Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Van Cleef & Arpels: Purveyors of Fine Perfumes ... and Implements of Self-defense! (Reblog from Il Mondo di Odore)

(originally posted at Il Mondo di Odore on December 1, 2011)

ORIENS (2010)
This is a big sillage sweet patchouli perfume. I'd say that the single word which best describes the composition of Oriens is: voluptuous. A little goes a long way, and my distinct impression is that this perfume (edp) is much louder than the wearer may appreciate. When I don this elixir to bed, I find myself floating away on a big billowy cloud of sweet and chewy patchouli leaves and end up having—perhaps not coincidentally—truly fantastical dreams! Fortunately, unlike many lesser perfumes of this genre, Oriens does not decompose and degrade into something repulsive and vile which requires soap-and-water removal before the night is through.

This sort of composition, ushered in by Angel, and aesthetically similar to Tom Ford Black Orchid Voile de Fleur and Bond no. 9 Nuits de Noho, to name but two examples familiar to me, may be the twenty-first century analogue to some of the larger volume "comfort scents" of the past century, including Lancôme Trésor, Givenchy Amarige, and Chôpard Cashmir. The current sweet patchouli fad (of which Oriens is one instantiation) may eventually pass, at which point people looking back will perhaps chuckle as they recall these currently popular compositions, but for now they serve very much the same purpose as those earlier sweet perfumes did once upon a time, it seems to me.

Oriens creates a blanket-like layer all around the body. I cannot really imagine wearing this perfume in public, but at home it feels like a piece of self-indulgence, like a rich, sweet truffle—something which one would not eat every day but is a nice treat now and then. My 100ml edp will definitely never need to be replaced—not because I don't like it, but because it is incredibly strong and appropriate only to private settings.

Oriens is basically the antithesis of the office-ready, inoffensive fruity-floral frag, which I refer to affectionately as ORIFFF (while hoping that it is not an acronym also used by the Pentagon). Not that Oriens is offensive, mind you. No, not at all. But it really does invade everyone's space, so people who are used to their co-workers wearing perfumes which smell like hair conditioner are bound to take note. Oriens draws attention to the wearer in what could be an unwelcome way, is all that I'm trying to say.

The Oriens bottle is a case study in excess. First off, this one—to my amazement—has roundly defeated the Sarah Jessica Parker Covet bottle in the "best suited as an implement of self-defense" category.

Here we can see Sarah Jessica Parker opening a demonstration on the dual-use function of the bottle in which her new perfume, Covet, is housed and, specifically, on how to wield the bottle as a blunt instrument in self-defense:

The Oriens bottle is shaped like a palm-sized crystal ball, and actually has the same magnifying and perhaps even prophesy-conferring capacity. But the important point here is that this thick glass object is seriously dense, packing big-time heft, and I'd venture to guess that it weighs at least a pound. While the Covet bottle could be use to fend off a nocturnal intruder by knocking him out, the Oriens bottle might actually crush his skull!

I really find this bottle very attractive except for the silver-painted plastic leaves appended to the otherwise beautiful cap atop the crystal ball. Someone should have said "Stop!" because the leaves are simply over the top, like a bad hat with not only flowers but stuffed birds attached. The bottle designer appears to have drawn inspiration from models such as these:

Or perhaps one of these?

I wish that I could remove the kitschy leaves from the Oriens cap, because they really degrade the overall presentation. The mini happily omits the leaves, and gives an idea of how nice the full-sized 100ml perfume bottle might have looked:

Perhaps I'll hide the cap in a drawer, since the bottle itself needs to rest on my bedside table—just in case.

Perfumer: Bernard Ellena
Salient notes (from www.fragrantica.com):mandarin orange, black currant, raspberry, jasmine, patchouli, and praline

FEERIE edp (2008)
Who among us can forget Violet Beauregarde, the chubby American girl in the twentieth-century film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? (I never saw the twenty-first-century re-make, so shocked was I that anyone should have the audacity to try to improve on an already superlative film! In my experience, such efforts invariably fail...)

Whenever Violet was not in the process of eating something, she satisfied her oral fixation by chomping loudly on gum, not at all unlike a cow with its cud. She acquired a winning ticket in the Willy Wonka contest and so was admitted to the chocolate factory along with Charlie, the nemesis of all of the other contestants. Violet was accompanied to the factory by her loud, aggressive father, Sam Beauregarde, who was apparently either a politician or (vel) a used car salesman. Charlie, in this nouveau-Dickensian little tale, just happened to be situated at the extreme tip of the other side of the poverty line, far away from all of the other winners, and it was nothing short of miraculous that he happened by chance upon one of the admission tickets to the factory.

In the end, karma dictated that all of the naughty and/or vicious little children should be punished, including Violet, whose tragic Fall was occasioned by her brazen disobedience of a direct order not to chew a piece of experimental gum. Violet blew up like a gigantic blueberry, not only for her aesthetic crime of chomping constantly on gum, but also for her cut-throat competitiveness, which really did her in, in precisely the manner in which one might expect karma to work: like a knife (or a bolt, see below...) in the back.

Violet came dangerously close to exploding before being rolled down the hall to the juicing room by the oompa loompas for triage. Although Violet was spared the death penalty, she was summarily stripped of the right to romp about the grounds of the chocolate factory as a direct result of this self-induced medical emergency.

Perhaps you, dear reader, did not remember Violet Beauregarde, but I am fairly confident that the makers of Van Cleef & Arpels Féerie did, for it is abundantly clear that she provided the deep inspiration for this creation. From the über-cloying black currant syrup sprinkled with violet leaves to the trucker tire-flap icon reproduced in miniature statuette form and applied to the ice-pick-like cap, Féerie embodies the essence of Violet Beauregarde aesthetic.

