Earlier this year, Roja Dove released four new fragrances in what is now called The Gulf Collection, each named after and inspired by different countries in the gulf region of the Middle East. The debut scent in the collection, 2014’s United Arab Emirates, was originally sold only in its namesake country, but Roja Dove has since made all the fragrances available worldwide. The four new additions are: Sultanate of Oman, Qatar, Kuwait, and Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
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.
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.
Sometimes, when I wear La Douceur de Siam, I’m reminded of the famous Forrest Gump line about life being like a box of chocolates, “you never know what you’re going to receive.” In the case of the Dusita fragrance, it’s not chocolates with different fillings but, rather, a tropical fruit salad. Like Gump’s box of chocolates, it sometimes opens up to reveal unexpected surprises, though, at its core, its fundamental essence is always the same: fruity, tangy, tart, and zingy sweetness with a profoundly exotic character. Pissara Umavijani takes this fruity core, layers it with frothy, luminous, tropical florals and creamy vanilla mousse, anchors the bouquet on a base of Mysore sandalwood, then envelops everything in airy clouds of soft benzoin amber and spices for a scent that is always fun, bright, and exuberantly happy. The end result often reminds me of another fragrance, Neela Vermeire‘s Bombay Bling which several bloggers used to characterize as “Prozac in a fragrance bottle.” I think La Douceur de Siam has a similar tropicality, character, and effect.