Before I began to wear vintage perfume, I rarely indulged in nostalgia. In most aspects of life, I don’t look backward to the past, and I focus on learning about new things and planning for the future. But when it comes to perfumes, I find that I am stuck with the nose of an antiquary.
Recently, however, I was quite pleased to discover a newer perfume that I really enjoy–Marcel Roucel’s Envy for Gucci. (Okay, okay, you can stop laughing now. A perfume that is merely two decades old still counts as a new perfume to me.) Launched in 1997, Envy was discontinued in the early 2000’s. From what I can tell, Envy was reasonably popular in its day. Some of its original fans report that they spritzed their way through several bottles in quick order, but back then, Envy wasn’t on my radar at all, since I wasn’t paying any attention to perfumes at the time. Envy’s Tom Ford-curated ads were predictably sexy and stylish, and they look vaguely familiar to me. It’s hard to tell: those perfect writhing bodies in perfume ads from the 1990’s do tend to look alike. Now, in 2017, it is getting harder and harder to find bottles of Envy. On the perfume forums, members ask, in plaintive accents, if anyone has found a good replacement for Envy.
After reading so much praise for Envy, (Chandler Burr went so far as to call it “transcendent” and a “masterpiece of olfactory art that deserves to be exhibited at the Modern” http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/04/09/scent-notes-gucci-envy/ ) I became curious and tracked down a mirrored bottle of Envy in the extrait formulation.
Envy fully lives up to its reputation as an elegantly composed green woody floral. There aren’t many perfumes that can compare to it. Of course, Bandit and No. 19 come to mind, but Envy lacks Bandit’s leathery base and therefore feels much more dewy and fresh. No. 19 in the vintage formulation is just sleek as Envy, but its stronger notes of orris and sandalwood make No. 19 feel more opaque, a little heavier. No. 19 always reminds me of a smooth matte white pebble while Envy is shiny, piquant, and transparent. Although I’ve read that Envy’s notes include hyacinth, lily of the valley, magnolia, and iris, I don’t get much of those in the extrait formulation. To me, Envy is all about galbanum, rose, and that vegetal muskiness of cilantro that I simply adore.
After wearing Envy around this spring, my new perfume began to feel oddly familiar, and I experienced that inescapable and maddening feeling of perfume déjà vu. Got it! Jean Couturier’s Coriandre from 1973, Worn by side-by-side and tested on paper, the resemblance between Envy and Coriandre is unmistakable to me. Perhaps Marcel Roucel was feeling nostalgic too.