Dead Letter Office Rochas Audace- A Quiet Chypre

In the history of modern perfumery perhaps the most influential outside event was World War II. Just as the great European perfume producers were hitting their stride everything changed. When peace was declared modern perfumery would be just another, albeit minor, thing which would need to be rebuilt. Of the brands which would make a mark post-war one would be Rochas with the release of Femme. It was one of the ways perfumery was able to say “I’m still standing”.

Femme would be the return to perfume for Rochas which prior to the war had sold three perfumes, Air Jeune, Avenue Matignon, and Audace. All three perfumes were never produced again after the war. Rochas would largely rely on Femme as the flagship fragrance for twenty-five years. By the late 1960’s Rochas wanted to get back into the fragrance game with attention getting perfumes. Monsieur Rochas and Eau de Rochas would signal that return. The perfume which was meant to cement it was the 1972 version of Audace.

Guy Robert

This version of Audace was not a reformulation as much as a reinterpretation by perfumer Guy Robert. The original Audace was said to be a full-bodied floral chypre. M. Robert, perhaps in a nod to changing trends, composed a version of Audace which I think of as a quiet chypre. This was the 1970’s so quiet is a relative term. If you were to compare Audace to the classic green chypres of twenty years earlier, it is much easier to see what I mean. Compare it to the modern chypres of today and quiet would probably not be the adjective which springs to mind. Even so I find the less extroverted style to be almost more engaging.

Audace opens on an acerbically green duet of juniper berry and pine needles. M. Robert finds a stained-glass effect of refracted light through these two ingredients. As the oakmoss rises so does a combination of florals headed by carnation. M. Robert uses a judicious amount of galbanum to extend the green effect from the top accord downward to join the oakmoss and the florals. The choice of the lightly spicy carnation gives the florals some ability to push back against the green without becoming overwhelming. Sandalwood, patchouli, vetiver and musk are all waiting for the oakmoss to complete the chypre base accord. M. Robert’s ability to keep this at a middle level of intensityis impressive.

Audace has 10-12 hour longevity and average sillage in its extrait version. 6-8 hour longevity and average sillage in its Parfum de Toilette version.

Audace was released with great fanfare by Rochas in 1972. It spawned a dress and a hairstyle at the same time. It was removed from the market six short years later. It seemingly did not find an audience for its subtle beauty.

As I look back at Audace it makes me think about walking in to an imaginary party where all the mid-century chypres were there. As much as the more flamboyant extroverts draw the eye the quite elegant one on the edge of the circle is the one which makes the biggest impact by being the quiet chypre.

Disclosure: This review is based on a sample of the extrait I received from a generous reader and a bottle of the Parfum de Toilette I purchased.

Mark Behnke

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