1740 was the birth year of the Marquis de Sade, a man linked to such infamy that his very name became a byword for the most heinous acts of licentiousness and cruelty. 1740 is also the name of a fragrance created by Histoires de Parfums, a French niche perfume house founded in 2000 by Gérald Ghislain, that seeks to encapsulate the essence of historical figures in olfactory form.
At first glance, the choice to immortalize the Marquis de Sade in scent might seem to be an odd one. After all, his actions often amounted to an extreme form of sadism, and there is debate as to whether all the women involved actually consented. Many were prostitutes which would seem to negate much free will in the matter (even if others loved him to the every end). Plus, the ideas expressed in de Sade’s books are rather unpalatable, taking matters outside the arena of “Fifty Shades of Grey” erotica. (Not that I’ve read the latter, as I’ve heard the writing is atrocious.)
However, there is a new school of thought regarding the infamous Marquis which puts him in the context of the aristos’ behavior of the time, as well as the precarious political situation of the Ancien Regime. In The Marquis de Sade: A New Biography, Donald Thomas explains that the Marquis shared the sexual proclivities of many “grand seigneurs,” such that there was even a law going back to 1319 providing fines for various levels of sexual misconduct. His acts were nothing new, particularly at the highest levels, like the notorious Regent, the Duc d’Orleans, who ran the country for an infant Louis XV. Sade’s difficulties came not from unorthodox behavior, but from having that behavior made public in the press at a time when the Ancien Regime was teetering on political revolution. So, he was made a convenient scapegoat, one designed to draw attention from many similar acts happening at Versailles. Whether he deserve the full extent of his subsequent infamy is the subject of debate, but Donald Thomas’ book is one that I highly recommend for anyone who is interested in the matter.
The bottom-line, though, is that there is a different way of looking at de Sade and his BDSM preferences. Some have issues with Histoires de Parfums’ decision to name a scent after him, but I tend towards the revisionist view, and don’t have problems with it. That said, I confess I find his writings in Justine and 120 Days of Sodom to be completely unreadable, unpalatable, and depressing. (However, as Wikipedia explains, Sade’s works have been interpreted as expressing, alternatively, theories of progressive Enlightenment, revolutionary, libertarian, existentialist, Kant-ian, nihilist, and even socialist philosophy. The feminist, Susan Sontag, allegedly defended Sade’s writings as “transgressive” theory that shouldn’t be censored.)
1740 puts aside issues of the historical man’s character to focus on (consensual) sensual pleasure via leather and darkened sweetness. It is an eau de parfum created by Gérald Ghislain and released in 2000. On its website, Histoires de Parfums describes the perfume as a Woody Chypre whose sensuality would have appealed to the licentious Marquis:
Birth year of a Parisian gentleman, named Donatien-Alphonse-François, which posterity remembers as the Marquis de Sade. For this man, whose licentious morals had him imprisoned many times, luxury rhymes with literature. The libertine writer would undoubtedly have enjoyed the audacity of this spiced wooded scent, an invitation to pleasure with its bergamot and Davana Sensualis hints, rounded with patchouli and everlasting flower.
Originality: liquor leather tones, davana sensualis, labdanum, patchouli and dry fig. Timeless perfume.
(Chypre composition: bergamot, cedar moss, labdanum, patchouli).
The official notes in 1740 do not list the fig mentioned in the description, nor the flecks of the cumin and cloves that I smell on my skin. Instead, the list is merely:
Bergamot, Davana Sensualis, Patchouli, Coriander, Cardamom, Cedar, Birch, Labdanum, Leather, Vanilla, Elemi, Immortelle.
Marquis de Sade opens on my skin with a small burst of bergamot that is quickly dwarfed by juicy, apricot-rich davana infused with spicy patchouli, darkened leather, and resinous balsams. Slivers of spicy elemi woods hint at both black pepper and lemon, though the woodiness is quite subtle. The whole mix is then sprinkled by what feels like cloves, as well as a dash of cumin. Cardamom brings up the rear, while the base is lashed (pun intended) with streaks of immortelle that smells primarily of golden sweetness, instead of its more common maple syrup tonality.
