Sunday, October 04, 2015

Guerlain Parure-Review

Looking over my perfume collection it is obvious I have a great love of chypres. Oh, not all them certainly, but enough that there's a trend in the fragrances I wear. Parure was always my least-favourite Guerlain. It was always there, at the perfume counter in the upscale department store, but it never appealed to me. I'd spray from the tester now and then just to remind myself I didn't like it, but I never did invest in a bottle of the stuff when it was around. It is only recently, now that it is long gone that I have invested in a decant. The first few wears reminded me why I never purchased a bottle, but subsequent wears have me a bit more intrigued by it than repulsed. Parure to my nose isn't repulsive, but it is strange and old fashioned. I do think it is the sort of thing that might do better today than it did in the 70's and 80's, though it would be impossible to recreate due to regulations on the ingredients. It might be possible to achieve something close, but Parure as it was, is left to the years from which it sprang.

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!


Bibi said...

Being a luxury cosmetic fiend of all sorts I have to add that Guerlain just discontinued a wonderful foundation product called "Parure Extreme". BOOO!
(My husband wonders when we are going to start a wholesale make up & perfume biz.)
I agree with you that Parure was rather outdated before it even came out in 1975.
Parure was a bit musty-fusty & leathery with the plum being more of a prune as I remember.
I recall a long gone dept. store in California called 'Gottschalk's" which was as you describe with wrought iron railings painted white, & brilliant celery green shag carpet along with matching brilliant celery green velvet chaises & chairs (how very 1975). Like most true dept stores then they sold all & sundry from sewing notions to fine china to perfumes & fine fashions. Yes, clothes were steamed before being presented on the floor. Gottschalk's also featured a 'garden restaurant' which of course featured French dip sandwiches, Pattymelts, the 'diet' plate (a scoop of cottage cheese perched on a lettuce leaf with sliced tomatoes & possibly half of a canned peach) & other classic American fare of the time.
Speaking of 'old fashioned' I think I may have found 'the one' perfume for me this year at Sheretmeyvo Airport.
While perusing the $300-$1,000 (and up) 'duty free' selections of Amouage, Ajmal, Clive Christian, Byredo, etc. (Tom Ford & Creed were conspicuously absent I might add) I found this tiny shop which had a really unusual selection of perfumes. Some were new & niche & some were older 'mainstream' brands but all were not the more popular choices of today. After sniffing nearly most of the newer niche stuff this shop had- I found a small shelf Houbigant perfumes. Of course Quelques Fleurs, Iris de Champs, & Fougere Royale were present but there in it's pearlescent box was Orangers en Fleurs! I recalled when OeF came out in 2012 I sniffed it at Nordstrom's in Orlando & loved it. No, it's not a boring soliflore & I'm not even a big fan of orange blossom anyway (I find it can be cloying & rather disinfectant smelling)- but OeF is something special- both modern & vintage at the same time.
According to the Neiman Marcus website-
"It is an orange blossom note wrapped in a sophisticated perfume blend of Turkish rose absolute warmed by an animalistic note of Egyptian jasmine absolute. The body is a subtle blend of tuberose and Eau de Brouts absolute, an exclusive Robertet raw material, surrounded by the Ylang Comores essence and slightly spiced by Nutmeg. A cedar wood blend with a touch of musk completes the composition."
Anyhow it is one of those fragrances where all the florals meld perfectly into a new sort of flower- you wouldn't recognize immediately as 'orange blossom'. The tuberose, jasmine & ylang combine with the orange blossom & eau de Brouts (a steam distillate of the green shoots of the orange tree) a bright top note, while the nutmeg & cedar give a nice balanced piquant punch. The musk is clean & the deep rose is only predominant in the dry down. And the best part is- It was only $80 for a 100ml bottle! I recall when I had tried a sample in 2012 I loved it but $190 a bottle was a bit too steep for me.

Goody said...

Oooh, that does sound like a wonderful perfume (and a bargain). I wonder if I'd be able to smell it, or if my nose would "turn off" after a few seconds as it does with Quelques Fleurs at the first hint of jasmine? I'll look for a decant-thanks for pointing me to it.

Our "diet plate" in the Midwest also featured a plain hamburger patty (no bun for you, fatty!)with the cottage cheese and peaches. There were probably more carbs in the peach syrup than the bun.

Bibi said...

You're right I forgot about the hamburger patty!

Bibi said...

Just had to add-
When I first smelled H's OeF in 2012 I said to the SA, "Now this is what Fleurissimo should have been! White flower perfection!"

Beth Waltz said...

OH, Amouage! I was given a golden-dome topped bottle of it years ago and I've cherished the container as an objet d'art! I envy you all this glorious buffet of scents!

Goody said...

@Beth Waltz
I only have a decant of Amouage, so of course I feel cheated! I can't smell much of it on my skin-Amouage Man at least smells of *something*.

I'm not sure at what point my hobby becomes a habit. Decants do spare the pocketbook, but when you purchase a dorm fridge to store them in...

Mim said...

That sounds fascinating. The one thing I found that did remind me of Mitsouko was Jean Patou's long-gone Que Sais Je (I believe it's been brought back, but don't know how it compares). The original Rochas Femme was also said to be like a plummy Mitsy, though I've never tried that and the reformulation is a cumin bomb.

Goody said...

Someone just recently compared Rochas Femme to Knize Ten, which sounded crazy until you mentioned the cumin. Now I kind of get it.