For anyone who's ever enjoyed the deliciously naughty pleasure of smoking (I know, I know, it's bad for you), you'll know that one of its unfortunate side effects is waking up to a pile of clothes that smell like a combination of perfume and cigarettes.
That olfactory trace of a vice-filled night out can bring great pleasure by evoking memories of living for the moment, of drawing in the heat and toasted flavor of tobacco deep into your lungs, of smoky kisses between peaty sips of scotch, and of coming back home too late to bother with removing your makeup.
Perhaps more than any other infamous tobacco classic (Habanita, Cuir de Russie, Jolie Madame or Scandal — but not Bandit, sorry), Tabac Blond lives up to these smoke-filled images of livin' la vida loca, only, instead of evoking stale cigarette smoke, at its heart is the rich, toasted caramel smell of rolling tobacco.
Composed by the wonderful Ernest Daltroff, who, as the nose for Narcisse Noir, seems to have specialized in creating perfumes for minxes-gone-wild, Tabac Blond paid homage to the scandalous bad girls who smoked cigarettes in the teens and '20s.
Notes from Perfume Shrine: Leather, carnation, linden, iris, vetiver, ylang-ylang, cedar, patchouli, vanilla, ambergris, musk (I detect civet)
Unlike Cuir de Russie and Scandal, scents whose overly-cloying floral notes reveal that they don't have the courage of their tobacco convictions, Tabac Blond's tobacco and leather notes aren't upstaged by florals. It starts off with ylang-ylang and leather, and moves into a wonderful powdery yet sharp (some have said metallic, Caron website says "coppery") smoke note that continues to sing through to the vanillic, clove-y, spicy and warm drydown. (I detect some civet dirtiness; most lists of notes I see exclude it, but Olfactarama includes it.)
Note-wise, I prefer Habanita and its comforting, more legible tobacco presence, and if you want a shocking tobacco scent, look no further than Bandit's badass wet ashtray meets leather and isobutyl quinoline. But in terms of projecting dark, sultry, and yet refined, you can't do much better than Tabac Blond; it's the most well-rounded of the vintage tobacco perfumes, in my opinion — tobacco softened, feminized, and beautified while still retaining some roughness. (OK — scratch that; I love Rumeur more. Tabac Blond is the second best well-rounded vintage tobacco perfume.)
Although the "blond" in the name refers to light tobacco, I think of brunettes when I think of this scent, specifically, Ava Gardner (below) and Linda Fiorentino (right).
Perfume writer Denyse Beaulieu has said that, historically, Tabac Blond was "meant to blend with, and cover up, the still-shocking smell of cigarettes: smoking was still thought to be a sign of loose morals."
Now? Tabac Blond and its homage to disreputable women is considered a classic. I shall refrain from saying that we've come a long way, baby.
(Please note: Vintage Tabac Blond is very, very hard to come by these days. The Perfumed Court seems to have only the reformulated version; I've yet to run into a mini; and eBay auctions for TB typically end with a winning bid above $300. This current eBay auction features Tabac Blond extrait. With 3 days left to go, there are already 24 bids and the current price is $200(!). I'm reviewing an Eau de Parfum from an unknown era [maybe 60s or 70s?], but definitely pre-reformulation. I got it from Quirky Finds, and I think she still has one for a reasonable price. Go get it!)
The photo of this beautiful vintage bottle of Tabac Blond courtesy Aromablog.ru