White Floral Queen Part Four: Comptoir Sud Pacifique Tiaré (Original) & Montale Intense Tiare
Once upon a time I discovered a little perfume company called Comptoir Sud Pacifique. They specialized in “tropical” style fragrances made with fine Tahitian vanilla and exotic floral essences. Their signature mark was that the scents were sold in little metal bottles instead of glass. This was supposed to make them keep longer since they would not be exposed to light. I found out about these perfumes more than twenty years ago. They were only available to me by mail order at the time, as no shops in my area carried them. I read through the descriptions and settled on one called simply Tiaré, due to the enticing description, mainly tiaré flower, coconut and Tahitian vanilla. When it arrived it was enclosed in a cute little azure blue felt bag, and when I broke the seal on the bottle the very scent of Paradise wafted out. The sweetness of the tiaré flower, a Gardenia relative, was melded with rich coconut and deep, dark vanilla to form a most delightful perfume. (The Polynesian concoction of tiaré flowers macerated in coconut oil is called monoi, which I imagine must be one of the best aromas in the world. I am a fan of coconut in all its forms anyway.) I adored it, and it did indeed last a very long time for two reasons; the metal bottle, which I carefully resealed with both stopper and cap each time I used the perfume, and the fact that its strength meant that only a few drops were needed for any one application. (When I wore it at home alone, that was another story – I was tempted to cover myself with it!) I also had a couple of samples of their other scents, but I can’t recall their names; I do remember that they were very good. I bought another bottle of Tiaré after that, which I actually still have, and there is a small amount of perfume left that still smells really good; those little metal containers work!
Well, over the years Comptoir Sud Pacifique became quite successful, began to appear in “mainstream” locations, and they released what seemed like dozens of new fragrances. Now you could go to perfume shops and try them before purchasing. I still liked them, but something was missing: they had changed my beloved Tiaré, and it was no longer the same scent. The vanilla seemed to be too sweet, not quite the dark, mysterious accord I remembered. They have recently reformulated it again and renamed it Aloha Tiaré, and I have not tried it yet, but I have heard that it’s more of a subdued tuberose scent and nothing like it used to be. Whenever I see the Comptoir Sud Pacifique perfumes in shops these days they seem to have mostly the fruit-and-vanilla series, which now has at least ten scents, including an impossibly cloying concoction called Vanille Banane that even a sugar-loving girl like me can’t wear.
I thought that I would never smell anything like Tiaré again, but I was wrong. Recently I found something to remind me of my well-loved fragrance of long ago. Enter Montale Intense Tiaré to deliver a knockout punch to my senses. It is intense indeed, as I would expect from such a quality purveyor of perfumes. I was a Montale fan from the moment I tried the line. It is not one out their Aoud series, but it does have something else Montale is famous for; lingering in the background and making everything else even better by association is a stupendously good rose note.
Now I like gardenia as much as anyone, but there seems to be something special about the Tahitian tiaré flower. It has a pure, concentrated sweetness that does not feature the popcorn-like buttery note that traditional gardenia can sometimes have. It is certainly a heavy white floral, no question about that, but it lacks that certain clinging quality that makes some people dislike gardenias, or at least it has less of it to my nose.
This perfume is further brightened by another favorite floral accord of mine, ylang-ylang, which lends it cheerful countenance to the mix. Sublimely discreet and creamy coconut milk enhances it further, adding a comforting feel. There is also jasmine, in perfect balance with the other flowers, creating a heady yet wearable elixir. This is what I would call a real “girly” perfume, and unapologetically so. It’s not candy-like though, far from it. It has a natural feel to it, like what I imagine it ‘s like to be sitting outdoors near a waterfall in Tahiti, combing fragrant monoi oil through my hair while the breeze carries the scent of tropical flowers to me. I have had fantasies like that all my life, and wearing this stuff makes it seem somehow possible. (Never mind that my hair is now very short and I can get sunburned in about fifteen minutes; I can dream all I want, darn it!)
When I put it on, it does the “white floral thing” I love so much – it keeps getting better by the minute and the hour, amplifying and deepening, enveloping me in a rich cloud of hypnotic tropical goodness. I can say that from what I know of my original Comptoir scent that this one is fully its equal, more dimensional, and better than what their perfumes are like now. The roses and jasmine add another dimension to the tropicals, enhancing and showcasing their beauty. The drydown is less sweet too, consisting of a gently milky coconut and subtle vanilla in contrast to the Comptoir scent’s rather strong coconut and heavy vanillic note. When I say that this is a delicious perfume it is not just in the gourmand sense, but that I can’t get enough of it. It makes me want to inhale it, eat it, roll in it, whatever will bring me closer to its essence. I should also mention that it is not only unabashedly girly and just plain happy, it is very powerfully sexy and should be used accordingly. I can feel a flirtation coming on just by thinking about wearing it.
The notes according to Luckyscent are: tiaré, ylang-ylang, vanilla, coconut milk, jasmine, roses. For a Montale it’s quite reasonable, $95 for 50 ml and in the 100 ml size for $135. Samples are also available from Luckyscent. This fragrance is also available from other online retailers that carry the Montale line, and of course from perfume shops that feature the line of you are fortunate enough to live near one of them. The Comptoir Sud Pacifique line is widely available online and in better perfume shops.
Image credits: Vintage postcard of a Polynesian woman drinking from a coconut, janeresture.com; Montale perfume bottle, Luckyscent.