Parfums Gres Cabochard ~ perfume review

Cabochard by Parfums Gres

Mme. Alix Grès launched her design house, Grès, in Paris in 1942, and maintained control of her perfume line until the early 1980s. Parfums Grès has had a complicated ownership history since then. In 2002, it was sold by the Escada Group to Silvio Denz, and as far as I can figure out, his company still owns it.

Cabochard, probably the house's best known perfume, was created by nose Bernard Chant, and launched in 1959. The notes are bergamot, mandarin, aldehydes, galbanum, ylang ylang, jasmine, rose, clove buds, oakmoss, tobacco, musk, iris, sandalwood, vetiver, leather, castoreum, patchouli and labdanum.

Cabochard starts with citrus and deep green notes. It is a dark fragrance right from the start, and the leather is apparent almost immediately. The floral notes are muted: when smelled from a distance they are barely noticeable, from up close, the jasmine is more obvious but still seems to weave in and out. It dries down to an animalic leathery chypre with woods, moss, and a touch of smoke. It stays very dry for the first hour, then starts to take on a hint of sweetness from the patchouli.

I am not especially fond of leather in fragrance, but Cabochard is very soft and smooth once it calms. As Guy Robert explains:

Technically, Cabochard is a rounder interpretation of Bandit. Bandit was a beautiful but brutal perfume which was far too leathery. It was so heavy and animalic a chypre that it shocked people. Bernard found a way to make the accord more flowery and mute the leathery aspect. (quoted in Michael Edwards, Perfume Legends, p 118)

I am trying the Eau de Toilette, and the lasting power is excellent. By today's standards, this is very much a unisex fragrance. It is probably better suited to cold weather, though, and I am going to revisit this in the fall and see if it is something I would wear regularly.

It is hard to imagine that the formula has not been tinkered with since 1959, and in fact, Luca Turin has less than kind things to say about the current version. This is yet another fragrance that makes me wish I had started my smelling career 20 years ago.

In 2000 Gres introduced Air de Cabochard, said to be a lighter, more summery version, but I have not tried it. Cabochard qualifies for the budget category if you shop around. Both scentiments and imaginationperfumery have 100 ml bottles for less than $25.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi R! Your description is so lovely and right-on that I think this needs to be my Scent of the Day. Thanks for a great article.

  2. Anonymous says:

    G, I am curious to know if you wear Cabochard all year?

    Have added to to my list of things to look for in “vintage” form on ebay, and will let you know if I ever find it!

  3. Anonymous says:

    loved the description of Bandit as “beautiful but brutal” … and the reformulations are a shame. I get a strange sweetness from Cabochard on my skin — and have a love/hate relationship with it. Again, thanks for your historical perspective on the 'fumes — and I wondered whether you think Gres has a signature quality in its scents?

  4. Anonymous says:

    I began to wear it this winter, and so have not experienced it in the summer heat. I will say I wore it on one of those oddball hot days in April and found it a little sour. But it's perfect for mid-60s and rainy, like today is. I am pretty sure I won't want to wear it in July.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hey M! I would say no, no signature quality. At the same time they released Cabochard, they also released a Guy Robert fragrance called Chouda, which was completely different and did not do as well. There was an Homme d'Gres in the 60s which was also a leathery chypre, but so far as I know, nothing else in the same vein.

    Cabotine is called the “daughter fragrance” to Cabochard, but it is not noticeably so. The later fragrances, Grain de Folie and Folie Douce, I haven't tried, but again, all of these are long after Mme. Gres' time, and they never had a “house nose” or anything.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thanks G. The patchouli is not strong, but I hate patchouli in general and it always seems more prominent on hot days. We have hardly had a hot day so far so I can't tell!

  7. Anonymous says:

    Hello! I'm very pleased to have discovered this blog, for I find your comments very interesting. (They make me want to rush out and smell these perfumes.) But I'm a rank (not in the olfactory sense) amateur in that my nose is not very educated, not being able to distinguish between, for example, ylang ylang and frangipane. (I suppose I could distinguish between them; I just don't know which is which.) Do you have any advice on the best way to educate my ignorant nose? Many thanks!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Welcome! The best advice I can give is to smell every perfume you can find. and are good resources for finding out the notes of each fragrance, and if that fails, try google. Once you know the major notes and smell the fragrance, eventually, you begin to match up the notes that are listed with what you are smelling.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I am with you! I wish I had a chance to smell these classical fragrances twenty years ago. Your description is beautiful, and despite reformulation, it still makes me crave it. Do you like Bandit?

