Dead Letter Office: Beth Terry Creative Universe Mare- Not All Indie Survives

The first flush of independent perfume brands came in the late 1990’s in to the early 2000’s. It was a brave new world for these alternatives to what the department stores were offering. When there are no rules or past performances to learn from the early indies were going on instinct; and not much else. It is one reason that the breadth of fragrance from the niche and independent perfumers was so large; nobody knew what would connect. There were advantages to this; being small you didn’t have to move thousands of units. You could narrowcast looking for enough perfume lovers to connect to your brand. It probably wasn’t until 2010 that the winners and the Dead Letter Office denizens were completely sorted out. The story of Beth Terry Creative Universe Mare is an example of one that tried to write their own rules only to end up here.

Beth Terry began her career working in the fashion industry. She worked at Charivari the cutting-edge fashion store in New York. She learned from the experience on how to appeal to the individualists out there; with money. She also had always wanted to make a fragrance capturing the experience of drinking green tea with her grandfather. Her first release under the Beth Terry Creative Universe brand, in 1995, was also one of the earliest green tea fragrances, Te.  Working with perfumer Victor Rouchou, who would collaborate on all the releases, she produced a minimalist architecture in which grapefruit, green tea, and green notes form the axis upon which it spins. Te would turn out to be a big hit because Ms. Terry knew how to get it seen where it would do the most good. She wasn’t going to buy an ad in a fashion magazine but she knew all the editors and could get them to feature Te in an article; as good as an ad to a small brand. It reportedly sold out in the exclusive department stores on both sides of the Atlantic.

Victor Rouchou

Riding the fame in 1999 she released her second perfume Mare. Mare was a stripped-down aquatic consisting of two accords and a floral. The accords were a sea salt and an avocado. The floral was ginger lily. Mr. Rouchou constructed the sea salt accord from the typical building blocks of ozonic and water notes. He manages to form a pure salt breeze accord which is where Mare begins. It is the cleanest version of this accord I have ever tried. The avocado accord is a heavier fruity contrast then the typical citrus of the other aquatics of the day. It is this which made Mare significantly different from anything else on the shelf at the time. The final note is the slightly spicy ginger lily.

Mare has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

Mare has been one of my favorite aquatics ever since I first tried it. Ms. Terry was able to emulate the success of Te with Mare. Through the 2000’s she would hold her own but there were other buzzier indies slowly encroaching on the territory she had to herself early on. The brand would transition from the luxury department stores to small discerning boutiques to a final few points of sale. I can’t for sure find a final date when the brand stopped but based on forensic searching it looks like it was 2010-2011. There were five more releases after Mare and the whole collection is interesting. In the end, even the best indies find their way to the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: this review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Marc Jacobs Bang- Would You Like Some Pepper?

It is a funny thing that I enjoy not being part of the crowd. Yet I want the general public to admire what I admire. It makes no sense but I know it is how I feel. When it comes to fragrance I feel it most often when a mass-market perfume tries to bring a niche sensibility to a perfume being sold at the mall. The Dead Letter Office is full of these attempts because consumers usually don’t know what to make of these very different perfumes next to the safe fragrances they know right next to them in the department store. One great example of this is 2010's Marc Jacobs Bang.

Marc Jacobs advertising Bang

In 2010 consumers were given two very different choices when they showed up at the Men’s Fragrance counter. In the summer of that year Bang and Bleu de Chanel were released within weeks of each other. For the second half of 2010 there was a referendum on what comprised success in the masculine mainstream fragrance world. If you were going to play it safe Bleu de Chanel was a “greatest hits” collection of every popular masculine accord of the previous twenty years. Bang was going to see if you were willing to leave the well-trod road for something more adventurous.

Ann Gottlieb

Marc Jacobs had been producing perfume since 2001. As a brand it had been primarily focused on perfumes marketed to women. Only 2002’s Marc Jacobs Men was aimed at men. By 2010 Marc Jacobs has produced two huge mainstream women’s successes in Daisy and Lola. As Mr. Jacobs and co-creative director Ann Gottlieb considered a new masculine perfume they decided to go with one of the perfumers who worked on Lola, Yann Vasnier.

