Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Coty Imprevu

Today we have a daring vintage Coty- Imprevu. Notes are scarce to find but this is a beautiful Chypre scent that would be a smash among a certain set that prefer serious, stunningly made perfumes with decidedly adult and edgy ideas presented. This chypre feline has claws, more lithe cat woman in a skin-tight leather suit than little kitten with a collar. The whole affair

kicks off with an initial kiss of bergamot bitter orange and candied citron; in piquant contrast is a mildly tannic leather note that is delicious. This traditional cologne quickly deepens as coniferous resins, young cedar shoots and shady oakmoss come into play giving it a deep and foresty but also grassy and sappy feel. The florals are restrained, a sharpish soapy/creamy carnation and not much else I can detect provides a perfect back drop for the dramatic multi-tonal pallet of greens.

And beneath this sophisticated emerald array we are left with a sublimely adult dry down of extremely discreet clove and tobacco with a touch of musks. This could be an every day signature fragrance for the right woman- I picture a beautiful bohemian girl, like a young Sophia Loren. She wears no shoes and drinks wine from an old mason jar while exploring ancient gardens with her lover on the lost weekends she steals away from the world. The rest of the time she wears high heels diamonds and fur and rides in her benefactor's chaufered limosine. Her perfume is Imprevu.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Andalusia by Toujenais, gran reserva

Today's vintage pick: Andalusia Eau de Parfum. The name refers to Andalusia, Spain. Andalusia is a large area that encompasses all of southern Spain. Seville is it's capitol. Cardiz, another large city is located along the water. The region is steeped in history. A legend tells that Hannibal was reduced to tears when he was forced from the city and its treasures centuries ago. The area is famous for its many world class culinary treasures as well.
The only information I find about this perfume is this very evocative name. Toujenais, from the box, I assume is the maker. The bottle indicates it was manufactured in Los Angeles and since nothing else is indicated, the perfume may also hail from local California sources (that fulfills my fantasies but given the quality I smell, who was blending and bottling small batches of fine perfumes in LA in the '50's??). But many times, essences are imported from France and other sources that could be blended anywhere, by some local producer/distributer. The bottle even has a patent number but the print is thick and smudged. Given the abbreviation "Cal." instead of the modern "Ca.", I am guessing it is circa 1950's or 1960's.
When I opened this bottle there was a thick paper seal that yielded the slightest pop. The perfume itself brought a smile to my face on first inhale. Nice and sunny and full... I had feared the scent might have gone flat or would have the ugly and cheap smelling oily base I detect in many decaying vintage American scents (especially Avon perfumes). Well, no need to worry there. It is lovely stuff. Definitly vintage but good. I've been a bit uncharacteristically butter fingered lately and I spilled a bit of both this perfume in the process of sniffing. At least it landed on top of an unsealed oak desk, which has soaked up a good deal of the scent.

Andalusia opens with a sumptuous sunny orange and sun drenched orange blossoms and jasmine. It recalls Joy very well especially early on as I detect sweet rose and lilly of valley join in the classic smooth blend- but it's rounded or tamped by the woody addition of subtle oak notes. It is easy to imagine there are Andalusian oaks and groves of Seville oranges warming in the sun. There is a slight metallic note I detect several times for brief flashes and cooler violet shadows open up spaces in the scent. The florals soon tip their petals to the side to reveal gentle puffs of something underneath the flowers, a hair/skin note, which is slightly dirty like unwashed hair and then grows steadily more musky. At this point, the scent begins to pick up distinct salty and buttery tones. At first I was surprised. But considering this is the area famous for Ibezian ham, and the pigs are feed acorns to impart a nutty flavor to the meat, it makes sense. The effect is more of a nutty effluvium with a sweeter dessert-like side than a bar-b-que thanks to the gentle notes of chamomile tea, almonds and honey that begin to weave in and out and harmonize with the richness, recalling after dinner amarguillos (almond macaroons) and Manzanilla. Soon the skin notes are replaced by skin that is now cleaner, soapy even but still it it never looses its salty and musky undertone. As the scent mellows out, there are only traces of musk and jasmine remaining of the earlier symphony, now overlain with beeswax and powder, which seems a perfectly natural end for the lazy and sumptuous parade of flavors- the musterion that is this Andalusia.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

First Post ~ the blush of youth?

