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.
I have those vintage bottle in both the EDT and the EDP, plus a flacon of the pure parfum. I bought them when they first came out and also bought back-up bottles of the EDT and EDP. I still have the original bottles and the juice inside is still perfect. Nothing else around smells like it in my opinion.
Utterly magnificent, isn’t it? So glad to meet another major fan.
Yes they don’t make fragrances like that any more.
Hermes certain doesn’t. *snort*
*muttered rude words*
Utterly heavenly. Can’t wait for Part 2! I wore Parfum d’Hermes when it was first launched and only the other day I was yearning for it … the “Rouge” variant is merely a very pale ghost of what was once such a sumptuous fragrance. Ahhhh, if only perfumes still smelt like they once did ….. young people now don’t know what they are missing!
Ha, see, we’re not Evil Scent Twins as much you believe! Not just 24 Faubourg but Parfum d’Hermes, too! Do you know, I think you may be the only person I’ve encountered online who knows, loves, and wore that fragrance? I never hear about it from anyone, even other vintage lovers. Brian’s blog review was actually the first mention of it that I’ve ever seen by any blogger.
I see Parfum d’Hermes very much as an ignored, hidden, under-appreciated underdog. It’s as though the fragrance never existed in the annals of perfumery, which is such a shame as it was so fantastic and opulent. I remember recommending it to one reader years and years ago because of her love for big bold Amouage floral chypre orientals and her specific note tastes, but she hated it because she thought it was too masculine. :\ In short, YAY for another Parfum d’Hermes’ fan. I’m thinking of doing a review on it later. Do you know, it’s not difficult to find on eBay and it’s very reasonably priced there. I will have to check UK eBay to see if it’s the same there because maybe you could pick up another bottle?
Thank you for that suggestion – I am scurrying off now to see if I can find some! And I am so glad that we are not true evil scent twins.
Rouge isn’t “bad” as such, but has lost that richness of Parfum d’Hermes, which seemed sweeter (without actually being sweet if you see what I mean); it is a thin creature compared with the voluptuous original. I don’t like ascribing gender to perfume, but I find it hard to believe that someone thought it masculine!
I think it’s because Parfum d’Hermes’ base is leathery and dark, so to some women it feels or skews as “masculine.” I see the same sort of thing being said about Shalimar’s base on Fragrantica and those people are referencing the *modern* version, not even the original vintage one which actually *WAS* profoundly leathery, smoky, resinous, musky, and dark! It comes down to how one perceives, classifies, or interprets dark notes, I think.
I have the sense that Parfum d’Hermes was created to be a more feminine, rose-based twist on more traditionally masculine leathers and leather chypres. The fragrance is definitely a mix of masculine and feminine elements, resulting in something that is unisex, in my opinion, but it ultimately comes down to how much a woman may like a leathery dark base in her fragrances or how she perceives/interprets such a base. 🙂
I loved the modern (well, bought five years ago) EDP until I smelled it on a someone I disliked. Fortunately our acquaintance was brief, but I have never worn 24F with quite the same pleasure since then. She wore it insensitively, as an olfactory token of success I think. And that’s the thing with these 80s or 80s-style fragrances. Perhaps opulent florals (EL’s Beautiful also comes to mind) tend to attract a certain personality type. And it’s very, very hard to break an association with a fragrance if it has left a bad impression.
So I enjoyed your review and look forward to the next part. It’s a welcome change to stop and consider what the fragrance actually smells like, stripped of its personal associations.
I like Ysatis as well and find it a tad more relaxed and easier to wear. The ylang seems almost custardy, and always makes me smile.
I agree, it’s extremely difficult to break negative associations once they’ve kicked in. I think that applies to perfume perhaps even a bit more than other things in life because perfume, unlike a tv show, a book, or food, literally surrounds one and stays right in one’s personal space. If one doesn’t like a food item, one can merely ignore it or walk on by.
If you bought your bottle 5 years ago, circa 2012, the fragrance probably already had at least one if not two reformulations by then. Perhaps the more chypre-skewing original might be different enough for you to be able to enjoy 24 Faubourg again as something similar but not quite like the scent you associate with the unpleasant woman? I know it’s unlikely and a long shot, though. The associations are hard to break.
Magnificent post! I adore 24, Faubourg. It is glorious. I also love baroque and rich florals that bring to mind all that is gilded, sumptuous, and radiant. I went on the hunt for some vintage bottles this summer on ebay. I cannot tell you how many sellers I pestered for batch codes. You may remember I even “pestered” you for some info regarding the comparison between the vintage and current formulations, so this post is like getting a cake with lots and lots of icing on top……and I love icing.
One thing that really stood out with the bottles I purchased (got an EDT and EDP, both vintage), was the delicious jasmine and the sparkling ambergris. I could never so poetically describe the scent the way you do, but it really is spectacular.
