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Friday, September 30, 2011

Unleash Your Inner Tigress! Nerd Girl Goes Vintage

By Marla

I keep telling anyone who will listen with unglazed eyes that we’re all living an iteration of the 1930s. Not a good era to reiterate! But here we are. So I began to wonder, as all Fragrant Nerd Girls must, what sort of perfumes were people talking about in the West in the 30s? I found a few, and ordered some on the Big Bay. Oh yeah, I can snipe an auction in the last 3 seconds with the best of them, baby!

One of my most beautiful finds is a gold flacon full of parfum extrait of Faberge’s Tigress. It’s from the 40s, but the perfume itself launched in 1938. It’s a saucy, spicy oriental in that lovely, dense style that some of us love and some of us loathe (I’m thinking of YOU, vintage Emeraude). The major notes are aldehydes, citrus, classic florals, spices, oak moss, vanilla and amber.

I’ve had lots of questions over the years about the aging of perfume. Can a perfume made in 1940 smell anything like it did then? Should we even open the bottle? Should we refrigerate? The question has a lot in common with keeping wines. An old Sauvingnon Blanc from New Zealand (aged for 7 years, let’s say), is a freak. It can be a wild and wonderful freak, but it tastes nothing like the fresh version. Chardonnays and Cabs obviously retain their original flavors for longer periods. With perfumes, top notes do fizz and fade out, or morph as time goes on. So the citrus tones of my Tigress are probably long gone. But base notes and spices tend to hold on, as do some aldehydes and florals. So if a vintage perfume has been stored with minimum light, air, and heat, you’ll be getting a true version of the heart and base notes, at least. My Tigress was treated well and she smells fabulous! It’s hard to rock such heavy scent in the tropics, but the spicy goodness (mostly clove and cinnamon), genuine oakmoss, and amber with the density of a neutron star are quite irresistible here.

I heartily recommend seeking out even a small amount of vintage Tigress, preferably dating from the 40s or 50s. The outrageously kitschy bottles with fake tiger fur caps that you see on the Big Bay generally date from the 1970s. I hear that version is good, too, but considerably lighter, with less amber and moss, than the earlier versions. Let me know if you’ve tried the Tigress, or seen one of those kooky bottles!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I have seen one of the kooky bottles and was mesmerized by it as a little girl looking up at it on the bathroom counter and wondering how I would ever be able to reach it to examine that lovely tiger fur cap. This was probably the early 60's and my mother was never without perfume (Tigress, No. 5, My Sin, Arpege or Youth Dew), her pearls or her mother's red gold bracelet with the real functioning padlock, also in red gold. Those were the days and I am officially a fragrance junkie because of the aura of glamour she projected. As far as I'm concerned, I'm happy to relive the 30's in terms of fragrance. Anything except the hideous concoctions being foisted on us now. Caramel? Chocolate? Ozone? Watermelon?! Cringing now and pulling covers over my head, clutching my beloved Cuir de Russie tight, tight to my bosom!

7:15 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting, I have never heard of Tigress. Your bottle looks amazing.
I love the Nerd Girl posts!

7:31 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What wonderful memories, Anonymous! And yeah, ozone and watermelon? Pass the vintage juice!

7:56 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, Birgit,
The little gold-plated flacon is really lovely IRL. The perfume inside is a dark caramel color, very thick, Amber Extreme!

7:57 AM EDT  
Blogger Melissa said...

I ended up hoarding Tigress for a while several years ago when I realized how amazing it smelled. I have the the furry capped ones and I find they smell really rich and ambery despite their concentration. Some other Faberge's that are also beautiful are Woodhue & Aphrodisia. And I'm with you about wondering how the aged vintage compares with how it smelled when it was fresh on the shelf all those years ago. This is the reason I sorta of take issue with the argument about how the vintage smells compared to the new version of a fragrance. Who knows how we would feel about Mitsouko if we could go back to the 1920's when this fragrance was in its infancy. It could be that it's the aging process itself that makes Mitsouko smell SO good, not the original formulation. Oh if only I had a time machine.

10:53 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woodhue and Aphrodisia are wonderful, too, and I may have to do a post on those someday....Glad to know the fur-capped Tigresses are lovely, also!

11:53 AM EDT  
Blogger Flora said...

Marla, I have some vintage Tigress and also Aphrodisia, and they are Da Bomb! Really well done and better than many of today's supposedly high end scents - and you could buy them at the drugstore!

1:04 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I'm continually astounded by the high quality of perfume one could buy in drugstores in decades past! Wish I had a time machine, but then, I'd be a hoarder!

6:41 AM EDT  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've been searching for Tigress for a long time but it's gone for good I think. I wore it in high school and loved it.

6:34 PM EDT  

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