Years ago after a friend and I listened to Sarah Vaughan sing her heart-wrenching interpretation of “It Never Entered My Mind,” he turned to me and said, “Well, that song’s been done now. No one else could sing it better.” His comment ran through my mind as I sampled Grossmith Floral Veil and Golden Chypre. Have the ultimate basic floral and floral chypre already been made? There certainly are plenty on the market. Do the Grossmith fragrances have anything new to add — especially at their price?
Floral Veil and Golden Chypre are part of Grossmith’s Black Label Collection. (The collection also includes Amelia and Saffron Rose. Amelia has a dominant woody-musky accord that gives me a headache, and Saffron Rose deserves a true rose lover, so I’m leaving those to other reviewers.) Like the other Grossmith fragrances I’ve tried, Floral Veil and Golden Chypre smell rich, condensed, and expensive, and they last forever on skin. They are Eaux de Parfum, but I can’t imagine Extrait smelling any more luxurious. But are they interesting and compelling?
Floral Veil includes notes of citrus, green accord, geranium, rose, ylang ylang, tuberose, vanilla orchid, cashmeran, amber, and musk. Floral Veil starts off rosy and softly aldehydic, with a hint of creamy ylang ylang. The tuberose is part of the chorus rather than a star, and the green notes only serve to balance the scent’s fresh, subtly blended floral heart. Someone smelling Floral Veil would be hard-pressed to pin down exactly what flowers went into that spring-light veil.
It isn’t long in Floral Veil’s development before cashmeran shows up and strikes a big underline to the whole fragrance. That said, the cashmeran blends beautifully with the perfume’s floral notes. Like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle, it seamlessly snaps a warm, musky, fuzzy foundation to the fragrance. Still, it’s cashmeran, and if you, like me, can’t help but think of the late 1990s when you smell it, it will shatter the Victorian dream Grossmith wove up to that point.
My verdict: Floral Veil is pretty, yet non-descript, and that might be both its greatest asset and biggest drawback. If you are looking for a basic floral perfume to spritz on for any occasion, and you found Hermès Jour d’Hermès to be too thin, contemporary, and cold for your taste, and — this is a big “and” — if dropping $300 for a bottle of perfume doesn’t faze you, I think you’ll love Floral Veil. Try it.
Golden Chypre (how I love that name) includes notes of cardamom, nutmeg, citrus accord, rose, geranium, heliotrope, vetiver, patchouli, amber, and musk. This list of notes makes it sound more spicy than it is. To me, Golden Chypre is a fresh citrus-floral chypre that is happy to stay in the background. The cardamom and nutmeg only scarcely dampen its citrus topnotes.
Golden Chypre opens with a puff of soft, rounded orange backed by an equally soft floral heart that smells barely metallic, as if a cold, rocky spring runs through it. The perfume resonates in the second soprano range with its citrus notes buoying it above a quiet chypre foundation. Chypre lovers will want to know if Golden Chypre is mossy, and, yes, I detect a whiff of moss, but not a lot, and I had to compare it against the mossy orange chypre Parfum d’Empire Azemour les Orangers to make sure. Still, the perfume does nod toward vintages fragrances, and it smells nothing like the focus-grouped perfumes I’d find at my local department store.
My verdict: We chypre lovers by-and-large consider ourselves aesthetic anachronisms, and we like our perfume to flaunt its lack of fashionableness. Golden Chypre reminds me of a musky Guerlain Mitsouko without the shadows and the peach, and, bottom line, without the character. Would I choose it above ninety percent of what the downtown Nordstrom stocks? Definitely. But given the other niche and vintage choices out there, I’d hesitate. But that’s just me.
Grossmith isn’t aiming its product toward people like me who wear secondhand clothes and drive an old pickup. They probably aren’t angling for the artistically adventurous crowd, either, who demand wit with their beauty. But for their target market of well-to-do, basically conventional people who love the kind of luxury that loathes to call attention to itself, and who want no more than for a perfume simply to smell lovely, they succeed big time.
Grossmith Floral Veil and Golden Chypre Eaux de Parfum are an eye-popping $395 for 100 ml; 50 ml bottles are $290. They come in a lovely fluted spray bottle that recalls the old Dior bottles. For information on where to buy Floral Veil and Golden Chypre, see Grossmith under Perfume Houses.