Robert Piguet Fracas : Fragrance Review

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Fracas

Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

Tuberose is a sensual perfume note, redolent of dusk and warm skin. Its extreme and often shocking sensuality is likely to evoke diametrically opposed responses in people. While some recoil in horror at the thought of being smothered in its heady embrace, others lose themselves in its sensual layers. Robert Piguet Fracas, as its name indicates, is nothing short of stirring powerful emotions. Created by a perfumer genius Germaine Cellier in 1948, the fragrance is dominated by an arrestingly sinister tuberose.

After the initial overture by citrus and orange blossom—an olfactory calm before the storm, the darkness begins to gather forces. Tuberose undulates slowly and sensually, emerging under the veil of sweet delicate notes. It overshadows the radiance of orange blossom, which nevertheless remains in the background, glowing like traveling lights in the marshes. The sweet creamy note of tuberose is ornamented beautifully by jasmine, violet and iris, which lend a somber introspective quality to the composition. Lily of the valley is a surprising touch of spring-like freshness, teasing and evanescent as if carried by the wind–one moment it is distinct, the next it has vanished. The composition is ornamented by woods and oakmoss, which provide a dark counterpoint to the lush floral orchestration.

Germaine Cellier (1909-1976) was also responsible for Robert Piguet BanditBalmain Vent VertBalmain Jolie Madame, Monsieur Balmain by Pierre Balmain and Coeur-Joie by Nina Ricci. She was born in 1909 in Bordeaux and subsequently came to Paris to study chemistry. Her unique talent and utterly original vision place Cellier among the most avant-garde perfumers. Fracas was discontinued and then eventually reintroduced in 1996. The original is more aggressive and animalic, but the current version is very close. The notes are bergamot, orange blossom, greens, peach, tuberose, jasmine, violet, iris, lily of the valley, carnation, sandalwood, musk, oakmoss, and cedar.

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31 Comments

  • Robin: I adore Fracas, but rarely wear it out of the house. It does seem to inspire extreme reactions, although I find it a cheerful scent, and not at all overpowering when worn in small doses. June 16, 2005 at 10:28am Reply

  • mreenymo: By its very nature, Fracas, in my opinion, is the grand dame of all tuberose fragrances. She was born to be a diva! Each time I wear her, I feel confident, very female and a bit of a diva myself.

    I don’t wear Fracas often, but I have made her my traditional Mother’s Day fragrance three years in a row and counting. :):)

    Hugs! June 16, 2005 at 11:34am Reply

  • KS: I know what you mean; Fracas IS “sinister.” I feel the perfume turns “solid”, grabs me and begins to strangle! (Cough…cough! heeeeeelp!) BUT: I get a bottle occasionally and use it as air freshener during the dark, foggy, soggy winter months in the NW. Really…when you spray it into the air there’s an olfactory GLOW that’s produced — ghostly. I used to wear Bandit “Light” — another fragrance that makes people “jump.” The wonderful French woman who ran the perfume counter at Bullocks Wilshire used to grimace when I bought it, saying: “So, you’re buying MORE of that ‘dirty ashtray’ perfume! I detest it!” HA! June 16, 2005 at 11:45am Reply

  • Victoria: Robin of NST,
    I cannot agree more with your thoughts on Fracas. I find it very uplifting. I think that a potent fragrance like this worn in large dozes is liable to cause a near death experience, but in small dozes it is just perfect. My favourite is extrait de parfum, which is richer, yet creamier and better balanced than EDP.

    Robin from LA,
    I can just imagine you surrounded by a Fracas glory! A perfect mother’s day fragrance, indeed. I love your characterization of this fragrance.

