Hermès 24 Faubourg — Part II: Modern EDP & How To Recognize The Vintage

24 Faubourg is a different creature in its modern formulation. It’s far from being a “bad” perfume when considered in a vacuum; it’s nice, enjoyable, even pretty at times. But it’s hardly the original. Jean-Claude Ellena has imposed his own preferences and aesthetic upon the baroque powerhouse through changes which fit his own olfactory world view, a goal which has the simultaneous benefit of complying with restrictive EU standards and  sharply reducing Hermes’ costs of production through dilution and the use of synthetics. The end result is a composition which would have been a good 1990s flanker to what I described in Part I: a purely feminine and impressionistic white floral with a sunny but abstract orientalism and no real chypre backbone. I would have named it “24 Faubourg: Solaire Oriental — Eau de Parfum Légère” — and then I would have bought another bottle of the original 1990s formula.

That is exactly what I shall recommend after a scent description of the modern EDP in the second part of this article. The third part will have technical bottle/dating information to show you what to look for if you’re interesting in buying a vintage bottle. But first, we should begin by discussing the timeline of IFRA/EU regulations and 24 Faubourg’s  possible reformulation dates.

Left: my 1990s EDT & EDP bottles. Right: photo of the modern EDT version on the Saks Fifth Avenue website.

POSSIBLE REFORMULATION DATES FOR 24 FAUBOURG & IFRA/EU FRAGRANCE REGULATIONS::

I don’t know when exactly 24 Faubourg was first reformulated. By the end of the 1990s, I had a several bottles, so I had no need to smell it in stores for the longest time. I never bothered until sometime around 2006 (possibly 2005?) when I applied a passing spray of the EDT in a department store. I recall thinking that something had changed and was different, but I was obviously unable to do a side-by-side with my bottles to assess just how big or significant the differences were.

24 Faubourg. Exact date unknown. Photo by Loro on Basenotes.

It was in around 2010 when I was really hit by the differences. I sprayed 24 Faubourg EDT in Neiman Marcus and it was so obviously different that I remember thinking that I had to hoard what was left of my last 1990s bottle. The colour differences in the juice were striking and the scent itself was a shadow of its old self. If you think the incredibly wan, pale, anemic colour of the juice in my photo collage above is merely due to wonky photography, look at the colour in a photo taken by Basenoter “Loro.” I don’t know the date of his or her bottle but it’s similar in colour to what I remember seeing in Neiman’s back in 2010. The the main thing, however, was that the actual scent was so different in aroma that I had no need to do a side-by-side test to know something had changed for the worse. I was convinced of it simply by sniffing it.

That was around 2010 — 15 years since 24 Faubourg’s 1995 debut. Remember, as a general rule of thumb, companies typically tend to reformulate or dilute a fragrance formula for financial cost-of-production/cost-cutting reasons roughly 4-6 years after its debut, and also tend to repeat the process every 5-6 years thereafter. So I would bet that 24 Faubourg went through at least one change by 2010 for reasons which were unrelated to the rising tide of IFRA/EU restrictions.

I don’t know the exact, specific dates of the IFRA guideline timeline but it was 2005 or 2006 when the group put out its first fragrance/ingredients advisory, then 2008 when stricter ones were proposed, before things became even more stringent in 2010. IFRA’s guidelines were eventually adopted by the EU as actual, binding law.

In 2012, however, the EU’s scientific advisory group went full Mussolini with a new set of proposed restrictions and limitations, and fragrance houses scrambled to reformulate their products before the EU enacted them into law. If you’re interested, you can read about the EU restrictions, the SCCS advisory group, the questionable science behind the studies that they relied upon in, the role of the big aromachemical companies (like Givaudan) in pushing for the original IFRA limits on naturals, the 2012 proposals, and their impact in three old articles of mine: 2013, the EU, Reformulations & Perfume Makers’ SecretsThe EU Proposes to Act on Perfume; and Part II of my article on EU fragrance regulations.

All you need to know for now, though, is that the SCCS’s 2012 proposals were so extreme that the city of Grasse and its producers of raw materials actually sought UNESCO “world heritage” status as protection against the economic impact. It wasn’t just oakmoss, by the way, which the proposals targeted; they would impact levels of everything from citruses to roses, ylang ylang, jasmine, muguet, carnation, eugenol, lavender, opoponax, and more. It was as though anything “natural” was deemed to be suspect, a presumption of guilt which conveniently benefited the big aromachemical giants who produced the synthetics that, oh by some interesting coincidence (koff), ended up getting sky-high IFRA limits. Like, for example, 21.4% for ISO E Supercrappy as compared to a mere 0.1% for oakmoss, 0.02% for rose ketones, 0.4% for sweet myrrh, 0.7% for jasmine absolute, or 0.8% for ylang ylang. (See, Chris Bartlett’s list of the 2012 ceilings for more details.)

All of it smells to high heaven, in my opinion, and not in a good way. The way that those companies (like Givaudan) have helped to fund IFRA has always struck me as nothing short of corrupt. It would be like Phillip Morris pushing health agencies to find in favour of cigarettes and to rule against naturals as a “health hazard.” To me, that is essentially the analogous outcome of what has happened in the perfume world, and it smells like the fishiest and most unethical of circle-jerks. I also firmly believe that it’s a big reason why all of this started back in 2005 to begin with. In a crime mystery, detectives always say “follow the money” or ask “who benefits?”; I believe the answer to both questions leads squarely back to the big corporate producers of synthetics. Science is NOT the reason, in my opinion. (If you’re interested, Part I and Part II of my EU regulation articles linked up above talk about the ludicrously tiny 25-person study which was used as “evidence” of the allegedly dangerous “health hazards” of natural ingredients, the lack of a “control” group, and the reasons why the study’s conclusions are scientifically fishy and hardly broadly applicable to the world at large.)

