Estee Lauder Azuree (Vintage) : Perfume Review

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When you approach the Estée Lauder counter you will see the slender bottles of Pleasures, the heavy flacons of Knowing, the ribbed orbs of Sensuous. Occasionally, you spot an hourglass bottle filled with dark as molasses Youth Dew. But to smell Azurée you often have to ask the sales associate for the tester. At many Lauder counters I’ve visited it is kept under the counter, reminding me of Soviet-era shopping. “From under the counter” was the magical phrase that produced things rarely seen on the store shelves. Something as commonplace as a packet of sugar obtained in this way seemed even sweeter.

Its special “under the counter” status isn’t the reason I crave Azurée. It’s big and bold, with a distinctive presence. Since it has been around since 1969, it bears a whiff of the era—you will not mistake this moss festooned beauty for another pink fruity floral, but it’s stunning. Anyone who loves woods, earthy notes and leather would enjoy Azurée’s generous presence. Among great chypres (the mossy and earthy perfumes that are the scent equivalents of film noir), Azurée holds a special place.

When I learned that Estée Lauder established American perfumery as a rival to the French tradition, I immediately thought of Azurée. It may have been created by the French bon vivant perfumer Bernard Chant, but it’s a true American legend.  It’s moody and sultry, an exhilarating combination. It also feels daring. Coco Chanel and Ernest Beaux may have played with gender boundaries when they created woods (Bois des Iles) and leather (Cuir de Russie) for women, but Chant went even further—Azurée is a twin sister of his masculine gem Aramis, released a year earlier in 1965.

In Aramis, Chant created a dusky leather accord woven through with patchouli, oakmoss and musk. Azurée, on the other hand, is softened by the gardenia and jasmine notes. The iris lends its cool, green twist that feels so elegant and surprising next to the balsamic darkness of the drydown. Azurée more resembles a well-worn leather jacket than a lady’s purse– its leather notes are dense and tangy, with a subtle smoky accent.

Those who enjoy Parfum Grès Cabochard and Aromatics Elixir will likewise find Azurée beautiful. However, its lack of sweetness makes it more difficult to wear for those of us used either to the soft peaches of Guerlain Mitsouko and Rochas Femme or to the gourmand mosses of Chanel Coco Mademoiselle and Prada. But when I feel that I’ve had enough cloying cotton candy and fruit, Azurée  is indispensable for resetting my nose.

Of course, Azurée hasn’t avoided the specter of reformulation. Under the new regulations, oakmoss can’t be used in its natural state, and the “safe” replacements are often bland and pale. I have the original and it’s sad to compare it to the current version; the differences are thrown into relief. But if I smell the current Azurée on its own, I enjoy it very much.

Estée Lauder  Azurée includes notes of bergamot, gardenia, jasmine, ylang-ylang, cyclamen, iris, leather, amber, oakmoss, and musk. Available from most Estée Lauder counters at all retailers.

Image: Elizabeth Taylor Sunning Herself on the Marfa, Texas Set of “Giant,” 1955 via monroegallery.com.

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

Samples from my 1970s bottle, compared against the tester bottle at Saks5thAvenue.

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48 Comments

  • Wendy: Azuree sure is something else! I do like it a lot, but have to admit to liking Cabochard (vintage perfume) just a teensy bit more… You mention the unavoidable reformulation: any idea how to find out whether a bottle contains the changed juice, or the “old” one? What year was it reformulated anyway? Cheers, Wendy May 21, 2012 at 7:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Hard to pinpoint in this case. The thing is that most fragrances are reformulated constantly, so there is no specific year when the reformulation happens–one year, the bergamot is replaced by another type, another year the musks are changed, etc. That’s how good reformulations take place, so that the change isn’t drastic. And that’s typically how Lauder and Chanel reformulations work (in contrast to Guerlain that seemed to change everything overnight).

