Perfume Review – Robert Piguet Fracas: The History & The Legend

“There are perfume legends, there are perfumer legends, and then there are perfumes that become obsessions. Fracas is all three, which is a hat trick less common that you’d think.”

Fracas Eau de Parfum.

Fracas Eau de Parfum.

Thus begins The New York Timesreview for Fracas. It is a five-star review by the highly respected perfume critic, Chandler Burr, for a perfume that he rates as “transcendent.” And I couldn’t agree more. [Clarification: this post and piece is about vintage Fracas, both the very original versions and late 1990s Fracas, not the horribly mangled, modern reformulations.]

As a very small child of six or seven, and one already obsessed with perfume, there were two fragrances that I loved above all others: YSL’s Opium and Robert Piguet‘s Fracas. Out of the vast array of expensive French bottles littering my mother’s mise à toilette, out of all the Lalique jars and containers filled with various mysterious, adult things, out of all the things that made being a woman seem so fun and magical, there was really only Opium and Fracas that mattered to me. It was the 1970s, we lived in Cannes in a villa on the side of the mountain, overlooking the whole city below. There were exciting and often turbulent things going on, new things to explore, and make-believe adventures to be had. And, yet, I was always drawn back to that table. To be honest, it was primarily for the Opium which is still, to this day, my favorite perfume in all the world (in vintage version). But Fracas was a close second.

It was the empress of all white scents. It was a perfume that, as I recall, brought every man who passed by my mother to a stumbling, stuttering halt as they wondered what was that marvelous, incredible, hypnotic smell. It was a scent that I always thought was exuberantly joyful and happy, but which seemed to seduce whomever came within ten feet of it. It seemed like some cloud of happy white magic, all in one jet black bottle. It was the perfume worn by Marilyn Monroe (when she wasn’t wearing Chanel No. 5), Rita Hayworth, and Brigitte Bardot. And its modern die-hard fans range from such polar opposites as: Madonna to Martha Stewart, Ivana Trump to Courtney Love, Princess Caroline of Monaco to Bianca Jagger. It intoxicated them all. And it intoxicated a tiny seven-year old, too.

Years passed, and I never forgot Fracas. Even though I had my own bottle of Opium by now, I would often talk with my mother about that “amazing white perfume in the black bottle.” When she told me that it was no longer made, we both paused in a moment of sadness — a moment of silence, if you will, for the tragedy of a world without Fracas.

Then, one day, in 1998, I was living in the San Francisco Bay Area when I heard that Fracas was back. I remember the exact moment I heard it. It was late afternoon, I was feeling unwell, and lying on a forest green, brocade sofa watching some criminal trial on Court TV when my mother called. She mentioned, in passing, Fracas’s return. Without exaggeration, I got off the phone, literally leapt off the sofa, and drove through horrendous traffic all the way to San Francisco. I bought it that evening, there and then. That is the power of Fracas over those who adore it.

But there is another side to Fracas. The side which sends people reeling with horror, the side which has been described as pure poison, redolent of “rotting fruit,” litter boxes, cat urine, and more. It is a scent which can trigger migraines that will knock out its sufferers for days on end, lying huddled and whimpering in a darkened room. It is a scent that some say should never be worn out to dinner because your neighbors at the table may be too overwhelmed to be able to taste their food. It is a scent where, allegedly, two sprays were enough to send the baristas at Starbucks into a coughing, watery-eyed fit as they gasped for air. It is a scent that can make some beg for an early death. Even one of its adoring male admirers describes it as “[t]he perfume of the black widow: it attracts you and then kills you with a kiss…”

Fracas was released in 1948 by Robert Piguet, one of the top, Parisien haute-couture designers of the time, and a man who trained or taught everyone from Hubert de Givenchy to Balmain to Christian Dior himself. The perfume was created by Germaine Cellier, an enormously respected, avant-garde perfumer who was quite willing to literally grab the underwear off runway models in order to get a better idea of what constituted the core scent of a woman. Cellier made Fracas four years after the release of her Bandit, that infamous, legendary leather chypre that is the black light to Fracas’ white one. The contrast seems to have been intentional. According to the perfume expert, Elena Vosnaki, Cellier was quite explicit in making the distinction between her two fragrances:

Cellier infamously dedicated Fracas ~a voluptuous tuberose scent conceived for ‘femmes’~ to the beautiful Edwige Feuillère, while she promised the butcher Bandit to the ‘dykes’.

In the New York Times article, Chandler Burr explains that tuberose “is notorious among perfumers for being a difficult raw material to master” and that perhaps only Cellier could have managed to create a scent like Fracas. Or, perhaps, she and tuberose’s tempestuous, animalic nature were simply a match made in heaven:

[Cellier was] the creator of a striking style. ‘She transposed Fauvism and Abstractionism into perfume,’ Jeannine Mongin has written. ‘She created in dissonance.’  … It is possible that the secret of Fracas (1948) is an equilibrium between the power of Cellier’s style and the power of tuberose.

