Robert Piguet Knightsbridge (Harrods Exclusive)

I generally try to avoid covering fragrances with unbearably limited distribution, and Knightsbridge by Robert Piguet certainly qualifies for that description. It is a scent that is available in only one place on earth, now and forever. Harrods London. In a happier universe, Harrods would ship worldwide, but it doesn’t, which makes reviews like this mostly an exercise in curiosity, masochism, or both.



Unfortunately, intellectual curiosity is one of my besetting flaws, and there has been some talk in perfumista circles about of this elusive, supposedly incomparable fragrance. Mark Behnke, a chap I respect, found it to be the best release of 2013 when he was at CaFleureBon. And a dear friend of mine seems to love it. So, when a Paris friend was travelling to London, I asked if he would get me a sample to assuage my curiosity. He sent me a lovely portion, which I’ve been testing and I thought I’d share my conclusions. (I also ended up with samples of Harrods’ exclusive Creed and Bond No. 9 creations, too. I don’t cover Bond No. 9, so that one will never be reviewed, but the Creed might be, perhaps.)

Knightsbridge is an eau de parfum that was created by Aurélien Guichard and released in 2013. According to Mark Behnke’s full review, Robert Piguet’s Creative Director, Joe Garces, asked Mr. Guichard to create a fragrance that replicated the scent of Harrods at 2 a.m. Personally, I’m not sure I want to smell like a department store after hours, since my imagination does not conjure up good things, but rest assured that Knightsbridge does not smell like a cleaning crew swiping down counters with Windex or industrial disinfectant.

Harrods interior. Source:

Harrods interior. Source:

Harrods describes Knightsbridge as follows:

In tribute to Harrods of London, Robert Piguet has created an exclusive new fragrance. Composed of some of the most expensive fine fragrance elements, Knightsbridge de Robert Piguet is sure to dazzle wearers with its opulent presence.

The perfume opens with creamy notes of nutmeg and rose before a sumptuous heart of sandalwood and orris transitions into a rich base of leather and tonka bean.

Fragrantica categorizes Knightsbridge as a “leather” fragrance, and confirms that its list of notes is:

nutmeg, rose, sandalwood, orris, leather and tonka bean.



I’ve stared at that list of notes repeatedly, and like a crazy person, blinking in utter bewilderment because what I detect emanating from my skin for the first 5 hours smells neither like a “leather” fragrance, nor what that list led me to expect. The main and immediate thing that I smell when Knightsbridge opens on my skin is…. booze. Massive amounts of boozy cognac infused with fruit, to be precise. In fact, to be really specific, massive amounts of boozy cognac infused with dark fruits and Concord grapes that smell as though a methyl anthranilate synthetic had been used or fruited, purple, patchouli molasses.

Methyl anthranilate. Source: Wikipedia

Methyl anthranilate. Source: Wikipedia

I don’t understand any of it. I’ve tested Knightsbridge 3 times now, and every single time there is a powerful boozy note that runs through a good portion of the perfume’s development on my skin. None of the reviews or comments that I’ve read for the fragrance mention it. And nothing in the notes should warrant either cognac nor fruitiness, let alone Concord grapes, fruit-chouli, or the spiced apples that later appear. The list doesn’t include any amber synthetic to trigger a cognac-like warmth, and I don’t believe roses naturally carry methyl anthranilate. I checked with my friend who obtained my sample, and there is absolutely no doubt that he got Knightsbridge, not some other fragrance by accident.

As I’ve mentioned, I suffer from intellectual curiosity (and an even bigger case of OCD), so I did some research, and eventually found Robert Piguet’s company blog. There, tucked away in the archives, was description of a luncheon held at Harrods to celebrate Knightsbridge’s release. Specifically, talk of a dessert that included a Calvados crème anglaise sauce to symbolise or parallel the perfume:

The luncheon menu was created to link the ingredients in each course with the notes in Knightsbridge de Robert Piguet. The first course of Cornish crab and mango salad with raspberry and chervil dressing, followed by the entrée of roast brill with courgette piperade, spinach and nutmeg sauce and ending on a sweet finale of spiced apple bread and butter pudding with Calvados anglaise was designed to highlight Knightsbridge de Robert Piguet’s top note of nutmeg and rose, middle note of sandalwood and orris and base note of leather and tonka bean. [Emphasis added by me.]

Calvados apple brandy. Source: NYTimes.

Calvados apple brandy. Source: NYTimes.

Calvados is a golden liqueur like cognac that is made from apples, while crème anglaise is a vanilla sauce. I definitely smelled the latter from the middle to end phase of Knightsbridge, along with the spiced apples that took over the cognac’s undertones. So, whatever is actually in Knightsbridge, at least Robert Piguet itself seems to recognize red fruits, spiced fruits, and cognac as elements similar to those in the perfume. In short, perhaps the company has followed the path of several other houses (Profumum and Stephane Humbert Lucas 777, I’m looking directly at you!) in having a very truncated, abbreviated list of notes. It’s either that, or I truly am crazy.

"Bleeding Rose" by April Koehler. Source:

“Bleeding Rose” by April Koehler. Source:

Getting back to Knightsbridge, there are other elements interwoven in the unexpected blast of cognac and dark, syrupy fruits. Iris is threaded lightly throughout, smelling buttery and, on occasion, slightly powdery. Much more significant, however, is the rose which feels very fruity and dark, thanks to that grape-y molasses or patchouli. Small hints of tonka vanilla dart in and out, adding a softness to the strongly boozy bouquet. The nutmeg is equally muted, smelling more like an occasional whiff of abstract spiciness than anything else.

