THE EGG AND I ~ Tsar by Van Cleef & Arpels


Transfixed by the glittering  Fabergé Egg in the window Pasha felt nothing, not the snow on his face or his tears that froze before they reached his chin. All he could think of now, suddenly confronted by that relic of the Romanovs was the last time he saw him. He still remembered the date, February 23, 1913 a date that stood frozen in time as surely as the tears on his face.  That was the night of the Jubilee ball in the Winter Palace his uncle Prince Felix Yusupov had taken him to when he was just 19. The summer before the Great War, the war that would change everything in Russia.  No one recognized the fact that they were living in the twilight of their world that winter, not his uncle, not anyone in the imperial court. Tsar Nicholas II shook his hand and glittered before Pasha as brilliantly as the Faberge Egg sparkled before him in the window of  Van Cleef & Arpels this new winter of 1923.


Yes he remembered him, the Tsar; he remembered them all, so many of them now dead. Some who had fled Russia, the living dead, were now without a country, their families or their fortunes. All gone now. There were the few who never even unpacked when they reached safety thinking they would return any day to Saint Petersburg. They lived in a dream world of fading lace and musty fur convincing themselves over tea and marron glacés that they were waiting to return to Russia.  In reality they were just waiting for the grave.

Yes he remembered him, the Tsar who had smiled and shook his hand and invited him to dance with his daughter, the Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna. The scream of a train whistle cut the blue winter wind and Pasha blinked. Was it real or the nightmare whistle he heard most nights in his dreams, the whistle of the train from Moscow to Vladivostok? Yes, the same train that took the Tsar and his family to Tobolsk a year later.  Pasha and his Mother were lucky to escape and took what they could in jewels to buy their way from Vladivostok to Paris. An around the world trip that left them destitute.


Church bells were ringing now and the snow was coming down harder in the Place Vendome. Pasha’s focus shifted and the Faberge Egg blurred and was replaced by the reflection of his face in the window. He wiped his eyes with the back of his gloved hand. He wasn’t one to look back or to be sad but to suddenly come upon the egg had thrown him. He would not walk this way to work again. Pasha pulled his overcoat collar up against the snow and turned to walk the rest of the way to Maxim’s where every night patrons pointed to the tall handsome maître d’ and said. “He used to be Russian royalty”. Yes he remembered the old days, and the Tsar. He always would.


The Egg by  Fabergé


This oldie but goodie is a new and exciting discovery for me. I used to wear the great leather scent, Van Cleef & Arpels Pour Homme years ago and loved it. Thinking I would order it again I mistakenly ordered Tsar. To my delight I find it as beautiful and wearable as Pour Homme. Tsar by Van Cleefs & Arpels created by Philippe  Bousseton 1989 and is perhaps his most famous fragrance. A bright bold and romantic Woody Aromatic that is as stunning a choice for a man of taste today as it was twenty four years ago. It has a gorgeous classicism about it that is timeless, a really beautiful bouquet from top notes to dry down.

With in the green deco inspired bottle with gold trim there is an array of top notes that spark and spin the air with a blend of Artemisia, rosemary, lavender, Neroli, coriander, green notes and cinnamon. The cinnamon is a great touch to the blast off of the first spray. It really adds a kick of chic to the opening. This opening says true and strong for a surprising bit of time.

Then the mid notes come in to play and it is a strong floral romp for a man’s perfume but a mix of green and earth works gloriously to keep it boldly masculine. Carnation, jasmine, lily of the valley and rose all bloom in chorus and find ground and strength from the geranium, juniper berries, tarragon and an earthy brilliant powdery orris root. Above it all is the fresh summery slightly humid infusion of pine tree. Just lush and radiant at this point.

With the dry down comes the kitchen sink of notes. A supple smart leather note creeps in with the sandalwood, lush stylish amber and a taste of creamy vanilla Tonka bean. Patchouli, musk and sharp cedar are aided in the demise of this perfume with a touch of biting green vetiver. Yes there is a lot going on here and it works so well.


