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Balenciaga Cialenga – A chypre in the key of dark-green – June 1, 2012 New Fragrance Listing

Photo-Wikipedia - Balenciaga museum display - Marguerite Mengjie, Nov. 21, 2011

Cialenga is green – dark green – and I Iove it.

From the very first second, I know – this is different from other green chypres. There’s spice, lots of spice and hints of dust, in the dry citrus and green accord that rises up like a cloud from the two initial spritzes – no blindingly sharp galbanum notes here. These notes are from the aldehyde clan, not the bright fizzy side of the family, but the dark, spicy, smoky side, that tell my nose a much more interesting story.

The spicy clove note increases as the floral heart develops, but there’s very little sugar as rose, ylang, jasmine and lily come out of the shadows. Iris arrives and the floral group makes a charming bouquet that manages to be soft and creamy, slightly soapy, never sweet, keeping the aldehydes in check, but also fading fairly quickly.

Flowers are replaced by cedar and oakmoss, so resinous, musty, and earthy, vetiver expands the green shadows, and the spice remains, warming the shadows along with sandalwood. Near the end, leathery patchouli adds hints of sensual mystery, and the final dry-down is a perfect chord played quietly in the key of spicy-dark-green woods. Sophisticated elegance, disciplined structure, restrained sensuality, Cialenga is one interesting chypre. 

To my nose, Cialenga smells incredibly modern, but it was launched by Balenciaga in 1973, created by Jacques Jantzen, a nose who worked quietly under the radar in the perfume industry and whose body of work is mostly unlisted. The perfume he created for Cristóbal Balenciaga lives up to the high standards set by that great eccentric couturier, who dressed Jackie Kennedy, and who Christian Dior described as “the master of us all”. For over thirty years Balenciaga set the styling trends, the others followed.

Cialenga’s launch wasn’t groundbreaking, in the same sense as Balenciaga’s sack dress, or tunic dress was in the 50’s and 60’s. It’s part of the green chypre trend started by Chanel No.19 and Paco Robanne’s Calandre, but it is one of the most unique chypres of that 1970’s scent trend that accompanied the rise of Women’s Lib– it’s the green noir. It’s also probably one of the least well known. Why? It was discontinued, of course, and is now very difficult to find anywhere.

Balenciaga died in 1972, his design house was resurrected in 1986, and it’s now part of the Gucci Group, under the direction of Nicolas Ghesquière, a self-taught couturier like Balenciaga, who has introduced new interpretations of Balenciaga classics, and captured the fashion hearts of Madonna, Nicole Kidman, Kylie Minogue and others. The Balenciaga label once again has trend-setting design with fashion clout.

I wish Balenciaga would resurrect Cialenga.

Today, we’re adding Cialenga to our decant listing. Decants of this vintage EdT are $4.00.