      If you’re really set on finding an old bottle, just look on Ebay and online discounters–their stock seems to be older, as a rule. But I really prefer the new Azuree to the vintage, but aged Azuree. It has so much bergamot and citrusy notes at the top, and they invariably degrade with time. Interesting to smell, but very hard to wear. May 21, 2012 at 9:36am Reply

  • Amer: 1st of all: This is a stunning photo!

    I read about Azuree a week ago and I was intrigued by the suggestion that it can be used by both sexes. I hunted for it in all perfume stores in my area with no luck. Every Lauder SA looked at me puzzled and protested “but this is ANCIENT stuff!”. I had to make up a story that it is meant to be a present for an old aunt. I generally am a sucker for ths “lack of sweetness” and I find bitter perfumes to be very invigorating, almost mind-clearing and it makes me very sad that they are not concidered “in” any more to the point that one cannot even sniff a sample. By the description Cacharel pour Homme comes to mind. Is it any similar at all? May 21, 2012 at 8:07am Reply

    • Victoria: Since Azuree is exactly like Aramis (pretty much the same formula!), it would be easy to wear for a man. Did you smell Aramis by any chance? If you like bitter, green notes, I think that you would enjoy Aramis very much. May 21, 2012 at 9:38am Reply

  • Koray SEVİNÇ.: I love it Azuree. Reminds me of my mother. There are a peaceful side.. May 21, 2012 at 9:01am Reply

    • Victoria: That must be a very nice memory. May 21, 2012 at 9:38am Reply

  • yomi: Another – sigh- victim of the oakmoss issue! I think if a perfume ingredient has been around for ages – with safe use – it should not be restricted or banned. It could require labelling , but that should be it.

    As a fragrance creator I mourn the exit of such glorious notes! Nothing at least for now can really replace natural moss notes.
    Love the review May 21, 2012 at 9:21am Reply

    • Victoria: I used to mourn these changes, and I still do, but given that nothing will change in the short term, there isn’t much that one can do other than to experiment with replacements. The moss aroma-materials combine well with oud, by the way. May 21, 2012 at 12:26pm Reply

  • Elizabeth: I had a coworker who wore Azuree, and it smellede great on her. I bought a bottle for myself after that. Lauder’s prices cannot be beat, for the quality you get. I don’t wear Azuree often but I like having the bottle around for reference. May 21, 2012 at 9:40am Reply

    • Victoria: I also love to keep some around for reference (my favorite chypres are the peachy ones like Mitsouko). When I need to remind myself what was great about the American perfumery of the 1960s-70s, that’s what I reach for. May 21, 2012 at 12:28pm Reply

  • silverdust: Thanks for the review, Victoria. Perfume enthusiasts who aren’t familiar with Azuree often confuse it with the newer Tom Ford iteration. I hope this review and esp. the photo gets rid of existing confusion.

    As far as I’m concerned, the original Azuree is one of the grand dames of the perfume world! May 21, 2012 at 9:46am Reply

    • Victoria: “one of the grand dames of the perfume world” is a great description of Azuree! I liked Tom Ford’s Azuree too (which is now Bronze Goddess,) but I regret that they used the same name. May 21, 2012 at 12:30pm Reply

  • Suzanna: During a long-ago time when there weren’t so many fragrance choices and nothing of niche, before Pleasures and Beautiful and Knowing, one used to smell Azuree (and Private Collection) quite frequently. Most often poolside at the country club, where Lauder’s marketing took it.

    The combination of basil and leather was aggressive and astounding, especially when viewed through today’s saccharine prism. Still, alongside other frags in Lauder’s inventory, it fit right in. This is the House of Youth Dew.

    I love that Lauder created her competition with the French perfumeries with such force. Wasn’t that the American attitude of the time–rockets to the moon, whale-like automobiles, expansion to the suburbs, Wonder bread and big, happy perfumes you could get lost in? May 21, 2012 at 9:48am Reply

    • Victoria: I love Private Collection, and when I was recently naming my perfume staples, I realized that I should have included Private Collection as well. I wear it whenever I’m not sure what to put on, and it always wears so well. Alliage is another one I love.

