Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
It has been a while since any fragrance from the Armani Privé collection captured my attention. Although many perfumes in the range are elegant and well-crafted, the inflated price makes them much less attractive to me. The only exception so far has been Bois d’Encens, a striking incense and cedarwood composition that intriguingly managed to convey the serene darkness of incense, while suggesting a glamorous aura. La Femme Bleue has been my latest surprise. Although iris has been a heavily used theme among recent niche launches—from Tom Ford Violet Blonde to Annick Goutal Mon Parfum Cheri, La Femme Bleue presents it in an unusual manner. It pairs the cool vegetal austerity of iris with the gourmand sweetness of chocolate and the somber darkness of incense, all the while retaining an uplifting sensation.
La Femme Bleue was created by perfumer Serge Majoullier who is particularly known for his work on Hermès Calèche. The reformulated version of this great Guy Robert classic called Calèche Soie de Parfum is Majoullier’s work. La Femme Bleue is not Calèche, even though it shares with it a dominant iris note, but the elegant character of this Armani fragrance hints at the same tradition that gave rise to Calèche. Although heavily embroidered with gourmand notes such as almond scented resins, chocolate and vanilla, La Femme Bleue does not degenerate into yet another “lollipop” composition. It retains a sophisticated presence from the cool floral top notes to the velvety oriental base.
The fragrance opens up on a bright accord of green citrus and violet petals, which almost immediately begin to darken as the hum of incense grows stronger. The interplay of incense and the rooty richness of iris is fascinating, and although La Femme Bleue is not the first composition to rely on this pairing, it manages to make it quite wearable. As the gourmand notes enter the chorus, the fragrance recalls the opulent warmth of Guerlain Iris Ganache. However, while Iris Ganache is heavy and dense, the olfactory equivalent of triple chocolate cake, La Femme Bleue is much more of a delicate confection. The incense tones down the sweetness of chocolate and remains a constant presence as the composition dries down.
The main drawback of La Femme Bleue is its current limited edition status, with reportedly only 1000 bottles available. The price of over $400 is another significant deterrent. This, of course, does not change the fact that the fragrance is well-crafted and harmonious, with an excellent sillage. It simply makes me irritated that yet another interesting composition will live only for a few months, while scores of nondescript copycats will persist in clogging the perfume counters.
Giorgio Armani La Femme Bleue includes notes of iris, chocolate and vanilla. It is available at Bergdorf Goodman, Neiman Marcus, Saks5thAvenue and Selfridges in the UK. 100 ml Eau de Parfum.
Sample: my own acquisition