Last month when I bought a bottle of Cartier L’Heure Fougueuse, I couldn’t resist sending some decants of it to a couple blogging friends, one of them being JoanElaine of Redolent of Spices. As many of you reading here already know, JoanElaine is an absolute doll. She’s the kind of gal who makes me want to wink at her across the blogosphere and say, “Hey, sugar sweet. Wanna go steady?” Because (for those of you who don’t know her and are wondering)…Is she smart and bookish? Very. Kinda naughty? Mmhmmm. Playful and funny? Yepper. Does she share my affection for Paul Giamatti, Michael Chabon, and certain Dire Straits songs? UhHuhh, she told me she does.
A good gifter? Oh baby! Got a return package from her with samples of six vintage fragrances: Magie Noire and Climat by Lancôme; Anaïs Anaïs by Cacharel; Courrèges In Blue; and Fidji and J’ai Osé by Guy Laroche.
I’m pretty sure the only thing standing between me and JoanElaine is that French-speaking husband of hers. A guy apparently so sexy, not even Tom Hardy has a chance of dislodging him. But you know me—I’ll just say so what! and figure out a way to woo her out of his “parlez-vous-Francais” iron grip with my review of J’ai Osé. And if I fail, I can at least say “I dared!” Which is what J’ai Osé translates to in English. How’d you like that, JoanElaine? Pretty smooth, huh?
Now, we all know that some perfumes are veeery sexy because they’ve got those “soiled accords” goin’ on—basically, the French way of reminding a person that it’s all about the Boudoir. This they do after they’ve whispered a few ooh-la-la’s into your ear with flowers and champagne and such, because the French have a very pretty way about them—but make no mistake, sooner or later the flowers will turn indolic, or a little civet will run into the room lifting its tail, because, yes, the French will play dirty. It’s how they get you.
Then there are those other perfumes that are sexy—and this is the case with J’ai Osé—without any dirty business goin’ on. These are the perfumes that display that other French tactic of seduction, which, after much scientific scrutiny on my part, I’ve determined is this: they use a classic perfume formula—one that involves a citrusy-aldehydic top, a seamless floral middle, and a mossy-woody base—to produce a Pavlovian response in which a certain figure pops into mind. A 36-24-36 hourglass figure, accentuated by the perfect little black dress, high heels, good jewels, and topped off by a swan-like neck and a goddess’s face. Yes, it’s true—even without a civet in sight (or in sniffing range, which covers a pretty fair distance) the French will manage to get you. On days when they are too busy to soil any accords, or when they simply want to prove their sleight-of-hand mastery in the ways of seduction, they will spin out this formula (which they’ve spent years and countless acres of Grasse jasmine conditioning us with), knowing that the mere suggestion of sex placed on such a comely pedestal is, well…it’s more than you or I can take!
And that’s exactly the case with Guy Laroche J’ai Osé, a fragrance that came out in 1977 but smells like a throwback to another era, an era when grooming was an art form even here in America. True, I wasn’t around to witness that era, but if old photographs and the movies are any indication, then I think it’s not too far off the mark to say that J’ai Osé recalls those high-maintenance women of the forties and fifties who wouldn’t be caught dead in public (nor maybe even in private) without the full complement of make-up (red lipstick and enough liner to create the dark, sultry eye), the perfect coiffure, and the kind of dress that manages both to be classy and to get a man’s notice (its tailoring showing off a nipped-in waist and the flair of hip beneath that tiny waist. Or perhaps the creaminess of bare shoulders and décolletage.)
It’s a sin, really. And maybe that’s why the opening stage of J’ai Osé reminds me of vintage Lanvin My Sin—less busty and a little more refined, but still wafting the kind of citrusy, honeyed florals that put wild thoughts into your head. I can’t say that I smell peach (which is among its notes, see listing at bottom of post), but I smell jasmine as sweet and rich as honey, accompanied by a tang of lemon that makes the back of my throat water, and a touch of cinnamon that renders it lightly spicy. Try imagining smelling all of those things at once, and that’s what the opening stage of J’ai Osé is like.
This candied and piquant jasmine lingers a long time, but as the scent begins to dry down, the smooth, woody finish of sandalwood inserts itself and keeps J’ai Osé’s curvy but trim figure reined in. A very light powder issues from the orris, contributing to the retro, cosmetic smell of the scent—its aura of glamour and refinement. And the combination of oakmoss, amber, musk and benzoin that anchors this perfume lends it depth and a resinous quality that enforces the notion that here is a womanly perfume, full of knowledge that the young can’t yet know; with some delicious tricks up its garter belt.
My only criticism of vintage J’ai Osé—at least in the eau de toilette concentration—is that it doesn’t have great longevity on the skin; I find I have to keep reapplying. But, of course, that can be sexy too, like a woman bending over and swiveling her hips as she adjusts the seam of her silk stocking. Time and time again.
Yeah, isn’t it funny how often they need adjusting? I have no doubt the French invented those stockings; they like to play dirty, even though they call it something else. A certain “je ne sais quoi.” Sure.
No wonder JoanElaine isn’t leavin’ her husband for Tom Hardy or me. Merde!
Vintage Guy Laroche J’ai Osé has top notes of aldehydes, coriander, citruses and peach; middle notes of sandalwood, patchouli, orris, jasmine and vetiver; and base notes of oakmoss, amber, musk and benzoin. My sample came, of course, from a sweetheart of a blogger from Canada. Hope she’ll forgive me for getting frisky with her in my post.
Image: Marilyn Monroe from the 1959 film comedy, Some Like It Hot.
April 8, 2011:
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Suzanne's Perfume Journal
Vintage J’ai Osé from JoanElaine?
Hell yeah, I Dared!
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