    Kevin,
    I love all of Germanine Cellier’s fragrances I had a chance to try. I long to sample the original Vent Vert. Bandit is great, just completely breathtaking and outrageous. I remember Luca Turin mentioning that it was reformulated, and it made me think that the original must have been completely out of this world. Why, oh why was I born so late? June 16, 2005 at 5:17pm Reply

  • Artisankey: Oh- Fracas! Sometimes I just can’t get enough. I tried it a few years ago and didn’t “get” it. Last year I tried it again and this time fell solidly in love. It’s made me realize what a girly-girl I truly am. It tends not to be very strong or over-powering on me, even in the parfum. Sometimes its presence is more like a euphoric veil than an actual scent. It definitely has a kind of power. Just knowing it is there makes me feel incredibly desirable. I know it’s not for everyone though and I try not to go overboard when wearing it. June 19, 2005 at 6:33pm Reply

  • Victoria: Dear A, you are painting such a perfect imagery. I also envision Fracas of a euphoric veil, something that uplifts me. That is one of the reasons I selected the ad appearing in the post. I wanted something to capture the feeling of being enveloped. June 19, 2005 at 6:46pm Reply

  • Octavian: Last fall I had the privilege to smell both the original and the reformulated Fracas in Paris. The reformulated, available in shops, is creamier and sweeter. I smelled the original in Versailles Osmotheque. It has a particular neroli note and a somehow salty note superposed to the tuberose base. It is very perverse and narcotic and more intriguing than the reformulated. June 21, 2005 at 12:41am Reply

  • Victoria: Octavian, Thank you for the comparison. It does not surprise me as most reformulations seem to take away the edge, the element that made the original version innovative. I must make a trip to Osmotheque just for that! June 21, 2005 at 12:43am Reply

  • Octavian: And also for the Parfums de Rosine. Some of them are there recreated. The most beautiful and very modern is Le fruit defendu. It is very sweet, fruity (banana, vanilla), woody but also gourmand. It is curious for a 1910’s fragrance to have a gurmand side, like a fruity liqueur.
    Other beautiful Rosine examples of the period are
    Arléquinade (1924) with carnation and aldehydes.
    Nuit de Chine (1913) with tones of santal, rose, jasmin recalling the future Soir de Paris from Bourjois
    Pierrot (1918) a citrus perfume with woody undertones like a forest with lemon and pine. June 21, 2005 at 12:56am Reply

  • Victoria: As much as I do not like modern interpretations of fruity notes, I love to encounter fruit notes in classic fragrances. Le Fruit Defendu sounds enchanting, as others you mentioned. Thank you for this post–makes me wish I could take a trip right this moment! June 21, 2005 at 1:15am Reply

  • julien: FRACAS is just the most beautiful Tubereuse scent ever.
    Narcotic,hypnotic,sexual,agressive and yet suave…Like a jewel containing a sin,you love it but know wearing it is so dangerous…
    The perfume of the black widow:it attracts you and then kills you with a kiss…
    A masterpiece. June 25, 2005 at 7:43pm Reply

  • Romina: Interesting. Fracas makes me happy, it’s a happy, seductive scent. It strikes some people as being “young” fragrance. My father sniffed at it, coughed and inquired wheather I was trying to attract pedophiles. 😉 It’s exuberant. June 23, 2006 at 11:59pm Reply

  • marta: All your comments were very helpful, but..there’s one more thing I’d like to know:I am simply not able to decide between Fracas and Bandit. Bandit sounds like a nice chypre, my favourite floral chypre is “Libertine” by Vivienne Westwood. I totally love patchouli&moss combination. Please, help me decide between those two fragrances. Are they completely different from each other? Are they evening fragrances?Thanx a lot! July 19, 2006 at 7:17am Reply

  • mitchell: I have been in the fragrance industry for 34 years, and I am also a poet — Fracas is the only fragrance I have ever mentioned by name in a published poem. Apart from the fact that my mother wore it and my father adored it on her, I have always felt that it is, despite its senuality, very refined, and I never tire of it. Having said that, not everyone can wear it. I have a shameless bias toward white florals, and I have always regarded Fracas as the queen of florals. May 20, 2007 at 6:58pm Reply

  • Robert Carroll: I am in Paris for 2 more days and have been looking for Fracas and Bandit, the pure perfume, not the eau de Perfume and cannot find it. Most people haven’t heard of it and the man at Sephora claims they don’t make the pure perfume. I am desperate to get some for my wife before I leave Paris on October 13th. Can anyone tell me where to go. MY wife will be so disappointed if I don’t Bring some back. I don’t want to order on the net. It’s not the same. Thank you to anyone who can help.

