When I was in my 20s, one of my signature fragrances was Hermès‘ 24 Faubourg, an opulent chypre-oriental powerhouse created by the legendary Maurice Roucel. It was centered on luminous, creamy, heady florals which Monsieur Roucel sheathed, first, in multifaceted mossy chypre greenness laced with peach, then in oriental clouds of golden amber layered with real sandalwood, creamy vanilla, spicy resins, and a sliver of leatheriness. The fragrance feels like the more feminine, white floral cousin of Hermes‘ 1984 floral-leather-chypre, Parfum d’Hermes (reformulated and renamed in 2000 as Hermes’ Rouge) and Puredistance M (directly modeled on Hermes‘ 1986 vintage Bel Ami) during their middle chypre-oriental stages. The eau de parfum version even has a phase which is like a white floral twist on the 1930s-1970s version of vintage Mitsouko extrait. On top of that, vintage 24 Faubourg also inhabits the same world of rich chypre-florals as Givenchy‘s famous 1984 Ysatis, although the Hermes scent has a greater oriental underpinning and I would argue that it is much grander. Its richness, heaviness, and ornate complexity not only result in a very baroque regalness, but also somehow manage to ooze money and wealth in the most tasteful, elegant way imaginable. That may be why 24 Faubourg became the signature scent of the most glamorous princess of her era.
There are two vintage concentrations, an eau de toilette and an eau de parfum, each of which has different nuances and development on my skin, but both are showstopping powerhouses with radiant, head-turning beauty and great sophistication. Given the opulence and the fragrance’s hybrid chypre-oriental character, I think 24 Faubourg would suit some men just as much as it does women or a princess. Not all men, mind you, because this is one very floral-heavy fragrance, but definitely those who love big (BIG) floral orientals or floral-chypres with a vintage feel.
Today, in Part I, I’ll take an in-depth look at both vintage concentrations. Next time, in Part II, I will examine the modern EDP version from a comparative perspective, then provide technical bottle and batch code analysis to help you date and buy the vintage versions. To be clear, my primary focus in Part II will be vintage 24 Faubourg. Originally, my plan had been to write a single post covering all these issues and with only a short comparative analysis of how the modern formula differed. Unfortunately, we all know by now how I fare with brevity: not well. The scent analysis for the three versions ended up being far too long for a single post (and I hadn’t even gotten to the bottle/dating/eBay section yet!), so a two-parter it shall be. Let’s get to it.
24 FAUBOURG BACKGROUND & NOTES:
24 Faubourg was created by Maurice Roucel and launched in 1995. I think initially it was released only as an eau de toilette and that the eau de parfum followed it a few years later, but I’m not completely certain of the EDP’s date. In any event, the fragrance became an immediate favourite of Diana, the former Princess of Wales, and was her signature scent until her death.
In its original formulation, 24 Faubourg was classified as a chypre-oriental. That is what it was specifically intended to be, but you wouldn’t know it by smelling it today. Now, due to the IFRA/EU depredations on oakmoss, it is purely a feminine white floral encased in abstract oriental goldenness. On top of that, the reformulation has Jean-Claude Ellena’s ghastly, minimalist fingerprints all over it. (That dreadful man.) But, back then, what a heavy, sumptuous, spellbinding, and regal chypre-oriental it was!
To the men out there, don’t let that photo of Princess Diana or 24 Faubourg’s modern reputation fool you and make you dismiss it instantly as “femme” or solely for women. I plan to spend a bit of time talking about the original 1995 note list and its base notes to demonstrate that the vintage version has enough unisex materials to make it a viable candidate for consideration if you’re a guy who loves heavy, opulent, white floral chypre-orientals with a vintage (and very 1980s) powerhouse character and style. If you have no problems wearing fragrances in the style of Bogue‘s Gardelia, Areej‘s Ottoman Empire, Roja Dove‘s Haute Luxe, Unum‘s Opus 1144, Anatole Lebreton‘s L’Eau Scandaleuse, vintage pre-1980s L’Heure Bleue, vintage pre-1980s Mitsouko, or white floral chypre-orientals from Sultan Pasha Attars, then just hear me out on what the original 24 Faubourg smells (particularly the EDP concentration) like before you dismiss it and click “Exit.”
It’s difficult to figure out 24 Faubourg’s full note list. For reasons which completely elude me, Hermes doesn’t bother to even list 24 Faubourg EDT or EDP on its website, even though the modern versions of both are still sold in department stores. In addition, the note list provided by many sites is highly abbreviated and lacking in specificity. For example, Fragrantica merely references generalized accords like “white flowers,” or a “floral heart enveloped in iris, wood, and mystery.” (“Mystery” is now a raw material?)
