Grey Flannel (Jacqueline Cochran Formula)

I happened to see a small bottle of the early eighties vintage Jacqueline Cochran Grey Flannel on The Bay, and having worn it and sampled it relentlessly, I'm here to tell ya, this is an amazing fragrance. I like it better than the EA version. I like it a lot better. Anyone who smells Grey Flannel and wrinkles their nose in disgust has never made the connection between this fragrance and Creed's Green Irish Tweed, and it's possible they haven't made it because they've never smelled the J. Cochran formula. The drydown of this formula is about 75% the same as GIT's drydown, which I find astonishing, even as a believer in the lineage between these two scents. There are a few differences of course, and some of them are significant, but overall the majority of the movement in J. Cochran's formula captures the smoothness, the balance, and the depth of Creed's, and using mostly the same notes. For nine dollars, it's . . . astonishing. I can't think of another adjective.

The combination of blink-and-you-miss-it citrus and rich, violety-greens creates a crisp organic impression, the aroma of delicate leaves rustling against each other. My only gripe with this vintage formula is that the citrus doesn't last nearly as long as it should (or probably used to, twenty years ago). The current EA formula yields a better rendition of woody citrus, sort of the point of Grey Flannel - like Halston's Z-14, this chypre plays with lemon in an unconventional way. I wish the vintage held on to the dessicated citrus aldehyde effect of the new stuff. That aside, the dyrdown comes within a minute, and lingers for hours. It is noticeably warmer than EA's drydown. It is not as vegetal. It is woodier, with a definite sandalwood note, and it smells like the real deal is in there. The violet is soft, concise, and in perfect harmony with the wood. It's that dry, purple-sweet beauty that GIT boasts, here for nine dollars a bottle.

EA's version is a different fragrance altogether. Put simply, the most recent version of Grey Flannel has more in common with Jacomo's Silences than it does with GIT. EA's has more bitter citrus, more galbanum, and colder galbanum - it's a broader note, and it's used a little differently. EA's has a peppery, slightly watery violet leaf, and a definite anise note; J. Cochran's boasts a smooth, soft violet leaf, which only gets peppery when you breathe on it. EA's formula lacks a strong sandalwood, and has more moss-like notes and musk. With the bitter galbanum, the sharp violet leaf, and an even drier citrus, the EA version is a colder, spookier fragrance. Vintage is warmer, woodier, sweeter, quieter, and not as overtly vegetal. I like both versions, but I definitely like the older stuff better.

Strangely enough, the newer version has more notes, and feels mossier, even though it contains less oakmoss. I'm surprised that vintage does not feel mossier. There's definitely oakmoss in there, but it doesn't smack you in the nose like the newer versions do. Even the EA formula that came before this current batch (which had a bit more oakmoss in it) contained IFRA-challenging degrees of natural moss, enough to make my throat tickle. Not so the vintage, but then again it doesn't need it. The sandalwood makes up for it.

Above are the scent prisms for the vintage formula and the second-to-last EA formula. Note the slight variances in galbanum quantity, citrus quality, and the different kinds of violet leaf, plus the additional anise note in the new version. Also note that I left oakmoss out of these prisms, because that note pervades the entire structure of any version of Grey Flannel from top to base, and I figure it's unnecessary to parse the subtle differences in moss-movement (just associate it with the galbanum and violet leaf, and you've got the fragrance structure pegged). Whenever I wear the EA formula, I feel like I'm wearing a fresh, clean, mean-green violet fragrance that projects nicely and skirts convention. Whenever I wear the vintage stuff, I'll definitely be thinking of Green Irish Tweed. The vintage will always project a soft, rich, woody-sweet violet, sans harshness. Jacqueline Cochran's formula, if faithful to Epocha's late-seventies formula, was a continuation of olfactory design that borders on being the finest of fine art. A review of the French Fragrances formula is pending, if my order gets processed sometime before the Second Coming.