Saturday, June 9, 2012
Miss de Rauch: Mimosa Aldehyde
Last weekend, I was in rural Arkansas, visiting family, and came across this little wonder.
The pickings in these rural antique shops are slim, but if you're after Avon collectibles in bottles shaped like horns, vintage cars, mushrooms, kitty cats, and kerosene camping lamps, you won't be disappointed (disclaimer: in one such whopping 5 ounce bottle, shape of a grandfather clock, I found the now discontinued Charisma, a pretty, peachy green floral, more than worth the four bucks I paid for it).
Littered about these Avon curiosities, which seemed to be very popular in the area at one time, you'll find bottles you'll wish were full. While the Avon bottles remained unused and are typically virtually untouched in these shops, more upscale perfumes have mere drops left in them. I admire this weird reversal - save the precious Avon for some future special occasion, to occur, apparently, long after death; use up the Samsara post haste, can't splash the stuff fast enough. Naturally, there's almost always a bottle of Youth Dew, somewhere between half full and empty. The illustrious history of Youth Dew reformulation is illustrated on the dusty shelves of flea market stalls all across America.
I'd never heard of Rauch, so I assumed it must be something cheaper than Avon, some forgotten drugstore fragrance. I almost passed on it. The 4 ounce bottle was half empty. This meant 2 ounces at ten bucks, which seemed pricey under the circumstances. But I kept coming back to the smell, which radiated out from the bottle, having seeped out and saturated the twine and price tag fastened around the neck.
There was something familiar about Miss de Rauch - reminding me of perfumes from my childhood - but something very odd too. I had it all over my hands yet there was something I couldn't put a finger on. So I bought it and brought it home.
And looked it up online - but there wasn't much. Apparently, Madeleine de Rauch, a contemporary of Chanel (read, competitor), was a well known couturier in Paris. She'd started designing sportswear in 1928, encouraged by friends. This first design house was called, fittingly, Maison de l'Amitie (House of Friends). Entering business with her two sisters, she moved on to haute couture by 1932, showing alongside Lelong and Fath and many other well known design houses. The doors of de Rauch were open from '32 to '73 in the Hotel Ganay at 37 Rue Jean-Goujon, 8th arrondissement, Paris. According to the Vintage Fashion Guild, she was known for "fluid, feminine clothes and sporty day looks." Weren't they all?
Beyond this limited bio, the information gets sparse. You can read a google translation to English of a French Wikipedia page on the designer, which at times will make you think your chances are better with the original text. Of de Rauch, the page says: "She practices the riding, the skating, the tennis, the swimming and all that, so generally accepted, combines elegance with oxygen."
Further reading: "It" (by which, I assume, they mean "she") helped emerging talent, namely a young Yves Saint Laurent.
Eventually, de Rauch had a small line of fragrances which were not by any means inexpensive, starting with Pitch (1947, sportily referencing the game of golf) and ending with Fresh Water Rauch (1974). The English translation of the French Wikipedia page lists seven de Rauch fragrances, all "disappeared", a term I think I prefer to "discontinued" when it comes to fragrances like these which seem to have slipped through the rare cracks of perfume discourse, as if they never existed. Wikipedia doesn't list Vacarme (pictured above), which I have seen online as well, so who knows how many de Rauch scents there were. Certainly not Wikipedia.
I'm guessing de Rauch wasn't quite the showman Coco was, or didn't have her kind of backing, which might account, in part, for the vanishing act. Having smelled Miss de Rauch, I wouldn't say it isn't as well known because it doesn't smell as good. In fact, I prefer it to No. 5. Chanel No. 5 made it out to the farthest reaches of the hinterlands thanks to a now standard, then innovative deal between Chanel and a distributor with a much wider reach. Had it not been for this licensing arrangement, I suspect it wouldn't be as well known as it is today, no matter how daring for its time we consider it now. Don't feel to sorry for Miss de Rauch. It was carried at I. Magnin. It did have distribution, with the company which represented D'Orsay and Piguet.
Neverthless, none of Coco's ubiquity for Madeleine, and yet my bottle of Miss de Rauch ended up, somehow, in the farthest reaches of Arkansas. The scent dates from 1947, 1960, or 1968, by varied accounts. Wikipedia says that the scent was originally released in 1960, then reformulated in 1968, possibly explaining at least one of the timeline discrepancies.
The familiar smell, it turns out, is mimosa, a sweeter, more somehow succulent rendition than I'm used to. I'm not sure I've ever come across such a strong mimosa note in an aldehyde - but then, Miss de Rauch bears out the fact I haven't seen everything. Fittingly, the juice is the pink of the mimosa blossoms I remember as a kid and still see all over Memphis. I saw them a lot in Arkansas too, visiting my grandmother over the years. She often talked about mimosa trees - how hard they were to maintain. They grow fast but aren't particularly healthy trees; more like weeds, from what I remember her saying. There was one outside an apartment building she lived in briefly as a teenager and she still thought about it sixty years later, recalling the aroma vividly. If I remember, the mimosa was one of her favorite trees and its flowers, I suspect, one of her favorite scents. I think what the bottle - with its pink coloring and mimosa smell - reminded me of was my grandmother.
There's a little bit of confusion online about just what kind of scent Miss de Rauch is. I've read floral aldehyde (on Perfume Intelligence), and there are definitely aldehydes in the opening. I've also read woody floral, and really, that opening notwithstanding, the scent reminds me very little of most of the aldehydes I've smelled. Miss de Rauch doesn't remind me remotely of anything like No. 5. It reminds me more, in some weird way - possibly the pink - of Miss Balmain, which came out in 1967. Maybe Miss Balmain shows what happens to a girl like Miss de Rauch after a pack of cigarettes and a few too many cocktails. Then again, it has some similarities to woody aldehyde Arpege, only pink to that sophisticate's amber.
I've read lotus, mimosa, melon, pathcouli... I smell all of those except the lotus. I wouldn't know lotus if it bit me on the nose.
Miss de Rauch is difficult to find but I've seen bottles on ebay. None seem to share the pink coloring with my bottle. And the bottle design itself is different in some cases. Apparently, after Madeleine died the perfume line passed through various corporate entities, and there was, until as late as 2010, a Miss Rauch on the market (originating 1998) which bore little or no relation to the original, and by original you can hazard an untranslated guess whether this refers to the 1960 or 1968 version. I have no idea whether my bottle is pre or post 1968, though I'd venture it dates between the two.
According to Wikipedia, other de Rauch fragrances were: Mr. Rauch (1950), Belle de Rauch (1966), Din Rauch (1966), and Royal Rauch (1973).
If any of you have smelled a Rauch fragrance, or seen one, I'd be interested to hear about it.