The Duke of Saint Simon recounts in his Memoirs that Louis XIV after having loved perfumes to excess in the first part of his life, and precisely for that reason, was not able to wear them any more in the second part of his existence. Perfumes would trigger excruciating headaches in him, to the point that he had to enforce a formal ban on perfume-wearing at the court at Versailles. Courtiers had to give up fragrances (and grey hats for that matter).
It is said that the only (sly) exception to the rule was the scent emanating from the jasmin-scented gloves of Madame de Maintenon, his second wife united to him through a secret, morganatic marriage. Saint Simon adds that there was however one scent that the king could still smell without becoming ill and that was "la fleur d'oranger" (orange blossom).
Would Louis XIV have then approved of the scent created by nose Anne Flipo? Anne Flipo has created numerous perfumes, many of whom are florals. She is the author of L'Artisan La Chasse aux Papillons Extrême and of Poupée by Rochas, among others.
I hesitate to say yes and this is why. Having read about the exceptional quality of the Tunisian orange blossom harvest from 2004 on which this vintage perfume is based, it made me think that this scent would be exceptionally delicate and subtle, offering a rich olfactory palette of half-tints and nuances never or rarely experienced before by human mortals. Talk about heightened expectations!
First of all, I discover an overture which is strong, even pungent. This is a more brutal opening than I expected. The orange blossom at this stage makes you think of the essence you use in certain culinary preparations rather than of the flower itself. If you know those Iranian sweetmeats made of slivers of pistachio coated with snow-white sugar and perfumed with orange blossom, it is exactly that same scent. They are delicious. I used to love these delicacies but to find this reference in a rare bottle of perfume is a little disconcerting. I would have expected something more sophisticated, complicated, or more natural beauty.
The scent progressively softens down and becomes rounder, smelling more flowery. The sweetness of orange blossom is enhanced by the addition of honey notes.
Sometime in the development of the perfume I perceive undertones of wheat and even of wheat bread. At one point, I bump my nose into my wrist and I think, Bois Farine! Mercifully, you can still perceive some citrus notes in the drydown which prevents the fragrance from becoming too sweet.
The evolution of the perfume is fairly linear and should please people who want to get an orange blossom fix. If you are looking for an interpretation of orange blossom, it is not really there. It it not photorealistic either though. it is like a concentrated version of orange blossom. Does it smell good? Yes, but not exceptional. It is also heady and personally, having worn it twice, I twice got a headache. It doesn't agree with me somehow, but I hope it will with you.
I dare say Louis XIV would have probably found it too heady. On the other hand, Anne Marie Orsini, princess of Nerola would have probably approved of it. I see her as a stronger supporter of all-out orange blossom.
PS: If you dab it lightly it should probably help tone down the perfume.
Notes are: orange bigarade, petitgrain, nerolia, honey notes, concreta of orange blossom
You can buy a 100 ml bottle for $250 at Luscious Cargo (2990 copies total were issued.
Photo is from Luscious Cargo.