Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
An animalic fruity chypre, Balenciaga Talisman exemplifies the type of genre that while still explored in the transitional period between the heft and opulence of the 80s perfumes and the minimalism of the 1990s, has been on the steady decline ever since. In general, animalic chypre inaugurated by Chanel Cuir de Russie (1921) cannot be named as a popular category, although over the years, especially when crossed with the fruity chypre, it has produced beautiful compositions that are still considered to be the gold standards of the classical perfumery—aggressive leather of Robert Piguet Bandit (1944), civet melted on honey of Schiaparelli Shocking (1937), refinement of Christian Dior Miss Dior (1947), exquisite dryness of Grés Cabochard(1959), to name a few. …
Talisman was created in 1994 by Dominique Preyssas. The perfume trends of the early to mid 1990s are difficult to sum up in one word, as they were set by the diverse genres: the oriental heavy hitters like Chopard Casmir (1991), Thierry Mugler Angel (1994) and Kenzo Jungle Elephant (1996), the ozonic fruity compositions a la Calvin Klein Escape (1991) and Issey Miyake L’Eau d’Issey (1992), the intense florals in the manner of Givenchy Amarige (1991) and Lancôme Trésor (1990), as well as the minimalist arrangements inspired by Bulgari Eau Parfumée (1992) and Calvin Klein Ck One (1994). I wonder how Talisman would have struck me at the time of its release. Unfortunately, it did not cross my path then.
I find it very curious that although I enjoy wearing fragrances from the teens and the twenties of the last century, Talisman strikes me now as dated. On the one hand, I can attribute it to my tastes, because the combination of the dark fruity notes with the dense amber and beeswax base renders it heavier than my usual favorites. Indeed, throughout the transition from the jammy sweetness of fruit to the buttery richness of floral notes, and then to the honeyed animalic base, one is never allowed a moment of olfactory respite. On another, it is a matter of the current trends. Over the past decade, the increasing availability of new materials with greater radiance and transparency has allowed perfumers to infuse even the heaviest of modern compositions with light and sparkle.
Yet, the drydown of Talisman is appealing, because the animalic accord that unfolds after the Christmas fruitcake like density of the top and middle notes is quite sensual and striking. It displays the animalic aspect of honey, the winey glow of ambergris and the darkness of civet. The only contemporary comparison I can draw is with Serge Lutens Muscs Koublaï Khan, although Serge Lutens is more polished. All the same, it makes me wish for more attention to be paid to the animalic chypre genre, since a category this intriguing simply should not be ignored.
Talisman includes notes of violet leaves, davana, litchi, rum, osmanthus; hyacinth, rose, orchid, freesia, ylang-ylang, clove; amber, iris. It is available from a variety of online retailers, as this Froggle search indicates.
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