Source: JAR Facebook

Source: JAR Facebook

The most interesting thing for me initially is the iris, and how it plays off the other notes. It’s a very cool element, almost like the “cold stone” description that a friend of mine sometimes uses to describe iris scents. Yes, there is a buttery element, but that fades quite a bit after the first few minutes pass, leaving a stony coldness that contrasts greatly with the heated warmth of the fruited cognac, as well as the undercurrent of spicy richness.

From afar, Knightsbridge’s opening bouquet on my skin is a very saturated, deep bouquet of boozy, fruited cognac with jammy, blood-red roses, lightly flecked with cold, stony irises, abstract spices, and a touch of tonka vanilla. There is no leather on my skin — either actual or the abstract suggestion thereof. Instead, there is a very sticky, thick and dark undercurrent that runs through the fragrance. The extreme fruitiness of the scent makes it feel like a very molasses-like, purple patchouli, but there are also occasional, tiny flashes of something darker, possibly resinous, as well.



For all its richness and strength, Knightsbridge doesn’t feel opaque, but airy and lightweight. I applied the equivalent of 2 small sprays from an actual bottle, and Knightsbridge initially wafted a good 4 inches above my skin in the opening moments. Using the equivalent of 1 spray (or 2 spritzes from my little atomizer), the opening sillage was only a bit less. In all cases, however, the strength of the perfume’s boozy cognac blast comes across very strong, heady, and rich. And, in all cases as well, the sillage soon drops, resulting in a fragrance that has only moderate projection when taken as an overall whole.

At times, especially when smelt from afar, it seems as though Knightsbridge’s opening bouquet doesn’t change for quite a while, but, if you pay close attention, you will notice small changes. 30 minutes into the perfume’s development, the vanilla grows stronger and, by the end of the first hour, it rises up fully from the base. At the same time, the Concord grapes become substantially weaker, and even the boozy cognac takes a small step back. That allows some of the other elements to shine forth in a more individually distinct way, like, for example, the roses which leap forward in strength. The nutmeg also becomes a little more prominent, but the stony iris seems to have largely disappeared.

Source: RGPeixoto on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

Source: RGPeixoto on Flickr. (Website link embedded within photo.)

At the end of the first hour and the start of the second, the overall impression from afar has changed. Instead of cognac leading the way, Knightsbridge’s main focus now seems to be a very rich, heavy rose fragrance infused with syrupy, sweet, dark fruits and fruited booze. I can see why the scent is so popular in some quarters, but little of it is my personal cup of tea at this point other than the cognac. In the absence of any leather, and only a momentary, minute, tertiary flash of iris, the first hour is merely another boozy fragrance with patchouli-like jammy roses and dark fruits — and lord knows, there are plenty of those about.

One of the reasons for my early unenthusiasm is that I detected a distinct whiff of synthetics on two of my three tests of the perfume. I’ve struggled greatly with some of Robert Piguet’s new or newly reformulated scents because they seem to use a lot of synthetics, including cheap musk. I’ll spare you a recount of my trauma at the hands of Mademoiselle Piguet with its juxtaposition of bug spray, painfully bitter greenness, and excessive sweetness, but that was not the only fragrance with which I have struggled. (Baghari was extremely unpleasant and synthetic as well, and I was not keen on Calypso, either.)

Concord Grape Jam. Source: Tasty Yummies blog. (Link to website embedded within photo.)

Concord Grape Jam. Source: Tasty Yummies blog. (Link to website embedded within photo.)

Knightsbridge is a much higher quality, more luxurious smelling fragrance than several of its siblings (especially the utterly heinous Mademoiselle Piguet), but it was occasionally a problem when sniffed up close for too long. In fact, in my first test, I was quite literally cross-eyed at one point from a migraine. At first, I couldn’t figure out if the issue was a white musk (always one of my bête noires in high doses) because there is a very subtle whiff of cleanness underlying Knightsbridge’s opening hour. I think that may actually be the iris note, and that the real problem is perhaps the methyl anthranilate or whatever causes that grape-y nuance.

Interestingly, though, the synthetic aspect was not a problem when I applied much more of the fragrance. At a higher dosage, the aromachemical that caused me grief was not at all apparent. This is something that I’ve noticed with a good number of other fragrances that contain synthetics: they smell significantly better with larger doses, because that amplifies the other accords and lets them shine forth, thereby hiding the problematic elements in the base. The same trend applies to Knightsbridge as well. However, as I always try to make clear, I’m much more sensitive than the average person to synthetics, and many people don’t even notice them, so you probably won’t have any issues at all.

Source: Normann Copenhagen. (Link to blog site with recipe for mousse embedded within photo.)

Source: Normann Copenhagen. (Link to blog site with recipe for mousse embedded within photo.)

While Knightsbridge’s opening stage left me utterly unimpressed with anything but the cognac, let me say clearly and bluntly that the rest of it is lovely, especially the drydown. At the start of the 3rd hour, the tonka vanilla becomes almost as prominent a note on my skin as the generic, jammy, dark rose. In fact, it is largely thanks to the vanilla that the rest of the perfume is so wonderfully appealing. Long before I read the Robert Piguet luncheon description, particularly the dessert that they chose to parallel Knightsbridge, I wrote in my notes that the tonka was positively silky, and like a coating of smooth, rich vanilla sauce made from real Madagascar pods mixed with fluffy, airy cream. When I read about the Piguet dessert having a crème anglaise sauce, I had to smile because that is exactly the aroma (and taste) that I detected as well.

Photo: my own.

Photo: my own.

