Monday, January 26, 2009

Vintage Lancome Tresor Perfume

Did you know there is a long forgotten vintage version of Lancome's famous masterpiece, Tresor? It's true, although I never imagined that the Tresor I knew, way back when (1990, to be exact), wasn't the original one! I should have known Lancome has a history but it isn't exactly the first name that pops into my head when I think of the grand old perfume houses of lore (Guerlain and Chanel have that distinction, still). But maybe it should be because the history of Lancome began when Armand Petitjean, a devote student of Francois Coty, determined to open the finest perfume house on his own in 1935. According to Lancome's website, "His passion for fragrances inspired Armand Petitjean to take a spectacular step: in 1935, he launched Lancôme with five great fragrances. Audacious? Yes, but Armand Petitjean was a product of the school of François Coty, the "father of luxury perfumes."Tropiques", "Tendres Nuits", "Kypre", and "Bocages" were among those 'first fruits'- his early perfumes that would be followed by so many others. Nearly all the early bottles were created by the great artist Georges Delhomme" The list of fragrances released by the venerable house is long. It includes: Tropics, the first and alleged favorite of Armand Petitjean, followed by Kypre, Tendres Nuits, Bocages, Conquest and Blue Seal, all in 1935! Black Label came in 1936. Peut-être, Maybe and Gardenia followed in 1937. Flèches 1938, then Cuir 1939 (renamed Revolt, then Leather) and le Faune, all in 1942. Blue Valley, The Nativity, Lavender, Marrakech, Bel Automne, And Happy all came out in the later 1940s. Then in 1950 came Magie and in 1952, the first Tresor was born.

Others from early Lancome include With Spring, Qui-Sait (aka Who Knows, or Maybe) and in 1957, Envol (Flight) and Fleches D'or (Golden Arrow) came. Then in 1959, Petitjean created what was to be his last perfume, Winter Festival. When he retired Loreal promptly purchased Lamcome. With Loreal, Lamcome entered into the American market and also into the modern era. A large corporation now owned and controlled all of their perfume and cosmetics releases. Yet during the next decades Lancome continued to enhance it's reputation as a great perfume house with a string of distinctive fragrances that remain popular and much sought after today including Climat, O de Lancome and Sikkim. Robert Gonnon brought the company continued success with Magie Noire, in 1978 and the 'new' Tresor of 1990, followed by the mega-hits Poem 1996 and Miracle in 2000. Their latest release is Magnifique, a late 2008 release.

Magie Noire was the first Lancome perfume I became acquainted with- it's soft yet highly sensuous trail explained the name 'Black Magic' ; the rasberry note bewitched me... tartly juicy with green nearly savory aspects over a purring ambery musk base. I even wore the much more modern Tresor. I used up every bit of it as well (rare), and I recall particularly liking the cedarish aspect that added a nice zing to the base, a nice counterpoint to the [much bigger] powdery musks and fruity aspects of this rose based scent. Chances are almost anyone reading this blog already knows the familiar rose, apricot and amber musk signature of modern day Tresor and almost everyone has a strong opinion on it. Many perfume lovers loath its tenacious sillage, somewhat chemical or plasticy notes and it has super lasting power. Yet as overwhelming as it can be, Tresor remains a 'soft scent'.

The original Tresor was released in the 50s (1952 or some sources say 1957), and it was composed by Jean Hervelin. I was so surprised when I found a bottle of vintage Tresor. When I smelled it, I just had to giggle because it smelled so much more raw and natural than the modern day version. The rose is otto just like in the modern Tresor but the vintage version has a much finer almost invisible dusting of dryness due to a restrained use of orris and maybe heliotrope. It's heavily honeyed but not cloying or even very sweet seeming. Instead of the vanilla, clean musk and amber base, vintage Tresor is grounded by strong sandalwood and leather notes and a delightful (but not too) animal musk.

Advertising for the vintage Tresor portrayed eastern, exotic imagery, and perhaps the images were intended to remind one of the rose, musk blends that Harem girls used to sweeten their tents. Trésor Elixir which came out in Oct 2008; it is said to be a woody fruity floriental that is based on Otto rose, with peach accents and according to OsMoz it is "... fuller-bodied, with woodsy, almost leather-like accents and a balmier trail (honey rose, vanilla absolute, heliotrope, sandalwood)". For me, it seems as if the big and supposedly heartless Lancome has proven they perhaps listen at least a little to what is being said by the vocal, perfume-loving internet crowd, and is giving maybe a bit of a nod to their own splendid history as well by including the leather, sandalwood and honey rose of the original Tresor into this new Tresor Elixir.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bergel of Hollywood's Seventh Heaven Vintage Perfume Review and Musings

I must apologize for in my photo you see the bottle fresh from my cutting it's gold cord off, prior to cleaning the neck; now all's been removed, revealing a simple classic neck to this bottle.