Yann Vasnier

M. Vasnier has been one of those perfumers who, when given the opportunity, will happily add in niche aesthetics to the mainstream. As we headed past Y2K in the niche world black pepper was having a moment. Black pepper had been used as a supporting ingredient especially with the spicy varieties of rose. Italian perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi released Piper Nigrum which was a shot of pure black pepper. Just as the internet perfume forums were forming Piper Nigrum was one of the most talked about fragrances in those early days. Black pepper would start regularly appearing as a focal point in fragrances like L’Artisan Parfumeur Poivre Piquant, Penhaligon’s Opus 1870, or Viktor & Rolf Antidote. For Bang M. Vasnier was going to see if a more general consumer was ready for some black pepper.

The opening of Bang is not simply black pepper as M. Vasnier uses pink peppercorns and white pepper as leavening notes to keep the black pepper from hitting like a sledgehammer. Even so that top accord carried a great deal of presence pretty much making a consumer confront their feelings on wearing black pepper from the first moment. Even the woods in the heart were led by the rougher edged birch which enhanced the piquancy of the pepper instead of toning it down. Only in the base was the transparently resinous accord where any measure of safety could be found.

Bang has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

I have loved Bang from the first moment I tried it. Which is why that might be why it is in the Dead Letter Office. Bang was not a tiny step toward niche sensibilities it was more like being shoved through a door and having it locked behind you. Whenever I was out shopping during the 2010 Holiday season I recommended Bang time after time only to have those shopping with me pick up the Bleu de Chanel gift set.

Bleu de Marc Jacobs?

Bang was gone from the department stores by 2015 while Bleu de Chanel has become one of the best-selling men’s fragrances in the world. Marc Jacobs would even ask M. Vasnier to make another perfume a year later called Bang Bang, which was more Bleu de Chanel like. Even down to the color of the bottle. That had no more success than Bang. In 2010 when given a choice the public went with safe while Bang, and Bang Bang, was on its way to the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Madonna Truth or Dare- Not a Fragrance Girl

That the Dead Letter Office is full of celebrity perfumes is not surprising. Most of the time the reason is the scent and the celebrity bear no relationship to each other. The few successes usually have a perfume loving star who does want to make a fragrance which does represent something about them. Even in those cases timing is also a large part of eventual commercial success. If the process of designing the perfume causes it to be released as the supernova begins to cool it can miss its window of opportunity. The first perfume by Madonna had a celebrity who loved perfume but she was so determined to get what she wanted it took a long time; perhaps too long before Madonna Truth or Dare was released to the world.

Madonna had spoken often of her fascination with Robert Piguet Fracas and going in she wanted Truth or Dare to be a modern take on Fracas. What she meant was a thinning out of the boisterous tuberose to something more accessible. She also wanted all of the skank that was in Fracas, indoles and musk, to not be present in Truth or Dare. Over eighteen months she would work with perfumer Stephen Nilsen on her vision. 

Stephen Nilsen

First Mr. Nilsen had to come up with a base accord which would not become obliterated by the tuberose. His choice was to go with a gourmand accord of caramel and amber. It was the first thing Madonna and Mr. Nilsen agreed upon. From there it was the typical give and take of perfumer and creative director as they tried to find this modern tuberose accord. This was where the bulk of the process was stuck for months until they were happy. In the spring of 2012 Truth or Dare was released.

Truth or Dare opens with the tuberose matched with its white flower cousins, gardenia and jasmine. As she apparently desired these are white flowers scrubbed clean of their dirtier components. It does allow for it to feel a bit greener at the expense of the creaminess that the mixture of these florals usually provide. As the white flowers move towards that caramel and amber base the gourmand nature turns it into an exotic dessert perfume. 

Truth or Dare has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Truth or Dare was discontinued as of the end of 2016; it never gained much of a foot hold. One of the reasons was despite the promise to be exclusive to specific department stores by Memorial Day 2012 it was on sale at Walmart and Target in the US. That was a remarkable lack of faith in the fragrance to move it onto those shelves in a matter of weeks. As I was reacquainting myself with it I was thinking if the tuberose was made even more transparent it would fit in the current day trend of light gourmand florals. 
The basic reason Truth or Dare is in the Dead Letter Office is trying to make a modern version of a classic perfume is not easy no matter how dedicated to the task you are. It ends up pleasing nobody. While she might be a Material Girl; Truth or Dare showed she was not a Fragrance Girl.

