Flankers make me cranky*. When a flanker is bad, it debases the coinage of the original. I recently spoke with a perfume sales assistant who refused to believe I smelled so lovely because I was wearing Boucheron Jaïpur Saphir. This is because I was not wearing Boucheron Jaïpur Saphir. I was wearing plain ol’ Jaïpur and said so — only to be told: “There is no Just Jaïpur.” With the dizzying rate of flankerizing and discontinuation as well as misinformation from friendly and seemingly authoritative sources, what hope has the average person of keeping this stuff straight?
Almost as irritating to me as a flanker that fails to live up to its predecessor is the sequel that succeeds on completely different terms. Dior Poison’s second flanker, Hypnotic Poison, for example, is a creamy, girlish dream of a fragrance, reminiscent of such wholesome smells as suntan lotion and root beer floats. I’m sure it would have sold at least equally well under another name. Why force a family resemblance where there is none? The only reason I can think of that is consistent with my experience of the perfume industry and buying public is that flankers must be cheaper to make. Presumably Dior saves on the bottle design and less thinking was required all around from the marketing team. If imaginations in the business are so impoverished, though, why not just take a cue from cosmetic companies like Make Up For Ever and Bare Escentuals and offer similarly packaged products with women’s names? At least such scents would have a ready-made customer base of Rachels and Olivias and Sophies. (Even if it was a white floral musk, I’d be more likely to take home a bottle of Eau d’Erin than a set of false eyelashes with neon feathers.)
I told you the topic makes me cranky, and when I get cranky, I start ruthlessly eliminating prospective candidates for a post. Five great flankers? I won’t include Chanel Coco Mademoiselle: too dissimilar to the original. No Thierry Mugler Angel adaptations: too similar to the original. Yves Saint Laurent M7 Fresh? Too, uh, I don’t know… improbable. Dior Fahrenheit 32 is too confusing for those of us who are used to dealing in degrees Celsius. Bvlgari Omnia flankers: just too many of them. My Jaïpur, Guerlain Shalimar Eau Légère and Givenchy Amarige d’Amour are all discontinued; there is enough perfume in the world that I promised myself long ago I wouldn’t go chasing after Yves Rocher Rose Ispahan or ancient limited editions of YSL Opium. But I’d also promised a list of worthy flankers to Robin and so I forged on. Here is that list, after much exasperation. Please comment if you know of another flanker likely to improve my mood.
Cartier Déclaration Essence: Very similar to the original Déclaration, this 2001 flanker in the dark blue bottle is by perfumer Jean-Claude Ellena, author of the original. Interesting to see how Ellena’s devotion to minimalism plays out when he is sequelizing an already stripped-down scent: Déclaration Essence elaborates on the sweatier elements of the original by adding a deep, oily-smoky drydown of costus and immortelle. I prefer the flanker, where the richness of the base throws the flintier, more mineral aspects of the top and heart into relief. For drinkers of Pouilly-Fumé.
Hermès Concentré d’Orange Verte: Well, there’s definitely some confusion about this one. In Perfumes: The Guide, Luca Turin words the review of Eau d’Orange Verte (1978, by Francoise Caron) so that readers may assume the scent is a reformulated, less concentrated version of the 2004 flanker. Note lists for both fragrances differ widely from source to source — surely the papaya and mango the Basenotes pyramid gives as the heart of the original Eau belong to the milkier flanker? — while some websites list Jean-Claude Ellena as the nose for the Concentré, rather than Jean Guichard. As in many cases, it is profitable to ignore the research and consult your nose. I like the mint and the flatter, less acidic sourness of the flanker, but many, like Robin, will miss the bracing opening and chypre drydown of the original Eau de Cologne.
L’Artisan Premier Figuier Extrême: Indeed, a less extreme, gentler fragrance than the original (from 1994, by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti). With fewer of the hissy green, vaguely cat-peeish notes fig “soliflores” generally highlight and the addition of a long-lasting, milky sandalwood drydown, this 2003 flanker is a softer, more abstract perfume than its progenitor. Nobody seems to be sure whether Olivia Giacobetti created the Extrême version; certainly the comforting and yet introspective feel of the scent would make it an excellent example of her style if she did.
Chanel No. 5 Eau Première: Headed for a powder-puff plushness similar to the original’s, this recent flanker updates the top and heart notes of the classic fragrance with considerably more citrus, a touch of spice and an increased emphasis on the creamier side of ylang-ylang. A friendlier, more golden scent, this pink-cheeked flanker may appeal to those who find the bright white elegance of No. 5 a bit too monumental to wear. Also, I have an unconventional recommendation: I sprayed it around at my aunt’s request before a home viewing and her house sold.
Givenchy Organza Indecence: This is a clear focus-group flanker. The younger women that every perfume company seems to target must have said they wore Organza for the radiant vanilla and were tiring of all that floral stuff. Take out the flowers, add some creamy citrus notes and a sifting of cinnamon on top and deep dark woods down below and put the thing in a hilarious bottle with a triangle for its genitals. Voilà! Initially this was a triumph for the unreliable Givenchy, although it may have stopped selling well at some point since it is now in limited distribution.
* In case you need it, there's a definition of the term flanker in the Glossary.
Note: images via Images de Parfums.