Gérald Ghislain’s Histoires de Parfums—self-described as an olfactive library telling stories about famous characters, raw materials and mythical years—has sought inspiration from a fascinating array of disparate literary personages ranging from Casanova and the Marquis de Sade to George Sand and Ernest Hemmingway. Squarely in the middle of this is my favorite offering from this range, 1828, which celebrates the year that Jules Verne, French novelist, playwright, poet and father of science fiction, was born. Verne lived through a fascinating time in French history, his life spanning the Restoration, July Monarchy, Second Republic, Second Empire, Third Republic, the Commune and into the Belle Epoch. His best known writings—the Voyages Extraordinaires—were penned during the Second Empire, that period of High Victorian colonialism and—in America, civil war.
This Victorian sensibility comes through loud and clear in 1828, one booted foot in France and the other in England, home of one of Verne’s best-loved characters, Mr. Phileas Fogg who lived, in 1872, at No. 7, Saville Row, Burlington Gardens, the house in which Sheridan died in 1814. Attended by his valet Passepartout, Fogg travels around the world in 80 days on a bet. Not a flamboyant adventurer, “people said that he resembled Byron–at least that his head was Byronic; but he was a bearded, tranquil Byron, who might live on a thousand years without growing old.”
1828 is the embodiment of this character—quiet, but with depth. 1828 is worldly, like the British and French empires of the day, but cozily domestic at the same time. The fragrance opens with hesperic notes of grapefruit, tangerine and other citrus with a blast of eucalyptus. There is a freshness about the opening that contrasts with the spices at its heart—nutmeg and black pepper—and the Eastern exoticism of the cedar, incense, vetiver and pine in its base notes. Although not listed, there is a lovely musk note in the dry down. 1828 reminds me of a cooler version of Penhaligon’s Endymion, which is one of my favorite scents. Citrus on top, nutmeg and pepper in the middle and woods and incense down below in both cases. I say cooler because of the astringent eucalyptus in the top notes and the lack of the gourmand coffee note that appears in Endymion. Histoires de Parfums describes this as a marine breeze over a wild heath; A freshness tinted with sophistication. Very apt, but the spices and incense give this an oriental feel, again, in keeping with the character’s pull to the east: “Phileas Fogg had, without suspecting it, gained one day on his journey, and this merely because he had travelled constantly eastward; he would, on the contrary, have lost a day had he gone in the opposite direction, that is, westward.”
1828 is a completely wearable scent—old school in some ways, but right in line with the citrus/spice/woods construct of so many of today’s popular masculine fragrances. Like a bearded, tranquil Byron, this is a quiet scent that does not scream (Heavens, no; that would never have done in Victorian England) but has great lasting power and—for today’s adventurer—would be as appropriate to wear with a suit as it would a sweater and jeans, the type of scent that wives love on their husbands (mine does, anyway!). A four seasons fragrance, this could become a signature scent for today’s voyagers, travelers and adventurers, armchair or otherwise.