Paco Rabanne Calandre : Perfume Review

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Patricia revisits Calandre, a metallic green rose with a chypre heart.

Nineteen Sixty-Nine was a year in which I watched with my family as men walked on the moon, 400,000 young people crammed into the then little known town of Woodstock, NY for a three-day music festival, and the hugely unpopular war in Vietnam was escalating with accompanying casualties on both sides of the conflict. In the same year, Calandre, an avant-garde perfume from the fashion house of Paco Rabanne and created by nose Michel Hy, was launched.

calandrer

Betty Friedan, considered by some to be the mother of the second wave of American feminism, had written The Feminine Mystique in 1963, and the sixties provided fertile ground for the growing Women’s Movement. Perfume styles were changing as well. The more formal floral style of the fifties and early sixties was giving way to more modern interpretations.

Calandre was the first fragrance released by fashion designer Paco Rabanne, and its minimalist approach is evident in both the juice and the bottle containing it. Designed by Pierre Dinand, the tall rectangular bottle of thick glass is enclosed with metal to resemble a “calandre” or grille of an automobile. This perhaps suggests that the modern woman of the late sixties was going somewhere, and from the vantage point of the driver’s seat behind the wheel instead of taking a back seat.

In terms of its pared-down quality, Calandre makes me think of a precursor to the austere elegance of Chanel No. 19. It reminds me of mid-sixties modern furniture, such as the one-piece Tulip chairs in the family room that my brother and I delighted in spinning until too dizzy to walk. Calandre opens with a huge blast of starchy aldehydes and the slightly sour note of oakmoss. After about fifteen minutes the aldehydes calm down, and the floral notes appear. I get mostly rose, but it is a more transparent rose with metallic overtones, quite chilly when compared to a realistic rose perfume like Une Rose by Frederic Malle, which smells like a red rose with petals, thorns, and stems all thrown into a blender.

The dry down is part of the overall progression in that there is nothing unnecessarily added, just a gradual shift into the grounding agents of vetiver, sandalwood, and musk becoming softer and more powdery with time. Although Calandre doesn’t project much, only a small amount is needed to last all day, and I can still detect traces on my wrists the next morning. As it is not sweet, it would also make an excellent masculine.

Perhaps because it was so widely worn during its heyday, it is instantly recognizable. I don’t wear it anymore, but I take comfort in its familiarity. I could be anywhere on the planet, or even on the moon for that matter, and smelling it would pin me to a time and place, along with its attendant memories. And isn’t that what perfume is all about?

Victoria’s note on reformulation: the world doesn’t stay the same and neither does perfume. Calandre is still recognizable in its new form, and it still has its green rose layers. It smells less green in the top notes and the drydown has lost some of the milky heft. Patricia’s review was based on her vintage bottle, but while like many older perfumes, Calandre is better in its original version, the recent one should still be considered. Another perfume with a similar metallic-green rose accent that I like is Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche, also created by the same perfumer as Calandre, Michel Hy.

 

Paco Rabanne Calandre includes notes of aldehydes, bergamot, green notes, geranium, orris root, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, rose, amber, oakmoss, musk, sandalwood, and vetiver. Available at department stores and online retailers.

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52 Comments

  • WJ: I still have a bottle of Calandre, but I could never get used to the metallic part of the fragrance, same with Rive Gauche. I do like Metal which was released 10 years later I think. October 16, 2014 at 9:18am Reply

    • Patricia: Rive Gauche was a favorite of mine, and I always found it more wearable and warmer than Calandre. I have a small sample of Metal and will try to find it to compare with the others. October 16, 2014 at 10:47am Reply

    • silverdust: If you don’t want it and don’t have anyone to gift it to, put it on eBay and watch how fast it goes! I love both of these originals and lament the pale shadows of themselves they’ve become. Those were the days! October 16, 2014 at 2:49pm Reply

      • Patricia: I do know that Metal is scarcer than hen’s teeth! October 16, 2014 at 3:48pm Reply

  • Elisa: I had a small bottle of this at one point but I think it was a more recent version and it had an overwhelming celery note that I pick up in some chypres, either a problem of not aging well or just not being well blended. Had the same problem with a bottle of Knowing. Passed them both on because I cannot abide smelling of celery!