One interesting thing, though, is that one of the bottles I purchased is a 100ml EDP with batch code XG1H, supposedly from 1999. The other is an EDT with batch code XL1A0, also a 100ml bottle. Did you mention above that the EDP only came in 50ml bottles in the 1990’s? I now can’t find where you said that so maybe I’m wrong.
I look forward to part II of this post with great anticipation.
I do recall indeed, Katie. You asked about the possible timeline for the reformulations and I gave you my hazy memories of store tests in the mid and late 2000s. And we discussed the modern version, too. I told you I had ordered a sample of the current EDP which I’d shied away from smelling it lest it was so badly gutted that it broke my heart. I want you to know that I thought of you when I finally girded my loins and steeled myself to apply/test the 2016 sample. I really did! And you never “pestered” me at all. 🙂
I’m beyond delighted to hear that you ended up finding 1990s bottles! In terms of the 100 ml size for the vintage 1990s EDP, it’s funny but I’ve literally never seen one. I kid you not. I remember being in Saks or Neimans in San Francisco in 1998 when I bought my original EDP bottle, and they only had the 50 ml. After that, in the mid/late 2000s, in a different part of the country where I live now, the few times that I looked for the fragrance and saw it being displayed out on store counters, it was always the two sizes of EDT and the one 50 ml size of the EDP. I’ve literally never seen a big bottle of the vintage EDP in person or on eBay. So, I appreciate the information and took out that small line in my review.
I like icing, too, by the way. lol 😀 😛
I’d be happy to send you a photo if you ever want to see a 100 ml bottle of a 1990’s EDP. I now feel extremely lucky to have found it! What is more, as you mentioned above, the price really was reasonable.
Out of curiosity, I have been looking at 24 F listings on ebay since reading your post. It looks like they are getting lots of attention. I think people reading this fantastic post are on the hunt and 24 F is “in the air” so to speak (or literally LOL). Or, perhaps it is just the coming of autumn. Either way, the timing is perfect in so many ways. And again, I’m really looking forward to part II.
Oh, and by the way, when I was looking for the parfum version not too long ago (don’t have a bottle of that yet), I found out, through my own research, that real oakmoss was taken out around late 2012. You may already know this, but I thought I would share!
Mmmm…24 Faubourg. I first discovered this in 2001, and the bottle I have now dates back to 2007. I also had the spray powder (if I remember correctly) that was sold back in the early 2000s. Just found a bottle with “eau de parfum” etched in the neck of the bottle, so am looking forward to adding that to my collection. What a wonderful review, and eagerly awaiting the next installment. (WordPress has been giving me error messages, so hopefully this isn’t a repeat reply).
Just to let you know, the “Eau de Parfum” etching has always been there so that alone, by itself, is not a sign of the fragrance being vintage. You need to look for batch codes starting with a letter from the end of the alphabet like W, X, etc. Otherwise, you may just be getting a new/newer bottle. If you’re in the US, I haven’t seen any vintage EDPs currently listed on eBay at this moment in time and I’ve been looking because my mother wants a bottle. So, whatever you see, ask the seller for the batch code on the base sticker!
Oh no! I’ve never noticed the etching before, so oh well…Thank you for the heads up on the batch codes. I also bought an EDT with about 15% left in the bottle, batch code TD2G from eBay. I’m in the US. Good luck with your search, and I hope you find a beautiful bottle for your mother!!
You’ve outdone yourself with this review. Altho i love Ellena’s work (remember, I live in the scent phobic province of NS, so his minimal style reads as maximum around here) I love to hear different people’s opinion 🙂
I bought 24 Faubourg years ago. It was a dreary day in November, and I had a dreary electrical problem with my truck. While the boys at Ford were trying to diagnose the problem I went to Winners, because it was the only place nearby to waste some time. There was nothing of interest to me. I was just wandering and waiting. At the back of a bottom shelf in the men’s fragrance dept were some orange boxes. The colour was so attractive I pulled one out. I liked the box, recognized the hermes name, couldn’t pronounce the name of the fragrance. There was an open bottle on the shelf and I took a spray and thought I liked what I smelled. I kept sniffing and the scent got stronger. Nuclear. There were so many things to smell in that one spray-orange blossom, amber, deeper base notes. My mood lifted. The price was great-probably $20 or so for a 30 ml in a pretty box, and sealed, too. I bought 2 EDP and 1 EDT. One was for me, one for my mom, and one for a friend. While standing in line and waiting to pay the woman behind me kept inhaling. she asked me the name of my fragrance. I told her where to find it. She handed me her purchases and went to get herself some while I held her place in line. She bought the other three bottles. My father, who is reticent about compliments, loved this scent. He thought it smelled expensive-like perfumes used to. I can’t believe you managed two sprays-one spray for me will last about 24 hours. I like both the EDT and EDP. The EDP smells denser to me. The EDT is still a beast, and seems to have more of an orange blossom opening. I bought mine back in 2005, or 2006. One ingredient listed is oak moss. It gives this such deep rich lasting aspect, and a degree of complexity. I just can’t explain it, but I don’t have to , because you already have.
