Robert Piguet Visa : Fragrance Review

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Robert_piguet

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

Although Fracas and Bandit are the fragrances most firmly linked with Robert Piguet’s name, the perfumes credited to this house include a range of other memorably named creations: Calypso, Hirondelle, Mimo, Cattleya, Futur. Visa was created in 1947, its seductive and voluptuous form contrasting markedly with the restrained elegance of other fragrances launched during the same year – Christian Dior Miss Dior, Caron Farnesiana, Balenciaga Le Dix. …

In its original incarnation, Visa embraces its wearer passionately–its opulent floral heart and the almost indecently rich animalic accord smoulder on the skin. Only after two hours does the fragrance reveal its perfectly pitched and unexpectedly cool chypre accord. Although Visa is sometimes attributed to Germaine Cellier, the Osmothèque archives list Jean Carles as its creator. Indeed, the vintage Visa recalled more the dark allure of Carles’s Tabu than Cellier’s ingenious Fracas.

Given the promise of the original, I found the modern re-orchestration of Visa to be disappointing. It strikes me as leaning far too much in the predictable direction of Angel aided by the latter’s magic formula of candied fruit top notes + patchouli + cotton candy (ethyl maltol). Whatever embellishes the Angelic core—leather, dusky roses and oriental resins—only serves to highlight the conflicted balance between the pull of the modern trends and the spirit of the original.

The reissue of Visa includes notes of white vineyard peach, pear, violet leaves, Italian bergamot, yellow mandarin essences, ylang ylang absolute, rose, immortelle, orange flower absolutes. Indonesian Patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver, moss, vanilla beans, benzoin and a gourmand leathery accord form the drydown. Visa is available from Le Bon Marche in Paris and at Harvey Nichols in London.

For a different opinion, please see Marina’s review on Perfume-Smellin’ Things. She also discusses Cravache, which admittedly I find infinitely more compelling than Visa. To be reviewed soon.

Photo of Robert Piguet’s couture gown from Robert Piguet.

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19 Comments

  • Anya: I have a tiny bit of the original — it is animalic, cool, deliberate, very much in the style of those times. In a scent wardrobe, I can only see it for nighttime wearing, in the winter. August 21, 2007 at 10:43am Reply

  • tmp00: How I would love to smell the original, and how I wish it could have been reissued as it was. August 21, 2007 at 1:15pm Reply

  • minette: drat, drat, drat. i have the original, and it is incredible – sorry to hear that the reformulation doesn’t live up to it. i’ve rarely found a scent that travels so far (it has many facets) and is so rich – if they had stuck to the original, they would’ve had a hit on their hands. August 21, 2007 at 4:42pm Reply

  • ruxi: I don’t understand why theese changes in the reformulations.If a parfum is good the way it is-and especially when it is old -one should preserve it instead change it dramatically. August 22, 2007 at 2:46am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Ruxi, the problem is that many of the ingredients used in the original are no longer allowed–you cannot use animalic materials (musk, civet, castoreum–at least, not for the export to the US market), a wide of range of others are banned for toxicological reasons. It is an incredibly difficult (and impossible) task to ressurect the originals, and I sympathize with the creators. In this case, I just wish that I did not have to smell yet another Angel incarnation. There are plenty of those on the market. August 22, 2007 at 8:35am Reply

  • Judith: Oh, dear! I guess if I like either of the reissues, it will be Cravache (and I am very fond of that original, so they better do a good job). Always great to see a review from you though, even if it’s a disheartening one! August 22, 2007 at 8:38am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Judith, I was 100% sure I will fall in love with Visa, because it has the promise to be everything I love (and because other reissues were excellent). Yet, surprisingly, Cravache (being in the family I do not care that much about) won out in the end. I think that RP has done a great job in reissuing it. August 22, 2007 at 8:46am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Minette, I also find the original to be very multifaceted and beautiful. It does pale a bit next to Bandit and Fracas for me, but still, it is striking. I suppose that unless one has a vintage bottle, the only place to seek that experience again is the Osmotheque. August 22, 2007 at 8:48am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: tmp00, I agree! I wish so too, but I doubt that it would be possible (given the impossibility to use the kind of materials that were used in 1947 to create Visa). August 22, 2007 at 8:49am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Anya, I can see how it would be a perfect Nuit de Noel fragrance (not to steal the thunder from Caron, of course!) 🙂 August 22, 2007 at 8:50am Reply

  • ruxi: I am aware about the ingredients problem.I read your blog for some time by now(even I am not at all a parfumista,just a parfum lover)and there are so few good reformulations.If it is imposible to create the same parfum with modern ingredients, at least, these new formulas should have new names. August 22, 2007 at 9:56am Reply

  • Campaspe: You’re kidding me, right? there was a Robert Piguet Hirondelle??? August 24, 2007 at 11:13am Reply

  • Ina: You know, I really do love this one. Even though it does go in the direction of Angel at first, it’s only for a few minutes, and on my skin it’s all ripe, syrup-drenched peaches and ylang-ylang. The sillage is amazing, too. August 28, 2007 at 11:40am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Ruxi, trademarking a new name is extremely difficult and costly, which is why many companies delve into their archives to discover a name they already have. Piguet in general tries very hard to maintain its spirit, and I believe that for the most part they are successful. Baghari and Cravache (most recent re-issues) are excellent. August 28, 2007 at 4:33pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: F, there really was one, from 1947. I have never smelled it, but the name is enchanting. August 28, 2007 at 4:35pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Ina, I find it to be the opposite–the Angelic side is revealed most fully in the drydown. Nicely done, but not Visa spirited for me.

    I did like Cravache though. August 28, 2007 at 5:43pm Reply

  • evilpeony: awwww….. i was looking forward to visa. that it has been given a gourmand twist is indeed disappointing. September 13, 2007 at 2:55pm Reply

  • Grace Fleet: We know about the ecological restrictions that don’t allow a perfume’s re-issue to follow the exact formulas from the past. But you would think that a chemist could finagle things around enough, until it could be possible for classic perfumes to be copied exactly.
    Especially in the recent case of “the new and improved” L’Interdit by Givenchy ~ such a disappointment to me. I used to live in that perfume. September 22, 2007 at 5:33pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Grace, in many cases, the answer is no. Unfortunately, some ingredients do not have close equivalents. I share your disappointment (although in case of L’Interdit, the change is mostly due to the changing tastes). September 22, 2007 at 5:52pm Reply

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