Calèche was released by Hermès in 1961, and for many years it was their best-selling women’s fragrance. It was created by nose Guy Robert, and includes bergamot, mandarin, orange blossom, aldehydes, jasmine, lily of the valley, rose, gardenia, iris, ylang-ylang, oakmoss, sandalwood, cedar, and vetiver.
In 1992, Hermès released Calèche Soie de Parfum, a reformulated version that they hoped would appeal to a younger, more modern consumer. According to Women’s Wear Daily (3/27/1992), they "heightened and brightened" the floral notes, and cut back on the powdery wood notes. That is the scent I am reviewing today. I have never tried the original parfum, and I have no idea if it has been reformulated as well. If you know, please comment!
The Soie de Parfum starts slightly harsh, as aldehydic fragrances sometimes do. Within a few minutes the harshness fades, and the bergamot and orange blossom make a brief appearance. After that, it smells like a soapy aldehydic floral. It is very soft, and no one particular note stands out, it just smells like floral soap — albeit, very expensive floral soap, the sort of soap that under normal circumstances, I probably could not afford.
As it dries down, the soapiness fades a bit, and the iris and sandalwood intensify, giving it a smooth, silky, almost-powder finish. It is classified as a floral woody chypre, but if that scares you, fear not: the earthy and mossy notes that typically announce a chypre are extremely subdued, even in the dry down. It smells elegant and sophisticated in a very quiet way, without hitting anyone over the head about it. Despite the reformulation, it has an old-fashioned feel, but unlike some of the classic aldehydic florals, it doesn't feel out of place for casual wear, and it is not in the least heavy or overpowering.
The Soie de Parfum is sometimes listed online as Eau de Parfum. Calèche is also available in Eau de Toilette, Parfum, and in a full range of body products. It is available at Hermès boutiques, major department stores and many of the online discounters.
Tomorrow: Calèche Eau Delicate.
Note: image via Images de Parfums.