Source: online.wsj.com

Returning to the issue of the 2012 EU proposals, they were so bad (for everyone other than Givaudan et al.) that Frederic Malle publicly spoke out about them, as did a few “noses.” In fact, Malle actually feared that the cost of compliance might put him out of business. In my 2013 article on the reformulations, I quoted Monsieur Malle as saying:

“If this law goes ahead I am finished, as my perfumes are all filled with these ingredients,” said Frederic Malle…. The impact on luxury perfume brands as a whole would, he said, be “like an atomic explosion and we would not have the means to rebuild ourselves.”

Maurice Roucel. Source: Charitybuzz.com

In EU Regulations, Part II, I quoted Maurice Roucel, the creator of 24 Faubourg, indirectly rebutting the argument put forth by some noses (like Chanel‘s Jacques Polge) that changing the ingredients didn’t necessarily destroy the character of a scent:

But “once you change an ingredient or two it can be very difficult to keep the scent absolutely intact, especially if those ingredients played an important role in defining the scent,” says Maurice Roucel, creator of many perfumes including L’Instant for Guerlain and Hermes’s 24 Faubourg.

A few years ago, Roucel reformulated Dior’s Fahrenheit perfume to remove lyral along with a few other ingredients and he is now working on the reformulation of about eight perfumes to make them meet new regulation.

“Big brands tell me: replace this and that [but] make sure it smells the same and costs the same to produce,” Roucel said.

24 Faubourg was probably one of those 8 other fragrances that he mentions but, as he implied, replacing key ingredients cannot result in “the same” scent. It just can’t. In the case of 24 Faubourg’s chypre base notes, the impact of their loss would be so great that the ensuing new version might as well be a flanker to all intents and purposes.

There is another variable to consider as well. Monsieur Roucel probably worked with Hermes and Jean-Claude Ellena in the reformulation, but what you have to remember is that “noses” must always comply with their client’s preferences for the final product. I strongly believe that the 24 Faubourg changes were made through the lens of Ellena’s aesthetic and tastes, and also to fit Hermes’ overall (new) style under his tenure. To me, the modern version has Ellena’s fingerprints all over it, as though 24 Faubourg had been rendered as abstract, airy, impressionistic, and minimal as Ellena could get away with without actually eradicating all vestiges of similarity to the heavy, lush, beautifully delineated, complex original.

The bottom line is that things went downhill in 2012 or shortly thereafter for a variety of reasons. I never tried 24 Faubourg in stores after 2010 because I’m generally angered by the reformulation and gutting of my old favourites, but I thought the version that I smelled in 2010 was upsetting enough. I bought several old 1990s bottles on eBay, and stayed clear of the store version after that point.

However, last year, late in 2016, I decided I would eventually do a review of vintage 24 Faubourg, so I ordered a sample of the modern version from Surrender to Chance for comparative purposes. They only had the EDP, which was fine by me because I figured the richer concentration would stand up better to dilution and reformulation. STC goes through enough juice with all the orders that they receive that I figured the bottle from which it was decanted had to be fairly recent: 2016 or possibly late 2015. That is the version I’m describing here today.

24 FAUBOURG MODERN (2016?) EAU DE PARFUM — A COMPARATIVE REVIEW:

At the risk of being repetitive, I want to emphasize that the latest, current, reformulated version is not a terrible fragrance. It’s completely inferior to the original but, if one were to compare it to modern designer fragrances, it’s pretty, quite possibly even superior to some. By the standards of many of its modern compatriots, it’s an expensive-smelling, sunny, white floral enveloped in a cloud of sweetness and goldenness created by benzoin amber and vanilla. Elusive and completely impressionistic wisps of something vaguely green dart about its edges, but this is a fragrance which is purely an oriental white floral, not an oriental chypre. It’s nice, perfectly pleasant, and hardly hideous, but it’s also extremely generic, in my opinion. That’s my conclusion when I’m comparing to modern fragrances of the same ilk but, as compared to the original, it is the zombified Walking Dead. I became so annoyed during my tests that I had to put a Post-It note on my legal pad to remind myself that I needed to “smell it objectively!” I’m not sure how much I succeeded, but here goes nothing.

Source: 123rf stock photos.

2016-era 24 Faubourg EDP’s opening is strong and potent, but significantly wispier, sheerer, and lighter in body, weight, and intensity than the vintage EDP. I’d argue that it is even thinner than the vintage eau de toilette! Its white florals are practically translucent in comparison to either concentration and paired with an unexpectedly sharp citrus note but, as expected, no significant, clear oakmoss or chypre elements. At best, if I’m being deliriously generous, one might describe an aura, a quiet abstract and wholly impressionistic aura of mossiness buried deep (very deep) within 24 Faubourg’s recesses. That’s the best and kindest interpretation. At worst, it’s an elusive, ghostly hint of mossy greenness that flits about the background, giving off an ersatz, faux oakmoss vibe which just pains me.

The floral bouquet itself is different in its opening than it once was. First, it’s extremely focused on the jasmine, which I think find wafts a sambac fruitiness more than anything particularly lush. It’s certainly not indolic. Second, on my skin, the orange blossom is not only comparatively minor in the opening but it also smells extremely impressionistic, like one of those diluted, synthetic, broad brush strokes that Ellena favours. Third, the ylang appears right at the start, instead of later, but it’s really mostly an abstraction of spicy, vanilla-laced floralcy. Fourth, there is no gardenia. The floral bouquet is driven first and foremost by jasmine, with varying degrees of ylang, orange blossom, and lemony citrus trailing behind it, but each one feels gossamer light and diaphanous as compared to its vintage counterparts.

