The early years of the naughts were a fascinating time for independent perfumery. It was the beginning of what would become a special piece of modern perfumery. Like all new things it drew an eclectic group of entrepreneurs. In that kind of environment it was inevitable that some great perfumes would fail because of inexperience. Dinner By Bobo is one of those stories.
Anne and Alexis Hardouin-Finez
In a lot of ways spouses Anne and Alexis Hardouin-Finez made a lot of the right choices when they started their line, By Bobo. They began by working with perfumer Sylvie Jourdet for their first release in 2002. On the perfume side of the equation they made a great decision to work in the gourmand style. It was a type of perfume which had only just become popular. They correctly believed there was a lot of space for creativity. Dinner By Bobo finds that by adding in a sexy skanky underpinning to all the sweet foodie accords surrounding it. This was the very raison de etre for niche perfumery. To take risks by not smelling like anything else.
That desire to stand apart is where Mme Jourdet begins by using cumin. This is all the things which makes cumin divisive among perfume lovers. It has that clean human sweat profile. Right next to it is a Holiday fruitcake of intense facets of dried fruits. The balance achieved is remarkable as both accords have equivalent presence, and they go together delightfully. The heart is another interesting exercise in balance. One of my favorite gingerbread accords in all of perfumery is given a sensual twist through ylang-ylang and indolic jasmine. As if a buttery rich gingerbread man is being propositioned by the sexy florals. In the same way that the cumin finds purchase among the fruitcake the skanky florals do the same to the gingerbread. It develops in a slow burn to a base of incense, musk, and patchouli. Continuing the dichotomy of sweet and skanky.
Dinner By Bobo has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I treasure my tiny bottle because I own nothing else like it. Almost twenty years on nobody has managed to replicate this balancing act. As to why it ended up in the Dead Letter Office I have been told the name was one reason. A perfume called Dinner By Bobo did not inspire elegant thoughts in consumers. I also think that the early successes of niche perfumery were different but not too different. Dinner By Bobo might have been just different enough to be unable to find an audience. It could even be simpler than that. New entrepreneurs just couldn’t get their perfume in front of enough buyers. I don’t have a definitive answer and parts of all three conjectures might be the truth.
Dinner By Bobo is one of the reasons I see such potential in gourmand perfumes. It shows what a perfumer who is willing to seek balance between the foodie and the sensual can make something gorgeous.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
Ever since I was a child gingerbread has inextricably been associated with Christmas. As an adult Starbucks has only confirmed this association with my favorite coffee drink, Gingerbread Latte, only offered during the Holiday season. On Christmas morning the Colognoisseur house will be filled with the smells of gingerbread baking. It should then be no surprise that I will also be wearing a gingerbread focused perfume on Christmas Day. There aren’t a whole lot of gingerbread perfumes and I find I like all of them for the variation the perfumers brought to their interpretation. Here are my five favorite.
Every year Christopher Brosius puts out a yearly version of CB I Hate Perfume Gingerbread. Mr. Brosius has an uncanny ability to bottle real-life smells in perfume form. Gingerbread is unique because it isn’t the smell of the finished product. Instead it is the smell of the ingredients you use to make gingerbread; nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, and a particularly potent ginger. As I am whisking these ingredients together I am always amazed at how well Gingerbread the perfume captures this. The yearly variations are like the difference from batch to batch of your own gingerbread.
Pierre Guillaume has a well-earned reputation as one of the best perfumers in the gourmand category. The reason he is so good is he doesn’t just serve up the focal note without adornment. It is precisely the notes he chooses to adorn his central note which turns it into something memorable. Parfumerie Generale Un Crime Exotique is his take on gingerbread and M. Guillaume chooses osmanthus as its partner. The apricot quality of the osmanthus coalesces with the ginger and the leather uplifts the sweeter bread-like qualities. There is also a bit of mate tea to give the overall effect of sitting at a table looking out on the snow holding a gingerbread man cookie over a cup of mate on a December morning.
A more formal version of tea and gingerbread comes courtesy of perfumer Christopher Sheldrake in Serge Lutens Five O’Clock au Gingembre. This is high tea in a salon decorated for the holidays. The pot of Earl Grey tea is steeping right next to cakes fresh out of the oven. The smell of the wreaths and the Christmas tree are underneath it all. M. Sheldrake has created a gingerbread perfume as fragile as a crystal tree ornament. It is so full of subtlety and nuance it catches my breath every time I wear it. Also the more I wear it the more I think this might be one of the best perfumes M. Sheldrake has done in his tenure with Uncle Serge. It is the most sentimental of the perfumes on this list which makes it perfect for the season.
When perfumer Claude Dir was asked to design Bond No. 9 Manhattan there are many smells I associate with NYC but I didn’t expect gingerbread to be one of them. M. Dir has a different view and the heart of Manhattan is a chocolate covered gingerbread paired with jasmine. This heart rises out of a spice filled opening like the ingredients all come together to form the gingerbread. A beautiful sandalwood closes it out. As with the osmanthus in Un Crime Exotique the jasmine illuminates the gingerbread with a different floral contrast.
One of the nice offshoots of moving is I had to pack all of the bottles of perfume and it allowed me to find a long-lost gem, Dinner by Bobo. Yes it is a silly name but perfumer Sylvie Jourdet serves up a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party of citrus, jasmine, ylang-ylang, patchouli and gingerbread. Surrounding it all is the slightly sweaty smell of the Mad Hatter rushing around as a very light application of cumin and musk over incense and vanilla remind you there is someone else at this party. As I wrote this I did a cursory look to see if this was still available. I think it is and I hope I am not setting off a chase for something impossible to find. I have been enjoying this Dinner a lot over the past two Holiday seasons.
Merry Christmas to all and if you need a gingerbread lift for Christmas in July the five perfumes above should provide that.
Disclosure: This review was based on bottles I purchased.