I have to admit, the opening took me a few times to get used to. I first tested 1740 a few years ago, and was simultaneously fascinated and slightly repelled by the opening notes — which pretty much mirrors most people’s reaction to hearing about the Marquis de Sade to begin with. There is something about the perfume version that screams sex with its intensely musky, deeply resinous, spicy, and smoky notes; something so bold, so intensely sensual, that it almost feels like a figurative slap in the face. My main problem, however, was that the muskiness not only verged on meatiness at times (probably due to the unlisted cloves and possible cumin), but that it also consistently evoked the image of men’s ass-less leather chaps and heated skin that was almost sweaty.
And yet…. it’s not completely that. Something about 1740 is so oddly… mesmerizing… at times, even in those opening minutes that are the toughest with its leather that feels almost raw and its bouquet that evokes hot, nasty, dirty sex. Something about it draws you back, again and again, for another sniff, as you try to decide if you’re in lust with the scent or wholly repelled. It’s all so utterly perfect for a fragrance named after le Marquis de Sade that I can’t get over it. And — with time, patience, and a few tries — I’ve fallen wholly on the “lust” side of the equation in my feelings about the scent.
It also helps that the opening burst of raunchiness segues in as little as 10 minutes into something more purely sensual that, thankfully, loses the imagery of hot, sweaty, ass-less leather chaps. It’s in large part due to two things. First, the immortelle which sweeps over the spices and leather like a wave of golden warmth and sweetness. Second, the interplay between the notes. I would swear that Marquis de Sade contains styrax, and that streak of smoke running through the base sends out curlers that winds its way around all the other notes. It helps keep the immortelle’s sweetness in check, as well as the apricot fruitiness from the davana. And it works so beautifully with 1740’s dark sweetness and rich patchouli.
The leather in Marquis de Sade is interesting. It doesn’t smell purely of traditional birch tar but primarily of something that is resinous and balsamic, amplified by labdanum. The latter is not clearly delineated or traditional either, because there are none of its usual toffee’d, ambered facets. Instead, there is merely a deep, sticky darkness, as well as general warmth, that just happens to feel leathery in nature. It’s all fully subsumed into a multi-faceted bouquet where all the elements play off of each other, instead of acting alone or being individual entities. They work seamlessly to create a very spicy, musky, leathered darkness that oozes sensual fleshiness above all else.
In a way, it’s as though the leather has melted into sex, skin, and darkness, offset by warmth that glows like candlelight upon the shadows. There is a heatedness to the bouquet, a ripeness that hints at things being peeled back and flesh left exposed, all of it somehow transcending the individual notes to scream sex and lust in a way that is hard to believe unless you experience it. When you break down the notes, it’s clear that the responsible parties are the dark, almost prune-like fruitiness, the bodily fleshiness of the cloves and cumin, the muskiness of the leather, the earthiness of the patchouli, and the warmth of the molasses-like resins, but 1740 still manages to be more than its individual parts.
15 minutes into its development, the fragrance begins to shift. The smokiness grows stronger, while the patchouli melts into the base where it merges with the resins, labdanum, and leather. At times, the strength of the styrax makes 1740 feel like a cousin to SHL 777‘s gorgeous Black Gemstone, though with different fruits. Instead of crisp, concentrated lemon, there is the sweeter note of apricot, but the similarities in vibe outweigh the differences, especially in conjunction with the patchouli, resins, and spices.
Speaking of the latter, the cardamom and coriander slowly grow more noticeable. The former smells slightly earthy, while the latter gives off whiffs of greenness at the edges. Something about the way they intersect with the smokiness, birch, and patchouli calls to mind Kilian‘s Intoxicated and Light My Fire. Perhaps it’s because the greenness of the cardamom and the darkness of the notes creates a feel of something tobacco’d and almost expresso-like lurking under the main bouquet of musky, warm, sweetened, and fleshy leather. The connection to the two Kilians is not as strong as to Black Gemstone, but it is there in the first hour.
Marquis de Sade isn’t a fragrance that twists and turns with multiple changes. It shifts only in small degrees, with the styrax smokiness, patchouli, and tobacco-like nuances being the most obvious fluctuating elements during the first three hours, but the scent generally feels quite linear. The fruitiness weakens substantially at the end of the 2nd hour, leaving a mix that is primarily spicy leather with muskiness, immortelle, subtle smokiness, and a touch of fruited sweetness, all within a warm, golden embrace. By the end of the 3rd hour, there is a sliver of creaminess that appears in the base, but 1740’s general contours remain essentially unchanged. All that really happens is that the notes blur into each other, leading into the heart of the fragrance which is nothing more than immortelle leather with amorphous spicy, smoky, musky, and ambered elements.
