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Le Galion

Ensorcelled by Sortilège, Old and New

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When a beloved perfume from the past such as Le Galion’s Sortilège (1936) is relaunched, the logic of perfume marketing demands that the new version be praised as a faithful continuation of the legacy. Meanwhile, those who know the original version can be expected to wail in chorus, “It’s not the same.” But If you love vintage perfumes, you already know it won’t be the same. At best, you hope that the relaunch shows some respect for the history of the perfume and the memories of those who wore it in its original form.

Le Galion Sortilège: but this is Marilyn!

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The day has come to say what I never thought I will: I love aldehydes! And I ain’t talking about the delicious C-14, the one with an almost lactonic peach skin vibe which gives Mitsouko its lit-from-within glow, although I love that one too, in fact I loved it from the get go. I’m talking about the fatty, waxy, fizzy, soapy brigade: C10, C11 and C12 which are used abundantly in fragrances like Chanel no. 5, Chanel no. 22 and practically any other perfume that smells as if you’re drinking a glass of Moët while you’re soaking in a big, white porcelain bathtub filled to the brim with the bubbles of the finest, most expensive soaps money can possibly buy. KEEP ON READING

A Gardenia Omnibus Review

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It can be a lot of fun to apply a method to one’s madness. Over the summer, for reasons that I do not fully understand, I have been on a mission to understand gardenia perfumes. In the end, I think my love of vintage Miss Dior perfume gave birth to my fascination with gardenia.

A Rose Is a Rose Is a… Snob.

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Flowers & Trees

By 1952, the world was getting its mojo back.   World War II was a memory, much of the world was enjoying an economic upturn and Cadillacs were rolling off the production line faster than ever.  So what if the cold war was in full swing?  Vodka sales skyrocketed.  The 1950s, especially in America, are remembered for the youth culture of sock hops, poodle skirts and drive-ins but the truly stylish women—especially in Europe– were wearing strict tailleurs and sumptuous gowns.  Pulling off a Charles James or Dior ball gown required a whole lot of attitude; proud, haughty and smug, the fashion mavens of the day were snobs.  Beautiful, soignée snobs with scents to match. KEEP ON READING

Bell, Book and Candle…. and Sortilège.

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It’s such an ancient pitch
But one I wouldn’t switch
‘Cause there’s no nicer witch than you

After the monumental success of Chanel’s aldehyde-laden floral, le monstre No. 5, every French perfumer en valeur son sel rushed to put out his or her own.  Some were successful, some not.  Le Galion nose Paul Vacher knew a thing or two about this genre—he collaborated with André Fraysse to give the world Arpège in 1927.  By the 1930s, he was creating perfumes for his own house, Le Galion, and presented the world with Sortilège in 1937.  Sortilège, which means “sorcery” in French, was a huge hit for Le Galion—arguably their most famous perfume and the anchor tenant to their perfume empire which included classics like Brumes (1939), Special for Gentlemen (1947), Snob (1952) and Whip (1953). KEEP ON READING

When the Whip Comes Down

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Perfumery has long had a (sometimes prurient) fascination with flagellation.  Fragrances with names like Coup de Fouet (Caron), Cravache (Robert Piguet), and Riding Crop (Demeter) all suggest the menacing danger and pain of the lash.  There are no less than three called whip—Whip (Black Phoenix Alchemy), Whips and Roses (Kerosene) and Whip (Le Galion).

The act of whipping evokes images of cruelty: slavery, abuse and sadism.  From Jesus Christ to Kunta Kinte the whip has inflicted punishment.  Pleasure, too, is associated with its sting, as illustrated by the character of Séverine in Luis Buñuel’s 1967 film Belle de Jour.  The riding crop—a whip in miniature—has been wielded by villains and equestrians in equal measure and in fact is used in advertisements for Guerlain’s Habit Rouge. KEEP ON READING

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