(originally posted at Il Mondo di Odore on November 24, 2011)
The perfumes of Roméa d’Améor have not been extensively reviewed, but since this small house produces only creations intended specifically for women (not for men, nor unisex), the fact that it was not listed at Basenotes, the members of which generally seem to pride themselves on being up to the minute on the latest niche offerings, did not necessarily mean all that much. The house's founder, Annie Vannier describes her line at the website thus:
Roméa d’Améor’s extraordinary line of seven scents is a tribute to real women throughout the ages who have touched history in tangible ways…women with distinct personalities who lived very different lives surrounded by the scents of their time, for whom each [is] paid a fragrant tribute.
The “real women throughout the ages” turn out to be the members of fairly exclusive groups:
Les Souveraines d'Egypte [The (female) Sovereigns of Egypt]
Les Impératrices Japonaises [The Empresses of Japan]
Les Maîtresses de Louis XIV [The Mistresses of Louis XIV]
Les Espionnes du Tsar [The (female) Spies of the Tzar]
Les Grandes Amours du Taj Mahal [The Taj-Mahal's Great Loves]
Les Princesses de Venise [The Princesses of Venice]
Les Grandes Prêtresses Incas [The Great Inca Priestesses]
It all sounded, as usual, pretty gimmicky to me, but not so different from, say, the governing “concept” of the house of Histoires de Parfums, the wares of which I happen to love, so perhaps this, too, would be a treasure trove of great perfume! (On ne sait jamais...)
My interest in finding out more about this line naturally skyrocketed, of course, upon learning that the house perfumer was none other than the ultra-famous Pierre Bourdon (the list of his successful launches is ridiculously long, but every perfumista uses at least one or two of his creations, it seems to me...). Intrigued, I ordered samples of the entire Roméa d’Améor line, and here's what I found:
LES SOUVERAINES D'EGYPTE is a somewhat sweet floriental with a comfort-scent demeanor. The vanilla and orchid mingle together in a creamy base to create an effect as snuggly as a fleece blanket on a cold winter's day. Like fleece (as opposed to cashmere), this perfume has a thinner texture than is typical for floriental perfumes, and it even comes close to some of the “aquatic orientals” I've tried, including Lalique Nilang and Salvador Dali Laguna. There is a touch of spice, but it is very light and serves only as a complement, not as a focus in this composition. Although I sometimes find orchid a dirty note, here it seems clean. Perhaps because it's "green"?
Despite the thin texture and somewhat low sillage, the longevity of Les Souveraines d'Egypte is fairly good. This is an unobtrusive oriental appropriate for public settings: neither very dark nor very complex. Perhaps this would be a good oriental for the hot weather in Egypt.
LES IMPERATRICES JAPONAISES is a textured tea fragrance to my nose. However, unlike many mainstream tea offerings, this one seems natural, not scarily synthetic. Light but inviting with a touch of what seems almost rice-like starchiness. Perhaps I am succumbing to the power of suggestion, but this really does smell like Japan to me. Does it smell like the empresses of Japan? Unclear. But Les Impératrices Japonaises is definitely a perfume I wouldn't mind wearing in casual settings.
This composition reminds me a bit of Guerlain Les Voyages Olfactifs—Tokyo, and also the bamboo-ishness of Weil Bambou, although here there is a stronger woody note in the drydown and the tea is less dominant as well. Simple, clean and refreshing without being soapy at all, this is clearly a unisex, cologne-y perfume.
LES MAITRESSES DE LOUIS XIV is a crispy, crunchy floral green featuring hyacinth and lily-of-the-valley. Very reminiscent of Gucci Envy, but without the blob-like expansive synthetic lily-of-the-valley note which eventually ruins that composition for me. Still no soapiness yet to be found in the house of Roméa D'Améor, but so far I've found a couple of reasonably nice variations on clean themes without the bubbles, this being one of them. The green is not at all mean here and a far cry from the notorious Cabotine, among others. I rather like Les Maîtresses de Louis XIV, and wouldn't mind having a bottle of this perfect-for-every-occasion-and-season perfume.
