Saturday, July 25, 2015

Vintage Cabochard de Gres-Review

I don't know about, "Cultivating a winner", but I certainly have a soft spot for Cabochard. I'd find it difficult to wear in public these days, but I happily spray it on before bed. This really is a perfume that takes a bit of time to develop, and if you can avoid the urge to scrub it from your skin after the initial cloud of aldehydes, asafoetida, and lemon it does (eventually) turn into a lovely fragrance. Like many good things, it does require a bit of waiting.

Having recently reviewed Bandit, I thought it appropriate to say a few things about Cabochard as they're often mentioned in the same breath. I'm not sure that's a fair comparison, though they do share a leathery/smoky sort of base. If anything, it reminds me of Aramis (which I just learned makes sense as it was the same perfumer Bernard Chant. He was also responsible for Estee, but I guess we can forgive him that. You can't always hit it out of the ballpark. Thanks, Google!).

Oakmoss, leather, and tobacco aren't for everyone. Twenty years ago I would have insisted they're not for me, I would have protested at such extravagant use of oakmoss. I was wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong. Perhaps it is a case of absence making the heart grow fonder as oakmoss has been regulated out of modern perfumes, or my nose has matured-either way I am now thoroughly converted just in time to see the stuff's use discontinued. I haven't smelled the new Cabochard, and I'm not sure I wish to.

Cabochard is categorised as a "green" perfume, which I suppose it is given the amount of vetiver, tarragon, and sage in it-but the warmth of sandalwood and patchouli combined with the cold orris root and geranium keeps it from smelling like a freshly mowed lawn sprayed with Lysol disinfectant. Cabochard isn't that sort of green (though Cabotine definitely IS). Most reviews put the leather and tobacco as dominant notes, and they're there-but to my nose the dominant note is oakmoss. And then, a bit of musk, oakmoss, and some more oakmoss. Oh hey, how about some oakmoss? Yeah? Well here 'ya go! So yeah, there's a whole hell of a lot of oakmoss in Cabochard. Although described as a feminine perfume I don't see any reason why a man couldn't or shouldn't wear Cabochard. In fact, to modern American perfume sensibilities, Cabochard seems more appropriate on a man. The only "feminine" thing I can find in Cabochard is the vague fruit/coconut notes that tend to appear and fade quickly in about the amount of time it takes to wonder what it was. It has always been my opinion that rose and lemon work better on men anyway.

I'm rather certain the thrift stores I frequent will never present me with a Madame Gres gown, but bottles of vintage formulation Cabochard do frequently turn up.
(That gown? In my thrift stores? Not going to happen).

Cabochard seems like a fragrance that was both behind and ahead of its time. The strong leather chypre fragrances of the 30's and 40's would have made Cabochard seem old fashioned by 1959. What it anticipates (without knowing it) is the unisex fragrance trend that began in earnest with the musks and herbal scents of the 60's. The "big" 80's fragrances owe something to Cabochard as well with the gigantic blast of aldehydes. I won't claim Cabochard is the embodiment of 20th century perfumery, but if you pay attention, nearly all the good points are represented.

I do think, in 2015 United States office culture, Cabochard would be a no-go. Lightly applied perhaps an hour before arriving at work you *might* be able to pull it off, but I could see it being headache inducing even to a perfume lover with all that oakmoss. Chypres need space to roam free like the waves crashing the rocks of a Greek island, which if any of the places I worked in the last 30 years were typical, that does not describe the cubicle hell of modern offices. I only recall one office with an open floor-plan rather like a newsroom, and I still wouldn't have worn Cabochard there. If memory serves, I was deep in love with Innisfree by Fragrances of Ireland at that time, not exactly a quiet scent! But not Cabochard, that would have been too much. Still, you know your office culture better than I, so use your judgement. Cabochard does make a wonderful evening fragrance.

Has anyone tried the most recent reformulation of Cabochard? Please share your impressions.


Beth Waltz said...

Now I'm getting nosy about Cabochard -- the notion of possessing an antidote to an open newsroom of grubby journalism graduates tempts me. Wonder if it could take out two or three aisles of a McDonnell-Douglas MD-88?

You make some interesting points about cultural norms regarding the boundaries of scent. I confess to squinting at some businessmen lunching near me in Korean or Vietnamese mall joints, whereas I'm usually sniffing daintily at the ladies nearby in Indian buffets.

Goody said...

In newsrooms of old you could get away with it because everyone smoked (and drank) leaving them without a sense of smell. Today? Dunno. I hear they don't smoke in newsrooms anymore, not sure about the drink.

Seriously though-if you go for it, start with a small bit dabbed on a hankie before applying it to your skin.

By the way-you had mentioned Maja some time ago, and I picked up a small vintage bottle. I like it quite a bit. Thank you for getting me to finally purchase something I've seen floating around for decades.

Bibi said...

I didn't know India was Mdm Gres' inspiration for Cabochard-
"Cabochard was created after Madame Gres' trip to India. She described a beautiful perfume to the young perfume creator Guy Robert – very flowery, rich like tuberose yet softer, contrasted by fresh, slightly green note. It was a water hyacinth! After several trials, Madame Gres recognized her perfume. It was light and floral. However, the trend dictated intensive and strong chypre (Tabac Blond (1919), Cuir de Russie (1924), Scandal (1933), Bandit (1944)), so Madame Gres decided to launch two perfumes at the same time: floral Chouda and leather chypre Cabochard, created by Bernard Chant with IFF.
Cabochard was launched in 1959 and instantly became very popular; Madame Gres said that it reminded her of her walks along the long and empty beaches of India: sharp freshness of the morning air, warmth of sandalwood, a touch of flower and comfort of the sea breeze."
Guess that explains the coconut & asafoetida?
Water hyacinth is a noxious weed here in south Asia choking out choicer plants such as lotus & water chestnuts. Not sure what it smells like though.
I'm quite curious as to what a leather chypre inspired by India smells like so I shall have to give it a sniff!

Mim said...

Augh, now you're giving me something else I want to buy and try! You make so many scents sound really fascinating.

Goody said...

I'd go for a decant, if possible as there are so many re-formulations of it floating around you might not like the first one you smell. I can't vouch for the new formulation and none of our department stores carry it.

I'd suggest the same as I did to Bibi-get a sample (or two) before you dive-in. I'm a fan of decants as we'd be quickly overrun with bottles between Danny and my purchases. I only buy full bottles these days if I love it, or if it was too cheap to pass up, which is often the case with discounters. I recently purchased a decant of Vega, and I'm REALLY glad I didn't plunk down a small fortune on a limited edition re-release to discover it smells like fried liver and moth balls!