digging (into) vintage: Yves Saint Laurent Yvresse, 1993

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(image Kitchen Art 1 by Hay Hermans)

Originally named Champagne.  Perfumer Sophia Grojsman.

More like Sauternes than Champagne, but I don’t want to start another trademark issue for this fragrance.  Yes, this has similarities to wine, but it seems much more like a sweet dessert wine than anything else.  And, yes, there is a chypre base to Yvresse, but overall the fragrance is much more about fruitiness and sweet florals.   A well-made sweet wine is one where all the fruit/honey/sweetness is balanced by a proper degree of acidity, though the acidity is a small element when compared to the sugar. The point is largely lost on me with dessert wines and I guess here as well.

I get all the other comparisons—Chinatown but without the full dose of the chypre base; Femme, but with less cumin and more honey.  But the real point of comparison to me is another Grosman work, Prescriptives Calyx.  Calyx has all the fruit, all the rose, but a bit less sugar and more moss. Granted, a different flavor (guava v peach) makes for a qualitative difference, but compositionally, there’s much to compare.  Calyx’s success is taking the fruitiest of fruit scents, one that you can almost taste (ripe guava) and balancing it with enough moss and dry rose to compensate for the sweetness, leaving a heady aroma with a spectacularly balanced drydown.  Yvresse uses sweeter fruit, adds honey-like amber, uses a sweeter rose, and less moss.  Yvresse does lose some of the sweetness as it ages, but what is left without the sweetness?  It gets threadbare.

I applaud YSL for making a sensible-shoes version of the 1990s fruity floral, but I’m picky about my fruity chypres, and this one I don’t quite love. Seen as a fruity floral, and compared to the raft of sticky sweetness that was selling like mad at the time, it is a smart choice. But as a fruity chypre, it can’t hold its own against Diorella, Cristalle, Chinatown or its YSL sibling, Y. I can see why fruity chypres might have been seen as fertile ground to create more ‘accessible ‘ (read: better selling) fruity-florals at the time, but it’s the balance that’s lost.  Remember: this was the year Cristalle EDP was released.  Cristalle, but sweeter, less sharp and nicer.  God god, who wants that?

but, then again… on re-sniff

Yvresse has the most endearing tone. The rounded, creamy feel matches the quality of the fruit in a particular fashion. When we discuss fruity notes in perfumes, we talk about flavors really. Peachy, citric, plummy. You know the chypres I’m talking about. Yvresse has the flavor of candied fruit. The kind of fruit that’s been macerated and essentially rebuilt from the inside out.

I was wrong to see Yvresse as an unsuccessful chypre. It’s arguably one of the best gourmand perfumes made. The allusion to food, the way it suggests a particular culinary quality without simply smelling like food is the key. Gourmand perfumes fail not because gourmands are simply bad. Gourmands are often bad because they focus on the misplaced goal of a shallow emulating desserts and drinks. ‘I want to smell like an apple-tini.’ is a inappropriate goal for a perfume. Angel demonstrated gourmand abstraction, and the imitators failed because they worked from the mistaken premise that Angel wanted to smell *Just Like*  cotton candy, but missed the mark. Yvresse shows the value of allusion and should have lead to a sophisticated genre of gourmand perfumery.

I can’t blame others for missing the value of Yvresse, though. It’s exactly what I did.

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