One Thousand Scents

Friday, May 30, 2008

Chill: Christian Dior Fahrenheit

Not long after the launch of Dior's Fahrenheit in 1988, the company had a deal: buy any two products in the line and get a duffel bag. A really great duffel bag, too. I kind of liked Fahrenheit, but I didn't love it, and yet I wanted that luggage, so I bought the EDT and the shower gel. I used the duffel bag until it was falling apart, and then Jim made me throw it away (we had better luggage, proper adult suitcases, by then). I used the shower gel until it ran out. I wore the scent a couple of times and then swapped it away.

There are two lessons here. The first is that sometimes it's worth it to buy something you just kind of like if it's a good deal. The second is that sometimes if you like but don't love a scent, the shower gel will make you happy. (Chanel Egoiste shower gel, for one, always smelled much, much better on me than the scent itself; more restrained, closer to the vest.)

The trouble with Fahrenheit for me was that it was very strange, and I wasn't mature enough in 1988 to understand proper strangeness at the time. Hermes' Bel Ami had come out a couple of years before that, and my first reaction was shock and hatred in equal measure; it was weird, it was bitter, it didn't play nice. I wore the sample I'd gotten a few times, because I am stubborn, and each time my reaction was the same: "Jesus, how can they sell this?" A few years later I tried it again, and by that time I was ready for it; but I never did buy it, living off the new samples I got, and now (according to Luca Turin) it's been reformulated and so I never will buy it. There may be a (third) lesson in this.

I'm used to strange in perfumery now. Not everything has to be immediately attractive. I bought Guerlain's Coriolan when it was launched, and that has many similarities to Fahrenheit and Bel Ami. I also bought the even stranger M7 by YSL the day I smelled it.

But Fahrenheit is now on the list of things I won't ever buy, because it's been seriously, heavily reconstructed. Turin calls it "unrecognizable", and I don't know that that's exactly the right word, but maybe it is: the scent is drastically changed. In its old incarnation, it had a peculiar celery-like note in the top which threw me off. Underneath that was a broad, slightly bitter herbal-floral scent. It wasn't like anything else on the market at the time.

The new version, or at least the version for which I have a sample (it's a year old, and who knows how many reformulations it's undergone?), hews much closer to the mainstream of men's perfumery. I won't bother with a list of notes, because you can find that anywhere, and I don't believe such a list, anyway; it could be the original 1988 version, or it could be anything. What I smell now is a very typical men's scent. The strange top note, the one I came to think of as wonderful, is gone, and what remains is very synthetic, a citrus-herbal accord with some of that predictable freshness that used to come from Calone and now could be any of a number of related molecules. The middle is still somewhat floral in addition to being leafy-herbal, and it's not altogether uninteresting, but like the top it's contaminated with that synthetic freshness, since apparently every man has to smell as if he's just showered with seawater. The base is that ambered wood that practically everything available today seems to have, as if the continent had come to some sort of consensus on what the drydown of a men's scent ought to be, or as if the companies that manufacture the essential oils had made buckets of the stuff and were peddling it mercilessly. There isn't much in Fahrenheit to set it apart from most anything else you can find on the shelves, and that saddens me more than I expected it to.

The bottle, at least, is still stunning: a parabolic chunk of glass shaded from light yellow-orange at the bottom to dark red-orange at the top. It looks like a desert sunrise frozen in time.


I usually only post every Friday, but pop by on Sunday, why don't you?


  • Fahrenheit was the perfume my father left behind when he decided to move away. At that time, I was just a kid before a classi, although I didn't know about it. Unfortunately, I throw it away, thinking that the perfume was too strange to be used by me. I miss it. Guess I'd perfectly use it nowadays, but I don't think I'd ever buy a new box... By the way, to make things even worse, the bottle I had was the one with the original formulation... He bought it circa 1990!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:42 AM  

  • Funny you should mention it, because there's a recent post on Now Smell This\ about things that the writer wishes she had known before she became a perfume addict, and on of them is, in essence, "Never throw anything away, because you just never know." (She's talking about samples, but it applies to full bottles as well.)

    I'm sorry you chucked your dad's Fahrenheit. If you smelled it now in the department store, you'd see that it's quite different from what you used to own.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 12:27 PM  

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