Cabaret by Grès was launched in 2002 but did not have the impact it deserved and rather quickly joined the ranks of discounted perfumes. Why did this happen? Instead of being a fragrance much cared about, it is one that one can call "underrated". Without having studied this case, one can assume that a relatively modest budget launch, the fact that it was a chypre creation when chypres were not yet on the rebound, and its mature, distinguished, elegant, somewhat austere, and refined personality all have contributed to some extent to its lack of broad popular appeal.
The advert did read "Cherchez la femme" (look for the woman) and apparently it landed in a market crowded with girls.
The perfume was composed by Michel Almairac. It is a beautifully balanced classic chypre and in it the rose note is never opulent but rather transparent, sparkling, and dry, fusing together with the near-austere spirit of chypre instead of affirming her floralcy. The rose here tinges the perfume and is very delicate making you think of a dry sparkling rosé wine without any literal boozy connotations....
Next to it, other rose perfumes that we normally thoroughly enjoy start smelling like big marshmallows in comparison such is the distinctive sense of "finesse" that one experiences with this perfume. To approximate this sensation, the image of a grey pearl transparent mousseline material comes to mind probably due to its heart composed of violet, blue orris, incense (and wood). These blueish, greyish, very subtle smoky notes render the perfume a bit hazy while leaving undisturbed a contrasting effect of sparkling transparency at the same time.
The rose had already entered ever so subtly in the top notes coupled with peony, also lily of the valley and some pink bay and already resting on a near-medicinal chypre accord. It seems that one could never tire of such a brew as there is no excess in it. No overly sweet or heavy notes. The perfume is classical and Grecian in the sense of being perfectly balanced and proportionate. One is reminded then of the Grecian influence on the sculptured outfits of Madame Grès.
Paradoxically, despite its dry and chypre traits, Cabaret does not immediately recall Cabochard from the same house, except in its spirit of restrained, economical elegance and its distaste for sweet notes. (This more difficult signature may explain why Grès more recently launched a girly ambre perfume replete with all the requisite cotton-candy notes in an effort to listen to the market.) On the other hand, the name of the perfume is a little-disguised attempt to make its first three letters rhyme with Cabochard and Cabotine as a way of branding the perfume consistently.
It is interesting to compare this perfume with Voleur de Roses by Michel Almairac also because one can look at two different treatments of the rose-patchouli contrast by the same perfume. In the first one it is realistically earthy, masculine, in Cabaret it is almost ethereal and very feminine while keeping some masculine accents and a bit of interesting severity.
People who like such classic chypres as Sisley Eau du Soir, Soir de Lune might be interested by Cabaret and people who like dry perfumes as well.
We have noticed that this perfume is one of those perfumes that get better as they age. If the jus is a bit "young"i.e, sharp, let it age gracefully in a dark cool place until it reaches the beautiful roundness and sense of classical balance it can convey.
Top notes are: rose, peony, muguet, pink bay. Heart notes are: violet, blue orris, incense, wood. Base notes are: patchouli, Indian sandalwood, amber, musk.