That creation “in dissonance” is one reason why Fracas horrified and bewitched people in equal measure. Another is that tuberose — and Fracas in particular — evokes carnal sex. The famous perfumer, Roja Dove, said bluntly:

Fracas is the big tuberose reference of perfumery, and tuberose is the most carnal of the floral notes. It smells like very, very hot flesh after you’ve had sex — that’s the bottom line. It’s very much in fashion just now, but current fragrances don’t use such an incredible concentration of it. While they may nod towards something carnal, Fracas is carnal all the way. [via The Independent, 12/14/2002.] [Emphasis added.]

Fracas continued to hold sway until sometime in the late 1970s or early 1980s when it faded into the mists of legend. It seems that the house of Robert Piguet essentially died. Then, in the mid 1990s, the Robert Piguet name was bought by

"Fracas" Eau de Toilette. Quite probably, the Arpel version.

“Fracas” Eau de Toilette. Quite probably, the Arpel version.

Adrien Arpel, for his company, Alfin. He re-released Fracas in both eau de parfum form and some rogue eau de toilette version. Neither seemed to be much like the original. (So if you ever see any bottles of Fracas on eBay that come in boxes with the words Arpel on them, stay away.)

In 1995 or 1996, however, the Robert Piguet brand was bought by Fashion Fragrances and Cosmetics (FF&C). They made every attempt to release a version of Fracas that was close to the original in terms of notes and appearance. And, by most accounts, they succeeded as the current version is said to

A small bottle of Fracas in vintage extrait concentration that is currently selling on eBay for an extremely reasonable amount.

A small bottle of Fracas in vintage extrait concentration that is currently selling on eBay for an extremely reasonable amount.

be exceedingly close, though Bois de Jasmin says that the original is more aggressive and animalic, and various commentators around the internet insist that the new version is “watery” in comparison. (They also say to turn to eBay where it’s not hard to find the vintage version from the ’60s and ’70s in extrait form for extremely affordable prices.)

Whatever the changes, the return of Fracas was hailed by all and soon returned to its status as a cult legend. Luca Turin calls it the “Ferrari” of fragrances and, in 2006, it was inducted into the FiFi (Fragrance Foundation) Hall of Fame.

The bottle for Fracas's Pure Parfum (or Extrait de Parfum) concentration.

The bottle for Fracas’s Pure Parfum (or Extrait de Parfum) concentration.

The new Fracas comes in either eau de parfum or pure parfum/extrait concentrations, and, like the original, comes in a jet-black, opaque bottle with a black top and a pink-framed label. The extrait version is said to be creamier, richer and more balanced than the louder eau de parfum version. My 1998 (vintage) bottle is the eau de parfum concentration and I don’t find it loud in the slightest, but then I was imprinted with the original, full-bodied, hardcore Fracas at a very early age.

Bois de Jasmin says that notes in Fracas are:

bergamot, orange blossom, greens, peach, tuberose, jasmine, violet, iris, lily of the valley, carnation, sandalwood, musk, oakmoss, and cedar.

However, I do not believe that list to be complete at all, particularly as it leaves out vetiver which is well known to be in Fracas, along with jonquil (otherwise known as narcissus). On numerous sites, I have read a far more extensive list of notes and I think we should go with the long list provided by Yesterday’s Perfume blog:

Top notes: Bergamot, Mandarin, Hyacinth, Green Notes

Heart notes: Tuberose, Jasmine, Orange Blossom, Lily of the Valley, White Iris, Violet, Jonquil, Carnation, Coriander, Peach, Osmanthus, Pink Geranium

Base notes: Musk, Cedar, Oak Moss, Sandalwood, Orris, Vetiver, Tolu Balsam[.]

Chandler Burr of the New York Times explains the effect and smell of some of the key ingredients:

Cellier packed her formula with Indian tuberose absolute, which gives it huge power and “sillage” (the olfactory trail). Like all good perfumers, she was an illusionist. To achieve an even more lifelike, more raw tuberose (this flower smells of armpit, flesh and decay due to heavy molecules called indoles; jasmine is similarly loaded with them), she used an even larger quantity of Tunisian orange blossom absolute, plus some astronomically expensive French jasmine and Italian iris root butter. Add natural violet leaf to give the sweet, heavy scent a refreshingly harsh, wet green aspect, iris for a woody depth, synthetic civet (the smell of unwashed construction worker) for power, the synthetics C18 for an unctuous, milky, soft tropical quality and methyl anthranilate for fizz. The result is a signature, a persistence on skin, and a diffusion that are – all three – astonishing. Another hat trick.

