As one who fully embraced the disco culture of the 1970’s there was one thing I loved about the music; the vocal hooks. All of the great disco anthems had one or two lyrics repeated many, many times usually over a smoking bass line. Disco was about dancing not contemplation. If I list, the name of many of those songs you wouldn’t remember anything but the title like an earworm. The art of a memorable hook is what sets apart the perfumers of the past who have passed the test of time. If I list those esteemed artists, they also all had very distinct olfactory hooks within their perfumes. The great Paul Vacher was no different as the new Le Galion Sang Bleu confirms.
When Nicolas Chabot oversaw the resurrection of the perfume brand Paul Vacher built he also found some recipes which had not been produced; Sang Bleu is one of those. M. Vacher was working on this in the 1970’s while also working on Eau Noble. Eau Noble was mix of citrus floral and leather in a very refined cologne architecture; as such it was contrary to prevailing trends. Sang Bleu was M. Vacher setting sail with the prevailing trend winds filling the sails of this Le Galion as Sang Bleu is a powerhouse chypre. As you can see in the ad campaign for this release M. Chabot enthusiastically embraces Sang Bleu as a perfume of the era it was created in. M. Vacher forms an intricate line dance of many notes into something great.
Sang Bleu opens with that herbal citrus mixture so common in those 70’s powerhouses. All of the usual suspects are present; lemon, orange, rosemary, and tarragon. M Vacher ups the ante with a fascinating push-and-pull of eucalyptus and artemesia. These two whirl on that dance floor provided by the citrus and herbs. The floral heart is primarily geranium and violet. To keep it from getting too feminine M. Vacher throws in a fistful of clove and galbanum. This turns everything a satisfying shade of green to set up the chypre finish. That comes courtesy of sandalwood, patchouli, cedar, and vetiver. I am fairly certain the original recipe had real oakmoss as an ingredient but the vetiver and cedar make an adequate substitute.
Sang Bleu has 14-16 hour longevity and above average sillage.
One of the nice things about M. Chabot’s bringing Le Galion back is we get to experience M. Vacher’s portfolio all together. When doing that you see what an accomplished perfumer he was. Sang Bleu was one of the last recipes he would write down prior to his death. It is very fitting way to remember his style with a chypre powerhouse last dance.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Le Galion
I have long had a fascination with the contemporary evolution of the cologne. The whole Nouveau Cologne movement over the past five years has shown how much creativity can be applied to one of the most basic of fragrance architectures.
Another recent development that I have also enjoyed has been the re-emergence of Le Galion as a vital brand. Owner and Creative Director Nicolas Chabot first reminded us of these lost perfumes by the great perfumer Paul Vacher two years ago. Over the last year M. Chabot has been working with some of the best perfumers out there in realizing new perfumes in the style of M. Vacher. Now the latest step forward comes as M. Chabot collaborates with perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux on two very different colognes called Cologne and Cologne Nocturne.
Nicolas Chabot (Photo: Sylvie Mafray)
Cologne is an imaginary meeting between M. Vacher and Sr. Flores-Roux in the gardens attached to the Le Galion mansion. Sr. Flores-Roux is a perfumer with whom I have had many discussions about how the heritage of the past can be reflected today. Thinking about these two perfumers having this conversation I would imagine it to be one on the classic form of cologne. Cologne provides that kind of experience.
Cologne opens on a fully realized orange blossom dominant accord underpinned with citrus. Sr. Flores-Roux has always had a deft touch with floral accords. This one is so basic yet somehow there is unexpected depth to the early moments of Cologne. It is softened in the heart with a bit of angelica root before heading to a green base of galbanum and clary sage. This is classical cologne distilled through that perspective using modern materials to add complexity. Cologne has 8-10 hours of longevity and average sillage.
Cologne Nocturne is everything I enjoy about Nouveau Cologne. Sr. Flores-Roux creates what he calls an “amber water”. This is not the usual construction for cologne as the base is usually not the star. In Cologne Nocturne Sr. Flores-Roux has opened it up with traditional cologne components before turning it on its head in the base to realize his vision.
