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Jasmine and Pine

Image from page 100 of "The Illustrated annual register of rural affairs and cultivator almanac for the year .." (1855)

Another gem from the stash of decants I received from Joanna is vintage Devin cologne by Bernard Chant for Aramis (1978). It was a FiFi Award winner that year, which was well deserved. I've never even heard of it, and wasn't really drawn to even trying it before I got on this roll of trying out masculine scents. But when I finally did, I was in for a most pleasurable ride, and a long-lasting at that as well.

Devin is that fabulous meeting point between resinous and green. It may seem familiar to us residents of the 21st Century; but back in the day when green icy florals and soapy Chypres reigned supreme (No. 19, Ivoire, Private Collection) this must have been an original.

Whenever I got out of the rustic village and visited my grandparents in their modern Tel Aviv apartment, I would be treated with the most luxurious bath in my grandmother's best tradition: foam bath in her blue bathtub. Into the warm running water (ours had to be boiled stove-top in a kettle!) into which my grandmother would drizzle generous amount of an acid-green fragrant liquid from an emerald-coloured plastic bottle to create rich lather the consistency of meringue. I would build mountains of this cream on top of my head and pretend to lick it off like ice cream. Naturally, it smelled of pine needles in the most heavenly way. And that fresh-yet-sweet, resinous scent is what the opening of Devin smells like to me.

Its body reveals sweet galbanum resin, which while still green smells unquestionably sweet, and more like a confection than something you would put in your salad (FYI: galbanum oil smells like parsley on steroids), and there is pine-y yet balsamic frankincense that extends the evergreen notes and melds them seamlessly into the obvious undercurrent of amber that's flowing underneath. If you pay close attention you'll also notice there is quite a bit of jasmine hidden in the heart, harmonizing these seemingly unrelated elements of evergreen forest and frankincense and sticky amber. Later on, spicy notes of cinnamon and cloves emerge as well, but they are not obvious at all - they just add warmth, and also an aldehydic lift to the composition. They are rather light in both dosage and character.

While the sweetness places Devin in a rather feminine territory of amber orientals, there are also other elements that make it also masculine, besides the lovely pine. There is a dry leathery base note, hint of dry, acrid oakmoss, dry cedarwood and phenolic herbs (thyme, artemisia). Compare that with Obsession though (armoise, tagetes), and you'll notice that the two are alarmingly similar not just in smell but also in their notes. The ending note is a smooth, natural vanilla-amber, a surprise for a masculine, and even more so surprising is how un-boring it is. Ambers can easily become flat and redundant. But when true vanilla absolute is used, and some contrasting elements such as dark patchouli (even if in the tiniest amount), this can't be farther from the truth.

Devin is one of those rare things: a masculine fragrance with absolutely nothing about it I do not like.   With so many of them there is a phase I wish I could fast-forward through or skip altogether (the top notes in Polo green, for example, are a bit much and I wish I could lower the volume a bit until the dry down begins to kick in). Each phase in its progression is delectable, yet calling it a crowd pleaser would do it injustice. It's unique and to me seems ahead of its time, a precursor for Obsession (1985) and predicting modern, unusual fragrances that choose to treat the note of galbanum as a rich, incensy or even foody manner rather than the bracing cut-grass and soap that Yohji (1996) and Incensi by Lorenzo Villoresi (1997). Serge Lutens' much later Fille en Aiguilles (2009) has a similar structure, only here galbanum resin is replaced by the jam-like, resinous-sweet fir absolute.

Top notes: Bergamot, Pine, Artemisia, Lemon
Heart notes: Jasmine, Carnation, Thyme, Cinnamon
Base notes: Galbanum Resin, Frankincense, Amber, Leather, Cedarwood, Patchouli 


Equipage (Vintage)

Leather Pleasure

Crackle of a whip, oiled saddles, shiny boots being broken-in on horse manure and cedar wood chips. Few smells bring so many other images, sounds and textures to mind as leather scents do. And Equipage got all of these plus its own refined, aristocratic touch of carnation and tobacco.

