One Thousand Scents

Friday, May 25, 2012

Paradise: Fidji by Guy Laroche (vintage)

     I'm working my through the batch of scents (minis and samples) that I borrowed from my mom on my last two visits, and as a consequence I'm talking about oakmoss yet again. But there's no way around it! They put it in practically everything in the fifties through the eighties. There was somehow a cultural consensus that oakmoss smelled terrific, that a perfume ought to have it, and as a result, many scents from that era smell richer, warmer, and fuller than most modern scents do. (Just putting synthetic sandalwood, vanilla, and amber in the base won't cut it.) For the last twenty years or so, and absolutely in the last decade, the emphasis in commercial perfumery has been on light, fresh, transparent: "watery" is often seen in the description of scents, as if that were somehow a good thing. A few niche houses reliably buck the trend: Ormonde Jayne and Serge Lutens, among others, have a number of lush, dense scents in their collections. But pretty much everything you find in the drugstores and department stores these days is thin, simplistic, a bit wan.

I expect the same is true of the modern version of Fidji, though I admit to not having smelled it in years. Some reviews I've read mention that the company claims Fidji has never been reformulated, which is laughable: others mention that it seems smaller than it used to — remade to suit modern tastes.

The wee bottle of EDT that I have in my hands, though: oh, boy!


Nowadays if you're going to do a tropical scent to suit the modern nose, there is really only one way to go: lots of wet transparent fruit (mango, coconut, papaya, guava), lots of thin bright tropical flowers (gardenia, frangipani, jasmine sambac), lots of vanilla in the base, more or less a drink you can wear. But Fidji manages to concoct a fantasy of a tropical island without dipping its toe into any of these pools. In what seems like a kind of magic trick, it manages to balance lightness and heaviness without ever tipping over in either direction.


The (theoretical) list of ingredients: Galbanum, hyacinth, bergamot, lemon: Carnation, orris, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang: Vetiver, musk, sandalwood, oakmoss. These lists are as ever a vague guideline and nothing more: they're undated, so this could be from any version of the scent, and they're invariably incomplete, listing things the company thinks you'd like to smell rather than the actual components, which would frighten most people away.

Fidji opens with a radiance that can only be the combined efforts of a lot of high-quality synthetics: aldehydes for lift and brilliance, salicylates for breadth and harmony, doubtless some others I've never even heard of. But the most striking thing about the opening is how sharply green it is, that dazzling galbanum bitter-greenness that isn't seen much these days. It's tropical without being wet or heavy, and it makes you long for the days when the elements of a widely available commercial scent could be interesting or thought-provoking rather than merely pretty.


The middle and the base are almost one and the same: the base notes start appearing early on, beginning with the oakmoss that, although Fidji is not a chypre, adds fullness and earthiness to the rich floral bouquet, which includes tropical ylang-ylang but otherwise eschews the expected heady white floral in favour of something fresher, mostly spicy carnation garlanded with rose petals. There is a plenty of musk in the middle/base as well — not the cheap, tinned "white musk" that is the modern-day version of musk, but something warm and rich and animalic, poured in so lavishly that even I (who hardly ever notice the stuff) can smell its presence.


Maybe whatever is currently being sold under the name of Fidji smells pretty good, but it can't smell this good: it couldn't possibly, because this sort of thing is no longer in fashion. If you have some of the vintage, wear it and treasure it, because they don't make them like this any more.

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3 Comments:

  • Like L'Air Du Temps (which I consider its older sister), there is that diaphanous beauty hovering over; that light spice, but for me, that musk is utterly repellent and ruins everything. I have a great number of vintage perfumes that I adore, but have to suffer that repulsive ending every time. Caleche, No 22, Mitsouko, they all have it. This is why I wear vintage No 19 in parfum because the dry down is all top quality iris, leather and vetiver.

    Having said that, I do like these scents on the creatures they were designed for; women. My cousin only wore Fidji for years and it is troubling and beautiful.

    By OpenID theblacknarcissus, at 12:06 AM  

  • Like L'Air Du Temps (which I consider its older sister), there is that diaphanous beauty hovering over; that light spice, but for me, that musk is utterly repellent and ruins everything. I have a great number of vintage perfumes that I adore, but have to suffer that repulsive ending every time. Caleche, No 22, Mitsouko, they all have it. This is why I wear vintage No 19 in parfum because the dry down is all top quality iris, leather and vetiver.

    Having said that, I do like these scents on the creatures they were designed for; women. My cousin only wore Fidji for years and it is troubling and beautiful.

    By OpenID theblacknarcissus, at 12:06 AM  

  • Ah I had some modern Fidji but it wasn't what I'd hoped. You've inspired me to hunt down some vintage....

    By Blogger Daly Beauty, at 7:38 PM  

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