Cologne Nocturne starts with lemon and bergamot. It is a typical breezy cologne opening. The heart early on also stays firmly in the traditional as lavender is matched with herbal notes of rosemary, sage, and thyme. Then the modern aspects begin to arrive as a spice laden accord sweeps the herbs away to combine with the lavender. I don’t know if it is just the newness of it all but I prefer when the spices are ascendant with the lavender. These spices live on as a parade of woody notes begin to form the amber water accord. Sr. Flores-Roux takes what could become a very heavy finish and manages to keep it lighter. This is how he gets to his vision of “amber water”. Cologne Nocturne was one of my most anticipated things to try at Esxence 2016 and it did not let me down. It is a brilliant Nouveau Cologne. Cologne Nocturne has 12-14 hour longevity and average sillage.
I have to reiterate my admiration for the way M. Chabot is working so hard to keep it from being a relic and making sure it stays relevant. It is a difficult balancing act between the classic and the contemporary. Le Galion with Cologne and Cologne Nocturne continue to navigate these tricky waters creditably.
Disclosure: This review was based on sample provided at Esxence 2016.
There are so many leather perfumes out there it is a challenge to stand out among them. Unlike single floral notes though leather perfumes have a bit of an advantage because the smell of leather in a perfume is an accord. An accord is as close as we get to an olfactory signature from a perfumer. I really like having the opportunity to compare the use of a leather accord by a perfumer when I can get a couple of new releases within a few months of each other. In the case of perfumer Vanina Murraciole it was her two recent releases for Le Galion which gave me an opportunity to examine her perfumed John Hancock.
Le Galion has begun to evolve away from being a heritage perfumery by moving away from re-creating Paul Vacher’s original releases into creating new perfumes based on the style of those early releases. Owner and creative director Nicolas Chabot has made a wise decision to do this. In Mme Murraciole he has found a perfumer who can capture that retro vibe and splice it onto something more modern. In my review of Aesthete I felt that one skewed so contemporary that it is the most modern of the line. For the other new one composed by Mme Murraciole, Cuir, this feels more akin to the originals with a very retro feeling to it. Both perfumes have Mme Murraciole’s leather accord in use. In Aesthete it is used as foundation for the other notes. It has a supple quality by being used at a lower concentration. In Cuir, as the name suggests, it is not part of the ensemble it is the star of the show with its name up in lights, or at least on the bottle. This transforms the leather into something less soft, more intriguing, and much more present.
Cuir opens up with bergamot and elemi. Mme Murraciole uses a lot of elemi and the lemon-tinted resin complements the bergamot. The opening is very reminiscent of many of the classic men’s fragrances of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The leather accord comes next and it does nothing to break Cuir out of that time period. The leather accord smells like that well-worn biker jacket lovingly oiled and cared for. What I like about this leather accord is there is a strong oily character within which really makes it different for me. That aspect adds a slightly funky quality which might not be to everyone’s taste. I found myself drawn to it each time I wore Cuir. Mme Murraciole takes her accord and drapes it over a chair made of sandalwood where you can smell the sweaty body that had it on. The final notes of musk and sandalwood again return to feeling like they are directly from a perfume fifty years older.
Cuir has 14-16 hour longevity and average sillage.
I found it interesting how well Mme Murraciole’s leather accord was able to be soft when used in support and to roar when it was the keynote. If you like your leather loud and uncomplicated Le Galion Cuir is one to add to your list.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample provided by Le Galion at Esxence 2015.
There have been a number of older brands which have been revived, especially over the last two or three years. The early days of these brands is a gradual re-formulation and re-release of the originals. Most of these brands, so far, have had no ambition to be more than a nod to the past. It was why I was so pleased to sit down with the owner and creative director of Le Galion, Nicolas Chabot, at Esxence 2015. The follow-up to last year’s re-release of Le Galion’s original founder Paul Vacher’s perfumes was for the brand to create new perfumes. There are three entirely new perfumes to be released in 2015. Two of them are by perfumer Vanina Murraciole and both are leather focused fragrances. Of the two there is one of them which is my favorite of the new compositions, Aesthete.
