Monday, October 13, 2008

Spray With Caution: Robert Piguet Visa

I remember reading the descriptions for the reconstructed Visa from Robert Piguet and thinking it was probably not for me, but I guess that once I stopped worrying and learned to love the pulp, I was ready to take on some perfumes that previously I would have skipped.

The peach and pear alone would normally send me running for the hills, but while in Paris I got adventurous and gave it a try. And then another one. And another one. The scent haunted me enough to seek it out until I finally broke down and surrendered. Why?

What did me in was the chyprey-leathery feel. It's entirely grown up and very sexy in a lush, rich, fully-clothed way. The fruit is as far away from the mall-bought body sprays that come to mind when you think of pear and peach notes. They are intertwined with a boozey warm rose note that calls to mind a similar combination in Parfum Delrae Bois De Paradis (berries, in that case), and I even get a decent amount of violet, a note that too often goes away to die when it meets my skin.

It's interesting how my skin retains the fruit for as long as the perfume is there (which is nearly forever. Like most fruit scents, all the king's horses and all the king's men can't make it go away), infusing the leather, moss and other rich base notes and making them fuller, more 3-D, if that makes any sense. I don't know how much moss they actually put in this, considering that it's a commercial fragrance, but the chypre kick is unmistakable (though don't expect anything Bandit-like. These scents come from the same house but you'd never know it).

If we go back to the Bois de Paradis comparison, Visa is more restrained and not as loud, but it's still a big one, with lots of sillage. One spray too many and it becomes a flesh eating creature on the same level as Angel. So it needs to be handled with care as to not become a tacky cliché (which is why I chose the artwork you see above). Used just right and it's a thing of beauty that would appeal to fans of Malle's Le Parfum de Thérèse.

In Perfumes- The Guide, Tania Sanchez, who smelled the original 1947 creation, says that our 2007 version is fully modernized and cannot be mistaken for a classic from a bygone era. While I somewhat agree, I still get a retro feel from the new Visa, especially when compared to the Delrae scent or (and don't throw anything heavy at me) to the new Secret Obsession from Calvin Klein. The latter is not bad at all, even if it's very mainstream and lacking in edge. But my point is that Secret Obsession is a rich spiced plum with a surprisingly adult drydown (compared to those LOLfrags CK has released in recent years this was a very nice encounter for me), but still very modern, while Visa has vintage, red lipstick and black hat vibe.

While I've heard that there's a quality issue with American-made Piguet fragrance, my NYC-bought bottle says "Made in France", so there might have been some changes in distribution (my two year old Bandit is an older, USA product). Unlike in Paris, where I saw these scents just about everywhere, here you can either order online from the Piguet website, or buy them at Henri Bendel on 5th Avenue, which is what I did (and how I ended up with a 100 ml bottle, as they didn't have the smaller size). There's also a pure parfum, and I have to tell you, I'm highly tempted.

Image: Enigma of the Generations by Michael Cheval


  1. Really? Peach? Pear? US?

    I think you have to prove this one in person Darjeeling...

  2. I'm a lover of Visa. Bought my bottle off of Piguet's website last year.

    I've read reviews of disappointment so yours was happy for me. It's not that I need approval for something I like - but it baffled me that so many people didn't find the same joy in Visa as I. I guess my feelings hurt on behalf of the perfume?

    Sorry to be such a perfume freak that I think about my fragrances as having *feelings*. Gag.

    There's fruit but it's not the overly sugared and totally synthetic crap they put into the sparkly bottles at Macy's (so we agree on that!). It's like a bowl of just-ripening fruit sitting atop an old desk in an office surrounded by leather bound books... in a 2008 home.

    I haven't ever experienced an over-spray with this, but it cannot, NOT(!), be warm out when I wear it. Made that mistake towards the end of spring when the temp spikes mid-day without warning. The fruit goes rancid on me if I get sticky.

  3. This is definitely going on my to-try list since I love both Perfume de Therese and Bois de Paradis, and own both. Thanks for the tip!


  4. Lovely review. I was really, really surprised by this one, and only my laziness in terms of getting a decant has prevented me from reviewing it. I dislike fruit, particularly pineapple, but this! It's so lovely, I almost bought a bottle at the NYC Sniffa. Glad to see it getting some love. BTW I don't know if he was the owner or one of their senior reps, but the guy from Piguet at Bendel that day was a riot.

  5. I need to pull out my bottle of this one, as I haven't properly tested it -- you've given me incentive!
    I have the original Visa in extrait, and it's an entirely different animal -- animal being the operative word. Aurélien Guichard's brief was to do something else entirely, as Jean Carles' formula was deemed too feral for the market.
    There is indeed an issue with US made Piguets (the type of alcohol used is different), but production was mainly switched over to France to guarantee a better distribution there, from what I've been led to understand.
    Thanks for giving me an idea for a (belated) review, and cuddles to all your kitties -- my regards to the Blonde too! ;-)

  6. Ah, so this could be where Visa lands...I read a brief reference to it that piqued my interest, but yours is the fullest and best description I remember. I am fully interested now, especially given the one-two punch of already being a fan of PdT, and just discovering that certain fruits I can handle (Une Fleur de Cassie; Yvresse). Will try to find this one for a test drive!

  7. Tom, I know! I don't really get pear, though. Mostly glazed peach. I'm adding this to the stuff I'm bringing you to try.

  8. Gretchen, I actually dabbed a little (very little) even on hot summer days and it still worked, but I would never do a full spray before the weather changes.

  9. Calypso, I still need to get myself a full bottle of Therese. It's magical.

  10. March, you know I'm with you regarding fruit. I can't even deal with Ananas Fizz. I do hope you review Visa eventually. It deserves the love.

  11. D., the idea of an animalic extrait makes me weak at the knees. It sounds utterly amazing (for those of us whose noses swing that way...).
    My fuzzy herd is sending purrs and snuggles to you and the Siamese rascal. And the Blond sasy hi. We miss Paris.

  12. Scentscelf, I'm making the same fruity discoveries lately. I used to wear Yvresse and liked it a lot (it was 12 years ago, I think). Until suddenly I didn't and gave the bottle away. Has it changed in recent years?

  13. Gaia,
    I can't answer, unfortunately, as the decant my magical perfume genie friend sent is the first Yvresse I've smelled.

    Hmmm, wonder if this could be a prodigal perfume for you, ready to return home? ;)


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