Wednesday, 31 March 2010

The dirty green leather Chypres

La Nuit by Paco Rabanne (1985)
I do like the Chypre style and particularly green, dirty, leathery types like La Nuit and also Bandit by Robert Piguet.

La Nuit opens green, sappy and syrupy. There are loads of florals in here, but I can't identify any individual notes. The effect is almost cloying and probably the opening is too feminine for me to pull off in public. However, once the top notes fade, I detect a sudden wisp of smoke lurking beneath the flowery facade. Its presence is akin to a subtle sneer in the corner of the mouth of a sexy, heavily-made up woman. She looks glamorous, but underneath there is a hint of slut. The sappy greenness becomes more aromatic, almost vegetal. I get hints of vetiver and patchouli and the sweetness is tempered as it dries somewhat and oakmoss starts drifting up from the murk with a powdery edge. I don't get much leather at this stage, but I can feel the fragrance darkening and becoming richer, with what I perceive as civet. Into the heart and early dry down and the leather comes to the fore. I initially find the leather a bit like that in Oud Cuir D'Arabie by Montale, but then it turns plain raunchy. There's an odour here that hints at a sweaty groin, or some body part unwashed, but feminine, not a man. Ouch, I'm blushing... Toward the end, and I'm talking a good 12 hours here, there is still a hint of this animal, feminine warmth and it is alluring.

Bandit - Robert Piguet (1944)
Ok, what can I say about a legend? Firstly the sample I have is not vintage - it dates from 1999 and is the relaunch by Delphine Lebeau. The original was by Germaine Cellier, who needs no introduction.

This opens brighter and dryer than La Nuit. There are florals, but less pronounced to my nose. I also get a brief burst of aldehydes but this quickly changes to a sophisticated greenness. The greenness is not sappy, but herby and a bit like tomato leaf. The florals are still there, mainly tuberose, but they never dominate, as oakmoss and leather emerge quite rapidly, tempering the effect. It is quite refined at this stage, not as tacky as the similar phase in La Nuit. As it moves into the heart a smokiness creeps in, not disimilar to Tabac Blond. This fragrance never becomes sweet, there is a sharpness that lasts throughout the duration - first it is herby tomato leaf; later I get something akin to vetiver and perhaps some patchouli. The true chypre accord emerges, bound by a leather that is more S&M than suede handbag. The animal undertone really hums along and by the time we reach the dry down I swear it is very close in style to La Nuit, except La Nuit has that unsettling, slightly more rotting vegetal sweetness. The far dry down is hmm, shall we say sexy? Again, I get that groin accord, which teeters on the edge of repulsion but stays onside enough to be arousing. The lasting power is also great - easily 10 hours on my skin.

So - verdict: is one better than the other? I like them both. La Nuit is definitely much cheaper. I purchased a bottle for about £10, which is about $16, whereas Bandit is closer to £70. I think ultimately Bandit is more refined, still sexy and animalic, whereas La Nuit is much sweeter and I think after the top fades, the raunchier of the two. If I were to choose, I'd probably go for Bandit, but I think both are deserving of a place in one's perfume closet.

La Nuit from
Reclining woman from


  1. I like your blog. I wonder what you think of Kouros?

  2. ooh I'm finally testing La Nuit thanks to you - the first thing that comes to mind is Tabu+Mitsouko!



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