As older brands find their way back in to the marketplace it has been a bit of a mixed bag so far. One brand which I would have labeled as not living up to its heritage was Courreges. This was the fashion brand started by Andre Courreges and he was responsible for the go-go boot as well as one of the designers who made the first mini skirts. These were part and parcel of his futuristic aesthetic which would flourish especially in the 1970’s when M. Courreges found his muse and his model in Grace Jones. Throughout the 1970’s he dressed the singer for many of her magazine covers. Courreges released a couple of fragrances during this time; Courreges Homme and Courreges Amerique, The brand would make another go at perfume in the 1990’s but by 2001 had given up again. M. Courreges would sell the brand in 2011 and the new owners wanted to give fragrance a third try. There have been a total of seven releases since 2012 and the first six played it safe with well-known genres done in workmanlike style. Nothing could be further from the name on the bottle. Late last year the seventh perfume was released; Courreges Hyperbole and this felt more like what a Courreges inspired perfume should smell like.
Grace Jones in Courreges circa 1969
Hyperbole reached back to have perfumers Jean Jacques and Antoine Lie be inspired by Ms. Jones and a 70’s collection of sportswear of the same name. What came out of that was a perfume that was going to take traditional masculine notes and make them feminine. As one who sees perfume as genderless I can’t speak to the success of the gender bending they were after. What they have produced is a perfume which is a sweet tobacco with real charms.
Andre Courreges (seated) surrounded by his Hyperbole Collection circa 1974
Hyperbole opens with a snappy blast of white pepper balanced against bergamot. The white pepper is more stripped down than its full-strength cousin black pepper. That makes it a nice companion for the bergamot. The tobacco source used in Hyperbole is tobacco flower. This is where I am guessing the perfumers are trying to feminize the tobacco. The problem is they use patchouli to take the flower into that more typical deeply narcotic place you find tobacco in perfume. Vanilla provides a complementary sweetness to wrap up the tobacco and push back against the patchouli.
Hyperbole has 8-10 hour longevity and average sillage.
For the first time since Courreges has started producing perfume again Hyperbole feels like something which fits M. Courreges style. There is a 70’s feel to all of it. I can see Ms. Jones wearing Hyperbole with a cigarette drooping from her magenta colored lips.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provide by Air France.
One of the most used words in perfume names is “noir”. According to Michael Edwards’ Fragrances of the World there are over 150 perfumes with the word in their name. I feel very Inigo Montoya-like, from “The Princess Bride”, when I use his quote, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” What Noir should be is something with depth and perhaps a bit of intrigue and danger. What happens all too often is the perfume rounds up a bunch of heavy notes slams them together and points and says, “Noir!” I do not think it means what you think it means. When I receive a sample with noir in the name it almost immediately brings out my inner Inigo Montoya. When I received my sample of the new Isabey Lys Noir it turned out my inner skeptic would be shelved for a perfume which absolutely understands what noir is.
Isabey was a perfume house which had its heyday back in the 1920’s. It was a much desired brand for the socialite set and especially Gardenia left its mark. After the Great Depression Isabey was much changed and eventually was discontinued. In 2002 Panouge acquired the brand and re-released Gardenia. Perfumer Jean Jacques would do a creditable job and over a number of limited releases Gardenia would sell out time and again. Panouge then began, in 2009, allowing M. Jacques to start adding to Gardenia by reformulating more of the classic Isabey perfumes. Lys Noir is the fourth of those perfumes to be released. Lys Noir was first released in 1924 and in that time frame art deco and noir originated and became inextricably linked. M. Jacques has done a fantastic job at re-creating a perfume which captures both of those influences.
In those noir fragrances I derided in my opening paragraph a note like black pepper would be used because black=noir in the pedestrian mind. In Lys Noir, M. Jacques uses black pepper as an opening bit of punctuiuation. A leading exclamation point. Black pepper can be such a vibrant note when done right and here is it exactly that. It leads into one of the best white flower hearts I’ve smelled in a long time. The lily that is in the name is there but the real stars of Lys Noir are tuberose and narcissus. These are notes which act like flappers of the time period; free spirited, assured along with a bit of attitude. M. Jacques get the balance just right here as the tuberose and the narcissus meld together like old friends. The lily tints it slightly green and heliotrope adds some high harmonics. This is where M. Jacques gets noir right. At this point Lys Noir feels very retro, it also feels like it might be right on the edge of getting out of control. There is also a narcotic quality to white flowers in high doses and that is also present. The base doesn’t disappoint as it transitions to a dark mahogany wood accord. If you’ve ever smelled a fine mahogany piece of furniture oiled and polished this is the wood accord which forms the base of Lys Noir. Some patchouli and musk round it out.
Lys Noir has 10-12 hour longevity and above average sillage.
For one of the very few times a perfume with noir in the name gets it right. Lys Noir is a brilliant perfumed time capsule which reflects the sensibilities of its time frame beautifully.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample I purchased.