When I see sandalwood and iris listed as basenotes to a vintage scent, I really want to sample it. It’s likely that high quality ingredients were used, and that you won’t get something of this quality in a new scent unless you want to fork over $100 or so, if not a lot more (think Amouage, for example). What’s interesting is that when I’ve sampled new ones that are supposed to have such ingredients, I’ve been disappointed. There is usually a lack or richness or complexity, at the very least.
Ungaro’s Diva (1983), a “feminine” Jacques Polge creation, is the kind of scent I imagine being marketed today by a company like Amouage, though as unisex. The notes over at Fragrantica.com are given as:
“The opening is classic, floral with a citrusy note, which harmonizes with the note of tuberose. Ylang-ylang is mixed with a rose. The sweet and sensual finale is reached by the notes of vanilla, sandalwood and iris.”
Some have pointed out that this has a Coco by Chanel quality, in that prunol was used in large amounts (imparting a “dark” fruit quality). I found Coco (vintage) to have too much, with not enough of anything else of note to balance it out. When I took the cap off my vintage Diva bottle (it’s a spray bottle) I could smell the richness. There is also a very strong animalic quality, which seems like mostly civet. This is the kind of thing I thought I’d get from Musc Ravageur, which instead dries down on me to a very amber-dominant scent that is unbalanced and nothing special in any way.
What’s great about Diva is that the fruit and animalic elements are very strong yet they never become cloying or irritating in any way. The richness is amazing. This is something I have yet to encounter in any recent scent, designer or niche. On some level, Diva is a tamer version of vintage Kouros, with the fruit taking the place of Kouros’ honey. However, Diva has a bit of structure (which is actually a bit “masculine”) whereas Kouros often feels a bit of an olfactory jellyfish.
After two hours or so, the animalic/fruity aspects recede and other notes become more obvious. It really seemed like there was quite a bit of oakmoss here, so I went over to the Estonian site, because often they seem to have more complete note pyramids, and saw that oakmoss, vetiver, honey, opoponax, civet, and musk are also listed (see http://www.parfyym.pri.ee/?op=body&id=146&cid=1071&cgid=00. The closest “masculine” scent I can think of is Iquitos, but that one is creamier and without the strong oakmoss. The iris gives Diva a drier and more “particulate” quality. This, along with some sandalwood, leads me to think I prefer Diva (as for “gender,” the drydowns are so close as to be interchangeable, IMO, in this context).
Though this is very strong and animalic, it never has that leaden quality I encountered with vintage Royal Copenhagen Cologne (see my last blog post). The way I think of it is that it’s like being invited into a house that looks like a collector of fine art lives inside, and when you get in there you see all styles of paintings. With RCC, you are not invited inside but instead have to use binoculars to get a glimpse of a few paintings from the sidewalk. I’ve read that the newest formulation is awful, but since I have yet to try it all I can see is that I would guess this is accurate (from my past experiences). One last point: when I went to spray this on my chest only a tiny amount came out, so I decided to give it time, in case this had Kouros type strength. Sure enough, it does! An ounce of this would last decades, assuming it doesn’t evaporate, if you have a large rotation.