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Visa – Definitely has curves - June 19, 2015

Image - Visa by Robert Piguet label

I became educated about perfume notes early in my perfume life when my French boyfriend gave me a small bottle of the iconic Mitsouko by Guerlain. Mitsouko was created by the brilliant Jacques Guerlain in 1919 and is recognized as a classic benchmark scent, the first “fruity” chypre, a result of the famous peach note included in its heart.

The boyfriend became part of my romantic history but Mitsouko stole my heart, and became my Holy Grail perfume. Mention Mitsouko and I can immediately smell its waft, the imprint of its beauty is so indelibly stamped on my brain. It is sensual in the purest sense of the word, the scent always engaging my senses on some level, an intimate scent, made for closeness and passion. You can read my Mitsouko story here.

Loving Mitsouko has led to my fondness for fruit notes in fragrances. By fruit notes, I’m not referring to sweet berry fruits amped up with vanilla custard, marshmallow, or chocolate found in many contemporary mainstream fragrances, but rather the more sophisticated aroma of a tart citrus in its peel, or blackcurrent on the stem, or a slice of raw plum, unpeeled green pear, or sueded sun-warmed apricot or peach. Include one of these natural notes as part of a perfume story and I’m sucked right in. Embellish it with herbs, resins, smoke, leather, or some down-and-dirty animalics and it will beam me right up to perfume heaven.

Visa, from Robert Piguet, does exactly that. It’s a fruity chypre that starts off with a sweet modern vibe that soon transforms into a deliciously lush, warm and sexy frag with a divinely vintage twist. Here’s some back story….

Robert Piguet was a Swiss-born Paris fashion designer remembered mainly for training Christian Dior and Hubert de Givenchy, and who ultimately became much more famous for his exceptional fragrances created by talented noses than for his own haute couture designs. Gwen has written about the hypnotic power of Fracas, the shimmering reference tuberose scent created by Germaine Cellier in 1948 and reissued in 2006 to much acclaim when the brand was bought by Fashion Fragrances and Cosmetics (Note: add Fracas to your ”Must Try” list). Another of his fragrances is Bandit, a rough animalic take-no-prisoners leather chypre.

The original 1947 version of Robert Piguet Visa was created by Jean Carles of Tabu fame, and was an extremely seductive animalic chypre, meant for mavens, not maidens.  The advertising copy described Visa as a scent for  “a sophisticated woman [who] travels the world but never gets lost in the crowd”. The re-issue in 2007 was formulated by Aurélian Guichard, creator of Bond No. 9 Chinatown, and according to Denyse Beaulieu of Grain de Musc (in a comment on The Non-Blonde), “Aurélien Guichard's brief was to do something else entirely, as Jean Carles' formula was deemed too feral for the market.” Tone it down for the meek modern masses.

The opening accord of the modern Visa is sweet and fruity, an accord of white vineyard peach, pear, violet leaves, Italian bergamot and mandarin essences. I can smell the peach, but it’s more a light aroma than heavy or intrusive, and it has the added nuances of  the vegetal, almost aqueous, green violet leaf and the bergamot lime note. This opening has been compared by several reviewers to the opening of Thierry Mugler’s Angel, so I decide to compare them side by side, and yes, there is a similarity, but Angel smells watery-sweet, cool, and quite synthetic to my nose, whereas Visa smells richly sweet, warm, and incredibly real, in comparison.

This warmth in Visa starts to deepen with the addition of the unique curry-maple syrup note of immortelle mixed with indolic orange flower and boozy rose, and here’s where Visa truly parts company with Angel, which is drying down into an almost linear sweet fruiti-patchouli accord. Visa opens up, revealing a voluptuous floral heart, the natural fruit notes infusing the sensuous florals, green violet leaves adding a slight metallic edge, so that the scent comes in waves, full and vibrant.

The dry-down begins to slide into darker territory, toward a base of supple butter-soft leather. Herbal patchouli, vetiver, and moss mix with the florals and fruit notes adding luxurious depth and richness, sandalwood, vanilla and benzoin create a creamy resinous quality, so that Visa ends as a voluptuous and very sexy Grown-up Woman kind of fragrance which is so irresistible I cannot stop sniffing my wrists. The fruit/floral, moss/leather/sandalwood combo is just luscious.

Visa doesn’t vamp or get cute, but it definitely has curves. It’s meant for a woman who doesn’t get lost, in crowds or otherwise. Now let’s see, I've got my bag, my ticket, and my passport. Do I have my Visa?

Visa is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $5.00 for 1 ml.