I can state without hyperbole that this is the sweetest ostensibly serious perfume I've ever sniffed. Although I've been known to bitch and moan about dilution, this composition has basically the opposite problem, being so thick and glucose-rich that it could easily be mistaken for one of those fruit syrups which come in bulbous bottles with sliding pour mechanisms—the ones arrayed in a “lazy Susan” contraption in booth tables at fine eateries such as the International House of Pancakes (“IHOP”, to those in the know), no doubt frequented by the Beauregarde family.

Rather than a fruity floral, I'd say that Féerie is a true fruity-fruity perfume, because the syrupy black currant is so dominant and so persistent and so thick and so, well, black curranty, that it is precisely like Violet Beauregarde in its extreme egotism, excluding all else as it screams out: “Me! Me! Me! ME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Féerie might mix well with a rose soliflore, as a stand-alone perfume, but it pretty much deserves the karmic fate eventually suffered by Violet Beauregarde, fittingly enough. Even the bottle is bright blueberry blue, and although the edges are beautifully faceted, from a distance the object evokes in this viewer's mind memories of one and one thing alone: Violet Beauregarde as her girth continues to expand to its ultimate bursting point while her face turns progressively more blue.

Now for the intricate embellishments, the carefully thought-out "finishing touches" upon the bottle in which this fruit syrup is found. Once again, as with Oriens, Van Cleef & Arpels has come up with a beautiful bottle totally degraded by its over-the-top cap! I'm beginning to suspect, actually, that those working in the art department of this house have a secret wager going on: Who can get away with the kitschiest cap on a perfume successfully launched before being served their walking papers?

To my amazement, Féerie actually manages to defeat (and that is no mean feat, by any means!) Oriens, indisputably winning the top honors in the “most ridiculous cap ever” category! How in the world did the artist get away with this? Every American inhabiting the broad underbelly of this land—including the members of the Beauregarde family—knows the naked lady on the tire flaps of semi-trucks: this image is virtually ubiquitous to anyone who drives cross country on freeways. There she sits amidst only her curves, beckoning YOU, her leg suggestively bent, a bust thrust directed your way.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, you must be a city dweller—or else a for'ner. The next time that you embark on a road trip in this not-so-fair land, I exhort you to take a few moments, pull into a truck stop, and examine the tire flaps on the semis parked there.

Yes, *that very image*, the Platonic Form of the Curvy Naked Lady Looking to Sleep with You has been fashioned into a tiny silver three-dimensional facsimile which has been nailed (literally—there's a visible bolt in her back!)—as to a crucifix—to the ice pick atop the Féerie bottle! An ice pick is perfect, by the way, for pricking swollen blueberries:

Come to think of it: wouldn't Sharon Stone have looked even more sizzling if the handle of her ice pick had been a beautiful faceted blue bottle of perfume?

Amazing! Truly an accomplishment of sorts. I stand humbled before the person who pulled this job off. Bravo, Joel Desgrippes!!!!

Perfumer: Antoine Maisondieu
Bottle designer: Joel Desgrippes
Salient notes (from www.fragrantica.com): violet, green notes, floral notes, Italian mandarin, black currant, Bulgarian rose, Egyptian jasmine, iris from Florence, precious woods, and Haitian vetiver

FEERIE edt (2009)
Well, my best guess is that Van Cleef & Arpels may have had to contend with litigation regarding cases of accidental gouging—or intentional evisceration—caused by the original Féerie cap, for now the ice pick-cum-crucifix has been sawed down quite a bit. In addition, the edt launch is significantly less syrupy, leading me to suspect that someone somewhere may very well have sued for the edp's inducement of a diabetic coma.

Or perhaps the two were ingeniously linked in a single case: an overzealous defender of her home went a bit too far, transcending the limits of what can reasonably regarded as legitimate self-defense. In a state of rage induced by the penetration of her sacred boudoir by an unexpected and uninvited visitor, she took up her Féerie edp bottle with exceptional exuberance, multiply impaling him until he finally lay limp in a pool of his own blood. But then, the would-have-been-damsel-in-distress-left-to-her-own-devices (and perfume collection) in protecting herself had the good sense to follow her attorney's clever counsel to invoke the “elevated blood sugar defense” at her trial, leaving Van Cleef & Arpels fully culpable all over again.

Like reformulations in general, Féerie edt is a new composition in which everything has been toned down (above all, the black currant, but also the tall spire of the ice pick, which has entirely disappeared from the cap...) no doubt in an effort to address the more, let us say, “problematic” aspects of the original launch.

The final perfume product is definitely more wearable (which is to say, actually wearable), but the overall integrity of this project as a work of fine design has suffered in the process, it seems to me. To say nothing of its diminished efficacy as an implement of self-defense!

PerfumerOlivier Pescheux
Salient notes (from www.fragrantica.com): violet, rose absolute, jasmine, musk, sandalwood, and benzoin


  1. Thank you for this self-defense advice, dear Sherapop! Since I couldn't abide Oriens or the original Feerie, I don't have any of these. I'll have to make do with my Tocca bottle, round and dense and easy to throw, I guess.

    1. Hi PBF! Yes, the Tocca bottle is another example of this genre. ;-) I love the Tocca bottles so much that I don't think that I'll be able to bring myself to throw them away when they are drained, sad to say--or not... (I gather that some people collect empty bottles?) I have even been known to buy Tocca bottles without testing the perfume inside!!!!


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