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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Retro Green Florals to the Rescue for Summer


By Donna

There always comes that time in the deep trough of summer when the very idea of wearing perfume seems almost ridiculous. It’s fine when I am indoors and the air conditioning is running, but eventually it is necessary to step outside, whether to go home from work - on the bus, no less – or to water the thirsty garden. When the temperature approaches 100 degrees, I not only lose the will to live, but sometimes I even lose interest in wearing fragrance, which for me is even more alarming. Of course, part of it is just trying to avoid creating enemies at the office, but when it’s unbearably hot and sticky I just can’t seem to figure out what I want sometimes. That’s where my summer standby fragrance style comes in; the ethereal green florals. When no other perfume calls my name, I can count on one of these when the heavy hand of seasonal lag lays siege to the city.

Green scents were definitely out of fashion for a long time until niche houses and reissues of classics such as Robert Piguet’s Futur brought them back into focus recently; in fact all of the fragrances I am spotlighting are practically considered “vintage” these days even though they are only about thirty years old. The oldest is Silences by Jacomo from 1978, but I never knew of it back then. It’s the modern answer to the great Vent Vert by Pierre Balmain, opening with a veritable blast of galbanum and citrus leavened with citrus, hyacinth and other florals. Its development is somewhat more unisex and not a delicate as its predecessor’s, seeming to open with a floral burst and then become greener as it progresses instead of the other way around, but it is soothing and cool and just perfect for sinking into during a relentless heat wave. Spraying on Silences is like lying down in a darkened room with an ice pack. I do not know what silences was like when it was first released or how much it has been re-orchestrated, but I do have some vintage Vent Vert and that Queen of Green has definitely been dethroned with its most recent reworking, so in its place, Silences is an excellent choice. Find it at the discounters for less money than you ever thought possible for something this good.

From 1980 comes the elegant Ivoire de Balmain, a perfume I foolishly ignored for years for a very silly reason; it was marketed as having been formulated with blondes in mind, and suited to their skin chemistry, but I am most definitely not blonde. Much later I rediscovered it, and what a lovely thing it is. It is more floral than green, but the back beat of cool grassiness is a constant. The galbanum in the top notes is but a whisper compared to the not-so-silent rush of Silences and its green character comes more from bergamot and other less ostentatious green elements. A rather unusual blend of notes such as jasmine, raspberry, carnation, nutmeg and pepper makes for a fascinating trip through the heart notes and a woody base with good quality oakmoss, sandalwood and labdanum gives it a lasting finish. I recently acquired minis of the vintage EDT and Parfum, and now I know what I have been missing all this time. Regrettably, Ivoire has been reformulated like all the Balmains, but it has suffered less than Vent Vert in this regard and it is still very lovely. It is still available at stores that carry the Balmain line as well as online.

Another favorite green floral of this era is 1979’s Molinard de Molinard. Most people probably only know this house through Habanita these days, since all their classics of the past save that one have either been changed radically or are gone forever, replaced by a line of mostly nice but unremarkable soliflores, and its fragrances are usually very hard to find in the U.S. now except at the online discounters. A notable exception was this entry into the mainstream that saw considerable success for quite a while. It has some of the same character as Lauder’s 1972 iconic green chypre scent Aliage, as it is not very sweet despite rose and jasmine in the listed notes; it has blackcurrant bud, lily-of-the-valley, and a generous does of narcissus, heady and narcotic and refreshing all at the same time yet curiously not very “floral” in the sense that might expect. It’s hard to describe and I wish I had the right words for this aroma, the way the Japanese word “umami” has been appropriated to describe the savory quality of such flavors as meat and mushroom that is separate from salty, sweet, sour or bitter, the only terms normally used to describe how we experience the foods we eat. I always knew that not all taste sensations fell into those strict categories, and now there is finally a word for it; if only I knew how to do the same with fragrance. Anyway, this perfume has an exhilarating freshness to it that lifts my mood when I wear it and calms me at the same time, like a much-needed breeze on a warm, still summer night. I like to apply the perfumed body milk before bed when I need a little help drifting off to sleep after a hot and humid day, and it works like a charm. I think the current version is a bit woodier than the original, which had a certain damp grassiness to it, and it has always had a rather soapy aspect, but it’s not the “fresh” kind of detergent accord that is so unfortunately popular today, rather it arises from the floral and green accords. Look for Molinard de Molinard at mid-range department stores, perfume superstores such as Perfumania and online. You might also get lucky with an online auction site and score an older bottle, which is definitely worth a try. If not, you can get the newer juice for about $30 to $40 for a nice big bottle, so it’s one of the great bargains in perfumery.