Osmoz is the one place that provides specific details in a note pyramid, but I strongly believe that their list applies only to the modern version of 24 Faubourg. Osmoz says that the notes are:
Top: Peach, Bergamot, Orange, Hyacinth
Middle: Orange Blossom, Jasmine, Tiaré [Tahitian Gardenia], Iris
Bottom: Vanilla, Patchouli, Sandalwood, Amber
I think that list creates a highly misleading portrait of the vintage scent, its character, and what it smells like because it omits critical, essential materials. First, it makes no mention of ylang ylang which is a major part of the heart phase and which frequently comes up in reviews of both the vintage version and the modern one. Second, it elides the number of dark, balsamic (and, sometimes, even a bit leathery) resins in the base; “amber” doesn’t cut it as illuminating information. Third, and most important of all, Osmoz omits major, character-shaping (and rather unisex) elements in the rest of the base. The base in the modern version may look like what they’ve listed, but the base in the original 1995 formula? No, I don’t believe it. Not one bit, not a chance, not ever — and I’ve worn 24 Faubourg since the year it launched. In short, the Osmoz list sucks. I do not think it reflects the original formula, and 24 Faubourg does not smell like what they’re proposing or indicating.
I suggest that a more representative, complete note list for OG/Original Gangster 24 Faubourg looks something like this:
Top: Peach, bergamot, orange, hyacinth;
Middle: orange blossom, jasmine sambac, gardenia, iris, and ylang ylang;
Base: vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood, oakmoss, vetiver, labdanum, benzoin, a bit of galbanum, probably some cedar, and possibly other resins (Tolu balsam?).
IFRA is the culprit behind most of this. What made vintage 24 Faubourg stand out, what gave it such an ornate opulence that someone on Fragrantica compared it to a crystal chandelier and ornate floral bouquet at the palace of Versailles are ingredients which IFRA started to limit circa 2005 before going full Mussolini from 2010 onwards. It’s not just oakmoss which, at this point, in 2017, might as well be a contagious form of Ebola in the way that it’s treated; no, the ceilings or permissible quantity levels for other raw materials have dropped as well. Back in the days when 24 Faubourg was created, there were no reduced ceilings for any chypre-adjacent green materials like, for example, the vetiver which, to my nose, appears as part of the mossy green accord in the original form. Back then, there were no lowered percentages for floral or citrus notes, either.
In my opinion, Hermes has done five things to 24 Faubourg: 1) they’ve scrapped some ingredients entirely; 2) they’ve reduced the percentage levels for several others to the point where they no longer have to be mentioned in the list because they are now, for all intents and purposes, inconsequential; 3) they’ve heavily diluted the richness and the quantity levels of the surviving notes; 4) they’ve replaced some natural raw materials with synthetics; and 5) they’ve altered the overall balance or ratio of notes to impart Jean-Claude Ellena’s bloodless, anorexic x-ray minimalism to the totality of the scent. (In case you didn’t know it already from past comments, yes, I loathe Ellena. I blame him for ruining what was once one of my favourite brands with his insufferable “air in a bottle” style, his bloody ISO E Supercrappy, and his synthetic impressionism. I also blame his pernicious aesthetic and influence for several exasperating industry trends.) Anyway, moving on…
The net-effect of all these changes has transformed a once kaleidoscopic, truly head-turning, baroque fragrance into a pale, simplistic shadow of its former self. Even if I ignore the colour changes in the juice as reflected in the photos above, even if I chalk them up to possible photographic issues or to a reduction in colour dyes, the olfactory changes are unmistakable. The simple bottom line is this:
- Modern 24 Faubourg: When considered in a vacuum or as compared to other modern fragrances, it’s nice, even pretty. But it’s also extremely generic. A typical, commonplace modern floral or floral oriental with vanilla and amber. As compared to the vintage original, however, it’s quite simply the zombified Walking Dead.
- 1990s 24 Faubourg: utterly glorious. Quite possibly or probably a masterpiece.
THE 1990s VINTAGE EAU DE TOILETTE:
Throughout the years, my 24 Faubourg bottles have always dated from the 1990s, never later. In my current stash, my two EDTs are from May 1995 and April 1999. They are identical in scent.
The vintage EDT opens with what feels like a veritable bridal bouquet of white flowers, except these flowers are hardly demure, delicate, dainty, or fresh. Instead, they are heavy, powerful, and forceful, with a take-no-prisoners character as they charge over and around you, the sort of flowers that command, nay demand, your attention. They smell heady, lush, radiantly pure, occasionally indolic, and completely natural, as though extremely expensive, top-grade essential oils had been used. Despite their brazen “come hither” seductive beckoning and forcefulness, they’re paradoxically luminous and radiant in their feel and weight. They’re also fully veiled and warmed by soft amber.
