Anubis the Embalmer – Guerlain Vintage Djedi (1926)

In 1926 the perhaps most unusual Guerlain perfume ever saw the light of day. Inspired by the discovery of Tutankhamun’s Tomb in 1922, and the Egyptomania which followed in its wake, Jacques Guerlain created this broody, dry perfume, named after an age-old Egyptian magician who was able to ‘resurrect the decapitated’.

Curious as most perfume-nerds, a sample of Djedi in the reissued 1996 version has been in my collection for a very long time. It was a disappointment to me, having more in common with ‘Vetiver pour Elle’ than Pharaohs or any exoticism or glorious descriptions I read around the net.  Nothing dark or that unusual even, just rose and vetiver and gone in an hour or so… DISAPPOINTMENT! But hey, one less perfume unicorn to worry about, thought I.

When Guerlain enthusiast, collector and connoisseur ‘Bragmayer’ offered to send me some of the ‘REAL’ Djedi (from a 1936 bottle), I was at first only mildly interested (Mea Culpa). It wasn’t until he told me the most incredible story of a main ingredient of Djedi that I was all ears. Could Djedi be all it was hyped up to be after all?

What I’m about to write I haven’t tried to verify from any other sources, but since the story is simply to good not to share, I will recount it here and leave it the rest up to you…

From the middle ages up until early 20th century Mumia, powder of embalmed bodies/ mummies, had been used for medical purposes. Many stories around the net goes into this fact, only a short while ago Elena Vosnaki wrote a piece on Mumia at Fragrantica, so I won’t write further about this.wikipedia mumia

Certainly Mumia, at the time of the making of Djedi, would have been a known, if out-dated, remedy, and familiar to chemistry trained Jacques Guerlain. As a perfumer we could assume he would not have been oblivious to the scent either, which would have been that of 1000-year-old resin formulas, rather than of decayed corpses. What Bragmayer told me is, that original Djedi has some of this ‘vintage mummy’, or so-called ‘Mumia’ powder in its formula. The thought of this is as fascinating as it is macabre, and perhaps I love the thought of it even more, for not being able to ever verify it. I’m sure no Guerlain perfumer of sound mind, would ever tell us if this were actually true.

What is true, is that upon smelling real Djedi, and even with the expectations now raised sky-high, I was blown away by the first sniff. I have never smelled anything like it. I wrote in a comment recently that Djedi might be the closest thing in my mind, that perfume has ever come to art, and I stand by that. It keeps unsettling me, keeps showing new facets which are so unusual, one should think it impossible to wear Djedi as a perfume, and yet, having worn it several times in order to write this post, I find it highly wearable, at times even addictive.

Bone-dry, as Djedi is on the one hand, I also sense a green undergrowth dampness. The colour scheme has not a single primary colour, nor does it let light through its fumed layers. It is all hues of dark greens and browns in all varieties, a mud-luscious Nile-green perhaps, or dust-withered papyrus ochre?

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The damp and dry does somewhat remind me of ancient enclosed spaces – stone, moss and smoke – of old attics and mausoleums, but it also reminiscent of fairy tale woods; Show White, Hansel & Gretel or The Little Red Riding Hood. A deep forest which is both lying-in-wait dangerous and caressingly familiar at the same time, I would almost say that Djedi works on the subconscious level similar to fairy tales.

Suitably mummy-esque and living up to the extraordinarily-aged magician’s name, Djedi last forever, and somewhere in the middle of the development I was actually reminded of vintage Habanita, with its sweet tobacco note supported by resins. The smoke could hint at ancient magic ceremonies, the resins (mummified or not) at burial rituals. But even if I sense vetiver, patchouli, clove, musk and leather, even if I could perhaps call this an animalic leather chypre, Djedi remains enigmatic and elusive. Djedi remains a mystery.

 

I wasn’t initially going to mention Verdi’s Aïda, thinking it just a bit too obvious. But the music from the closing scene has a similar eeriness to Djedi.

Radames condemned to die by being locked in a subterranean tomb sees the stone closing upon him. It turns out Aïda has locked herself in there with him, foreseeing his destiny. Singing their farewells to each other and the world, the priests above praise the God Ptah.

La fatal pietra sovra me si chiuse… (The fatal stone has closed above me)

*Anubis was the God associated with mummification

 

Quick Sniffs – Maison Incens’ Tabac Licorii, Figue Oudii, Musc Kalirii, Figue Eleii, Cuir Erindil

Today I want to talk about 5 perfumes from Maison Incens. The man behind the brand is Philippe Constantin and the perfumer Jean-Claude Gigodot.