Mark Rothko, #13 (White, Red, on Yellow), 1958. Source: Markrothko.org

The flowers rest above and below two broad, simple, and uncomplicated accords. The base is woody, not chypre-ish or green, and consists of significant amounts of patchouli layered with lesser amounts of wholly synthetic-smelling dry woods. Soft clouds of amber lie overhead, composed of benzoin infused with vanilla that, to me, smells like low-end vanillin in its sugary sweetness. It’s not the silky, smooth, well-rounded, warmly creamy vanilla of the original.

The result is comparable to the original 24 Faubourg EDP in the way that a colour Xerox photocopy is an accurate representation of an opulent, baroque oil painting when the printer is extremely low on ink. Yes, this is 24 Faubourg but it’s a 24 Faubourg that’s had all its lifeblood sucked out of it and which I would have thought was a separate flanker had I sniffed it in 1995. Even if we put aside the chypre/oakmoss issue, the remaining notes are sharper, shriller, lighter, thinner, and more disembodied. When taken broadly, the EDP follows the basic parameters of the original’s floriental skeleton, but all the meat, fat, sinews, and flesh have been stripped off its bones à la Ellena and its individual specifics are generally either askew, off-kilter, or with sharp edges and bony elbows sticking out. The one exception for me is the ylang which turns into a rich floral-vanilla custard in the 5th hour.

William Turner, “Sun Setting over a Lake,” 1840. Source: Pinterest & unique-canvas.com

The modern EDP goes through a few changes before that point, though. After 30 minutes, the patchouli grows stronger. Roughly 75 minutes in, the fragrance turns into an indeterminate, Ellena-esque blur. Faceless white flowers drift by, smelling jasmine-ish and orange blossom-ish, followed by a lot of other “-ishes”: orange fruity-ish, woody-ish, spicy-ish, caramel-ish, and so on.

Roughly 90 minutes in, the second stage begins. The vanilla explodes all over the flowers, turning the fragrance sweeter and imparting quite a sugary undertone. It’s trailed by a powdery sweetness that seems tonka-ish, but who really knows. The patchouli is now very strong, unexpectedly sharp, and also quite synthetic in feel. Or maybe the sharpness comes from the woods. Or perhaps it’s the small wisps of greenness that float about, smelling occasionally like a sharp vetiver. It’s difficult to know where one note ends and another begins in such an amorphous, impressionistic daze, but something in there feels a little too shrill or sharp, and it also tickles the back of my throat.

Modern 24 Faubourg EDP continues to change in drips and drabs. By the end of the 2nd hour, all lingering vestiges of the orange blossom disappear. The fragrance’s scent trail begins to slowly shrink at the same time. At the start of the 5th hour, the fragrance is centered primarily on custardy ylang-ylang, layered with lesser, fluctuating degrees of sugary vanilla, caramel benzoin, largely abstract, syrupy jasmine, dry woodiness, and a touch of powdery tonka, all mashed up together in an impressionistic blur.

If I try to take the scent bouquet for what it is, as it is, and with no thought of the original, then I like it, mostly because I like ylang-ylang, benzoin, and patchouli, and yet, at the same time, viewing it objectively, I find the fragrance to be completely underwhelming. From the very start, this version of 24 Faubourg felt like a safe, typical, generic, paint-by-the numbers modern floral oriental. I can’t tell you how many fragrances I test which are a simplistic, hazy mix of white flowers, vanilla, and amber, with some lesser degree of fruitiness, white woods and/or patchouli subsumed within. (This one, like most of them, is also far, far too sweet for my personal tastes.)

The problem is not merely due to similarity in notes; it’s because of the way those notes have been presented or treated here. By following the Ellena aesthetic to use more synthetic materials and to whitewash each element into a simplistic accord and broad abstraction, devoid of clear delineation, Hermes has erased the fragrance’s specific personality traits, note nuances, and individuality. In my opinion, there is absolutely nothing exceptional or remarkable about the result. One might say that it’s better quality than comparable designer scents from, say, Mugler, Givenchy, or YSL, but the quality is hardly superior as compared to the niche world’s plethora of white floral orientals, some of which are not significantly more expensive.

Source: liveinternet.ru

The rest of 24 Faubourg’s development follows the generic factory assembly line as well. In a nutshell, the base notes gradually take over. By the start of the 7th hour, there is as much patchouli, vanilla, and benzoin on my skin as vaguely ylang-ish, jasmine-ish floralcy. By the 9th hour, 24 Faubourg is a completely generic ambered benzoin-vanilla with a small amount of syrupy floralcy and patchouli-ish spiciness buried within. In its final hours, there is only ambery, vanillic sweetness.

Modern 24 Faubourg EDP had fair projection, initially strong sillage, and good longevity, but less so than either the vintage eau de toilette or eau de parfum. Using several generous smears on the same patch of skin equal to 2 sprays from an actual bottle, the fragrance opened with about 3-4 inches of projection and a scent trail that extended about 5-6 inches. The cloud which surrounded me was strong but light and airy in body and weight. Relative to the chewy heft of its muscular vintage EDP equivalent, its feel was practically wispy and diaphanous in comparison. At the end of the 2nd hour and start of the third, the EDP’s projection dropped to about 1.5 to 2 inches, and the sillage shrank to about 4 inches. At the end of the 4th hour, the sillage was closer to the body. 24 Faubourg became a skin scent after 7 hours on me. In total, it lasted just under 14 hours. Basically, the current EDP performs like a weak, diluted, watery, light, Ellena-esque version of the vintage eau de toilette. I’ve typically bought the latter for little as $40 on eBay. For a large 100 ml bottle. The modern EDP, however, retails for $140 for a mere 50 ml and goes up to $185 for a 100 ml size. Nothing will ever convince me that it’s a better deal than the original — in either concentration. And nothing will ever change my opinion of the total inferiority of the scent itself as compared to what it once was. As Mad Men‘s Pete Campbell would say: “Not good, Bob!”