  10. Anonymous says:

    V, I admire Bandit but it is too heavy for me to wear. I am not big on leather in general — even Cuir de Russie, which is gorgeous, is something I'd rather smell on someone else rather than me.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I started liking leather more, however I find Cuir de Russie too aldehydic to be able to carry it off. I vastly prefer Caron Tabac Blond and SL Cuir Mauresque (especially with a dab of Fleurs D'Oranger over it). Tabac Blond has a nice vanilla note, where CM is just a pure soft leather, perfect for layering.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I am not a perfumista by any means. However, my two cents:I bought a bottle of this today and honestly, it smells like nail polish remover to me.

    I know this isn't the original formulation, obviously, but I was, frankly, horrified by the smell. Not hyperbole in the least.

    I've been having a hard time getting the smell out of my nose and it's been HOURS.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I'm so sorry you hated it! Everything you hate is sure to last forever, that seems to be the rule.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Well, body chemistry makes a scent unique to everyone. On some it's terrible, on others it exotic.

    I tried it today in a shop and I have to say that I like it very much. It's a bit edgy for some hours, then I can smell…. well you say leather, and I'd go more with tobacco and leather. Kind of a feminine version of a masculine scent, I'd say. Definitely a wintery or autumn-y fragrance.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I suppose it could be body chemistry, but also true that some people just don't like old-style chypre fragrances, much less leathery old-style chypres. Given how rare they are today, it has perhaps become an acquired taste.

  16. Anonymous says:

    You know, I hadn't thought of it that way. Hmmmm. That's why I'm glad some of the old scents are still around.Maybe, it's kind of like the game of telephone, scents start to change over the years and then others may copy them slightly and change them to make them different but the foundations are similar. Like you said, given how rare leathery old-style chypres is today, that may be what makes the old scents unique all over again. When you don't want to smell like everyone else, go back not forward.

    I was in a shop and I smelled something fantastic and I walked up to this lady and said to her, “Excuse me, may I ask what you are wearing ?” And she said “Boucheron”. LOVED IT. What a rich scent on her.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Oh, I think that is so true — the old classics are the best way not to smell like everyone else!

  18. Anonymous says:

    I've loved Cabochard since it first came out and Ihave been LUCKY enough to find a sealed box/bottle of the original parfum.

    Needless to say I'm afraid to open it!

    The new version gives not a HINT of the depth and subtlety of the original..

    Cab is my 'signature' scent and elicits many positive comments from men and women.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Oh, do open it!! I'd hate to think of such precious juice going to waste, and I'm sure you're right that the present version is not nearly so nice.

  20. Anonymous says:

    I wonder if you could auction it off like a great old wine?

  21. Anonymous says:

    I found a small bottle of this at TJ Maxx today for $7 and was wondering whether to buy. I sniffed the top and sort of thought it was good, sort of in the Miss Balmain quadrant buy more accessable, oddly enough. I'm interested in the drydown… Still, I'm pleased to read that LT considers “Alliage.” (ma daytime griffe) one of the all-time greats.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Wow, $7 is a bargain! I'm going to check my TJ Maxx.

  23. Anonymous says:

    Well, Yesterday, October 6, 2008 and I FINALLY ordered this scent. Yes, I tried it in the summer and it just didn't work. Too heavy, wrong combo for the summer, in my opinion. But, I love Elixir de Merveilles by Hermes (do I have that right? :) and I like this one too. I guess that edgy, heavy scents do somelthing for me.

    Hey, I have a question for you guys. My friend's now-wife uses a Bulgari in a light green bottle. A fat, short bottle. Anyone know what it is and what do you think of it? She's a tallish blonde, a Leo with a big personality. “A wonderful person” is how she's been described to me. Question is: does the scent fit the person?

  24. Anonymous says:

    It's Bvlgari's green tea scent:

    Personally, I wear what I like and don't worry about whether or not it “fits” my looks or personality, but if pressed, no, that isn't what I think of for a “big personality”.

  25. Anonymous says:

    A saleslady at S5A in NYC remarked that “Boucheron is the Rolls Royce of all fine fragrances.” Delicious. So true!

  26. char5lotte says:

    I love air de cabochard.Sharply sweet with a cacophony of flowers.Lingery to soft powdery sweetness.Its definately in my top ten, if only because i havent found many perfumes i love yet.
    I also love Mitsouko, Dior addict 2, pure poison, amarige mariage, diesel fuel for life and noa perle to get an idea of my taste.

    • Robin says:

      I have not smelled that version, sounds nice!

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