Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Le Jardin Retrouvé retrouvé! - how I came over all Nécessaire, and Citron Boboli review

Me in the Boboli Gardens, 1978 - bubble perm mercifully just out of shot
It must be a good year or more since I was sent a discovery pack from Parisian perfume house, Le Jardin Retrouvé. After my initial interaction with the perfumes  around that time, I put them away somewhere safe, so safe in fact that it was only the other day that they all turned up again in a box file that I thought contained some tax documents. Which is clearly not the sort of box you wish to rummage in terribly often. Having now at last retrouvé'd the scents, I am finally getting down to blogging about the line!

Originally founded in 1975 by Russian-born perfumer Yuri Gutsatz, the company was relaunched in 2016 by Yuri Gutsatz's son Michel, with help from his wife Clara. As stated in the press release accompanying the sample set: Le Jardin Retrouvé "needed to be brought up to standard with the norms of the twenty-first century, both as far as its aesthetics and formulae were concerned". Assuming "formulae" relate to the fragrances themselves, I can't help but wonder what the company's perfume portfolio was like before. I am reminded of one of those houses for sale on Rightmove that are described as being "in need of some updating", and which turn out to be derelict wrecks. I am sure that was not remotely the case here, but I am still curious about how the brand used to be...

To continue the story, Michel Gutsatz and his wife chose seven of the thirty odd fragrances that his father had created, and completely revamped the bottle format and livery. Me being me, I was just as interested in the packaging aspect as I was in the perfumes, though they appealed too! Right from the off I was reeled in by these dear little cardboard boxes-cum-postcards, each with a colourful image related to the scent in question. After each testing session it was haptically highly satisfying to stack the boxes up neatly and pop them back in their cotton bag.

Then as with Ormonde Jayne's core range, I am pleased to report a very high strike rate with this 'capsule collection' from Le Jardin Retrouvé. The only scent of the seven I did not actively care for was Cuir de Russie, but I know it has quite a few fans in the blogosphere. And I will give it another go sometime, as I usually am drawn to leather scents.

Having already sent me the sample set, Le Jardin Retrouvé followed that up with another generous offer, namely to send me a package called Le Nécessaire featuring my favourite scent of the bunch. This was a tough choice, as I was torn between Citron Boboli and Tubéreuse Trianon, but the Citron Boboli narrowly won as on balance I felt it was slightly more distinctive.

Le Nécessaire is the company's amusing name for the innovative new packaging format that is a central plank of the brand's relaunch. It comprises "a box containing an estagnon (aluminium bottle) of 125ml,and two extra bottles (50ml and 15ml) to fill using the glass funnel supplied. When they are empty the bottles can be refilled from the LA RE:SOURCE collection - 125ml estagnons of the precious perfume that can be bought separately..." [Capitals are the company's own. ;) ]

Well, lots of things to say about that, starting with the fact that I have now learnt the word 'estagnon', which sounds remarkably like a character in a Beckett play but is in fact a metal canister. The concept of a refill bottle of perfume is unusual but not unique - I am thinking of those plainer By Kilian bottles, for example, if you want to save a bob or two by eschewing the tassles. But I have never seen anything like this kit where the estagnon aka 'master receptacle' is NOT the original presentation bottle, but a container from which to decant into not one but a choice of two smaller bottles. One of these looks very like a Miller Harris bottle and the other a Nasomatto. I like them both! The 15ml size is a particularly welcome touch.

Also worthy of note is the box itself in which all this Le Nécessaire tackle comes: it was positively writhing with squiggly white hamster straw, against the backdrop of the striking blue and white pattern on the edge of the box. Which also featured a built-in shape sorting puzzle!

Guess where the estagnon goes!

There was a note with the package exhorting me to keep my estagnon in the fridge, which I have faithfully been doing for a whole year or more - just to the left of the onions and mango chutney (photo evidence on request ;) ).

Then the next step in engaging with the Le Nécessaire kit was to decant from the estagnon into my chosen bottle. This did not go well, so I wrote and told Michel Gutsatz so:

"I think it is a great idea, though the canister didn't pour very well into the funnel, unless it was my technique that was lacking. It sort of dribbled down the side each time. That said, there is plenty of perfume to play with. I will try again and see if I am maybe tipping it at the wrong angle."

To which Monsieur Gutsatz sent me this friendly and upbeat reply:

"I am so happy you have received it! I am aware that pouring the perfume needs a firm gesture! Please check our video to see how it should be done:"

Wow, check out this guy's assured funnel action! I think that is where I was going wrong...not holding the funnel as decisively, or pouring from the top down in such a perpendicular angle.

So it just remains to tell you a bit about Citron Boboli the perfume!, namely its inspiration, and how it smells once it has been successfully decanted into its necessary bottle.