In this genre, Equipage is more tobacco than leather, with a sweet-spicy opening of nutmeg and allspice, a voluptuous carnation body that makes it equally dandy-esque and gypsy dancer. Images of a carnation tucked into a waistcoat pocket conjured simultaneously with Carmen rolling up clove cigarettes in her wide skirts. And once she sells the cigars, we're back to gentlemen territory where everything is polished, woodsy and unfloral. The carnation clears room for vetiver to shine as the heart note in this fragrance for a rather prolonged period of time.

Equipage in its vintage formulation (a generous decant I received from Joanna, one of the very few perfumista in my neighbourhood) is both silken and acrid, sweet and dry/phenolic, and brings to mind both pipe tobacco and a horse-stable tack-room. Although I've seen many other notes listed in literature on this fragrance (such as bergamot and rosewood and perhaps some other herbs) I'm not really feeling them in this particular specimen. Perhaps they have dissipated or they are so well blended that they are barely noticeable.

The dry down is that of cured tobacco leaf and only the slightest hint of carbonileum gives it a phenolic underscore. Equipage is elegantly dry, warmly sensual and musky with well-aged patchouli, and naturally sweetened with tonka bean. The latter gives it a finishing touch of rolled-leaf cigar that has been extinguished and left for later enjoyment - and forgotten. That should be long enough so that the acrid ashtray notes have dissipated completely, as you'll fortunately find non of these in Equipage... The perfumer is Guy Robert, who is also responsible for the masculine beauty of Monsieur Rochas and Gucci pour Homme.

Top notes: Nutmeg, Allspice
Heart notes: Carnation, Vetiver
Base notes: Tobacco Leaf, Isobutyl Quinoline, Patchouli, Tonka Bean 

Other reviews of Equipage - both contemporary and vintage:
Perfume Shrine
The Non Blonde
Bois de Jasmin
Now Smell This
Basenotes (members reviews)
Basenotes (discussion about vintage vs current formulation)


Tarnished Silver

Naming has the power of brining our attention to the subtle qualities of a scent. In Tarnished Silver, botanical extract expert Dabney Rose brings forth the metallic qualities of violet. I've been fortunate to experience several of Dabney Rose's innovative botanical enfleurage of hyacinth, which she added to my order of hydrosols, and have also traded a copy of my book for her gorgeous pommades of tuberose breathtaking butterfly ginger which I have recently reviewed here. Tarnished Silver is the first perfume blend I'm experiencing from this talented lady. This time it arrived in my mailbox completely unannounced (though most welcome!) alongside a beautifully assembled collection of handicapped Kyphi incense. They all arrived right before I left for my trip, and I left them behind, knowing I will not have the appropriate conditions for incense burning on my travels.

Tarnished Silver, however, was tucked in my carry-on and I'm enjoying it immensely. I am now riding the train to the north part of Israel - the Western Galilee. Stretches of fields, meadows, orchards, and factories pass by the window, and glimpses of the Mediterranean sea delight the spirit as the train gently rocks and hums its way to our destination. There is wi-fi here (which I won't easily come by when I reach my home village, and off-the-grid hippie haven). So here I am again with a dab of Tarnished Silver on each wrist, enjoying the scenery.

It opens with a melancholy tinge of violets: at once sweet yet also bitter. Sharply green yet soft and diffused, almost powdery. It's amazing that fresh violets can be captured so beautifully with this vegan enfleurage - truly a labour of love. To the sweet ionone facets are added some other notes though subtle: honey, perhaps a tad of hay or flouve as well or something else that gives it a bitter sweet coumarin undertone. A touch of rose and oaks give it a very vintage feel, like Chypre from the turn of the 20th Century.


Cabochard de Grès

Cabochard was reated in 1959 by perfumer Bernard Chant for French couturier Germaine Émilie Krebs (publicly known as Alix Grès or Madame Grès). Cabochard in many ways preceded its time and the trend that will dominate the 1970's - green, formal florals, often soapy, and at times even icy. However, while Cabochard is definitely green, it has the joie de vivre of the genre's founder, Vent Vert, and a warm yet playful personality which I can only guess has a lot to do with Madame Grès' vision and personality.

