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.


Anonymous said...

Don't you love this? The adventure through time and place and how the forgotten worlds of past intersect with a current traveler. I think there must be many of these beautiful compositions out there that retain some charm and power because of the thought that went into them and the higher quality of the ingredients. I love finding out about these "lesser" houses.

Brian said...

Yes I do! It's hard to find surprise these days. So I was really excited about de Rauch, and even more excited to discover it's so good. I wish I knew more but was glad to at least track down something. It was like an investigation.

Tammy said...

This is a purely rhetorical question, but I am also in rural Arkansas (north-central), and am curious as to where you were! We get so few visitors in these parts. :o)

I can remember seeing a bottle of Belle de Rauch on the dressing table of one of my late great-aunt's.

Her name was Belle, so I imagine that was the reason someone got her the perfume....though the story of how it made its way to the Texas panhandle is probably a good one.

I have no idea what it smelled like; I can only remember her wearing White Shoulders.

Brian said...

Hi Tammy,

It was Hardy, Arkansas. Whereabouts are you? I wonder what Belle de Rauch smells like. I don't find tons of perfume in Hardy or anywhere near it. Unless it's Avon. :/

Anonymous said...

Royal de Rauch - a beautiful perfume - still have the bottle which smells as good as it did years ago. I tried to find it and spoke to a lovely man who ran Harrods perfume dept - he told me a long story about how manufacture came to a stop as there was some family dispute. Would love to track down a bottle.

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone. Actually Madeleine de Rauch was my great grand mother and I am presently starting to dig into her work in order to try to organise an exhibition soon hopefully. I really appreciated your story. It is always amazing to read such comments about your family. Unfortunately we don't have a lot of her outfits or perfumes left this is why I am asking of you could share your contact because I would really enjoy meeting with the "man who ran Harrods perfume dpt". Thank you so much. Stephanie (

Anonymous said...

Hi everyone. Actually Madeleine de Rauch was my great grand mother and I am presently starting to dig into her work in order to try to organise an exhibition soon hopefully. I really appreciated your story. It is always amazing to read such comments about your family. Unfortunately we don't have a lot of her outfits or perfumes left this is why I am asking of you could share your contact because I would really enjoy meeting with the "man who ran Harrods perfume dpt". Thank you so much. Stephanie (

Unknown said...

any wone know anything about eau fraiche de rauch eau de toilette pour hommes et femmes...i bought a bottle in its original box at an estate sale in Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

just bought a 4 oz.bottle of eau de toilette pour hommes et femmes called Eau Fraiche De Rauche...anybody know anythng about it?

Anonymous said...

Hi all - I am in the UK and I too have become fascinated by something that I have had displayed in a small glass cabinet for many years - a bottle of MISS DE RAUCH PARFUM - DE RAUCH - PARIS. MADELEINE DE RAUCH. In the UK school kids are always taken to France for school trips and so I cannot work out when I purchased it - put it this way - I could have been anything from 11years old to maybe 16 - so I am talking about over 30-40 years ago!! I can still recall the ferry trip from the UK to France and looking at some sort of Duty Free brochure and choosing this gorgeous looking bottle of perfume and feeling very mature when I handed over what was then a lot of money - I can't recall how much but it was an expensive perfume and then I was handed this tiny box! I was too shy to say ''What's this?! I want a proper bottle not a sample!!'' But I didn't - I just went off with my purchase and kept it up until now and I don't think I have ever even opened it to smell it! I was recently planning to sell it on a well known auction site and was happy that it didn't sell as I want now to hand it to my child and tell her the story. I love the beautiful bottle and it's still in it's plastic casing and it just looks like a wonderful peice of perfume history! Best wishes guys from a sunny London UK!

Anonymous said...

I stumbled upon your blog trying to find out how to get my hands on another bottle of Madame de Rauch. I bought a bottle when I was overseas in 2004. I can't remember if it was in Dubai or Bahrain. I'm guessing what I bought was a reproduction, but on the bottom of the bottle it says Parfums Madeleine de Rauch Paris. So far no luck in my search. I hope I find more. It smells heavenly.

Anonymous said...

I got my first bottle of Miss de Rauch in Paris. I was 17, first time in Europe, and feeling very sophisticated. It was the perfect fragrance for me. That was in the winter of 1980, and I loved it (I still love it, or my memory of it). At the time, I also bought a couple of bottles of the two other fragrances they had. One had a gold label, the other one had a green label. They were good, but nowhere near the red labelled Miss. I remember that I was able to buy perfumes by de Rauch in Harrod's Buenos Aires well into the 90's, but after that, they simply vanished from the market (what is actually fitting for perfume), and some time later Harrod's BA closed forever. Knowing that it would be very difficult for me to get another bottle, I stretched my last bottle of "Miss" till the content became dark and sticky, and eventually, I put the empty bottle in my closet to keep some of the fragrance on my scarves.
Today my cousin was sharing with me some photos of that first European adventure and I suddenly remembered ourselves buying fragrances and makeup in a maison parisienne, and I felt so nostalgic that I googled "Miss de Rauch" just to see a picture of my first favorite fragrance. It was amazing to see that so many out there share my fascination with the not so popular Miss de Rauch.