digging (into) vintage: Hermès Equipage, 1970

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(image source Frieke Janssens)

Perfumer Guy Robert

Guy Robert perfumes are often called symphonic, both in the sense of a layered arrangement created by dozens of instruments and in the classical nature of his composition. Equipage’s tone seems minimal next to the complexity and density of Robert’s later monumental perfumes such as Amouage Gold and Gold Man. Equipage is based to some extent on the smoky/woody Monsieur Rochas that Robert penned a year earlier.  But it also resembles Robert’s earlier floral aldehyde Hermès Calèche (1961) in structure if not in scent. Underneath Calèche’s racing aldehydes is an intricate layering of woods and florals that could be seen as a template for Equipage’s cold, smoky woods. The fragrances don’t quite smell alike, but the intricacy and precision of their compositions show a similar thinking.

Luca Turin said that Equipage was meant to smell of a cold pipe, and it does. The principal floral note is carnation, which adds a cold clove and gives the woods a metallic ring. A slight dampness extends the winter feel through drydown. A rosy tinge (rosewood?) gives a blush to the cheek but fortunately it doesn’t thaw the frost—Equipage’s sang-froid is its strength. Interestingly, Equipage works well in both warm and cool climates. When it’s cool out, Equipage feels precise and crisp. In the heat it has a cooling “menthol” effect.

Some see this as a chypre, some a fougère and others as a woody floral or a chypre. This neither/nor doesn’t muddy the waters a bit. It makes Equipage distinctive and enigmatic enough to keep me coming back.

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