A bold leather chypre is among the last things one would expect to find in the Estee Lauder lineup. But one of the most wonderful fragrant secrets is Azuree, a 1969 Bernard Chant creation that is still available today. The marketing story for Azuree was something about Estee Lauder's villa in the French Riviera and the colors of the Mediterranean, but honestly, I don't see it. Azuree doesn't feel blue and sunny at all. It's related to other vintage leathers like Cabochard, Armani (1982) and even Bandit. It takes the wearer as far away from the Lauder yenta image as possible. It's an urban and elegant perfume. Not to mention sexy.
Azuree starts green and more than a little bitter. The aromatic herbs might be that Mediterranean connection, but this is not a bouquet of Herb de Provence, nor is the abundance of citrus in the top notes making Azuree light and fresh. It just adds to the bite and crispness of the scent. It means business and isn't afraid to say so. Before the dark oakmoss and leather dry-down appears there's a beautiful and restrained floral heart. It's not girly and not sweet: Azuree never stops being quite wearable for a man. Instead, the flowers- jasmine, geranium, rose and cyclamen (I sometimes also smell carnation, but it might just be an olfactory illusion)- tone down the perfume, though just a little. They keep it balanced and not too loud (a common issue with many a Lauder).
The dry-down is a chypre lover's heaven. Dark, a little smoky (the patchouli is doing its thing here in the best possible way) and very leathery. It feels warm and familiar- not cuddly but also not the larger-than-life dominatrix of Bandit. I wonder how many of Azuree fans are ones who've known it for years and how many came to love it in the last decade. Estee Lauder is not doing anything to promote it- many (most) stores either don't stock it and if they do it's kept under the counter, just like the original Private Collection.
My own bottle, labeled as "Perfumed Cologne" is very old. It smells better than the testers I tried at Ulta, but they are still recognizable Azuree (I can't guarantee it's the same for the actual current bottles. I doubt the testers see much use). At $35 for 2oz Azuree is still one of the best deals in town.
Photo: French singer Sylvie Vartan, French Elle, November 1969