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Launched: 1987 - discontinued
Group: Chypre Floral
Rochas is a French high-end perfume and intermittent haute couture house founded in 1925 by Marcel Rochas. Apart from their most iconic 'Femme' issued in 1943 and still in production who would have never heard of Eau de Rochas, a '70s cologne favourite or frivole 'Tocade' launched in 1994 and directed at the younger public? Byzance sits in between the two slightly out of place in 1987 in its regally baroque midnight blue gown.
When I look at the round, cobalt blue miniature bottle that is so thin that it fits like a piece of money in one's hand, I think ancient, luxurious and smelling of something Cleopatra would have worn. The golden plate that announces Byzance written on it in a circle reinforces the feel. The box is an equally distinctive dark blue carton adorned with a dusting of a golden flower pattern.
Top notes: aldehydes, spices, carnation, green notes, mandarin, cardamom, lemon, basil
Even before spraying, right out of the bottle Byzance is already heady, bitter and sharp. Upon application, the first notes I'm hit by are bitter, soapy and green with a hint of dusty spice. There's also raspy lemon that as opposed to modern, fresh fragrances adds an harsh and bitter feel to the accord. It's hard to pick up a specific note from the opening as there are so many things going on at the same time and also because the notes tend to be coated with an overall greenness and soap that prevent the softer and spicier elements to come through. My skin must be magnifying aldehydes as in about 15 minutes Byzance turns into a green-smelling, sharp jasmine soap and to be honest I'm not too confident about that.
Heart notes: tuberose, orris root, jasmine, rose, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, anise
The aforementioned relatively sharp, bitter and most importantly soapy and aldehydic top accord survives in the first couple of hours and tends to stick to my skin. The sillage is a lot better where the much awaited, gentler and sweeter floral notes have been able to escape and blend in with a fresh, green and bitter edge from the top notes. My overall impression of the heart is like autumn, especially the autumn smell we have here at the moment: the scent of crisp air, smoke from chimneys, dried leaves, the scent of late blooming clematis and ivy clinging to the fences, the balsamic aroma of the evergreen hedges, especially cypress all rolled into my scarf where I sprayed Byzance.
The accord would be so beautiful and perfect were I not having to contend with the obtrusive detergent like edge it has! As times passes, a powdery element underpins this brown, autumnal aura, that is the orris root, and extract from the roots of iris that gives fragrances an almost non-sweet, dark, powdery and melancholic tone akin to Guerlain's L'Heure Bleue. I'm a bit disappointed that I'm still not getting other florals other than a slightly bitter and green jasmine, autumn leaves and non sweet iris, however I'm compensated by a noticeable, medium-strength but soft sillage that lasts for about 8 -9 hours in colder weather.
Base notes: sandalwood, amber, musk, vanilla, heliotrope, cedar
Given the base notes I was expecting something rich and woody in the final stage similar to an oriental fragrance. Instead I'm getting some nice, soft and vanillic wood interwoven by a clean, sharp and every so slightly soapy nuance. There's a bitter greeness too that nudges Byzance into mossland. Although not listed, there's oakmoss or something similar that creates a mossy, foresty effect, the unmistakeable signature of chypre fragrances.
If I was to compare the base to other classique chypres florals like Miss Dior or Knowing , Byzance's drydown is a muted, less harsh and herbal version than its predominantly mossy sisters. It is more like a soapy, aldehydic drydown softened by vanilla somehow reminiscent of the light veil of mossy soapy - greenness my Chanel No 5 pure parfum has but that might be because it's vintage. The light, musky and foresty - woodsy trail of Byzance stays on for the rest of the day up to 10 hours or so.
I'm only starting to explore classic chypre floral fragrances olfactorily having only fleetingly sniffed a number of miniatures of the kind. They are a genre on their own and with many raw materials that are longer being produced today. These fragrances represented the backbone of classics since the early times of modern perfumery (the first being Chypre by Coty in 1917 that defined the genre and which means 'Cyprus') up the seventies / eighties. These mossy creations are often considered masculine for today's tastes and heavy on the nose being a lot more complex than modern fragrances. They are definitely refined, mature and would probably not suit a sugar-craving younger audience. It still has a following and many women regret its discontinuation.
That aside, Byzance is a head-to-toe French perfume and that is no longer in fashion nowadays. Combining elements from chypres as well as having a powdery-aldehydic Chanel No. 5 type facet, if launched earlier, in the seventies perhaps, Byzance would have been a bigger hit where soapy fragrances equaled richness, high-class, cleanness, luxury and chic. I'm a fan of sweet, spicy and woody orientals though I love to explore and enjoy mossy florals for their inimitable 'autumn' smell as I call it. I already have one fragrance that does exactly that: Donna Karan Eau de Parfum which for me is the most beautiful smell of autumn but without the dominant soap and aldehydes of Byzance so I'll stick to the former for now.
PRICE AND AVAILABILITY
Now discontinued in its more potent Eau de Parfum form, Byzance Eau de Toilette that comes in a same packaging except for the golden plate, can be bought online on Ebay or Amazon from approximately £46 / 50ml Eau de Toilette. The original Eau de Parfum can go up into the region of £85 for the same amount.
©powered by lillybee also posted on ciao.co.uk