HOW TO RECOGNIZE THE VINTAGE ORIGINAL — BATCH CODES, BOX MARKINGS & MORE:

Vintage 24 Faubourg. Photo: my own.

I’ve always made of point of buying bottles which date to the 1995-1999 era, no later, for the simple reason that I’m guaranteed that they will be the original formula. The reason why is because of that general rule of thumb that I mentioned earlier about fragrance industry reformulations: the first reformulations tend to occur roughly 5 years from the date of launch.

When I started buying up the oldies on eBay, my searches always followed the same path. I would look for the fragrance’s batch code in the photos (or ask the seller for the code if the photos didn’t show the bottle’s base sticker or box markings), and then I would turn to the batch code/year calculator on the Check Cosmetics website.

I started to notice that all the numbers on the 1990s bottles that I bought began with a letter from the end of the alphabet, while the modern fragrances began with a number. Even so, I chalked it up to one of those coincidental oddities that didn’t necessarily mean anything because companies do all sorts of odd things with their batch codes over a long span of time. Plus, I’m the furthest thing possible from an expert on batch codes or packaging technicalities.

As far as I could tell, there were no visual signposts to indicate vintage or modern status when I compared my vintage bottles to the modern ones that I saw online. Shalimar, Bel AmiMonsieur de Givenchy, Karl Lagerfeld For MenOpium, Chanel No. 5, Egoiste, Lutens fragrances, and many other classics all of have some sort of visual differences in their bottles over time, be they slight or major, which provide clues to their age. With 24 Faubourg, the bottles have visual uniformity, at least as far as I can tell from an online comparison. Both modern and vintage versions have a lightly chiseled pattern of swirls and curlicues around a twig of leaves on the front of their bottle; both have the “24 Faubourg” name on the lower part of the reverse side. The vintage EDP bottle had “Eau de Parfum” engraved in the back of the gold trim at its neck; the vintage EDT never did. I’ve been unable to find photos showing the reverse side of the modern EDP bottles to know if they continue to have the same thing, but the general design uniformity makes me think that they possibly might. [UPDATE: one reader, “Carole,” helpfully said that her two vintage EDP bottles, both probably circa 2005 or 2006, don’t have that engraving in the gold around their necks. So that is one subtle visual change and it happened long before the current era. The design change is significant for other reasons too. The fact that Hermes subtly changed its bottles sometime around 2005 or 2006 suggests that the scent itself was reformulated at  that time. Remember, 2005 was a full 10 years after the fragrance’s debut, and 2006 was also the first time that I thought something was a bit different.]

24 Faubourg vintage 1990s EDT left and center, 24 Faubourg vintage 1990s EDP on the right. Photo: my own.

Front & Back of two 1990s EDP bottles. The bottle on the left is the back side, the one on the right shows the front. The EDT bottles are visually identical except they lack the engraving in the gold around the neck. Photo: my own.

To me, the only instantly obvious visual difference between the modern and vintage bottles is the lighter colour of the juice, but that means little by itself. It could easily be chalked up to a reduction in colour dyes if one wanted to be charitable. (In fact, the ingredients’ list on my 1999 box explicitly mentions colour dyes.) In all other respects, the modern bottles of 24 Faubourg seem to have the same overall, basic appearance, design, and markings as my vintage bottles, and that makes it even more important to know the batch codes and/or to see the box.

Raiders of the Lost Scent is a blog which actually does specialize in batch codes and technical packaging/bottle analysis. They have a great guide called “How to recognize Hermes perfumes,” written in 2014, which makes clear that the alphabet-vs-numeric batch code differences I noticed are not a mere coincidence. I recommend reading their Guide in full and looking at the photos at the end, but the gist of what you need to know for 24 Faubourg is that the batch codes for its first 5 years, 1995 to 1999, began with the following:

T—1995
U—1996
V—1997
W—1998
X—1999 (letters Y, Z not used)

24 Faubourg batch codes for two EDTs and one EDP, dating to 1995, 1998, and 1999. Photo: my own.

“XK1M” batch code on the box for another EDP. Photo: my own.

In addition to those codes, I think I read that, until 1999, all Hermes boxes had “EMB REF” written on them in small letters:

The small “EMB” code on a 24 Faubourg box which I’ve circled in black via a photo editor in order to highlight it for you. Photo: my own.

According to the Raiders’ article, Hermes changed everything from 2000 onwards. First, its batch codes now began with numbers. Second, those numbers were re-cycled every ten years. For example, the batch code began with 0 in 2000 and 2010, 1 in 2001 and 2011, 2 in 2002 and 2012, and so on. Third, the boxes now had different markings. The “EMB REF” code became a simple “REF” and the “EMB” part was dropped. Hermes’ street address was inserted — “Rue de Boissy Anglas” — which, as you can see, is not listed on my 1999 EDP box shown up above. Finally, a long list of ingredients appeared on the box. (My 1999 box has a very short list on one side, as you can see in the photo below.) You can look at the Raiders’ article if you want to see more Hermes packaging photos, but that’s the essential gist of the changes.

The short ingredient list on the side of an 1999 box. Photo: my own.

