Elisa on Safari, a ’90s classic with an ’80s spirit.
The ‘80s were a time that fetishized “adventure” – I grew up watching movies that took a page from Heart of Darkness, portraying Americans or Brits confronting the terrifying Other-ness of primitive African, Asian, and aboriginal cultures. Today’s audiences would find most of these films (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Crocodile Dundee, etc.) unwatchably offensive, and rightly so; their cultural moment has passed.
Ralph Lauren Safari, composed by Dominique Ropion, was released in 1990, but feels to me like an ‘80s scent (cusp years cling more tightly to the previous decade than the following, I’ve found). As a concept perfume, it perfectly fits the adventurist trend, and I associate those striking Bridget Hall ads that I saw in every magazine as a kid with the old Banana Republic stores. (If you’re younger than me, you might not remember that their stock in trade at the time was khaki shorts and branded t-shirts, not pinstriped office-wear.)
A true green chypre (not a “modern chypre”), Safari immediately announces itself as a galbanum monster. In fact, if you’ve never smelled galbanum, it is an excellent introduction to the material: olive-green, not crisp like violet leaf or blackcurrant buds, but rich and almost oily. The galbanum, along with a juicy orange top note and a touch of hairspray-like aldehydes, tumbles into an opulent floral mix of hyacinth, jasmine, narcissus, and marigold. The woody drydown is sweeter than that of a typical old-school chypre, since the nutty vetiver and moss come paired with ambery styrax, and (I suspect) a sneaky dose of vanilla. Like many heavy-hitters from its day, Safari has plentiful sillage and lasts all day, changing slightly with every half-hour.
Perhaps the best way to describe Safari is warm – like the first warm days in spring or the last warm days in fall, it’s suffused with sunlight, those slanted, late-afternoon rays you want to soak up every last drop of.
Ralph Lauren Safari includes notes of galbanum, orange, mandarin, aldehydes, cassis, rosemary, hyacinth, rose, lily of the valley, narcissus, jasmine, iris, tagetes, orange blossom, vetiver, moss, sandalwood, cedar, patchouli, tonka bean, and amber. It is still in production and available direct from Ralph Lauren stores, at $62 for a 2.5 oz. bottle.