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November 22, 2005

Fragrance Review: Robert Piguet Bandit


Rated 4.5 out of 5.0

Star rating: 5 stars--outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars--very good, 3 stars--adequate, 2 stars--disappointing, 1 star--poor.

In the constellation of Caron Tabac Blond (1919), Cuir de Russie (1924) and Parfums Grès Cabochard (1959), united by the smoky leather, Bandit is the most fearless and daring. It is neither coy and naughty nor aloof and chic. It does not hide its aggressive animalic side under the layers of vanilla like Tabac Blond, nor softens it with the rose and jasmine sweetness like Cuir de Russie. A classical chypre, Bandit is unmistakably alluring, even if it is not the easiest acquaintance to make, especially for someone unfamiliar with this genre.

Bandit was born out of the dreams about pirates and sea voyages. Robert Piguet, a former Poiret fashion designer, upon establishing his own house in 1940, decided to create a fragrance to accompany his new avant-garde couture collection that had models walk down the runway wearing black masks and brandishing knives. His encounter with the perfumer Germaine Cellier, a rebel herself, led to the creation of Bandit in 1944, an essence of rebellion. It shocked and enticed simultaneously, its dark leather notes hinting at dark desires. ...

A fascinating aspect of Bandit is not so much its showcasing of animalic darkness, as its dissonance of the aggressive leather with the scintillating and verdant accord. Galbanum layered with bergamot possesses an uplifting green wetness that is reminiscent of walking through a garden after a heavy rain. As moisture begins to evaporate in the warm air, the scents of leaves and grasses are intertwined in the most intoxicating mélange. The darkness is allowed to pervade the composition, first hinting at its presence under the green burst of galbanum, and then shedding all layers to display its leathery and musky side.

Cellier created the leather accord of Bandit by relying upon the aggressively smoky notes of the aroma-chemical isobutyl quinoline, and in the vintage formula, the shocking nature of the composition is most apparent. While it does not possess the rustic aura of Coty Chypre, the contrasting of accords reveals a somewhat abrupt and fauvist character that marks most of Cellier's compositions.

In 1999, after twenty-five years of not being available, Bandit was reintroduced. Comparing the vintage and the modern makes one realize that the current version of Bandit has been toned down, however the spirit of the composition remains. The same wet galbanum accord scintillates on the skin, underscored by the subtlety of barely open flower buds. The leather notes are folded over a chypre base of earthy vetiver, patchouli and oakmoss. It is a scent of a place and of a person, of mystery and of fantasy.

Bandit EDT is the sharpest of the concentrations, the leather notes appearing as if with a crack of a whip. The EDP tempers the smoky sharpness with the more pronounced white floral softness and vetiver earthiness. The parfum is the least aggressive; while presenting a richer initial verdant accord, it stays close to the skin, sustaining the languid wetness even in the folds of its dark leather base. I prefer either the EDT for its smoky sharpness or the parfum for its elegant subtlety. The EDP dries down rather like grassy on my skin, with a disconcerting tendency to remind me of wet tobacco. As an example of chypre allure and Cellier’s genius, Bandit remains a gem, confident, strong and elegant, much like its avant-garde creator.

Notes include galbanum, orange, bergamot, neroli, jasmine, rose, tuberose, leather, patchouli, mousse de chene, vetiver, musk. Either concentration of Bandit is easily obtainable at various online discount stores as a simply google search would reveal. Thus, the EDP can be found for under $20 and the parfum for under $35.

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