    Have you tried Paco Rabanne Metal? It is also a green chypre and also gorgeous. October 16, 2014 at 11:03am Reply

    • Patricia: Hi Elisa, I have a micro mini Metal tucked away somewhere, and will pull it out for comparison when I get home from work. October 16, 2014 at 11:17am Reply

      • Elisa: It’s definitely more of a spring/green bouquet (hyacinth and iris and such), not rose. I love it. October 16, 2014 at 2:22pm Reply

        • Patricia: Sounds great. I’ll let you know when I try it. October 16, 2014 at 3:46pm Reply

  • Gentiana: I just finished my bottle of Calandre, that I boucht in 2007, in France. It was a kind of blind buy, as it was a very small boutique, one single bottle and no tester for it. I have no idea why, but it was the one and only bottle of Calandre that I saw in the whole area. I bought it, based on raving reviews and descriptions… and after trying it I was slightly disappointed. Too sharp the aldehydes in the beginning, to cold and sharp the rose, yes, metallic – unpleasant in the way that feels a piece of iron taken in the mouth.
    I gave it more tries and got some kind of used to it…
    It never fitted me. It felt as ice-cold in the winter, cloying in the summer, dated and overtly “perfumey” no matter of weather.
    But, some miracles happen with perfumes: my Calandre got better with aging! At the beginning of this year my 100 ml (3.4 oz) bottle was over its half. I spritzed the last drop of it about one month ago. What happened? The sharp aldehides calmed a lot, the metal melted somehow, the rose got a low-pitched, dark-dusky-velvety vibe.
    The moss and the green still there, but not that pungent.
    This perfume aged in a fantastic way (for me). Of course, my chemistry might change, too, but the smell was clearly different,as tried on paper and tissues, as well.
    Now I am in great doubts : shell I buy one more bottle ? Do I need it? My wishlist is huge and I already have more dozens of perfumes…
    But I would be happy to get a decant, to indulge myself with the wafts of this wild gem, full of contradictions. October 16, 2014 at 11:47am Reply

  • Patricia: Dear Gentiana, I love your post detailing your experiences with Calandre, and I admire your tenacity in sticking with a perfume that you initially didn’t like. Finishing a 100 ml bottle of anything is quite an accomplishment!

    As to whether or not your perfume “aged” in the bottle like a fine wine, I must admit that I don’t know. Perhaps Victoria can help us here. 🙂 October 16, 2014 at 12:35pm Reply

    • Gentiana: Thank you, Patricia.
      I sticked with Calandre as it gave me feelings full of contradictions. All the unpleasant sensations I detailed were somehow doubled or echoed by a very muted, very subdued “something” that made me feel it worth trying. And the drydown was something in the frames I call “pleasant” -but, helas! I had to wait too long for it. But as the high-pitched top notes faded in years, or went through some oxydation (?), the best of perfume opens quicker. The same I experience now with my bottles of Joy and Arpege, purchased in 2008. I dismissed them that time and now, that the harsh top notes faded, I bath in the most gorgeous florals that human nose can feel ! October 20, 2014 at 1:16pm Reply

      • Patricia: Very interesting that you are enjoying your Joy and Arpege more now that they have aged a bit and the top notes are more muted. October 20, 2014 at 4:07pm Reply

  • Nancy A.: Hi Patricia,

    Thanks for sharing the memories of a past generation. Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex which was my forerunner of the Women Equality which ultimately led (me) to all the others: Friedan, Greer and of course Steinem. And Calandre still a fragrance worn to the max had for me a special place along with Chanel 19. Still does. Ironically, I was thinking of searching for Calandre until I read Victoria’s note and its update. What I wonder is if the potency and longevity of vintage fragrances remains or is there an expiration. October 16, 2014 at 1:07pm Reply

    • Patricia: Vintages can hold up amazingly well if they are taken care of and not put in direct sunlight. Top notes are the first to go.

      My Calandre still smells as it originally did, and I just finished up a 4 oz. bottle of Lauren that I must have had for 20 years. Still, as they say, “good to the last drop.” 🙂 October 16, 2014 at 2:06pm Reply

  • Lia: I discovered Calandre in the small perfume shop in a wonderful Paris hotel in1970. My father had been transferred to South Africa and we were traveling as part of this big move and great adventure. I believe it had just been released, so was tres moderne. I always keep a bottle (very inexpensive now) around and I use it from time to time and drift back to those times in my mind. October 16, 2014 at 1:17pm Reply

    • Patricia: What great memories, Lia! October 16, 2014 at 2:09pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I’ve tried Calandre a few times in shops but those testers rarely give an accurate impression of a scent. It sounds so good! The testers all smelled a little sharp unfortunately. October 16, 2014 at 1:39pm Reply

    • Patricia: There is a bit of a sour note, but I wouldn’t exactly call it sharp. I wonder if that is due to reformulation? October 16, 2014 at 2:12pm Reply

