Friday, January 12, 2007

Jean Patou Colony

Over the next several days, I will be reviewing seven of the twelve Jean Patou Ma Collection scents, discontinued alas, and sent to me by a generous reader of this blog.

Colony was created in 1938 (by Patou's then house nose Henri Alméras?) and includes notes of fruit, pineapple, ylang ylang, iris, carnation, oakmoss, vetiver and spices. (There is a level of vagueness beyond which it is not useful to list the note. 'Fruit' and 'spices'? I'm sorry.) Inspired by the tropics, and the former French holdings in particular, Colony is one of the most precisely evocative perfumes I have ever tried. It is impossible to smell it without visualizing an elegant, still-faced blonde with a graceful neck, sensual yet maternal air and the kind of languid movement that comes from living in a steam bath (as well as a possible drug stupor.) You see her lapped by light and shadow, posed in front of slat blinds, screens or mosquito netting: Catherine Deneuve in Indochine or Widow Clement from the deleted French plantation scene in Apocalypse Now (restored in Redux). It is not so much a perfume as a lifestyle. I really enjoy Colony, but feel as if I should be dying and setting my hair, buying a bunch of Bombay Company furniture and stalking about in giraffe-like fashion to wear it. I'm also made somewhat uncomfortable by the exactness of the nostalgia it evokes for a place and an era that smelled indolic in more ways than one.* While completely different in scent, Kenzo Flower Oriental seems similar in spirit, and wearing the two perfumes lately, I almost feel implicated in something.

Those of you who are made uncomfortable by the word "pineapple", however, shouldn't worry: this is the über-pineapple, the pineapple to end all pineapples, thick and syrupy without being very sweet, exotic without being teenybopper tropical. On me, it is not at all bright, sunny or cheerful, as others seem to report; this is a perfume for shade and shadow, to enjoy semi-outdoors (on a veranda, in an open-air room) on a humid evening. Starting like a tonic cocktail, acidic and slightly herbal, Colony quickly establishes a balance between the full heaviness of the pineapple and ylang-ylang notes and a dry, earthy chypre base. The sillage is insinuating without being overbearing and the lasting power quite good for an EdT. I would like to try the extrait.

*Indoles are organic compounds. In low concentrations, indoles smell floral and are natural components of flowers such as orange blossoms and jasmine, but in denser concentrations are responsible for the smell of human feces. They are also naturally present in indigo dyes (from which their name is derived) and indigo was one of the main exports of Indochina after the French imposed a plantation economy on the peoples of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia.

9 Comments:

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous AngelaS said...

You're back! I swear I smell marjoram in Colony, but no one else seems to. Marjoram and pineapple, with a mossy drydown. (I can set you up with a little of the parfum, too.)

 
At 3:02 PM, Blogger marchlion said...

I have, I think, most of Ma Collection (I know Angela does!) Going to dash and root around for it. They've been neglected.

Hope you are feeling better.

 
At 8:12 PM, Blogger Erin said...

Angela: It's nice to be back, thanks! I haven't had my hands on any marjoram for a while, so I couldn't honestly tell you whether I smell it there or not. I bow to your judgement. There is definitely a lovely overlay of herb that keeps it from being too opaque for me - still, it is one of the richest perfumes I know. The wonder of it for me - other than its remarkable scene-painting quality is that it still manages to have a tonic quality.

 
At 8:16 PM, Blogger Erin said...

March - I've really enjoyed sampling the ones I have, and I imagine some of them to be the kind of things that would appeal to you. (And you guessed it, Angela is my generous sample provider!) I am feeling much better, thanks, I'm currently visiting with the babe at my parent's.

 
At 6:48 AM, Blogger colombina said...

I love the image of that Colony-wearing woman that you painted :-) Can I please be her? :-)

 
At 10:37 AM, Blogger Erin said...

Oh, I am so not her. But from your picture of the other day, you look like you could pull her off!

 
At 5:05 PM, Anonymous Tovah said...

Thank you for posting this great review. I've been curious about Colony for a long time, and now I know I must try it. I am a fan of pineapple and I've recently fallen for EnJoy and Sira des Indes in the Jean Patou line. It's fascinating to learn about the lost scents here.

 
At 8:41 AM, Blogger Erin said...

tovah - Thank you, and welcome! I apologise if it took me a while to get back to you; I was in the air all day yesterday, returning to Calgary from New Brunswick. Sira des Indes is one I've somehow managed to miss since there is no real Patou distributor here. The Ma collection is really worth checking out, and I'd recommend Colony if you like EnJoy.

 
At 2:02 PM, Anonymous Coye said...

People should read this.

 

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