost like a chypre for gentlemen if it wasn't for an overall subtle but perceivably soapy-talc softness and a dark, carnal but feminine sensuality running underneath the blend (aldehydes, flowers, vanilla, musky notes). Classy and compelling like "the great ones", perhaps a little less original as to me it smells pretty much a "déjà-vu" to most extents, but surely worth a try if you are a fan of the genre.

7,5-8/10

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L'arte di Gucci by Gucci (1991)



L'Arte di Gucci is a remarkable forgotten classic, a robust aldehydes-floral scent with carnation, geranium, benzoin, white flowers, sandalwood and vanilla, a dense juiciness and a luminous, pleasant and refined subtle carnality. Initially it's all – deceptively - about brightness, flowers and spring liveliness, rich and dense but tending more towards a soapy-powdery kind of denseness. After less than a hour, though, it then starts to evolve and change; a dark and austere base accord arises slowly like a stormy cloud, a powdery-waxy leather with salty and earthy notes of vetiver, discreet and understated but shady and animalic. The transition is great, perfectly executed; it's still a rich, romantic floral scent, just with a bolder darker shade below. I've rarely experienced such a smooth, mellow, effortless and refined change of mood in a scent, with the right among of consistence and "fil rouge" of notes from one stage to another. Rich, sophisticated, terrifically good-smelling.

8,5-9/10

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Vendetta by Valentino (1991)



Vendetta opens with a beautiful blend of juicy, plummy fruity-floral notes, dense and bright, with pleasant aromatic hints of bergamot and green notes on a soapy base of ylang, sandalwood, vanilla, a lively cloud of luminous sweetness and gentle flowers brilliantly blended with a shady, sticky and carnal side of benzoin and leather – initially hiding behind this deceptive overall sweet fruity-floral "plushiness". A balsamic-herbal breeze completes the landscape. A classic architecture embellished with a golden, luminous and radiant brightness which then progressively darkens towards a more austere and refined chypre territory. Simple, romantic, solid and classy.

8/10

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Casmir by Chopard (1992)



Casmir opens with a bag of fruits on sandalwood, vanilla, ylang, Oriental flavours of spices and cinnamon. Briefly, a sweet and creamy fruity bath soap, which however is restrained and complex enough to smell better than most of other scent of this genre. Despite smelling a bit like Fructis shampoo, in fact, Casmir reveals some more structured and intriguing nuances and a compelling deepness of notes: it's plummy, sweet and creamy, but in a sophisticated, mellow, decently-executed and polite way (in other words, it is no sickening teenagers' gourmand and does not smell too much artificial). Not a masterpiece for me, but in that disgraceful family – the "fruity-floral bombs" – surely among the nicest I've ever tried.

6,5/10

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Roma by Laura Biagiotti (1988)



The initial notes of Roma are quite on the sweet-creamy side; ylang, vanilla, a hint of fruits, a balsamic-resinous breeze (myrrh, apparently: basically an Oriental spicy-incense-resin smell like olibanum), a minty note, heliotrope, delicate and aromatic citrus notes, aldehydes, supported by an earthy-animalic velvety base, refined and understated, which gives just a tiny touch of "animalic" à la Jicky but quite soft and hiding like a shadow behind a cloud of silky spicy soapiness. As minutes pass it darkens becoming smokier and more resinous, the balsamic incense is now more prominent together with woods and patchouli, always surrounded by a sweet talc creaminess of ylang, flowers and sandalwood. So in short it's all about flowers, resins, woods, quite on the sweet-bright side despite some interesting darker corners. Undoubtedly a pleasant scent, simple, friendly and elegant (not that sophisticated, though), versatile and iconic – you smelled this everywhere some fifteen years ago in the streets of Italy. The drydown is dry and unexpectedly more greenish, almost grassy and a tad metallic. It may sound weird, but given the similarity of the notes, it almost resembles to Zino Davidoff or Guerlain Héritage's "blond sister". Good and easy-going.

7,5-8/10


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