Bring on the stems, leaves, grasses — I’m always in the mood for ‘green’ fragrances. Green-tinged perfumes are refreshing and often “cool” in tone; they convey the idea of “growth,” especially new growth of plants. Spring is the perfect time for a green cologne to debut, and I’ve been looking forward to smelling Parfumerie Generale Papyrus de Ciane (No. 24).
Perfumer Pierre Guillaume has gotten a lot of online media coverage for Papyrus de Ciane and much of it references his use of a legendary component of early 20th century fragrances: Mousse de Saxe. I’ll let others discuss the chemical composition of Mousse de Saxe and its reconfiguration for Papyrus de Ciane; my only “concern” is: How does Papyrus de Ciane smell on me?
Papyrus de Ciane’s “published” list of notes is varied (online at Parfumerie Generale only five components are mentioned: galbanum, broom, mild plant note, Mousse de Saxe, Silvanone® Supra (musk); in interviews, Guillaume has also mentioned bergamot, neroli, mugwort, cistus labdanum, lavender, clove, vetiver, incense and hedione.
Papyrus de Ciane begins with a mix of citrus, “white flowers” and delicious and strong galbanum (the galbanum crystallizes and turns soft and powdery fast); Papyrus de Ciane’s green notes are not wild and sharp or particularly “clear and water-y” (as the references to papyrus and the River Ciane may lead you to believe) — they’re talc-y and cloudy. As Papyrus de Ciane dries down, I detect small “puffs” of cistus labdanum/(birch tar?) and frankincense. When the fragrance reaches the end of its development, I smell vetiver, comfy musk and clean moss; these notes meld to form a pleasing smoky-green/vegetal-musky powder (let’s call it “green pollen”).
Every spring, a dear friend laments the fact that many of her friends and family are no longer alive to experience the glory of springtime, its bounty of blossoms and fragrance, its new leaves and grasses. The aromas of Papyrus de Ciane make me introspective too. It’s not the cool and refreshing fragrance I was expecting; it’s more complex — dare I say, “wistful” — and reminded me of the lines: That man’s life is but a dream — Is what we now come to know./Its house abandoned, the garden has become home to butterflies.*
Papyrus de Ciane’s lasting power is good and its sillage is mild. I wouldn’t call Papyrus de Ciane an “old-fashioned” fragrance, but during the opening and dry-down it has a “retro” vibe with its galbanum, white floral note, leather and mossy bits. Dabbed on, it smells a tad womanly and refined; sprayed on generously it comes alive and loses all “primness.”
Papyrus de Ciane (while not smelling exactly like any of them) reminded me of several perfumes I’ve worn recently — a scent by Issey Miyake (more “lush” and decidedly more feminine than Papyrus de Ciane), Nasomatto China White (more audacious, intense and quirky) and Annick Goutal Ninféo Mio (crisper, more herbal-green).
Parfumerie Generale Papyrus de Ciane is available in 30, 50 and 100 ml Eau de Parfum (59€, 88€ and 120€ respectively); for buying information, see the listing for Parfumerie Generale under Perfume Houses.
* Spring by Sogi (1421-1502) translated by Steven Carter, pg. 196, in Zen Poems (Selected and Edited by Peter Harris), Alfred A Knopf, Inc./Everyman’s Library, 1999.
Note: top image is Ophelia [cropped] by John Everett Millais via Wikimedia Commons.