Nicolas Chabot (Photo: Sylvie Mafray)
Aesthete is defined as, “a person who has or affects to have a special appreciation of art and beauty”. That is an elegant definition for someone who might be, under other circumstances, called a snob. There is a nice bit of symmetry here as one of the original Le Galion perfumes by M. Vacher was called Snob. As M. Chabot looks to find a modern place for the venerable line Aesthete conjures up a more contemporary version of Snob. Where Snob was fruity floral focused on white florals; Aesthete is all about the leather.
Mme Murraciole opens Aesthete on a bold bit of percussion with an overdose of incense matched with saffron. There is probably no better way to capture my attention than to use those notes. Mme Murraciole takes advantage of the intense incense concentration to bring the focus to the slightly metallic background great incense contains. This allows the saffron to coat over that and give it an even more exotic feel. Mme Murraciole’s leather accord is meant to evoke refined Persian Leather. I found it to be extremely soft and supple on my skin. Especially after the incense and saffron from the top notes. The leather gets some company with an extremely well-behaved jasmine. This is a nod to the white floral heart of Snob, I think. Mme Murraciole returns to something a bit more untamed as she uses castoreum and oud next. This is, exactly as you would expect it is, as animalic as it can get. It is like the leather is growing hair again. It has a fabulous development arc from the refined to the raw. It might even be a little too raw for some because it does offer a bit of a tonal shift. The base notes offer a shift back to something less provocative as Mme Murraciole uses sandalwood, vanilla, and a mix of white musks to provide a familiar foundation.
Aesthete has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
When I reviewed Snob I mentioned that it felt the most modern of the line which had been created 62 years previously. Aesthete reinforces the notion that Le Galion is not satisfied with re-interpreting the past but charting a brand new course. M. Chabot provides a steady hand and vision. Aesthete is the product of that and it shows. Le Galion is now ready to set sail on the modern olfactory ocean and I can’t wait to see where it lands next.
Disclosure: this review was based on a sample I received at Esxence 2015 from Le Galion.
One of my favorite discoveries at Esxence in 2014 was the revival of the Le Galion line of perfumes. Owner Nicolas Chabot has done an amazing job of restoring these perfumes to life so a new generation of perfume lovers can discover them. The perfumer who was behind the original Le Galion was Paul Vacher. M. Vacher is one of those ghosts from the time when perfumers were not spoken of. Once he formed Le Galion he was no longer quite as hidden. Le Galion eventually went out of business. Until a couple of years ago when M. Chabot stepped in. Last year at Esxence he premiered nine perfumes, all re-interpretations of M. Vacher’s originals. They were one of the most buzzed about brands at Esxence in 2014. Which made me wonder what the follow-up would be.
Nicolas Chabot (Photo: Sylvie Mafray)
The answer is six new releases, five of which are brand new creations. As it was a year ago I was very impressed with the continued evolution of the Le Galion brand. I will be reviewing all of the new perfumes over the next few weeks but before heading into the new there was one last nod to the past, 1968’s Vetyver.
M. Chabot’s partner for much of this olfactory architectural restoration has been perfumer Thomas Fontaine. M. Fontaine is becoming the best modern perfumer at finding a way to use contemporary materials to retain the feel of the past which is what he does very well with his re-work of Vetyver.
Vetyver was definitely a product of its time. When I entered the booth at Esxence this year the poster above greeted me on one wall. The very 60’s woman holding a pistol and a bottle of Vetyver are like a visual time capsule. Vetyver thankfully is not as mired in the past. It does have a bit of that Austin Powers-like Shagadelic vibe very early on. As it develops the 60’s get left behind especially when Vetyver moves into the middle and end phases of development.