At the start of the 3rd hour, the vanilla hovers just on the edge of overshadowing the rose, but it isn’t quite there yet. Instead, it blankets and coats the jammy, fruity, red petals, and slides into the booze. The latter has started to change as well, losing almost all of its grape-y undertones and taking on a distinct whiff of spiced apples. It is as though the liqueur has turned into Calvados, instead of mere cognac. The end result is a bouquet of vanilla-rose jam, lightly spritzed with Calvados, and holding the promise of more vanilla to come. None of it feels gourmand to me, by the way; Knightsbridge may be too fruity for my personal tastes, but it’s not sweet enough to fall anywhere close to the dessert category. Instead, it is simply a very rich, luxurious smelling fragrance with a truly stunning tonka note atop a dark, boozy base.



The real changes and beauty of the scent arise after the start of the 4th hour. Knightsbridge turns gauzy and thin, with reduced sillage that lies just above the skin, though the perfume is still strong enough for avoid the “skin scent” label for a little while longer. To my surprise, the rose has faded quite dramatically, and now trails behind the vanilla and Calvados as the main note. There is still no leather of any kind on my skin, and the spiciness has retreated to the sidelines. The booziness, however, has made a major comeback on my skin, and it’s really lovely with the vanilla.

Lurking deep in the base is something new. There is a note akin to brown patchouli which appears about 4.5 hours into Knightsbridge’s development, the sort of patchouli that I love. It’s red-gold-brown in visual colour, while being spicy, warm, and lightly woody in smell. There is the tiniest suggestion of a tobacco nuance underlying it as well, just as in old-school, conventional, brown patchouli.

Photo: Randy Mayor. Source:

Photo: Randy Mayor. Source:

Knightsbridge continues to grow softer and more abstract. All lingering traces of the rose vanishes at the end of the 5th hour, while the rest of the notes blur into each other, and the subtle nuances fade. By the middle of the 7th hour, Knightsbridge is a boozy, warm, vanilla crème anglaise with whiffs of spiced apples emanating from the cognac. To quote that description of the dessert meant to parallel Knightsbridge at Robert Piguet’s celebratory luncheon, it is “a sweet finale of spiced apple bread and butter pudding with Calvados anglaise[.]” And it truly is a lovely sweet finale, one filled with coziness, softness, and comforting warmth. It’s not a particular strong scent at this point, merely a sheer, light one, but Knightsbridge isn’t too hard to detect if you bring your nose to your arm.

Knightsbridge remains a Calvados vanilla scent for the rest of the drydown. In its final moments, it is nothing more than a blurry smear of boozy sweetness. All in all, Knightsbridge lasted roughly 10.75 hours with a larger dosage, and 9.5 with a smaller one. The overall sillage varied between moderate and soft, depending on how much fragrance I used. While the opening bouquet always had excellent projection for the first hour or so, and while scent felt very robust at that point, I wouldn’t use my “Wagnerian” classification to describe Knightsbridge as a whole.



As noted earlier, I haven’t seen anyone describe Knightsbridge as a boozy fragrance in the few reviews or comments that are out there. In a Basenotes discussion thread that was created upon news of the Knightsbridge’s release, there is only one commentator who describes how the perfume actually smells. “Kagey” writes:

Knightsbridge has a definite Visa-like feel to it – that smooth leather with a creamy backdrop of vanilla, with iris and something else – it smells almost like fruit or spiced flowers. It’s nice but I don’t think I need it.

Over at CaFleureBon, Michelyn Camen describes Knightsbridge in much the same way, but she joins Mark Behnke in putting the perfume in first place in their annual, year-end post on the best fragrances of 2013. There, she writes:

I was enthralled by the rich leather at the base, (the best buttery leather accord I have smelled in years and don’t get me started on the creamy sandalwood). Knightsbridge’s opulent orris heart stole mine. This is the best fragrance from Perfumer Aurelien Guichard for Piguet since Visa and in my opinion his best work to date.

Iris. Photo via, then edited by me.

Iris. Photo via, then edited by me.

I haven’t tried Visa in order to compare, but I do have a general memory of another fragrance to which Knightsbridge has sometimes been compared: Dior‘s Homme. According to that Basenotes’ discussion thread that I quoted earlier, “word on the street” has it that the two fragrances are similar. Now, my memory of Dior Homme is admittedly a little faded, but I don’t think Knightsbridge is similar based upon what happened on my skin. For one thing, Dior Homme is not a scent that I would describe as heavily boozy. For another, on me, Knightsbridge is not an iris-centric fragrance, there is no cocoa or patchouli, and it’s not leathered in any way at all.

Getting back to other people’s experiences with Knightsbridge, Mark Behnke’s earlier, full review describes the scent in terms of an imaginary stroll through Harrod’s:

[A]s I walk towards the Haute Parfumerie the last lingering persistent note of a day of perfumistas sampling the wares is that of a rose. The rose has a bit of nutmeg to accentuate the spicy facets within the rose. As … I pass through the beauty section I smell the iris in the powder. M. Guichard has something richer in mind and he captures the iris with a completely decadent orris butter that is so rooty and opulent you just don’t want it to end. Paired with a creamy sandalwood this is what luxury means as this feels like the finest silk sliding through my hand with a frisson on my fingertips. Before I get to the front of the store I stop and breathe deep at the Louis Vuitton display and the smell of the finest leather meets me. I try on a pair of gloves and bring it to my face inhaling deep. The choice of tonka to support the leather accord makes a perfect ending to my night alone in Harrod’s.

"Red Orange Rose Yellow Abstract" by LTPhotographs, Etsy Store. (Link to website embedded within photo.)