Thank you for this. I’ll look forward to the next parts, too.
I just had to say how much I enjoyed reading your story! I’m headed to winners today to pick up a gift card and the incongruity of Hermès and winners is just lovely. And the luck of it….
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Thank you ! I found and bought vintage parfum (like extrait) 24 faubourg because of this review :).
Wonderful! I hope you’ll let me know what it’s like on your skin after you’ve had the chance to try it.
Greetings Katie. Your beautiful, and oh so interesting, articles about 24 Faubourg have added me to the list of seekers, in fact, I came across one of the delightful ladies above while buying an etched EDP bottle. Alas, the seller was a little confused as to what she was selling and I was sent and EDT instead of the EDP she sent elsewhere.
The point of my reply is not about that lost bottle though. it concerns a 100ml EDT splash that I just received. The bottle has no etching; the delicate design has been printed on, as has been every marking on this bottle. They actually smear off and the liquid inside is a ghost of I don’t know what.This came in a box that looks old and both bottle and box are marked with “UL1AV”.
I do posses an EDP from 2015 as I read reviews and the scent sounded right up my alley but I was quite disappointed. The sent is ok but not at all exciting for me with no complexity what-so-ever.
Was the bottle for 24 Faubourg ever not etched?
I’m not Katie or called Katie, but I’m sure that was just your autocorrect acting up. 🙂 Welcome, Ms. Frank. To answer your question, I’ve never seen a 1990s square bottle without etching, although some special editions came with gold plating it seems and, in recent years, Hermes has put out a slew of limited edition bottles with special designs. But a square 1990s bottle like the sort with the U-batch code you mentioned? No, I haven’t seen one without the etched design.
I’m really not a packaging or bottle expert, though. That’s never been my area of speciality, so perhaps there was some special edition with a print marking?
I’m dubious, however, that anything done by Hermes would be such poor quality as to smear off!!! Smearing sounds quite out of the norm, not to mention fishy. Worst of all, though, is your description of the actual aroma of the liquid inside. I can’t imagine ANYONE describing original-version 24 Faubourg as a “ghost of I don’t know what.” Not 1990s 24 Faubourg!! No way. You can see another commentator called it “nuclear,” so being an indeterminate “ghost” is yet another thing that is far outside the norm to me.
I’m afraid the only explanation that I can think of is that the bottle might — might, maybe — be counterfeit? It’s just a guess since I haven’t smelled it, but quite a few of the big houses have had their fragrances knocked off by the Chinese and others. Chanel, Dior, Tom Ford, and even niche brands like Creed or Roja Dove. They do pretty good facsimiles of the bottles, markings and packaging, but not always. Sometimes the fakes aren’t good enough to withstand close visual scrutiny. And the faux scent is *definitely* a pale, watery ghost substitution. That part they’re not interested enough to try to copy well. Their only interest is in making a superficial surface copy of the outer trappings.
Maybe that is the case here? Honestly, it’s the only thing that I can think of, and it would certainly explain both the markings smearing off and the ghostly, diluted scent.
I’m sorry, I know this is not the sort of thing one likes to hear.
For what it’s worth, I doubt your eBay seller ever knew because he or she probably picked it up at an estate sale or something. The original source of the problem must go way back to the 1990s since they used a code that was current at the time, and that’s not something that a modern counterfeiter would do.
Btw, I’m not surprised that you were underwhelmed and disappointed by the 2015 EDP. That’s why it’s even MORE of a shame that you got such an iffy, possibly counterfeit “vintage” bottle. I’d be so peeved and irate in your shoes. 🙁
Dear Kafkaesque, you have echoed my thoughts when I saw the bottle and confirmed my disappointment when I sniffed what was inside. I’ll be sending the bottle back and I agree, sellers don’t always know what they are selling, happens all the time. I’ll keep trying though. Everything I hear about this original scent sounds like it is my kind of perfume.
You are a lovely writer, by the way, and I’m so glad to have found you.
I’m glad you found our tiny corner of the world, and I’m glad to have you here. I look forward to getting to know you and your fragrance tastes better. 🙂
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Your review was an absolute pleasure to read. I went to eBay and immediately purchased a vintage bottle of EDP!
If you would be so kind can you answer a question for me? I adore the scent of gardenia, but the contemporary gardenia scents seem too light, fluffy and fruity. They don’t smell much of gardenia They are missing the deep lush heady scent of gardenia on a hot sultry day in the South. This is the kind of gardenia scent I’m looking for. Does this make sense? Do you have any suggestions of vintage or contemporary gardenia scents that are opulent, luxurious and complex? Does a gardenia scent like this even exist? If not, could you recommend a scent or scents that actually smell like a gardenia?
