Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
The decisions of fragrance houses to reach into their archives tend to elicit mixed feelings in me. While getting a whiff of a 1920s boudoir or a 1950s cocktail party seems like an intriguing proposition, the past cannot be resurrected in all of its complex and intricate detail. The reissued fragrances would inevitably differ from their predecessors either due to commercial (change in tastes) or practical (disappearance of raw materials) considerations. At worst, the juice in the bottle would have little to do with the fragrance that supposedly inspired it. Thankfully, the recent reorchestration of Baghari respects the Robert Piguet tradition, resulting in a fragrance that combines modern radiance with neoclassical softness.
The original Baghari was created in 1950 by Francis Fabron, the perfumer who is responsible for such marvels as Nina Ricci L’Air du Temps (1948), Balenciaga Le Dix (1947) and Givenchy L’Interdit (1957). Fabron’s work is exemplified by the distinctive style that is often referred to as French. Elegant and polished with a delicate accent of powdery notes, his compositions have a romantic, wistful aura. Baghari is likewise built on a luxurious floral bouquet of rose, jasmine and iris, with pronounced woody warmth. It is perhaps darker and more assertive than Fabron’s other creations, but these qualities assure consonance with the rest of the Piguet line. Although Baghari was marketed in 1950 as a fresh, subtle fragrance for a young woman, I would have to admit that the original version might come across as old-fashioned to consumers raised on fruity-floral fare.
Baghari was reorchestrated this year by Aurélien Guichard of Givaudan, the creator of the excellent Bond no 9 Chinatown. When wearing it side by side with the vintage Baghari, the differences are thrown into relief. The main differences are apparent in the top notes and the drydown. The whiteness of aldehydes in the new Baghari is instead replaced with sweet, almost candy-like notes. The woody dryness of the base is laced with a pronounced dose of iris which preserves the luxurious effect while lending a modern lustre to the composition. Yet, the heart of the composition allows a glimpse of the original romantic softness resulting from the rainfall of flower petals. Being related to Chanel No. 5 and Le Dix, Baghari seems like a sweeter, crisper take on that theme.
While Baghari accomodates the contemporary preferences for the instant gratification of a pretty top note, this change in the formula distorts neither the character nor the complexity of the composition. Even if it does not exactly replicate the scent of a cocktail party from the 1950s, it beautifully conveys retro glamour. For a romantic such as myself, this is quite irresistible.
The original 1950 Baghari included notes of aldehydes, bergamot, orange blossom, lemon, rose, lilac, ylang-ylang, lily of the valley, jasmine, Bourbon vetiver, benzoin, musk, amber, vanilla. The 2006 Baghari features bergamot, neroli, violet, aldehydes, jasmine, orange blossom, rose (Bulgarian or Damascene), rose Centifolia, iris, vetiver, amber, musk, vanilla. It is available from Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman in the US, Harvey Nichols in the UK, and Le Bon Marché and Les Printemps in France.
Robert Piguet gowns photo from Fashion Fragrances and Cosmetics.