“Red Orange Rose Yellow Abstract” by LTPhotographs, Etsy Store. (Link to website embedded within photo.)

On Fragrantica, there are only two reviews for Knightsbridge, and both are positive.

    • Absolutely stunning. Has a really classic yet modern feel to it. The rose is prominent at the start with a warm spicy background. It develops into a warm, balmy concoction that pleases my nose. Surprisingly it’s mildly reminiscent of ‘Calypso’ but much more rich and slightly more masculine. I’m a man who is more than happy to wear a ‘woman’s’ perfume(I hate the labels, if it smells nice I say wear it), but with this I feel there is finally a woody, balmy floral that most men could wear.
  • this fragrance has the soul of other Piguet’s fragrances such as the creamy accord of Baghari, rose accord from Rose Perfection, Woody accord of Futur, and Animalic accord of Bandit. [¶][…] one note that is particularly noticeable is Iris and it is the closest to the iris accord in dior homme of any fragrance i have smelled so far..but there is a twist..the iris in Dior Homme is sparkling whereas it is resinous in Knightsbridge.

Well, all I can say is that I obviously had a very different experience from everyone else. There was nothing animalic or Bandit-like at all about Knightsbridge on me, almost nothing woody, very little iris, and definitely no leather. I also had a different longevity issue than some of the people on Fragrantica, where Knightsbridge has one vote for “poor” longevity, and another one for “weak.” On the other hand, I can see why the majority votes for sillage are tied between “soft” (2 votes) and “moderate” (also 2 votes).

As a whole, I think Knightsbridge is a good, solid scent with a lovely drydown, but I don’t share the wild love for it that I’ve seen amongst some people I respect. I can’t think of a way to put things diplomatically, so I’ll just say that we all have different skin and experiences — and my experience would not qualify Knightsbridge for my Top 10 of the year. What I smelled was very enjoyable at times, but I don’t find anything particularly interesting, original, clever, or unique about either jammy, fruit-chouli roses with cognac, even if they are lightly flecked with a light touch of iris for about 40 minutes. And lord knows, there are plenty of nicely done, boozy vanillas on the market.

In all honesty, I think some of my feelings are — consciously or subconsciously — influenced by Knightsbridge’s extremely limited accessibility. The thing is, I simply did not experience anything distinctive or superlative enough to go to great lengths to obtain a bottle from Harrods. The perfume costs £150 which comes to roughly $253 at today’s rate of exchange, so to harness the efforts of a perfume mule who will buy it blindly for you and lug it back in their suitcase seems like the sort of effort warranted only for a truly exceptional, unique fragrance. Knightsbridge does not rise to that level, in my opinion.

It would be different if Knightsbridge were widely available. In that case, I’d definitely encourage everyone who loves roses, tonka, and booziness to give it a passing test sniff, especially in light of its lovely drydown. I wouldn’t wear Knightsbridge myself, but I think a good number of you would enjoy it very much, even if you didn’t think it was the most spectacular perfume you’d tried all year. Unfortunately, given Knightsbridge’s exclusivity and Harrod’s refusal to ship outside the U.K., I don’t think the fragrance is really worth substantial effort.

All of that is a subjective, personal valuation, however. Those who love the notes in question — whether the ones that I encountered, the Dior Homme concoction, or Mark Behnke’s rose-iris-leather-vanilla combination — may feel very differently. In which case, I hope you know someone who is travelling to London and willing to be your perfume mule.

Cost & Availability: As noted, Knightsbridge is exclusive to Harrods, now and forever. The perfume is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml bottle and costs £150. Harrods does not ship (“export” in their words) outside of the U.K., and the perfume will never be offered at any other site, not even Robert Piguet’s own website. I have not seen Knightsbridge offered on any of the American decanting sites. My own sample was a gift from a friend.

Perfume Review – Mademoiselle Piguet by Robert Piguet

I was incredibly excited to try Robert Piguet‘s Mademoiselle Piguet, one of the company’s 2012 five-piece Nouvelle Collection. “Mademoiselle” (as the company simply calls it) is supposed to be “part Lolita and part Louise Brooks,” and a tribute to orange blossoms. I have a huge soft spot for the Robert Piguet brand, as a whole, for personal, childhood, historical and nostalgic reasons. In fact, I was practically weaned on Fracas, alongside YSL‘s Opium. Plus, I love orange notes and orange blossoms. So something that seemed like a lighter but orange blossom-based version of Fracas had to be fantastic, right? It had to be a guaranteed safe bet for me and a shoo-in, right? How wrong one can be….

Mademoiselle PiguetMademoiselle Piguet is a floral eau de parfum that was released in 2012 and created by star perfumer, Aurélien Guichard. Robert Piguet describes Mademoiselle as follows:

She is delicate and irresistible, innocent and sultry, part Lolita and part Louise Brooks. With Mademoiselle Piguet, Robert Piguet Parfums has chosen to pay tribute to both the romantic and sensual associations of orange blossom. Mademoiselle Piguet is a new generation floral fragrance, but its alluring character makes it a perfect addition to the Piguet family of feminine masterpieces.

The notes, as compiled from both Fragrantica and the Robert Piguet website, seem to be:

Top note is bergamot; middle note is orange blossom complimented by almond and apricot tones; base note is tonka bean.

Mademoiselle Piguet opens on my skin with a deafening salvo of green. The note is so sharp, pungent and abrasive that it makes my head spin. This is an orange blossom that is much closer to the most bitterly green of bigarade or petitgrain, so green that is completely raw, and far from the delicate sensuality of the flowers. In some crazy way, it almost feels like the greenness abrasiveness of galbanum. A minute later, the perfume suddenly turns incredibly sweet. It’s bewildering to have so much raw, sharply bitter, petitgrain-type orange alongside so much sweetness that a dentist would be alarmed. As the moments pass, the initial toxic blast softens, a little, as the sugary syrup grows and a hint of the orange blossoms emerges amongst all that neroli. It made my teeth hurt.



