Spray With Caution: Robert Piguet Visa


I remember reading the descriptions for the reconstructed Visa from Robert Piguet and thinking it was probably not for me, but I guess that once I stopped worrying and learned to love the pulp, I was ready to take on some perfumes that previously I would have skipped.

The peach and pear alone would normally send me running for the hills, but while in Paris I got adventurous and gave it a try. And then another one. And another one. The scent haunted me enough to seek it out until I finally broke down and surrendered. Why?

What did me in was the chyprey-leathery feel. It's entirely grown up and very sexy in a lush, rich, fully-clothed way. The fruit is as far away from the mall-bought body sprays that come to mind when you think of pear and peach notes. They are intertwined with a boozey warm rose note that calls to mind a similar combination in Parfum Delrae Bois De Paradis (berries, in that case), and I even get a decent amount of violet, a note that too often goes away to die when it meets my skin.

It's interesting how my skin retains the fruit for as long as the perfume is there (which is nearly forever. Like most fruit scents, all the king's horses and all the king's men can't make it go away), infusing the leather, moss and other rich base notes and making them fuller, more 3-D, if that makes any sense. I don't know how much moss they actually put in this, considering that it's a commercial fragrance, but the chypre kick is unmistakable (though don't expect anything Bandit-like. These scents come from the same house but you'd never know it).

If we go back to the Bois de Paradis comparison, Visa is more restrained and not as loud, but it's still a big one, with lots of sillage. One spray too many and it becomes a flesh eating creature on the same level as Angel. So it needs to be handled with care as to not become a tacky cliché (which is why I chose the artwork you see above). Used just right and it's a thing of beauty that would appeal to fans of Malle's Le Parfum de Thérèse.

In Perfumes- The Guide, Tania Sanchez, who smelled the original 1947 creation, says that our 2007 version is fully modernized and cannot be mistaken for a classic from a bygone era. While I somewhat agree, I still get a retro feel from the new Visa, especially when compared to the Delrae scent or (and don't throw anything heavy at me) to the new Secret Obsession from Calvin Klein. The latter is not bad at all, even if it's very mainstream and lacking in edge. But my point is that Secret Obsession is a rich spiced plum with a surprisingly adult drydown (compared to those LOLfrags CK has released in recent years this was a very nice encounter for me), but still very modern, while Visa has vintage, red lipstick and black hat vibe.

While I've heard that there's a quality issue with American-made Piguet fragrance, my NYC-bought bottle says "Made in France", so there might have been some changes in distribution (my two year old Bandit is an older, USA product). Unlike in Paris, where I saw these scents just about everywhere, here you can either order online from the Piguet website, or buy them at Henri Bendel on 5th Avenue, which is what I did (and how I ended up with a 100 ml bottle, as they didn't have the smaller size). There's also a pure parfum, and I have to tell you, I'm highly tempted.

Image: Enigma of the Generations by Michael Cheval

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