My name is Gil and I am a flag-waving, parade-marching, self-admitted flanker collector. Whenever brands release a limit-edition version of a popular fragrance I’m all for it, as evident in my Flankers That Went Too Soon video series. I collect them, love them, and when they are inevitably discontinued I am always heartbroken. Many others also know the frustration of losing a favorite fragrance due to reformulations and discontinuations. Guerlain, for example, which typically releases 10 fragrances each year, also quietly erases an equal number from their catalogue. This leaves many dedicated fans wondering where to look for replacements, and just why nobody bothered to tell them things were changing. As you can see in grav3yardgirl’s video, this can seriously inconvenience people!
So for this review I partnered with 99Perfume.com, an online retailer of discount fragrances, to shed some light on a previously hopeless case of lost perfume. They were one of the first companies I worked with when I launched this website in 2013, and have graciously provided two bottles for me to review today. These are exclusive relaunches of previously discontinued scents from a French brand called Houbigant. Both of them are from the eighties, and were marketed by Houbigant’s parent company Dana before officially going off the market. Recently a company called Prism Parfums, launched in 2014, remade the two scents, claimed they kept the scents the same, and is currently marketing them exclusively on 99Perfumes.com. I don’t know the ins and outs of the legality of the names, formula, etc., but what I do know is what these guys smell like and that’s our focus here today! Can something smell the same after 34 years?
The first thing you’ll notice about the presentation of these fragrances is that they are designed to look old but are not remotely close to the originals. From the boxes to the generic bottles with yellow juice, they definitely have a retro vibe going on. They do feel a little cheaply made with thin glass, but keep in mind that they’re only going for about $32.99 each*. You can also purchase the originals for between $13 and $19.99*. The website ships to the US and Canada, and has a nice selection of products including hard to find flankers (I told you!) like Aquolina’s Chocolovers.
Raffinée, originally introduced in 1982, used to be advertised by models Leticia Lucas and Elaine Irwin. The idea behind the scent was that it will represent the most romantic city in the world, Paris. The notes list included:
Top notes: jasmine, clary sage, plum, orange blossom, carnation, rose, bergamot, lemon.
Middle notes: osmanthus, orchid, Tonka bean, tuberose, mimosa, ylang ylang, hyacinth, orris root.
Base notes: musk, cinnamon, incense, sandalwood, vetiver, cypress, vanilla, spices.
Lutéce, from 1984, was another sophisticated French perfume. Evoking romance and opulence, the notes were:
Top notes: geranium, Brazilian rosewood, mandarin orange, aldehydes.
Middle notes: lily of the valley, vetiver, orris root, rosemary, peony, cedar.
Base notes: heliotrope, vanilla, musk, cinnamon, Tonka bean.
Even just by looking at these notes you can tell that they belong to a different era. We rarely see carnation, hyacinth, geranium and aldehydes in modern releases, but the bases seen here are still fairly common. The new Raffinée is heavy on the vanilla, and you get a sharp burst of the carnation from the get-go. I appreciate that instead of in-your-face citrus they chose to go with orange blossom, which is softer. Cinnamon gives the tiniest hint of heat to the perfume, and the overall aroma is delightfully similar to a floral Coca Cola drink. Before the Oud trend of recent years, this might have been considered a Middle Eastern inspired scent, but the smell of Paris? Maybe not, but still awesome. Lutéce, on the other hand, I could hardly stand. The orris root lends the perfume a floral powdery quality that resembles violets, but mixed with Tonka bean and vanilla it was simply too much for somebody born to the CK One generation. I did notice that both perfumes were not particularly strong despite their aggressive nature.
Verdict: If you or someone you know wore the original Raffinée or Lutéce in the eighties, I would recommend picking up a bottle of the new versions to compare. For the rest of us, especially anybody that prefers gourmand or fresh fragrances, I would recommend seeing what else 99Perfume.com has in stock. I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane, make sure to let me know your thoughts in the comments!
*Prices true at time of writing.
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