Grès Cabaret (2002) : An Elegant Rosé Chypre {Perfume Review} {Smell-The-Roses-Till-Valentine's Day - Day 27}


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....

3 iconic cabaret women characters. In the perfume "Cabaret" the cabaret fantasy remains internalized. We have to note that when we think of Lisa Minnelli's character wearing this perfume, the patchouli facet becomes more aggressive and comes to the fore. When we think of the Blue Angel, the perfume becomes rosier. And when we see Satine wearing it, it becomes more powdery. (Images: IMDB)

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. 

(Image: Grès

Related Posts

5 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Wow, the first pic is suggestive soft porn

  2. Lovely description of one of my favorites. Some of my favorite lines were the ones about how there is no excess, and the repeated reference to transparency. This scent has earned it's place in my top few by virtue of it's appropriateness for wear in any seaon, in any mood, to any place, and for any occasion. It is very very easy to wear. Thank you for the review, and don't mind my late reply. :D

    • I don't mind it at all :) Thank you for dropping by and letting us know about your personal appreciation of Cabaret.

      I know someone else who has already emptied 2 bottles of it :) That says something about its versatility since even when you like a perfume, that doesn't necessarily translate into wearing it often.

      Chant Wagner
  3. Hi Marie-Helene,

    I love your site and the exquisite prose with which you describe perfumes. Your Cabaret review captures the scent perfectly and like the previous commenter, I too am well on my way to draining a second bottle.

    I was wondering if you knew of any scents similar to Cabaret or with a similar feel, as it is getting harder and harder to find fresh bottles in the United States.

    Thank you very much for you advice and the lovely site!

    • Hi Sue,

      Thank you for your kind words.

      Mmm, maybe other "dry chypres" like the Sisley ones, Soir de Lune, Eau du Soir . I think also of Jubilation for Women which is closer to Diorella but has something in common with Cabaret. Cabochard especially, if it hasn't changed too much from the old version.

      Chant Wagner

Leave a Comment