      Lauder really put American perfumery on the map. May 21, 2012 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Irem: I appreciate the beauty and originality of Azuree on the blotter and even on the right person, but unfortunately not on myself. I have the same issue with Cabochard and Aromatics Elixir.
    Personal preferences aside, one observation I want to share is this: Since the publication of “Perfumes The Guide” by Sanchez and Turin there are no more “under the counter” fragrances at any of the Estee Lauder counters here. Maybe it is a coincidence, I do not know. But I definitely remember a time when I had to ask for almost anything except Pleasures, Beautiful, White Linen and all their flankers. Most of the time the sales associates would not even know the existence of the fragrance in question. When I first received my copy of “Perfumes The Guide” I remember my trip to our local Macy’s to check on a couple Estee Lauder’s. And I was very surprised to see the entire fragrance collection proudly displayed and easily accessible. There were even booklets around describing each and every one of them – and sales associates actually wearing and recommending some of the older fragrances. Whatever the real reason for the change, I think it is the way to go! May 21, 2012 at 12:15pm Reply

    • Victoria: If that’s the case, all the more reasons to cheer new perfume books! I remember being told at Macy’s that the counter had no testers for “those old fragrances.” Imagine! May 21, 2012 at 12:37pm Reply

    • Alyssa: Do you mind saying where your local Macy’s is, Irem? Because I want whoever’s in charge to come train the people over here. 😉 May 21, 2012 at 7:52pm Reply

      • Irem: Alyssa, I am talking about Columbus, OH. No way a perfume heaven but all our Macy’s have all Estée Lauder fragrances on display. Same for Nordstrom and Von Maur. And you should have seen my surprise when two years ago a young SA recommended the original Private Collection as one of EL’s best fragrances. May 21, 2012 at 9:23pm Reply

        • Alyssa: Very interesting. The Macy’s flagship is in Chicago, so maybe there’s some kind of Midwest thing going on. May 22, 2012 at 3:51pm Reply

  • Blacknall Allen: Thank you for making the distinction between kinds of reformulation. It’s an excellent point too seldom made. May 21, 2012 at 12:27pm Reply

    • Victoria: Glad that it’s helpful. There are so many different types of reformulations, but the truth is that pretty much everything is reformulated one way or another today. In the past too, but the changes weren’t often as drastic. May 21, 2012 at 12:41pm Reply

  • Sarah: Hi again V,
    I wanted to ask you smth but didn’t know were to…so I’m going to write here 🙂
    I wanted to buy a fragrance and I’ve tried a few, but I’m undecided. I think (not sure) that I like floral orientals cus I like flowers a lot and I don’t mind vanilla in perfumes. Some I tried: Eternity(CK) liked the carnation, Paris(rose), Poeme(lancome), cherry blossom(l’occitane), I love dior (dior) these last two are more of spring fragrances. Which do you like most??also if you can tell me any others to try u would help me ;)…Please….: May 21, 2012 at 1:54pm Reply

  • minette: this stuff is fabulous! and if you don’t feel like wearing it, at least spritz it into the air – it makes your space smell wonderful! May 21, 2012 at 2:23pm Reply

    • Victoria: What a great idea! I love how it blooms in the air, so I must try this. May 22, 2012 at 12:28am Reply

  • Austenfan: I have a mini of this. I admire but do not love it. I should really. I like leather and adore Chant’s other masterpiece Aromatics Elixir. I will have to pull out my small bottle soon. I haven’t smelled it in quite a while, and maybe absence has made the heart grow fonder. May 21, 2012 at 5:51pm Reply

    • Victoria: Do try it again! If you like Aromatics Elixir, you will enjoy Azuree as well. It definitely has the same DNA. Would love to hear your thoughts. May 22, 2012 at 12:54am Reply

  • Alyssa: As always you make me want to run and dab some of this on. I have a little sample set of the old Lauders that a kind (and bored) SA made for me at a decaying mall that shut down soon after. Should have just bought a bottle of each! May 21, 2012 at 7:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: The best way to discover perfume is through a passionate, knowledgeable SA.