I’m hesitant to give one of my usually detailed, hour-by-hour breakdowns for Fracas. Some masterpieces can’t be dissected. And, in all honesty, I couldn’t even hope to sum up its key elements as well as that quote by Chandler Burr just did. But there is also something else: Fracas is such a magnificently blended perfume that the notes often merge together in perfect unity to create a strong, buttery, indolic, narcotically heady “sum total.” It is a symphony of buttery, creamy white, even though there are things that cut through the richness, like the green vetiver and the airy, spring-like, green lily-of-the-valley and hyacinth.

Despite that, there is almost a thick, viscous, rubbery richness at the heart of the sweetness. It’s because (vintage) Fracas contains two of the most indolic flowers around – jasmine and tuberose. And it smells very strongly of another white super-flower that is also very indolic: gardenia. (Gardenia is not one of the official notes, but it’s there and it’s quite powerful.) Indolic flowers can often have a rubbery element to the narcotic richness at their heart; over-blown ripeness that, sometimes, can verge almost on the side of decay. (You can read more about Indoles and Indolic scents at the Glossary.) These indoles are the reason why some people get the the impression of “rotting fruit,” sourness, urine, plastic, or Hawaiian flowers.

I’m fortunate not to experience any of that. [CLARIFICATION: again, I’m talking about my 1998, now “vintage” version of Fracas.On me, it is predominantly tuberose and gardenia, with a touch of green, a base of creamy earthiness and, yes, a strong feeling of a hot body after sex. (Though never the gardenia and “bad-idea sex” that one person amusingly called the scent of Fracas.) The rest — the numerous, subtle nuances and undulating waves of notes — I refuse to break down. I won’t dissect Fracas. I suppose I don’t want to dig into why it creates the magic that it does for me. To me, Fracas is the Ode to Joy in Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. There are a lot of cadences involved, but some things are just meant to be appreciated as a majestic whole and to try for yourself. [Ideally, in vintage form.]

For all its glory, I would be the very first to say that you should never buy Fracas blind unless you are sure from ahead of time that you love powerful, heady white floral or tuberose scents. Never. One reason is the powerful projection and longevity of Fracas, which really cannot be emphasized enough. Read the comments on Fragrantica; they are uniform. When someone wrote that Fracas lasted through two showers, I believed it fully. When others write that it can induce searing migraines in even small doses to anyone sensitive to perfumes, I believe them too.

If you are not a fan of heady scents — let alone heady florals — you should not consider Fracas. EVER. In fact, if heavy white scents give you a migraine, you should take a plane to the opposite side of the planet from whomever may be wearing Fracas. I truly am not joking. This is not a scent to apply with reckless abandon if you’re going to be going anywhere close to masses of other human beings. As the perfume site, Now Smell This, said, “[w]hile Fracas doesn’t feel heavy, it packs a hefty sillage. It is exactly the sort of perfume that leads to no-fragrance rules in large office buildings.”

Even if you love heady florals, it may be best if you first try a sample, ideally for the vintage version. That Fracas is…. well, if you love it, words simply can’t do it justice. And, if you hate it, words can’t seem to convey the full depth of the fear or revulsion. Either way, one thing is undeniable: it is a legend which set the standard for all white florals which followed.

The question is: will you find it to be the white empress that seduces you, or the black widow that kills you?


Cost & Type: Modern, current Fracas is available on the Robert Piguet website in numerous different forms, along with several accompanying body products. The Eau de Parfum costs $95 for 1.7 oz/50ml and $135 for 3.4 oz/100 ml. The Parfum, pure parfum or extrait version costs $235 for 1 oz/30 ml. (There should be a smaller and cheaper size which is usually around $110 for 0.25 oz/7.5 ml but I don’t see it listed on the website.) Fracas also comes in solid Parfum form for $75.

Fracas Pink Box setIn addition to all that, there are gift sets and body lotions. There is a small gift set called the “Fracas Little Pink Box” (that Martha Stewart apparently recommends) that is $65 and which includes: 1 oz. (30 ml) Fracas Eau de Parfum Spray and a .33 oz. (10 ml) Fracas Eau de Parfum Roll-on. There is also a Limited Edition set that is $595. Fragrantica states that the matching body care products include: Silkening Body Wash (250ml), Silkening Body Lotion (250ml) and Silkening Body Crème (200ml). I have only seen the Silkening Body Lotion on most sites.

Where To Buy It: In addition to the Piguet website, you can find modern Fracas in numerous department stores or online retail sites. In the US, you can also find Fracas available at Saks, Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom (which only carries the Eau de Parfum version and the body lotion), and various online retailers. Neiman Marcus carries not only the Eau de Parfum and the 2 different sizes of Pure Parfum or Parfum Extrait, but also the Little Pink Box set. In the UK, you can find Fracas at Harrods which carries the Eau de Parfum, the pure Parfum, and the body silkening lotion. It costs £75.00 for 1.7 oz/50 ml of the Eau de Parfum while the pure parfum costs £80.00 for the 7.5 ml size/0.25 oz and £195.00 for the 30 ml/1 oz size. In Australia, you can find Fracas on Libertine.

