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Copy love isn’t lesser love

duplicate-originalI should write this post after I receive the bottle of vintage parfum Fleurs de Rocaille that I finally broke down and bought, but after all I decided not to wait.

Because it’s actually FLEUR de Rocaille that I love.

Yes, the one in the much cheaper pink (not Baccarat) bottle.

I bought Fleur de Rocaille early in my perfume collecting habit – 2010, maybe? – but not so early that it was one of the first things I smelled. I knew even when I first smelled it, at a Caron event, that there was nothing particularly groundbreaking about Fleur de Rocaille.

I didn’t know, I don’t think, that it was a descendant – a devolved copy, if you will, or perhaps even just a ripoff – of its antecedent in the same Caron brand, Fleurs de Rocaille. Fleurs – plural Flower, not singular, and no I can never keep them straight without Googling – dates back to 1933 and was composed by the legendary Ernest Daltroff for the Caron line. Luckyscent still sells it (and warns you that it is not to be confused with the singular Fleur.) I’ll tell you what it smells like, or at least what a vintage bottle smells like, when I get my hands on it. I have learned to appreciate oakmoss over the years but I don’t worship it the way a lot of perfumistas do and I don’t know exactly how I will find it.

But Fleur de Rocaille has just proved to me again that my most impulsive perfume purchases are often some of my best. I bought it on first sniffing and have never regretted it.

I haven’t worn it in years, I must say, and had even been wondering lately where I had left it. Then I got up yesterday and went and looked and yes, it’s right in the drawer where it’s supposed to be, oddly enough, in a position of “Favored but not most precious”.

And I put it on and enjoyed it just as much as I did when I first bought it.

(Well, to be honest I did do some “throat-clearing” sprays into the sink in the bathroom first – it HAD been a while since that plunger was depressed.)

I had forgotten how cheap the bottle looks, with its pink juice and its plastic cap. But don’t let me neg this perfume. It’s really very, very pretty and to me, it’s the epitome of “wearable under all conditions.”

The construction of Fleur de Rocaille is definitely that of the type of fruity-floral clean patchouli that is too omnipresent these days. But here’s the thing: I don’t object to fruity-floral clean patchoulis. It’s just that I feel like when you’ve smelled one, you’ve smelled them all. To be honest, I think they smell good; it’s just that I can’t tell them apart.

Fleur de Rocaille, though, doesn’t bore me. This formulation, which apparently dates to 1993, takes the big white floral bouquet of the 80s and adds a quieter feminine touch with the addition of a few purples – maybe lilac, or violet. The fruit is practically unidentifiable to me, which makes me question whether it’s fruit at all. To my nose, it isn’t berry, it isn’t peach, it isn’t pear. It might almost be apple, of all things, but if so it’s practically unidentifiable as such. It also isn’t sticky and it isn’t cotton candy sweet. I kind of like the thought, if only because apple is such an American fruit, and apples smell beautiful (I adore the floral-sweet scent of a perfect Fuji apple), but they don’t feature heavily in French perfumery for obvious reasons. I like the idea of some secret apple tucked away in this bouquet.

In fact, perhaps one of the best features of Fleur de Rocaille is its balancing act. Not balancing like one of my big orientals likes to balance, with amber sword blades flashing over a molten lake of cumin or perilously shivering atop an axehead of vanilla. This isn’t a bunch of big things in productive tension. This is a tea tray balanced to perfection with flowers in a nice, perhaps porcelain, vase. It isn’t precious or baby-girl and it doesn’t mince. But it is arranged, and purposefully illuminated in appropriate spots, like a Vermeer painting.

The base of Fleur de Rocaille I think is a cleaned-up patchouli but one you wouldn’t notice as such unless you were looking for it, I think. In fact, as a drydown it’s probably the least basey base I can think of. I think that’s part of the reason you see different stories in others’ reviews about whether it’s a musk, or a sandalwood, or patchouli. It’s clean but it’s not distinctive; it does not overshadow the previous sections of the perfume, which some might consider a drawback (if your favorite part of a perfume is the drydown, this is not for you) but which I consider simply a well-made part of this perfume.

Several online reviews also mention its longevity, which is impressive for a perfume that isn’t made up of a heavy vanilla or patchouli base. In a world where people seem to have gotten the impression that the job of perfume is to smack passersby and say out loud “I AM WEARING ANGEL, PEOPLE”, Fleur de Rocaille is admirably restrained simply in lacking a whacking great base.

Its longest-lived section is the fruit and floral center, which can be a benefit if you like it or a catastrophe if you hate it. I can only imagine that some of the online reviews who found it loud or screechy are recovering from overexposure to Flowerbomb and are wearing nothing but vintage Miss Dior in retaliation. Fleur de Rocaille is the opposite of screechy. It is not an 80s powerhouse but it has learned something from them and moved on – moved on to a more grown-up place.

(Don’t forget I love me some Angel and I love me some 80s powerhouses. I own Giorgio, goddammit. I’m just saying that this is NOT that.)

I’m so pleased to have rediscovered it in my collection. I would be very relieved if I spent the rest of my days rediscovering things and adding a lot less! Particularly if the rediscoveries are as pleasant as this.

Image is “Duplicate Original” by woodleywonderworks, via Flickr; used under Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

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