I want to take a break from the freshness of the May flower and discuss a vintage Oriental perfume I forgot I had in my cabinet of curiosities/perfume closet: the soft and sexy Toujours Moi by Corday.
Launched in 1927 by Blanche Arvoy, Corday perfumes are more whimsical and charming than their namesake — assassin Charlotte Corday, who stabbed pro-French Revolution radical Jean-Paul Marat to death in his bathtub. (Gotta love the French.)
With the vanillic sensuality of Shalimar, a hint of Tabu's amber eroticism, and a comforting whisper of smoky tobacco that recalls Habanita, Toujours Moi (Forever Me) is a must-have for lovers of perfume in the Oriental category. It manages to be intense and subtle at the same time, like the sounds of an entire orchestra roaring along in a music hall, the strains of which can be heard faintly by a lone passerby on the street.
Notes: Orange blossom, lavender, jasmine, lilac, vetiver, musk, incense, (I don't see rose, vanilla, sandalwood and amber listed, but surely a few of these too..?)
According to lore, composer Harry Revel caught a whiff of Toujours Moi on a beautiful woman, and when she told him what she was wearing, he decided to write musical compositions inspired by six Corday perfumes. (You can actually get Perfume Set to Music on Amazon! Apparently, it's heavy on the Theramin.)
Thanks to Revel's attention, musical motifs abound in Corday's beautiful and surreal ads. One I found on Fragrantica features a maiden trapped in a perfume bottle strumming on a mandolin. The instrument's musical sounds emerge from the bottle to become Corday's perfumes: Jet, Toujours Moi, Fame, Possession, L'Ardente Nuit. (I think this is the album cover, too.) From the ad:
"These six magnificent Corday fragrances inspired 'Perfume Set to Music,' an album of six delighful musical selections written by the famous composer Harry Revel and recorded by RCO Victor. An unparalleled tribute to the genius of Corday, 'Perfume Set to Music' is as soul-stirring...and beautiful....as the Corday perfumes themselves."
According to the blogger from Ambre Gris, Toujours Moi was reformulated by Dana in 1995, and if reviews on Basenotes are any indication, this reformulation was (and continues to be) a disaster. (Not surprising, considering what happened to Tabu.) I have what looks like a '60s version (with line drawings of maidens and unicorns), but it says on the box, "Distr. Parfums Corday" and "blended in New York." Hmmm.
The eBay vintage perfume expert from Cleopatra's Boudoir says that there was a small reformulation when Max Factor bought Corday, but that it mostly stayed true to the original, and that they kept the Corday name. (This must be where the "blended in New York" comes in?) She also says that Toujours Moi is a perfume translation of the incense used for hundreds of years at the cathedral of Notre Dame. Interesting... It does have a lovely incense bite.
All I can go by is my nose, and my nose says that whether or not this was a reformulation of the original 1924 scent, it is a lovely one — sweet, spicy, and soft (detractors would say powdery). Its warm (ambery/vanilla), woody finish hours into the dry-down is my favorite part. If you love Tabu and Habanita, try to get a bit of Toujours Moi; it's their love child.
There's a lyrical and informative post about Toujours Moi on the French perfume site Ambre Gris. Using my busted high school French and the helpful translation website Dicios, I managed a decent translation of it. If you know any French, I suggest you visit it. It's totally worth it to hear the French talk about perfume! Where else are you going to read stuff like this:
"What is nevertheless most striking in the Parfum de Toilette top notes of Toujours Moi (the old term for a perfume concentration and the only one I had the time to try), is that they frankly reminded me of...bubblegum. Orange blossom, touched with jasmine, is intimately combined on a sweet bed of honey, nuanced with soft spices: I sensed a touch of pepper and above all the coloring of eugenol's clove/carnation facets. This rather monochromatic mix evoked a wad of rose-scented chewing gum, inside whose heart lay coiled, slyly...a small Tabu. A warm and sweet note of sandalwood discreetly props up the sweetened orange blossom: one is now well into the category of woody oriental."
One place you will NOT read stuff like this is if you use Google Translate, unless you want to LOL at gobbledegook like the following, from the same post and paragraph as above:
"What is most striking, yet in the top note perfume toiletries Toujours Moi...is that they take a frank look like...bubblegum. The orange flower, jasmine affected, there is interwoven with a layer of gently sweet-honey, subtle spice fluffy: I feel a shiver of pepper and cloves especially the colors/eye of eugenol. The assembly thus composed, rather monochrome, evokes a bubble gum pink heart of which loverait sly, a little Tabu...A soft, warm notes of sandalwood has quietly support this sweet orange flower: it is in the register of the eastern woodland."
Got that, everyone? "It's in the register of the eastern woodland." I'm so using this...
UPDATE: A reader got in touch with me and told me she has a 40s-era Toujours Moi in that lovely bottle you see in the ad. If you're interested, you can contact her here: Diana1113@aol.com.
She sent me a sample of the 1956 Toujours Moi so I could compare it with the older one I reviewed here, and it is ever-so-slightly softer, rounder (by that I guess I mean more seamless in its blending of notes), more powdery and ambery-vanillic-warm than the 60's-70s one I reviewed. The 60s-70s bottle leaves a stronger tobacco-incense impression in the drydown. Both wonderful formulas, the 50s just a little warmer and softer.
About the '90s Toujours Moi I also received: I only have to say — run away from this as fast as you can. Its nauseating chemical drydown is as bad as the Tabu that you can now get for like 5 bucks. Awful.
(This last photo is from my own collection; the "Corday" name was cut off by copiers. I forgive you NY Public Library!)