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Image: miniature of L'Air du Temps from 70's mentioned in the text; made by AromaX
Olfacory experience and summary of reviews
The modern version of L´Air du Temps opens first with a slightly rubbery citrus freshness tearing apart while a big C. breaking through. It’s unclear who the big C. is – it could be Carnation or Clove or rather a kind of a big floral mutant combining them both. You may also recognize some shapes of Chrysanthemum or even CAcacia and CLilly. The big floral C-mutant is difficult to determine – only the overpowering Clove seasoned scent may give an idea that it should be Carnation. It’s not ugly at all, just… prodigious. Of course it’s not the fragrance belonging to the top 5 anymore. But it’s grotesqueness has still a certain charm. Unfortunately the mutant is not that strong and becomes slightly soapy soon showing the bitterness of decay. The bitterness increases revealing the shapes of Chrysanthemum within the mutant. It’s like in a fairy tale when you first stand before a fascinating flower on a warm summer sunny day. You can’t cope your temptation and pick that flower. At the same time you see the summer breeze turning into a catchy wind tearing off the already getting yellow leaves from the trees flinging them already dry, brown and lifeless at your feet. And only the fever of the mutant flower can still keep you warm. The agony of this still charming mutant is long lasting. Finally it’s getting quiet turning into a woody-iris (ionone like) note sweetened with some synthetic musk.
On my skin I definitely smell Gardenia passing by just after the decay of freshness and before the C-mutant opens. The floral mutant is friendly and quiet. I wonder if he can be used as a man’s cologne as well.
The EDT from the 70’s (you see on the picture) of L´Air du Temps opens with notes of tannic bitterness and demure freshness. The bitter tannic note stays on the background colouring the whole fragrance in reddish brown tints of autumn. The freshness gives up quickly consumed by the spicy flowers. A floral bouquet warmed with a spicy note is trailing like a mist. Slowly the flowers are taking their shape – carnation, rose and jasmine. Carnation is definitely and unbendingly leading in competition with a capricious rose hustling the jasmine away. I also smell a fruity note, especially on my skin. Some pyramids reports peach to be a part of the fragrance. Personally I think that this phantasm is born from the cohesion of slaicylates, musks and vanillin playing in combination with the flowers (especially gardenia component). The dry out is sweet and musky with a touch of tannic bitterness and a powdery woody iris note. It definitely smell an animalic note there.
It looks, like the modern version is not the same L’Air du Temps as it was created. The main component making the core of this fragrance – benzyl salicycalte is found to be able to cause sensitisation and was recommended to be restricted by IFRA. This fact could be the possible cause of the reformulation of the fragrance. After the 80’s the fragrance has changed that was noticed by a lot if its appreciators.
Thanks to lilamand I could also try a L’Air du Temps in perfume from about 1963-1967. This one is surprisingly different. There is no tannic bitterness, but just a bitter freshness at the opening. The whole fragrance is getting warm very soon, but the freshness is staying all the way long through the floral heart. There is neither competition nor jealousy in this floral heart – it’s a harmonious dance of carnation, rose, jasmine and gardenia where carnation is leading. Yes, this one definitely has Gardenia in it. The slight bitterness in this version is not a bitterness of decay, but is rather a vigour of youth. Jasmine and Gardenia are rich and fruity. The dry out is fruity sweet and musky with the woody iris component (less powdery than the modern version).
Luca Turin in his guide evaluates the modern version. He gives it two stars of five and calls it “lily amber” or “a lily with a salty amber background”. He mentions the dramatic decrease of quality of L’Air du Temps.
People who know only the modern version are generally satisfied with this fragrance – they still find it a nice carnation with a powdery dry down. People who likes this fragrance appreciate the spicy floral character and sweet powdery dry out. People who doesn’t like this fragrance mention its chemical character (especially modern version) and the old grandma smell at the end. Personally think that the base of the EDT from 70’s can be referred a bit as a grandma’s scent. But I do like its animalic base. Surprisingly enough the grandma from the perfume of 60’s is still fresh and young.
It’s also good to mention that the success of L’Air du Temps has inspired not only perfume creators, but also fragrance makers for cosmetic products. The simplified formula was obsessively used to perfume cosmetic products like hair sprays. It’s probably the reason that some people associate the fragrance of L’Air du Temps with a smell of hair spray and find it rather synthetic.
The personal associations I read in other reviews vary from a fun of picnic with friends on a nice lazy summer day to a melancholic autumn filled with decay of dried leaves and tannic bitterness of chrysanthemums. I think that the EDT of 70’s and the modern version better answer the melancholic association with autumn while the perfume of 60’s is more associated with youth, fun, summer, freedom and seduction.