Van Cleef & Arpels ~ Place Vendome, Paris

It all speaks of grandeur and another world. An elegance that is now lost, a time when men dressed with thought to detail and style and smelled expensive, refined and beautiful. It is nice to know that in this age of Fresh, Fruity, Sugary middle of the road perfumes that you can still find a great and interesting perfume in a main stream house such as Van Cleef & Arpels, but then I am not surprised. The same house gave us the very beautiful and equally elegant Midnight in Paris.  Often these days the most interesting and exciting things happening in fragrance are on the niche end of the spectrum. One needn’t have to spend the precious dollar for fabulous niche fragrance when one can still find something interesting and stunningly beautiful here at Van Cleef & Arpels. And then there is the jewelry too!


TSAR by Van Cleef & Arpels ~ Five Gold Stars *****


  1. Dear Lanier, have just finished reading at Fragrantica and now on your very own page. What a delightful article, and from the man who came from the cold? Superb, and so nostalgic as well. I can’t stop myself from humming ” what now, my love, now that it’s over … ” Welcome back.

  2. Dearest Lanier
    Welcome back dear friend, I hope you are refreshed after your thankfully brief hiatus!
    And what a way to return… a story redolent of the fate of those refugees of the revolution.
    As for the fragrance? Well, it is, like yourself, a force of nature!!
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • Thank you Dandy! I have been thinking about this perfume since it came up recently in one of our conversations. It really is something special. Plus it has so much drama inherent in it. From the name that evokes Russia, to the house in Paris where so many Russians ended up …it has everything from a great scent to a great story. It has the works!

      • It certainly does and the power to project across and Empire as vast as the Russian to boot!
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

      • It is indeed as vast as Mother Russia!

  3. I haven’t smelled Tsar, but your story makes me want to go search it out. I hope you find as much pleasure from it as pour home.

    • Oh yes Mary it is every bit as gorgeous as Van Cleef & Arpels Pour Homme!

  4. Good to see you posting again, Lanier! I hope all is well. Tsar sounds like quite a complex fragrance, and as always, your intro to the description of it is exquisite.

    • Merci Madame Weebles. I am so happy that you enjoyed my return engagement.

  5. Michael.

    A true evocative triumph from first to last!

    My mother, who was a jewelry designer, and complete romantic introduced me to the Faberge Eggs when I was a little girl and

    they have provided me with a sense of wonder ever since.

    Michal, You  probably have your your own wealth of “scent memories” associated with V C & A fragrances. Please share when you have a moment.

    Na storoviya! Madame H ps. I must show you both a ring that was given me by my husband a dozen anniversaries or so ago, which is Russian. It is a statement piece with one of the last topaz mined from the Imperial Tsarist mines and surrounded by diamonds. (Engraved with authentic hallmarks for the girl with Georgian/Ukrainian lineage.)


  6. The perfect scent, and, I might add the perfect story to whisk us away from this heatwave. Snow in the Place Vendome and the hint of summery pine. And, don’t even get me started on Pasha, the name of my childhood love… 😉

    • Yes luv it is hot here too! So I had to cool us down with a bit of Paris in the Snow. Now I am dying to hear about your Pasha!!

  7. It is wonderful to see you back, Lanier! I always love reading your stories.

    Thanks for another trip to another time and another place. I have never smelled Tsar, but now I really, really want to.

    • My dear darling Baconbiscuit thank you so much! You will have to look for it on line I am afraid as it is rather hard to find in stores. Good luck!

  8. The thrill of the chill with such warm tones of summer wooded exotica!

  9. I see you haven’t lost your touch, dear Lanier! Great to have you back!
    Have a wonderful 4th!

    • Thank you Marie! I know yours well be very special and and filled with great style! I can’t wait for the photographs.

  10. Love the story, as always Lanier. Tsar was never a fave but maybe I need revisit?
    Portia xx

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