Alas, another thing rears its head: a hugely synthetic note is exactly like mosquito repellent. It is also oddly mentholated, leading me to imagine an orange blossom version of Serge LutensTubereuse Criminelle, only one combined with tropical bug spray, saccharine levels of sweetness, and nuclear amounts of bitter greenness. I suspect that, even if the bug spray doesn’t show up on everyone’s skin, many will find the sweetness of Mademoiselle Piguet to be extremely cloying, especially when the vanilla base starts to stir.

I have to admit, at first, I found the strange polarity and contrasts of Mademoiselle Piguet to be quite fascinating — even if only intellectually — once the DEET-like, mentholated aspect stopped beating me over the head. I said, “at first.” My interest didn’t last long because, frankly, there wasn’t a huge amount more to Mademoiselle Piguet than sugary-sweet orange blossoms, bug spray, bitter green undertones, and a subtle vanilla base. That truly was about it. For hours and hours, and hours…..

In fairness, there were some minute, microscopic changes to the perfume. By the end of the third hour, the bug spray element did die down to a mere squeak, and I did detect the smallest iota of almonds fleetingly in the middle of the fourth hour. Yes, the green undertone eventually faded, around the sixth hour. And the perfume’s sillage did change quite profoundly: from a huge, enormous wallop in the first 20 minutes, to something significantly softer by the 90 minute mark, before dropping further with subsequent hours.

Nonetheless, the changes were of degree, not of kind. Mademoiselle Piguet’s core essence never budged, remaining in one constant, linear line until the bitter end when it became just a faint trace of orange blossoms with a slightly powdered vanilla. It took 12.75 hours for it to die on my voracious, perfume-consuming skin — a sure testament to the synthetics underlying it.

There is a vast split in opinion about Mademoiselle Piguet. On Fragrantica, posters seem in two opposite camps, with people either adoring the pure blast of “orange blossom absolute,” or despising it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. A small sampling of thoughts:

  • Not for me, this one! Something sweet and cloying and artificial IMHO. Even if I am not fond of a fragrance, I usually give it time for both of us to calm down. Couldn’t this time. A scrubber.
  • This will definitely not be on my buy list; the sniff test seemed OK at best, but on my skin it was terrible. An overly sweet, overwhelming floral that had a very synthetic tone.
  • Medicinal start, but a semi-sweet medicine, which is at least more appealing than a straight bitter herbal. I don’t believe floral/woody/musk is the correct classification for this – it seems more like an oriental woody. […] for me, is just tolerable. Definitely a try before you buy.
  • Beautiful deliciously sweet honeyed Orange Blossoms in full bloom! Stunning!!! I love this so much, must get a bottle asap. If your an Orange Blossom fan, please do try this, it is so sweet its like honey has been added for good measure. I find this is incredibly strong & long lasting, which is also a huge plus.
  • Love the warm powdery scent with subtle peach undertone. Starts off a bit chemical but warms up quickly. Agree with others that it could be classidied as a milky tuberose.
  •  it’s overwhelming me in the most unpleasant way. I tested a small sample upon my wrist hours ago and the florals attacked my nose in an aggressive manner. I can’t believe there are only three notes in this bottle of juice. I smell florals, on top of florals, on top of florals, in the top, middle and base notes. The smell is really intense but not in an invigorating manner. [… The] florals in this perfume are so heavily dealt in this fragrance to the point that it’s a big turn-off instead of a memorable turn-on. It smells more like an air freshener that has been sprayed way too many times. […] Please don’t buy this one blindly. It’s an experience you’re likely to never forget.

I must say, I don’t smell any tuberose in this as a few of the Fragrantica commentators found, nor any other florals or peach. I do, however, agree that Mademoiselle Piguet hardly seems to be a “Floral Woody Musk,” as Fragrantica contends.

There aren’t a ton of in-depth, blog reviews for Mademoiselle Piguet. The Perfume Magazine loved it, calling it a “head-turning” and one of the most feminine perfumes the reviewer has smelled in years, before adding that it was perfect for brides or for something like a Cotillion. The Perfume Posse‘s Ann liked it quite a bit, despite finding its start to be synthetic:

Mademoiselle Piguet was quite nice on my skin, bergamot and orange blossom making pretty at the start, but easing later into some milky warmth, courtesy of the tonka. No hint of citrusy tang here; the OB is sweetened and smooth, almost candied. And that little something I mentioned above [the synthetic note] bothered me for a moment and then it was gone. […] Mademoiselle Piguet isn’t going to knock any orange blossom favorites out of rotation at my house, but it has a sweet, romantic, uncomplicated vibe that’s pleasing.

Finally, the Persolaise blog received samples of the full Nouvelle Collection from Robert Piguet back in 2012 and seemed to enjoy Mademoiselle more than the rest, writing:

Mademoiselle is the instant smile-inducer. A soft, sweet, pretty-as-daisies citrus-floral (complete with aldehydes and a powdery, vanillic base) it radiates naive charm and an almost adolescent optimism. In those selfish moments when parents of girls hope that their little princesses won’t ever grow up, this is probably the scent that accompanies their tender imaginings.

I wish I could like it, especially given my huge soft spot for Robert Piguet. The most positive thing I can say is that the longevity is extraordinary. But I would never recommend Mademoiselle Piguet — even for those who like incredibly sweet, sugary florals — without a definite skin test first. Please, this is not one to buy blindly. Ever.

