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Friday, August 17, 2007

Perfume Review: Robert Piguet Cravache and Visa

Owing to the facts that Cravache and Visa are being re-issued together, that I first tried them at the same time and that I am a romantic fool, I will now forever imagine them as a couple. He is sophisticated and sensible, significantly older than her. She is young, impossibly pretty, feisty and capricious. He is tenderly protective towards her, she worships him. They are on a honeymoon, cruising exotic lands on a white liner. It all takes place no later than in the 1960s, while the world is still gallant and glamorous.

Anthropomorphizing the scents aside, Cravache is what I always think of as an archetypal masculine scent, refined, bracing and charismatic without being macho. The copy describes it as a “warm elixir”, but I perceive the new Cravache as a cold scent, done in understated hues of gray and green. The vintage Cravache is warmer and deeper, its sharply-aromatic top notes have a more pronounced herbal undertone, its heart is a complex affair, woody, earthy, slightly piquant, the base is the wonderful, dark mix of leather, moss, tonka and amber. (And if it is this interesting and alluring in a vintage sample, how amazing it must have been freshly bought some 44 years ago!) The new version, “rebalanced” by Aurelien Guichard “to blend tradition and modernity”, lost the greenness of the herbs, the warm spiciness of geranium and carnation, and practically the entire base, including leather (and thus the name, Riding Crop, doesn’t fit that much anymore). The old Cravache is still recognizable here, but as a ghost of its former, more audacious self. After the chilly citrus top notes subside, the new Cravache becomes practically all-lavender on my skin, cool, brisk but not sharp. The lavender is delicately spiced by nutmeg and rests on a dry, similarly cold foundation of vetiver and patchouli. The new scent is simpler but still very elegant, perhaps even more sharply tailored than its adventurous predecessor. It smells well-bred and noble, and, despite the typical declaration about the “modernity” added to the composition, it seems to me more “traditional” than the old Cravache.

The new Visa, on the other hand, does smell as if it was infused with a generous dose of “modernity”, i.e. sweetness. I have not had a pleasure of smelling the original Visa, created for Piguet in 1945 by the legendary Germaine Cellier, for “a sophisticated woman [who] travels the world but never gets lost in the crowd”, but my first reaction upon smelling the new version is to say that it is too fruity to be a true replica of the 1940s creation. Then I think of Mitsouko with its peach, Colony with its pineapple and Le Fruit Défendu, that cornucopia of succulent fruits, and I am not so sure anymore. Besides, prominent as peach and pear are, they don’t have that annoyingly sparkling, über-youthful feel that haunts most of the contemporary fruity fragrances. These are ripe, almost over-ripe fruits, starting to darken and decay. Still, smelling the top notes, I am tempted to pronounce Visa too sweet for my tastes. But then surprises start to happen, the first of them being the appearance of immortelle, which smells green and meaty and totally unexpected amidst the fruits and the creamy flowers. It is a hint of masculinity in an extremely feminine, sultry and languid middle stage of ylang ylang and orange blossom, it is a Twist, and I love it.

As the fragrance develops, a leathery accord- surprise No. 2 – becomes apparent. It is not smoky or tarry or harsh, this is the soft, supple leather of a chic clutch that absorbed the fruity and floral perfume of its glamorous owner, but it is still leather, and as such – infinitely alluring to me. The base of Visa has a rich, nutty, cuddly quality that vanilla brings to a scent when it is judiciously blended with darker, woody and earthy notes, in this case, patchouli, sandalwood and vetiver. It is a luxurious base of considerable depth, certainly worthy of an older creation. Visa can not be an everyday scent for me, this capricious beauty demands An Occasion.. If I were to go on a cruise around the world with the wearer of Cravache, I would use it with much pleasure.

Visa and Cravache are scheduled to be launched in October and will be sold exclusively at Bergdorf Goodman in New York, Le Bon Marché in Paris and at Harvey Nichols in London. Visa will come in Eau de Parfum, $65.00-$95.00, and Parfum, $190.00 for 1oz. Cravache will be available in Eau de Toilette, $55.00-$85.00, Hydrating Body Wash/ Shave Gel, $38.00, and Aftershave, $65.00.

Please click over to Bois de Jasmin, to read Victoria’s review.

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Blogger tmp00 said...

Don't know if I am feeling these...

10:31 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops, looks like Victoria hasn't put hers up yet -- *so* glad she's back to reviewing...

Visa sounds like an interesting sniff.

What does it say about my spending habits of late that I read the title of your post as "perfume name + credit card"? Tsk, tsk, tsk...

12:20 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a little disappointed by the reformulation malarkey.

5:49 AM EDT  
Blogger elle said...

Your review of the new Cravache makes my leather loving heart sink. However, am quite hopeful about Visa. I like what Piguet did w/ the reformulation of Baghari, so that reinforces my optimism about Visa. I'm hoping they will actually start showing up before October. It seems too long to wait and I'm getting extremely impatient for all these fall releases.

