4/11/13

Boucheron Eau de Parfum (Boucheron)



When people bemoan reformulations, one has to wonder if they ever ask why something goes under the knife in the first place. The common wisdom (read: assumption) is that cost-cutting dictates the outcome. Pinching pennies is something every major fragrance company specializes in, from the poor print jobs on the boxes, to the ugly white plastic ball atomizers, to even the flimsy, poorly-fitted rubber caps, and the color of the juice itself. Why not mess with the contents of a fragrance to save a few thousand dollars, and just hope no one notices?

There's a well-known contention regarding masculines from the eighties and nineties which suggests that companies "cut out" expensive notes, and then compensate for their absence by "ramping up" the intensity of the original formula's cheaper elements. Zino by Davidoff has been cited as suffering from this, with the precious woods and ambers of the original formula being eclipsed by its cruder wood and lavender accords in the new one. This idea has been extrapolated from the treatment of many masculines (and some feminines) - Lapidus Pour Homme, Red for Men, Cool Water, Eau Sauvage, Diorella, Silences, etc. The theory is that this "Zinoization" of fragrances is a way of pulling an olfactory "fast one." There's even the silly suggestion that reformulations of popular fragrances should be given new names, like "Zino Homage", "Cool Water Today", etc. That would never work, because it would be catering to the few (those who are obsessed with reformulations) at the expense of the many (those who aren't). Nevertheless, it's sad, but true - companies cheap out, and fragrances can suffer as a result.

But sometimes this view is cynical and inaccurate. Cost-cutting isn't always the reason for reformulation. Times change, and so do people's tastes. What was reasonably pleasant and commonplace yesterday can often seem vulgar and overbearing today. Instead of axing a brand completely and depriving its legion of fans, companies strive to hit the "middle road" by altering formulas and renewing their leases on life. In some cases, this is a welcome change. Take Boucheron EDP, for instance.

I had the grave misfortune of smelling the original formula a million years ago, and recall its sonic blast of chemical nastiness reading as little more than an olfactory whiteout condition. In 1990, Boucheron was likely a "safe bet" type of fragrance, a conservative white floral bouquet with fresh peachy notes on top, and a solid amber/oakmoss in the base. Its loudness was to be interpreted as some kind of excessive decency. With things like Poison, Giorgio, and Red Door floating around, Boucheron was in step with the new woman of the nineties. Fast forward twenty three years, and it's a different story. Today's woman has no interest in shoulder pads, tube dresses, or Aqua Net. Makeup is skin-tone friendly, shoulders usually go bare, and I have no clue what these weird new-age hair "products" are supposed to be, but they're not doubling as flame-throwers, so I'm not complaining. Needless to say, today's girl has toned it back, and Boucheron wants a piece of that non-action, so they've toned their signature feminine as far back as it can go. And it works. The reformulation smells crisp, fruity, sweet, fresh, and strong, but holds its initial transparency through to the drydown. The bombast has been pared back, and thank Jesus for that. Still, it's not for me.

Fragrances like Joy, N°5, and Canoe are abstract, and don't offer a rendition of any particular flower, but they do convey an essence of flowers - a floral idea, more than a floral smell. I find it interesting that Canoe sprang to mind when I first tried the reformulated Boucheron (sans oakmoss), because Dana's cologne is often considered a fougère, and in truth I do believe it is one. However, in a rare case of differing with the Leffingwell chart, I found that they consider Canoe a "sweet floral." It makes sense in a way; Canoe's lavender-vanilla-tonka-carnation squares nicely with Boucheron's highly-blended tuberose, orange blossom, jasmine, and African ylang. The new Boucheron has a pronounced tagetes note, with all the citric sweetness of the flower, and underlying the bouquet is a darker, spicier accord of indeterminate notes (I get a bit of musky clove), which reminds me ever-so-slightly of Royal Copenhagen - but don't get me wrong, there really isn't anything about Boucheron that smells like RC. I am just reminded of the fragrance by how the dry spices play against a series of more expansive floral tones.

You can see how these elements are thematically popular in so many fragrances from yesteryear. I can't help but wonder, by looking at the ingredients list on the back of my sample, if the reformulation of Boucheron is in fact a gussied-up fougère. Citrus, lavender, and coumarin are listed together. There is no oakmoss of course, but there is certainly a crisp fruitiness on top that one could explore in search of lavender, and a sweet, earthy whisper in the heart, which perhaps could be construed as moss, or at the very least, woods. Wearing Boucheron on one wrist, and Canoe on the other shows me just how similar these two fragrances are, but also shows me how different: the former is very smooth and floral-sweet, while the latter is simply vanilla powder and lavender. I encourage you, dear reader, to poke around with reformulated Boucheron and Canoe, and see what impressions they give together.






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