    • annemarie: I agree that testers sometimes let you down (and not just because the bottles have been sitting under hot lights for too long!). I tested YSL’s Y a number of times in a department store in another city (it was then not sold where I live) but Y never stood up well to the fug of perfume that hangs in the air on any cosmetic floor. It seemed very thin. Finally I bought some when I saw a good price online, uncertain whether it would be a good buy or not. It was! I love it. But its too airy to put up a convincing presence when it has to compete with all those hefty Lauders and celebuscents and so on. October 16, 2014 at 8:32pm Reply

      • Patricia: Y is a treasure, isn’t it? Next to Ysatis, it is one of my favorites from days gone by. October 18, 2014 at 10:16am Reply

  • Jennifer C: I had a decant of Calandre, but I found that I preferred other, comparable scents, like Chanel No.19, Silences, and Metal. I found Calandre more powdery/starchy than the rest. October 16, 2014 at 1:56pm Reply

    • Patricia: Nothing beats No. 19 in my opinion! I didn’t wear Silences or Metal at the time, but always enjoyed the metallic rose in Calandre.

      I think I have a smidge of Silences tucked away and am now intrigued to try it again. October 16, 2014 at 2:20pm Reply

  • Cornelia Blimber: I agree with Patricia, Rive Gauche was warmer. More human if you can say so. I had everything: perfume (existing in the seventies), Edt, soap, talcum powder. I dosed in Rive Gauche.
    I found Calandre ± 15 years ago (is it vintage then? Anyhow, it is not thin) and wear it occasionnaly. I like perfumes with a metal note (like for ex. Bas de Soie) but must be in the mood for it.
    I like your articles on the old favorites, Patricia. October 16, 2014 at 3:09pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Cornelia. I like to wear the old favorites once in a while, too.

      But I must say that the only old favorite that I still wear on a regular basis is No. 19. It is simply timeless! October 16, 2014 at 3:45pm Reply

      • Cornelia Blimber: Yes it is! Although I must say that my vintage No19 has a fine leathery drydown missing in the current version. But it is stll a great perfume.
        With thanks to you I am wearing Ysatis on a regular basis.

        A review of Fidji would be nice! What do you think? October 16, 2014 at 4:49pm Reply

        • Patricia: I have a small vial of vintage No. 19 extrait, and it is just heavenly. I parcel it out in micro drops. 🙂

          I think I have some Fidji tucked away somewhere, but I must admit I don’t remember a thing about it. I’ll try to find it and will certainly review it, with Victoria’s permission.

          I’m so glad you are enjoying the Ysatis! Such a pretty fragrance, and I love the name. October 16, 2014 at 6:18pm Reply

        • Patricia: I looked in my stash, but sadly no Fidji October 18, 2014 at 10:18am Reply

          • Cornelia Blimber: Oh, well, I am sure you will found other interesting perfumes in your stash! October 18, 2014 at 3:13pm Reply

  • Amer: This stunning bottle is nowhere to be seen on the shelves of mainstream perfume shops in my country. In fact it is so unavailable that I thought it was discontinued. I would never have guessed that the beautiful sounding name refers to a part of a car, nor did I ever associate that bottle with it (always thought of it as a specimen case from a museum). In any case, according to your description Calandre really seems like something I ought to try, especially since I have worn Channel 19 in the past but ultimately decided that I needed something with a more substantial drydown. As I am not one to hunt for vintage bottles, a recent one will have to do. Thanks for your beautiful review. October 16, 2014 at 5:04pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Amer. Researching this perfume was fascinating. Like you, I had no idea that “Calandre” referred to the grille of an automobile. The English word colander must derive from this French word: also a metal implement with perforations.

      I would very much like to smell Calandre on a man. If you try it, please let us know what you think! October 16, 2014 at 6:25pm Reply

  • solanace: Now I want to call my cousin, who wears Caladre! October 16, 2014 at 5:45pm Reply

    • solanace: Calandre, of course. October 16, 2014 at 5:45pm Reply

    • Patricia: Oh, good! Send her the link. 🙂 October 16, 2014 at 6:26pm Reply

  • angeldiva: The review and comments, here fascinate me. But, not for the lovely nostalgic reasons listed. Scents, and memories can be good or negative. I couldn’t relate to Calandre circa 1982…but, I had a relative who was in love with it.
    At the time I was a pure Magie Voir parfum woman. Taste in scent is as diverse as taste in music. I personally associate this smell with very bad behavior, and jealousy… Due to my particular memory- I think I would have a panic attack if I smelled this, now. Who knows what my own collection of perfume would evoke in someone else.
    P October 16, 2014 at 6:13pm Reply

    • Patricia: Angeldiva, I couldn’t agree with you more. Please stay away from this fragrance, as it would evoke too many bad memories. I have a few like that myself! October 16, 2014 at 6:29pm Reply