Cost & Availability: Mademoiselle Piguet is an eau de parfum that comes in a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle and which costs $150 or £130.00. It is available from the Robert Piguet website, Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. I don’t see it listed on the Saks or Nordstrom websites. In Canada, you can probably go through The Perfume Shoppe which has a Canadian branch. You should drop them an email as I can only see the U.S. site. In the UK, Mademoiselle Piguet costs £130.00, and can be found at Harvey Nichols and Liberty London. I don’t see it on the Harrod’s website. In France, Robert Piguet products are usually carried at Printemps or Au Bon Marché. In Australia, you can find Mademoiselle at Libertine where it costs AUS$190. As a general rule, Robert Piguet perfumes can be found at a discount price on eBay. Samples: You can order samples of Mademoiselle Piguet from various sites, including eBay. I bought mine from Surrender to Chance where prices start at $4.99 for a 1 ml vial.

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

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

Fracas Eau de Parfum.

Fracas Eau de Parfum.

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

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

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

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Perfume Review – Robert Piguet Bandit: “Beautiful but Brutal”

Robert Piguet was one of the most famous of the Paris haute couture designers, a man who trained Givenchy, Balmain and Christian Dior himself, and, in 1944, he made perfume history when he released Bandit. It was a year before the end of WWII, and he had just sent his models down the runway in villain masks, brandishing knives, toy revolvers and reeking a “bad boy” image that was shocking for the times.

Bandit, original ad. Source: Fragrantica.

Bandit, original ad. Source: Fragrantica.

According to the Perfume Shrine, “it was this occasion that prompted Germaine Cellier to grab the models’ knickers after they had walked the catwalk, reputedly studying their scent in an effort to ‘capture the best of their femininity’ for the couturier’s first foray into fragrance. Whether she did and how one defines femininity in the first place is food for thought.”

The result was Bandit, one of the most famous leather scents in history, up there in the pantheon with Chanel‘s Cuir de Russie (1924/1927) and Knize Ten (1924). It was given a five-star rating by Luca Turin, and is consistently on three different “best of” lists: best leathers, best chypres, and best feminines for men. The perfume is repeatedly described as a tough, brutal “B****” with references to dominatrixes and how its unbearable in the best way possible. Love and awe echo constantly through the words.

Germaine Cellier made not only Bandit, but Piguet’s most famous scent of all, Fracas, the legendary benchmark for all white florals and the white light to Bandit’s black one. That contrast seems to have been intentional and may have stemmed from the dichotomy that was Cellier herself. According to the Perfume Shrine:

Cellier herself was outwardly conforming to all the perceived ideas of [femininity]: beautiful, slim, blond and tall, she exuded an air of elegance. Yet her reputation was tinged with shades of unconventionality and homosexuality and her creations were aiming to reflect different perceptions of Yin and Yang. Fracas was made for the femmes, Bandit was for the [tough lesbians].

To Fracas’s torrid tuberose that makes you either fall madly in love with or shun forever, Bandit juxtaposes daring, bitter green leather which, according to a male admirer smelling it, exudes aloofness, rebellious intellectuality and absolutely requires an expanse of skin to show for its sensuality to bloom.

In fact, Elena Vosnaki says Cellier was quite explicit in making the distinction between her two fragrances:

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

Marlene D

Marlene Dietrich

Things are obviously different these days, and we are less obviously shocked by both sexual identities or preferences, but, in its time, Bandit was revolutionary. It was a bitter green, leather chypre that was nothing like the usual leathers or chypres on the market. It was androgynous, hard, edgy, and “beautiful but brutal,” to quote the famous perfumer, Guy Robert, who wrote about Cellier and her Bandit extensively in his book, Les Sens du Parfum. The epitome of the kind of woman who would wear it was not only Cellier herself, but Marlene Dietrich. And, in fact, it was Dietrich’s signature scent.

"Les Fleurs du Mal," Charles Baudelaire.

“Les Fleurs du Mal,” Charles Baudelaire.

If the accounts are true, then Bandit was the essence of Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal,” capturing his theories of rotting excess, unconventional or anti-social eroticism, and slightly twisted malevolence. (Serge Lutens only wishes his Tubereuse Criminelle was about returning the evil back to the flowers!) Bandit horrified and bewitched people in equal measure, creating polarizing waves until sometime in the 1970s when it seemed to have faded into the mists. It’s unclear what happened to it or when.

Then, sometime, in the early to mid-1990s, perhaps 1996, it seems to have been re-released in Eau de Toilette form by Andrian Arpel for his company, Alfin. (Are you confused yet? We still have a way to go in this saga.) Arpel may have bought control of Robert Piguet, Inc. and hence, obtained the right to release a new version of Bandit. It is said to be far from the original scent, though there seems to be no consistent explanation as to why. Some say it is a more floral version that minimizes the leather. Others claim that the eau de toilette was just leather and civet, nothing more, and that it had almost nonexistent longevity.

Bandit, intermediary 1990s version from Arpel/Alfin, in Eau de Toilette form. Note the gold top.

Bandit, intermediary 1990s version from Arpel/Alfin, in Eau de Toilette form. Note the gold top.

Whatever its scent, it’s not too hard to determine the Arpel intermediary version because its bottle tops are gold, instead of the tradional Piguet black. Furthermore, according to the Perfume Shrine,

the eau de toilette that circulated under Andrian Arpel (Alfin inc. being his previous company name) bears this label:

Made in France
New York NY 10019

In 1999, however, the Robert Piguet brand was bought by Fashion Fragrances and Cosmetics (FF&C). They made every attempt to release a version of Bandit that was close to the original in terms of notes and appearance. Bandit was released in eau de parfum or extrait de parfum concentrations, and, like the original, comes in a black bottle with a black lid.