In my opinion, your life is much easier if you simply stick to the 1990s version because all you have to do is find a batch code with a letter from the end of the alphabet. That said, I realize that not everyone can be so picky and that quantities of available 1990s bottles may possibly drop after this article. If you’re not wedded to the idea of 1990s only and if you come across something whose numeric code might suggest the mid 2000s, then look at the Check Cosmetics calculator. Even so, be careful because of the way Hermes reportedly recycles its starting numbers every ten years. How do you know for certain that a batch code starting with the number 3 is really from 2003 and not from 2013, which is after EU’s draconian 2012 proposals and the perfume houses’ rush to change everything in order to comply? Or from 2006 versus 2016? It’s tricky, but using the Check Cosmetics online code calculator is one way to know the year of your bottle. [UPDATE: The Cosmetics calculator may not be infallible due to the recycling problem. It told a reader, “Carole,” that her 2 EDPs with batch codes “6B1C” were from 2016. She bought them in person at a shop a decade before, sometime around 2006. So, the calculator clearly can’t distinguish between repeated year codes or lacks the information to do so.] The best way might be to look at all the factors in conjunction, merging the information in the Raiders’ guide on bottle/packaging changes with the Cosmetics calculator.

That combined method has another benefit: figuring out the various bottle shapes or designs which eBay sellers claim to be “vintage.” For example, I’ve seen elongated bottles that are sometimes described as 75 ml “vintage EDP refill,” or that sometimes come in smaller, narrower sizes and are simply described as “vintage EDP.” But I have absolutely no memory of any 24 Faubourg bottles of any concentration in that thin, vertical shape in the 1990s. All I saw was the square size. Furthermore, I do not recall any refill options of any kind being offered back then. Not in the big San Francisco Saks Fifth Avenue where I bought my bottles and which, at the time, had the most extensive and best fragrance offerings in the city, and not in the luxury department stores of the new city which I moved to in 1999. I also do not recall ever seeing narrow, thin refill bottles being displayed in department stores during the mid 2000s. If Hermes made refills or vertical bottles right from the start, I never saw them. Nor have I seen those bottles in any of the Raiders’ vintage Hermes photos.

On the left: “Vintage” EDP, photo by eBay seller “ny222222.” [Photo cropped by me slightly on the sides.] On the right: “Vintage EDP refill,” photo by eBay seller, “zzipperking.” Collage created by me.

Refill bottle base with a batch code that seems to be from August 2015. Photo by eBay seller, “zzipperking.”

My dubiousness about this whole thing led me to examine a close-up photo of the base of one tall refill spray with dark-looking juice which is currently being offered on eBay and which is purportedly “vintage.” (It’s the tall 75 ml bottle pictured on the right side of the collage). The close-up suggests that the juice looks dark because the bottle is red plastic. It also looks as though the batch code is 5N1J, 5NIJ, 5H1J, or 5HIJ. The Check Cosmetics calculator says the first two do not exist and that the second two are from August 2015. As far as I’m concerned, 2 years ago most definitely does NOT constitute “vintage.” But even if the calculator erred and it’s actually from 2005, the larger point, in my opinion, is that all these vertical, elongated bottles are a later development, probably released after the fragrance was first reformulated around 2005/2006, and they are not an original 1990s option. So, whatever the their age may be, my general advice is not to look at the colour of the liquid and not to believe what anyone claims about the “vintage” status of something. Instead, look for the code and use the Check Cosmetics site in conjunction with all the details on the Raiders’ guide.

EBAY — QUANTITIES, SIZES, PRICES & SEARCH LINKS:

eBay quantities of vintage 24 Faubourg were pretty decent, at least for the EDT and prior to my posting Part I. There were typically somewhere between 10 and 25 vintage EDTs. A fair handful of those were from the 1990s. EDP quantities, however, were always low to scarce. While I’ve noticed that some popular vintage fragrances on eBay seem to go through “feast or famine” cycles (e.g., Montana‘s Parfum de PeauYSL‘s fantastic chypre Champagne/Yvresse, HermesBel Ami, and Parfum d’Hermes in all its concentrations), I’ve never observed a “feast” state for the 1990s vintage EDP of 24 Faubourg. Ever. And I’ve kept an eye on the situation because I’ve bought a few bottles of the fragrance in both concentrations to give as gifts. There may be one or two vintage 1990s EDPs, maybe 3 at the most if you’re really lucky, but that’s usually about it.

It’s unfortunate because the 1990s EDP is really my favourite out of the two vintage concentrations and the one which brings me to my knees. The EDT is glorious, too, but different. For the reasons which I articulated in Part I, it’s a Ferrari vs. Rolls Royce, and its comparatively lighter character (comparatively and relative only to the EDP!) might render it more of a versatile fragrance because it can be pulled off during the day. In comparison, the EDP’s sultry, regal, haute couture character and heft are perfect for the evening, either a black-tie event or a night of planned seduction.

In addition to being more plentiful, the vintage EDT has the benefit of being cheaper on eBay. I’ve typically bought the EDTs, all full, unused and in the large 100 ml size, for amounts ranging between $40 and $55. If I recall, the majority were closer to $40 or $45. It’s such a steal for a really beautiful-looking, luxurious-smelling present, even if many of them didn’t come in sealed boxes. For the EDP, by some strange coincidence, I’ve always paid exactly or almost exactly $80 for full, unused 50 ml bottles. (I’ve never seen the vintage 1990s EDP in a 100 ml size, but I’m told that they exist.) To be precise, I paid $79.97 for three of them, and exactly $80 for two others. All of them came with free express domestic shipping, by the way.

As a side note, vintage 24 Faubourg also came in an extrait concentration. I’ve never bothered because the sizes were too tiny: typically 1/4 of an ounce or 7.5 ml. When I wear fragrances for myself and when I’m not going to impose on anyone else, I usually apply anywhere between 8 to 10 sprays all over. Vintage 24 Faubourg EDT and EDP are both such nuclear powerhouses that I’ve had to reduce the quantity to between 3 and 5 sprays, but it’s still greater than the amount that I’d get from a tiny extrait bottle. It’s not practical for me, and I’m not keen on the significantly higher cost-per-ml price, either. Still, you should know that such an option exists. From what I recall, it smelled like an extra rich version of the EDP and less like the EDT.