Samples: You can also order samples of modern Fracas from various sample sites. The one I use, Surrender to Chance, carries only the current Eau de Parfum version, not the Extrait or Pure Parfum form. It costs $3 for the smallest 1 ml sample vial and the sizes go all the way up to 15 ml (which costs $39). Surrender to Chance ships worldwide for about $5.95 (though it’s a little bit more for larger orders over $75), and for $2.95 for all orders within the U.S., regardless of the size of the order.

71 thoughts on “Perfume Review – Robert Piguet Fracas: The History & The Legend

  1. Fracas is definitely a classic in it’s category. I’ve got a sample of it but it doesn’t appeal to my since I get it as a stricly feminine perfume. I wouldn’t wear it myself.

    • Lucas, it’s definitely not a scent that the average man could pull off easily. I think that men can wear many or most women’s perfumes, and vice versa, but Fracas may not be as easily approachable by men as many other scents. I can definitely understand why you wouldn’t wear it! But I think any perfumista, esp. any perfume blogger, needs to know about it and have tried it just once, so I’m glad you did too. 😀

  2. You make this legendary perfume sound do good, you sure have a way with words. I’ve come to love white florals especially the indolic ones jasmine and orange blossom in particular. Fleur du Male is full of orange blossom and I enjoy it immensely. It took a while but I finally came around. Everytime I wear it, it screams on my skin. All I smell is the sweetness of overripe flowers on the verge of decay with a little coumarin for added measure. So I looking for more scents that smell like this or have similar notes. I guess Im a sucker for those indolic florals huh? LOL I will be ordering a sample of this to see what it smells like. Are there any other tuberose/ indolic scents I should try? I know about one called Carnal Flower, any others? Great review. I enjoyed your historic perspective. A very interesting read.

    • Ferris, I absolutely love your open-mindedness towards scents, as well as your surprising love for white florals. LOL! Good for you! I am glad you will try the benchmark and gold standard, Fracas. Some other good tuberose ones: Carolina Herrera by Carolina Herrera (one of Angelina Jolie’s main, signature fragrances), Amarige by Givenchy, Pure Poison by Dior, or perhaps even Michael Kors or Michael by Michael Kors. All are white flowers, gardenia and tuberose, but the first three are the best.

      I have a large decant of Malle’s Carnal Flower and it’s nice. I prefer it perhaps to Serge Lutens’ modern take on Tuberose (Tubereuse Criminelle, I did a review of it) but I’m not crazy about either one, truth be told. I prefer my Amarige or the others listed up above. BTW, for orange blossoms, you will probably want to try Serge Lutens’ Fleurs d’Orangeur or something. I don’t have it but I hear good things about it from those who love orange blossom scents!

  3. I LOVED this review. Great work, as always, but this one stuck out because of the sentimentality attached to it.

    • Thank you, sweetheart. Fracas is so tied to my childhood journey with perfumes. Not like Opium, but definitely 2nd place. If I could ever get my hands on 1970s Opium, especially in the parfum version that I’m somehow convinced is what my mother had, that review would be a pages and pages long paen to its personal power over me. LOL. I think all truly perfumes are tied to a really personal story or impact. You wait and see how Sycomore or some of the others end up doing that for you. It will happen. 🙂

      • It’s funny the way they can imprint a memory on you quickly. Even though I haven’t been on this journey long, I can tell you my snap judgment and a few details of almost everything I’ve tried that I found remotely memorable. Granted, that’s not a huge feat because I can’t name notes or anything, really, but if you knew how my mind usually operates like a sieve for such “trivial” things, I’m sort of amazed that out of say, 50 or so things available to me I can tell you very easily what I’m wearing on a given day, since I couldn’t tell you what I ate for lunch an hour ago. LOL. P.S. Today it’s Un Jardin Sur le Nil by Hermes. It’s lovely, but I think maybe is a little too tame/safe and perhaps a bit feminine for my taste. I can’t decide. I feel like it’s something I would really enjoy on others, but I find a bit uninspiring on myself. But maybe I just wish more people smelled nice in general. LOL.

        • P.S. I’m REALLY trying hard to get out of the masculine/feminine mindset, because I think it’s sort of garbage anyway, since it’s all arbitrary and completely socially constructed. I think I’ve come a ways and become much more open-minded in that regard (and thank god, because I’ve found a lot of scents that are really targeted toward women that are absolutely divine). I think people should wear whatever they want because I don’t think scent is inherently gendered beyond what notes we box into gender categories. The problem I really have is not that a scent is “feminine” per se, but that I don’t feel confident wearing it – which I think is an important element of any perfume. Perfume should inspire confidence, not make you cower and wonder what others will think! I know not everyone will love or agree with my choices, but I love choosing which scent I’ll wear to face the day ahead!