It is extremely difficult to keep track of the timeline and the different versions of Bandit but, to summarize, there was:

  1. original, vintage Bandit eau de parfum in a black bottle with a black lid, along with original, vintage Bandit extrait de parfum that had a crystal top to a black bottle.I have even seen all crystal bottles on eBay for the extrait de parfum or pure parfum version that are obviously really ancient, 1960s or 1970s bottles. Reports on Basenotes would seem to indicate that this was, indeed, the form for the super old extrait version;
  2. 1990s intermediary Bandit in eau de toilette concentration and in a black bottle with a gold top (which is frequently sold on eBay);
  3. post-1999 version in eau de parfum and extrait versions with the original black bottle and black lid.

    Bandit eau de parfum in its current bottle which is exactly like the original bottle.

    Bandit eau de parfum in its current bottle which is exactly like the original bottle.

I have always longed to smell original Bandit, but I was happy to obtain a sample of the post-1999 eau de parfum version from Surrender to Chance. (Surrender to Chance also carries the intermediary eau de toilette version and the post-1999 version in extrait or pure parfum form. Links will be at the end of this post.) I’m glad I had the chance now, as Robert Piguet announced a few months ago, in October 2012, that a new formulation of Bandit was under way due to the increasingly severe IFRA restrictions regarding oakmoss as an ingredient in perfumes.

The notes in Bandit are:

galbanum, artemisia, neroli, orange, ylang ylang, jasmine, rose, tuberose, carnation, leather, vetiver, oakmoss, musk, patchouli.

You can read the Glossary for further details but, in a nutshell, artemisia is wormwood and galbanum is a type of plant resin. According to the site, I Smell, Therefore I Am, galbanum has “a penetrating, pine-like top note and a slightly bitter, woody base.” Artemisia is said to smell like tarragon, concentrated to the umpteenth degree. It is pungent, bitter, bitter green, sharp, and frequently used along side oakmoss, patchouli or civet to cut through the cloying heaviness of those notes. In fact, it is said to be akin to a filtering lens that lets you diffuse some of the stronger ingredients (like civet, for example) and to let you smell the more subtle notes.

The galbanum and artemisia are apparent from the opening blast of Bandit. It is GREEEEEEEEN, in all capital letters! People weren’t kidding when they said this was a bitter green scent, but I am disappointed that there is none of that “blood-curdling scream” which I had expected from the opening. It is sharp, yes, but hardly as sharp or as pungent as I had expected. There is actually a slight softness, which surprises me. The scent is definitely vegetal and, for a few fleeting seconds, I sniff brackish, slightly funky, left-over vase water after some flowers have died. It is a note of faint decay that instantly makes me think of Les Fleurs du Mal but, to my surprise, I quite like it. It is nothing as offensive as the fetid, cloyingly filthy, murky, dead plant water scent that I have encountered in some other fragrances and, again, it is quite fleeting.

There is a greenness to Bandit that ranges all across the middle to darker end of the spectrum. At times, I feel as though I smell bright green, almost like absinthe but really closer to raw, young tree bark. Most of the time, however, I smell dark olive green with grey-green, the latter from the oakmoss in particular. The mental image is of one endlessly shimmering green haze where there are occasionally peeks of bright, glowing absinthe green, amidst the darkness of vegetal weeds, decaying herbs and bitter blackened woods.

Speaking of oakmoss, this is one very unusual oakmoss scent! It doesn’t have that dusty pungency that I can find so difficult in some chypre perfumes. There is no impression of dusty litchen or grey minerals pulverised into grey dust. No, this is a weirdly fresh sort of oakmoss, as if taken just seconds before off a tree. It feels living, almost. I suddenly start to understand all the comments about artemisia working as a filter or highlighter to some scents. It must be the artemesia which is cutting through some of the more dominant head notes in oakmoss and concentrating the smell of its essence at its freshest state. The oakmoss is so much more aromatically woody than the more cloying, pungent, almost excessively dusty and “old” notes that I often smell in chypre perfumes.

For much of the opening 15 minutes, Bandit is dominated by the pungent oakmoss, galbanum and artemisia. I don’t smell any of the orange citrus flowers mentioned in the notes and which usually herald the start of a chypre perfume. Instead, I smell carnation. Dry, green, and with just the faintest floral note to counter the bitter green vegetal and wood scent. There is also a faint hint of soap but, again, I’m surprised to like it. Perhaps because it’s not the waxy, cloying soap that I smell in perfumes with aldehydes, nor is it the synthetic, laundry detergent soap scent of so many modern perfumes today. It’s just an odd hint of fresh cleanness to counter the vegetal impression of weeds growing out of control at the base of a tree with bitter bark rolling off it and covered by fresh grey-green moss. There is vetiver, balsam-like pine, and something astutely noted by one commentator on Basenotes, MontMorency, that seems to resemble a salty,  maritime note, like seaweed or kelp.

After an hour, the leather starts to make an appearance. It’s soft, softer than I had expected. That said, this is not soft leather that I’m smelling. It is not the soft, buttery, warm leather of a new jacket, nor the buttery leather of a car interior. This is all cold. It’s the cold, and most definitely black leather, of a whip. It’s a stony, severe, smell of leather. But, still, I’m disappointed. There is none of that “blood curdling” shriek, that almost horrified “dominatrix” or “bad ass biker chick” impression that I had read about repeatedly across different perfume sites like Fragrantica or Basenotes. There is no rubber, no harshness, none of what made Bandit so shocking. There is only one explanation: the current version is only a pale shadow of the original. (And the thought that this is going to be reformulated to an even weaker version is, quite frankly, rather horrific.)