I would not say that this is a romantic creation at all, but, hey, maybe that's why they were the maîtresses (plural)... Perhaps once the image of innocence had been ruptured his ladies lost for old Louis their appeal? On ne sait jamais... Anyone who likes Envy would like this perfume, and some among those who do not (self included) will like it as well.
LES ESPIONNES DU TSAR is a slightly sweet, woody floriental with a touch of patchouli, or so it seems... Like Les Souveraines d'Egypte, this is a mild oriental—no hard-hitting incense, myrrh, oudh, or what have you, just a touch of spice and sweetness mingling together harmoniously—and inoffensively. Les Espionnes du Tsar is not as watery as Les Souveraines, which makes it slightly more appealing to me, but I still feel that somehow Pierre was holding back in this creation, perhaps trying to be too polite. On the other hand, if this perfume is truly to evoke the spirit of the Tsar's female spies, they'd have to be pretty sly—and subtle in order to ply their trade.
I like but do not love this composition, although there is nothing wrong with it beyond its lack of an over-the-top slay-me-with-your-sensuality oriental demeanor. All in all, a well-behaved, perhaps even prim oriental, which could easily be worn by those who partake primarily of members of the ORIFFF (office-ready fruity-floral frag!) category.
LES GRANDES AMOURS DU TAJ MAHAL is supposed to feature Lotus Bleu (translated on the manufacturer's card as “Taj Mahal water lily”), but what I smelled smacked more of a peony frag. It may be that both water lily and peony are present in this composition, but the latter certainly dominates and makes this a somewhat humdrum floral fragrance to my nose. So many peony frags, so little desire to wear any of them!
LES PRINCESSES DE VENISES is a somewhat sharp floral fragrance featuring orchid and/or lily, along with what seems to my nose to be a mimosa note. Although I did not appreciate this composition very much the first time I wore it, it grew on me a bit as I explored it further. I've been noticing lately that my first take on a perfume is not always very accurate. Perhaps during the first wearing I am distracted by the top notes, and it takes some time to appreciate the deeper layers and complexities of all decent perfumes, of which this seems to be one.
I would recommend this creation to those who favor floral bouquets with lower sillage and also like mimosa. This is not a Big Fat Floral Fragrance (BFFF) by any stretch of the imagination. In keeping with the general aesthetic of this house, the floral notes are front and center but not overwhelmingly so.
LES GRANDES PRETRESSES INCAS concludes my romp through the house of Roméa D'Améor. My initial impression was that this was a made-for-men cologne. It really smelled quite masculine. Later, however, the composition became far more sweet than aromatic. In the end, though, I found myself reporting to my cat, “This perfume is stinky. I don't like it.” Enough said.
Concluding Unscientific and Aesthetic Impressions
All in all, I was underwhelmed and, to be perfectly frank (quoi d'autre?), a bit disappointed with this seven-stop journey through haute concubine history. I might consider adding a bottle of Les Impératrices Japonaises to my collection, and I would wear Les Maîtresses de Louis XIV, if I happened to have a bottle lying around, but honestly I can live without either one and certainly the others in this line. My overall feeling is that Pierre Bourdon did not deliver on the promise of his name as the creator of all of the perfumes of this house. Although I did not positively dislike most of this collection, nor did I find them very compelling.
Having said all of that, I should add that I do believe that there is a consistent aesthetic vision expressed through this collection. It's just that it's not one which I happen to share. I would recommend this line for testing by those who enjoy what I refer to as “thin” orientals such as The Different Company Oriental Lounge.
Now please excuse me while I take leave to don some Ferre edp. (Je vous aime encore, Pierre...)
(adapted from reviews first posted at www.fragrantica.com on March 25, 26, 28, and 29, 2011)