digging (into) vintage: Jean Patou Voyageur, 1995

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(image, the Titanic)

Perfumer Jean Kerléo, co-founder of l’Osmothèque, creator of the exquisite Patou 1000, must have dreaded having to make an aquatic men’s fragrance in 1995. What he created is at least an interesting comment on life post-Cool Water.

Even in 1995 the release of an aquatic fragrance would have been met with tedium and low expectation.  It was 7 years after the release of Cool Water, and while there had been hundreds of imitators, Cool Water was still king.  In fact Cool Water created another slot to be filled in the roster of every perfume house.  A new genre had been created!  Each one needed an aquatic/calone/fougère fragrance in their line-up, and the challenge was to create one that met the expectations of the market and at the same time reflected your brand.  Tough for Patou.  Aqua-Joy anyone?  Sublime Water?

The crux of this dilemma is creating something to reflect your brand while at the same time appealing to the broad masculine market. This genre, the fruity masculine aquatics, had a cultish aspect to it and straying from the known was tacitly discouraged.  Once a certain safe island of perfume is reached by men, change is considered a threat to self image.

Kerléo’s solution?  So far as I can tell, what Jean Kerléo did was to create a pleasant, recognizable citric aquatic top note, then fold it into a mossy, woody base. The result is a perfume that had recognizability in the form of a pan-masculine aquatic note, but had a warmer dry down than Cool Water’s chilly metallic vibe.  It seems like a slapdash approach, a little of this, a little of that, stir and spritz. But I must say that this is the most appealing of the aquatics I’ve smelled. The top note is an aquatic collage, but it doesn’t appear to have been made by rote, and has a tangy citric astringency in lieu of a clanging metal note.

The overall effect is that Kerléo has managed to make a demi-chypre out of Cool Water DNA. While Voyageur doesn’t have quite the classic ambery dry down of a chypre, the top note of grapefruit stands in for bergamot and a large helping of oakmoss does the rest.

How tragic that the solution to this ongoing problem was a material that was being curtailed out by regulation.  Voyageur was doomed from the start.

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