Parfumerie Générale Arabian Horse 3.1, 2016

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Perfumer Pierre Guillaume.

The name fits. From the very opening Arabian Horse creates a setting that evokes equestrian affairs. It smells like farms, barns and steeplechases. The topnotes are strong and urgent, but the stables-and-tack mis-en-scène is just exposition and dramatic build-up. The heartnotes are the reveal. The pacing of the perfume reminds me of the actual experience of approaching a horse. At a distance I think what sublime animals horses are. Then, each time, as I get close I’m taken aback. Fuck, they’re huge. Same with Arabian Horse. As the perfume sweeps into the heart, there you are with the horse and, fuck, it’s huge.

The waxy animalic sweetness is offset by a bitter green-tinged floral that gives a raunchy touch. Narcissus flowers are earthy and have a hay-like aroma. Narcissus absolute (I smelled it just once) is even more fecund than the flower. It smells of hay, yes, but it also smells of horseshit, not a bad scent by any means. Think of horseshit as filtered hay. Narcissus is one of those perfectly balanced, good-with-the-bad materials. It also has one of the most animalic facets you’ll find in a botanical, which lends a credulity to the perfume’s image. Still, it’s only one part of the picture. The thickly layered musks have a trippy, arpeggiated circus-calliope feel. Together with the narcissus they creates an aggresive tone, balanced but mobile. More suspended or poised than settled.

The horse angle is brilliant. The scents of leather and wood play with an equestrian-lifestyle fantasy. Polished saddles and stirrups, form fitted johdpurs that sound a crisp crack when struck by a crop. It’s the subdued kink that I imagine Guerlain want you to long for every time you see an Habit Rouge ad. If you’re into an equestrian fantasy scene, this is the scentscape of your kink. Down on all fours with bridle and bit, mucking out the stables. Catherine the Great would have dug this stuff. But the perfume can be taken in another  way. For those of us too effete to have such vivid drama, Arabian Horse is also a well-layered woody-floral chypre with a solid dose of leather. It even has a background whiff of the flotsam found at the bottom of a purse. Arabian Horse hits the same spot for me as Jean Kerleo’s brilliant 1000 for Jean Patou–tightly composed yet animalic.

I didn’t follow the release of Guillaume’s remixed perfumes * and when I first smelled Arabian Horse (3.1) I didn’t know it was a reworking of Cuir Venenum, one of my favorite perfumes by Guillaume. Both perfumes create atypical leather notes and use them to build imagistic, suggestive perfumes. They don’t so much smell alike as pursue their compositional goals similarly.

* Cozé Verde 2.1
Le Musc et La Peau 4.1
Vetiver Matale 6.1
Grand Siècle Intense 7.1
Bouquet Massai 10.1
Indian Wood 11.1


(Image, Empress Catherine II before the mirror, 1779 by Vigilius Erichsen)

(sample from LuckyScent)

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  1. says:

    Everything you wrote here made my mouth water. I’m headed to LuckyScent right now to bag some samples. (Which is probably all I’ll ever own; $450 for 100ml? Ouch.)

    So happy to to hear you love Patou 1000. It’s one of very few florals I wear, and have never quite understood my love of it. Will search for your review/comments on it immediately.

    1. jtd says:

      The price is killer. And the other ‘remixed’ PG prrfumrs don’t have a price increase. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on Patou 1000. It’s one of my favorite florals.

      1. says:

        Got my little bag of samples and you certainly didn’t oversell this beauty. What a noseful! Pelt, skin, sweat, hay (both fresh and recycled), saddles and dirty boots. But damned if I can detect the narcissus — and I detest that scent, literally can’t be in the same room with a bouquet of narcissus/daffofils. Wonder if a tiny, tiny amount of it could be attractive in that way that a minuscule amount of skunk or feces is appealing?

        Hermes really missed the boat by not having this scent under their banner. Would’ve been the most perfect illustration ever of their “story”.

    2. jtd says:

      So glad you got to try it,! And I agree, Hermès would be lucky to have this in their collection. A flanker–Equipage Narcisse?

  2. rprichpot says:

    I love your way with words! “There you are with the horse and, fuck, it’s huge.”

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