My apologies for the delayed reply. I’ve had some serious dog/vet things to deal with over the last week.
I’m glad I could help with regard to 24 Faubourg, but I don’t think I’ll be of much use with regard to your query regarding great gardenia fragrances. Bottom line, there aren’t many, either modern or vintage, that really highlight the true and full beauty of the flower. The few modern ones that there are have been badly impacted either by IFRA or by reformulations. But really, in all candour, I just don’t think most modern (purported) “gardenia” soliflore fragrances are very good in terms of authenticity, richness, and/or full range of nuance in showing off the gardenia. Plus, so many smell so incredibly synthetic.
There are a handful of rare exceptions, however, though one of them is simpler than you’d probably like. That one is Aftelier’s Cuir de Gardenia. You can look up the review, but bottom line: it’s a creamy, lush gardenia. Problem for me is that it doesn’t last long on the skin.
A *GREAT* floriental-chypre hybrid which includes a gorgeous gardenia (but which is NOT a gardenia soliflore) is Gardelia, created by Antonio Gardoni of Bogue for an Italian perfume shop’s anniversary but which is available for sampling at Luckyscent and Surrender to Chance. You can read my review for that one, too. Problem with that one: it’s expensive. But if you’re a fan of things like Mitsouko, then Gardelia’s lush gardenia twist on Mitsouko and its lovely vintage vibe may bowl you over.
I recently tried a fragrance with a beautifully lush and authentic gardenia note at its core: Sammarco’s new or about to be released “Daria.” The problem for me was it was intensely sugared, sweet, and cloying in its accompanying notes. (I also thought it was a bit too monosyllabic and linear for my personal tastes.) I haven’t reviewed Daria yet because I’m still trying to brace myself again for the sugar/musk onslaught as needed in order to conduct the additional testing necessary for a full, proper review — and I have a very low threshold for sugar, sugared musk, white musk, or any excess of the above.
That is a personal and wholly subjective matter, however, and you may be quite different. Perhaps you love gourmands or hyper-saturated sweetness. I don’t know. But if you do, Daria is one to keep in mind.
Luckyscent carries and sells samples of the Sammarco line, as they do for Bogue’s Gardelia. Aftelier’s Cuir de Gardenia is the only one you’d have to order directly from the company as a sample.
Personally, my recommendation based on what you’ve mentioned as your taste and style preferences, particularly the issue of opulence and complexity, would be Gardelia. It was in the top 5 of my year-end “Best of” list the year that it came out. Mind you, it’s best to read the review first because it has a bit of a wonky smoked campfire note during the first 15 minutes, but man, that scent is the vintage style (in both aroma and luxuriousness) reborn. My review title literally said that in the subpart. Read the review and then you can decide if it’s worth testing for your particular tastes.
I hope that helps a little. I also hope that you’ll let me know what you think of the vintage 24 Faubourg EDP when you receive your bottle.
No apology necessary. Our two cattle dogs are our children. I wish your beloved dog a speedy recovery.
I will definitely left you know what I think of the 24 Faubourg EDP. I feel like a child at Christmas eagerly awaiting its arrival! I’ll try a sample of Gardelia.
I must say in a non-creepy tone “Where have you been all of my life?” I’m completely enamored with your vividly descriptive and informative posts. I read thru your blog and am reading thru a second time. You have inspired me to wear perfume again. I haven’t worn scent in years because the tripe called perfume on the market today smells like chemicals (you mentioned synthetic) and are often too sugary or fruity for my tastes. Much too thin for my taste as well.
Loved your post on Opium. I remember when my grandmother, mother and Aunties wore the scent in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Yowza! It is quite maddening how diminished the modern Opium scent is when compared to the vintage releases.
The 24 Faubourg EDP arrived in the mail three days ago. It has batch number XG1H, is a deep amber color and is 100ml. I wonder if the bottle is truly vintage based on how the scent reacted on my skin.
I wore the scent three days in a row. The scent did not last more than a few hours…3 or 4 at most and I was generous will my sprays. The scent was a warm floral, I could smell jasmine and a bit of gardenia and sandlewood, but no spice. Strange, the scent seemed to smell a bit powdery after awhile. Is this normal? The scent was lush in the beginning but petered out rather quickly on my skin. It didn’t smell particularly oriental on my skin. It is a beautiful scent, but perhaps it does not react to my chemistry quite the way it is intended to.
Scents do not seem to last long on my skin. I have had this issue as far back as I can remember. Vintage Opium stayed the longest. I seem to remember when Poison first came out it had a bit of staying power on my skin.
