AMOUR À L’OPÉRA ~ Fougère Royale by Houbigant Paris

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Palais Gernier Opera

Painting of the Paris Opera by Frank Myers Boggs

He spoke French so impeccably that anyone outside of Paris would have taken him for a Parisian. The Parisians on the other hand knew he was not French. In fact they knew exactly who he was. Well at least the aristocrats of the city knew, after all it is there job, their stock in trade one could say to recognize European royalty on the spot.

 

At the instant the oddly handsome Prince Aleksander Kostka alighted from his carriage at the curb half of the assembly ascending the steps to the Palais Garnier Opera house turned in unison to look upon his dashing form.

 Prince Aleksander Kostka

    “Oh there he is, the Polish Prince of mystery.” Comtesse de Roussillion tuned whispered to her husband. “I have heard he can never go back to Warsaw. Some scandal so unspeakable that…”

 

”Bonsoir Comtesse, je suis enchante”

 

She stifled a startled squeak as her hand was enfolded by the Prince and swept up to his perfectly chiseled lips which  barely brushed the satin of her opera gloves. This sent a thousand twittering magpies to flight in her now overheated veins.

 

He dropped her hand and with a clipped bow of the head and accompanied by a bemused smile he took is leave of the middle-aged woman who was now on the verge of fainting fit.

 

“Détendez-vous mon cher, il est juste un prince pas un dieu.” Her husband hissed in her ear like an over stoked locomotive.

 GarnierOperaParis

The entire foyer of the Opera was abuzz with excitement as the Prince entered. He assumed it was about the revival of the opera La Juive. It was not. For just as a ship is unaware of the wake it leaves behind so too was he blithely in the dark of the effect he created where ever he went. Generally happy with a tinge of melancholy from time to time he moved though life content.

 

As his right foot touched the first landing of the grand staircase he was completely oblivious that his life was about to be shattered by a look. He paused to decide which branch of the stairs to take; she brushed past him in a cloud of mesmerizing perfume. In heavy cream and gold satin from the house of Worth she floated to the landing above. His eyes followed her as she appeared and disappeared behind the columns until she came to pause in the opposite balcony of the grand foyer and turned toward him. Her smile faded as the air between them was sucked into a whirlwind of déjà vu. The hundreds of people on the stairs moved in a frivolous dance around the Prince who saw none of them, he would really never see anyone else in the same way since she, this night had opened his eyes to a new world.

 

“Aleksi…Aleksi! How are you?”

 

The Prince looked down to see his old friend Patrice Aubchon standing in stiff evening dress before him.

 

“What are you looking at?” Patrice turned. “Ah yes, her.”

 

Who is she and what is that perfume.

 

Only the most notorious and expensive courtesan in Paris my friend. Mademoiselle Marianne Deasún, and leave it to her to wear the most shocking fragrance. It is something new, Fougere Royal I think it is called. Too many notes and too masculine for a woman if you ask me, but there is talk of course that a woman now and then is not beyond her range. Ah well there you have it. That perfume is the current mode de Paris, half the men in here are wearing it, and only one woman dares to.

 Marianne Deasún

Marianne’s amber and green eyes held his eyes in lock. His in turn intrigued her with their hint of turquoise in a sea of blue.

 

“She smells like nothing I have ever experienced.”

 

Too many notes! A woman should smell like just one flower, a rose or lily of the valley.  But I must admit, on her it somehow works.

 

“I must meet her. I must smell her skin, up close.”

 

The gong sounded signifying that the opera was about to begin, she reluctantly released him from her ocular embrace and turned to walk to her box.

 

“Goodbye Patrice… I will see you later.” The Prince broke off from his amused friend and took the stairs two at a time. In the grand foyer he saw her disappear into the hall which lead to the boxes. When he entered the hall it was just in time to see her trailing skirts sashay behind an open door which closed softly behind her.

 

At the door to her box he hesitated then peeked though the tiny window. The house lights had gone down and as the curtain on the stage ascended accompanied by the first notes of the opera  Marianne’s profile was etched in pink and amber light.

 

He knocked on the door and waited for an answer.

 

*****

 

Fougere Royal 2010 by Houbigant is the modern interpretation by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux of the game changing Fougere Royal of 1882 by the nose Paul Parquet.

The original Fougere Royal was the first modern perfume (and the very first fougere, meaning fern) created in an age of solifleurs it was a shocking and exhilarating blend of notes. Paul Parquet was the first nose in the history of perfume to isolate a scent molecule, the coumarin from the Tonka bean, thus ushering in a modern form of perfumery with the first use of a synthetic in a perfume.  To create a classic fougere one must add to the coumarin note, lavender and oakmoss. This trifecta of notes is the basis for the first truly masculine perfume group, the fougere.