Disclosure: this review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: M. Micallef Yellow Sea- First Impressions Lost

When I look back over the perfumes which have been discontinued to add to the list of future Dead Letter Office columns sometimes I am a little sad. Most of the time that emotion arises because the first perfumes that connected me to a brand are no longer being made. Those first impressions are what made me look forward to every future release. One of the reasons those fragrances end up here is because they were also part of the brand evolving their aesthetic. A good example of this is the M. Micallef Seas Collection.

Martine Micallef

I became aware of M. Micallef and the Seas Collection through my participation on the Basenotes forums. They sounded interesting and through the generosity of other members I swapped for the first two; Black Sea and Red Sea. They were two distinct points in my discovery of the difference between European and American aesthetics. Even in the early 2000’s Americans were continuing with clean and fresh. When I tried Red Sea there was the fresh and clean but creative director Martine Micallef and perfumer Jean-Claude Astier added in cumin which added in the body odor character that ingredient is known for. Black Sea would provide a contrast as it added in a prominent saffron note which I found to be the best representation of that particular note I had tried at that point in my perfume testing. I came away from trying those two wanting to try more from the brand and went on an acquisitional spree. What I found was the other perfumes by Mme Micallef and M. Astier were very different; they had an ineffable French-ness to them. That quality is what would define the brand but they weren’t done with the Seas at this point. When Yellow Sea was released in 2008 that Gallic sense of style was added to a sunny plush citrus fragrance.  

Jean-Claude Astier

The early moments are sunny lemon and bergamot which then is transformed by one of the best uses of castoreum to provide the sweet muskiness as contrast. Unlike the earlier Seas this time the stronger note added into the mix works very well. Patchouli and incense provide a richly resinous heart but it is pitched at a much more transparent level than you normally get from the rest of the brand. The base is a clean cedar framing with a bit of amber and benzoin adding some length to the resinous tail from the heart.

Yellow Sea has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.

None of the M. Micallef Seas is like anything else the brand has released. It seems clear that consumers were more interested in the different aesthetic being presented in the other releases; Note Ambree is a good example of that which was released contemporaneously with Yellow Sea. I miss the loss of my first impressions of M. Micallef but the brand has mostly delighted me over the years even if I wanted more of what ended up in the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Prince Matchabelli Aviance- Superwoman of the 1970’s

There are perfumes which make it in to the Dead Letter Office because the times have just passed them by. During the early 1970’s the way perfume was marketed and bought was undergoing a significant change. I have heard Michael Edwards mention many times that prior to the mid-1970’s most perfume was purchased by men as a gift for the women in their life. As women entered the workforce earning their own income that would change as women took as much control of the fragrances they wore as they were doing with the rest of their life. During this time there was also a concerted effort to market fragrance to this new female worker. One of the mantras at this time was women who could “have it all”. What that meant was work all day take care of the home all night. It reflected the changing society that women were exhausting themselves trying to live up to this. Unsurprisingly there was a perfume which was being marketed for these superwomen of the 1970’s: Prince Matchabelli Aviance.

One thing that Prince Matchabelli knew how to do was to market their perfumes. They also were one of the earliest brands to use television extensively. If you are a Baby Boomer know the jingle to many of the Prince Matchabelli fragrances. Wind Song not only stayed on your mind but it was an earworm before that term existed. The ad campaign for Aviance also has a memorable tune. In the commercial a woman sings the lyrics “I’ve been sweet and I’ve been good/ I’ve had a full day of motherhood/ But I’m going to have an Aviance night!” As she sings she changes out of her house cleaning jeans, kerchief, and untucked shirt into something more appealing looking. As she finishes the line above a man in a suit and tie responds “Oh yeah, we’re going to have an Aviance night.”

Perfumer Betty Busse working off this idea of a perfume for the woman trying to have it all decides to make a floral aldehyde variant. It kind of mirrors that concept of streamlined green for the office, traditional florals for the housewife, and musk for the evening to come.

Ms. Busse opens Aviance up on a very green aldehydic top accord which carries a bit of muguet along with it. These early moments are reminiscent of many current green muguet scents of the present. It does try to be that safer office style of fragrance. The heart is that traditional bouquet of jasmine and rose with little surprise. The base accord is surprising because Ms. Busse really goes for a musky green effect. Vetiver and moss provide the green tint to the animalic. A smart use of tonka picks up and amplifies the sweeter facets of the musk really adding to its sensuality.

Aviance has 18-24 hour longevity and above average sillage.