I ordered samples of Sensual Orchid, Amber Loup, Mitzah, Salome EDP, Bague Gardelia, Roja Dove Haute Luxe Extrait, but they have not yet arrived. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any Chypre Palatin 2012-2015, but I will continue to looking. I found some bottles of vintage Opium, but goodness they were quite spendy on eBay. I did make a purchase.
I’m sorry to hear this, Raven. Without smelling the scent on you, I can only guess it to be a skin chemistry issue. Or perhaps individual perceptions based on skin chemistry and one’s nose. Some people’s noses can quickly tune out the existence of a scent after a few hours. My mother is like that, even with strong fragrances that others continue to detect. She can’t, not even if she’s sprayed a lot.
In your case, it’s difficult to guess what the cause or causes might be, especially as you’ve had massive longevity issues with other fragrances in the past.
What you’re describing with 24 Faubourg EDP isn’t my experience and I didn’t experience any powderiness but I’m guessing that your skin simply eats through some notes, stomps out others, and turns the vanilla in the base into powder.
One thing I wanted to ask you: the 100 ml bottle. I haven’t seen many EDPs in that size. EDT, yes, not EDP. Is the bottle clearly labelled with “eau de PARFUM”? (emphasis added by me). One reason why I’m asking is that the longevity problems you’re describing and the lack of any spice or strong orientalism would be more understandable with the EDT version than with the EDP, even *with* really voracious skin.
I wish I could figure out what is going on or why, but I’m really disappointed on your behalf that things did not go according to plan or our hopes. 🙁 Perhaps you can let me know how you fare with the modern fragrances when the samples arrive? Because that will give me a better sense of how your skin reacts to things and if stuff with more powerful materials withstand a better chance of surviving on you.
Btw, I have a few readers whose skin turns the base materials in oriental accords quite powdery, especially anything with tonka or benzoin, so let me know if any other fragrances turn excessively powdery on you. If so, we’ll know that it is definitely a skin chemistry/raw material relationship at play with the oriental compositions. If you do share that tonka/benzoin/vanilla issue, then you might find Mitzah, Salome, and perhaps a few others also turn a bit too powdery after a while. Let’s hope not but wait to see how things develop.
The box says eau de parfum vaporisateur and the bottle says eau de parfum on the backside of the bottle just under the spray cap. The lliquid is the color of cognac, amber but not a dark concentrated amber. I may try to find a 50ml EDP and compare the two, but only after I have shared with you my perceptions of the other scents.
I sprayed the 24 on my wrist around 5:45-5:50 pm. My significant other smell my wrist at 6:40 pm. He said the scent was subtle not at all overpowering. He smelled sandlewood and some powder. He didn’t smell floral at all. My guess is it is my body chemistry at play here.
I will take detailed notes of my perceptions when wearing the other scents.
I wouldn’t bother with getting a 50 ml for comparison’s sake. If the bottle has Eau de Parfum carved on the back of the bottle under the spray cap, then it’s definitely an EDP. I think you’re right about body and skin chemistry being the culprit. If it makes you feel any better, you’re still in a better place than 2 of my readers, one of whom gets 2 to 2.5 hours MAXIMUM from many of the strongest and richest scents, another of whom gets even less. In contrast, I have a friend on whom everything lasts 20 hours minimum, sometimes 30-36 hours and through a shower. As the kids these days would say, “Yo, skin is weird, dude!” Lol 😉
What I think we need to do now is figure out how your skin interacts with specific materials and notes in order to find you fragrances that can survive as long as possible on your skin.
For what it’s worth, both of the aforementioned readers with wonky, voracious, perfume-consuming skin had better than normal luck with Ambre Loup (and Slumberhouse’s Kiste). Granted, it was never more than 5.5 or 6 hours but, for them and by the standards of everything else that quickly died away, that was practically a life time.
I wonder how Kafkaesque might feel about Tom Ford’s Velvet Gardenia as a possible fit?
I’ll order a sample of Kiste. Any suggestions of other fragrances I should order to test my wonky chemistry?
I’m pretty sure I inherited my chemistry from my mother. Scents don’t last long on her either and sometimes they turn putrid smelling, i’m talking spoiled meat smell.
Thank you for helping me during my fragrance journey. I’m looking forward to finding a fragrance that will last more than 2-3 hours. You are correct 6-8 will seem like a lifetime! I can’t imagine a scent lasting 24+ hours. Yowza.
Do you love green or galbanum fragrances, or animalics? If you love green scents and galbanum with the lushest white florals, then Areej Le Doré’s Indolis is one to try, although the sillage isn’t big. (Its longevity is, however, thanks to the rich materials and notes which include everything from sandalwood to tea, amber, chamomile, etc.) A very old-school green-white combo is Papillon’s Dryad. And the most vintage skewing of all is Bogue’s MAAI which includes strong animalics and tuberose. (The base of that one might go powdery on you with its Tonka, though.)