It's a little intimidating really- making one's first post. The vintage scent I've selected for this auspicious occasion is .... Estée Lauder's Youth Dew. This was an easy pick for me. It's an American classic that has achieved iconic status. You might think at first, that if you found them, you would keep all of the wonderful "rare" vintage perfumes but ultimately you can't. Not if you're going to be into perfumes for any length of time. Imagine what you'd accumulate in 10 or 15 or 20 or more years! Eventually, we must all admit that novelty is big part of the story of an attraction between a perfume and a girl or boy. And it's fun to hunt. I've already given more space over to bottles than I want, and they are fragile and precious. So they live in dark, cool places shut away like prisoners. It's not right. Eventually, it will be wasted spoiled, spilt, broken, forgotten or lost. My solution is this- first, I'm going to start documenting them. Photographs and reviews. And then, I'm going to get rid of them. Not in a big rush, just one by one as I find new, I will release the older ones I've tired of playing with or looking at. I hope there are a few more vintage perfume lovers out there, who might enjoy this venture also. Have patience though, for I will only post once or twice a week, unless I'm on vacation.. But in any case, all are welcome and the tone will be strictly informal. Lauder's Youth Dew is so mainstream, so old school, maybe it is also too old fashioned? Well, Lauder herself surely wasn't. No, she was ahead of her time, a true pioneer. And what about her most well known perfume? The story I know is that Youth Dew was a perfume designed to appeal to women, not men, who traditionally bought perfumes for women, so they would buy YD for themselves. Today we have the right hand ring, back then women made the same statement with perfume, apparently.

My own mother, a natural beauty, shunned artifical adornment. There are perfumes I know she wore at key points (White Shoulders, L'Air du Temps, Bellodgia) but the perfume I remember best from my youth was Youth Dew. It wasn't hers. It belonged to my Gran-Loo, (Grandmother Louise thank you very much!). She was a grand lady, a real 1920's - 30's party girl, and a vixen I'm quite certain. Let me tell you, she loved perfume! Chanel, Caron and Norell bottles sat enthroned like precious jewels upon her dresser. But Youth Dew was different. For one thing, it's as black as coffee. And it never really lost it's roots as a bath oil. Looking at it as a child I felt it was probably some awful psuedo-medical toilet item, as appealing as an old crusted shaving mug. And the scent, to my tender young nose, was nothing more than a blast of bitter burning spices- no sweetness, no light. So from then on, I avoided anything in the familiar bottle. Since then, nothing ever really make me give it a second thought. When I found the bottle you see pictured above- um, I was smitten. The glass poppy topped stopper hinted at sweet narcotic depths hidden within the murky waters. No one would design something so beautiful for anything that wasn't divine. The glass is frosted and smooth. It begs to be held and touched. And the highly polished hand cut sides reveal an intimate view of the juice within.

So now I had a reason to explore Youth Dew. I had a reason to stare and dab and consider, to ponder, to assimilate and finally to conquer, wearing it as if it was the latest release from some niche French perfume house. And guess what? It really is that good. The swoon came to me incredibly easy. They say and it may be true, you have to be of a certain age to fully get this perfume. The bottle is labeled "Original Youth Dew' and I feel it may be perfume or a very high concentration oil, possibly the vintage bath oil version (it is oily). It smells sweet but not in a fruity way. In fact, my husband proclaimed it smelled like candy (a shocker- with him, usually it's soap or powder). He must like spicy complex candy, because a plain Jane this aint. It hits me like a heavenly blast of balsamic spicy resins, cool rather than warm at first with dry, almost chalky nuances. (I love any chalk, powder or pollen type effect in a perfume.) It seems linear but in the dry down it just keeps getting sweeter, honey sweet. I haven't gotten to looking up any notes but it is not really a floral scent. If I had to pick what type of flowers are in there, I would think it must have heliotrope and the chalk. There is amber warmth at the end and what could be orris- I say because it has a slightly bitter woodiness. Sometimes I associate that chalk quality to orris. It becomes a fabulous skin scent by then. Also, it turns exquist if you are smelling it on a smoker. Youth Dew over the roasted tobacco residue left on finger tips...

There were at least two early varients, an extreme type, Cinnabar and a little seen "soft" version with less warm spice and more animal base maybe taking away the edge that made orginal Youth Dew so successful.