I happened upon the brand by chance. A girl on a Fragrantica asked for liquorice perfumes with a salty feel (Scandinavian salty liquorice), and that’s where I came across Tabac Licorii. We decided to spilt a bottle, and I received samples from the rest of the line at the same time.

Tabac Licorii; Star anise, licorice, tobacco, violet, sea water and musk.

To me it smells of earthy tobacco and oak moss, sometimes there’s a bite of liquorice sometimes there isn’t. The same goes for the saltiness; like the sea breeze it comes and goes with the ebb and flow.image It’s a very rounded fragrance with a very natural feel, if somebody told me it was a 100% natural perfume, I wouldn’t have questioned it. As a liquorice fragrance, this might be a disappointment, but if you’re looking for a unique fragrance with a natural and cosy outdoorsy-feel, you ought to try it. It dries down a little warmer and perhaps muskier with a tad more liquorice, but still within a very natural feel. Perhaps the most masculine of the lot.

Interestingly the samples came without labels, so a fun sort of blind sniff at first, which luckily turned out to be easy’ish to verify due to strong compositions and the individual colours of the juice.

Figue Oudii; bergamot, orange, fig, ylang-ylang, violet, iris, leather, cedar, oud, sandalwood, amber and musk.

There are two fig perfumes in the line-up, the first one being the heaviest and perhaps more unusual of the two. It’s the unlikely combination of fig and oud, and if Tabac Licorii, was perhaps less true to its name, Figue Oudii certainly is. Fig is prominent, and it’s as if the oud is just the extension of the fig foliage. I should never have thought it but these two complement each other nicely. On the other side of the spectrum there’s creaminess from ylang-ylang, leather and sandalwood, which gives the whole composition a warm oriental feel. If you’re looking for an oriental perfume with more than a twist, give it a try.

Musc Kalirii; bergamot, orange, orange blossom, rose, jasmine, leather, vanilla and sandalwood.

Is characterised as a Woody Floral Musk, and funnily, it’s what it is, but again not your usual FWM: the flowers aren’t dainty but sort of ‘casually present’, the wood is not synthetic ‘blonde woods’ or whatever they are called now, but just a little woodiness, and the musk is neither laundry musk nor an animalic skank-fest, but just a bit of warmth underneath the composition.image

Figue Eleii; fig leaf, green notes, tuberose, iris, cedar, sandalwood and musk

At first sniff this one is much closer to the normal idea of a fig perfume; it’s fig, it’s green and those together translate into summery green freshness. However, it’s wonderfully paired with a creamy, milky tuberose and a more-buttery- than- not iris note, which gives this perfume a gorgeous opaline feel. I enjoy wearing this one a lot.

Cuir Erindil; bergamot, mandarin orange, incense, spicy notes, iris, myrrh, leather, musk, sandalwood and vanilla.

Although nowhere mentioned, I could swear the first few seconds of the opening smells of a mix of menthol and camphor. I’m reminded of tigerbalm in a leather bag, as the leather almost immediately takes hold of the scentscape. It’s proper leather, not suede, a little biting almost, but it softens fairly quickly into a warm and mellow base of resins, iris and just a touch of vanilla.

What I especially enjoy about all Maison Incens’ perfumes, is the daring to make perfumes that are a little different, and still eminently wearable. They are deceptively simple and quiet, but keep showing new facets with each wear and lasts way longer than I would have thought upon application. Another thing that hit me was, that I never feel overwhelmed with scent molecules blowing up in my face, rather there’s a naturalness about them which seems to leave a lot of space to take in other things than your perfume.

 

Pics by me.

A Rose (by any other name) – Or et Noir Caron (1949) modern extrait version

After searching high and low for my rose fragrance, I finally found it in Or et Noir*.

Caron has done several rose-centric perfumes, and I must confess that the lack of availability has made me unable to smell the ones which actually carry ‘rose’ in their name. Parfum Sacre and even Nuit de Noël are also amongst the ones mentioned when the talk is of ‘dark’ rose perfumes, however for me, as much as I love them both, they are neither that dark (more cosy in my book) nor strictly rose focused enough to be called rose-perfumes. Or et Noir is what the others aren’t, it’s both a rose perfume and deserving of the black name. (How often can you say that about a perfume called something with Noir? – Coco, Sensuous, Crystal et al) Knowing of its own worth, it was even deemed unnecessary to name it after its prime ingredient, the queen of flowers.

