As far as perfume shopping is concerned, you will not often find me wandering in The Realms of the Well-Known (department stores). Call me a ‘niche-picker’ since you will find me scouring little boutiques (both brick-and-mortar and online) for unusual and little-known fragrances. Niche scents are usually expensive (rarely available at a discount price) and are often hard to find (and sample), so it’s always a pleasant surprise to find a ‘mainstream’ scent with a distinctive character.
In the early nineties, I bought my one and only bottle of Fahrenheit by Christian Dior. I enjoyed it but when the bottle was empty I didn’t restock the fragrance; the world was full of scents I wanted to own and there was no time for repeats. In preparing to review Fahrenheit 32 (posting tomorrow), I decided to revisit Fahrenheit. It was a happy reunion.
Fahrenheit was introduced in 1988 and became a runaway hit around the world; it had the most successful initial three-month sales of any fragrance launch up to that time. (It beat the previous champ: Poison.) According to Dior, Fahrenheit sold 1.4 million bottles in October-December of 1988 in Europe alone (Poison had sold 1.2 million bottles in the first three months of its 1985 European launch.) (via Women’s Wear Daily, 2/13/1989)
Fahrenheit’s listed ingredients are bergamot, honeysuckle, hawthorn, sandalwood, nutmeg, violet, cedar, patchouli and tonka bean. Florasynth perfumer Jean Louis Sieuzac developed Fahrenheit, and at launch, Maurice Roger, the president of Parfums Christian Dior, was quoted in Women’s Wear Daily (9/9/1988): “For several years the men’s fragrance market has been flooded with cypress or fern extracts enhanced by cocktails of aromatic notes — compounds of lavender, rosemary, sage, etc.” Roger said Fahrenheit was “built on a rather floral concept, but not a traditional women’s floral like jasmine. Honeysuckle is a rather wild, natural floral. My observation of the market was that there are a lot of very similar scents based on Mediterranean cocktails. If you test all the recent introductions, you will find very similar propositions.”
What a notion: a perfume house wanting to create something original, something different from what was readily available! Monsieur Roger — je t’aime.
Fahrenheit opens with vibrant honeysuckle, bubbly bergamot and ‘subdued’ hawthorn. In anticipation of writing this review, I visited the arboretum to sniff the hawthorn trees that blossomed in late April. Hawthorn flowers smell better “on the air” than when you put your nose right on the blooms. Hawthorn is powdery, but strong; its scent reminded me of crushed seashells. If you live on the East Coast of the U.S., you’ve probably seen paths and driveways paved with shells. The scent of hawthorn blossoms reminded me of the smell of a seashell path warmed by sun (with a faint floral aroma wafting over it). I assume the hawthorn in Fahrenheit was softened considerably to better mix with the delightful honeysuckle and bergamot notes.
Fahrenheit’s scintillating, but fleeting, floral opening leads to an unusual, longer-lasting nutmeg-violet accord. This strange accord is hard to describe; to me it smells like an old wooden telephone pole coated with dried tar! In Fahrenheit’s final stage of development, ‘dusty’ cedar and sandalwood and muted patchouli produce dry and warm aromas that remind me of a place where earth, rocks and chapparal bake under a summer sun. Each stage of Fahrenheit is a pleasure to smell.
Though Fahrenheit has been around for almost 20 years, it smells “fresher” (more modern) and better than the majority of men’s scents being released today…mainstream or niche.
Tomorrow: a review of the new Christian Dior Fahrenheit 32.
Note: image via Images de Parfums.