Lazy Saturday evening, warm bed, Internet connection leading inevitably to perusing Facebook perfume groups. I’m certain that are many more useful or pleasurable ways of spending an evening, especially a Saturday one, but that evening was joyful because I became reacquainted to a couple of really lovely perfume samples I hadn’t used in a very, very long time. It was thanks to a thread started in one of the said groups in which somebody was looking for advice regarding the blind purchase of an Histoires de Parfums fragrance. For people that might get confused by the term, in the perfume junkies’ world, blind buying means buying a scent without having tested it beforehand, just based on the list of notes, reviews, and advice from other perfume junkies that know what your taste is. It’s a risky endeavor in which I’ve indulged a few times myself, usually with good results. I still don’t recommend it when it comes to very expensive perfumes. In the case of “too good to pass” deals it might be worth it. I confess I do take pleasure in the surge of adrenaline and the sense of surprise that comes with blind buying, but even so in the last couple of years I’ve drastically reduced this habit because it leads to having too many perfumes that you simply like not love.
As perfume people are generally a helpful bunch, the thread expanded in no time and I felt compelled to add my two cents to the discussion. I didn’t want to speak from hazy memories, so I pulled out my old Histoires de Parfums samples and lo and behold I was smitten and enthused, as opposed to the general lukewarm reaction I’ve been experiencing lately when testing new things.
The two wondrous, and until then, neglected little beauties were Noir Patchouli and 1876 Mata Hari. Both of them are roses, but done very differently from one another, although both have a retro mood. Yin and Yang, feminine and masculine, light and dark and bleeding into one another at the edges. In the final stages the borders and differences are blurred, and both emerge as feminine characters, one of which is adorably gentle with a hint of danger, and the other one seemingly dangerous but with a heart of cream and flowers.
Which one is which? Well, in spite of being inspired by the femme fatale image of famous courtesan, exotic dancer and allegedly spy Mata Hari, 1876 is the flirtatiously feminine and adorable one.
The rose is evident from the first moments paired with a scrumptious, candied, fruity sweetness which fortunately is done with a delicate hand. The opening reminds me a bit of the Histoires de Parfums 1969 with its irresistible litchi soda vibe. There are subtle smoke tendrils and musky, softly animalic notes permeating the opening stage and balancing the sweet rose. After the first minutes the rose becomes more powdery and it’s now spiced with a little bit of cumin and cinnamon. The touches of smoke and musk (slightly dirty) continue to be present giving the perfume a sophisticated and grown-up edge. This is the main part of the scent and it’s playful and sweetly sensual and sexy. Eventually, in the far drydown it gets a bit boring as it becomes this indistinct sweet, powdery, musky (now cleaned up) blurred floral scent. All in all this is a very pretty and wearable gourmand rose that still manages to be interesting through most of its lifespan. Possibly not dramatic enough to suggest the controversial personality of its muse yet suitable for a lighthearted take on it. Good longevity, moderate to soft sillage.
1876 Mata Hari notes:
Top Notes: Orange, Bergamot, Litchi
Heart Notes: Rose, Iris, Violet, Cumin, Cinnamon, Carnation
Base Notes: Sandalwood, Vetiver, Guaiacum, White Musk, Vanilla
Now, let’s move on to Noir Patchouli which is by far the more captivating of the two, at least according to my tastes. You might be surprised by my claim that this is a rose fragrance. After all it’s called Noir Patchouli and indeed there’s a hefty dose of that but yes the rose is there, buried in the folds of leather, patchouli, musk and spices. Noir Patchouli has a strong chypre facet and it’s reminiscent of Clinique Aromatics Elixir, less bitter and sour though. I love Aromatics Elixir for its fierce, almost medicinal, tough beginning but Noir Patchouli might be easier to take in as the beginning is less difficult but still dark enough to warrant a fair claim on the Noir Patchouli title: woody, spicy, camphorous, leathery and dry and it has the same head clearing yet intoxicating effect as Aromatics Elixir. My favorite part of the perfume is the creamy, musky floral heart. There, a dignified rose starts to unfurl its caressing velvet petals, maybe mixed in with a bit of jasmine and ylang-ylang or carnation. It smells vintage, a little bit soapy, but in that cool, lactonic style of a body lotion and it melds beautifully with the skin. It maintains an enticingly sensual personality throughout its life span but in a sophisticated manner with excellent pedigree. Nothing too vulgar or trashy but also not excessively veiled either. A kind of stimulating yet not embarassing sexual directness. Quite modern from this point of view. The fragrance dries down to a musky suede leather with a hint of juniper berries and a faint vanillic floralcy weaved through. Great longevity and sillage. Frankly, totally gorgeous and I’m definitely considering a full bottle of this at some point.
Noir Patchouli notes:
Top Notes: Patchouli, Coriander, Cardamom
Heart Notes: Patchouli, Bunch of Flowers, Berries
Base Notes: Patchouli, Musk, Leather, Vanilla
Testing these two perfumes made me think a bit more of Histoires de Parfums as a brand and I can’t help feeling that is one of the best “niche” brands available at the moment. Great, consistent perfumes (especially in the”classics” line), offered in a variety of sizes and at prices that are not completely bonkers. Plus an attractive concept and inspired packaging. Affordable sampling program. A lot of great points and I think Histoires de Parfums should be talked about more and not taken for granted, otherwise we might loose it. And it’s not an easy spot to fill.