A discursive look at Napoleonic & ECW wargaming, plus a load of old Hooptedoodle on this & that

Friday, 11 April 2014

Hooptedoodle #128 - Nose-stalgia? - not what it used to be

When I was a young chap, my grandfather (who lived in Paris at the time) once sent me a bottle of Chevalier d'Orsay after-shave lotion as a Christmas gift, and a fine big bottle it was, too.

In those days, Paris was a lot further away and a lot more exotic than it seems now, and this after-shave was fantastic stuff. Maybe fantastic isn't the word - maybe fantastic is not what we (or the copy writers) are looking for in after-shave - but it was the best after-shave I ever had, anyway. It was a very fresh, lemony scent, with sort of herbal things in it - don't expect me to start using words like "notes"…

Anyway, I was as frugal as possible with this, my very-best No.1 after-shave, and it lasted for years, but eventually it was gone, as was my grandfather, and I never managed to get any more. So I moved on, and I forgot all about it.

After that I suppose I must have gone through the Brut years, the Lynx years, the Ralph Lauren years, the Calvin Klein years and eventually found myself back at the Boots'-own-brand, £5.99-a-bottle years, as one does. Not having thought about it for decades, one day recently I suddenly remembered Chevalier d'Orsay, the Contesse looked it up online, and - merveilleux! - found that it is still made, and someone in the UK sells the stuff by mail order.

Not a big deal, admittedly, but my life is less glamorous than it once was, and the prospect of having the postman deliver an instant trip back to my 20s was at least a little bit exciting. There is nothing, I contend, more capable of firing up memories than one's sense of smell, so I invested in a little olfactory time travel - black magic and wicked spices, just for the hell of it.

The package arrived, and I have been using it since that day. It is, of course, eau de toilette in a modern sprayer rather than splash-on after-shave, and it really is very pleasant, but - you know what? - it doesn't smell the same. I did a bit of poking around online, and I understand that Parfums d'Orsay withdrew the old stuff, and relaunched it in 1995, using more modern ingredients (I quote from their website).

Using what? Why in Purple Hades did they change the ingredients? If they wanted to change the ingredients, they should have changed the name, you would think, in case they disappointed some ancient former customer who had been hoping for an authentic, soul-tugging whiff of his long-dead past. Even the world of pongs, gentlemen, appears not to be what it was.

Anyway, it's very pleasant, so one mustn't grumble.


  1. Perfumes can hurt your heart. I liked another french-made perfume "Eau du Caporal" made by the Artisan Parfumier, Paris 75001: they quitted producing it in 1997 and I was never able to find it even in the most "deep-web" auctions. It happens....

    1. My condolences! I looked up your lost fragrance, and accidentally came across the customer reviews on the Basenotes site - this has to be one of the most hilarious websites I've seen for a while, though it is a strain keeping one's buttocks clenched while reading the reviews. Unbelievable.


      Fragrances also bring strong (and surprising) associations with people. If I ever smell Yardley's lavender water I immediately see my grandmother before me, though she died in 1980...

  2. Proust talks about smell and memory, and every time I pass a girl wearing sandalwood perfume I remember getting dumped by a girlfriend I was quite keen on and I damn Proust's eyes. I was a Tabac man in my twenties but I'm not sure I would go back to it. My wife tells me I use too much scent anyway, and the world seems increasingly hostile to scent.

  3. Ha! That is a really a very good version of the Madeline story. I guess one CAN in fact go home, but be prepared to find it demolished and covered by asphalt and a new ersatz tudor housing project!

    And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
    And you may find yourself in another part of the world
    And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
    And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful
    And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?

    -"Once in a Lifetime", Talking Heads