Parfums Gres Cabochard New and Vintage : Perfume Review

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Cabochard_1

Original:

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Reformulation:

Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

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

Parfum Grès Cabochard, meaning “headstrong,” is an example of how a chypre fragrance can embody confidence and independence, playing upon the austere and dry qualities of the genre. At the same time, its aloof air is seductive, as some mysteries can be. It does not bestow its favours lightly, hiding its delicate floral heart under the dark layers of smoky leather and green notes. One feels compelled to unlock its secrets, revisiting again and again, and falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole.

Not only was Cabochard very successful at the time of its release in 1959, its leather chypre composition inspired many subsequent fragrances. Therefore, its inclusion among the legends of French perfumery by Michael Edwards is only to be expected.  …

Cabochard was a fragrance created for Madame Grès, a renowned couturier, who after opening her fashion house in 1942 in Paris became famous for her fluid designs that draped the body like folds on the Greek statues. Bernard Chant was the perfumer responsible for Cabochard, and even though Madame Grès did not personally like it, she felt that Chant created a gem with Cabochard.

Cabochard is often described as a softer take on the animalic darkness of Bandit. Indeed, if Bandit were to be polished to remove its rough edges, to soften its aggressive nature, and to mute its smoky leather, the result would be Cabochard, a leather chypre that is as assertive as it is graceful. A mélange of rich green notes, which is reminiscent of sliced green peppers and succulent leaves, creates an elegant transparent layer, under which an accord dominated by smoky leather is evident from the start. The leather reminiscent of a similar note in Chanel Cuir de Russie is subtle at first, hinting gently as to what might be present underneath the verdant radiance. Its strength grows over time, and as the hesperidic effervescence fades, calm darkness overtakes the composition.

The Eau de Toilette is sharper and more forceful than the parfum in its treatment of the leather notes. In the parfum, the vetiver and iris pairing truly shines, lending an alluring cool touch that provides a stunning counterpoint to the tobacco redolent darkness. A delicate floral touch is sustained against the foil of balsamic and earthy notes, creating an airy sensation that dispels the somber duskiness. The balance of light and shadows is an accomplishment makes Cabochard a particularly unique leather chypre.

Like many classical fragrances, Cabochard underwent reorchestration, during which the composition acquired a fresh citrusy opening, which amplified the mandarin notes of the original version. Translucent green notes unfold quickly, revealing a leather accord, thus following the development pattern of the vintage Cabochard. However, the dark animalic element is reduced substantially, and while the fragrance would definitely please green chypre lovers, I find that the darkness was an integral part of the original composition, conjuring Cabochard’s strong, confident and independent spirit.

There is also Air de Cabochard, which was introduced in 2000. It is a soft floral, with a sparkling citrusy accord over a heart of flowers that in Cabochard serve as ornamentations on the leather notes. The vintage version (in black-white print boxes) can be found on Ebay, while the modern Cabochard is available from online discount retailers like Perfumemart and Scentiments. The modern bottle features a black box and a glass appliqué bow, which is a nod to the fashion house of Madame Grès. She herself picked the bow for the original bottle.

Cabochard advertisement from psine.net. Notes include bergamot, mandarin, galbanum, ylang ylang, jasmine, Bulgarian rose, clove, oakmoss, tobacco, musk, iris, sandalwood, vetiver, leather, castoreum, patchouli and labdanum.

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43 Comments

  • parislondres: I used to like and wear a quite a few years ago and I did prefer this to Bandit.
    However, I did not wear it often enough and gave my bottle to a friend who considers this to be her signature perfume. I had the reformulated version. Now I am keen to try this in the parfum concentration after reading your lovely review dear V. The notes are very interesting. :) November 3, 2005 at 3:44am Reply

  • Sisonne: Dear V, I wondered for quite a long time how Cabochard would smell – now I have a first impression, thank you for your review :)
    Leather is among my favourite notes so I definitely should try this one! Are both versions (= EdT & perfume) reformulated or did that only happened to the EdT version?
    I don´t understand why a lot of vintage perfumes have to be reformulated, I think most of the time it doesn´t make the scent better but worse, it looses its character Older fragrances should have the right to stay what they are: reminescent of a bygone era. November 3, 2005 at 6:38am Reply

  • Judith: Coincidentally, I just wore this night, and was reminded of how much I like it. And I was thinking that it was somewhere in between Bandit (which I also like) and Cuir de Russie (my absolute favorite) in its composition. I actually enjoy both versions (I know Luca Turin called the reformulation “swill”), though I prefer the vintage. Even the newer one has the air of something from a previous time. November 3, 2005 at 6:46am Reply