Fougère Royale Paul Parquet

In the 1882 Fougere Royal the notes are; top, lavender, clary sage and bergamot. Mid notes of carnation, orchid, heliotrope, geranium and rose and bottom notes consisting of Tonka bean, musk, vanilla, oakmoss and coumarin.

 

In the new version by Rodrigo Flores-Roux (Donna Karan Gold, Atelier d’Orient Fleur de Chine for Tom Ford, and Fleur de Louis for Arquiste to name but three of his brilliant creations) he has created not a reformulation as such, but a modern interpretation of the classic.

 houbigant-fougere-royale-MSL

As it hits the skin there is a silky edged citrus created by bergamot that suddenly sparks brightly then gives way to green notes, chamomile, clary sage and lavender. (lavender the must have note number one for a classic fougere)  This combination is dramatic, compelling, mesmerizing. The first time I smelled this on my skin I was speechless at the beauty of this opening. It is fuller, richer and more sophisticated than most fougeres that I have smelled. Like a great piece of jewelry, it is a statement piece, a signature promising greater beauty to come.

 

Central notes of green carnation, greener geranium combine with a subtle rose and a whisper of lilac that is dusted with a magical spice note of cinnamon. The brilliance of this combo is shimmering in its effect. Here the fragrance roils and billows beautifully projecting just enough to be elegant never stepping over the line into bombastic. There is only one word for this as it transitions into the dry down. Opulent.

 

In the base the central notes that draws you in with their gravitational pull just as they radiate like a great massive star is the oakmoss and coumarin. The bold butch muscle of the fougere is found in these two notes (must have notes number two and three)  Flores-Roux has replaced the musk and vanilla of the original with a banked smoldering amber, stoked with patchouli, Tonka bean it smolders for hours.

 

The entire effect of Fougere Royal (2010) is amazing. It is built upon the first modern masterpiece and brought into the 21st century with grace, beauty and a new modernity by the house of Houbigant Paris under the direction of the Perris perfume family. (see my post Le Grand Prix ~ Perris Monte Carlo Perfume Event, San Francisco) . I must give special thanks to my friend Michal Gizinski of Neiman Marcus who first introduced me to this fragrance. He is a brilliant man who is one of my mentors and teachers in the art of perfume. If you are in San Francisco and you love perfume go to Neiman’s and talk to Michal and find out why we call him The Nose of Union Square. More about Michal soon as we are organizing an interview for Scents Memory.

Paul_Parquet_-_Portrait_photograph

Paul Parquet father of the Fougere

Fougere Royal is a testament to the past, homage to Paul Parquet and his ground breaking creation. It is an example of true creative beauty by perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux who has made so many beautiful perfumes.  And above all of this, it is a modern masterpiece of complexity, bold masculinity that stands as a formidable lighthouse in a sea of boring, watery clean laundry fresh fragrances.

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Fougère Royale by Houbigant Paris ~ Five Platinum Stars *****

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THE GLAMOUR AND THE GLORY ~ Scent & Subversion by Barbara Herman Book Event

   SS B Herman book cover

 

Back from vacation and into the perfume social whirl of San Francisco Fumantics!  Last night at Books Inc. on Van Ness Avenue just north of our Belle Epoque inspired  Beaux-Arts Civic Center author and blogger (Yesterday’s Perfumes:http://www.yesterdaysperfume.com/ )   Barbara Herman came to read from her book Scent & Subversion: Decoding A Century of Provocative Perfumes. The event was a smashing success and Ms. Herman was a delight. Gallons of vintage perfume was sniffed and a ton of books were sold. Here is my video blog of the event.

Barbara

(Barbara Herman ~ photo from Basenotes)

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SMELLY FRIENDS! ~ 3rd Annual San Francisco Artisan Fragrance Salon

FragranceSalonSquare-web(photo borrowed from Taste T.V.)

Saturday March 15th I spent most of the day, a glorious spring in winter day here in San Francisco with many friends in the local fragrance community at the 3rd Annual San Francisco Artisan Fragrance Salon. Enjoy the video.

 

I am going up to Seattle for a week and when I return I will have more reviews!

 

ESCAPE TO SHANGHAI ~ Atelier d’Orient Shanghai Lily Tom Ford

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rain w hotel hong kong

Margaret Fong watched as the typhoon rain made watercolor neon dragons race down the windows of the W Hotel Hong Kong. She sat in the window wrapped in a mink coat unable to sleep from the residue of adrenalin that had fueled her escape from San Francisco.  She could never go home again. What a strange circle completed its cycle to bring her to the place where her great grandfather many times over had left for America. 