          • I’m afraid I don’t understand, Kevin. You have the perfect approach towards the masculine/feminine thing and about how it is really a fake construct that doesn’t or shouldn’t apply. But, then, why do you not feel confident wearing something that may be labelled as feminine? I think our body chemistry is such that it can turn the most masculine of scents into something “feminine” on occasion — especially with those richer or spicier perfumes that have warmth at their base with things like vanilla, tonka bean, amber or sandalwood. So, by the same token, more “feminine” scents like Shalimar or Jicky are super approachable by men. In fact, men wear Shalimar and Jicky quite a bit!!! Jicky, in particular, was created eons and eons ago as something for both genders, I believe.

        • Hermes’ whole line nowadays, esp. since Jean-Claude Ellena took over as the in-house nose in 2004, seems to tend towards light and minimalistic. Another perfume blogger recently bought 24 Faubourg which came out in 1995 and represents a very diff. sort of Hermes’ type of perfume. I wrote on her blog about that and the Hermes of the 1980s, as represented by Parfum d’Hermes. The perfumes are like night and day in terms of type. Hermes today — with a few exceptions like the Elixir (which was not done by Jean-Claude Ellena and which really reflects that, imo) is all about lighter, more airy, and luminously…. breezy (?) scents. I can’t quite explain it, but bottom line, I’m not particularly surprised that Un Jardin Sur Le Nil didn’t bowl you over.

          • Even though their line now tends toward light and airy now, I personally find Hermes to be a mainstream fragrance that seems to be of high quality and overall very pleasant and charming, especially compared to other houses. Even though that one didn’t have the “wow” factor, it’s lasted a long time and it doesn’t have that fake quality to it that a lot of the mass market stuff has. They must be doing something right, because Equipage is the only one that I didn’t like (and I seriously thought I’d love it, actually!), and I’ve probably smelled 8 or 9 of their offerings so far. I think I might even be more inclined to like Le Jardin Sur le Nil had it been a hotter day. It’s definitely a spring/summer scent, so I may wait for a warmer day to try it again and see how it changes my attitude toward it, if at all.

          • You’re right about their quality. Whether or not one adores a particular scent of theirs, whether or not one of them screams out “Buy me NOW!”, I think that Hermes as a whole smells expensive, rich and of high-quality. It exudes a luxurious quality consistently across each and every scent. But, in all fairness, at their prices, they bloody well SHOULD! LOL.

      • I guess what I mean is that I’m trying my best not to use “feminine” as a description of why I don’t like something anymore, because it’s really not a helpful descriptor if scent truly is genderless, which I believe it is. Usually what I mean when I say “feminine” is “sweet” or “floral.” But I think you’re right – the body chemistry probably has a lot to do with it, and there are perhaps some scents which simply don’t work well on me in particular or men in general due to chemistry issues. I’ve been reading a lot of men who apparently wear Shalimar, which I initially found sort of surprising. But you said it’s changed a lot since back in the day, right? I’m tempted to try it, but I wonder if it’s worth trying in its most recent formulation.

  4. kafka am finding words to express how beautiful the post is … and i am so glad to find your blog and know a lovely person like you :d
    trust me am gonna mail you as right now am so busy reading the words again and again 😀
    i was never interested in perfume but now after reading your blog post i am loving each and every detail 😀

    • Rashmi, your words are so incredibly kind. What an absolutely huge compliment!! Thank you for letting me know that, slowly, slowly, I am starting to awaken an interest in perfume. That is all I ever really wanted to do, to show that there is a whole world out there, beyond the basic stuff sold in department stores, and that perfume can be an adventure. Each one can take you on some journey to exotic or fun lands. It can transform you, make you escape or just simply, bring you joy. I hope that, one day, you will find perfumes that do that for you. *hugs*

      • hugsss back dear 😀 you will laugh hard if i tell you … last night me and my friend ( radhu as i address her ) were on convo. on gmail , she is in USA and as I saying good night to her .. I mentioned right now am browsing Surrender to chance and she said she is also browsing 😀 and alllll due to you dear 😀 ….
        i am confused as to what samples to order ? I want this for sure and rest am not able to decide ..
        i picked Givenchy from perfumania , 2 bottles of Amarige… can you believe me if i say I just read what is the difference between the fragrances ??
        you are absolutely incredible honest person dear and I thank my stars to know you little more 😀
        i can proudlyyyy say that am the biggest Indian fan of yours 😀 😀

        • 2 bottles of Amarige? Oh my! I really hope you love it. I’m a bit confused as to what you meant when you said, “I just read what is the difference between the fragrances?” Did you mean that you did read about the difference or are you asking me?

          As for samples, I’m glad you’re testing out things. Perfume is not like makeup at all. A pink blush will appear pink on you and on me, with perhaps tiny, miniscule differences in terms of shades of pink. But it will still be pink, you know. Perfume is totally different because people’s skin chemistry can change it so much from one person to the next.