The final drydown begins at the 6th hour with a simple bouquet that is merely golden sweetness with a touch of spiciness and a vaguely suede-like feel. It strongly reminds me of the drydown of Nobile 1942‘s Rudis. Soon thereafter, Marquis de Sade feels like it’s about to die, and it is so discreet on my skin that, midway during the 6th hour, I had to put my nose right on the skin to detect it. Like its namesake, though, the scent somehow perseveres in almost hidden ways, clinging on as the sheerest of wisps against the skin, simmering away quietly and occasionally wafting a simple maple syrup aroma. All in all, and to my surprise, 1740 lasted roughly 9.5 hours, though only 6 of those were easy to detect.
When taken as a whole, 1740 has moderate sillage. Using 3 large smears equal to 2 sprays from an actual bottle, the perfume opens with 3-4 inches of projection. It is a very strong cloud that feels rich and full, but is actually rather airy at the same time. The projection drops to about 2 inches after 30 minutes, roughly 1.5 after 75 minutes, and then becomes a skin scent at the 2.75 mark. Something about the way the scent plays out on my skin makes me think that 1740 would actually have far greater projection and a decent sillage trail if it were sprayed, instead of dabbed, at least for the first few hours. Yet, I suspect that the projection would be quite soft and intimate once the middle phase began.
On Fragrantica, there are a lot of really positive reviews for 1740. My favorite comment is from “Big70tom” who says its his favorite fragrance but his wife hates it, resulting in “such a quandry… almost kept this and got a new wife.” Less joking reviews talk about the narcotic, sexy, and very masculine nature of the scent. Some don’t think the fragrance is animalic enough for the name, while a handful think the “spectacular” opening is not matched by the more “boring,” simple drydown. A few people find 1740 to be “Patchouli with a wicked side,” more than immortelle or leather driven. Finally, lot of people say 1740 has monster projection and excellent longevity on their skin.
Sadly, a handful of 2014 comments talk about the scent being reformulated in 2012 with the result reportedly gutting its character and rendering 1740 “more generic.” One poster called “Snowtree” elaborates in detail:
Sometime in the middle 2012 they changed a complete masterpiece, probably due to a restriction, even though Gérald Ghislain swears they didn’t. Ignore him, they did. Gérald is amazing but he is not being honest 🙂 To quickly summarize the difference between the two (I do have both…. and enough of the original to last me for years thankfully), the first version is much smoother in its spice and immortelle. Overall it does have a stellar buttery vibe that Turin alludes to in his review. It is flawless from start to finish. The new one has a slight, and I hate to use this word, chemical feel to it. It is good, I like it, but it smells a tad petroleum-esque, and then turns to an almost pancake-syrupy vibe as it heads towards the dry down. The original stays with an ever so tasteful spice and leather-tobacco dry down that is truly compelling. If one were to never smell the “vintage”, you would be correct in saying that this is a good fragrance. If you are familiar with the initial creation, you more than likely would be very disappointed, not to mention heartbroken that you would never be able to smell such a masterful version of this fragrance again at some point.
My sample is an old manufacturer’s one that I obtained in 2013 and who knows when it was actually bottled. All I can say is that I like 1740 enough to consider buying a new bottle even if it’s been diluted down. I truly think it’s that good, and I’m not particularly an immortelle lover. The only reason I’m hesitating is that I’m equally tempted by 1740’s sister version, Tubereuse 3- Animale, which has the tuberose that I love so much, and there is a lot of overlap between the two, in my opinion.
In terms of the masculine-feminine divide, some people on Fragrantica may describe 1740 as purely “masculine” but I know a number of women who adore the fragrance. Certainly, a lot of female bloggers do. Take, for example, Marina of Perfume-Smellin’ Things whose 2007 review states:
Is the Histores de Parfums scent fit to bear the legendary name? It is, as much as any other fairly smoky, pleasurably harsh leather scent would be. It could perhaps have been a little more forceful, a little more tarry and much more animalic…a little more…cruel.
The pressures of the name aside, this is a wonderful scent, lush, deep, darkly sensual. The three notes that I smell the most are leather, patchouli and… prunes. Patchouli here has that chocolate-like quality that I love in the note, and it adds an unexpectedly gourmand undertone to the black leathery brew. The image that the scent evokes in my mind is not of any sort of orgy, but of prunes covered in bitter, dark chocolate (my absolute favorite candy in the whole world), kept in an old leather trunk. Marquis de Sade is not a complex scent, but it compensates for the lack of intricate detail and sophisticated development by the glorious richness of the notes. On me, it is astonishingly comforting, truly the most unlikely comfort scent I have ever found. On The Other it is jaw-droppingly sexy …in fact, the smell makes me want to bite the wrist that wears it. Which, after all, might be a reaction the Marquis would approve.
