Sunday, October 04, 2015
My family are no strangers to oakmoss. If I had to single out the dominant note in all my favourite perfumes, oakmoss would win by a long shot. It fills the air, and there's little hiding space once the mossy monster has been unleashed-their reactions to Parure were interesting. Danny recoiled declaring it, "The least floral thing I've ever smelled", and Mr. ETB said it smelled like" old furniture and leather, or a leather sofa in a library." I'd agree with both their observations. Parure is dry. There's something old and dusty about it like the first time you turn on the furnace for the season and it has to blow out whatever has accumulated in the ducts over the last six months. You might cough a bit at first. Eventually there's some rose, but it is more like candied rose petals that have been sitting in a jar in the cabinet above the stove in your mother's kitchen where it shares space with strangely flavoured extracts like root beer and butter, and those silver dragees people stopped putting on cakes in the 60's when it was discovered they were full of lead. The petals smell of other stuff as well because mother was thrifty and would remove the remaining petals from the cake after serving, carefully wipe them down, and return them to the jar for the next time quests would be coming for coffee. Parure's petals smell a little like lilacs that have been sitting in a vase on the kitchen table a little too long-rather, it smells more of the slimy stuff now clinging to the stems. That's probably the orris root making an appearance.
The problem with describing a perfume like Parure is that what's evoked is completely individual. If I told you Parure reminds me of the smell at the old Carson Pirie Scott department store at Edens Plaza, it wouldn't mean much (unless you had been there). If I describe it as a combination of an old building packed to the rafters with clothing and the smell of sizing (and sizing being heated and vapourised as salesgirls steam out wrinkles before taking new clothes to the floor ) mingling with the perfume counter and whatever they were serving at the buffet restaurant (there was always roast beef) that day, it might get you closer to understanding what I'm describing, but you can't go back to 1975 and experience it. You can't experience the silly design features of the building (wrought iron railings painted white to cordon off the expensive dresses department from the rest of the sportswear). You can't know that you had to walk through furniture and housewares to get to the gift wrap department, and that they kept embroidery hoops and sewing notions tucked away in a corner but I found it anyway and fell in love with needlework. What has any of that to do with Parure? Everything, for my experience of it. You might smell Studio 54, or the newsagent's at the end of the street, or a library in some exotic locale-you might even smell the plums which I'm sorry to say don't appear for me. What does Parure smell like? It smells like a time and place now long gone but which time and place will depend on the wearer.
Perhaps we ought to look at the notes.
Listed Notes via Fragrantica:
Oakmoss, rose, plum, leather, bergamot, spices, orris root, narcissus, citrus, green notes, lily of the valley, amber, patchouli, leather, lilac, jasmine.
What I smell:
Oakmoss, rose, leather, orris root, citrus, amber, lilac, paper, old buildings, dusty upholstery, furnace dust, the lipstick in the white and gold packaging my mother kept on her vanity for years ( but never wore because it was a day-glo pink, but it smelled so strange I'd open it and take whiffs of it without ever being tempted to try it on), clay, pencil shavings, pencil shavings the school janitor would bring to throw on puke some poor kid upchucked from fear immediately prior to a maths test, boxes of board games and puzzles that hadn't been played in years but when opened reminded you immediately of who you played it with last, and who won, and you wonder why you don't play more often except that your friends all moved away, and then you moved away, and you cried a bit, and then all your perfume reviews start to sound like they were rejected lines from Howl. I saw the best perfumes of my generation destroyed by reformulation...
Parure might not have appealed to me when it was around, but I sure do like it now. Not an everyday scent, to be sure, but something to wear when I'm feeling my age, and need a perfume that respects that. It is difficult to come by, but Surrender to Chance has some, and that's where I purchased my decant.
Reviewers often say it smells like Mitsouko with plum exchanged for the peach, I do not get that-at all. I wore Mitsouko for years and years until reformulation, so I do feel qualified to insist that is not an accurate description. Mitsouko was much spicier, and the florals were more pronounced. I understand that Parure is a difficult perfume to describe, but I assure you, it smells nothing like Mitsouko.
Parure being a bit of an oddity (and an expensive one at that) I'd encourage you to find a small decant from a reputable seller. It smells dramatically different on skin than clothing, so be aware of that as you try it out. I try to write reviews that describe not only the notes of a fragrance, but you give you an impression that while subjective might stir some interest if you like a similar sort of thing. I try to avoid recommending fragrances for people because it is such a personal thing. All it takes is a quick glance of the sidebar at Fragrantica where they list similar fragrances to the one you searched to see how terribly off those can be. If you're like me, I enjoy a wide range of scents, and I might prefer certain notes but ultimately it depends how it is put together. There's many a chypre I can't be in the same room with. This is a long way of saying-I don't know what you'd like, but hopefully I'm giving you some ideas to explore.
Parure won't turn you into a dowager, but you might smell like one. You could do worse.
Next up in the queue- En Avion. Now, That will have you smelling like a dowager!