Orange blossom leads the charge and is usually the primary flower during the opening. Sometimes, it smells like the crisper stylings of neroli, but it usually skews more towards the orange blossom side, wafting such a heady lushness, fruity sweetness, strength, and naturalism that it’s as though the flowers were still growing on the tree.
A slew of other notes quickly follow, each adding greater and greater richness, greater and greater depth to the scent. There is creamy Tahitian gardenia, smelling as fresh as if had been splattered with morning dew, then honey-sweet peaches, fruity and musky jasmine sambac, and an almost tuberose-like, liquidy, green-white floralcy. Greenness grows all around and under the bouquet, smelling of wonderfully plush oakmoss, mossy-woody vetiver, a bit of peppery, dark galbanum, and possibly a touch of violet leaf. Brisk, crisp, lemony bergamot is splashed on top of the bouquet, while the base is redolent of spicy patchouli whose earthiness replicates the ground in which the flowers grow. A subtle, quiet streak of cedar-ish woods runs through the base as well.
The net effect is two-fold. First, there is a sense of flowers which have captured in a bottle in the most naturalistic way and in their every facet, from top to bottom, from their lush, creamy petals and nectared, sweet essence to their woody stalks/stems and even the mossy green ground at their feet. The difference, however, is that these flowers have that take-no-prisoners strength which I mentioned earlier, and they’re the furthest thing from being either demure, light, or subtle. They may sparkle with luminosity and radiance, but that sparkle is like an ornate crystal chandelier in a palace.
The second effect is a bouquet which varies in the character that it initially presents. On the surface and when smelled on the scent trail from a distance, the vintage EDT appears to be a highly complex, rather naturalistically fresh and luminous (but heavy and powerful) golden white floral. However, upon closer inspection, it’s clearly a heavy, rich, sophisticated, golden white floral chypre.
Regardless of fragrance category or genre, the bouquet is an utter powerhouse for a mere eau de toilette, in body, richness, heft, and sillage. Numerous modern eau de parfums which I’ve tried (as well as several extraits) have not been this opulent, this rich, this brimming with notes, and this potent in reach. Two sprays from a bottle yields about 5 inches of projection, but the sillage is so great that it extends about 8-9 inches, sometimes more. With 3 sprays all over, the vintage EDT leaves trail behind me even after I exit a room. With 4 or more sprays, you can smell me from here to Tokyo. All of that is exceptional for an EDT, the second lowest concentration of scent, and so very 80s in style. God bless its little soul.
Vintage 24 Faubourg EDT turns more chyprish and less purely floral as it develops. Roughly 25-30 minutes in, the orange blossom takes over, turning the other flowers in supplicating handmaidens. To me, it now feels more neroli-like in character as well as fruitier, but it’s crisper stylings are indirectly countered by a growing amount of indolic lushness from the jasmine. A new arrival appear on the sidelines at the same time: a touch of ylang ylang, its spiciness is accentuated by a pinch of cinnamon, perhaps from the benzoin or perhaps from the spicy patchouli. Roughly 40 minutes in, the oakmoss, vetiver, and what I’d swear was peppery galbanum expand, placing the flowers within an increasingly verdant landscape. Roughly 50 minutes in, the patchouli doubles in strength, wafting great spiciness but also some earthiness, earthiness which serves to accentuate both the oakmoss and the fragrance’s overall chypre character. Roughly 75 minutes in, the sandalwood begins to seep up from the base which, in turn, begins to grow more resinous and labdanum-like in feel.
There are several consequences of these changes. First, 24 Faubourg no longer feels even remotely like a fresh and feminine bridal bouquet. Although the flowers continue to be radiant and luminous in feel, they’re now blanketed with a more mature, extremely sophisticated, and very unisex set of chypre elements. To put it another way, the palatial surroundings around that crystal chandelier has changed from the white and gold trappings of Versailles to someplace greener in hue.
Second, the greenness is now cleverly offset by a delicate, carefully calibrated oriental accord composed of warm spiciness, sandalwood, sweet benzoin amber, silky vanilla, and more labdanum-style balsamic resinousness. Together, they ensure that the central chypre mossiness never skews into aloofness, chilliness, or haughty austerity like some classic floral chypre or green fragrances.
