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

That Unattainable Object of Desire: Jean Patou Lasso- Lost in Translation


If you were on Facebook a month or so ago there was a game going on where you named ten musical acts you saw in concert with one being a lie. Your friends commented with which one they thought was the lie. I decided to do a perfume version where I listed ten long lost perfumes that were extremely difficult to get. My friends are pretty smart and many of them figured out the one which I did not own a bottle of was Jean Patou Lasso.

Lasso was the Jean Patou perfume which has fallen so far through the cracks that it is also very difficult for me to confirm any of the details. It isn’t even listed in the Fragrances of the World database it is so lost. Going by many places on the internet the year of release has been listed as 1936, 1956, and “sometime in the 1960’s”. The perfumer is also impossible to track down although if it was released in 1936 it seems likely it would be Henri Almeras. If it was 1956 Henri Giboulet is most likely as he did 1955’s Eau de Joy and 1964’s Caline. Then in a fantastic article on Fragrantica Sergey Borisov says it is Guy Robert. What’s correct? Nobody is left to unambiguously clear it up.

The only thing I know is Lasso exists. Thanks to some kind friends I have generous samples even though in my “gotta have them all” desire to have a bottle of every Jean Patou perfume my collection has a Lasso-sized hole in it. Lasso is not the greatest Jean Patou fragrance it is not even in the top 10 overall. The reason for that is it is the most derivative perfume within the entire collection. When I use a simple descriptive phrase for Lasso I call it a violet-hued butch version of Guerlain Mitsouko. I like it because the violet and leather improve the aldehydes and peach to something different but not so far that, in particular, the opening is very recognizable.

Lasso opens with the aldehydes and peach doing their fizzy fruity dance. The violet comes forth with the same presence as rose and jasmine. This is a classic power floral heart accord typical of any of the decades Lasso is presumed to come from. What becomes the biggest change is a beautifully soft leather accord which envelops the early accords in a sexy refined embrace. This leather imparts a more overt sexuality to Lasso than there is in Mitsouko. The base is a classic chypre again as was seen during the timeframe which Lasso existed in. Which means musky sandalwood, patchouli, oakmoss, and vetiver. Overall it leaves an effect of Lasso being a scent of seduction.

Lasso has 14-16 hour longevity and way above average sillage.

Within the Fragrantica article Mr. Borisov comprehensively covers the details that this was being marketed to women as a way of roping a man might explain why it is such a forgotten fragrance. It might also be the derivativeness. It just might be wrong time, wrong place. Like so much with Lasso it is all lost in translation.

Disclosure: This review is based on samples provided by personal friends.

Mark Behnke

That Unattainable Object of Desire: Hermes Doblis- Guy Robert’s Silk & Leather


When I hear people say things like they don’t make perfumes like they used to I usually respond quite vociferously that we live in a golden age of perfumery right now. I do believe that there are a very few perfumes which have never had a modern equivalent that stands up to the comparison. One of those is the first fragrance to carry the Hermes name on the flacon.

hermes doblis

About thirty years prior to the Hermes fragrance collection we are familiar with coming into being there was one lone perfume. In 1955 Hermes commissioned perfumer Guy Robert to create a perfume for the brand. That perfume was called Doblis. Then, as now, Hermes was known for its leather goods and silk scarves. M. Robert wanted to capture both of those influences. The early going has a cool green shiny silk sheen before transitioning through a floral heart into one of the most transparent leather accords I have ever experienced.

guy robert

Guy Robert

Doblis opens with a trio of coriander, thyme, and chamomile. There are also a halo of aldehydes fizzing above all of this. The herbal notes provide a warming influence for the chamomile. The top accord is really a chamomile construct made modern by the addition of the aldehydes and herbs. The chamomile joins with jasmine and rose in the heart. This is where Doblis feels like a silk scarf with a floral print. The herbal notes provide a sort of green shine over the florals. It often feels like an olfactory illusion when I wear it. If I concentrate on it the notes become apparent and the mirage dissipates only to arise again once I just let it work its magic. I wish I could tell you what M. Robert used to form his leather accord. The best way I can describe it is as the finest pair of Hermes riding gloves after being worn in a walk through a stand of oak trees. The base of Doblis is a singular leather accord matched with oakmoss and musk. It is this moment where I wonder to myself if they can make perfumes like they used to.

Doblis has 10-12 hour longevity and moderate sillage.

Doblis was supplanted by Caleche in 1961 as the standard bearer of fragrance for Hermes. It briefly made a re-appearance in 2005 as Guy Robert’s son Francois oversaw the re-formulation. I can say that version is every bit as good as the original. This is another of those perfumes which commands extremely high prices when it appears on the auction circuit. If you don’t have oodles of money the sample site Surrender to Chance has some samples for sale, although these are still pricey as well. Doblis is an example of perfumery that hasn’t been seen in many years.

Disclosure: This review was based on a bottle of 2005 Doblis and a decant of 1955 Doblis I purchased.

Mark Behnke