This week I tried Années Folles, the fourth fragrance from niche line La Parfumerie Moderne. Années Folles includes notes of lavender, thyme, nutmeg, geranium, tonka bean, benzoin and patchouli, and according to La Parfumerie Moderne, it "swings like a mysterious aromatic melody on a warm pulsating amber rythm [sic]. The powdry [sic] and woody insouciance wake of a festive atmosphere calls the tune until dawn from the open windows of this proud hotel overlooking the Mediterranean."
Awkward phrasing and misspellings aside (why, oh why, can't perfume brands ever hire decent translators or proofreaders?), this description lured me in. There's the name, for one thing: "années folles," or "crazy years," is a common French appellation for the 1920s. I love lavender and ambery-powdery scents. And as for hotels on the Mediterranean, I looked at the photo on the La Parfumerie Moderne website for a minute and then did a quick and lucky search to identify it: it's the Hôtel Belles-Rives, in Juan-le-Pins on the French Riviera. The author F. Scott Fitzgerald stayed at the Hôtel Belles-Rives, another tie-in to the Roaring Twenties. So how could I resist?
Fortunately, Années Folles didn't disappoint me. It's an aromatic-woody scent that starts off with green top-notes of freshly picked garden herbs and geranium leaves. Then the lavender takes center stage, and it's simultaneously bracing and smooth — just as lavender should be. (I happened to need a calming influence this week, so a spritz of Années Folles was good timing for me.)
The heart of Années Folles is more traditionally masculine, pairing the lavender with a dusty yet sharp woodiness that suggests vetiver (although vetiver isn't mentioned in in the "official" list of notes). At this point, Années Folles feels like a nod to the classic fougère category. The composition's more mellow amber base comes out late in the game, with benzoin and a vanillic aspect. The far dry down may feel a touch sweet to some men, but it's subtle enough not to disrupt the fading memory of Années Folles's herbal and wood notes.
Although Années Folles certainly skews more masculine than feminine (and certainly more masculine than my usual fragrances), I enjoyed wearing it for a few days. I can imagine Fitzgerald splashing on some Années Folles before meeting Gerald and Sara Murphy for cocktails at the hotel bar. And, now that I think about it, I've always had a weakness for lavender-centered men's fragrances, from Caron Pour un Homme to Viktor & Rolf Antidote. If my husband wore fragrance, I'd buy him some Années Folles. And last, but never least (to me, anyway), the bottle design for La Parfumerie Moderne is also pleasingly "retro," with its jewel-like colors and its Art Deco-inspired label.
La Parfumerie Moderne Années Folles is available as 100 ml Eau de Parfum ($220) at Jovoy Paris in France or Twisted Lily in the US.