If you love lavender with white florals, some boozy malt, and greenness, then Bogue’s MEM is worth testing. You can read my review for that one and the others on the website, but MEM got 5 stars from Luca Turin just a few months ago.
If you adore roses and the vintage style, don’t mind a few, brief aldehydes, and also love hyacinths or Guerlain’s vintage Chamade, then I strongly encourage you to look up my review for Hermes’ vintage Parfum d’Hermes. It was my signature scent many lifetimes ago. I made a perfumer friend smell it and she came to a skidding halt, wondering how she could ever possibly produce something as lovely and as shimmering as that.
A simple but superb rose soliflore is Musk Rose from Rising Phoenix. It’s an attar and he actually has an excellent non sugary, dark, boozy vanilla, tobacco, sandalwood attar that is also worth trying. Read the reviews, though, to see if the attar style and method of application (only a few drops) might be your thing. Attars certainly double the likely longevity that one might receive from a scent, which is one reason why I and so many others adore them.
If you love vetiver, skank, civet, honey, and saltiness, then Vero Profumo’s ONDA EDP is a challenging, polarizing but interesting scent. Even more polarizing unless one adores cumin at a high blast is her skanky, cumin orange blossom Rubj. The latter went terribly south on me, but many vintage lovers adore it. It’s certainly… challenging.
Personally, I think some of the green or green-chypre-white floral fragrances that I’ve listed up top might be a safer starting point for you, at least at this point in your return to perfumery. If you get a sample of Areej Le Doré’s Indolis and if you adore both bridal lushness and vetiver, then I would recommend trying his Walimah too. He made it for his own wedding and for his bride.
Samples of every modern fragrance that I’ve mentioned are available from Luckyscent with the exception of the Rising Phoenix Attars which can only be sampled or purchased via his Etsy store. And, of course, the vintage Parfum d’Hermes is only available on eBay.
So, those are a few ideas off the top of my head, depending on what notes you may love or not love. If you’re a patchouli or sandalwood addict, there is a whole separate list. Lol.
Hello. I tried Amber Loup and it actually stayed with me for 3.5 hours! I had my significant other smell my wrist to confirm the scent was barely there at the 3.5 hour mark. Wow, this was a vanilla bomb. I smelled vanilla and only vanilla for the first hour or so. My sinuses immediately clogged up and my throat felt like I had flem in the back of it that no amount of swallowing would get rid of. My sinuses calmed down at about the 2 hour mark and my throat cleared at the 3 hour mark. The scent finally mellowed to a soft warm vanilla with a hit of sugar and spice at around the 2 hour mark. I really smelled vanilla and only vanilla and it was not a sexy sultry vanilla scent, but rather a wrap me in pastry and serve me for dessert vanilla scent. I’m pretty sure my reaction is not the intended reaction. My chemistry sabotaged the scent again. Ho hum…
Now on to Salome. My chemistry completely ruined the scent. I had such high hopes the first few minutes of the scent…beautiful rich floral and gorgeous spice. The scent quickly faded and turned powdery. With the exception of the first few minutes, the scent was actually quite light on my skin and I put a lot of perfume on. There was absolutely no shank, no sex, and no animalics. I am very disappointed, but it is quite clear my chemistry is at fault not the scent.
I’m beginning to remember why I haven’t worn perfume in years. However, I plan to stick to my scent journey until I find one that works with my wonky chemistry. I have Roja Haute Luxe and Mitzah yet to try but I don’t have high hopes. I am in the process of ordering samples of your suggested scents.
Thank you again for your advice and insights.
I wish I knew what to say, Raven. Your skin is definitely “sabotaging,” as you put it, the compositions beyond what they’re meant to be because I can’t recall anyone experiencing Ambre Loup as a vanilla scent. Ambre Loup has a lot of benzoin in its base elements, and it sounds to me as though your skin turns it into vanilla and/or powder, then amplifies that to an astronomical degree whereby it flattens everything else. With regard to the Salome, your experience underscores that issue of note interaction and suggests that my prior guess regarding how your skin handles tonka and/or benzoin was correct, rendering one or both into extreme powder which bulldozers over the other elements.
I’m guessing this particular note chemistry problem is going to totally doom Mitzah for you as well. Bogue’s MAAI and Gardelia, too, because they both also have tonka or benzoin. Roja’s Haute Luxe also has vanilla and/or benzoin in its base.
You see, tonka, benzoin, vanilla, or vanilla-nuanced resins like Peru balsam or Tolu balsam are frequently used in combination with labdanum to create the conventional, typical “amber” note in perfumery. It’s a mixed accord which needs some vanilla, tonka, or other resins to soften the leathery, smoky, and/or masculine qualities of labdanum.
