As cheesy as this 80s ad for Rive Gauche is, the perfume is indeed for an unpredictable woman, the kind who's capable of, oh, I don't know...matching her office phone to her perfume bottle! (You know those Left Bank Parisian types.)
Like the metallic bottle with its contrast between cold silver and electric cobalt blue, Rive Gauche, the scent, projects a formal, classical elegance (aldehydic floral) underneath whose frozen veneer flows a heartbreakingly beautiful rose ready to melt the perfume's reserve, declare the work day over — and invite everyone out for cocktails and dancing. (Rive Gauche creates that same feeling Gucci Rush does for me — that the night is young and I want to go out, have fun, and do some damage.)
There's a strange dissonance between the blue/silver of the bottle and the "color" one gets when the perfume is on your skin; for me, the scent's aura is a sheer magenta or pink. (And yes, I just read this perfume's aura.)
Top notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, leafy green, peach
Heart notes: Rose, jasmine, geranium, lily of the valley, orris, ylang-ylang
Base notes: Vetiver, tonka, sandalwood, moss, musk, amber
I smelled Rive Gauche as a child and just loved it — hoping one day I could become the sophisticated and fun woman who could pull this off. I was so happy a few years ago to buy what I thought was the same Rive Gauche, but having since scored the vintage I'm reviewing now, I can say that there's no comparison between the reformulation and the Jacques Polge-Michel Hy* constructed original.
The odd "tarry" beginning and resiny background of the vintage, as Luca Turin says in Perfumes: The Guide, are simply not there. Those notes create a strange kind of drama, like a drum roll, or the parting of dark velvet curtains on a stage, that the tinny and one-dimensional reformulation doesn't provide.
Without this preamble, there also isn't the same shock at how beautiful the rose is once it arrives. And it is truly radiant, like a movie star in her prime on the red carpet when you know you'll never see her looking as beautiful as you saw her that night. The subtle fruit from the peach, the sparkle from the bergamot and aldehydes and the sheerness of lily of the valley — all of these notes lift the rose up on their shoulders, elevating it and helping it shine. Truly gifted perfumers combine facets of notes in ways that bring out the best in perfume ingredients, and Rive Gauche, thanks to Jacques Polge, reminds us why rose is such an exemplary note in perfumery.
Drama, contrast, dissonance, surprises, multidimensionality, temporality — this is what has been cut out of the reformulated Rive Gauche. It's like watching Hitchcock's Vertigo without the technicolor or Bernard Hermann's score. An interesting movie — but 50 percent (if such a thing can be quantified) — of what it could be.
* Recently added Michel Hy after reading that Fragrantica lists him as the primary perfumer, and Now Smell This lists him as Polge's co-creator.