Histoires de Parfums 1969, Ambre 114, Patchouli Noir and 1876

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:

“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.)”

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.

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


  1. I learned to love Bvlgari Black. The first time I tried it, I was all "vanilla ice-cream and car tire sundae!" Now I think it subtle smoky vanilla goodness.

  2. Wow, you should write a book! I mean, another one! This one about ghosts in abandoned houses smelling like patchouli and menthol and vinyl tarpaulin. And lots of other smells and scents. Your descriptions of these perfumes are so evocative. If I could think of a way to turn it into a movie, I would say - do a movie! And what a spiffy thing to have on the coffee table when you do your TV Show at OWN! Good luck!

  3. kjanicki, y'know, I think I felt the same way about Shalimar. Except it was more like "French vanilla custard and car tire brulée". Or something. And now it's in high rotation.

    SoS, I love how you're already decorating the set of my OWN show with my new perfume book! I certainly am prolific in your very positive projection of my future. Thanks! Talk it up!

  4. I'm embarrassed to say I'm not a big fan of Guerlain. It's the bergamot. Why Gerlain, why bergamot at the top of every perfume? I love smoky, jasminy, leather, sandalwood, vanilla in perfumes - just not all served with a lemon citrus twist. I guess it's another thing I'll learn to love eventually.

  5. I have one that took me a while to understand. Serge Lutens Ambre Sultan. It was a trip down the honey highway at first. Just so sweet first time I tried it. All I read online was Serge this Serge that. I thought I try it. But was so new to the world of niche I wasn't ready for it. Now that I have had some time to try different scents, I finally appreciate the artistry of it. I love it now.

  6. Gojira, I know what you mean about revisiting challenging niche fumes that you weren't ready for as a baby bunny. Montale Black Aoud was horrifying to me when I first encountered it. And now I smell it and go, "Super-condensed rose and oud. Je dig."

  7. The first time I smelled vintage Femme, my nose twitched, and not in a good way. Now, it puts me into a trance of sorts. Dorky dream-like expression on face that's tucked ackwardly into my turtleneck. Yeah, that's me and Femme, baby.

  8. Melissa, do you get "dumb kitty face" - the slack-jawed look cats have when they smell another feline?

  9. Hahaha! Is that what I look like? Sooo attractive.

  10. I LOVE Ambre 114, although like you there really wasn't any "learning" involved. I opened the vial, took a whiff, and just about died (in a good way, obviously).

    Black Orchid took me some time to appreciate. The first time I smelled that opening blast of ripe fruit, flowers and man's crotch definitely had me scrunching my nose in disgust. Now it's love.

  11. Spike - Ambre 114 is just *there* for you right out of the bottle, isn't it?

  12. Oh definitely!

    I haven't tried it in warm weather though. If it turned out to be cloying in the heat that could be the end of the love affair.

  13. 1826 is deserving of your loooooove, anu!

  14. Amazing 1969 , AMBRE 114 !