The perfume is called Seventh Heaven and it's by Bergel of Hollywood. It was released with one other perfume, Seduction, both in 1945 and these were the only two ever made by this brand. As I mentioned, the bottle of Seventh Heaven was found sealed with a gold cord wrapped around the double feather plume topped, frosted glass stopper. The bottle has squared shoulders reflecting the style of women's blouses and dresses of the time, and it swells at the center to form a round body with thinner handle like sides. The round silver badge label reads Seventh Heaven in the center with Bergel of Hollywood lettering around the outside. The bottle isn't marked otherwise.

My first thought on seeing this bottle was to think how similar the name of this perfume is to Helena Rubenstein's Heaven Sent, which came out four years earlier in 1941. Was the name play a clever attempt to tap inot the earlier perfume's success? One can only speculate.

And how does Seventh Heaven smell? My first impression was of smelling the rasberry liquior Framboise, but some of the resins from the perfume had crystallized at the top, creating a sweeter effect of the first few drops. I actually knocked most of the crystals back into the perfume juice and they seemed to dissolve pretty quickly back into solution. The actual jus is just lovely, a rich lighter red color, very mellow with soft aldehydes and bergamot on top. It never gets too powdery thanks to a discreet and relatively clean animal musk but I feel this could be a chypre as there is a ribbon of dark forresty green running through it. Honestly, the thing has become so well fused over time, and possibly the top notes have completely evaporated, that I cannot pick out many specific notes although I'd bet on Iris rose and vanilla (or possibly heliotrope). It is fluffy lux and womanly without being dirty in the least. I wish I still had some vintage HR Heaven Sent around to compare with Seventh Heaven, but as I recall the former was spicier and more powdery as well. Although I said it might be a chypre earlier, after wearing it for a couple of hours, I've decided it is more of a fur based perfume, really... A floral aldehyde with furry base notes, to be exact.

(Real) Fur Flowers; photo from

And then the rasberry note calls up an association in my mind- sometimes Chanel No 5 strikes me as having a similar rasberry liquior note. So I haul out an older, fairly decrepit Chanel No 5 extrait, by which I mean it is syrupy and concentrated by evaporation, like the Seventh Heaven too, so I can compare them side by side... And they are closey related, not twins but perhaps sisters or cousins.

Seventh Heaven is softer, perhaps a tad mossy, with the richness of aldehydes is not nearly as pronounced as in the Chanel. But they share the almost burnt vanilla and butterscotch (to me) quality an sandalwood-orris milkyness in common; Seventh Heaven has more buttery sandal and musk emphasized while in No 5 has slightly spicy ylang sweet jasmine facet. But the animal base seems nearly identical, maybe a tad more pronounced in Seventh Heaven.

So while it is almost certainly inspired by Chanel No5, its not quite as daringly powdery or divine as No 5 and with a hint of wild chypre soul running through it.

Heaven Sent seems as if it might have suited the earthy yet somehow ethereal beauty of Rita Hayworth, another product of 1940s Hollywood.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Perfume Twins: J. Arthes Pas Si Sage & Slava Zaitsev's Maroussia, review and ponderings...

So what did I pull from the vault today? Why it's Maroussia and Pas Si Sage (Not So Wise...)- two lesser known and inexpensive 1990s perfumes. Maroussia was released in 1992 by Russian designer Slava Zaitsev. The note for this fragrance include Aldehydes, Bergamot oil, Green Note, Orange Blossom, Peach, Carnation, Heliotrope, Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Orchid, Orris, Rose, Tuberose, Ylang-Ylang, Amber, Benzoin, Cedar, Civet, Musk, Sandal, Tonka, and Vanilla. Notes for Pas Si Sage are not available but I think it was released in 1995. I've seen two versions, one with a white flower cap and mine which has the plum colored blossom. But these two fragrances remind me of another monster scent with big sillage and an even bigger personality, the better known and earlier 1980s Giorgio perfume. All three of these perfumes are floral-amber in nature and I went through a stage of adoring these types of hypersweet, warm-yet-piercing scents. Gloria Vanderbuilt was an even earlier scent from the 1970s that was built with a similar base but as I recall it was more powdery than either of the two scents under consideration here and perhaps it had a better balance for such sweetness.