The Non-Blonde also finds it “sexy,” in addition to be “addictive” and “very unique,” with a sweet darkness that is “dangerously poisonous and tempting.” She doesn’t think it’s particularly masculine, either. Her 2013 review reads, in part, as follows:
It’s unquestionably sexy, thick and leathery, seductive in its sweetness and very unique. The perfume is intriguing and at times cerebral. It’s also addictive. […][¶] There’s something almost oily in the opening of 1740. In theory there’s also bergamot in the top notes, but on me this thing goes right into the core and base with no niceties to break the ice. It always reminds me at first of Annick Goutal’s Duel, before Histoires takes the Marquis even darker and sweeter. There’s lots of spices, something that smells suspiciously like body heat (no cumin, surprisingly), a syrupy molasses-like note that is both dangerously poisonous and tempting, and leather. Lots and lots of soft black leather.
The gourmand honeyed thread that runs parallel to everything else going on in 1740 is what makes it stand out among other leather perfumes. It’s so sweet you want to dive in and lick every last drop, just when the whip is cracked and you smell that this is not your grandma’s kitchen with its pie drizzled with maple syrup. It’s the other kind of delicious, the one that’s less caloric but just as much fun. 1740 is also a shapeshifter. At times it smells quite impolite (the blending of labdanum and leather will do that, creating a carnal musky aroma), and other times the Marquis wears his aristocratic face and intellectual robe. It makes you stop and think about the thing you’re smelling. Is it skin? is it the kitchen? or are you in a dungeon? Marquis de Sade, after all, spent long years in various prisons (and an insane asylum), including the Bastille.
I wear 1740 without hesitation. I love leather and adore immortelle, so it sits well with me. I don’t think it’s particularly masculine, despite being designated for men (and placed on the far right of Luckyscent’s gender spectrum).
Birgit at Olfactoria’s Travels is yet another fan but, regardless of gender, you should not go near 1740 if you dislike immortelle or spicy patchouli. Take the horror of Victoria from EauMG as a warning. Her 2013 review reads, in part, as follows:
1740 opens with a birch tar leather and camphoric patchouli. There’s a dash of cool spices and citrus but I’d never call 1740 bright. It’s rugged and worn. It’s an earthy, dark, animalic potion. With time I get civet and dried fig, some rum and brown sugar, and the smell of stale, musty, leather steamer trunks. Now here’s when I become the sadomasochist. I hate immortelle and 1740 contains it, lots of it. The immortelle is maple syrup with less curry than usual. It’s sweet and reminds me of diabetic sweat. It’s like sugary sweat. I also get candle wax, smoke and moss from this perfume. The scent starts to imprison me and make me feel claustrophobic. It’s difficult to explain but I think I’m being smothered by immortelle in a chypre scented dungeon. […][¶]
1740 is a Marquis de Sade fragrance…but subtle. It’s not overly Marquis de Sade. It’s leathery. It’s filthy. It’s dirty. It’s fecal. It’s dank. It smells good but at the same time it doesn’t. It’s almost a fragrance for a sensory sadist. The opening is medicinal, almost like a poison. The heart is edible but stale. The base has a super sweet gluttonous immortelle. Some say that this one isn’t “Marquis de Sade” enough. I think it is. If it were “Marquis de Sade” enough, it’d be shit. Literally. And all the perfume fanatics would be griping about it smelling like feces. Trust me, this is as Marquis de Sade as any fragrance should be.
It’s true, some people don’t think 1740 is “Marquis de Sade enough,” all that bold, or even particularly animalic. I think the fragrance straddles the line between dirty and sensual almost perfectly. That said, if you want try to it, you may want to remember The Non-Blonde’s comment about occasional “impolite” carnality, and my initial difficulties with the scent the first few times I tried it due to the whole “ass-less chaps” raunchiness of the opening 10-15 minutes.
In short, this is a scent that may require patience and a few wearings, in addition to the requisite love for immortelle, patchouli, and musky leather. If those notes are up your alley, then you should definitely give 1740 a test sniff. This is one version of the Marquis de Sade that I find to be incredibly addictive.