Third, the net effect of these changes is a scent that, to me, subtly nods to another Hermes’ fragrance, the fantastic Parfum d’Hermes in its original version and donut-shaped bottle. (Please note, the fragrance has been changed; it was reformulated, re-named, and re-released in 2000 as Rouge d’Hermes or Hermes Rouge.) The 1984 original was a rich, complex, chypre leather that was actually my signature fragrance when I was 14 or 15. School friends would look for me by looking for its heavy trail and smell: a faintly aldehydic, jammy red rose, doused with orange and bergamot, enveloped in a dark oakmoss-patchouli-vetiver chypre accord, then placed it upon an oriental base of smoky myrrh incense and dark balsamic leather. No, it’s hardly identical to 24 Faubourg and yet, something about PdH’s opulent, heavy, deep, and sultry orange, citrus, floral chypre bouquet kept coming to mind when I was doing my recent tests for this review. I’m actually wearing Parfum d’Hermes right now, and yup, I really think Maurice Roucel must have known about it when composing 24 Faubourg.
Even so, I thought I was crazy in my impression until I read another blogger, Brian of I Smell Therefore I Am, who wrote in his rave review for 24 Faubourg (see, it’s not just for women!) that “Faubourg is not a particularly large leap from 1984’s Parfum d’Hermes (now Hermes Rouge), speaking much the same language, if using different verbs.” Yes, that is it exactly! Parfum d’Hermes is more masculine in comparison or more purely unisex, but they inhabit the same universe and speak the same overall language.
Something about the scent also suggests a familial link to a second 1980s Hermes fragrance: vintage Bel Ami. Again, as Brian put it so perfectly, it’s a case of the same language, but with different nouns and verbs. For me, vintage 24 Faubourg EDT is vintage Bel Ami’s granddaughter: its white floral-ylang heart has the effect of skewing the fragrance more to the feminine side than Bel Ami, while its companion notes focus on the oriental chypre side instead of the woody chypre one, but the two-generation differences don’t negate their overall familial connection. 24 Faubourg has an even stronger connection to a modern fragrance which was inspired by and patterned on vintage Bel Ami: Puredistance M. To me, and on my skin, M is a chypre-oriental hybrid more than a leather fragrance, and I would argue that 24 Faubourg is its slightly more feminine-skewing, white floral-ylang distant relative.
24 Faubourg changes when its second stage begins, roughly 1.75 hours into its development. The gardenia retreats to the background, while the ylang-ylang leaves the sidelines to arrive on center stage. Its creamy, vanillic, heady floralcy wafts an almost clove-ish spiciness that work particularly well with the benzoin, oakmoss, vetiver, and the increasingly strong and spicy patchouli. At the same time as all this, the jasmine doubles in strength and prominence. The result is a floral bouquet which is no longer dominated by neroli-like orange blossoms above and beyond all the other flowers. The ylang and jasmine are just as central. So is the patchouli.
24 Faubourg shifts slightly at the start of the 4th hour, changing in its focus and balance of notes. Syrupy jasmine and sweet, spicy, velvety ylang ylang waltz in the spotlight, their lithe bodies draped in flowing silks of gold and white that stream about them as their feet glide around a golden, oriental ballroom. Spicy patchouli, silky smooth vanilla, golden benzoin, and now-moderate amounts of fruity orange blossom stand in a circle several feet away, watching the new stars of the show. On the distant sidelines are the chypre elements — plush oakmoss, vetiver, and a hint of balsamic labdanum — along with rich sandalwood and touch of dry cedar.
Something about the bouquet makes me think of the middle/late stages of Givenchy‘s vintage Ysatis. That legendary, much raved-about fragrance was released in 1984 and is sometimes viewed as the very first oriental chypre. Others, like myself, classify it as a floral chypre, detecting far less orientalism in its overall character, but I think the two fragrances take a similar approach to their white flowers, imbuing them with elegance, different degrees of grandeur, and a certain ’80s flair. Plus, Ysatis’ late stage is, like 24 Faubourg’s middle stage, heavily centered on ylang and jasmine, although the jasmine is the more dominant of the two there.
To be clear, though, there are major differences between 24 Faubourg and Ysatis. First, the latter has a significant amount of chilly, crisp aldehydes on my skin for the first few hours, which is one reason why I rarely wear it now. Second, its oakmoss is mineralized, cool, dry, quietly musty, and even a bit dusty on my skin, perhaps because there is almost an incense-like note (myrrh?) underlying it. In contrast, 24 Faubourg’s oakmoss always feels verdant, plush, rich, and warm, probably because it has such a significant oriental component acting as a counterbalance. Ysatis lacks the same degree of ambered warmth, at least on my skin. Third, for most of Ysatis’ first few hours, its central, dominant flower is a crisp, cool, citrusy aldehydic rose, trailed closely by sweet jasmine, then a chilly, clove-heavy carnation, and narcissus. (The ylang shows up later.) 24 Faubourg’s opening, however, is primarily a white floral which is heavily dominated by orange blossoms and gardenia, and it’s not until later that jasmine and ylang ylang eventually arrive to share the limelight. (The gardenia works primarily as a green-tinged floral creaminess after the first 30-40 minutes, and there is no noticeable, distinct hyacinth on my skin.) In addition to all that, I think 24 Faubourg has significantly more ylang ylang, patchouli, amber, and sandalwood than Ysatis; less cedar; its oakmoss is different; and its ambered base has a definite streak of smooth, silky vanilla in lieu of castoreum and civet. All in all, it’s quite a different set of notes, none of which are even remotely aldehydic or cool in feel. Ever.