      Azuree has such a wonderful green note right on top (not as green as Alliage), and the contrast with the leather and patchouli is so intriguing. I think that you will like it. May 22, 2012 at 12:56am Reply

  • Alyssa: And I really should wear Private Collection now and again. Such a marvelous dark green. May 21, 2012 at 7:53pm Reply

    • Victoria: It feels very modern to me, in contrast to some other chypres from that era (even though I like a touch of retro myself). May 22, 2012 at 12:58am Reply

  • Moi: I love Azuree’s sunny, bracing assertiveness, much as I love Private Collection’s. But darn it, if today’s noses aren’t just so prissy in response. You’d think I’d committed a crime, wearing this stuff in public. Folks, that’s how PERFUME is supposed to smell! I always want to scream. May 21, 2012 at 9:21pm Reply

    • Victoria: Do you get negative comments on Azuree? I wear Private Collection more often than Azuree, but I get nothing but positive comments on either. But PC wins out slightly more. Either way, please do wear Azuree! I just love smelling these kinds of bold, distinctive fragrances around me. May 22, 2012 at 12:59am Reply

  • Catherine Fraser: Vintage or current Azuree is a 5 star fragrance. It has hardly changed…a miracle i these times and remains a true chypre another miracle. I too have experienced the thrill of the under the counter purchase! This fragrance should not be hidden away. One day it may be overlooked entirely and become extinct. May 21, 2012 at 9:26pm Reply

    • Victoria: “One day it may be overlooked entirely and become extinct.” Exactly! That’s why I didn’t like for it to be under the counter.

      I debated on 5 vs 4, and I went with 4 because of Azuree’s similarity to Aramis. But to be honest, it deserves all of the kudos, as it’s an excellent, beautiful perfume. Other Lauders like Alliage, Private Collection and Youth Dew are also great. May 22, 2012 at 1:03am Reply

  • Nicola: I love everything about this perfume (including that fabulous almost deco bottle). I gave a decant to my cousin who returned the favour by wafting around in it so I could enjoy the pleasure of smelling it on someone else (great sillage). Then on Friday I tried it out on my date who wears cerruti 1890 or something (described by LT as “affably vulgar”) and he LOVED it. But then he would as he used to wear Aramis. Long may it live particulalry since its necessary reformulations seem to be handled sensitively. May 22, 2012 at 9:01am Reply

    • Nicola: oh and that image of the fabulous Elizabeth Taylor is just perfect. May 22, 2012 at 9:05am Reply

    • Victoria: How good of you to introduce it to your friend, and I can see why he would love it if he wore Aramis. I’ve met men who preferred Azuree for its more suave feel. May 24, 2012 at 9:55am Reply

  • rhodesianridgeback: I bought it the first day it showed up on the counter because I loved it. But on me, I when I became aware of it I thought of an insecticide, Raid. Don’t know why. But loved it, and loved smelling it on a woman who worked on another floor, so I gave her mine, and asked her to stop by whenever she had it on. But, I have often wondered why I had that largely psychological reaction that wouldn’t go away. Didn’t give it much chance really. But, I think I’d love to smell it again, and I never run into it. So, I should try smell some Aramis, when I can smell. Hope that will be soon. January 5, 2013 at 10:37pm Reply

  • Robert: Aramis in my view is so close to Azuree I’d let price alone guide the purchase. June 28, 2013 at 8:34am Reply

    • Victoria: Very true, and I’ve mixed them up on occasion when I smelled them on other people. June 28, 2013 at 1:07pm Reply

  • Robert: P.S.: Both boast exceptionally long half-lives. June 28, 2013 at 8:37am Reply

  • Carol A. Wilson: I have been a loyal customer of azure fragrance for more than or around 50years. I just purchased a new bottle and it is not the same. It’s not as strong or as lasting as ever before. What has happened to my azure?please , please don’t change my cologne. March 8, 2016 at 3:35pm Reply

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