The early moments of Vetyver are like an homage to the classic men’s powerhouse fragrances of the 60’s and 70’s as bergamot and mandarin are blended with nutmeg and coriander. The opening moments of Vetyver will remind you a lot of those perfumes. It has such a strong evocation of the time that I was worried the rest would feel as dated. Instead it uses the same ingredients which might have made up the next phase of those dated fragrances and instead re-balances them for a much different effect. Petitgrain, verbena, and lavender were also normal running partners to spicy citrus openings. M. Fonatine takes those ingredients and instead of ramping up the intensity into a knockout punch he turns it into a caress. The lavender forms the first light touch with tarragon and clary sage used to accentuate the herbal nature. Verbena is also kept feather light and is bolstered slightly by a precise amount of petitgrain to accentuate the lemon nature. This all leads to one of the more interesting appearances of vetiver I’ve tried recently. M. Fontaine brings the vetiver forward and allows it to have the next part of the development to itself. With a grouping of notes only slightly more intense than the ones used in the heart he shades Vetyver darker but more twilight than midnight. Sandalwood and tonka bean provide some depth and sweetness. Musks go for that slightly earthy effect that goes so well with vetiver as a note.
Vetyver has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage.
Vetyver is a good example of the care M. Chabot and M. Fontaine have taken in updating M. Vacher’s perfumes into the 21st century. As I wore Vetyver over these first few warm days I noticed how different it was than many of my other vetiver fragrances. This speaks volumes about how to effectively bring the past into the present. Le Galion has done that extremely well.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Le Galion at Esxence 2015.
The last fragrance in this collection is something “new” to the Le Galion line. When Nicolas Chabot acquired Le Galion he also acquired all that was left by perfumer Paul Vacher upon his death in 1975. The notebooks by themselves were a treasure trove of information to allow perfumer Thomas Fontaine the knowledge of the detail M. Vacher added to each composition so M. Fontaine could re-formulate where necessary. If that was all M. Chabot had it would be enough. Except during the examination of the Le Galion archives they came across a box they believe dates from 1930-1935 and in it a small bottle of fragrance. This was an unreleased composition by M. Vacher and is now being released under the name 222.
222 is really the culmination of all of the work M. Chabot and M. Fontaine put into reviving Le Galion and M. Vacher’s perfumes. It also feels like the perfect coda to my exploration of this collection as it encompasses the dedication of M. Chabot in obtaining and using M. Vacher’s original source material to re-introduce the line. It also shows how skillful M. Fontaine is in using modern materials to replace the ingredients from the past that no longer are available or available to be used. 222 smells retro and it smells modern which maybe makes it the Nouveau Retro poster child.
222 opens with violet and Kashmir wood. The Kashmir wood pulls the woody aspects of violet more to the foreground and as a result the opening feels more like light wood with a hint of floral. Lavender adds a bit more floral before the resinous mix of myrrh and styrax set the heart. This is a slightly sweet and comforting warmth at this point in the development. M. Fontaine adds in a cocktail of white musk as contrast to the softness and they intersperse themselves throughout the resinous core. It is right here where it seems M. Vacher and M. Fontaine come together with the old and the new. Sandalwood forms the base and it is bolstered by oak moss and a soft leather accord.
222 has 6-8 hour longevity and moderate sillage.
I have spent the last week reviewing this revived Le Galion because I believe this is the best re-formulation of a vintage perfume line to date. It helps that besides Sortilege few are familiar with the other fragrances in the line although they are out there to be acquired. The truth is few perfume lovers know this line very well, including me. The one thing I do know well is Paul Vacher was one of the great perfumers of the early 20th Century and even though Lanvin Arpege, Miss Dior, and Diorling live on as testament to his timelessness it really was these creations for Le Galion which was where he allowed his creativity free rein and I think it shows. There is not a weak link in the entire collection and all of them have a modern aspect on top of the vintage feel. Nicolas Chabot is to be congratulated to his attention to detail in getting this just so. There have been a number of these kind of projects over the last year which have gone badly astray, M. Chabot just wouldn’t let that happen. Finally Thomas Fontaine’s work in re-formulating and updating the six fragrances he had a hand in maybe makes him the best perfumer working when it comes to the Nouveau Retro genre. I know his work here has my hopes very high this same magic will be applied to his re-formulation of my beloved Jean Patou Vacances. All of this together has created a magical confluence where the past and the present co-exist in a singularity of quality.
