Amidst the medley, a persistent note of cassis reins in the natural exhuberance of the tropical olfactive landscape which readily forms in your imagination, picking up on the cue of the name of the perfume and hints of sultry-weather fruits...
Perfumer Michel Almairac seems to be expressing the fact that this is no copy of nature simply, but an artful form in which temperate fruits can mix with a tropical salad to the point of the vanishing of the latter to the benefit of a pure-perfumer's twist.
Very soon, the initial fruity impression is contrasted with a lightly, terrous patchouli note with green overtones, which feels quite original. There is here a souvenir of the green mango of Hermès Un Jardin sur le Nil, but also of Guerlain Pamplelune's grapefruit. As it turns out, after several days of pondering, you realize that the fragrance is less easy escape and more a brainy tackling of the common note of sulphur which inhabits the three fruits mango, grapefruit and cassis.
This effort at uniqueness is funnily enough in its turn counterbalanced by its very opposite: a familiar smell of shampoo or soap, you can't quite place at first so deep it lies in your memory. But you know it's accompanied your ablutions for many years and you've smelled it everywhere. You hope you'll find an answer by the end of your review, but if you don't, it doesn't matter really.
Now, a different mental imagery takes shape in which you see those old-fashioned upside-down liquid soap dispensers in forgotten, beat-up public restrooms on highways; it smells of a white-tiled bathroom glimpsed at in a rear view mirror, distant yet perceptible. It smells, you know now more exactly, of nostalgia.
It might seem odd that a perfumer might want to add what a superficial taxonomy might list as a "noxious smell" and even admittedly, a crude one. But the truth is that perfumery and especially French perfumery prides itself in knowing by instinct and through its tradition upheld, that debased scents are necessary to give life to a perfume. You always need that imperfect-perfect aroma to prevent a fragrance from being guilty of just smelling pretty in the first degree. Animalic sillages are usually called upon to do the job of adding some erring existential molecules to a perfume; Eau de Rochas Escapade Tropicale is no exception to the rule. A more attentive smelling moment uncovers a bit of leather hide inside the concoction. And that smell of soap is that of cheap suds - or perhaps that of a pharmaceutical Savon de Marseille with added sulphur for your eczema needs.
Almairac here is proposing an opus which is at once escapist and rooted in the familiar quotidian, the latter even taking precedence over the first. It is for someone who appreciates exoticism provided it is not disorienting, nor upsetting. Perhaps it is even plain lip-service escapism to the tropics. Could we here speak of "stable exoticism" or of "portable, sufferable exoticism"? Does one need a delicate cloud of cassis scent to endure the woosh of strange, alien smells, if you do decide to leave familiar shores? Why not. It's like wearing a Jean Marie Farina cologne in India under the shade of a colonial hat, a bit.
Perfumery is for ever playing with jolts and reassurances to our senses. Escapade Tropicale dares discreetly where you did not expect it to, in the direction of a common-denominator sulphur, slightly grating, yet comforting to the senses. It probably felt much more original to the perfumer to weave that continuity than draft an umptieth tropical stereotype - and of course it is. The composition is however so low-key and whispery as to leave you wondering if a bit more oomph and wind in the sails might not have made it fare better in terms of sheer olfactive presence. Please do not be afraid to turn up the volume, society can't hate perfumes that much.