Even so, if you ignore the specifics, two fragrances have a similar vibe and opulent aesthetic at this stage in their development. Brian of I Smell Therefore I Am detected it as well, writing (in the previously linked piece) the following back in 2011:
[Vintage 24 Faubourg EDT ]resembles another ornate fragrance, Ysatis, in certain respects, characterized by a rich floral accord with deep amber tones, but lacks the dusty incense quality of Ysatis, feeling somehow quieter, though neither could be said to whisper, exactly. Ysatis dates back to 1984, preceding 24, Faubourg by nearly a decade, and it’s interesting to see how little the cultural idea of opulence they represent changed in the intervening years, especially when you look at how drastically these fragrances differ from Ellena’s fairly recent work for Hermes.
Well, “drastically” is certainly one way of describing the seismic shift in Hermes’ style from the glory days of Parfum d’Hermes and 24 Faubourg. It’s also quite a restrained statement for a guy who adores ginormous vintage florals and complex, heavy floral orientals — the very opposite of Ellena’s work. But I will control myself and cease to talk about that blasted perfumer.
Vintage 24 Faubourg EDT remains largely unchanged for the next few hours, merely growing hazier from the 6th hour onwards when its notes fuse together in a blur of spicy, ambered, heavily oriental floralcy, lightly laced by a touch of chypre-ishness. Sometimes the ylang pops out clearly and distinctly from within the heavy, rich, deep cloud, sometimes it’s the jasmine, but the floral accord is increasingly and predominantly amorphous in feel, a seamless blend of white, creamy, and sweet flowers. Waves of oakmoss/vetiver-ish greenness, woodiness, patchouli, benzoin, and vanilla swirl around them but they, too, are becoming harder and harder to pick out individually. Each accord overlaps the others. What makes dissection even harder is that the scent finally loses its powerful heft and forceful sillage when the 6th hour begins, clinging to the skin in quieter fashion. Make no mistake, 24 Faubourg is still the furthest thing possible from a gauzy wisp of discretion, but it’s no longer so operatically fleshy nor is it pulsating out like the booming thump of a rock concert.
Roughly 6.5 hours in, vintage 24 Faubourg EDT shifts its focus and nuances when the benzoin amber takes over as the dominant note. Subsumed within it are small streaks of: a sweet jasmine-ish floralcy; dry-spicy-warm sandalwood-ish/cedar-ish woodiness; and a touch of chyprish, vetiver-ish greenness. There is no ylang, no orange blossom, but every now and then, there is a whisper of vanilla and spiciness lurking in the background. Only the amber is crystal clear to my nose; everything else is difficult to identify with certainty. In fact, I’d estimate that as much as 75% of the bouquet at this point consists of resinous but slightly creamy goldenness; 10% is sweet jasmine; 5% is woodiness; and the remainder is too minor or heavily muffled to figure out.
Roughly 7.25 to 7.5 hours, 24 Faubourg EDT begins to slowly transition into its drydown. To my surprise, the balance of notes starts to slowly, inch by inch, revert to the chypre side of the equation and the amber begins to sink into the base. When the drydown kicks in fully at the end of the 8th hour and the start of the 9th, 24 Faubourg is almost purely a chypre-ish jasmine. There are a few woody and vanilla notes darting around it like little fireflies, but the central focus of 24 Faubourg on my skin is creamy, white jasmine infused with mossy greenness.
24 Faubourg remains this way for the next 6 hours without any significant change. It merely grows fainter and wispier. In its final hours, all that’s left is a gossamer whisper of floralcy that is faintly sweet, faintly dry, and faintly mossy.
I’ve talked a lot already about the fragrance’s sillage and projection, but the longevity is good, too. With 2 sprays from an actual bottle on the same patch of skin, it usually takes the EDT 7.5 hours to turn into a skin scent. In the 9th and 10th hours, the scent feels as though it’s close to dying, but 24 Faubourg lingers on tenaciously as the merest glazing on the skin. Most of the fragrance dies away from my arm 14 to 14.5 hours in, but teeny, tiny patches remain a bit longer. While the longevity is not eye-opening, what you have to remember is that the sillage for the first few hours is as much as 8-9 inches, while the weight is heavier than a good number of modern eau de parfums. For a mere EDT, the second weakest category of concentration, this is one supercharged, potent fragrance.