    Robert C October 11, 2007 at 6:22pm Reply

  • R: I’m sorry, I don’t know where in Paris you can get the pure perfume, but I can surely tell you, they do still make it – I know this because I just saw it less than 30 minutes ago in a shop here in Brisbane, Australia, and if you can get it in Brisbane, you can sure as hell bet you can get it in Paris! So I guess what I’m saying is keep trying… October 11, 2007 at 11:59pm Reply

  • Angela: Fracas is the most sensual, sexy scent on the market. I wear it daily and without fail, men approach me and ask, “What are you wearing? You smell wonderful!”. It works like a charm. It’s subtlely seductive. Very feminine and elegant. Women comment on the pleasantness of the scent too. I’ve never gotten a bad reaction from anyone. December 7, 2007 at 3:02pm Reply

  • Ha’awina: I am half Hawaiian & Irish. Since I was a young girl I have always been surrounded by fragrant leis from the islands. The tuberose lei was always my favorite and as I got older I made it my personal quest to find a parfum as close as possible to the leis I grew to love. I have tried everything from the cheap drug store stuff to high end perfume, like Creed. I married my Husband Didier in the late 90’s, he is from France and he taught me many new things about perfume. Being aware of my passion and quest he took me to Grasse, France where I learned and appreciated the art of perfumery more than ever! I didn’t find my Tuberose perfume there, but learned how to identify the good stuff. Shortly after my trip to Grasse I was shopping in CA at the South Coast Plaza Neiman Marcus, it was there that I encountered Fracas for the first time. I knew then that it was the closest thing to the tuberose leis so I purchased a small, purse size bottle. I would only wear it on special occassions (since I didn’t have much) and EVERY time I would get a “look” with a smile or a stranger telling me that I smell so nice. Women have approached me and ask me what it is…Of course now I have a larger bottle and use it more often. It is not offensive or overpowering. It doesn’t give me a headache not does it get old or boring. It lasts ALL day and gets better with time. My husband loves it and so do my children. Most kids don’t like perfume and this one is an exception. I have many unique parfums (over 50, and quite a few not sold in dept stores) and this one is in my top 5! Glad someone brought it back to life for us to enjoy! It’s sold at Sephoras too! The large bottle (which is not huge) is currently $105 – worth every penny! Start with the small vial and make sure it works with your body. I’m sure you will end up buying the bigger bottle soon thereafter…aloha e malama pono! January 4, 2008 at 11:33am Reply

  • madeline de mono lover: Fracas…it’s such an invigorating aroma. makes me happy to start my day when i step into my spray. does anyone remember it as madeline from madeline de mono….
    It wears well when you get warm during the day….just delightful February 15, 2008 at 8:19pm Reply

  • madeline de mono lover: Fracas…it’s such an invigorating aroma. makes me happy to start my day when i step into my spray. does anyone remember it as madeline from madeline de mono….
    It wears well when you get warm during the day….just delightful February 15, 2008 at 8:19pm Reply

  • Elin: I’m new to the world of perfume in the sense of knowledge, I came here first some weeks ago reading about Madonnas Truth or Dare which I had bought and loved instantly. That led me in turn to read some of your great articles and buy a 3 ml of vintage (?) Fracas Parfum on eBay.

    It arrived yesterday and while I did like it at first sniff, I wasn’t sure I loved it. Then I thought maybe the slightly off note was the indole? Also something rubbery. After a while it went away and just smelled lovely.
    Today that loveliness just increased at first application and now I really love it! I wonder if what I’ve got is before the reformulation, the seller didn’t know but thought it might be. The black cardboard box containing the vial has Fracas written in pink in a different font than the current one. On the back it’s written Alfin. Inc. Dist. New York. N.Y. 10019
    Ref. 9043 S
    Do you think it’s the parfum before the reformulation ? I live in Oslo Norway and have only found one shop that sell Robert Piguet Fracas and they do not sell the parfum, only Eau de Parfum so I can’t go there and compare.