Disclosure: This review was based on a sample provided by Le Galion.
When Nicolas Chabot acquired the rights to Le Galion he also acquired the original notebooks perfumer Paul Vacher wrote down his recipes in. For most of the collection perfumer Thomas Fontaine was required to lend a hand to update these formulae. Whip and Eau Noble were two of the three that were able to be reconstructed without change from what was written in M. Vacher’s notebook. Both of them share some similarities in that they are floral citrus cologne compositions. That they were separated by almost twenty years shows an interesting difference in what M. Vacher thought a cologne should smell like in 1953 and 1972.
Whip was the one from 1953 and of all of the perfumes in this very excellent collection is my favorite. M. Vacher creates a cologne full of bullwhip-like pops of percussive notes. He takes traditional cologne architecture and snaps in spices in between. Then a very green jasmine heart leads to a greener base over the supple coils of the whip.
The best colognes all have a bit of an olfactory snap to them from the first moments. Whip ups that to something that lives up to its name. M. Vacher marries lemon, bergamot and lavender but then lashes them with high concentrations of tarragon and cardamom. I really like this beginning it gets my attention and it is fascinating. The heart is jasmine and violet again lashed with a healthy amount of galbanum. This forms a floral encased in green which is dominant and very spiky. The green theme continues into the base as oak moss, vetiver, and a little patchouli usher Whip towards its end. In the very end the titular leather of the fragrant whip forms the final accord.
Whip has 8-10 hour longevity and above average sillage.
Eau Noble would be the last perfume by M. Vacher before his death in 1975. As in Whip he is again exploring a citrus floral leather trio in a cologne structure. Where Whip is all about power Eau Noble is much gentler, a more subtle perfume experience. It also reflects the prevailing trend towards citrus focused fragrances that Edmond Roudnitska has ushered into style in 1966 with Eau Sauvage.
Eau Noble, like Whip, uses lemon and bergamot on top but this time there is only a bit of galbanum to turn the citrus aspect more towards the rind than the pulp. It modulates the citrus into something softer. Lavender and sage form the heart of Eau Noble and here it takes on almost classic cologne formula with sage substituting for the rosemary. We finish with a leather accord of patchouli, oak moss, and musk. This is a soft supple leather befitting the softer nature of Eau Noble. Cedar provides a bit of woody framing at the end as well.
Eau Noble has 6-8 hours of longevity and average sillage.
Disclosure: These reviews were based on samples provided by Le Galion.
In Iris and Tubereuse, Le Galion perfumer Paul Vacher wanted to create beautiful soliflores. With 1950’s La Rose he was not interested in adding to the rose soliflores out there he wanted to create a full-throated rose fragrance that would make a larger-than-life version of the bloom. It is said in the press materials that M. Vacher smelled over 70 species of rose to find the right one for La Rose. I am not sure if perfumer Thomas Fontaine who is in charge of the re-formulation of La Rose was able to find that specific species but whatever he has found has a special character to it and makes La Rose feel like one in a million, or at least one in seventy.
The opening is violet leaf and bergamot. The violet leaf sets the stage like the green surrounding a rose bud. In the heart this imaginary rose bud bursts into life sending out waves of floral sweetness. The rose used here has a subtle fruitiness which is amplified by a bit of peach to allow it to flourish. There is also a lovely dewy quality as if this rose has bloomed in the early morning capturing dew drops within the petals. La Rose finishes with a patchouli and cedar pair of base notes and they are also very pronounced. La Rose is no soliflore it is exponentially rendered rose exquisitely done.
La Rose has 8-10 hour longevity and prodigious sillage.