To the best of my memory, I’ve never encountered a modern EDT that performs like this one does on my skin. In terms of weight, heft, sillage, power, heaviness, and overall performance, it’s a goddamn Ferrari. Even better, this Ferrari is surprisingly affordable. Heck, it’s practically dirt cheap compared to modern niche fragrances of a comparable caliber and luxuriousness. It’s certainly more affordable the modern 24 Faubourg that is currently in stores. I’ll talk about all that in Part II when I discuss how to recognize the vintage version and provide details on all the technical batch code stuff, but to give you a rough idea, I’ve bought 100 ml bottles of the 1990s vintage EDT for as little as $40. It’s an absolute bargain for such a luxurious showstopper. That said, I think the rare, extremely hard-to-find 1990s EDP version is EVEN BETTER. At the very least, it’s more unisex as well as being even heavier, richer, stronger, and more long-lasting.
1990s VINTAGE EAU DE PARFUM:
I don’t know the exact year that the EDP was released, but I’m pretty sure it was 1998 when I bought my first bottle and I’ve always had the impression that also was the year in which the richer concentration was unveiled. I may be wrong, but none of my EDP bottles have ever pre-dated 1998. Even in my current stash, one is from 1998 and the other from 1999. For reasons that I’ll explain in Part II, I make a point of never buying any 24 Faubourg, either EDT or EDP, from after 1999. That is my cut-off line and not even mid-2000s stuff works for me, let alone the most current EDP version (which I’ll review in the Part II).
The vintage EDP’s opening bouquet is different than the EDT’s in its emphasis, components, nuances, and overall feel. The fragrance is much creamier than the EDT because the gardenia is richer, stronger, deeper, and more obvious note. It’s the first hit to the nose, wafting an unctuous, fatty creaminess as though the flower had been covered in rich clotted cream. Yet, it’s also dewy, fresh, and very naturalistic in feel; I bet an extremely expensive extract was used. The gardenia is rapidly engulfed by the orange blossom and jasmine, but it continues to do its work indirectly, lending a gorgeous, satiny, creamy texture to the scent and a sort of naturalistic verisimilitude where you feel as though you were coated in creamy petals.
There are other differences, too. First, the orange is not only significantly fruitier than the one in the EDT, but it’s also indolic. At no point during the EDP’s development does it skew towards the crisper, lighter neroli side. This is orange blossom, orange blossom, orange blossom. Second, right from the start, there is as much golden jasmine, peach, and spicy, bronzed, rich patchouli on my skin as there is orange blossom. Third, amber is an immediate hit as well, smelling more of dark labdanum than the sweeter, milder benzoin variety. The result is a floral bouquet composed of flowers which are co-equals, not one driven by the orange blossom with everything else running to catch up. In addition, the patchouli and amber are the flowers’ immediate, opening sidekicks, smelling much stronger, heavier, and more pronounced than they were in the EDT’s opening. Finally, it’s also a fruitier, richer, heavier, spicier, darker, but also slightly creamier scent than the EDT.
The vintage EDP also develops differently than the EDT on my skin. First, the EDT skewed more towards the purely floral side on my skin in its opening 10 minutes and had almost a bridal underpinning to its luminous white flowers. In contrast, the EDP’s opening is initially planted in fruity-floral oriental territory. Second, with the EDT, it took time for its chypre elements to emerge from the base in a strong, noticeable fashion, but it only takes the EDP about 15-20 minutes for them to start peeking out. Roughly 35 minutes in, the EDP turns into equal parts fruity-floral oriental and floral chypre-oriental. Thanks to the base notes arriving fully on center stage, the EDP grows darker and, if you can believe it, even heavier. In fact, it basically feels like the equivalent of an ultra concentrated, super expensive modern extrait in its body, weight and feel. Two sprays of this EDP has the same strength as one, possibly two, big sprays of the almost attar-like Areej Le Doré extraits. For a basic EDP, this is an absolute behemoth on my skin, and I love every.single.bit of it.
