Category: Robert Piguet

digging(into) vintage: bandit

(Image source unknown) Bandit might have been butch in its day, but that dynamic has changed a lot since 1944. It’s a potent leather with a come-hither lush animalism, the perfect femme-top perfume. I find it easier to read the dynamics of Bandit than many modern dry leathers. It’s calibrated to give the hard and the soft together. When modern…

Fruity-floral flankers: Robert Piguet Petit Fracas, 2012

Image source unknown. The range of opinions on the reformulation of classic perfumes usually alternates between a sighing, “It ain’t what it used to be, kid.” and a howling, “They’ve RUINED it!” By all accounts, Guichard is credited with saving the Piguet perfumes by reformulation and maintaining the outstanding quality of the Germaine Cellier icons.  Quite a coup.  So, who…


(image source Fine Art America)

Perfumer Aurélien Guichard

Long in the tooth. Flogging a dead horse. Stick a fork in it.  Something wicked this way comes.

There are so many expressions hint at the sense of ennui/dread I feel at the thought of a new oud perfume. Niche designers are releasing two or three at a time (The Different Company, by Kilian, Francis Kurkdjian. Even Patricia de Nicolai!)  Designer and celebrity fragrances are scrambling late to the table. (Chanel Bleueoud, Madonna Truth, Dare or Oud, Dior J’Oud, Estée Lauder Youth D’Oud, Paris Hilton So Oud! So Hot!)  It would be revolting if it weren’t so tired.

It was with particular angst that I saw one of my favorite perfumers, Aurélien Guichard had made the latest oud perfume. And for Robert Piguet, no less. Guichard captures the Persephone-syndrome afflicting contemporary perfumers better than most.  Part of the year trapped in Hades (Davidoff, Mugler) and half a year on free on earth (Robert Piguet.) From a company with a track record of enticing, suggestive one word titles (Bandit, Fracas, Visa, Futur) comes an uninspired monosyllabic title. Oud. Almost rhymes with turd. Expectations, low; hopes, nil.

Outcome? Surprising. To all the nichy perfumers trying to find the new compositional trampoline that will allow them to jump this shark, and for all the hacks who are simply pouring buckets of Oud Note ™ into their their stock of Flanker Base ™ come look close. Guichard did what he does best and treated oud like any other tool on his palette. That is to say, he executed classical perfumery.

I’m not sure I’ll ever love or even like Oud, as I don’t particularly love oud but I appreciate this perfume.  By classical perfumery, I mean applying deliberate compositional techniques to oud in order to create a rich, perfume that demonstrates artistic principles such as proportionality, intent and aesthetics. This is what Bernard Chant did with patchouli in Aromatics Elixir and Germaine Cellier did with galbanum and isoquinilone in Bandit. What Jacques Guerlain did with vanilla.

I’ve read that Oud contains next to no oud. However the fragrance was composed, Guichard enhances oud’s properties and plays to its strengths. The band-aid note isn’t hidden, it’s amplified and made sweaty with a heavy dose of myrrh. Oud’s chalky/resiny/prickly/parched quality isn’t smoothed over, it’s developed. It becomes the principal characteristic of this perfume from the almost disagreeable top notes to the more settled bass notes.

Oud has a distinct, pronounced character, and fits in more with Piguet’s relic perfumes than it does the new young dudes in the line like Mademoiselle Piguet and Petit Fracas, also by Guichard. There’s nothing diminutive in Oud. It has the forget-me-not quality of Baghari, but none of its charm. Like Bandit and Fracas, it has a caged-animal quality that suggests a fragile safety. Despite an occasionally calm appearance, they aren’t tamed.  They’re held captive.  It carries the same unsolvable mixed message as a person who comes on to you and then snubs you when you pursue the apparent invitation. I think Germain Cellier would have appreciated Guichard’s Oud.

Oud possesses another quality that often gets confused with age.  Vent Vert, Cabochard, Youth Dew.  Nahema, Poison, Lou Lou. Even Angel. These classical perfumes aren’t successful due to their age. They succeed because of the deliberate approaches that technically proficient artists used to produce the new ideas that they express. They are remembered not for the fact that they are old, but because they are beautiful. Oud and Guichard join the above-mentioned perfumes and perfumers in the tradition of using a formal approach to create a new idea.

(Small note.  More than most perfumes, one spray is sufficient.  Two, uncomfortable.  Three, traumatic.)

Robert Piguet Visa, 2007

Perfumer Aurélien Guichard Visa puts a slightly different touch on the fruity perfume. It’s a stewed stone fruit mix. Plummy/peachy/apricot-like. It’s also got a taste of indeterminate spice along the clove/cardammom/nutmeg axis. Spices that would go well with stone fruit, incidentally. It’s not bright by a long shot, but neither is it heavy or impenetrable. Though dark and concentrated, it…

Robert Piguet Futur, 2009 (original formula 1974)

Perfumer Aurélien Guichard (perfumer of original formula unknown) Futur was classic mid-20th retro-futurism at the time of its release. It was marketed as avant-garde at its release in the late 1960s, an era known for its conviction that the future was more about style than science. In the 60s, the future was in fact the 1960s with sleeker fashion, poses…

Robert Piguet Fracas, 1948

Perfumer Germain Cellier. I don’t believe in soliflors. Soliflor perfumes don’t convincingly imitate flowers. The art of perfumery relies on chemistry to deliver an olfactory product. Plants use scents to connect plant and animal in complex symbiotic relationships. In terms of implicit purpose and function, perfumery and flowers have nothing in common. And not to be too dogmatic, but chasing…

Robert Piguet Baghari, 2006

Perfumer Aurélien Guichard (Original 1950 formula by Francis Fabron) Baghari is an exercise in high-impact soft focus. Though the notes have a glow to them that suggests a vaseline lens, the lushness also has an amped quality that makes the sofness just the outer edge of the trap.  By the time you notice that the wafting quality has entirely surrounded you, you’ve been sucker-punched and are down on the…