No matter which concentration bests suits your personal style and tastes, here are a few searches which you can use to find one of the vintage versions: eBay US; eBay UK; and eBay worldwide. I looked on Etsy for vintage 24 Faubourg, but found nothing at the time of this post, November 1st. Not one entry. Surrender to Chance only has samples of the modern EDP at the moment, and no vintage versions. The Perfumed Court does not show any vintage versions, either.

I would like to single out one eBay seller whom you may want to follow or keep an eye out for: Tri-Perfume. There are several reasons why. First, they had quite a stock of 1990s 24 Faubourg at one point and they are such a large volume seller that it’s likely they will obtain more in the future. Second, they are a rarity amongst US fragrance sellers because they ship outside the country to “Americas, United Kingdom, Japan, Australia.” Europe is listed as an inclusion (which is odd given that the UK is in Europe), but do you know how few sellers are willing to ship fragrances to the UK??! Third, I’ve bought three 1990s 24 Faubourg EDPs from them and they provided excellent service each time with fast processing, secure packaging, and free domestic shipping. They also responded quickly to questions during the business week. (I think they only work Mon-Fri.) Finally, their general eBay store currently has 191 vintage fragrances across a variety of brands buried amongst their 1600+ offerings, so it’s not as though they’re a novice to the old stuff. If you see Tri-Perfume selling “vintage Faubourg,” it will be real, proper vintage, not some new formula dilution that’s only two years old. The fact that they always have a photo showing the batch code on the bottom of the vintage box tells me that they’re aware of its significance and role in dating analysis. (That said, I think it’s safest to send a message double-check, just in case they’ve re-used an old photo which is something that many volume fragrance sellers do.)

I realize that we’ve covered a lot of material today, but I want to quote what several readers said about the vintage version in the comments to Part I in case you missed it and are still wavering about whether the vintage is worth the effort. Three people wrote: “utterly heavenly;” “It is glorious. [… It] really is spectacular;” and “they don’t make fragrances like that any more.” A fourth person accidentally stumbled upon old bottles whilst having a bad day and wrote about how this “nuclear” fragrance was not only love at first sniff but also how it lifted her mood. She added that, “My father, who is reticent about compliments, loved this scent. He thought it smelled expensive– like perfumes used to.” For what it’s worth, my father is the same way and he, too, loved 24 Faubourg, albeit not for himself because his personal tastes skew to crisp citrusy or aromatic chypres. But he insisted that I find a bottle of the EDP for my mother. Insisted! (“Buy it right now!” I had to tell him it wasn’t that easy.)

In short, if you love opulent, powerhouse, white floral oriental-chypres with a 1980s style and heft, then I think vintage 24 Faubourg will be well worth your effort because it will probably blow your socks off as well. Look in particular for the 1990s EDP (if you can find it); it’s such a baroque extravaganza. Not only is it stunningly beautiful and regal, but it’s also sexy, sensuous, and sultry as well. In both concentrations, though, 1990s Faubourg is glamorous, sophisticated, a head-turning showstopper, and a mood lifter. Those are probably the reasons why it was Princess Diana’s liberation scent once she was free to be herself. Look for it, and you’ll see why she loved it so much.

Photo: Mario Testino. Source: Pinterest & Twitter.

22 thoughts on “Hermès 24 Faubourg — Part II: Modern EDP & How To Recognize The Vintage

  1. Pingback: Hermès 24 Faubourg - Part I: The Glorious Vintages (EDT/EDP) - Kafkaesque

  2. I’m amazed by this. Thank you for your thorough, meticulous treatment of -well, everything, but this fragrance in particular. I got a huge lump in my throat when I read the last three sentences.

    The cosmetic calculator is a great tool, and Raiders of the Lost Scent can cause you to lose hours of your life. And here is a tip for those of us with slightly weak eyesight: if you cannot see a batch code, take a picture of the bottom of the bottle with your phone. I’ve had great luck finding batch codes for old Guerlains this way. I can’t see them with my eyes, but they’re there.

    My two bottles of EDP has the same batch codes: 6B1C. I know I didn’t buy them in 2016, but if I plug these factors into the cosmetic code website it indicates a manufacture date of 2016. I remember the box had oakmoss listed: I assumed that’s why they were at Winners. Mine have the short list of ingredients. None of mine have the eau de parfum etched into the base of the gold cap. The bottles look exactly like yours, Kafka, including the colour of the perfume inside.

    There is no mistaking the scent inside-it’s so rich and beautiful. It’s such a round scent. I have been sniffing so hard for the gardenia-I can’t really isolate any of the ingredients on their own. The whole thing smells to me of 24 Faubourg, if you know what I mean. No possibility of any sharpness or angles anywhere.

    I have to confess: I do wear this to work. One spritz when I know I won’t be in contact with anyone in close quarters. I never get to go to beautiful evening events, and if I didn’t wear my collection to work-well, it would just never get worn 🙂 The EDT is indeed a slightly lighter version, and it makes me think of sunshine when I smell it.

    And my poor little Ford-well, back in 2006 the Ford mechanic offered me $600 for it. He’d give it to his son, because that was all it was fit for. I took it to a different garage, whose mechanic knew that this model was known for blowing fuses. He replaced the fuse, charged me $6, advised me to keep a stash of fuses on hand so I could replace it myself. The Ford lasted until last year. I always think of him fondly when I wear this fragrance.

