The decision to name the 2005 (or 2006, depending on the source) fragrance from Parfums Worth Courtesan was not random. During the 1860s couturier Charles Worth created magnificent (and expensive) gowns for Cora Pearl, an English-born courtesan , who like Worth, made a name for herself in Paris. Cora Pearl was an extravagant, spirited, and more than a little outrageous. This Pierre Bourdon perfume seems to fit her perfectly.
Courtesan smells out of its time, even if it presents as a fruity-floral. It's also an intensely spicy animalic perfume that will appeal to those with vintage sensibilities. The fruits are stewed in cumin, among the other more civilized spices, creating a very human compote. There's ample of sweetness and a voluptuous dry-down that touches on the gourmand before being swept away into a dirty musk-civet territory that lasts for at least 16 hours and can still be detected on the sheets the next morning.
The bottle of Courtesan may look uninspired and the metallic fuchsia box resembles the worst of Victoria's Secret, but don't let it mask the scandal within. Courtesan is deserving of its place next to my vintage Je Reviens by Worth bottles. Obviously, it's not a good match if you're seeking light and fresh scents, or anything paired down in a modern minimalist style. I'm pretty sure that Cora Pearl's boudoir at the height of her success and affluence didn't smell quite like this, but it's really fun to fantasize.
Notes: cinnamon, cardamom, clove, pineapple, red berries, bergamot, orange blossom, magnolia, jasmine, rose, sandalwood, peach, caramel, raspberry, chocolate, cocoa beans, amber, vanilla, musk.
See also this review by March on Perfume Posse.
Courtesan by Parfums Worth used to be incredibly hard to find in the US and required some serious hoop-jumping. However, nowadays several online discounters offer it for under $40. As long as you buy from a reputable seller you're golden.
Photos of Cora Pearl in Charles Worth gowns via scandalouswoman.blogspot.com.