Pas Si Sage caught my eye first with it's flower blossom cap and heart shaped lay-down bottle; it has one of the cuter designs for a drug-store type of scent bottle than I'm used to seeing although it seems it was sold only in France. And as soon as I smelled it, I immediatly thought of Maroussia because there is within the base of both of these perfumes the identical 'red lollipop/halothane' type note. The halothane note is quease-inducing, probably because I've recall the actual smell of it from childhood surgeries and I was actually sick at the time. It is always a question of application because both perfumes are BIG ones. One might prefer to smell these on a fabric rather than on skin.

Even though I know Maroussia isn't supposed to contain it, I smell both of these florals as very gardenia scents. They share a 'fresh opening' and fruitiness that comes in the form of melon with a sweet amber base. The French version, Pas Si Sage, remains very sweet and ambery on the whole but seems to have more white flowers- tuberose and soapy jasmine, to cut the sweet a bit while the Russian version is opulent and dense. It has a distinct watermelon note, with velvet and leather touches adding substance and weight to the fruity amber. If you are thinking both of these sound a little heavy for a warm summery day, you are right. But for walking under the stars on a snowy night, they might be something wonderful, unforgettable.

TVPV is back with a peek into the vault!

I love this bottle- Vigny's Beau Catcher, a great USA perfume from the early mid 20th century. It's a perfect model of Vicktor & Rolf's Flower Bomb bottle, but 60 years earlier and you can be sure the resemblance to a grenade was not accidental in this one either!

After recovering from a prolonged cold-flu, I finally realized I'd been delaying any posts because of a bad case of writer's block! Yes, it's true. The long promised review of Dana's Platine has turned into a major hang up for me. I have lots to say about it, but that post will have to come later (as an unannounced surprise next time around)...

In the meantime, I've been playing with some of my perfume bottles trying to organize them in a way according to their bases, classifying them into scent families.

Now, I realize you really can't even see most of the bottles in the photo but in any case, starting on the upper left are the really spicy perfumes, such as Max Factor's Hypnotique (and an old Avon Patchouli oil that is surprisingly reminisent of CDG's Luxe Patchouli to me with a similar maple syrup note). Moving to the center top shelf, some of the perfumes are spicy but more floral and powdery (all my carnations are here, even Bellodigia and a Prince Matchabelli). Then moving to the right are the sweeter orientals including Shalimar and Emeraude. Then on the far top right, I put primarily gourmandish foody stuff. On the lower shelf, I began in the right corner with aromatics (most feature lavender, like Jean Patou's Moment Supreme), moving to crisp-sharp greens like Estee Lauder's Aliage to soft/powdery greens to woods and leathers (even a modern day rare bird like Indult's Reve en Cuir earns a spot next to Chanel's Cuir de Russie!) In the lower center and then moving right, I put the strongly Animal bases, which is something you only find in vintage perfumes as nowadays most are banned. The soliflors were added in separately but I found most fit into one or another of the base type families.

I decided where perfumes went by smelling them, not considering how others have classified them, and only by wafting directly from the bottle so I got a really concentrated blast of the scent. Smelling like this makes something different of the scents than if you were to draw each one out, on paper or skin, but I wanted to smell the very blatant aspect of how each of the perfume's chemicals hit you straight from the bottle. What is sticking out most and what is it?
And this way, working from the bottle, I can work more quickly, comparing, sorting, checking again over a large range of scents without exhausting my sniffing/analyzing too much which happens if I try to use skin for more than one or two things. I found several perfume-base twins going through things in this way, too.

It was very edifying exercise, forcing myself to sniff through these bottles I've got laying around in chaos, educating my nose mainly through brute force of smelling the pillars of vintage creations, working forward through reformulations as well as duplicates, copies, riffs of ideas and especially the vintage off-beat, odds and one-offs that make you think, laugh, shake your head in wonder or run straight to the sink. I smell a good deal of current releases too, which I think is all part of the game to know the differences from the 1920s from the 40s from the 60s, 70s and 80s etc.., even develing into today's cutting edge niche.

Anyway, I thought my system was going to be great then today I got a slew of new goodies, and just dumped them in this closet, filling in most of the blank space you can see here, without taking time to sniff everything out. So it's all out of order again... And then I think about all the counter tops, drawers and other space I've dedicated to a growing maze of bottles, amazing odds and greats, still without the order I crave to impose over the whole!

In any case, I'll have lots more reviews upcoming and for sure I'll have to take more (better) pictures, this is just a peek after all...

Thursday, January 8, 2009

TVPV resumes next week...

(Image: 1950s magazine ad for Dana perfumes; this one happens to be from an old Ebay ad). I haven't forgotten the Platine review I've promised you but a winter cold and several new projects have gotten my attention for now, but I'll have more vintage goodness to share with you next week. Until then, happy scented travels!