Sunday, March 16, 2008

Raphael Réplique

I'll admit Réplique wasn't a perfume I'd ever heard of until I became active in cyberperfumeworld. In the year 2001, I found myself addicted to a perfume forum named Long Lost Perfume, where serious, lifelong perfumistas who owned perfume reference books by H&R, whose collections dwarfed mine (we were compiling Top 1000 favorite perfumes), put whatever perfume knowledge I had accumulated up until that point to shame. There was talk there of Millot Crepe de Chine, Le Galion Snob, Trigere Liquid Chic. After a couple of years, most of us moved onto a private forum on Delphi where we further discussed synthetics versus naturals, olfactive families and their subjectivity, inside info such as how Caron had discontinued their heart-shaped limoge presentation of (the original) Montaigne because they were afriaid the metal cap was tainting the juice. We discussed Bombshell Manual of Style's list of bombshell perfumes, defended our love of "old lady" perfumes (and fought against the use of ageist language that divides women) and "generic fruity florals" which everybody supposedly hates and yet are bestsellers each year. We talked about how pregnancy changed our taste in perfume, how perfume helped us get through the fears, and how the industry loved using very young models in compromising positions in perfume ads. Those were the golden years in online perfume talk--candid, intelligent and respectfully varied in opinions.

It wasn't any conscious decision but I moved out of forums where voices inevitably became more and more unified, into blogosphere where I can freely discover my own perfume psyche. I've been very impressed with the level of knowledge out there on other blogs I visit, as well as genuinely moved by the creativity and the expressions of love for my favorite and not so favorite scents. On blogs where perfume lovers mused openly and freely, one never knew which perfume one might run into next. Somewhere on my walk along the scented promenade, I heard about a Rita Hayworth favorite named Réplique. Now, I'd already heard she loved Shalimar and Arpege, so I figured she must have loved voluptuous, fairly sweet scents, with more than a dash of spice. I could imagine her wearing Must de Cartier which is Shalimar-esque; could Replique be similar? It turns out, I'd lucked out on a vintage Replique miniature parfum in my eBay lot, and here I have it. I'm only pulling out this perfect little replica of the crystal flacon at times like these, when I'm going to meditate upon its scent, a scent that must speak volumes in memories for those who remember it.

Raphael Réplique (1944 according to Basenotes) is classified as a refined, woody, mossy fragrance ( The notes I can find are listed on as sensual moss, fruit and woods. lists additional notes, based on the original formula according to the website. To me, it's almost like a halfway point between Shalimar and Arpege. No, really, and I mean aside from the fact that the perfumer's pallete wasn't as developed as it is now with so many new notes, much like vintage synth sounds on a keyboard all used to sound kinda similar. To break it down, it has some citrus with aldehydes on top, sizzling but not brash spices, and warm, sweet woody-ambery base notes, a simultaneously sparkling and earthy quality. It's actually greener than both of them being Chypre, and a glamorous, dazzling one at that, like Deneuve or Miss Dior (1947), but it has an introspective, sweet, Oriental character to give it, for lack of a better analogy, sensuality--plus the understated refinement of an Aldehydic Floral, powdery smooth with a soapy overtone. It's not as sweet as Must de Cartier, and it leans towards something more vintage like Toujours Moi or Revlon Intimate, but it's definitely a grand dame sort of bombshell perfume--yes, I think a perfume, like a woman, can be mature, refined and sexy. I have the strong, smart women on the forums I came out to thank for that bit of knowledge.

The fun thing about perfume is, in the end, it's all subjective. Someone else might smell Replique and say it smells like young girls' skin or a middle aged man's after shave. The true gospel of perfumistadom breaks down all gender and age-based stereotypes and sets us free, which is how I can love a perfume called Replique 61 years after its launch and just take it for what it is: perfume.