Exit the King

Etat Libre d’Orange sample spray and box with target motifs, and a yellow paper crown.

(Did they toss His Majesty out with the bathwater?)

Awkward soap aldehydes that want to be fine milled French savon, but there’s something weird–maybe the pink pepper?– that gets fishy, in a sea foam at low tide sort of way, as if Thierry Mugler stuck his Womanity caviar finger in the tub to test the eau.

The roses are sweeter and last days longer on cotton than on skin.

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He was a good king.

Byzance

Orange carnation tipped in rose pink, and cobalt disc shaped bottle with gold coin center medallion

I was in high school in 1987, and aldehydes were the stuff of women thirty years older, who wore Chanel and Givenchy and Estée Lauder–but that gorgeous blue bottle lured me with bohemian riches and devious secrets anyway.

The juice in my bottle has become dark and viscous, and the carnation has mellowed the soapsuds, turning them into a wonderful fizzy cola. Tuberose still takes center stage, like Ysatis but with more spice and less cat–though I think Byzance has aged better, retro rather than dated.
I’ve no idea how well this performed fresh from the factory. Mine stays nicely at arms length for a good six hours.
Pairs well with sequin tops with shoulder pads.

Snag a bottle soon if you’re into vintage icons–I see fewer and fewer of them at my usual second-hand haunts.

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Byzance is especially lovely in the winter.
This song came out the same year.

Rien

RienThis one is pure handsome-doctor-in-a-television-drama.

Soap and water, good leather shoes, a touch of medicinal anointing oil, get-well-soon roses and brooding hero amber.

I’d totally huff it on the ER resident with a stethoscope and good bedside manner.


There’s a lot of speculation about the true identity of Dr, Robert, but he obviously prescribed some fun drugs.

Arpege

arpegePeachy honey aldehydes at the beginning, then flowers pile on, heavy on the iris.
Woods file in quickly, with sandalwood and amber on the bottom.
Lasts most of the day, and the next on cotton.

It’s sort of frumpy but mischievous, like the great aunt who slipped you a taste of her cordial when your parents said you still were too young to have any.


Lanvin released this in 1927. A year later, Boléro by Maurice Ravel premiered in Paris. Brilliant versions of the piece exist all over the internet–André Rieu’s is great, Pink Martini’s is worth a listen, even Frank Zappa conducts one, cigarette in hand. My favorite of the moment is this very special arrangement by Angelique Kidjo with Branford Marsalis.

 

Sortilège

sortilege
Vintage cut glass bottle of Sortilage, next to carved amber cat with kitten. The color of the fragrance matches exactly.

Have you ever opened a box of old vintage sewing patterns at a rummage sale, and gotten transported back in time–before you were born, even–just from the smell?

Sortilège whispers vintage lily-of-the-valley out of the bottle, then powdery peachy aldehydes a la Chanel No. 5 trample the flowers to dust.
More try to bloom, some feeble jasmine, whimpering mimosa–the rose survives, bolstered by iris, but then they are bowled over by great gobs of amber with vetiver musk in the wake.

This makes me want a wasp-waisted dress with piping and a built-in crinoline, and wrist gloves with matching bows.


Le Galion released Sortilège in 1937, when Fred Astaire was hanging out at The Stork Club, famous for singing Gershwin. I prefer Lady Day’s cover.

Infini 1970

infiniThis mini is the eighties edition of the seventies formula, which was a remake of Caron’s 1913 original. (The 2018 version is a complete revamp into a pear and vanilla gourmand.)

A big gust of retro aldehydes out of the bottle, carrying a mess of flowers–jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, rose and tuberose–that settle down fairly quickly a few inches above the skin, anchored by sandalwood and amber.

It’s pleasant, and nice to find a vintage scent of that era that isn’t a tangle of oakmoss and civet, but not one to keep for nostalgia or reference.


In 1970, the top female pop song in France was Venus, by the Dutch band Shocking Blue–it was also re-released in the eighties by Bananarama.
(There was actually a “Venus Waltz” by the American Standard Orchestra recorded in 1913, on cylinder.)

Dia

diaThe perfect spring, distilled into liquid form.

Very topographical–at arms length an easy breeze, in personal space it becomes new blooming roses edged with silvery musk, and on the skin it’s budding orchard trees and soap lather–and lasts that way for hours.
Some scattered herbs keep it organic, and a touch of incense smoke gives it a bit of body.

Lovely, but for me, spring is usually March storms and mud-season, messy and chaotic. This is too refined.


This breezy-but-refined song topped charts in 2002, when Amouage first released Dia.

Lady Stetson

lady stetson edgy
Vintage mini with bourbon colored eau.

Sweet soapy sandalwood and senior English Lit class, prom carnations and packed bleacher musk.
I wore this at seventeen, with pleated stonewashed jeans and my grandfather’s Stetson Stratoliner à la Molly Ringwald.
Three decades later and it still holds up, an affordable and cheerful Chanel knock-off with riper peaches at the end.


Guitars, Cadillacs, Etc., Etc. came out the same year, in 1986, and we all swooned over the album cover. Here’s a great cover of my favorite Dwight Yoakam tune, that came out almost ten years later.

Knowing

knowingThis one should come with a warning: a little bit goes a loooong way.
Miles.
Leagues.

Frothy aldehydic opening, mimosa sweet–the whole blooming tree, not just one flower. Then the cat spray hits–make that three cats, two toms fighting over a queen–though the roses and patchouli do their best to drown them out.
After a few hours, moss creeps in and covers everything under the roses–everything–your skin, your house, your neighborhood–turning them into herbal topiary sculptures that cast weird spicy green rose-shaped shadows until the sun goes down.
Except they’re there the next day. And the next. You can’t outrun this stuff. It laughs at hot showers, goes swimming in the laundry, dances under the garden hose.

Please send help.


Knowing came out in 1988, along with Enya’s Orinoco Flow. A little of that goes a long way, too. Here’s the shortest cover I could find.

Ysatis

ysatis edge
Cut crystal Ysatis mini bottle with skyscraper lines and pyramid top, filled with dark amber liquid.

Opens with lemony ylang-ylang, then settles to aldehydic woods and tuberose with some animalic dank notes that keep it from being too sweet.

Strong sillage, and long lasting, but it does seem from another time, when perfume focused on gravitas and established style. Now the trends seem to aim for playfulness and creativity.

This might have more personality on a gentleman, today.


Ysatis came out in 1984, and I discovered short-haired girls.