There are other green florals from this era that are great for summer wear, but some, such as the best green floral of all time, Jean Patou’s Vacances and the wonderful Yendi by Capucci from 1974 are long gone, and the 1997 latecomer Gucci Envy, which I also love, is perhaps a little too loud and bright for use in very close quarters such as an office. I have been wondering why there were so many perfumes of this style in the late Seventies to early Eighties, and of course part of it was perfume houses trying to duplicate the astonishing success of Cacharel’s Anaïs Anaïs , but others were contemporaries of that milestone scent or even preceded it, so I guess it was just a cyclical trend. I hope it comes back in a big way so I can stock up on them. Had I known back then that this family of perfumes would go out of style for this long I would have bought them by the case. Do you have any favorite green floral perfumes that are currently available? I would love to hear about them! “Greens” seem to be either love or hate for many people, and for me it’s love all the way.

Image credit: Abba-inspired and very “retro” jumpsuit from online costume store PartyPants.co.uk

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29 Comments:

Blogger Tatyana said...

Cristalle Chanel, Bamboo Weil and Paco Rabanne’s Metal are green floral vintages as well, though all they are close to Silences.

2:48 AM EDT  
Blogger Catherine said...

What about Green,Green, Green, and Green by Miller et Bertaux - vetiver rather than fresh; Eau de Campagne (Sisley) and Private Collection (Estee Lauder)again not refreshing. There's always Marc Jacobs Grass Splash for light relief.
Catherine

4:33 AM EDT  
Anonymous Delia said...

I bought the newer Silences & for some reason can barely detect it. What does occasionally waft up is lovely, though. Am also a fan of Ivoire's soapy incense & have found spritz for spritz, Estee Lauder's Pure White Linen cuts the heat like no other scent.

8:22 AM EDT  
Anonymous Olfacta said...

Thanks for reminding me about Molinard de Molinard! I have a decant around here somewhere.

8:54 AM EDT  
Blogger Sarah said...

Un Parfum de Charmes et Feuilles by The Different Company - gorgeous herbal green.

10:58 AM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Tatiana, I have always admired Cristalle but I never wore it. Is Metal even avaliable anymore? I love that stuff!

3:36 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Catherine, anything with a name like "Green, Green and Green" I gotta try! I have sniffed the Marc Jacobs at the store, it's pretty nice too.

3:38 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Delia, I keep trying to remember to smell Pure White Linen; I always liked the original and I have a mini of the vintage.

3:40 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Olfacta, isn't it wonderful? :-)

3:41 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Sarah, I love everything I have tried so far from TDC, that sounds great! I must get a sample of it.

3:42 PM EDT  
Blogger Alyssa said...

Oh Flora, how you can lose the will to live while looking at that jumpsuit? ;-)

When the weather heads into the triple digits and 90% humidity I turn to vetiver. I'm on my third day running of Different Company's Sel de Vetiver--forgot how wonderful it is...

You can read a bit on the history/re-orchestration of Silences over on Bois de Jasmin, BTW. My own bottle was an unsniffed impulse buy inspired by that review. Nice to see you giving it some love!

3:43 PM EDT  
Blogger Tama said...

I like Demeter Dandelion - not exactly high-end, but nice and crisp.

Lush Flower Garden, which is coming back with the Gorilla Line, is a hugely green floral but I don't know if it would work in actual warm weather.

Just got Byredo La Tulipe - it was finally warm here in SF yesterday and today and although it is more short-lived in the heat than coolness for some reason, it was perfect.

3:46 PM EDT  
Blogger tmp00 said...

Boy am I taking notes!

4:07 PM EDT  
Blogger janedaly said...

Greens! Absolutely my fave. What a lovely post, feel fresh just reading it! I adore both the vintage and the present Vent Vert and Ivoire is an HG. Adding Creed Aubepine Acacia and YSL "Y" to lovely list that you and your posters are creating. Even the mint in Jo Malone's White Jasmine & Mint is cooling and green. I too was slightly anosmic to the newer Silences...big 2nds to Sisley Eau de Campagne!

4:51 PM EDT  
OpenID museinwoodenshoes said...

A lovely list, D!

I love Silences more every time I wear it - it is so contemplative. Aloof, yet comforting.