In the 1970’s there were three “working woman perfumes” only Revlon Charlie still exists today. The other two Revlon Enjoli and Aviance were sent to the Dead Letter Office because women became more savvy about everything in their lives including perfume.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Vivienne Westwood Anglomania- Ropion on the Record

As I became more interested in all things punk during the mid 1970’s I learned there were two sort of puppet masters behind the scenes. One was Malcolm McLaren who was the impresario behind the formation of The Sex Pistols. The early look of the punk movement came from his partner Vivienne Westwood. Ms. Westwood would create the look of a movement spearheaded by the earliest purveyors of the music. 

Vivienne Westwood

This would be the beginning of a successful fashion designing career where she would always display that early punk sensibility throughout. Even the uniforms she designed for Virgin Atlantic airlines in 2014 has a bit of that with flight attendants in high collars and bright red.

Ms. Westwood has always been one of those I am intensely interested in. So, when she expanded in to fragrance in 1998 I was ready to be impressed. That first release was called Boudoir and it is a provocative kaleidoscopic floriental. Surprisingly that perfume has continued to be available since its release. The best perfume that has ever been released by the brand, Anglomania, was sent to the Dead Letter Office two short years after its release in 2004. Despite it being a dirty leathery rose which fits her aesthetic way better than Boudoir.

Dominique Ropion

Anglomania was composed by perfumer Dominique Ropion under Ms. Westwood’s creative direction. What is odd about a perfume named Anglomania is there is so little Anglo to be found inside as early on it seems more like a Japanese tea room, then a floral record store, and finally a leather jacket. None of that screams British to me but as a fragrance it sure works well.

Anglomania opens with a snappy coriander and cardamom pairing. To this M. Ropion provides a steaming cup of green tea to which he also adds nutmeg. As I said this reminds me of something Asian inspired which continues in the heart. There instead of the traditional English rose M. Ropion trots out a boisterous Bulgarian rose grabbing ahold of the spices and folding them within its petals. Then comes the vinyl accord which inserts itself into the rose. This is the smell of an old vinyl record as you opened it for the first time. It turns this into a post-modern rose as the needle drops on this fragrant record. The base is a leather jacket accord full of animalic charm and sweaty musks.

Anglomania has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.

Anglomania was a shooting star in its short time on sale. The reason for the discontinuation is the benign neglect Ms. Westwood showed all the fragrances in her line. There has never been a very active attempt to get these perfumes out in to the public eye. A perfume like Anglomania needed some buzz to give it a jump start but it got none of that. Which is how it ended up in the Dead Letter Office.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Kenzoair- Enter Maurice

Kenzo has been one of the most interesting brands I have followed since I started paying attention to the wider world of fragrance. They go through cycles of real originality followed by consolidation and safety. There is one big problem with this kind of fluctuation it is hard to create a brand identity. I believe if a brand fails at that it adds an extra level of difficulty in breaking through to the consumer. If I had to point to a reason why Kenzo has had so much of a problem doing this, it has been because they have never been clear what they wanted to be. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s when Celine Verleure was creatively directing, until 1998, and co-directors Delphine Fossoyeux & Patrick Guedj took over after she left you could almost feel like they were going to be a challenger to Comme des Garcons as an early niche leader. They were using some of the current superstars of perfumery in their early days. Names like Ropion, Kurkdjian, Morillas, Cresp, and Menardo all made interesting releases but there was no focus. In 2003 Fossoyeux and Guedj decided it was time to bring to bring in a big star perfumer; enter Maurice Roucel.

M. Roucel was one of the first perfumers who had his name brought from out of the shadows by Frederic Malle. One of the earliest successes of the original Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle was M. Roucel’s Musc Ravageur. The thought at Kenzo was likely to ride this new wave of perfumers as auteurs. They asked him to design a perfume. M. Roucel had been busy making perfume for over twenty years at this point but surprisingly he had never done a vetiver centric fragrance. Kenzoair would check that box.

maurice_roucel

Maurice Roucel

M. Roucel would look at the trends of clean and fresh especially in masculine releases. He would choose to find a way to make a vetiver opaquer going for a cleaner version of that very common masculine note. He would keep it simple to allow the transparent vetiver the space to shine.

Kenzoair starts with angelica root in a lighter concentration than you usually run in to. Often this comes off as very earthy and musky. M. Roucel uses bergamot to lighten it up. Vetiver comes next and M. Roucel uses anise to pull that nature of vetiver. I have rarely seen this pairing used and Kenzoair is a good example of why it should be. Herbs are used to pull the herbal nature of lavender all the time. The anise has a similar effect here on the vetiver. It pushes the greener facets to the background which is how M. Roucel does transform it into something less rigid. There is a mixture of woody aromachemicals to finish this off with a similar volume.

