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.

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Hermès 24 Faubourg — Part I: The Glorious Vintages (EDT/EDP)

When I was in my 20s, one of my signature fragrances was Hermès‘ 24 Faubourg, an opulent chypre-oriental powerhouse created by the legendary Maurice Roucel. It was centered on luminous, creamy, heady florals which Monsieur Roucel sheathed, first, in multifaceted mossy chypre greenness laced with peach, then in oriental clouds of golden amber layered with real sandalwood, creamy vanilla, spicy resins, and a sliver of leatheriness. The fragrance feels like the more feminine, white floral cousin of Hermes‘ 1984 floral-leather-chypre, Parfum d’Hermes (reformulated and renamed in 2000 as Hermes’ Rouge) and Puredistance M (directly modeled on Hermes‘ 1986 vintage Bel Ami) during their middle chypre-oriental stages. The eau de parfum version even has a phase which is like a white floral twist on the 1930s-1970s version of vintage Mitsouko extrait. On top of that, vintage 24 Faubourg also inhabits the same world of rich chypre-florals as Givenchy‘s famous 1984 Ysatis, although the Hermes scent has a greater oriental underpinning and I would argue that it is much grander. Its richness, heaviness, and ornate complexity not only result in a very baroque regalness, but also somehow manage to ooze money and wealth in the most tasteful, elegant way imaginable. That may be why 24 Faubourg became the signature scent of the most glamorous princess of her era.

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

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Masque Milano Mandala

Mandala, the second recent release from Masque Milano, has a very different geographic focus than its New York sister. This one is centered on a monastery in Tibet or Nepal where the sound of Buddhist monks’ overtone singing rings out in the rarefied air, “two notes chant[ed] in perfect, peaceful harmony.” The fragrance is meant to have the same duality, as well as the same meditative serenity, according to Masque’s official scent description: “A myrrh and incense fragrance – light and delicate. A contemplative atmosphere. Vibrating at two levels at the same time.”

Photo: Adam Monk. Source: his website, Monk Art Photography. (Direct website link embedded within.)

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Masque Milano Times Square

Times Square in 1986. Photo: Life Magazine. Source: Pinterest.

Times Square, one of two new releases from Masque Milano, seeks to take you back to the cacophony, smells, and busy streets of New York City before Mayor Giuliani cleaned it up in the 1990s. Masque’s official scent description is one of the most unusual, unexpected, and humorous accounts that I’ve come across in terms of what a perfume brand promises to offer you if you try its fragrance. It bluntly and cheerfully talks about the city’s “stink” and its many, divergent “miasmas,” from the scent of cheap tobacco to the garbage on its streets and how the “cherry of the whore’s bloody-red lipstick melts with the strawberry of her chewing-gum.” Yet, if you “find your way through the crowd of bachelorettes waiting for the male-strip show,” [there… ] will be a flood of tuberose and carnation.”

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