          What I would absolutely recommend you trying is: Fracas, Tolu by Ormonde Jayne, the Elixir de Merveilles by Hermes, and Alahine by Teo Cabanel (you can read the review I did for it. I think you would really like that one!). Those have been some biggest favorites of mine thus far and, more importantly, are scents that may go along with your perfume profile as you told it to me. You could also try possibly a sample set of Ormonde Jayne perfumes that they have on Surrender to Chance. There is a 3-pack of different perfumes of hers that you can try out and that is another way for you to try Tolu, too. The other scents would be: Ta’if, Woman, and/or Orris Noir. You may also like Jubiliation 25 by the royal perfume house of Amouage, but I’m much less sure on that one.

          Just to let you know, the smallest size vials (1 ml) would let you put on the perfume twice, depending on how much you use, or possibly 3 times. They are never filled totally to the top and some of the perfumes they will say come in only 1/4 of the vial. Since you’re in India and can’t get these samples delivered to you within a week the way I can in the US, I would recommend trying out larger sizes to make the time and wait worth your while. 2 ml perhaps? That way, it still won’t be expensive for you? (I always worry about making people spend money on things.) But perhaps 4 ml on some that you think would be more to your liking? I have some other perfumes up for testing by Ormonde Jayne, Tom Ford or Chanel that could fit your tastes but I won’t get around to testing them for a while, so for now, read up on the ones I mentioned up above (and which I’ve reviewed here) and see if they intrigue you.

          Can I tell you how EXCITED I am that I’m drawing you (and your friend Radhu) into the world of perfumes?! 😀 Tell her to feel free to post and to share some of her experiences, too. Hugs to you, dearest Rashmi, and thank you for always (always!) being so very sweet. *smooch*

          • Hermes Eau Des Merveilles Elixir is no joke. It is a fantastic fragrance. Once it gets back in stock I will be getting a bottle. I meant to order a sample of Fracas, but I closed out my order too soon before I realized it.

          • i copy pasted the above comment in my mail ( it is my habit ) i will take down all the note and reccos and order it 😀 you are absolutely right , makeup is more or less same on eachother but yeah fragrance makes alot of difference ..
            i meant that earlier i didnt know what is perfume , eau de toilette , eau de parfume and all .
            Kafka the givenchy one is eau de toilette …. was that the one you recco. ? coz i searched everywhere it is the same but still am asking you to confirm .
            for my shopping , i will get it shipped to USA only , as friends keeps coming here na so it will be easy for me too 😀 and yeahhh even am also buying the 2 ml size :d but am so glad you mentioned everything so clearlyyyy 😀 😀 you are so special dear … 😀 😀
            now i can relate to the fact that everyone has their own signature style 😀 smoocchhhh 😀 awww am smiling hard now 😀 😀

          • Yes, the Amarige comes in Eau de Toilette. That’s what I have. I really don’t believe it ever came in Eau de Parfum. For the Fracas, you’re fine with the basic, standard Eau de Parfum version. If you really love it, then you can always hunt down the pure parfum/extrait version in vintage form on eBay. There, it’s very inexpensive and not too hard to find. Let me know what samples you order too, and keep an eye out for the Hermes Elixir de Merveilles. Not the Eau de Merveilles, but the Elixir. xoxo

          • Don’t be shy! Perfume is all about having a party, having fun, going to new places and escaping every day to celebrate some exciting adventure!! So, please, don’t hesitate to share your thoughts or talk about things you like. 😀 I’m so glad you spoke up tonight and I look forward to getting to know you better. (And thank you for your super kind words, Radhu.) Now, pull up a chair and let’s have fun! 😀

    • Aurora, I’m so glad. You’ll have to let me know your thoughts on it, along with the Femme that you also got a sample of, if memory serves me correctly. I hope you love Fracas and that you’re not one of those left reeling by it.

  5. S – What a pretty picture you paint. Not many can say they spent part of their youth in Canne in the French Riviera. As you know tuberose is not my friend, but funny, I saw the ebay listing for the vintage parfum bottles and they are reasonable in their cost. I saw a thread on Basenotes where someone had purchased one and they said that they weren’t quite sure how they were stored because the perfume seemed to have degraded…but they loved the pretty package (although it was a mid mildewed). It’s fun to read about someone’s love for a fragrance and the memories that it envokes…absolutely wonderful post.

  6. So glad you are reviewing this beauty and fragrance cornerstone. I decided I could not live without when I was sent overseas this past summer for work. I got a rollerball version, which mysteriously disappeared from my hotel room–and it was the only thing that disappeared. Fortunately I found a full bottle stamped original formulation in a dusty parfumerie on the rue de rivoli, so I didn’t have to go without for long. But I loved the idea of someone being so intoxicated with the scent that they were driven to steal that wonderful scent, and I didn’t begrudge her.

