Monday 19 April 2021

CIEL D'ETÉ by L.T. Piver

Three years ago, almost to the day, I wrote an article about how the ageing process can alter a perfume’s scent. Over time the volatile citruses can thin out, if not disappear completely, and the resinous vanillas and woods can become decidedly richer than was ever intended. Add into the mix storage conditions and you’ll see why perception can become confused. This is why when I saw the discontinued Ciel d'Eté (Summer Sky) by L.T. Piver simply described as “leathery and woody” something didn’t sound right. So, I pulled my cherished bottle out of storage and, for the first time, opened it to the elements. What I smelled was totally unexpected.

When we think of the classic French perfume houses the ones that usually spring to mind are Guerlain, Chanel, and Caron. These three have managed to weather numerous storms over the decades, but there’s another one that hasn’t been so fortunate. L.T. Piver was once known around the world, and famously had its own double fronted store on London’s Regent Street, but changing times saw it fall out of fashion. Even its legendary Pompeia, Rêve d’Or, and Héliotrope Blanc fragrances couldn’t stop it disappearing from dressing tables. However, it has always managed to cling on, and who doesn’t love a fighter?

I’ve covered the convoluted history of L.T. Piver in the past but here’s a very quick rundown. In 1774 the company was founded by Michel Adam in Paris, but was called A la Reine des Fleurs. Ownership passed to Michel’s son and then to his cousin, Pierre-Guillaume Dissey. He went into partnership with a gentleman by the name of Louis Toussaint Piver and the company subsequently became Dissey et Piver. Upon Pierre’s death the name finally became L.T. Piver and it stayed in family hands until its sale in 1982 to, what would become, Rhône Poulenc. However, in 1988 control passed to Eric Amouyal.

Ciel d'Eté
launched in 1959 and so was a child of the Rocking Fifties, cleverly aimed at the Swinging Sixties, but with a tradition stretching back to the Roaring Twenties. With the greatest respect to the company and the uncredited perfumer, it does bear a definite resemblance to Chanel No.5. However, to my mind it’s an early example of taking a bestseller, distilling its very essence, but adding a unique touch. It's suggested that this could have been a rerelease, the original launch being around the time of L’Aimant by Coty, but this is unconfirmed. My bottle was thankfully in remarkable condition, and so it’s time to rediscover Ciel d'Eté.

A lot of the opening citrus has survived and so presents as a crisp blast of lemon and neroli, but in the background is a deliciously soapy aldehyde that almost brings with it a sandalwood quality. However, you’re also treated to a beautiful green herbaceous note which lasts throughout, and which is definitely Piver’s unique touch. The floral heart is harder to decipher, there’s definitely rose, jasmine, sweat pea, and violet, but it's the base which is the revelation. A dry vetiver pairs seamlessly with a powdery iris note before a smooth patchouli and amber accord gently glides into play. However, a final subtle dose of civet definitely signals that this is a perfume from another time.

It’s always a gamble when you open a vintage bottle of fragrance as to what you’ll be confronted with. Often it’s the smoky aroma of degraded citrus but, every once in a while, it’s like opening a time capsule. Unfortunately I’ve now broken the seal on my bottle and so it’s just a matter of time before it starts to turn, but at least I got to smell it rather than simply look at it. If you’re thinking of purchasing vintage fragrances then always remember that you’re taking a chance. Also, because they are from a time before ingredient legislation, I am obliged to advise you to only wear them on fabric.

Ciel d'Eté by L.T. Piver is unfortunately discontinued, although bottles do occasionally appear on various auction sites. You can read my original article, Perfume's Passage of Time, by clicking on the image below.

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