One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sparkle: Yves Saint Laurent Champagne/Yvresse


I bought a bottle of Yves Saint Laurent's Champagne not long after its launch in 1993. How could I not? Ever since I began wearing scents, I've been helplessly addicted to chypres, which start out bright and fresh (classically, a citrus note, but nowadays nearly any fruit notes) and gradually deepen into the abyss of oakmoss and patchouli--dark, lustrous, secretive. Every chypre tells a story, and for all their variety, it's always the same one; the story of the passage from innocence to worldliness. Orientals start out smelling sexy, but chypres bury the sexiness deep inside; they make you wait.

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The bottle for Champagne was of a piece with its name. Meant to evoke a champagne cork, it had a cork-shaped cap and a curvaceous bottle wrapped in twisted wire and crowned with a beaten-gold dome.

As you may have read, not long after the launch of Champagne, all hell broke loose. What baffles me is that there have been scents named Champagne before, and nobody ever complained, as far as I know. Caron had, and still has, a scent called Royal Bain de Champagne, playing on the decadent idea of taking a bath in champagne: the bottle is shaped like a champagne bottle, and you can't get much more obvious than that. Were there riots of grape-growers, demanding that government Do Something? Not as far as I know. And Germaine Monteil launched a scent called Champagne back in 1983, and...nothing. (It's been discontinued, through age, not controversy; you can have a bottle of the EDT, 50 mL, for $349 if you want.)

What made YSL different? Were the champagne producers reluctant to be associated with a company that had caused such a stir with Opium two decades prior? Had they simply not noticed the other scents?

At any rate, the courts found in favour of the growers, and Champagne had to change its name or perish. It did change its name, of course. Yvresse is almost better, because it's such a smart little pun; "ivresse" is the French word for "drunkenness" or "inebriation", and changing the initial letter recalls the name Yves Saint Laurent, which is a bonus for brand recognition. The controversy no doubt did the fragrance a world of good--all that free publicity!--and they got two names out of the deal. I'll always think of it as Champagne, whatever the bottle says.

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Yvresse isn't carbonated-smelling in the way that Demeter Ginger Ale is; that would probably be too obvious. But the top note has a shimmer to it; it's fresh and vibrant. It begins with a burst of juicy nectarine, cut through with sharper notes of mint and anise. The middle develops rapidly; alongside a touch of violet, a rose note blooms, allying with the nectarine for a bright variation on the rose-peach accord that perfumer Sophia Grojsman had already used in Lancôme's Trésor a few years prior.

It isn't long, maybe an hour, before the classic chypre base begins to push through. To my nose, the honeyed languor of oakmoss has been played down, dampened by the earthiness of patchouli (and, to a lesser extent, the spiky vetiver), although it's still unmistakably a chypre. A splash of vanilla keeps it from getting too earthy, as if you need to be reminded that, despite the darkness, you're still wearing something celebratory.

Despite its giddiness, Yvresse is a sophisticated scent. I'm a little surprised it's still on the market, to be honest; there doesn't seem to be a lot of call for sophistication these days. I was delighted to find a bottle of it in London; after having worn it for a couple of years, I traded it away--I'm fickle like that--and was surprised to find over the years that I was pining for it. Naturally, I snapped it up. I'll never let it out of my sight again.

2 Comments:

  • I love it too, but every since it was discontinued, the price gauging is terrible! I still have the powder, but I would never sell it.

    By Blogger FUSSBOX, at 11:19 PM  

  • I love it too, but every since it was discontinued, the price gauging is terrible! I still have the powder, but I would never sell it.

    By Blogger FUSSBOX, at 11:19 PM  

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