      • angeldiva: Thank-you both for your tolerance and humor. It’s chilling how the writers descriptions match those of the Relative so precisely. “In the driver’s seat- Austere- even her modern furniture!!!
        P October 16, 2014 at 6:51pm Reply

        • Patricia: I’m afraid most of us have had a similar Relative! October 16, 2014 at 7:24pm Reply

          • angeldiva: Patricia, this was a stellar review. Written with great intuition! Good writing is what makes people really think, and respond.
            And, I might add I feel a measure of healing. October 17, 2014 at 3:34pm Reply

            • Patricia: 🙂 October 17, 2014 at 10:21pm Reply

  • Ariadne: ROFLH! I loved and love Calandre and in 1972 enjoyed it immensely while behaving quite “badly”. Seemed like everyone wore it then….one way or another. This post & string evoke a huge smile from me. October 16, 2014 at 6:38pm Reply

    • Patricia: And your comment evoked a huge smile from me…wearing it one way or another! 🙂 October 16, 2014 at 7:26pm Reply

  • donna: Patricia, can it still be purchased in the USA? You and I are of the same generation and Calandre figures very prominently from my senior year of high school and a long lost love. I bought the bottle on the way home from Jamaica at the duty free shop. The memory of the purchase is intertwined with a chic siting of a woman I decided I wanted to be like, my longing to return home, the tropical isle, and the love that would soon be lost.

    Just the other day, mother mentioned the perfume and knowingly, our eyes met across the table. October 16, 2014 at 6:46pm Reply

    • angeldiva: So glad the scent brought so many others happiness. Compassion on your lost love…
      P October 16, 2014 at 6:55pm Reply

    • Patricia: Yes, it is available, but as Victoria mentions in her comment at the end of the article, it isn’t exactly the same as it was. Try finding it at some of the discounters. October 16, 2014 at 7:31pm Reply

  • AndreaR: Thanks for the trip down memory lane 🙂 October 16, 2014 at 11:33pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thanks for posting, AndreaR! October 17, 2014 at 10:24pm Reply

  • Geebee: Wonderful review!

    This passage is paticularly poignant and empowering.

    “Calandre was the first fragrance released by fashion designer Paco Rabanne, and its minimalist approach is evident in both the juice and the bottle containing it. Designed by Pierre Dinand, the tall rectangular bottle of thick glass is enclosed with metal to resemble a “calandre” or grille of an automobile. This perhaps suggests that the modern woman of the late sixties was going somewhere, and from the vantage point of the driver’s seat behind the wheel instead of taking a back seat.” October 17, 2014 at 3:38am Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Geebee! I’m so glad you enjoyed the article. October 17, 2014 at 10:25pm Reply

  • Aurora: Thank you for this well considered review of Calandre and I love that you put it in context.

    I never gave it a chance because when I was growing up in Paris in the eighties it was so ubiquitus, I see above many of us are more familiar with Rive Gauche. I love a ‘chill’ effect in perfume so now inspired by you I will seek it out and sample.

    And thank you to Victoria for her note on reformulation I am so glad it is still worth it. October 17, 2014 at 6:00am Reply

    • Patricia: Do try the modern version, Aurora, and please let us know what you think! October 17, 2014 at 10:27pm Reply

  • Mals86: I’m not sure why I don’t like Calandre (or Metal, for that matter. Or Rive Gauche), when I adore Chanel No. 19 and Heure Exquise and Silences so much, and all six of them have so much in common. I suspect that the hyacinth is coming across in the first three as metallic and ice-picky to me, and the other three all have stronger galbanum presence. (As far as that goes, I didn’t like Envy, either, and that one’s strongly hyacinth. But I don’t always dislike hyacinth…

    A conundrum. I’m with Elisa in finding Metal celery-like, except that Calandre also showed a celery aspect. (In both cases I was sampling from… TPC? StC? can’t remember.) Metal plus celery and lots of vetiver? no-go for me personally.

    I do love it that these “independent woman” fragrances still exist, even if I don’t like them much myself. I like to call No. 19 my “invisible armor” scent.

    A lovely review! Thank you. October 20, 2014 at 3:35pm Reply

    • Patricia: Thank you, Mals86! I think you make a good point about the stronger galbanum presence in No. 19, Heure Exquise, and Silences making them more wearable than Calandre, Metal, and Rive Gauche (which I love, but over wore when it first came out).

      Regarding the “independent woman” fragrances, I always think of the woman in the Enjoli ads, who “makes the bacon, fries it up in the pan, but never lets him forget he’s a man” (or words to that effect).

      Thank heavens we’re all a bit more relaxed these days. 🙂 October 20, 2014 at 4:01pm Reply

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