    • Grace, you got an original?!?! Clearly, it was meant to be for you to have that small rollerball stolen! How lovely your approach to her theft. I’m not sure I would have been quite so sanguine…. *grin* I’m very tempted to buy some of the small originals in Extrait/Pure Parfum being sold for incredibly affordable prices on eBay at the moment. ($20-range)

      • I did get one of those parfums and I am resisting the urge to stockpile more…the bubblegum quality of the tuberose is more prominent in the one I have, and that note is much more so the heart of the parfum than with the way de toilette and Eau de parfum.

        • Is this one of the vintage Extraits? Or the vintage perfume/EDP version? Did you order it very recently? I’m glad to know it worked out for you and that it was even better than the current Eau de Parfum. There are some great, great deals on it on eBay. Thank God for eBay and its vintage treasures!

    • It’s really soft and not very overpowering on me too! It makes me wonder about the stories. I felt I had to mention them because, for all I know, I’ve simply been imprinted with Fracas at such a young age that I’m immune from realising its effects on others. So, far better to warn people than for someone (or those around her) to be totally felled by it. LOL.

  7. i am amused to see rads here … trust me kafka … we adoreeeee you so much 😀 😀
    am gonna note down the fracas details and thank god i bought the right givenchy you mentioned 😀 😀
    am so excited and can i sahre one thing .. i am colleecting my samples from each and every corner of house and reading what type and brand it is ahhaha :d
    i earlier never cared about them 😀 have been hoarding from Sephora 3 free for longg time 😀

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  12. Another favorite we have in common! It doesn’t seem that frightening to me either, but while I have a very sensitive sense of smell, I also often like distinctive and big fragrances. I’ll take heady florals over most frilly or fruity florals any day. Bewitching is such an excellent word for Fracas…

    This perfume makes me so happy, and I haven’t killed anyone with it yet 😉

    So enjoyed the stories of your childhood and the influence of your mother as well. My mother lived in Paris briefly and brought back a strange array of perfumes (wish I could remember what they even were) but she never wore them, just smelled them with me from the bottles, and went back to her vintage Emeraude.

    • My God, you’re like my exact copy — minus the hair colour! This is pretty incredible. I don’t think I’ve *EVER* encountered anyone who has such parallel tastes to my own. You’ll probably join me then in being a very tiny minority who adores poor, much-maligned Amarige, Mr. Turin’s scathing, withering contempt for it notwithstanding. I wrote a defense for Amarige, but I fear it may be a lost cause. LOL. Yes, bring on the heady florals and spare me the airy, fresh, soapy “frilly” ones. (“Frilly” is such a good way to describe many of them.)

      • Yes, we do seem to have extremely similar tastes, which is one of the reasons (besides your beautiful writing) that I started reading your blog so closely… I don’t seem to have very conventional tastes and it’s difficult to find fragrance assessments with which I have an affinity. I’ve quickly learned that if you review something and clearly love it, I’m nearly certain to as well!

        And yes, I do love Amarige! Mr. Turin, while often hilarious, does NOT seem to share my tastes and I’ve had many moments of absolute bafflement while reading his reviews… I sometimes wonder if we’re even smelling the same perfume. However, I remain quite entertained by his views and often read bits and pieces on my ipad while standing in line. I’m sure the surrounding customers wonder what’s so damn funny… but I’m afraid they’re unlikely to see the humor. Especially because the nearest village is a tiny ranching community, and the normal perfume flavors tend to run from gasoline and saddlesoap to dollar store interpretations of Eternity and Poison. I far prefer the former to the latter 😀

        • How DID you find my blog in the first place? I’ve been curious about that. Was it by looking up reviews for a particular fragrance? Was it Alahine or something else? Or did you stumble across a link to the blog elsewhere? 🙂

          • Hm, I’m trying to remember, I know I’ve seen your blog linked to on numerous occasions, but you know, I think I ran into a post of yours about Ineke’s Hothouse Flower (I had their sample set), and I was taken by your writing style, and then I started noticing that many of my favorite reviews of perfumes were written by you, and THEN the Alahine review, which totally blew me away… and then I noticed you liked food, Angelina Jolie, history, and oriental perfumes and art, so I started reading in more depth 🙂 – That sounds a bit random, but it’s not very often I come upon a perfume blog with so much history and story included. I especially like the blend of critical thinking with passionate preferences!

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  14. Dear Kafka, I just read your Jour Ensoleille review, which then led me here to this phenomenal and beautiful tribute to Fracas!! I knew that you loved vintage Opium – I remember you mentioning on Undina’s blog that you had a deep love for it, so for some reason I wouldn’t have pegged you as a Fracas lover too. (Don’t ask me why … it’s not like you can’t love a spicy-oriental diva scent and a white-floral diva, both.) 😀 At any rate, I loved reading this – and now I know what will be my sleep scent tonight: a drop (just a drop, so that I can actually sleep) of the parfum version of Fracas.