Other greenies I love: No. 19, Crown Bouquet, Le Temps d'une Fete. (I was surprised not to love Vent Vert - I bought a small parfum in the squarish bottle with diagonal label, which seems to have been the 90s reformulation that was generally well-regarded. It was, I don't know, dull.) Kenzo Parfum d'Ete is really lovely, and reminded me of Calyx without the overripe fruit thing.

Ivoire is such a changeable thing - green, then soapy-floral, then mossy, then that deep honeyed, golden drydown.

The MetB GreenX4 is nice, although I found it too citrusy for my personal taste. Ehh. But then, I am a philistine; I don't like Cristalle either. And Envy set my teeth on edge with that metallic, high-pitched thing it does.

Miller Harris Fleur de Matin I like very much, too.

10:29 PM EDT  
Anonymous Claudia0219 said...

Anais Anais was my first fragrance and to this day i still love that smell. But if you love green i hope you ever had a chance to try Gobin Daude Sous le Buis, absolutely amazing, unfortunately long discontinued and then there is Maison Margiela Untitled another beautiful green fragrance :) Here is a description as per Colette
"Based on green floral notes, we can smell galbanum, boxwood, mastic, incense, bitter orange ... as if they had been gathered after the rain."

11:31 PM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Alyssa, I still can't believe I found that picture! Don't even ask what I used for search parameters...:-D

I am a huge fan of Sel de Vetiver - my sample got used up in record time and I am trying to justify a full bottle!

12:12 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tama, I have not yet smelled Dandelion, that sounds just perfect for a hot day. Some Demeters work for me and others are scrubbers; usually it's thire more "natural" scents that I like. La Tulipe has been on my try list for a while now.

12:14 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Tom, you definitely need a wardrobe of heat wave frags down there in Hell-La!

12:16 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Janedaly, thanks for stopping by! Y is big favorite of mine as well. I have the BIG bottle. I am not familiar with that particular Creed fragrance, I must remember to try it next time I am at my local shop.

I am not really sure which version of Silences I have, since I never knew the original and I got mine from a discounter on the 'Bay, but my bottle is the EDP and it lasts fairly well for what it is.

12:20 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Muse, I like your list too! The Crown Bouquet was a thing of rare beauty.

I acquired a small bottle of Vent Vert last year and I after a lot of research I believe that it is the first version. It has rounded shoulders and it came from a seller of "new old stock" and the packaging is nothing like it is now. It's truly exquisite. It's only the EDT so I am dreaming of finding the Parfum one day. All I have to do to get a bottle is sell an organ or two, no biggie! :-)

12:25 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Claudia, Anais Anais is one of my all-time favorites. It is so cool and refreshing, yet sexy too, one of the most original perfumes ever made. Oh, and the Parfum, when they made it, was To.Die.For.

Alas, that Gobin-Daude will probably remain a fantasy, though I have heard murmurs of a resurrection of the line backed by new owners? That would be awesome.

I am also intrigued by the Untitled scent, such a fascinating list of notes for that one!

12:29 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope the green thing could be one of my favorite.. I have tried using some perfume here in maisonparfum it really makes me a lovely woman.

6:17 AM EDT  
Anonymous Maison Parfum said...

I hope i can be able to check that green perfume...

6:19 AM EDT  
Anonymous Marian said...

No. 19 is my current favorite green, although I occasionally dab on a dot of vintage Vent Vert. But right now I"m with Alyssa and I'm reaching for vetiver- Oshadi's and Les Nez's Turtle Vetiver. Today it's finally raining! I know thought I'd so welcome such a gray day!

10:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Katherine said...

Ah, the greens. I love these lists and all the beautiful descriptions, but am I the only one who grows weary of all the "this was great, but now it's gone" talk? If the remakes are inferior, can't we list them in a separate place from the "this is excellent quality, I recommend it" posts? I get so discouraged when I read about something that sounds outstanding, only to find in the next sentence that it's been discontinued or reformulated.

3:50 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Marian, it's gray here today too and I LOVE it! So tired of sweltering heat!

6:20 PM EDT  
Anonymous Flora said...

Katherine, it's true that some of the classics have been changed beyond recognition, but many are still very good - the current Ivoire and Molinard de Molinard are still wonderful. I am in total ignorance of what Silences may have been like in 1978, so it smells great to me!

6:22 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i love Chanel Cristalle Eau Verte and the re-formulation of Calyx. They both smell so fresh in the hot summer. Here, in San Fran it looks like it might rain. ...

3:09 PM EDT  

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