The early years of the naughts were a fascinating time for independent perfumery. It was the beginning of what would become a special piece of modern perfumery. Like all new things it drew an eclectic group of entrepreneurs. In that kind of environment it was inevitable that some great perfumes would fail because of inexperience. Dinner By Bobo is one of those stories.
Anne and Alexis Hardouin-Finez
In a lot of ways spouses Anne and Alexis Hardouin-Finez made a lot of the right choices when they started their line, By Bobo. They began by working with perfumer Sylvie Jourdet for their first release in 2002. On the perfume side of the equation they made a great decision to work in the gourmand style. It was a type of perfume which had only just become popular. They correctly believed there was a lot of space for creativity. Dinner By Bobo finds that by adding in a sexy skanky underpinning to all the sweet foodie accords surrounding it. This was the very raison de etre for niche perfumery. To take risks by not smelling like anything else.
That desire to stand apart is where Mme Jourdet begins by using cumin. This is all the things which makes cumin divisive among perfume lovers. It has that clean human sweat profile. Right next to it is a Holiday fruitcake of intense facets of dried fruits. The balance achieved is remarkable as both accords have equivalent presence, and they go together delightfully. The heart is another interesting exercise in balance. One of my favorite gingerbread accords in all of perfumery is given a sensual twist through ylang-ylang and indolic jasmine. As if a buttery rich gingerbread man is being propositioned by the sexy florals. In the same way that the cumin finds purchase among the fruitcake the skanky florals do the same to the gingerbread. It develops in a slow burn to a base of incense, musk, and patchouli. Continuing the dichotomy of sweet and skanky.
Dinner By Bobo has 12-14 hour longevity and above average sillage.
I treasure my tiny bottle because I own nothing else like it. Almost twenty years on nobody has managed to replicate this balancing act. As to why it ended up in the Dead Letter Office I have been told the name was one reason. A perfume called Dinner By Bobo did not inspire elegant thoughts in consumers. I also think that the early successes of niche perfumery were different but not too different. Dinner By Bobo might have been just different enough to be unable to find an audience. It could even be simpler than that. New entrepreneurs just couldn’t get their perfume in front of enough buyers. I don’t have a definitive answer and parts of all three conjectures might be the truth.
Dinner By Bobo is one of the reasons I see such potential in gourmand perfumes. It shows what a perfumer who is willing to seek balance between the foodie and the sensual can make something gorgeous.
Disclosure: This review is based on a bottle I purchased.
If there is one person who has been one of the stalwarts of niche perfumery from the earliest days who doesn’t get enough credit it would be Gerald Ghislain. M. Ghislain created one of the first niche brands in 2000 called Histoires de Parfums. This has been one of the most successful brands over the long haul. It has also become impressive for the ability to change with the trends. Histoires de Parfums is one of those brands it is easy to overlook because you have always seen the bottles on your favorite website or in your favorite boutique. I am hoping I can get you to stop and try these five because Histoires de Parfums is worth it.
My first encounter was in a New York city store. When the sales associate told me that 1740: Marquis de Sade was a combination of immortelle and leather I was already sold. Up until recently the sole perfumer for Histoires de Parfums was Sylvie Jourdet. I am a big believer in how that continuity between creative director and single perfumer can be critical for creating a brand identification. M. Ghislain and Mme Jourdet laid down an early marker as to what that aesthetic would be. 1740 transitions quickly through an iris dominated beginning until Mme Jourdet brings together her leather accord with amber, at first, followed by immortelle. It is one of the great niche perfumes of this century.
Mme Jourdet used amber in its more traditional base component in 1740. For Ambre 114 she serves it up as the core of a luscious gourmand. Using nutmeg early on to set the gourmand style she moves through a floral intermezzo down to a mixture of sandalwood, amber, benzoin, tonka bean, and vanilla. Together it forms an abstract “warm cookies from the oven” accord. It takes amber from Oriental standard to yummy.
1969: Parfum de Revolt was meant to evoke the Summer of Love in San Francisco. What I’ve always found here is another more modern take on the gourmand with cardamom and coffee forming that aspect. Before we get there Mme Jourdet opens with a rambunctious peach from which the coffee and green cardamom bubble up from. Patchouli and chocolate provide the finishing touches.
In 2011 M. Ghislain created the Editions Rare collection within the brand. The first three releases were amazing but I am recommending Rosam for the contemporary take Mme Jourdet gave to the staid rose and oud combination. Oud on its own provides an exotic vibe. Mme Jourdet adds to it by using saffron as companion to the rose. Incense completes Rosam with a resinous kick.
A year later another trio was added to Editions Rare of which Vici was the floral part of the triptych. Mme Jourdet used osmanthus and iris as her focal point. Surrounded on top with aldehydes, cardamom, and galbanum. In the base musk, cedar, and patchouli give the woody foundation to Vici.
M. Ghislain has continued to produce perfume and even though this list doesn’t have any of the most recent releases they are worth experiencing, too. These are just the five I think will entice you in to one of the pioneers of niche perfumery.
Disclosure: This review is based on bottles I purchased.