— The Perfect Scent: A Year Inside the Perfume Industry in Paris and New York, by Chandler Burr
I will try to describe what I think the austerely beautiful Calèche is, now that this wonderful "severe Parisian woman" has told us what Hermès perfumes are not.
Although Calèche is categorized as an aldehydic/sweet floral, it was the resiny, woody, and balsamic base that left the biggest impression on me. Like red lipstick for the outdoorsy aristocrat who can't otherwise be bothered to wear makeup, Calèche is a perfume for the woman who doesn't have to try too hard. The epitome of Parisian chic, it's reserved, elegant, and well-thought out without being fussy.
Calèche starts off with sharp aldehydes and the crisp citrus notes of bergamot, lemon and neroli. What follows is a gorgeously blended bouquet of classic floral notes, including narcotic jasmine and ylang-ylang. It doesn't take long for it to settle into understated spice and woods from the olibanum (frankincense), vetiver and sandalwood followed by warmth and a hint of Oriental sweetness from amber and tonka. It's less obtrusive or sweet as a Jolie Madame or a Cuir de Russie, but its floral+sweet+masculine base reminds me of their scent personalities.
Top notes: Aldehydes, bergamot, lemon, neroli, cypress
Heart notes: Jasmine, rose, lily of the valley, ylang-ylang
Base notes: Olibanum (frankincense), vetiver, sandalwood, amber, tonka, musk
Although the floral impression stays throughout Calèche, the more mysterious, resiny, dry and almost leather base dominates the scent, drying down into an amber/tonka/musk softness and resting, at the end, into an almost incense spiciness before disappearing. For brief flashes, the coniferous cypress note suggests the bracing outdoors, an olfactory hint that the Calèche woman is no indoor, wilting flower.
A calèche is a type of horse-drawn carriage as well as a hood 18th century women wore that folded over like the carriage's hood. I think this name speaks volumes about what this scent is trying to project, and makes me think of SPW's (severe Parisian woman) comment about Hermès scents not being feminine in any conventional way. If anything, Calèche is saying more about its connection to an aristocratic history (i.e. class) than it is about femininity.
Hermès, after all, founded in 1837 as a saddle shop in Paris, is known by the unwashed masses for its Kelly and Birkin bags that start at $7,000 and can go all the way to $25,000. (Ugh,seriously?) It's not a lush Fracas or a va-va-va-voom Angel, remember; it's a fresh-faced woman riding a horse on her estate as the summer months wane and fall begins to make the air crisp.
You know — the "opposite of fantasy."
_______________________________________________________________________________________If you’re a miniature bottle collector or want to get a great vintage scent without having to snipe for it on eBay, check out The Miniature Perfume Shoppe, where I got my taste of Calèche. A former Clinique account exec, super-nice Leslie Ann, who runs the show there, turned her passion for perfume into a business. MPS is Auctiva Commerce’s first store devoted to the miniature perfume bottle collector. Check her out!