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terça-feira, 8 de março de 2016

Bargain Fragrances: Cabotine by Grès (1990)

by: Dr. Marlen Elliot Harrison

This is another in a series of bargain fragrance reviews, scents that may be found online or at discount stores for US $25 or less.  Leave a comment below for your chance to win a sample of Cabotine, shipped anywhere in the world, FREE!
Summary: A complex, bold and memorable fruity-floral with spicy undertones (ginger!), Cabotine was a surprising hit for the house of Grès that has both endured the test of time while inspiring an entire series of yearly flankers.
Try this if you like: One really must love complex, even sharp (ginger, coriander and aldehydes) spring florals (hyacinth!) to appreciate Cabotine. That being said, the aroma is also quite sweet thanks to a collection of fruit (cassis, plum and peach) in the lower notes. There is nothing particularly fresh or tender about Cabotine but rather it feels very classic, very vintage and incredibly bold.
Reminds me of: Many reviewers immediately associate Cabotine with Dior's classicTendre Poison and Lomani Si Fleuri while I always recall the body of YSL Paris but with the rose focus replaced with ginger lily and hyacinth. 
Pros & Cons: Incredibly affordable and very easy to find, Cabotine should be readily available online or in a shop near you. One of my ideal springtime fragrances, Cabotine offers the wispy, airy hyacinth but in a richer, more opulent setting that immediately recalls Dior's Tendre Poison which was launched 4 years after Cabotine. One Fragrantica reviewer noted, "I bought this because my favourite ever perfume, Tendre Poison, had been discontinued.... Cabotine does smell extremely similar to TP, but as others have said, if you do try this perfume be prepared for the extremely heady opening notes. They knock you for six. I still like the scent as a dupe, although it is definitely less subtle, at least in the beginning. The hyacinth is especially strong; it comes through and stays for a good, long while."
Though a sister of leather-chypre Cabochard, it should be noted the two really have nothing in common. Cabotine is a fruity floral but with the fruity notes merely playing a supporting role and as such, this has little to do with the more modern fruity aromas such as the yearly Escada offerings. Another reviewer noted, "A nice classic floral, a little sweet but not in the sugary sense that is so characteristic of today's perfumes. A perfume with a lot of character."
Ginger plays a surprising role in Cabotine and some reviewers have noted that the aroma recalls ginger ale, "Cabotine turned ginger into heaven for me. Only now do I remember, oh. yeah. I love Ginger Ale! That's a rough comparison but I was only thinking bitter. All the floral really turns this Ginger into a beauty on me. Because, I DO get the ginger." Another reviewer noted, "The ginger note is absolutely genius though I wish it stuck around longer. It's nothing short of uplifting. This is the most refreshing perfume I've ever experienced, like a cold bottle of water."
Tuberose also plays a large role here but this is not the creamy, heady tuberose of Fracas or Blonde but rather the light and airy tuberose of Diptyque Do Son. Ylang is also very present throughout the aroma and lends its sharp, spicy aura to Cabotine. However, some reviewers have found these notes to be overbearing, too mature, and heavy: "I can identify with both the positive and negative reviews of Cabotine. Today, I decided to donate my bottle to charity but keep the fragrance ranked as a 'like' in my account. I can appreciate it on some level, so I wouldn't say I dislike it, but I can't imagine myself wearing it much. It is too heavy, particularly in that dry, sandy way in which tuberose and ylang-ylang often present. I LOVE hyacinth, but unfortunately, I don't detect it as much as others seem to detect it here." Another reviewer noted, "I am in my early 30s and this was MUCH too mature smelling for me. To me, it was a very sharp powdery grandma floral...I like other perfumes people think are "grandmaish," like Stella by Stella McCartney...but this was tooo much for me. Headache central, ultra sharp, dated. So sad! The bottle is adorable though."
Notes: "A catchy start for a playful fragrance: mandarin and ginger play a spicy, energizing part whereas ylang-ylang unveils a more seductive, mature facet. The heart note is wildly romantic and exudes Cabotine’s yearning for freedom: wild hyacinth mingles with mysterious tuberose while ginger lily unfolds its sun-drenched, sensuous petals. After a few hours, the wild floral notes get tamed and melt into a skin-embracing accord of patchouli, sandalwood and musks."
Designer’s Description: "'Je suis comme je suis!' ('I am what I am!'), that’s Cabotine’s motto and the visual, depicting a playful young woman, says it all. Cabotine just wants to have fun! Since its launch in 1990, CABOTINE has become a reference among the perfumes for young ladies. CABOTINE originally means actress… a woman with multiple facets. What about her favourite part? Well, she likes to play all kinds of parts, from the elegant lady to the extravagant teen."
Madame Grès (from
Number of times tested: 100+ times over the last 25 years.
Number of sprays applied for this review: 1 spray to the back of my hand from a 100ml bottle I purchased online (ca. 2016).
Fragrance strength: Eau de Toilette (Cabotine is also available as an EDP)
Ginger Lily
Development: (Linear / Average / Complex): The development of the EDT version of Cabotine is somewhere between average and complex. Though the fragrance is rather straightforward in its presentation of all the key notes, Cabotine seems to unfold over time with a warm melange of basenotes almost invisible until the 5th and 6th hours.