When I sat down with owner of Le Galion Nicolas Chabot at Esxence to try out the line he made a very wise choice on which fragrance to show me first, Snob. First the name itself brings a smile to my face simply because I am a snob about so many things, especially perfume. As I raised the strip to my nose and smelled I immediately understood why everyone was buzzing about Le Galion. Snob was created in 1952 but this could have been created in 2052 because it seems so forward thinking in its construction and aesthetic. Snob at its most basic is a white flower fragrance but it is a perfume for a lover of fragrance because hidden throughout its construction are buried grace notes which add pleasure enough to satisfy any perfume snob. I also have to mention that M. Fontaine’s re-formulation here had to be extremely difficult to achieve this kind of delicate complexity using modern materials.
Snob opens on a pedestrian combo of bergamot and mandarin but just underneath there is something decidedly less ubiquitous as saffron and crisp apple turn the pedestrian into provocative. It was this initial sniff which made me think these Le Galion perfumes were going to be special. The heart breaks out a chorus of floral notes centered on jasmine and orange blossom radiating their indolic beauty. Iris adds powdery contrast while rose adds a hint of spicy floralcy. Together they proudly lift their floral nose high in the air the better to look down on those other mere perfumes. The base is sandalwood and a cocktail of white musks. There is not a moment when I am wearing Snob that this feels like a creation from 62 years ago it feel like it was from 62 minutes ago.
Snob has 8-10 hour longevity and significant sillage.
Disclosure: This review was based on samples provided by Le Galion.
It is exciting to be in a place where you can feel an organic groundswell of approval begin to form. When I attended Esxence in March of 2014 I watched this happen. Esxence is one of the largest perfume expositions in the world and their well curated exhibitors show off the best of niche perfumery. As such it attracts a pretty knowledgeable crowd and as you meet people the most common question you ask is, “Smelled anything good?” Everyone usually has a different answer but when you start hearing the same answer from a number of people you might want to make sure to check it out. This year the answer to that question was almost overwhelmingly, “Have you tried Le Galion yet?” I met Roja Dove in the lobby of our hotel on the morning of day two and this was the exchange we had. I had already heard enough the previous day and so set out to visit the booth.
When I arrived Nicolas Chabot greeted me and told me the story of the line. In 1936 perfumer Paul Vacher purchased Le Galion so he could produce his own fragrances. M. Vacher was most known for his Lanvin fragrances that he co-created with Andre Fraysse; Scandal and Arpege. He would work for other houses as he continued to expand Le Galion, most notably working with Jean Carles to create Miss Dior in 1947. M. Vacher would guide Le Galion through the post-war world and continue to make perfume for Le Galion until his death in 1975. The brand was sold in 1980 and was mismanaged into oblivion; another classic line of perfume lost, or so it seemed.
M. Chabot acquired the brand and began the work of resurrecting it. One bit of good fortune was unearthing M. Vacher’s original notebooks containing the recipes for all of the perfumes he created for Le Galion. Obviously one of the challenges for bringing back to life perfume that was created originally in the early 20th century is the sourcing of some of the raw materials and the restrictions don’t allow for the ability to just use the same ingredients. M. Chabot had to turn to a current perfumer to help with those and he chose Thomas Fontaine. M. Fomtaine is currently taking on the monumental task of re-formulating the classic Jean Patou collection and his early efforts there have made me hopeful. After experiencing the six fragrances he worked on for Le Galion I am now more than hopeful as M. Fontaine has done a fantastic job for Le Galion. There are three of the new Le Galion that didn’t need any re-working as their raw materials were still able to be used. The real proof of how well M. Fontaine did is I wasn’t able to pick out the three “untouched” ones as being different from the rest of the collection.
As I wrote in my wrap-up of Esxence when I named my top 10 fragrances from the whole exhibition I could have just listed these nine and added one more and been done. The Le Galion collection might be the best Nouveau Retro collection to be released so far. I have spent the last two months getting to know these fragrances and want to share that. So for the next week I am going to give extensive reviews on all nine perfumes in the “new” Le Galion line.