Starting off with fiercely high-strung metal, and thorns to draw blood, Or et Noir makes sure you do not mistake its rose for ‘pretty’. imageIn fact, to me it’s exactly its bright sharpness which makes it dark. The best way to describe it would be to compare it to another Caron classic, Narcisse Noir, where the ‘noir’ is more about the poisonous pull than about any typically ‘dark- notes’. In the same way the gold metal is also the black, as if it was a tattoo of a dagger through a dark rose.

It’s as if there’s some magnetic rejection between the lemony metallic scent of the geranium and the green slightly sour deep red rose. Different twists on similar scentsations vie for attention, and only as the rose wins the battle over the geranium, does it allow itself to soften up, open its petals and become a huge single rose attracting rays of golden sun and honeybees alike.

As the sun loses its power, a carnation starts casting its peppery shadow over the Caron rose, until completely covered, and the rose takes on the same dark hue as the carnation itself. Together they darken, sweeten and wither until mossy earth peeks through. I’ve seen people mention amber, but this is no amber rose dry down, this is a rose with all imaginable hues of darkness and light, gold and black. Or et Noir.

 

“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” Nietzsche.

 

*A huge thank you to dear STC <3

 

Or et Noir was made in 1949 by perfumer Michel Morsetti. I own a large decant from TPC. Pictures are mine.

 

 

Musketeers – Aramis (1964) and Balenciaga Portos (1980)

Ivanhoe, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Musketeers. I must admit I loved watching the old costume movies and still am partial to any re-remake.

imageThough an avid reader, I never bothered reading any of these, surely in this case part of the (guilty) pleasure is in watching handsome bearded men in leather suits playing cloak and dagger.

Leather, men and musk is what it’s about today. I’ll start with the beast that is Aramis (in its current formula), so unashamed masculine, that I have no trouble seeing the musketeer straight off his horse from battle. The opening is herbs and there’s cumin, and then there’s some more cumin, perhaps you take cumin with that? I was pretty choked that in this combination for once the cumin doesn’t at all remind me of Chicken Jalfrezi take-away, it actually smells ‘masculine’, like fresh sweat from someone you like. (As opposed to stale sweat from someone you really don’t like!)image It’s in the company of wormwood and leather that cumin becomes more of a handsome French musketeer, than a Barbarian (Musc) Koublai Khan. Also consider, which Khan would have added a little green freshness and jasmine? Yes, in Aramis it’s all there, ending on soft bed sheets of (an uncanningly deep and authentic smelling) oak moss and musk.

I struggle to call it animalic because it’s more about human skin and testosterone than any animal I can think of. Even the warmth it exudes is something which spells more Musketeer than Musk deer to me. It says: “just a kiss”, but don’t believe a word Aramis says.

While I wouldn’t put it past women to wear this, it would probably be the equivalent of men wearing Vintage Rochas Femme ( pre the cumin stuff that is ’89). On anyone who can wear Aramis, I bet it smells sensational.

Notes: artemisia, bergamot, cinnamon, gardenia, pelargonium, patchouli, vetiver, sandalwood, leather, oakmoss, amber (from fragrantica)

Portos EdC, was first introduced to me by a lovely Italian perfumista. A much overlooked fragrance which is no longer in production but can still be found online. imagePortos is much prettier than his fellow musketeer and much more obviously unisex. Wormwood, bergamot and especially geranium makes for a floral and lively opening. The absinthian mixes with minty-rose softness and becomes bittersweet, a little Dandyesque perhaps. As the opening wears of, a smooth leather and castoreum (beaver) becomes more evident. The base is rooty green, warm and velvety of vetiver, musk and moss.  The earthy oak moss lasts all day.

So is Portos an old-fashioned gentleman? More likely it’s a cologne for anyone tired of fruits, aquatics or blonde woods. I think on most people it would even wear a tad sweeter than on me, making it just too cool as a women’s fragrance. A player and a dreamer is Portos, I think he wouldn’t mind sharing his cologne.

Notes: artemisia, cumin, bergamot, coriander and galbanum, jasmine, geranium, carnation, cedar, patchouli and vetiver, castoreum, leather, moss, musk, myrrh, incense and labdanum (from fragrantica)

Musketeers from 1921 Douglas Fairbanks Sr silent film, 1973 Richard Lester film and the 2014 BBC series.

Main Musketdeers are mine. Aren’t musk deers the cutest?

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Last But Not Least- Jean Patou 1980s Que Sais-Je VS 2015 Que Sais-Je

I don’t want to risk boring everyone, including myself, but I felt that I should perhaps do this last little review and comparison because so far, from the ones I’ve tested, Héritage Collection Que Sais-Je actually comes the closest to the idea of the original.

