The fashion illustrator René Gruau’s 1953 advertisement for Jacques Griffe’s Mistigri is much more famous than the perfume ever was, but I’ve always been curious about the scent.
I finally managed to score a 70-year-old vintage mini, the little box (made to look like a deck of cards–the mistigri is the Jack of Clubs, as well as the trickster cat–still intact. The bottle even had the string on the cap, though it fell apart as soon as I opened the stopper.
A dried up drop was left, a flake of amber brown in the corner of the bottle that smelled like every fusty antique store and estate sale.
–until I rinsed it out, and the warm water brought a green chypre to life, resinous and floral. Some sharp pepper and flirty cloves were mixed in there too.
An hour later the room smells faintly of cedar and the soapy-sweetness of Chanel No. 5, as if I’d opened my grandmother’s trousseau chest and found a secret inside.
So Mistigri was a nice scent, though nothing amazing. But the cat drawing on the box? I want a poster of that on my wall.
A Midwinter’s orgy.
Opens with fir and sticky chocolate, incense and sex.
Seriously. This stuff is like having violent Viking-love in a heap of furs in front of a balsam bonfire. It writes runes on your body with spruce psychotropics and sweet ash.
The juice is dark and lays heavy on the skin, like hands and honey and pine tree sap, and stains clothes with green spoor.
Remember that green gum that looked like pillows that squirted sugar syrup when you first chewed it?
Saint Julep is the sparkliest perfume I’ve ever sniffed. It’s that Turkish iced tea that knocks your drunk off at four in the morning, the half an Adderall you saved for finals week.
The mint itches on your skin, keeping you awake, jeering at the insomniacs who are too tired to enjoy the starlight, and then kisses you in the morning with still-fresh breath.
Eye of Civet and Thorn of Rose, Rind of Bergamot and Moss of Swamp.
This is Shakespeare’s Macbeth in a single spray: opens with “Enter three Witches,” and in their cauldron is a bubbling neon chartreuse potion.
By the third act it tries to come clean, the murdering queen taking a skinny-dip in a hidden spring, but it fails to wash off all the traces of evil.
Savage green, in a weird fertile spell-chanting way.
Mia Farrow in the ad for Coriandre, Jean Couturier 1973
Tomato by Demeter is every urban gardening hipster chick sunbathing topless on the roof. Stray honeysuckle and dandelion weeds are overtaken by crushed tomato leaves and the great red globes ripening on the vine. A smudge of pollution and sweat and dirt sticks to the skin, but doesn’t stop the invasive Organic Goddess green.
I’d worship her in the summer.
Forget what you think and buy the big bottle.
My cat just peed on the carpet.
No, that’s not what Civet smells like–it’s actually quite lovely. Leather and citrus and peppery carnations, smoke and it’s so lush.
But when I dabbed it on my wrist my cat freaked out, frantically pawed at my sleeve and then took a stress squirt on the rug.
Never have I felt so sexy doing laundry.
Carpet is clean, cat is sleeping, perfume calmed down to sweet black coffee on the skin.
Beekeepers smell like this–honey and smoke and sweet resin. Flowers and wood and hard sweaty work underneath.
Bees make a sticky glue from pine sap called propolis to secure the honeycomb. It’s been used for centuries to varnish violins and in traditional medicine to soothe irritated throats.
Smoke gets the buzzy girls high, so they don’t mind the beeman in their home. He’ll say hullo to the queen and admire the brood before leaving.
Summer afternoons, when it’s too hot for even the roses, the propolis gets soft and the honey makes a mirage of heat over the hives–this is Pour le Soir.