Sunday, January 10, 2010


It's brutally cold here today--10 degrees Fahrenheit on my front porch this morning. I'd expect to be craving some hot and spicy scent, but instead I went looking for flowers and settled on Le Dix. This classic Balenciaga gets a lot of respect, and it should. I think it's the most beautifully composed of the Balenciaga fragrances. (Cialenga is a close second.) Of course, if you happen to despise violets and aldehydes, this pretty thing is not for you, especially in its present incarnation.

My little vintage bottle doesn't give much of a clue about its age, but I'd guess it to be about 30 years old. The juice is in reasonably good shape, good enough that the top notes survive more or less intact. Sampling it side by side with the current formula, I'm struck by how sharp and potent the violet note is in the new stuff. The vintage violet is very sweet, soft and rounded. It fades quickly into the heart of rose and ylang ylang, whereas its younger counterpart hangs on forever. (I assume these violet notes are all synthetic, so that must have been somebody's idea of a concession to modern tastes. Or were they using real violets 30 years ago?) The aldehydes are gentler in the vintage, though that may just be age. The vintage has a layer of powder over the flowers, which the newbie lacks. The base notes show the most similarity, but the vintage has a great luxurious-yet-light musk, while the new juice has that faint air of dryer sheet

Overall, the new formulation has a harsher, brighter character than the vintage. The rich floral personality of the original has been jettisoned in favor of more punch--so what else is new? This seems to be the story with all the tweaked versions of classic floral aldehydes. I'll risk making you doubt my taste by admitting that I think the new stuff, whatever its weaknesses, still deserves some love. Considered on its own merits it's a pretty, sparkling floral, certainly as nice as anything in its price range.

And while I'm talking about scents that deserve some love, I want to come clean about a guilty pleasure. Olfacta's post about Teatro alla Scala has inspired me to come out of the closet and declare my love for Krazy Krizia. (I know, I know--that name is awful.) Krazy Krizia is always dismissed as an Obsession clone, and I can't deny a certain resemblance. The notes are extremely similar. (See here and here.) But where Obsession has a cloying candied orange note in the top, KK's mandarin is smooth and subtle. The spices in the heart of Obsession are harsh and ruin the flowers. KK just has a touch of clove/carnation to sweeten and warm things up. The really crucial difference is in the base. Obsession is too heavy on the vanilla to suit my taste, and if there's any civet in there you couldn't prove it by me. KK is wonderfully woody and animalic, and does not in any way remind me of baked goods. Now if they would just do something about that name...

Violets, Henry Meynell Rheam, 1904

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