    Very best regards,
    Carole

    • I’ve absolutely loved your Ford/Winners/discovery story in the other post and here, Carole. It brought such a smile to my face.

      Regarding your bottles, you have to remember that Hermes recycles its batch codes every 10 years, so your bottle may be 2006. I think it’s important to look at all the factors on the Raiders’ site in conjunction with the batch calculator. I added a photo of the 1999 ingredients into the review to show what that looked like: no mention of oakmoss, some generalized ingredients (like “parfum”) and some dyes.

      What’s interesting to me is hearing that your EDP bottle doesn’t have the engraving around the neck! Now *that* is quite a telling sign! I’m very grateful to you for sharing it and I shall add an update to my post saying that your (likely 2006) vintage bottles didn’t have them. Thank you so much, Carole. I think that will prove helpful to quite a few people.

      • Funny-this post made me remember those days so vividly. I know mine wasn’t 2016. If I had to guess I would have said I bought it in 2005-so I think 2006 is probably correct 🙂

        • See, this is the second of the two big reasons why I stick to the 1995 to 1999 time frame. As I said in the article, it just makes life easier. SO, SOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much easier! All I have to do is to look for a batch code that begins with a letter towards the end of the alphabet. No messing about with repeated, recycled numbers that confuse or trick the online calculator; no looking at box details; and, in fact, no weirdness of any kind (e.g, “refill” bottles). Just one simple letter, like T, W, X, etc, and that’s IT. It not only makes my life simpler but it also ensures that I have the very first, original 1990s formula without even the smallest change.

          For a lazy sod like myself who hates complications, change, and exhausting technical minutiae on something as inconsequential as packaging, relying on the letter system is really the best, easiest, and most convenient path. I just wish the 1990s versions appeared on eBay in the sort of vast quantities that vintage fragrances from other brands do. But fingers crossed that some people will get lucky.

          As for you, I’m just so glad that you love 24 Faubourg so much and that it has such a wonderful effect on you. Give your vintage EDP bottles a loving stroke from me. 😛 😉 I know you smell beautiful, radiant, and glamorous each and every time you wear them. Diana would be happy and would approve.

          Speaking of remembering things vividly, I’ll never forget the night she died, 20 years ago this year. :'( I was with my then-Significant Other and several friends having dinner at a sushi restaurant in SF when we heard the news. All of us just leapt up, took the food to go, and went to my place to watch CNN. One friend wept for hours as she watched. I was just blinking in utter frozen disbelief until 4 in the morning. It didn’t seem possible. I still feel sadness whenever I see the famous Testino photos, or her smiling in her black “Revenge” dress. Anyway, enough of such a sad topic. Bottom line, Diana would fully approve of your love for 24 Faubourg. xoxox

  3. More enlightening information, Kafka! Listing the reasons so many natural ingredients have been banned really made me sad. And, yet, I’m not surprised (which makes me even sadder……).

    By the way, I came across a very strange batch code for a vintage EDT of 24F. It was TM1AU. The ‘T’ is apparently 1995, but the ‘M’ really puzzles me. I know, according Raiders of the Lost Scent, that the second letter should be the month of production, but it’s the 13th letter of the alphabet. When I input the code into the check cosmetic site, it came up as an error. However, the box and everything looked vintage and even contained some wording that only appeared on the very first 24F boxes (for example, MONARIMORT Spa, etc. that appeared below Made In France) so I know it’s authentic.

    I also remember when Diana died. It was just one of those shocking moments in life that one never forgets. I was a senior in high school at the time and I remember staying up all night to watch the procession to her place of rest. It was heartbreaking. She was such a beautiful and compassionate woman. I think you have paid a very heart-warming and sincere tribute to her in your review of this timeless perfume, that was her favorite. Well, no one can say that Princess Diana didn’t have exquisite taste.

    I’m wearing my vintage EDT now and it makes me feel luxurious even in my jeans. 🙂

    Thanks again for a fabulous post, Kafka!

  4. Well, (@*&.

    I tried this once — the edt, and certainly not vintage — and rolled my eyes. “Exquisitely blended bouquet,” my FOOT. I think I am probably less adversely affected by synthetics than you are (I still think I am either anosmic or hyposmic to Iso E Super, based on my experiments over the past 8 months), but the 24, Faubourg I smelled in 2011 was not anything like I’d expected: no Versailles, no grand 4-foot-tall hotel-lobby floral arrangements. Nope, this thing came straight out of a chemistry lab.

    I can typically barely smell JCE creations anyway, and then they last like 13 minutes tops. Boo hiss.

    In any case, now I’m determined to smell the early version. You know I am not a huge oriental fan, to say the least, but I do just fine with big everything-but-the-kitchen-sink perfumes (I wore the original Karl Lagerfeld Chloe right through the 80s and adored it) and I love big white florals anyway, so I think there’s a strong possibility I might love this one too.

    • Are your ears burning?

      Because I am cussing you out, oh-so-genteelly (oh, I know. oxymoron.) right now for prising open my wallet. The 1-oz vintage edt bottle, 80% or so full, $37 shipped, squarish with gold cap, code XF1G, just showed up and it’s gorgeous. Reminds me a good bit of old Chloe, actually. But since I can’t wear Chloe anymore due to its associations with teenage drama, looks like I might have finally finally found a replacement for the “Kitchen Sink Chypre-ish Floriental” niche in my wardrobe.

      • BTW, batch code translates to June 1999, and it’s in the odd mostly-covered-with-gold cap diagonal bottle Carolin describes below.

        To clarify, it’s not exactly Chloe, but similar in spirit and the BWF on a bed of EVERYTHING reminds me a tad of Leonard de Leonard too, except with less patchouli (which somehow I don’t seem to mind when it’s been aged for twenty years).

