Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Hermès Doblis

The Tobacco-Leather (Dry Woods) fragrance family is one, the leather and tobacco related to each other. Leather scents are created with combinations often of natural and synthetic notes such as honey, tobacco, wood and wood tars. They are generally heavy, animalic (in perfumespeak, dirty or musky rather than clean), and spicy. As one can imagine from the tobacco note, they can smell smoky. Honey, an animalic note, is added because it's often used to add an aroma to tobacco itself. Honey perfume doesn't always smell good in and of itself, reminding some people of the smell of urine because the chemical structures of urine and honey are so similar. This is a tangent but I'd written yesterday about my theory that Chanel No.5 is actually a Russian Leather type scent. Chanel No.5 is also rumored to contain urine notes (not that it literally smells like urine), and I used to think that what people were smelling were the aldehydic top notes which could smell very sour and acidic. However, now that I've learned about honey notes in leather perfumes, I'm changing my mind. Maybe there is some grain of truth that Chanel No.5 contains some urinous notes--maybe that honey/urine scent is in the Russian Leather accord I pick up in No.5. Back to leather: Birch tar is added to replicate, for instance, the scent of Russian Leather that it's known for (Marco Polo commented favorably on the quality of Russian Leather and its birth tar smell back in his day). High-pitched additives in a Leather perfume are citrus and/or wintergreen (salicylic acid) as was often used in tanning Russian Leather. When my package of leather samples arrived today, the first thing I smelled was wintergreen. It was hard not to think of Pepto Bismol or Ben Gay with such a strongly medicinal smell emanating from the package holding all these leather perfumes from Doblis to Cuir Mauresque, Eau de Fier to Lonestar Memories.

I'm not going to remark on every single leather perfume here, but I'll mention Hermès Doblis since it's a revered perfume among perfume lovers, selling at nearly $1000 on the secondary market. I'm assuming what's meant by a "fur perfume" such as Weil Zibeline (aptly named "sable") is really another way of saying it's an animalic, heavy blend such as leather, perhaps in particular Russian Leather which the Czars supposedly wore, so I consider Doblis (suede) a fur perfume. Doblis originally launched in 1955 (born in the same year as Barbie) and was reissued in 2004. The scent can be described as starting on the fresher side, spicy and green-fresh, like Guerlain Sous le Vent or Caron Alpona, a Chypre with pronounced spicy bitter-sour acidity at the beginning, also bringing to my mind Penhaligon's Hammam Bouquet or Chanel No.18. This dries down to something close to Calèche (1961, modeled after Chanel No.5) but softer. Of course it would resemble Calèche having been created by Guy Robert, but I somehow expected Doblis to be for men (it's not--I looked it up tonight) and therefore heavier as many men's scents are compared to women's counterparts such as the case with Amouage Gold (the men's version is sharper and heavier with patchouli). On me, Doblis has the same rosy-powdery-animalic dry down as Calèche, except Doblis wears almost like a lighter (but still heavy) men's eau de cologne, not too far away from aforementioned Alpona. While I agree it's an elegant scent and typical of this genre, not sweet at all (more pungent on dry down than sweet, with some acidity remaining), I'd much rather smell Calèche or Equipage, and about a 1000 other perfumes out there that smell nicer to me and are much easier to find. Perhaps this one just smells too "furry" for me--I don't know.

(Image Source: www.liveauctioneers.com)