    • Suzanne, what an incredibly sweet, lovely note. Thank you so, so much for stopping by and sharing it with me. Did you sleep well with a drop of the Fracas? 😛 As for my perfume tastes, I think the common thread is: “big, over-sized, dramatic, heavy, and diva-like.” LOL. Opium is my all-time favorite perfume, and I generally consider myself a hardcore Orientalist, but I fall for the big florals, too. What always surprises people is when I fall for the dainty florals. It doesn’t happen often, but it does on occasion. Anyway, thank you SOOOOO much for stopping by. Your kind words meant a lot to me. *hug*

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  17. Madonna and Courtney Love have both said they’ve always worn Fracas but I wonder what version and since when? Did they just began with the 1998 version? I would love to have the exact date of when it was discontinued and when it came back, etc but haven’t been able to find it.

    • I’m afraid I don’t know the precise dates either. I have the very vague sense that they faded away in the early ’80s and the quasi-return by that other company was in the early 1990s (around 1992). I don’t recall hearing anything about Fracas or Robert Piguet after 1981 or 1982, but that’s just a vague personal thing and hardly reliable for obvious reasons. I would assume that both Madonna and Courtney Love began with the 1998 version unless they managed to find massive old stock somewhere predating the days of eBay. lol If you ever find out the true dates and answer, I hope you’ll let me know.

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  21. Dear Kafkaesque,

    I have shared your mother’s experience over and over. It has “brought every man who passed by my mother to a stumbling, stuttering halt as they wondered what was that marvelous, incredible, hypnotic smell. It was a scent that I always thought was exuberantly joyful and happy, but which seemed to seduce whomever came within ten feet of it.” Perfectly said.

    A few months ago I ran out of my beloved Fracas. I purchased a replacement from a retailer on Amazon but when it arrived I was so very disappointed. The fragrance was not the same, the power was not there, it was like a watery ghost of the fragrance I have loved for many years. I assumed it was a knock off, although it seemed to be the original packaging.
    I returned it and purchased another bottle from Neiman Marcus. Once again I was greatly disappointed.

    I wrote a letter on the Robert Piguet web site explaining my experience and asked them if it was a reformulation but got no reply.

    Do you know if they have again reformulated Fracas? Will I never wear this intoxicating fragrance again? It’s very sad.

    Thank you,


    • Dear Jacquelyn, Fracas has absolutely been reformulated. Quite likely, more than once.

      I should probably put some sort of comment to that effect in my post, but it’s a well-known, sad, basic truth is that every classic fragrance that is still on the market has been reformulated. Either it’s because of cost-saving measures, either it’s due to IFRA/EU ingredient restrictions, or it’s because of some combination of both. And very, VERY few companies will ever admit it. A handful do, usually mentioning reformulation generically as an issue resulting from ever more stringent EU restrictions/regulations, but even they don’t mention which specific fragrances have been changed. (You might want to read some of my posts on the EU/IFRA situation to learn more about the way the industry has been handling this or about the specific issues involved.)

      You will never find your old Fracas again unless you buy a vintage bottle on eBay. Ideally, you should try to find the oldest one possible (i.e., not something dated from the late 2000s) and perhaps in pure parfum form, but the older you get, the more you run the risk of some evaporation or the scent being a little “off” if the seller hasn’t stored it properly. Still, I’ve generally had good luck on eBay when it comes to vintage stuff, and I’ve bought some perfume bottles that are well over 30 years old.

      Whatever you buy from Amazon, Neiman Marcus, or any other store is going to be watery and diluted. Even worse, I think Robert Piguet has amped up the synthetics (particularly the white musk) to not only compensate for the perfume’s new weakness in terms of the cut quantities of tuberose and other essential oils, but also to give it more of the clean feel that the modern perfume audience seems to love. My mother bought a bottle about 3 years ago which had very watery levels of florals but so much of the blasted clean, white musk (which I personally loathe as a perfume note) that I actually blinked. I was really taken aback, particularly at the synthetics. Actually, most of the Piguet line these days seems to be heavily synthetic, in my opinion.

      So, go to eBay because that is your only option at this point to get the Fracas that you and I love so much. I’m sorry I don’t have happier news for you.

    • Thank you for the link referral, Mr. Moreau, and for your exceedingly kind words on my posts. I’m very touched, particularly as I’ve long admired your own dedication to detail and meticulous thoroughness. I’ve actually been meaning to put your site on my List of Blogs, so I will do that shortly. Again, thank you for the kindness about my reviews as well as for the “link love.” Have a lovely week. 🙂

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  28. What a fantastic review!!!
    What about the the extrait version available in the official site? Is it worth buying? Is it somewhere nearer the vintage one than the edp available now?! How much similarity is there?!
    As with ebay ones, i completely confused! For i couldn’t find any clue to its being related to prior to 80s!

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