Cabotine opens with a burst of citrus and aldehydes and its floral bouquet is immediately present. The mandarin of the opening sticks around for quite some time and creates an almost juicy effect throughout the development. The aldehydes add an airy lift the florals but by no means is this a typically aldehydic aroma (like White Linen or No. 5). The coriander and ginger also add a bright and perceivable punch to the opening florals which are the true star here and though orange blossom, freesia and jasmine are present, it is truly the hyacinth, ginger lily and tuberose that take center stage.
Behind the florals are a complex blend of supporting aromas such as a recognizable plum and peach accord.
Much later in the development, Cabotine's sweet petals begin to relax and warm, woody cedar and sandalwood peek out complimented by a green patchouli and subtle musks.
Though I don't find the fragrance particularly green, or at least not in the crushed leaves, fresh cut grass manner, it certainly sparkles like a cut emerald.
Longevity: (Short / Average / Long-lasting) With only two sprays, Cabotine lasted well beyond 12 hours. Amazing! I wonder what the EDP is like by comparison? It must last an entire week, lol.
Ylang ylang
Sillage: (A Little / Average / A Lot) There is noting subtle about Cabotine and I love being able to smell this on myself, hours after initial application. I would caution those working in close spaces with others to use Cabotine sparingly.
Note about the packaging: It was the bottle that first attracted me to Cabotine; that stunning, sculpted, emerald green cap that looks like a bouquet of blossoms designed by Lalique or Daum is quite striking. The EDT and EDP share the same design, an oval, transparent glass bottle with the green floral cap while the pure perfume bottle is a rounded square with a slightly different sculpted green top (see below). The bottles are housed in a white paper box with a relief of blossoms dotted in greens and yellows.
Where can I buy it? A 30ml EDT spray is as low as $10 USD at discount sites.
Illustrations of a Grès gown and the Cabotine pure perfume bottle from
The Bottom Line: I can vividly remember the green, yellow and white launch of Cabotine back in 1990 in stores like Saks Fifth Avenue at the Boca Town Centre Mall. The bottle was a stunning, almost art nouveau alternative to the more austere offerings of the time such as Jil Sander No 4 or Guess. Bold new approaches to romantic, classic florals were trending and fragrances like New West Skinscent for Her, Ralph Lauren Safari and Lancôme Trésor were new to the counters. I'm not sure that Cabotine was as large a success as its competitors but it marked an exciting and long-awaited return to fragrance for the House of Grès who hadn't launched a fragrance since 1975's Qui Pro Quo by Robert Gonnon.
Though I almost certainly had a sample of Cabotine, I really didn't become familiar with it until I started seeing it in discount stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall's in the mid-90s. I know I owned a bottle at one time but as I had been deeply into sweet gourmands or fresh aquatics during that decade, Cabotine never sparked my interest.
Fast forward to a sultry, humid summer in 2005 when while sitting on a train from Kyoto to Osaka I suddenly smelled Cabotine. I was immediately transported back 15 years in time to that colorful 1990 launch. But such a bold and spicy aroma here in Japan? Really? I sniffed the air trying to seek out the source and upon looking to my left saw that a young woman in her twenties was applying Cabotine body lotion. Wow. "Ii kaori desune!?" I asserted, "it smells good doesn't it?" She looked at me and nodded hesitantly, surely thinking either I was some kind of foreign creep or that perhaps she had bothered others with her aroma. I shouldn't have said anything. But I was intrigued. Perhaps Cabotine deserved another chance? And even more puzzling was that as soon as I smelled it on the train that day, I became aware of it at perfume stores all over Osaka. Surely Cabotine was too loud of a fragrance to be popular in Japan where subtlety reigned?
But it wasn't until this past winter when, newly intrigued by hyacinth aromas after putting my nose to blossoms throughout the previous spring, I finally acquired my second bottle of Cabotine for shockingly little money. I reasoned that I had nothing to lose and that $10 was a reasonable price to sample a perfume legend.
It was love at first sniff and compared to Cabochard, which arrived the same day as Cabotine, completely easy, bright and spring-like. The aroma filled the kitchen where I sprayed it causing a family member to suddenly appear and declare interest. I couldn't say no and figured that I could always get another bottle and so gifted Cabotine to my mom. However, after one week of wearing it -  a week where each morning I would smell it lingering in the air after she applied it and second guess my gifting - Mom declared it not her kind of scent; there was something masculine and spicy about it that she found offputting. Interesting. So back to me it went and I was pretty excited.
With spring approaching, last night seemed like perfect timing to wear Cabotine and I was amazed to wake up this morning still smelling it. What can I say? It smells THAT good and has incredible longevity. Though not as green as say Guy Laroche Fidji, another hyacinth favorite, Cabotine is a complete pleasure to wear. 
Now that I've rediscovered it, I've become intrigued with all of the yearly flankers that keep appearing. There are so many to choose from at completely affordable prices; where does one begin? I think my new love for Cabotine may have just opened Pandora's box!

I'd love to read your thoughts about Cabotine or the house of Grès! 
What have your experiences been like?
Leave a comment below by 4/1/16 for your chance to win a sample of Cabotine, shipped anywhere in the world, FREE! The winner will be notified by Fragrantica email.

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