The first I knew of the Histoires de Parfums line was via my perfume pen pal Dan Rolleri. Dan's got an insatiable jones for novelty when it comes to fragrances, and I can barely keep up with the abundant decants he regularly sends Pony Express from Rolleri Ranch in San Francisco all the way down to Puckrik Towers here in Los Angeles.
A whole year ago I was fielding his raves about Histoires de Parfums 1969:
Dan sent me a decant, but I couldn't get on board the love train -- or even the clown car. To me, 1969 was a fruity floral propped up with large plank of ambery wood -- kind of a more refined Marc Jacobs Lola.
“1969 is Tom Ford Noir de Noir, if Noir de Noir weren't created for clowns. (As it's alleged to have been.)
It's rose and fruit and patchouli and amber and chocolate and coffee, but somehow it doesn't possess the anvil-heaviness of Noir de Noir. It's Noir de Noir for adults. Sexy adults. (As opposed to clownish adults.)”
Not inspired by 1969, I lost interest in tracking down the rest of the line. Fortunately, the dedicated storytellers at HdP tracked me down, sending me samples of the whole 16-perfume collection, which is directed by Gérald Ghislain.
Impulsively (my MO is “impulsively”, hence my hallway painted an eyeball-searing neon turquoise. Oh, and that ill-advised first marriage.), I sat down the other day and plowed through all 16 fragrances. (Okay, I exaggerate -- it took two days, but one day sounded more convincingly impulsive.)
Binging on the entire Histoires de Parfums line was like opening a box of See's Assorted Chocolates and methodically taking one bite out of every single bon-bon. Everything I smelled fascinated me, either because it was gorgeous, or odd, or appalling. And also because whether I like them or not, all of the HdPs are full-figured, deliberate compositions. No taking a generic base and adding pink peppercorns here, eye of newt there, and calling it a collection. No sirree bobtail cats. Each of these eau de parfums could easily justify an entire post, but not now –- I'm binging, see?
Either through dumb luck or wondrous perfume destiny, the first one I stumble onto ends up being my favorite: Ambre 114. (Okay, I cop to trying to build drama where none exists. The fact is, I saw “Ambre” on the vial and grabbed it, because amber and I go back a long way. Notches on my bedpost include Tom Ford Private Blend Amber Absolute, Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan, Tann-Rokka Aki, Le Labo Labdanum 18, Antica Farmacista Ambra, L'Orientaliste Ambre, Parfumerie Generale L'Oiseau de Nuit, and Parfumerie Generale L'Ombre Fauve. I like stuff with amber, k?)
Ambre 114 is gorgeousness with a capital G-O-R-G-E. This powdery amber is both milky and nutty -- sort of a cross between PG L'Ombre Fauve's fur and Creed Angelique Encens' spicy powder. How I love this! There's some nice vegetal tobacco leaf/aromatic kind of thing in here. I'm guessing that thing must be the listed patchouli. Did I say I love this? I love this. Wear Ambre 114 and you will be transformed into the softest kitten that ever mewed to be petted.
Patchouli Noir is patchouli and menthol and vinyl tarpaulin. It's weird and I kind of like it –- as a smell. Like, if I unexpectedly wandered into a cloud of this odor while exploring an abandoned house, I'd announce to the assembled ghosts, “Hey, what a great smell!” But I don't need more of a commitment to Patchouli Noir than that. Speaking of commitment, this dude has serious tenacity.
Mata Hari is HdP's muse for 1876, a spicy rose floral combo at first, until it bleeds all over itself and congeals into a dense mushball of animal and ashes. It calls to mind a burnt-to-cinders version of Nasomatto China White. Pretty interesting, but I keep catching a niff of cinnamon, which forces me to withdraw my support for 1876's cause.
I mean, I love the smell of cinnamon: in my coffee, on my toast, in my Moroccan pigeon b'stila. But in perfume, overt cinnamon bugs me -- it smells too foody and obvious. Still, I'm intrigued by 1876's dank stank. It's not an easy lay, like Ambre 114. Once I finish leaving teethmarks in all of HdP's other bon-bons, I'm coming back to 1876 to learn to love it.
Fumies - which fragrances have you learned to love -- successfully?
More Histoires de Parfum reviews here, here, here, here, here and here.
Image: Greta Garbo in Mata Hari