What this means is that every oriental with “amber” in its base notes is going to have at least one ingredient (if not possibly several ingredients) which your skin will turn to powder, to vanilla, or to both. Even Opium has some benzoin in its base so…. :\ Such a shame. I wish I knew what to say. My hope is that the chypre or green fragrance families will work better for you, but it’s going to require a trial-and-error approach to figure that out.
You were spot on about the Haute Luxe and the Mitzah. The other scents have not yet arrived, but will provide feed back. How do you think leather, smoke and tobacco scents would react with my skin? Do they have tonka, vanilla and/or benzoin?
I think you would have to go on a case-by-case basis when it comes to other styles, genres, or fragrance families because it’s going to depend not only on their individual note lists but also on what is NOT listed when it comes to the particular leather, smoke, or tobacco compositions.
As I see it, there are a few different issues for you to keep in mind: 1) several of those genres tend to skew towards the oriental side which thereby brings up the possibility of them having a mixed amber accord in the base (which will sometimes just be listed by the umbrella term of “amber”).
2) Just as with labdanum, perfumers might want to ameloriate the masculinity of leather or tobacco compositions by adding in tonka, vanilla, amber, or some sweetener in order to make the scent more unisex in style. It’s just going to depend on the perfumer, their goal, their inspiration, the other notes, and what they want to convey. So, again, it’s going to depend and you’re going to have to take everything on an individual case-by-case basis.
3) A lot of modern brands, both niche and mainstream, tend to put in hidden and completely unlisted aromachemicals when it comes to certain types of compositions within the leather, woody, smoky, and/or tobacco genres. One of the things which I personally struggle with the most are woody-amber aromachemicals. I find them abrasive as hell, intensely super-charged, smoky to an excessively arid or brutally desiccated degree, and laden with rubbing alcohol, antiseptic, or abrasive undertones. For a variety of reasons, several of which are outlined in Tania Sanchez’ opening essay in the new Perfume Guides book, these woody-amber aromachemicals have filled the perfumer’s palette and are used as a way to compensate for IFRA/EU restrictions on the sorts of things which *previously* used to fill the base layer of fragrancs: real oakmoss, real Mysore sandalwood, etc. The masculine trend towards powerhouse “bro” fragrances which can be smelled across a dance-floor also plays a role, as does the fact that these ghastly materials are frequently inexpensive to use while yielding the biggest bang for the buck.
What is endlessly difficult for me as a reviewer and tester is that there is rarely any warning as to when one of these increasingly nuclear, Godzilla-like super-charged woody-ambers may be used in a fragrance. The note lists never include the actual name of the synthetic but, instead, mention anything from “cedar” to “leather,” “amber,” smoke, “incense” or any similar, related terms. It’s only once I test something that I can tell if those terms are actually Amber Max, Cedarmax, Norlimbanol, Amber Xtreme, or something else.
You’ve already mentioned that you don’t like the chemical nature of some modern fragrances, so you may have a sensitivity like mine, though I don’t know if it’s as extreme as mine in terms of physical side effects or more bearable. What I do know is that fragrance genres like “leather” and “smoke” are THE two biggest culprits when it comes to having woody-ambers in the base, followed by general woody or woody-spice fragrances. Tobacco isn’t as common or typical a genre for filling a composition to the brimming top with Godzilla aromachems, but that’s largely due to the fact that tobacco fragrances are frequently accompanied by tonka, vanilla, benzoin, amber, or some combination thereof. (You can thank the immense popularity of Tom Ford’s Tobacco Vanille for the widespread pairing of tobacco with tonka and vanilla, as well as for the popularity of very sweet, semi-gourmand takes on tobacco generally.)
Going back to the aromachemical issue, since the perfumers don’t tell you in advance that their “leather” is a mixed accord where the usual isobutyl quinoline is also joined with something like Normlimbanol, Guiacol, Amber Xtreme, Cedarmax, and/or god only knows what else, then you as a consumer have no forewarning and have to proceed on a trial-and-error basis after buying a sample. A few reviewers may talk every once in a while about specific aromachemical ingredients in their reviews but most don’t. I make a point of it, however, because I *am* sensitive to them, I want to know if a $600 fragrance is brimming with aromachemicals, and I think others do too.
But it’s definitely not the blogging norm for most people — which brings us back one more time to the trial-and-error thing as well as the fact that there is no substitute for testing something for yourself. Only you can know what your personal sensitivities are like, what you can take or not take, what you like, or what your skin does to certain notes. Maybe your nose is less attuned to aromachemicals than others, or maybe it’s more so. At the risk of being blunt and not beating around the bush: it’s a crap shoot. And I’m afraid there is no hard-and-fast rule which I can tell you to guide you through the morass ahead of time. Believe me, I wish there were, since it would save me endless scrubbing and bad physical reactions.