    BTW I was very happy to find some of my teenage perfumes mentioned here, Laura Biagotti Roma, Dune and Giorgio Beverly Hills! Later I have loved Jean Paul Gaultiers Classique, L’Eau d’Issey, Vivienne Westwood Boudoir and Clinique Happy. That’s about it as far as my nose knows, not much (except from Chanel No. 5 which I own and L’Air du Temps which was my grandmothers signature and my sisters Dior Poison which I stole some splashes from growing up)
    It’s been a while since I was taken with perfumes but now I’m getting very interested, and your blog is partly to blame! This got a bit long, but I would be very greatful for an answer about my Fracas vial. June 20, 2012 at 6:37pm Reply

    • Victoria: Elin, welcome to Bois de Jasmin! Glad that you found us.
      As for your Fracas bottle, it definitely dates to pre 1995, as until then Alfin Inc. owned the rights to manufacturing and distributing Fracas, Bandit and some other Robert Piguet fragrances. I have some Fracas from that period as well and I also notice the rubbery, sharp note. It doesn’t interfere with my enjoyment though as it softens fairly quickly. June 21, 2012 at 3:32pm Reply

      • Elin: Thank you, how exciting! I will have to take good care of it and buy a newer sample of Fracas Parfum both to compare and to make sure I don’t use my vintage one up too quickly!
        Exactly that rubber note went away quickly, but I didn’t find it unpleasant either, just unusual.
        I can’t afford a full bottle yet, especially with all the taxes, but one day I’ll get to travel and surely buy it.

        Your blog has inspired me to go out and try other perfumes as well, so thanks again! June 21, 2012 at 7:48pm Reply

  • Isis: I am wearing Fracas today, and I am thinking back how I hated it the first time I tried it. I bought a bottle blind through ebay, thinking that if so many perfumistas adore it, it must be worth my while.

    I hated it for about a year, with a passion, too sweet, too much bubblegum, and I actualy thought it was one-dimensional and sufoocating. I kept trying though, and I kind of started to see its charm in the year that followed. Somehow, a few years later, I now love wearing it. I don’t wear it too often, and usually when I am alone, but it makes me feel awesome. I am grateful for the perfumista-peer-pressure, it payed of in this case! November 22, 2013 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Victoria: Some perfumes are really worth courting, and Fracas is one of them. Challenging for sure, but oh so seductive! November 22, 2013 at 4:36pm Reply

  • Andre Moreau: Hi Victoria, I added your review in a comparison between two of the most recent version of this extraordinary scent, : August 24, 2015 at 8:32am Reply

  • Lorraine Chamberlain: What a lovely column! I have been wearing Fracas for over forty years (oh..I am REALLY old!) men have continued to ask what I am wearing, are in love with it but never overwhelmed. Often, they will write it down to be certain to get it for a wife or girlfriend. My favorite delivery system was the oil, in the little square bottle. It lasted all day & night, and seemed softer at the outset. Why did they discontinue that gorgeous oil? I happened to be in St. Bart’s and bought three bottles of it just before they disappeared. I had intended them as gifts, but ended up keeping two of them. My friend’s children have smelled it on someone 3,000 miles and a couple of years away, and have said “mom! That lady smells like Lorraine!” An adorable compliment. August 30, 2015 at 8:24pm Reply

    • Victoria: This must be one of the best Fracas stories! 🙂 August 31, 2015 at 5:02am Reply

  • Lorraine Chamberlain: P.S. I had a lover of three years who hated it, however. I was bereft. I could hardly wait to travel without him, or for him to leave, so I could drench myself in it for a few days. He said it smelled like mildew to him, no matter who wore it! I swear….the minute I left him, I was overjoyed to resume wearing Fracas. There was almost no period of adjustment to our split, as I had my perfume back! Wicked, I know….but true. August 30, 2015 at 8:31pm Reply

  • Surbhi: This smells like tuberose I have been looking for. I don’t know if I want it on me or want my house to smell like this but I do know that I want to smell it all the time February 24, 2016 at 10:15pm Reply

  • Surbhi: I don’t smell any orange blossom bergamot or citrus. I only smell two things: tuberose and sandalwood. These scents are not sensual or bad girl perfume in my head. Actually these scents are coming from every temple or people’s praying area in home. I guess culture, region etc adds different perspective to the same scent. I have been wearing it to work. I didn’t get any reaction though. April 11, 2016 at 10:24pm Reply

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