Ma Collection Que Sais-Je by Jean Kerléo from the 1980s reissue of Henri Almeras’ original is sweet. SWEET. QSJ4mindreIt is peach, honey and hazelnut. It sounds like dessert, it smells like dessert. If you think gourmand perfumes were invented with Mugler’s Angel in 1992, think again.

QSJ is peach; golden and warm, marinated in a dark acacia honey with hazelnuts. It reminds me of some of those syrup and honey drenched Middle Eastern desserts you eat accompanied by sweet tea, served on a beautiful silver tray. It’s sweet but the honey is naughty too, even a bit animalic. And there’s more than that, underneath lurks a leather-moss base, probably with some musk too to accompany the honey, which makes for a beautiful dissonance to the sweetness, and makes sure you can call this buxom Mademoiselle ‘fruity-chypre’ s’il vous plait. It’s a quite stunning perfume, but in order to fully enjoy it, you need to be able to have your cake and eat it. All of it.

 

Now to Thomas Fontaine’s new Héritage Collection version of Que Sais-Je. As I hinted at, there are definite similarities here, but the size of the sweet desert from Ma Collection has been massively reduced.QSJ3 Let’s say QSJ went on a strict diet, and while she looked great and voluptuous before, the loss of calories doesn’t deter from her beauty, but accentuates other sides to it. While still adding the honey and peach blend, Fontaine has made more space in this composition, and with some of it he makes room for a few white flowers; bits of neroli sprinkled on top of the peach, and some jasmine and perhaps a touch of rose and orange flower in the heart. The hazelnut has been substituted by a dry, almost raspy patchouli which cunningly takes the fragrance from fruity-floral to the classic chypre (cheekbone-) structure. It has been done so elegantly, it feels timeless rather than vintage.

The two are by no means identical, but with HC Que Sais-Je, I both smell the idea from the old and recognise the reason for the change. I might still slightly prefer the honey drenched cake of the old version for its stangeness if nothing else, but even a perfumista can’t live on cake alone and some days you might just prefer the lighter touch as well as its stylish elegance.

 

Review based on my own flacon and a sample I bought by FiF. Pictures mine.

 

Jean Patou Colony -1980s reissue Ma Collection vs Héritage Collection (2015)

Henri Almeras’ Colony from 1938 is described as ‘a fruity chypre with a prominent note of pineapple, Colony was inspired by the warm climate of tropical islands.’ Once again, I do not own the 1938 version, but the 1980’s reissue by Jean Kerleo which went under the name Colony Ma Collection (MC).

What I get from my 1980s Colony matches the description above pretty perfectly. Colony opens on a mossy green note paired with an old-fashioned ‘pineapple’, which probably will not instantly translate as pineapple to anyone used to the very literal fruit notes in today’s perfumes, where even the difference between clementine and tangerine, nectarine and peach is discernible. I would think that this pineapple is pineapple in the way that people talk of ‘red berries’ in coffee or ‘chocolate’ in wine. For me sniffing Colony, I get an instant feel of pineapple, albeit perhaps more as in a still life painting than in a pineapple on a plate waiting to be consumed. It’s not a refreshing feel; rather humid warmth runs through its veins. There’s a touch of spice to the composition and tropical floralsy, but underneath it all, a well-worn, weather-beaten leather is the soul of Colony and keeps the perfume in tropical chypre land. Many hours later when everything fruity and leathery has left the skin, a warm blurry musk with a hint of powder makes for that sensual vintage dry-down.

I love how Colony is both tough leather and a tropical dreamscape from a time when ‘Colony’ was a name that could actually be used for a perfume.

Top notes: pineapple, ylang-ylang
Heart notes: carnation, iris, vetiver and opoponax
Base notes: leather, musk, oakmoss

And how does the new Heritage Collection Colony (HC) by perfumer Thomas Fontaine fare in comparison?

Top note: bergamot, pineapple, orange
Heart note: jasmine, rose, carnation, nutmeg
Base note: leather, patchouly, vetiver, ambergris

The PR now talks of a green fruity-floral fragrance. The top note pineapple is more ‘realistic’ fresh cut pineapple, and its sidekick bergamot makes the green notes a lot fresher, rather than the earthy moss in the MC version. Obviously the feel is very different, HC’s refreshingly fruity, as opposed to MC’s humidly tropical. What I really get after that is a rather indolic jasmine, and at times I could have sworn that I get something civet-like. Leather- not openly so, to me Colony HC stays indecently floral. In the late dry-down a faint but deeply resonant ambergris rounds off the composition.