She touched the hard as a diamond cold glass that protected her from the storm. Emerald skinned rain dragons with sapphire and ruby eyes seemed to turn a look at her from Victoria Peak.  Steam billowed from their nostrils as they took flight above the city then turned out over the harbor their glowing neon wings lighting the underbelly of the typhoon that battered Hong Kong. She smiled. She didn’t even know how to speak Cantonese.

skyfall dragons

(Dragons borrowed from Skyfall)

She was rich now, richer than anyone in her family had ever been. The large canary yellow diamond on her finger winked at her with cool confidence. She brought her hand down from the window and licked the surface of the diamond then polished it with the sleeve of her mink. Perhaps it had been foolish to have bought it in the jewelry store downstairs. An impulse purchase when she arrived that morning just hours ahead of the storm. She glanced up at the television to see her face on the screen. She was the big story on a slow news day for CNN. She muted the sound.

Her next move had to be to stay on the move. A train would be better than a plane. But where to go, where does a woman who has just embezzled forty four million dollars from one of the richest high tec companies in the world hide?  She opened her purse and pulled out her newly forged passport and ID. The best that hot money could buy, Lily Chu Beijing, People’s Republic of China. She dropped the papers on the table and took out her scarlet lipstick and compact. The most beautiful girl from Galileo High School looked back at her in the tiny mirror.

Fan Bingbing as Lily Chu Escape to Shanghai(Fan Bingbing as Lily Chu)

That face had gotten her pretty far, her brains brought her the rest of the way; she decided not to freshen her mouth. She snapped the compact shut and looked back at the television. She was still on the screen. She grabbed the remote and changed the channel.

An old movie flickered in black and white fuzzy close-up glamour and filled the screen. She smiled in recognition of the images from the past. It had been one of her mother’s favorite movies because she loved Anna May Wong. Anna did nothing for Margaret; it was the glamorous blonde with the funny accent that had captured her imagination as a little girl. It was odd to see her now with her dialog in Cantonese subtitles at the bottom of the screen. The movie began to work its magic once again, even without sound. She flicked the mute button on just at Marlene Dietrich spoke to Clive Brook,

 Shanghai Lilly Marlene Dietrich

“It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.”

The new Lily that was once Margaret laughed out loud. Maybe that was why she chose Lily for her alias; the name had stuck with her all these years. And Shanghai, that would be an interesting stop along her escape into the land of 1.3 billion. One quick phone call and she was booked on the midnight express to Shanghai.

The storm had subsided to a mere tropical annoyance as Lily Chu in dark glasses and wrapped in her new mink hurried though the Hung Hom station to catch her train to her future.  “Pardon me” she said as she brushed past a man in a black wool overcoat. He turned to watch her with icy sapphire eyes. Then with measured ease set out after her. Just as Lily settled into her compartment he train let out a low growl and then its high piercing whistle screamed.  As the wheels ground against the steel rails pulling the train out of the station, Lily had no idea that she was being followed to Shanghai.

follower

  *****

Tom Ford’s Shanghai Lily from his Atelier d’Orient line is an exotic, stunning entry into the Oriental Floral garden. It is languorous, lithe and liable to lead to trouble. I have no idea if the inspiration behind this perfume is the Marlene Dietrich character of Shanghai Lily from the Josef von Sternberg film “Shanghai Express” (1932). If not, well, this perfume certainly carries all the mystery and intrigue that is found in Dietrich’s portrait of a lady who one character describes as a “Coaster, a woman who lives by her wits along the China coast.”

The perfume is loaded with more notes than Lily’s steamer trunk is filled with French unmentionables.  They come at you all at once in a locomotive rush. Bitter orange, pink and black pepper, cloves, spices and incense kick of the exotic journey, I get a definite mince meat pie accord here that is delicious and long lasting.

In the center of the perfume there is exotica galore as the perfume continues its excursion along your pulse points. Floral notes push in on the opening notes layered over with a sensual labdanum, jasmine, rose and a hint of tuberose. It goes together with the spicy mix so well. And the peppers and cloves laid out in the opening meet up with olibanum, a light layer of barely perceptible vanilla and benzoin keep it from being too pretty.

The dry down at journey’s end is a solid base of cashmere wood, sassy castoreum, guaiac wood and vetiver. This combo keeps this perfume sexually ambiguous and as enticingly daring as Marlene Dietrich was in a man’s tux in the early 1930’s.  It is a well blended perfume that works to the advantage of both men and women. Lasting on my skin a good ten hours and leaving a va va voom sillage for those looking to make an entrance. And what an entrance this perfume makes. Pure star power all the way from opening credits to fade out, as directed by Tom Ford this Shanghai Lily is a box office hit.

 tom-ford-shanghai-lily

SHANGHAI LILY BY TOM FORD Four Gold Stars ****

(NOTE: PART TWO OF THIS STORY IS IN MY POST ENTITLED: A STRANGER IN THE NIGHT)

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