  • Liz: I have the vintage parfum, and I don’t know how much of it has dissipated or even changed over time, but on my skin Cabochard is very dry. That’s the main effect that distinguishes it from Bandit to my nose (besides Bandit’s glorious galbanum blast): Bandit’s greens and leathers orbit a quiet but perceptible wet hothouse-flower nucleus, whereas Cabochard is far more dry-woody – piney, even. I’ve grown really, really fond of Cabochard over the last several months, but then I’m a total sucker for chypres – I’m not sure I’ve met one yet that I didn’t like! November 3, 2005 at 9:24am Reply

  • Marina: Sounds wonderful, V. I know I tried it but I don’t *remember* it all that well and should definitely re-visit. I love Bandit, but it is decidedly not an easy-to-wear scent, so perhaps Cabochard would be. November 3, 2005 at 9:26am Reply

  • Robin: V, sounds like I need to get my hands on the vintage parfum…thanks for the lovely review! November 3, 2005 at 10:11am Reply

  • Karin: I used to wear the parfum years ago and recently bought some vintage from ebay, and it smells exactly as I remembered it.

    On me, yes, it is dry, a little goes a looooooooooong ways, but the drydown is a soft dark floral, not much leather at all. I usually use only a drop on each wrist. That way I enjoy it, but it’s not overwhelming to others.

    On me, some leathers smell very plastic’y. I wonder if that is because they are not using what was once used. (The lie to that answer was some vintage Femme parfum that gagged me. But I had never worn it when it was new, so I had nothing to compare it to.)

    I have tried the new spray (when I was at Harrod’s) and find it nice too. I’ve debated buying it for when I wanted more sillage.

    I’ve not tried the new Air de Cabochard. No one carries any form of Cabochard around here. November 3, 2005 at 10:49am Reply

  • Karin: ps here’s what I found on the name a while back:

    >> “Cabochard” is French for “charmingly persistent”, or “stubborn”. Either way, this perfume is the perfect scent for the individualist.

    I think this defines me to a T, LOL. November 3, 2005 at 10:50am Reply

  • Tania: I don’t understand the reformulation at all, but the vintage is something I hope I’m never without. Lovely review, V! November 3, 2005 at 11:05am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear N, I have Bandit in the parfum concentration and in the EDT, and I wear those often. The parfum in Bandit is a little closer to Cabochard, in the EDT it is shocking (I still like it though). I would love to find a bottle of parfum. I only have a small decant. November 3, 2005 at 11:54am Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear C, I really like Cabochard in all forms, and as I understand the EDT was reformulated for sure. I have not even tried the modern version of parfum. I am not even sure if it is available now. In my experience, the parfum concentrations tend to be less tweaked, however it just depends. The story of the House of Gres is very sad actually–much success, then a series of poor decisions, and now it has been traveling from one owner to another. November 3, 2005 at 12:01pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Judith, yes, I would say that the modern version is definitely reminiscent of another era. It has a certain dry quality that is not as common in the modern fragrances. I prefer the original because it has even more of it. Of course, I love both Cuir de Russie and Bandit. :) November 3, 2005 at 12:04pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, I would say that it is fairly dry, although at first there is a very nice galbanum opening, conjuring moist leaves. I have four different samples of vintage Cabochards, and the parfum stands out for me.

    I have grown to like chypre over the past half a year, for their dryness and austerity (a nice change from many of my beloved dewy compositions), and Bandit (in the parfum) became my first choice. Now, I can wear the EDT as well. Of course, this opened up doors for other explorations, although of course, there are plenty chypre I still like on a theoretical level, without reaching for them often. November 3, 2005 at 12:20pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Marinochka, Cabochard might be just that, if you like Bandit, but find it too difficult to wear. Even the modern version is fine. I love the fact that it is still available. November 3, 2005 at 12:21pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: R, yes, I think that you would enjoy the parfum. It has a lovely vetiver/iris pairing its heart that makes me want to treasure my decant. The EDT does not showcase it as well. November 3, 2005 at 12:22pm Reply

  • linda: I never cared much for either Cabochard or Bandit. However just recently someone gave me a sample of Bandit and I loved it. Tastes change, I guess. :-) Lovely review as always! November 3, 2005 at 12:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, parfum is definitely potent, and I can see how you may not need more than a couple of drops. The EDT has more smoky leather in the drydown than the parfum.