Joining the leather are a few odd companions. I could swear that I smell camomile at one point, giving me an impression of softly herbal Alpine meadows and Heidi. There is also a faint animalistic muskiness but it’s not the harsh civet-type note of some animalic scents. The trio of Alpine Heidi, muskiness and the cold black leather of a whip has one final member: cigarettes. There is a fleeting, flickering whisper of an ashtray. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t start smelling of a dirty ashtray. I still smelled mostly of dark green bitter woods, pungent moss and herbs, but the leather undertone had a faint whiff of ash at times, though it was extremely light.

It helps that Bandit’s leather tones were much closer to the skin than the more dominant green notes. The sillage on Bandit is huge, especially at first, but it surprised me by how quickly it became close to the skin for something that is consistently reported to be a powerhouse fragrance. The musky, leather undertones are all soft and close, almost intimate. It is incredibly sexy after such a fascinating start, and I resolve — for the umpteenth time — to try to get a hold of the vintage. Because, I have to be honest, I wanted so much more than what I got from this current version. More leather, more green, more pungency, more sillage, more of everything that I’m always reading about when it comes to Bandit. What I smell is so different and so intriguingly edgy that I dream about the vintage version.

Ultimately, the way Bandit smells on me is the way that the master perfumer, Guy Robert, describes the scent — only in a diluted, faint form. I cannot put it better than he did, so I shall use the Roberts quote provided on the Girvin blog:

[It is] “a beautiful but brutal perfume”, and that is as apt a description as any: Bandit is not a fragrance for the timid. It starts with heavy green notes, and moves slowly into a lovely floral blend with hints of spice, but the leather is apparent from the onset, and as it dries down, it is joined by an earthy-mossy accord that vaguely recalls a full ashtray. There is the slightest hint of powder, but it adds nothing of delicacy or girliness, and while Bandit stops short of being feral, the far dry down can only be described as decidedly animalic.

Like Fracas, Bandit is in-your-face sexy, but it is the dark, rebellious side of sexy — the bad girl, if you will. It is a sophisticated fragrance, mind you, but in spirit it is younger than Fracas, and it has more energy. Bandit is drinking and smoking and leather jackets, and running around at all hours getting into all sorts of mischief.  I’ve been trying to think of what would be the modern version of such a fragrance, and nothing comes to mind: perhaps there is no such thing?

I wish my version of Bandit were the fierce Bandit that Robert encountered. I see her form and her face, but it’s hazy and faint. The leather is tamed, the animalistic musk is soft, and I smell absolutely none of the florals that are part of it. No jasmine, no tuberose, no ylang-ylang and definitely no rose. (I truly don’t think many people do, from what I’ve read. At least, not for the current eau de parfum formulation.) That said, I definitely agree with Guy Robert that Bandit is an extremely original scent and for a very original woman.

A 2 oz. bottle of vintage Extrait de Parfum, selling on eBay.

A 2 oz. bottle of vintage Extrait de Parfum, selling on eBay.

In my dreams, I buy the 2.0 oz/60 ml bottle of dark vintage pure parfum or extrait that is currently on eBay for $899. I splash it on, dress all in black in my leather jacket, leather pants and leather thigh-high boots, snap on some diamond earrings, put on my silver choker with spikes and baubles, along with the chunkiest of my men’s watches, then fly to Shanghai with nary a suitcase or companion. I would go to one of the dark, sophisticated bars in the old International District (I even know which one and they make a damn good cocktail!), and I would sip a bright green absinthe drink as I contemplated something infinitely risky, wild and dangerous. And I know I would get up to no good. No good at all! But that is the thing with Bandit, even in its diluted form. It seems oh so wrong, in such a good way.

Sillage & Longevity: Great sillage for the first hour, then close to the skin. However, on others, it is reported to have enormous sillage for much, much longer. As for longevity, it is quite remarkable. On me, I could smell traces of it on my arm 8 hours after putting it on. It was soft, but it was there. On others, the longevity is reported to be even greater.
Cost & Availability: Bandit is available on the Robert Piguet website in all forms (except the rogue eau de toilette version), along with a body lotion version. The Eau de Parfum costs $95 for 1.7 oz/50ml and $135 for 3.4 oz/100 ml. The Parfum, pure parfum or extrait version costs $110 for 0.25 oz/7.5 ml and $235 for 1 oz/30 ml. In the US, you can also find Bandit available at Barneys, Bergdorf Goodman, Nordstrom, and various online retailers. In the UK, you can find Bandit at Harrods where it costs £75.00 for 1.7 oz/50 ml. In Australia, you can find Bandit on Libertine. You can also find Bandit on eBay, starting around $60 for the 1.7 oz size. But please, be careful as to which version you’re ordering and pay heed to the appearance of the bottles in the photos!
Samples: You can also order samples of Bandit from various sample sites. The one I use, Surrender to Chance, carries all versions of the scent except for the vintage. The mid-1990s Eau de Toilette version costs $3 for the smallest 1 ml sample vial, the Eau de Parfum costs the same, and the Pure Parfum costs $3.99 for 1/4 of the usual 1 ml vial, or $15.96 for the 1 ml vial. Surrender to Chance ships worldwide for about $5.95 (though it’s a little bit more for larger orders over $75), and for $2.95 for all orders within the U.S., regardless of the size of the order.