7:49 AM EDT  
Blogger marchlion said...

I didn't know the French, and your translation as "riding crop" made this much more appealing! Until I read your actual, leather-challenged review, and then I was sad. I had mistakenly/amusingly uploaded the fragrance name mentally as "Cravat," one of those foofy neck-scarves, and I guess that sounds like the right name for what you described.

Like Elle, I have higher hopes for Visa.

8:02 AM EDT  
Blogger lilybp said...

I love the couple! And the new Visa sounds very interesting, definitely worth a try, though I doubt that I'll buy it in my current attempting-to-be-frugal state. Still, that's quite an olafactory journey it took you on; that impossibly pretty blonde has hidden depths!:)

8:15 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

That's always good. Money saved. :-)

8:28 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I am looking for Victoria's review too!

Credit Card inspired perfume...that would be interesting! :-)

8:29 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Would you prefer if the brands did not re-release anything, since the reformulation seems inevitable? That's how I feel sometimes. Other times I am excited to get to know an old scent even in a new rendition. I don't know...I do hope that Lanvin would leave Scandal alone, for example.

8:31 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

While I was writing, I was trying to "fit" Visa, to think of someone who I'd feel would 100% love it on the first sniff. The opening might be a tad too fruity for you...but maybe not. This is a tough one. :-)

8:33 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Cravat would be absolutely perfect for the new Cravache!

Again, I am not sure about you and might be a tad too sweet...or not. If ever there was a scent one should absolutely not buy unsniffed, this would be the one. 9I know you are not going to, I'm just sayin')

8:34 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

It is interesting for sure. Might be on a sweet side and perhaps with not quite enough leather for you. It reminded me IN SPIRIT, I stress, in spirit, not in the actual smell- of Sira des Indes and Chinatown. It doesn't smell like those, but it has the same kind of robustness, creaminess, fruitiness.

8:38 AM EDT  
Blogger donanicola said...

Want Want Want that Visa! (thanks Marina!) I got a sample of Kelley Caleche the other day from a friendly Hermes lady and was less disappointed than I thought I would be (I know, that will only make sense on a fragrance board!). Still I'm not moved to buy it (though lovely packaging - I've forgiven the pink) and will save my pennies for this. Would be nice if Gorgeous George (for I think it is he)would then take me to his pile on Lake Como. He can wear the neck tie/riding crop or whatever he wants.....

9:12 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

That is the George :-)
I would love to hear what you think when you try Visa!

9:36 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

They sound like a dashing couple but I doubt I'd be inviting them to my soiree. Lavender is NOT my friend & sweet goes syrup on me. However, leather is an attribute in any woman & perhaps I'd meet her for a quick coffee sometime, in a stylish cafe.

10:56 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

That sounds like a great plan to me too :-)

11:02 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

Visa sounds like something that could be up my alley. Can't wait to get ahold of a sample of it.

12:09 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I would love to hear what you think of it, when you do.

12:12 PM EDT  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

Agree with Cravache as an archetypical male scent, and as cold. Visa I can't make up my mind about. I am *still* tempted to pronounce it too sweet, but will certainly give it another try...

12:21 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Like I said in a reply to L, I was trying to "fit" Visa to others, and whilst doing that I thought, well, Robin will dislike this one for sure, it is way too sweet. But, as usual, you surprise me! :-)

12:26 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Dante needs to amend his Inferno to include an additional circle for reformulaters. Grrrrr.

By all means re-issue the classics. But leave them as they were - perfect little microcosms of their time and place.

12:35 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I think bringing them back to life exactly as they were is impossible, some materials are not available anymore, others prohibited, etc. But sometimes, like with Cravache, where leather has been completely done away with and lots of other notes, which are quite allright to use and always available (carnation!)...I don't get it.

12:58 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love your description of these two as a couple, and that alone makes me want to reserve judgment until I can smell them both. This is where I sometimes think not having access to the vintage formulation can be an advantage...I'll just see if I like them for what they are.

2:07 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

I agree. I regret having sniffed some vintage scents. Have I not, I would have love the re-issues much more.

2:09 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Leo said, the reformulation is disapointing and a tad worrying.

I have a 25ml decant of the original Cravache and it smells really lovely, if a little dated. But having said that, it puts a lot of the men's scents that have been released over the last couple of years into the shade.

2:22 AM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Prince Barry,
I agree, the old one is wonderful. As my sample is very old, I attribute the "dated/dusty feeling to its age, but perhaps I am wrong.

9:02 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well written review! makes me want to hunt down the perfumes and have DH file for divorce! Pictures illustrated perfectly.

10:25 PM EDT  
Blogger Marina said...

Perfume Queen,
Divorce is not *quite* the result I was aiming for :-)))

7:13 AM EDT  

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