Kenzoair has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.

Kenzoair would have a very short shelf life. It seems the transparency which I find so compelling was not seen the same way by consumers. So much so that Kenzoair Intense was released within two years. Both would be discontinued not too much longer after that. This is the hazard of not forming a distinct brand identity. Kenzoair did not stand for anything but adventurous perfume composition to an uninterested audience.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: Calvin Klein Crave- Growing Pains

Because I’ve been so interested in the trend of perfume brands reaching out to Millennials this year I’ve been looking back to find other times fragrance was designed to specifically capture a young market. It will not surprise anyone that a good example would come from Calvin Klein. For almost 40 years now this has been a brand all about finding appeal for the young consumer. In 1994, with ckOne, they were perfectly positioned to ride the swelling wave of cleanliness in fragrance long before it turned in to a tsunami. By 2002 they were ready to do it again with Calvin Klein Crave. Except this time, it was one of the rare fragrances for this brand to end up in the Dead Letter Office.

As the brand was looking out at their target audience they were seeing the beginning of the wireless age. Nearly every young person had a pager hanging from their belt while the early cell phones were just starting to penetrate society at large. Creative director Ann Gottlieb wanted to oversee the creation of a perfume which would capture this connected generation on the bleeding edge in 2002.

calvin-klein-crave-the-new-scent-for-men-get-it-on

Ms. Gottlieb assembled a group of four perfumers in Jean-Mark Chaillan, Olivier Polge, Pascal Gaurin, and Yves Cassar. The perfumers were given the brief I think all Calvin Klein perfumers are given, “make it young, fresh, sexy, and clean”. Except with the concurrent electronics modernity in mind it drove them to think a little more outside of the box than they might normally have done. What resulted was something that seems Calvin Klein but at other moments seems like the name on the label must be incorrect.

Crave opens with some of that unusual quality right away. The perfumers use a Calone-laden “fluorescent fresh accord”. There is so much Calone here that the melon-like quality of that aromachemical is also evident. To that the perfumers add a different fruity partner; carambola, or starfruit, which has a tart smell to it but not nearly as much as a citrus note would have. That actually turns the fruitiness of the melon and the carambola into its own sort of fluorescent fruit accord. To all of this there is a strong green counterpoint. The longer this lingers on my skin the sugarier the fruit gets and just as it is about to become Kool-Aid the perfumers unleash a spate of herbs as basil, coriander, and allspice come forward. For a little while this is a like a chaotic house party as the fresh of the Calone, the fruits, and the herbs whirl madly. Again just as it threatens to become annoying the base notes try and calm things down. Crave goes all woody as sandalwood and vetiver provide the calming effect needed while the typical mixture of white musks finish this off.

Crave has 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage.

This is a perfume which lives life on the edge of irritating. If it stays on the right side of the line, as it does with me, it is a fun fragrance. If it falls on the other side of that line this is going to be an irritant. It seems the consumers were in the latter category as three years after launch it was pulled. It is still the quickest discontinuation for the brand.

There is a bit of cautionary tale in Crave for all of those brands trying to figure out what the Millennials want. Even an all-star team can miss the mark by trying too hard to cater to a perceived taste.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: R de Capucci- Summer Chypre

When I was regularly posting on Basenotes there was one member “hirch_duckfinder” who had in his signature the following: “Wear R de Capucci”. Because I respected his posts it was a sure thing I would eventually find some. When I did, I found a summer-weight chypre that seemingly was ahead of its time in anticipating the advent of clean in perfumery. This entry in the Dead Letter Office is probably there because nobody knew what to do with a perfume that had no contemporary.

Roberto Capucci is an Italian fashion designer who was known for his “sculptural” style of couture. He eschewed the catwalks to show his clothing off in museums. Fragrance was part of the brand throughout. The first fragrance releases were in 1963: Parce Que! and Graffiti. There would be a new release every three or four years. By 1985 R De Capucci was the seventh release. It came just as Sig. Capucci had handed over the day-to-day operations in 1980. It is hard to know what the new leadership thought of how fragrance fit but they released three from 1982-1988. It is hard to know because these perfumes were not widely distributed. Which would be the major reason almost the entire line is in the Dead Letter Office.

francoise-caron

Francoise Caron

R De Capucci was composed by Francoise Caron early in her career. I think it shows Mme Caron in an experimental mood. I think her brief may have been as simple as “we would like a masculine fragrance”. What Mme Caron delivered is a hybrid of fougere on top and chypre on the bottom. Except the whole thing is cleaned up as all of the rough edges of both styles are removed. It makes for a stylistic tour de force.

