I have been saying for years now that fragrance blogging, fragrance writing, and internet fragrance forums are largely responsible for the discontinuation and resurrection of perfumes. My position has been met with some critical acclaim, and many suggest that I am mistaken in thinking that the power of the written word extends that far, but lately there is evidence, circumstantial as it may be, that I am right. Several perfume brands have, for reasons that are murkier than squid ink, randomly decided to re-release long-discontinued perfumes. Three of these "zombie perfumes" are quite interesting: Patou Pour Homme, Yohji Homme, and Pascal Morabito's Or Black.
Jean Patou is a French brand that was acquired by Proctor & Gamble about ten years ago. People believe that the Patou fragrance line fell apart because P&G mishandled the brand, not knowing what to do with a semi-niche designer name. That's speculation, and I think it flies in the face of P&G's rather good record of managing large company portfolios. Without stepping directly into that argument, I will simply point out that Thomas Fontaine, the man tasked with Patou Pour Homme's revival, has only been given permission to recreate three of Patou's classic perfumes: Chaldee, Patou Pour Homme, and Eau de Patou. Classics like Adieu Sagesse, Divine Folie, Invitation, Le Sien, Moment Supreme, Nacre, and a little talked-about masculine called Voyageur all remain extinct. In the three years since Designer Perfumes, Ltd acquired the Patou brand, only three Patou perfumes are slated for re-release. Why?
On several internet forums, and in the blogosphere, Patou Pour Homme has achieved a mythic cult status. On June 26th, 2012, "WilliamVargas" wrote on Fragrantica:
"Finally got around to getting a small sample of this juice, and it is marvelous. I was afraid of this, dammit! But just looking around for curiosity's sake, it is like people are holding this fragrance hostage . . . it is truly an amazing fragrance, just beautiful in every way."
Sentiments like this abound, with wistful connoisseurs wishing they could simply hop onto the internet and buy a new bottle of Patou Pour Homme without spending an arm and a leg on ebay. One full year before William's review, Tony "Grottola" wrote,
"For me, Patou Pour Homme is an extremely rich and decadent oriental fragrance for men. It opens up on my skin with noticeable lavender and tobacco (yes, I smell tobacco) notes complimented by spices, pepper, and a cooling petitgrain note. The oily tobacco note reminds me of Havana by Aramis, sort of. There's also a dark leather note thrown in the mix. Overall, the feel is sort of like a big, oily, masculine Mitsouko (crossed with a resinous leather chypre like *vintage* Hermes Bel Ami). There are no unpleasant or "pissy" notes to turn people away - just raw, strong masculinity at its finest . . . It's my favorite masculine fragrance ever, and of course it's discontinued."
Tony's review roster is long and accomplished, and unlike many writers, he is balanced in his praises and criticisms, and remarkably well-versed in the language of notes and scent profiles. Presaging his opinion by three years, writer "Knightz" says,
"It's a shame Patou pour Homme was discontinued, it got nothing but positive reviews everywhere. Looking at the notes, I think I would have liked it as well."
No doubt this sort of thinking was fueled by many positive opinions written on the internet, which is currently the only place for people around the globe to opine on their favorite "lost gems." In 2009, Aromi Erotici wrote on his terrific blog, Il Mondo di Odore:
"For me, it is the best overall designer scent I have ever had the pleasure of owning and wearing . . . It's this quality, coupled with the fact that it's discontinued, sought-after, and commanding outrageous prices that makes me love this fragrance and hate it as well."
And "The Non-Blonde's" husband (who is called "The Blond") wrote on her blog:
"Jean Patou Pour Homme is the essence of comfort, calm and understated elegance . . . Sadly, Patou Pour Homme and its brother, the “Prive” version from 1994, are both discontinued and are extremely hard to find, so keep an eye open in yard sales and antique stores as prices on eBay are a bit insane."
You get the idea. Patou PH is widely loved. And out of over thirty-three perfumes, virtually of which are discontinued, and almost all of which are under-publicized, the most beloved of Patou's eighties masculines sees a reissue in 2013. It has, in effect, been written back into the light. It now walks again.
The same goes for Yohji Homme, which for a time in the nineties was owned by Jean Patou as well (its discontinuation, due to the brand's sale, followed Patou's own). Jean Michel-Duriez's licorice-lavender fougère was highly praised with five stars in Luca Turin's Perfumes: The Guide, and from 2008 to the present, has received nothing but high praise on the internet, with Turin's book the only high-visibility print publication to mention it. That Olivier Pescheux was tasked to reformulate and recreate the scent can only be based on the scads of praise it received during its intermission. "Grottola" wrote in 2011,
"The good: Yohji Homme is the crème brûlée of the fragrance world. The bad: Yohji Homme is discontinued and getting harder and harder to find."
The Non-Blonde wrote:
"The discontinuation of Yohji Homme by Yohji Yamamoto is one of those weird mysteries of the perfume world . . . Yohji Homme is fun, edible and sexy without losing its urban edge. Too bad the general public didn't get its charm on time."
In 2012, Clayton of What Men Should Smell Like wrote:
"It was Luca Turin’s glowing review of this extinct fragrance in his 2008 Perfumes Guide that encouraged me to find a bottle."
Dane on PereDePierre wrote:
"This scent shouldn't really appeal to me at all...I'm not crazy about licorice or anise, I generally don't like gourmande/foody scents (although technically its more of a Fougere), and you know how I feel about the bottle. Given all that, its hard to deny YH's beauty."
You can see how Turin's praise for Yohji Homme spurred bloggers to investigate it - the power of the printed word is not as surprising to behold - but it takes some cultural acumen to acknowledge the combined forces of perfume bloggers with good things to say about this odd fougère. This year saw the reissue of Yohji Homme, and Turin re-reviewed it, demoting it slightly to a four-star scent, but heralding it all the same. Why was Yohji Homme reissued at all? Why not just let it languish on ebay as an eternally discontinued perfume? The answer is clear: people wrote that they liked it. One of those people was Luca Turin. Back comes Yohji Homme.
Now comes the news that Pascal Morabito's discontinued Or Black will make a return in 2014, with a picture of the new bottle posted on Morabito's web site. I won't labor through all of the positive reviews of this one, but will settle on saying that nearly 100% of the attention is good, and it all bemoans its discontinuation. Simple phrases like "an amazing fragrance," "a fragrance for people who actually like fragrances," and "a true masterpiece" abound. This was also a Luca Turin favorite, and if not for him, probably would never have been discovered by anyone in the blogosphere. Virtually all online forum reviews come after 2008. Yet Morabito is reissuing Or Black. Again, the positive online attention since Turin's initial probe of this fragrance has, without a doubt, been the motivating factor in the company's choice to revive the scent.
What other perfumes will the internet community bring back into the light? We will see in the year to come.