Notes: Italian lemon, petitgrain, bitter orange, galbanum, black pepper, cloves

As with all the scents, there is a garden theme - clue in the name, I know! - in this case the Boboli Gardens in Florence, which are on a hill and boast a panoramic view of the city. I have been to the gardens at least three times: once on a backpacking holiday with a friend in 1978 (see photo at the top of the post of the Spider's Lane tunnel of trees), once with family friends in 1989, and once with a boyfriend in 1993. There was in fact an unfortunate incident on that last holiday in a cafe in the gardens. My boyfriend had been learning Italian at night school and was keen to deploy it at every opportunity. I had also been learning it by association - collateral language acquisition, if you will - sufficiently so to know that instead of asking the waiter: 'Where are the toilets?' what he actually said was: 'See you in the toilets!', which put an altogether different complexion on his purpose in visiting the gents, and an altogether different - and more ruddy! - complexion on the face of the shocked waiter, who hightailed it to the kitchen to hide.

Source: Wikimedia Commons (author: Sailko)

But I digress...Citron Boboli is a pleasingly astringent scent, pitched somewhere between sherbet lemons and creamy soap. I cannot truthfully say that it smells green to me, or of oranges, or even of cloves, which I would think I would notice, but all of those notes must keep the blend from being too overtly lemony, which it isn't. It is a 'pepper-spiked creamy citrus mélange', with considerable panache - not to be confused with panaché, which is of course the French for shandy - and I am afraid that is all I have to offer you, other than to recommend it unreservedly. And the whole range indeed.

To flesh out my extremely sparse review, here is a snippet from the brand's own visualisation of Citron Boboli:

"The view of Florence is stunning, but a grotto on your right draws you with its chilled air. Just at the entrance, a statue is bedecked with beautiful lemons. Are they real? Are they virtual?"

Source: uffizi.it

Well, I can't remember any of the grottos(!), despite having been there all those times, and it turns out that the gardens are awash with the things - well, there are three, each with multiple statues. I have no clue which statue Michel Gutsatz was thinking of, but having inspected lots of photos in Google images, I am confident in my deduction that the lemons were either virtual, or had been placed there by a tourist with a surfeit of fruit and a mischievous sense of humour. I am running with a picture of the Madama Grotto, also known as the Goat Grotto, because it amused me and contained no embarrassing displays of nudity or necking on the part of the statuary. ;)

I can also confirm that Citron Boboli the scent most definitely has a cooling feeling on the skin - more than any perfume I have come across since the cryogenic Chanel La Pausa. And I don't say that just because I have been diligently keeping my estagnon in the fridge!, for the little bottle has been kept variously in a box file and a bureau. But yes, a most refreshing choice for a hot day in Florence...

Oh dear me, please disregard the impossibly high and unflattering waist on those trousers! And do I spy a lemon top??

'Ponte something', 1989


  1. So far I got to try only 3 perfumes from this brand (I wanted to trie Cuir de Russie but it didn't make sense to pay for shipping just 1 sample, so I chose a couple more just based on the description) - and I liked all three. I bought the travel bottle of Cuir de Russie (it's interesting that it didn't work for you while it was my #1) but if I could buy just those smaller bottles, I would have probably gone for the other two - Rose and Sandalwood ones.
    Funny thing: until today I read the name of the perfume you liked the most from the bunch as Citrus Bobbi - don't ask me why. It sounds very nice and really "Le Nécessaire" for hot summer days :)

    Did you notice that guy's manicure on the video?! I'm jealous.

    1. Hi Undina,

      I did not spot the guy's manicure, but now you mention it, his nails look very polished, like his pouring action. ;)

      Now I remember you were one of the people who liked Cuir de Russie in particular, so it is interesting to be reminded of your experience to date with the line. LOL at Citrus Bobbi - am not sure Bobbi is a garden anywhere, haha, but you never know...

  2. You look adorable even in those voluminous high-waisters, V!
    I haven't tried anything from Le Jardin Retrouvé but your high strike rate has me intrigued.
    Am I right in thinking the main presentation bottles are the smaller sizes that you decant into, then?

    1. Hi Tara,

      'Voluminous high waisters' is a great name for them, haha. I must bring them for you to sniff at our next meeting. Yes, that is right that the main bottles are in fact the smaller ones - the 'Miller Harris' with black scrolly writing on (50ml) and the 'baby Nasomatto' with the wooden top (15ml).

    2. The perfumes for you to sniff, I mean, not the trousers! Goodness knows what became of them...;)

  3. Michel Gutsatz is one of the people I’m connected to on FB without ever meeting him, or even knowing much aout him when the friends request came. He seems like a nice person...but I have yet to try any of his scents.

    1. Hi Sabine,

      He does seem like a nice person, I agree - has a very friendly, open look about him in photos. I think they have done a nice job of 'updating' the line, even though I have no idea how it was before. ;)

  4. Personally I would not risk the dramatic pour and would use a plastic pipette thingy. But the presentation is an excellent idea.

    1. Hi Bee,

      Plastic pipette thingy - I like the cut of your cautious jib. Dramatic pouring may be more suited to the professional decanter. I certainly made a right hash of it!

      Love the concept - so flexible to have two sizes to choose from.