digging into vintage: Estée Lauder Knowing, 1988

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Perfumer Jean Kerléo

Knowing lands squarely in the heart of the rose chypre genre, a fragrance family with an enormous range of tones. The rose chypre is the Difference Engine of classical perfumery. It takes all the attributes of the chypre and multiplies them by all the facets of rose. Depending on how they’re fashioned rose chypres can be dark or dayglo, powdery or leathery, floral or animalic, sumptuous or thorny

Knowing has all the heft of the big-guns of the genre like Aromatics Elixir, Parfum de Peau and  Paco Rabanne La Nuit, but compared to other rose chypres of the time Knowing is woodier and far less sweet. Ungaro’s Diva honey and Paloma’s, sweet balsams are syrup compared to the dark woods that give the perfume a chic, late-night sophistication. The key is the specificity of the rose and the chypre components. It isn’t a dewy garden rose, or flaming rose dressed out in a traje de luzes. This rose is dark and slightly bitter. The chypre side has a solid dose of resinous bergamot, a hefty dose of moss and patchouli, but just enough amber to keep it from growing dank. It’s dark, not play-goth.

This is the fragrance I’d recommend when people ask for a rose that a man could wear, which is funny because I’d wear anything I like whether targeted to boys or girls. Knowing might look like many of the rose chypres of the ’70s-80s, but it carries itself like an ’80s men’s power fragrance. It is huge, woody, has preternatural sillage and a half-life of days. My god, this might as well be Antaeus.

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