While most of the successful couturiers fashion houses of Paris followed their success to become more commercial, the house Grès remained purely dedicated to haute-couture. Everything was done by hand, made to measure, and with utmost attention to detail. This can usually only last as long as the founder is alive and working. And so, sadly, when Madame Grès retired in the 1980's, the business was sold, but while the couture was pretty much lost, the fragrance part remained alive and kicking, even if they don't launch a new fragrance every other day...

I came across Cabochard before, but wasn't really "grabbed" by it until a generous perfumista gave me this vintage coffret of minis of various concentrations, which is probably from as far back as the 80's. Enough time to disintegrate the rubbery lid (I had to use an actual corkscrew to pluck it out!) but it has retained its scent beautifully.

I was first intrigued by the scent; then by the story of Madame Grès - whatever of it I was able to pick from the very little information is found about her - mostly in French. She's not nearly as known as Gabrielle Chanel, and even more enigmatic. She was married to the Russian sculptor Serge Czerefkov, which I'm certain had some influence on her art: her pieces have the a solid structure wrapping around the female form, yet draping in innovative ways, showing the fabric's flow, texture and bringing out intriguing shapes and silhouettes by the interaction between body and garment. As to her personal style - she seems to be sporting a turban at almost all the photographs of her, which makes me wonder if she had hair at all, or was just obsessed with the Orient.

Cabochard means stubborn or hard-ass in French, and the personality of this fragrance makes me think that there is something to it. I was, however, surprised to find out via Fragrantica (and upon further investigation in Michael Edward's Perfume Legends), that her fascination with India is what inspired both Cabochard and another twin fragrance called Chouda, supposedly a floral, which never quite came to be. The latter was designed by Guy Robert, and was an ethereal floral, to resemble a flower she encountered in India, possibly water hyacinth (which I find unlikely, as it is native to the Amazon basin). By the sound of the name, I think it might have been kewda, which has hyacinth-like quality. Although this was reportedly Madame Grès' personal favourite between the two, she decided to go with the bold green chypre, which was more trendy at the time.

Despite some marketing material alluding to Cabochard being inspired by a walk on the beach of Southern India (again, rather unlikely that a tropical beach would smell that green and bitter), there is nothing quite India-related in Cabochard as far as I can smell. But it sure smells like a strong-headed gal with a great sense of humour, which is how I imagine Madame Grès to be in real life. Some further reading also revealed that unlike Chanel, she strongly opposed the Nazi occupation of Paris, and insisted on displayed the tricolor flag on her shop (which ultimately resulted in the Nazis closing her shop). I admire her now not only for her talent, but also for her courage.

Cabochard is so many things - green, leathery, woody, floral, indolic... It begins with a definitive juicy-green character, like frsehly squeezed wheatgrass; yet there is something ashy and dry underneath. The health-concious wheatgrass juicer is also a chain smoker. The nicotine in her veins brings the best of her - creativity, energy, laughter. It's balanced again with some medicinal sage, and pretty, clean and proper neroli and enough rose to make you think of a rose garden but not smell like an English lady. Orange blossom and jasmine make advances as the perfume develops on the skin. These two bold notes, while indolic and dirty, also have a zest of life to them, a very forward personality, with the methyl anthranilate shining through beautifully and bringing some sweetness into the green. They are only ever so slightly soft-focused with powdery orris note. As for the base - it's what you've always dreamed of: oakmoss, tobacco and vetiver, with some isobutyl quinoline for good measure.

Cabochard to me seems to have predicted the future of the 1970's - No. 19, especially, to whom it is a very close relative with the same motifs of leather, greens, juicy citrus notes, iris, leather and vetiver; interplay between green, dry and floral-powdery. As well as everything that followed, dominated by green, herbaceous and soapy notes. The leading scents in this trend were No. 19, Ivoire, Estée Lauder's Azurée (by perfumer Bernard Chant), Alliage and Private Collection; Coriandre, Calandre, Chamade, 1000, AnaisAnais, and Aromatics Elixir (also designed by Bernard Chant), and of course Rive Gauche. I'm glad I found out who is the perfumer behind it (though I'm certain that Guy Robert's Chouda was magnificent!) and see the connections with his other creations.

Top notes: Sage, Rose, Neroli
Heart notes: Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Orris

Base notes: Vetiver, Leather, Oakmoss, Tobacco
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