    I think that vintage compositions just deteriorate over time, and sometimes it is difficult to say what they smelled like originally. Platic-y smell was probably never intended, and I have had some vintage Carons that smelled exactly that way. I just had to toss them eventually. November 3, 2005 at 12:28pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Oh, that would also describe Alix Gres really well. Like I mentioned above, the story of her house is rather sad. She made a fortune on Cabochard and then lost it all on lawsuits, etc. She was considered to be one of the greatest couturiers. An amazing woman! She passed away in 1993 at the age of 90. November 3, 2005 at 12:31pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, yes, vintage is still fairly easy to find, even though buying on Ebay is such a gamble at times. I have a bottle of Cabochard that refuses to be sprayed, and in fact it just explodes in a big cloud. Thankfully, it is the EDT, but for this reason I rarely reach for it. It is almost frightening. I have another splash bottle I rely on. November 3, 2005 at 12:35pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Linda, thank you! Taste do change, that is for sure. Last year I would never have approached Cabochard. November 3, 2005 at 12:36pm Reply

  • Liz: So, V, where’s that Bandit review? ;) November 3, 2005 at 12:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Liz, I am planning to do it next week, if all goes as planned. Bandit deserves a whole day to itself! November 3, 2005 at 12:48pm Reply

  • Liz: That’s for sure. :) I’m so glad you reviewed Cabochard, however. When I first got it, my initial reaction was “Okay, fine, but why not Bandit?” I couldn’t see myself waking up and picking Cabochard over Bandit, ever. But I began to appreciate it’s subtleties over time and have been reaching for it more often lately. I also have a particular fondness for layering Cabochard with Musks Koublai Khan, because (as I have mentioned on the MUA board) it reminds me of a particular person’s armpit. A good armpit! I believe the effect was achieved by man-smell mixed with Old Spice deodorant, but Cabochard/MKK mimic it quite nicely… if far more expensively. :) November 3, 2005 at 12:53pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I also wondered at first why I would need both, but you are right, the treatment of the same theme is both is sufficiently different. The subtle floral element over leather of Cabochard is what keeps me coming back, while in Bandit, it is the juxtaposition of darkness with galbanum vibrancy. The result is darker, less subtle, but very special.

    I have not tried layering MKK with anything. I have varying experiences with it. Some days it is a very subtle musk scent, and on others, Koublai Khan definitely comes out! Tania’s take on it had me in tears of laughter. You can find her comment under my review of SL Bois de Musc. November 3, 2005 at 1:14pm Reply

  • Liz: V, I just read Tania’s comments and you’re right, they’re hilarious. I should also direct you to daruma’s MUA review, which killed me. MKK is probably one of my top-three favorite perfumes and my go-to scent for layering. But even I admit initially it can be hard to take. ) November 3, 2005 at 1:44pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, what else do you layer it with? Now, I suddenly feel brave enough to experiment! November 3, 2005 at 2:05pm Reply

  • Liz: I like to go indole-crazy and layer it with jasmines like A la Nuit and La Haie Fleurie. I also think it’s marvelous with honey scents. I’ve also been known to blend a number of musks to form my own super musk, so MKK over Skin Musk oil, MKK over Narciso Rodriguez Musc oil, etc., would not be unheard of for me. :) November 3, 2005 at 2:23pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Sounds like MKK could work with jasmines, and I think that it might work with rose as well, particularly because I notice a dirty rose within its heart. I would have to try it. Thank you for being inspiration once again! November 3, 2005 at 2:29pm Reply

  • Katie: Thank you for that comparison, V. It seems not just with this scent, but many of the older chypre ones, that much of their appeal lie in the darkness thats forms the bases. To me this darkness seems to lend the scents a sense of coziness and intimacy that many of the more citrusy chypres that are “in” right now lack. I still haven’t worked up the nerve to try this – me and leather do not always get along so well. But you’ve certainly got me interested in obtaining a vintage bottle now. November 3, 2005 at 2:30pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, you are right about the darkness as part of the older chypre’s appeal. I like citrusy chypre as well, but when I tend to think of dark chypre, I immediately think of Cabochard, Bandit, Jolie Madame (albeit this is a lighter variation on the theme).

    If you can find the parfum, I would definitely recommend that. November 3, 2005 at 2:41pm Reply

  • Karin: I think Cabochard is a more wearable Miss Balmain. MB does not soften down on me at all, but it feels like the same family. Cabochard is about as deep as I can go.

    BTW, I put it on later today after my Ormonde Jayne for women disappeared.

    I never thought to layer Cabochard with anything. It is its own self. November 3, 2005 at 3:58pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Karin, I confess that I have hardly time to try everything, much less experiment with layering, yet the ideas I come across often sound fascinating nevertheless. I try to make time for experiments, provided that noone else gets subjected to them.