The density of Ma Collection Colony is here substituted with a modern transparency; if we are indeed still in the territory of former colonies, surely someone turned the air-condition on.

The steamy but tough Colony Ma Collection in the zaftig shape of pineapple, moss and leather, is no more, and the substitute indoles of Colony HC make for only suggestive indecency. It is the lightness and space in the new fragrance which makes it both very contemporary and despite its many beautiful traits, makes it a little difficult to capture, perhaps less intimate. As with Vacance; if you’re looking for an identical version to the old Ma Collection, this is not it. It is however, in its own right both beautiful and a little different with a hint of vintage. So if you like your fruity-florals, grown-up, light but still a little naughty with a smooth ambergris finish you should give it a try.

 

Just because I had to =^..^=

Just because I had to =^..^=

 

Disclosure; I purchased a sample of Colony HC from a retailer. The amazing 1930’s postcard of a pineappleseller is from Etsy seller MinistryOfArtifacts, all other pics mine.

Classic Beauty- Le Coque d’Or Guerlain

The name of the Guerlain perfume Le Coque d’Or (the golden shell) is a pun on Le Coq d’Or a Rimsky-Korsakov opera-ballet from 1907, based on a poem by Pushkin. The Rimsky-Korsakov Golden Cockerel was first an opera with ballet, until Diaghilev, manager for Les Ballets Russes had the idea to let Fokine choreograph a ballet to which the singers would sing from the side, not act. I assume it was in this version that Jacques Guerlain would have seen Le Coq d’Or and have been inspired to create a fragrance on a theme.

Anna Volkova in Le Coq d'Or

Anna Volkova in Le Coq d’Or

An astrologer starts the tale, it is a magical satire dressed up as a fairy tale opera, and a not only golden but also wise cockerel is the title hero. The story is about a dim- Czar, about a queen of another kingdom who outsmarts the Czar, and the cockerel who was a gift from the astrologer to the Czar, who helps outsmart them all.

This year Guerlain chooses to re-release Le Coque d’Or, but not for mere mortals; it retails at the astronomical price of 17K €! Only for Czars and Queens indeed.

Mouillettes- re-created vintage Guerlains

Mouillettes- re-created vintage Guerlains

I wouldn’t even be writing about this if it wasn’t for the blogger ‘Monsieur Guerlain’ who to my luck is not only Danish, but offered to come along with his box of re-created vintage Guerlains to give me my own special guided tour through the lot. He was even incredibly generous to share some precious drops of the ones I had proclaimed to be favourites while sniffing for me to investigate further.

It is this version, and not the 17K one that I am writing about, since apparently that one has been tweaked a bit to comply to IFRA standards. *

pushkin1937

Pushkin

If you like old books, and have always been fascinated by libraries and antiquarians, you’ll instantly recognise the smell of old bound leather books which opens Le Coque d’Or. Perhaps the old astrologer comes in with Pushkin’s old book to read the poem. The mix of leather, old paper and maybe even the glue and ink, when in fact I think it’s this incredible bergamot (which can no longer be used), aldehydes, dusty orris and a beautiful oak moss which give off this impression. Like the astrologer and his golden cockerel, the iris and moss is there with us from beginning to the end, and takes us through the tale of Le Coque d’Or at a smooth and calm speed.

When the page turns, the fragrance goes more fiery, pepper and especially carnation notes are very recognisable, and it goes from this short flammable outburst to a calm floral beauty, covered in a matte powdery veil. The jasmine is noticeable and given a hint of civet, but between jasmine and carnation I get an impression of a chrysanthemum wreath, with its sombre and introvert aroma.

Alls well that ends …with a light dust of vanilla, some gritty musk, resins and yes that even softer orris and moss at the end. I love how the fragrance has that dry powdery feel and still manages to be so alive on the skin.It’s an incredibly harmonious composition, with an overall matte finish in mauve and moss. A classic and flawless piece from a master.coque dor 002

Let’s hope for a fairy tale ending; do you remember when the ‘Precieux Nectar’ was first released in some golden fountain at an unobtainable price, and later re-released in a bee-bottle as a part of les Parisienne? I hope for this event to happen again in the case of Le Coque d’Or. Is it not after all the cockerel and the astrologer who have the last say in the story?

 

* Not a single one of the tested fragrances gave me anything remotely close to a rash.

The reissue of Le Coque d’Or coinsides with the release of the Un Soir à l’Opéra makeup collection  for Christmas 2014 which has a Russian opera and ballet theme. The powder is housed in a bottle similar to the original perfume bottle.