And, my word, is it sultry! It practically oozes seduction. Wealth, glamour, sophistication, regal hauteur, and more money, but above all else, seduction and sex appeal. Perhaps, it’s because there is something so fleshy and carnal about the ripe, humid white flowers in this version; perhaps it’s because they’ve been bronzed in a certain muskiness; or perhaps it’s fact that the combination of those two things with the inordinate amounts of patchouli and oakmoss make me think of vintage Mitsouko extrait in its 1930s-1970s formulations. Not the 1980s-2000s era Mitsouko, but the earlier formulas which were jasmine-centric in the top notes, more resinous, warm, and brimming with patchouli-vetiver-labdanum-oakmoss. For me, the vintage EDP version of 24 Faubourg is that white floral and orange blossom great grand-daughter (or second cousin once removed) of 1930s-1970s Mitsouko. It also has the same feel and vibe as Roja Dove‘s Roja Haute Luxe; imagine a white floral/orange blossom version of Roja Haute Luxe (and with just as much power and body as that extrait), and you would end up here. To paraphrase Brian of I Smell Therefore I Am, all three fragrances are speaking the exact language, only with different nouns or verbs.
The same thing applies to vintage EDP’s second stage which begins roughly 1.5 to 1.75 hours into its development. If vintage Mitsouko extrait, vintage Ysatis, and some orange blossoms had a three-way sexscapade, their offspring would be 24 Faubourg EDP. The ylang appears, sweeping grandly over center stage to dance a three-way waltz with the increasingly syrupy, indolic jasmine and the fruity, indolic orange blossom. Cinnamon-scented benzoin, patchouli, and labdanum form a circle around them a few feet away. A new note appears in the wings: a Samsara-style sandalwood. Vanilla stands beside it. Far to the back of the ballroom, vetiver, oakmoss, and a touch of dry cedar flit about; the oakmoss occasionally darts forward to touch the dancing flowers, but these are tertiary notes now because 24 Faubourg has turned into a full-on, total ambered floral oriental. The best way to sum it up is to use the well-known Charlize Theron Dior/J’Adore photo; it embodies 24 Faubourg even more than J’Adore, if you ask me:
However, the EDP completely reverses course in its third stage when the chypre accord comes roaring back in, transforming the oriental bouquet into more of a hybrid. It occurs 3.5 to 3.75 hours into the fragrance’s development when the mossy greenness comes charging at the stage. The jasmine stands its ground, smelling syrupy and a bit musky, but the poor ylang flees for the hills. The florals aren’t the only ones to do a switcheroo. The woods change as well, going from spicy sandalwood to something which smells more like dry, slightly smoky cedar. Meanwhile, the patchouli sinks into the base where it wafts a soft touch of earthiness which accentuates the mossy greenness in a really lovely way. Hanging over everything is a cloud of resinous, musky, bronzed amber.
If I had to proportion the notes, I’d estimate that as much as 85% of the bouquet is a seamless blend of jasmine, greenness, woodiness, and amber in co-equal parts; the remainder is comprised of everything else. What’s interesting to me is that there are background whispers of a floralcy which veers between hyacinth and green tuberose in its aroma. Once in a blue moon, there is even a ghostly, elusive hint of rooty iris, but, every time that I think I’ve pinned it down and it’s not a trick of the mind (or nose), it disappears.
As you’ve gathered by now, there is a constant tug-of-war between the chypre and oriental sides of 24 Faubourg, in both its concentrations, and the stages keep alternating. In the case of the vintage EDP, the notes completely rearrange themselves at the end of the fifth hour and the scent shifts back to the oriental side. This time, the labdanum-benzoin takes the lead, followed by jasmine, patchouli, oakmossy greenness, and then woodiness, in that order. The fragrance is significantly spicier and there is even a touch of leatheriness in the base. The cumulative effect conjures up memories of different parts of Parfum d’Hermes, Puredistance M, and vintage Mitsouko extrait.
The EDP’s long drydown begins at the start of the 8th hour and is basically similar to that of the vintage EDT. The scent initially starts out as a jasmine chypre infused with a touch of balsamic ambered goldenness and warmth, then eventually dissolves into more of a pure floral. It’s vaguely jasmine-ish and sweet, and has lingering traces of dry, mossy greenness subsumed within. Comparatively speaking, the EDP’s finish is warmer, sweeter, more golden, and more floral than the EDT’s, but we’re talking inconsequential degrees of difference here.
The vintage EDP had fair projection, excellent sillage, and excellent longevity. With 2 small sprays from an actual bottle on the same skin patch, the fragrance opened with about 3-4 inches of projection and a cloud of sillage that extended several feet. It also seems to cling to everything in its path. The other day, I sprayed some of the EDP on my mother during a brief visit and I wasn’t even in her vicinity all that long, but I went home with my shirt quietly wafting 24 Faubourg all over it. And I could smell traces of the fragrance on me hours later. When I tell you that this fragrance is nuclear in intensity with only a small amount, it really is. It takes a while for the numbers to drop. After 3.5 hours, the scent trail extends 6-7 inches; after 7 hours, the soft (but still extremely potent) cloud radiates 3-4 inches around me. It takes between 10 and 10.5 for the EDP to turn into a skin scent on me, and even then I can still detect it without much effort if I bring my nose to my arm. In total, the fragrance typically lasts over 20 hours on me with 2 sprays on the same patch of skin.