    I have a print out of an Elle article, in which Jean-Claude Ellena recommends some really curious layering combinations:
    No5 de Chanel
    [to enhance the] Iris: Après l’Ondée (Guerlain)
    Masculine notes, aldehydes and lavender: Tabac Original

    Shalimar de Guerlain
    Lavender: Pour un Homme (Caron)
    Spices: Pour Homme (Cacharel) or Comme des Garççons
    Patchouli: Etro, Santa Maria Novella

    There are plenty of other ones. I have never tried them, but I want to at some point. November 3, 2005 at 4:10pm Reply

  • Diane: Lovely review, dear V! I purchased vintage Cabochard EDT after reading about it on Luca Turin’s blog and have been loving its dry leathery strength. It’s a perfume with so much character, as if Madame Grès’s soul became infused and lives on.

    Now I must try the parfum for you know how much I love iris! November 3, 2005 at 5:23pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Dear D, thank you. The parfum is truly beautiful, and I am kicking myself for not purchasing a bottle of it when I saw it once for $9. It is such a complex composition, and its legendary status is more than deserved! November 3, 2005 at 8:37pm Reply

  • Joyce: Does anyone remember a perfume made by Madame Gres named Kalispers (evening?) May 5, 2006 at 10:25pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Joyce, unfortunately, I am not familiar with it. If you have tried it, please share what Kalispers is like. May 8, 2006 at 1:00am Reply

  • James Smith: Just found an 8 ounce vintage bottle of Bandit EDT today for less than $50! I love this stuff. I was influenced by this website toward Bandit, Muscs Kublai Khan and even (as a male!) Cabochard pur parfum, although I had the discretion to at least take the vintage grey velvet bow off of the bottle. Watch your perfumes, ladies, because more guys like me are daring to either weart them neat or layer them to play down the florals a bit and exhalt the leather.

    I love the beastiness of these leathery scents and have even used them to layer over a dab of my own concoction of macerated beaver castoreum in ethanol and real civet tincture. The result is a very funky, raw leather scent to counteract the bit of powderiness Cabochard sometimes imparts. The funkier the better, and a ripe armpit is sexy outside our narrow-minded society. If anyone knows anything over the top using MKK as a comparison, let me know. I love the edgy animalic stuff. September 20, 2006 at 7:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: James, by coincidence, I was just testing vintage Robert Piguet Visa. It is an intensely animalic fragrance, albeit resting on a slighly orientalized balsamic base. If you love civet and musk, it would be such a great discovery for you. Unfortunately, it has been discontinued for years, and I am not sure where one might find it. No modern fragrance has the same intensity. Of course, Eau d’Hermes is another fragrance with a beautiful animalic note. September 20, 2006 at 8:04pm Reply

  • sdn: just got some of this — it vanishes on me! which makes me sad. October 2, 2006 at 9:08pm Reply

  • James Smith: Thanks, boisdejasmin. I will have to find and try some RP Visa. This is exactly the kind of discovery I’m looking for. You are so right about modern fragrances not having the same intensity. I just use the old animalic ones when they are dry, unpowdery, unfloral, and un-“old lady,” Of course a guy has to use them very lightly and layer with something woody or leathery. I actually have bought too many lately and am selling a bbbigggg bottle of vintage Cabochard EDP on ebay now (Oct 2) due to my overbuying. I’ll look for Visa, and I still want to try Djedi. I missed a nice bottle of vintage Cuir by Lancome which I think I saw mentioned on this site too.

    I love this site, and thank you for having it. It has informed me on 99% of my have to have purchases, and I’m one of those people who can’t wait to just “sample” in case I like the fragrance too much. October 2, 2006 at 9:10pm Reply

  • jody hunter: I haven’t been able to find any cabochard perfume for years – it’s easy to get the eau de toilette but do they actually make the perfume any more? November 3, 2007 at 6:26am Reply

  • jenny jones: I have some old Cabochard (not sure how old). How would I know if it is ‘vintage’?
    Inspired by Turin & Sanchez I am inspired to give perfume another go. I am afrid the Lynx school of stink has really put me off! Also sitting next to the carelessly perfumed in the cinema, and the crass advertising of fragrances. (Ironically Lynx has some of the best cinema ads.) June 21, 2012 at 7:20am Reply

  • sharon: I have a vintage purse atomiser of Cabochard parfum I bought in Paris
    40 years ago (it still smells beautiful and it is bone dry!).
    It states on it “recharge as 7″ on the glass container. The glass is
    inside the gold and black 5.4ml size metal container. The glass
    portion is sealed however I can take off the metal cap and view the
    stem.
    Do you have any thoughts on how I can refill/recharge this precious
    gem? May 26, 2013 at 7:07pm Reply

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