R de Capucci opens on a green-hued lavender combined with sprightly citrus. It is a top accord of clean lines which will continue to elongate throughout the development. The fougere quality is striking when captured in this way. It is almost hyperfocused on the lavender and citrus as the green provides the clarity. The heart notes provide the transition to the chypre part as clove, thyme, and geranium pick up the green and connect it to the base. In the base Mme Caron leaves out the oakmoss and replaces it with a birch-based leather accord. She keeps that leather on a short leash but it supplies most of what oakmoss provides in a traditional chypre accord. The rest of the accord comes from the customary list of sandalwood, patchouli, and musk. A bit of incense skirls through the later dry down.

R de Capucci has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.

The beauty of what Mme Caron has created here is a chypre which can be worn on the hottest of days. It can be worn because Mme Caron has cleaned it up so it has the sturdy lines that will overwhelm masculine perfumery within ten years. It is like a crystal ball into the future. Unfortunately, most consumers weren’t able to find it to have the opportunity to share this vision. Nowadays it is still equally difficult to find. It shows up on the auction sites for a reasonable price but that is about it for finding it. I know my bottle only has a few summers left in it.

Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke

Dead Letter Office: L’Artisan Parfumeur Verte Violette- Short-Term Goldilocks

L’Artisan Parfumeur was one of the earliest niche perfume lines. Started in 1978 by Jean-Francois Laporte it was meant to be a riposte to the larger brands’ offerings. For nearly forty years the brand has had its ups and downs but it has never stopped taking risks. If there in any legacy M. Laporte would be proud of I would imagine it is that.

Throughout the lifetime of the brand they have identified some of the best perfumers working and given them budget and freedom to realize a vision. The very best of the line are some of the masterpieces of niche perfumery. That doesn’t mean they are immune to sending some miscalculations to the Dead Letter Office. One of those miscalculations was the 2001 release Verte Violette.

Perfumer Anne Flipo had made her name with L’Artisan with her release Mimosa pour Moi. It was a greener version of mimosa tinted that color with violet leaf. If there was a consistent criticism of that perfume it was that the violet was too sharply green; closing in the mimosa. In 2001 when Mme Flipo was asked to create two more fresh florals I think she wanted to revisit a green violet. What results is a classic Goldilocks perfume where the perfumer takes the keynote and tries not to make it too green or too sweet. In the case of Verte Violette Mme Flipo would strike this balance near perfectly. While I think the Goldilocks approach was not the right tack to take with niche consumers who wanted something different it probably wasn’t the main reason for its discontinuation.

anne-flipo

Anne Flipo

That reason was probably due to its longevity. Mme Flipo designed Verte Violette as a fragile veil meant to be a close wearing skin scent. Particularly at this point in the expansion of niche a perceived lack of longevity was going to be seen as a significant drawback. Verte Violette has almost no sillage and while it does stay on my skin for a long time it requires me to bring my nose close to detect it. What I detect when I do this is a slightly sweet fresh green floral.

Verte Violette opens with a similar riff that Mme Flipo used on Mimosa pour Moi; violet leaves and raspberry. The green of the violet leaves is only slightly sweetened be the fruit. This is the typical sharp green quality of that note. A slew of ionones make up Mme Flipo’s violet accord in the heart. It is a densely layered construct meant to convey a weight between transparent and full-throated. As I mentioned Mme Flipo finds a really beautiful balance here. The violet accord grows deeper over time as rose and orris provide some strength but not too much. Cedar provides the woody frame for the florals to exist within.

Verte Violette has 8-10 hour longevity but almost zero sillage.

Verte Violette was discontinued after just ten years on the market in 2011.

I have always enjoyed Verte Violette for that Goldilocks quality Mme Flipo managed to create. I am not surprised that others did not share that feeling. The longevity and lack of sillage is something I have never cared about but I understand those who do. The combination of fleeting and just right makes Verte Violette a Short-Lived Goldilocks. At least in this case I am that Goldilocks.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle I purchased.

Mark Behnke