      • Hahaha, SCORE!!!!!!!!! I’m thrilled to hear all this. And I bet you can’t believe how different the original is from the 2011 version that you tried. Isn’t it a marvelous, utterly glorious scent? Now you have to hunt down the 1990s EDP, if you can find it. Given the stronger or more prominent chypre streak, I’d bet that that one would blow your socks off to Mars and back.

  5. Okay, Kafkaesque, I give up. Resistance is futile after reading your exceptionally insightful two part analysis of the changes made to a beautiful perfume. I now have to try some vintage 24 Faubourg, so I have a small EDT coming to me, batchcode starting with a “V.” I’ve been curious about this perfume from some time, but I have been downscaling my purchases lately so that I don’t add too much more to the stock of perfumes I already own and thoroughly enjoy. And there’s no more room in the cabinet…

    But who cares about those practical considerations..let’s talk vintages. Does vintage 24 Faubourg resemble vintage Patou Sublime, which I think is quite lovely?The description of it makes it seem like it might. Do any other comparisons come to mind? Vintage Oscar?

    I am convinced that changing the ingredients changes the perfume. Reformulation could lead to another beautiful but still different composition, but that does not seem to be the case here. I’m looking forward to trying the original 24 Faubourg: I’ll let you know how it goes!

  6. Hi Kafka, first and foremost, thank you so much for your wonderful description of the new and vintage 24F. It was wonderful to read, and I very much appreciate all the tie and effort put into it, as well as the help determining manufacture dates.

    I did go ahead and purchase a vintage bottle from Tri-Perfume, manufacture code dated November 1999. But unfortunately, the bottle I received today is from December 2012. You’ve had such good luck with them, enough to recommend as a seller, that I am hoping this is just a simple mistake.

    Either way, I will continue to search for a true vintage bottle to make my own!

    Thank you again!

    • Oh dear. I wonder what happened. 🙁 Did you confirm the code on the bottle with them beforehand and did it begin with a letter of the alphabet?

      • Unfortunately, I did not confirm the code beforehand; I trusted the pictures of the item which included an image of the code, starting with the letter X (similar to your own image above). My own fault really, as I should have taken the time to discuss with the seller before purchasing.

        I suppose my disappointment stems from the listing as a “vintage” fragrance, when in actuality it was less than 5 years old. But as I said above, I think this may have just been an error, as you have had mutliple positive experiences.

        Cheers to a better result the next time!

        • It could always be a bottle from 2002, not 2012, since Hermes recycles its codes every 10 years. The problem is that the Check Cosmetics site can’t distinguish between the two, perhaps because they’re not given the information to do so. That’s why looking at the box may yield clues as to whether it’s from the early 2000s (like, say 2002) versus later. If it is 2002, then it’s still vintage and probably the first formula. Things would be so much clearer if Hermes didn’t recycle/repeat its numbers. Such a royal pain!

          • Indeed! I honestly don’t know what it is at this point. You are correct that there is a possibility it is 2002 and not 2012. The box also has both the REF and EMB markings, and does not show the address, both of which are markings that should not have been present with a batch code starting with a number, but does lend credence to a more vintage bottle.

            A bit of a mystery, and I will have to investigate further. You were correct in recommending a code beginning with the end of the alphabet, so much easier!

          • If it has the EMB code on the box, that is definitely an older bottle! I forget when exactly the Raiders’ Guide says it was removed, but it definitely was in the early 2000s. I think they also said that it was in 2003 (??) when the street address was added in, so that is another thing which points to your bottle being from 2002, not 2012. Yay!

  7. Dear Kafka, long time lurker and big fan of your beautiful blog here. Finally I feel like I have something useful to contribute. First of all, thank you for taking us on this amazing scent journey with 24 Faubourg. I really enjoy reading a good Kafka rave of something that clearly gives you joy! That’s not to say that I haven’t gained a huge lot of entertainment from you reviewing a true stinker!

    As for vintage bottle types of 24 Faubourg, I have a refillable 40ml EDT here with the batch code VB2E, so it must be from 1997. The bottle is square, with a gold cap covering most of the glass. There’s currently one of these for sale on Ebay UK. Maybe it was something that was sold in Europe only? I’m happy to send some pictures if it helps!

    Take care and happy sniffing!
    Carolin

    • First, welcome to the blog, Carolin. Second, please forgive me for the delayed response and welcome, but my insomnia has been dreadful over the last 6 weeks but last week in particular, so I’ve been in too much of a mental fog to be able to write to you coherent.

      Thank you so much for sharing the bottle information. I looked up the UK eBay listing, and it seems to be a special collectible version. Very pretty packaging! I hadn’t seen that one before, so I appreciate you letting me know.

      On a completely unrelated note, please don’t think you have to “contribute” anything to comment here, my dear. I firmly believe that perfume becomes more fun when it’s shared and discussed and that perfume should be like a really fun cocktail party where people are recounting anecdotes, experiences, or snippets over canapés and cocktails. 😀 So, even if you haven’t tried something, you can always share your thoughts on how it sounds, or anything else that you’d like to write. In short, I hope you’ll come out of lurkerdom and that hope you’ll feel free or comfortable enough to pop by again.

      • Aw, thank you for your kind welcome! I really appreciate it.

        I am definitively joining that cocktail party. I’ll be the shy and slightly awkward one at the back who is nervous and drinks a little too much because I have a confession to make: I can’t identify a note or describe a scent to save my life! I love perfumes though. Have done since I was a child. You manage to illustrate a scent so well that even a note-illiterate such as me feels inspired and challenged to try something I might not have picked out myself. So thank you, I have made quite some discoveries!

        I hope you manage to get some rest. Sleep deprivation is the worst!

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