The numbers are much higher with a larger scent application. When I apply scent for my personal use, I generally use much more than the 2-spray amount (or its dabbed equivalent) that is my standardized measure for testing. When I’ve applied 3-4 sprays of the vintage EDP on the same area, I’ve easily had 25+ hours of scent. Once, after a shower, there still remained the faintest trace of something ambery lingering on my skin and I’d first applied the scent the morning of the day before!
Please note, both the EDT and the EDP perform this way on me without the benefit of obvious and strong aromachemicals to increase sillage and longevity. I do not detect a single overt, intrusive trace of harsh or shrieking synthetics in this scent. (I did for a 1990s Givenchy classic when I washed it off the other day. I ended up having to take a shower to try to get rid of the rasping faux cedar or faux sandalwood in the base and, even after that, I could still smell the blasted thing.) In my opinion, Hermes spent a lot of money to ensure that the materials were natural-smelling, smooth, rich, and deep. For both concentrations. If there is nuclear performance, it’s not being achieved by any super chemicals that I can detect, which is not the case for modern designer fragrance that act this way.
In short, if the EDT is a revved-up vintage Ferrari Testarossa by EDT standards, then the EDP is unquestionably a classical, regal vintage Rolls Royce that is sleek and streamlined in its design but also so hefty that it’s practically like a tank. I’m not talking about the chunky modern ones or even the 1980s Silver Shadow versions; we’re talking “DDG” (“Drop Dead Gorgeous,” one of Princess Diana’s favourite expressions), Art Deco-influenced, sleek, ornate, princely 1920s-1940s Phantom ones. That’s what the EDP comes down to for me in its sleekness, seamlessness, complexity, weight, performance, and luxuriousness. I would argue that the comparison to a Rolls Royce masterpiece is doubly true when you compare the EDP to what other designers or brands put out these days. Mugler’s Alien or A*Men? Jean-Claude Ellena’s “breaths in a bottle”? YSL’s Black Opium or even their “luxury” Tuxedo? Pffffttt. Vintage 24 Faubourg EDP is in a different class entirely, and it shows on every level.
It’s in a different class price-wise, too — once again for the better. By some strange coincidence, each of my 50 ml bottles cost $80 on eBay. In my opinion, $80 is fantastic for all that you’re getting, and even more so when you compare this luxurious fragrance to its modern niche equivalents of the same caliber. Even the modern 24 Faubourg EDP is $60 more at $140 for the same 50 size.
Unfortunately, 1990s bottles like the ones I own pop up infrequently on eBay. I would even call them rare. One can find larger 75 ml refill bottles in long, elongated shapes that are presented as “vintage,” but the original EDP never came looking like that. The original one has the design, shape, and look shown in my photos — and those are not a dime a dozen.
No matter what the concentration, vintage 24 Faubourg is not for everyone. You should obviously avoid it like the bubonic plague if you love fresh, clean fragrances, the Ellena style of perfumery, modern fragrances, casual fragrances, light fragrances, or discreet ones. It also won’t suit men who dislike a lot of white florals in their fragrances. Finally, it would probably work best for someone with slightly older tastes. On Fragrantica, people reviewing the modern, reformulated, LIGHTER version of 24 Faubourg either rave or shudder about its heaviness, strength, power, and forcefulness, with one woman saying that she wasn’t “classy enough for this,” another saying she wasn’t old enough for it, and a third saying it was too “rich, hot and stubborn.” Not only are these comments about the lighter current formulation but most people seem to be referencing the EDT, the weakest concentration out of the two. One can only imagine what they would say about the vintage EDT or vintage EDP. I think it would give a good number of them a heart attack. In short, if you’re my Evil Scent Twin and if the 80s-style vintage aesthetic isn’t your catnip, you should keep an entire continent between you and the slightest whiff of 24 Faubourg, modern or vintage.
For those of you who may be intrigued, however, stick with me. Next time, in Part II, I’ll provide a comparative review of the modern EDP, mostly to show you why you should stick to the original, then offer some technical guidelines on recognizing and dating the vintage bottle. I’ll discuss batch codes, box markings, the online batch calculator site I use, and anything else which might help you to find and buy the vintage fragrance in whichever concentration best suits your personal tastes and style.