Indolis was lush floral with jasmine and gardenia center stage in the first hour or so with hints of warm wood. Then the frankincense and sandalwood came forward. Later a bit of spice and creaminess. My significant other smelled my wrist around this time and said gingerbread. I think it was perhaps the warm spice maybe ginger he smelled.
I put only a small amount of perfume on my wrist and the scent lasted a good 4-5 hours. No sharp or cool green leaf or grass scent and no soap smell. I like frankense and sandalwood, but didn’t think the scent smelled overly strong of incense. This has been my favorite scent so far, but don’t think it is quite “the one.” I will continue to experiment.
Walimah smelled only of soap and a stinky one at that…blah. It was a huge fail.
Waliwah definitely has a small aldehydic opening and middle-ish soapy stage (on my skin), but I was hoping that both would be minor on your skin. Since they weren’t, it tells me that your skin accentuates aldehydes and soapy tonalities, too. That’s good to know for the future as we whittle down the notes which your skin accentuates, over-amplifies, or balloons out of proportion.
How do you feel about chocolate, patchouli, oud (real, actual, authentic oud or agarwood, not Westernized crap like what’s in mainstream scents), rum, boozy notes, skanky cumin, vetiver, or osmanthus? I’m not going to ask how you feel about heliotrope because I suspect your skin would turn almost all compositions with it into floral powder, baby power, or talcum powder, but do you have any other florals or other sorts of notes that you particularly love?
You might want to take this quiz I did which is intended to make people think about their favourite notes and, therefore, to help them figure out the fragrances which might suit them best: https://kafkaesqueblog.com/2016/01/03/lets-play-questions-10-notes-love-hate-2016/ It’s a way of being more aware, analytically and specifically, of the things one loves or hates the most in order to know which things are worth trying and, consequently, saving time and money in terms of knowing what fragrances are not worth sampling.
In your particular case, however, it’s a way of trying to figure out the Venn Diagram overlap between your personal note tastes and the raw materials which your skin chemistry will (hopefully) not “sabotage” and, therefore, a way of narrowing down what sorts of compositions might be worth trying. So far, we’ve ruled out things with any noticeable amount of tonka, benzoin, or “amber” mixed elements, as well as strong or moderate aldehydes, soapiness, sugariness, or excessive sweetness. If we’re going to move outside of the Oriental category with its frequent “amber” base note/mixed accord, then we need to figure out what you really love so that we can head into that direction, although my comment above about the pitfalls of aromachemicals in the leather, smoky, tobacco, and woody categories is still a major caveat.
You said experiment so I am!! I placed the order for the below scents almost two weeks ago, but I had a business trip then a personal holiday so just unpacked them. Based on your last two posts many of the scents I ordered may not work with my body chemistry and that is fine. I’ll cross them off the list. The list of ordered scents is below.
I did try Papillon Dryad. I don’t think my body chemistry skewed it, but I was just not a big fan of the very dry and almost cold green scent. I much preferred the lush warmth of Indolis. I also tried Hard Leather. It lasted quite a long time on my skin. At first the scent smelled of leather, smoke, wood, and motor oil. As the leather and smoke faded I smelled sandalwood and cedar wood, but hints of motor oil/petrochemical vapors. Throughout the next few hours the oily smell would move back and forth from forefront to background. It wasn’t an unpleasant smell but not very feminine. Mostly I smelled strong wood overtones but some leather and smoke. Unfortunately the scent never smelled musky or like sex in a bottle. Hard Leather was not unpleasant, just not feminine enough for me.
List of scent I ordered to try:
Vero Profumo Onda EDP
Vintage Femme PDT
Puredistance M extrait
Masque Milano Montecristo
XJ Richwood EDP
Al Molouk Musk Attar
I’ll also try your quiz. Thanking you for your thoughtful commentary.
Moon Bloom is simply beautiful on my skin, which my chemistry did not sabotage. The only negative is that my chemistry burned thru the scent in about two hours give or take. However this could be because I did not put enough on. I will order a larger test sample. I had stopped wasting money on larger test samples as my body chemistry has ruined most scents. If I put on a larger quantity of scent and still no lasting power, is there a way to layer with another scent or product that may lengthen longevity? I liked everything about the scent except that it is a very light scent. I wish it was deeper and more sultry but my guess is this would require basenotes that my chemistry turns to powder or soap. I liked Moon Bloom better than Indolis, but will order a larger sample of Indolis as well.
I have come to realize that I love tuberose, gardenia, ylang ylang, jasmine and other white floral scents. I quite enjoy the scent of lilacs and honeysuckle, but not sure if I would like theses scents in a perfume.
You were spot on about Gardelia. A huge powder bomb that had a very sharp pungent edge. In fact, my chiropractor said I smelled like a grandmother.
Several more scent samples arrived today: