Sunday, July 12, 2015

Fame de Corday-Review

The strangeness of posting a fragrance this close to Bastille Day by a company named for the woman that assassinated Marat is not lost on me. I didn't plan it this way, but here we are.
Poor Marat!

I'd seen bottles of Fame around for years but dismissed anything by Corday because A). Found the name offensive and B). Their best selling perfume in America had a unicorn on the box. I like to think I'm oblivious to absurd packaging (I've drank some cheap wine with naff labels in my life) but something about the unicorn struck me as a Renaissance Faire too far. Even if I could get past the Corday name, I couldn't abide the unicorn. Call me a snob (you won't be the first). You're judged by the company you keep, so poor Fame was stuck in the shadow of the unicorn.

When Bibi mentioned Fame de Corday in a comment, I thought it was time to give it a try. I mean, it has civet and iris-what's not to like? I ordered my decant, and started giving it some time on test paper, and my arm.

Specific anosmia is a fascinating thing. Sometimes, I simply can't smell jasmine, but the rest of a perfume will come through clearly. Sometimes, it shuts the whole operation down completely and I can't smell a thing. Then, there's the times I get an initial whiff of a fragrance and by the time it has a drydown, it is gone. This has been my experience with Fame de Corday. Since discovering my issue with jasmine, it has made sense of perfume difficulties that have plagued me for decades. Why does a perfume smell so nice in the store, but ten minutes later in the car I can't smell the test spray on my arm? Over the years I've attributed this to poor longevity, but it is only recently that I've come to understand it is my nose shutting down as soon as it gets the jasmine. Sometimes it is immediate, but often, as is the case with Fame, it takes a few minutes. This is good to know, preventing me from spraying on ever more of something I can't smell (but everyone in a 500 mile vicinity can).

I can tell you that the first few minutes of Fame de Corday were lovely, though the first ten seconds was a doozy. It isn't a listed note, and it might be something turning in my vintage decant, but I smelled camphor. Specifically, I smelled the ointment used to treat cold sores. That's not an altogether terrible smell, but it did catch me by surprise, though by the time it registered, it was gone. Next came the soft green florals, and a bit of spiciness. Lovely, really though I never did smell any civet or iris. By the time I walked from my perfume tray on my dresser to my bed (all of five paces) it was gone. Not faded, or changed, but gone. Undetectable. Disappeared. Zero notes whatsoever. Knowing better, I applied more anyway (fear not, Mr. ETB is so congested he couldn't smell a thing, which is good as I changed the linen today and sprayed the hell out of it with Laura Ashley No. 1 which I immediately regretted. I should stick to the lavender, I know). Once again, I caught the camphor, then some florals, then a bit of spice and then...right.

I wish I could tell you about the civet notes, or the jonquil and hyacinth but unfortunately they never revealed themselves to my nose. My sense from what I could smell is that this is a beautifully rich floral, but I suppose I'll never have the full Fame experience. I didn't even get fifteen seconds of Fame, much less fifteen minutes. I'm disappointed, but not shocked. Jasmine is difficult to avoid in perfume, but luckily it doesn't always behave the same with respect to my nose. Not all jasmine is created equal, and not all combinations are lethal to my sense of smell. It does give new meaning to Blind buy" as I have no way of knowing ahead of time if I will be able to smell something, but sometimes I can-and find some new gem in the process.

I won't be celebrating Bastille Day by pouring a dram of Fame de Corday into my bathwater, and I'm probably going to pass this along to Danny who is better able to enjoy it, but I don't regret purchasing the decant. I can chalk this up to another experience that tells me a bit more about my condition, and helps me better understand a lifetime of not quite experiencing fragrances to their full potential.

If you are looking for a vintage bottle of Fame de Corday, one of my favourite perfume dealers has a good deal on a partially used bottle that's still half full and in good condition HERE. I've made numerous purchases from Nine of Cups, and she doesn't sell poor quality fragrances. As a collector herself, she knows how to assess the quality of what she sells. I'm not being compensated in any way to say this, I'm just a happy customer and that's a great deal on over an ounce of vintage Fame de Corday.

My decant came from Surrender to Chance, where I also indulge my perfume habit hobby.

Danny wants me to repeat my Bastille Day sugar cookies to bring to the library volunteers on the 14th. They're a rather well-read bunch (mostly retired teachers) but I'm not so sure about a box filled with cookies depicting Marat bleeding to death in his bath. I might be safer bringing a tray of croissants.
French fries
The Internationale

Next up: The reformulated Jicky (Not terrible, and marginally easier to wear than the vintage). I have both the vintage and reformulation to try side by side. Thus far, the reformulation is winning me over. Yes, I am surprised. Pleasantly. 


Bibi said...

Well, sorry Fame didn't work out for you.
From my mom's bottle of Fame I get an initial aldehydic blast of florals, spicy mid notes & then a dry down of resin-y (benzoin & peru balsam) civetty goodness. Very vintage, very 'classy'. Personally I don't care for the scent of jonquils so I'm glad that note fades quickly. No camphor at all.
I'm beginning to wonder if I'm anosmic to certain musks. Some musks I can smell initially but seem to disappear & periodically reappear. Sometimes the musk drowns out any accompanying florals also. Although the 'white' synthetic musks are so ubiquitous in modern household cleaning & laundry products perhaps my brain just registers them as 'background'?

Beth Waltz said...

Danny is a fortunate young lad. Not only is he being tutored by a woman whose perfume reviews merit a regular column in The New Yorker, he is also being introduced to historical references that are meaningless to a majority of American teens.

A Frenchman with whom I work was warbling The Internationale yesterday, so of course I exclaimed "to the barricades" and chimed in. The young persons about stared in bewilderment. Laurent gave me 'the look' and together we chanted: Liberte, equalite, fraternite! ? Oh, mon dieu!

(Ahem, however. At some point the lad will require an introduction to unicorns in heraldry, n'est-ce pas?)

Goody said...


It might be that this decant was from a bottle that aged under different conditions. I know camphor isn't listed but...whoa, I swear it is there. I know I'm missing something good here, but after several tries, it just ain't happening.

I'm starting to wonder if all the damage to my sinuses from the root canal has done something to my sense of smell-but you have a good point about cleaning products and background. I saw an article (Guardian, I think) about companies listing the fragrances used in cleaning products. They aren't required to, but it gives them a better way to claim their "green" credentials if they can show ethical use of fragrance. I hope that becomes industry standard-it would explain a lot.

@Beth Waltz
I love the idea of you working with someone that sings the Internationale at work knowing no one (except you) will get it.

Reminds me a bit of the scene in The Ruling Class where the butler is humming, Raise the Red Flag, and gets asked what that song is and replies, "O' Tannenbaum." I wonder how many people caught that joke (besides us)?

Thanks for your kind words about my perfume reviews. There are so many people out there writing about perfume (and doing it quite well) that I felt a bit hesitant wading into the subject. Still, as my oddball collection continues to grow, it seemed foolish not to write about them. I'm glad your enjoy it.

Mim said...

I always enjoy your perfume reviews, especially as they're part of your life, you're not doing them to be simply a perfume blogger.

Goody said...

Thank you, that means a lot to me.