Which bouquet would you like, the Hammam or Edwardian one?

This was a decision I contemplated recently, as good deals arose, first for a bottle of Edwardian Bouquet and then Hammam Bouquet.  The former was marketed to women in 1901 and the latter to men (starting in 1872, not that it still smells exactly the same; several reviews claim it is noticeably different from the pre-2003 re-release).  As you might expect, I decided upon Edwardian Bouquet, though I could have purchased both.  The story of this choice may be helpful to others (I did not sample either one before the purchase) beyond my impression of Edwardian Bouquet, and so the reason for this post.

EB has “green notes” listed, and some reviews mention galbanum, which makes sense (I’m not sure what other “green notes” existed for perfumers in 1901), and I was seeking a scent with a fairly strong galbanum note in certain kinds of compositions (EB being one, from what I could tell by the reviews).  Here is the list of notes provided by Parfumo.net:

Top Notes Top Notes Bergamot, Green notes, Hyacinth, Mandarin
Heart Notes Heart Notes Jasmine, Rose, Ylang-ylang
Base Notes Base Notes Amber, Oakmoss, Musk, Patchouli, Powdery notes, Sandalwood

Some reviews called it “soapy” and there was a mention of a lot of jasmine, so I was a bit concerned, but with claims of it being “unisex,” I decided to take a chance on it.  There seem to be two bottle types, and since I thought I was getting the older formulation, that tipped the balance in favor of the purchase.  Here is my Fragrantica.com review of it:

I obtained a bottle of what I think is the older version (the smaller of the two pictures above). It’s definitely animalic, but not on the same level as vintage Kouros, for example. I also get the galbanum, but it’s stronger in vintage Halston 1-12. There’s a bit of the kind of chypre “bite” I have noticed in “feminines” from the 1970s, but again, it’s not as strong here. The florals seem heavy and perhaps a touch wet at first, but then feel drier and not as heavy after an hour or so. It is a bit musky and powdery, but I haven’t noticed any clear wood notes. And there was something that was almost but not quite minty. In any case, it reminds me a bit of vintage Aramis Herbal 900, in terms of the overall composition, and if you like that one I think you would find the drydown of this one to be at least somewhere around unisex. I like it and likely will keep it, despite having other, similar scents. I guess it’s the kind of scent that I would part with if a great deal came along, but I would prefer to keep it.

Though some claimed it was very strong, I did not get that impression at all, though I would not call it weak either.  My guess is that it came across as strong because it is an uncommon composition by today’s standards.  As one Fragrantica reviewer said:

What’s missing from this bouquet are the sweet florals…

Without much sweetness, the notes likely feel too strong to many who don’t have much experience with vintage.  With most vintage “feminine” chypres, there often seems to be something that’s irritating, perhaps strong aldehydes in most cases, but that’s not present in EB, thankfully.  I can appreciate the notes in a more straightforward way in EB, which is a major positive.  One Fragrantica reviewer said it has a strong “bite” to it but also that is has a milky quality.  I don’t know how a scent could have both – I certainly can’t remember one scent I have encountered that I would characterize this way, but EB is neither, for me.  Now, moving on to HB, there were some major concerns for me, based upon what I read.

Some pointed to a strong alcoholic or even whisky-like quality and at least one person spoke to the rose being more like geranium (which I tend to dislike).  I have encountered this before, in Acteur by Azzaro, and rarely am I in the mood to wear it, so I certainly don’t need another of this type (I have 100 ml of Acteur).  I also don’t like the comments about noticeable lavender.  The notes for HB are:

Top Notes Top Notes Bergamot, Lavender
Heart Notes Heart Notes Iris, Jasmine, Rose oil, Cedarwood
Base Notes Base Notes Amber, Musk, Sandalwood

Over time HB seems to go in a musky, animalic direction, but the strength falls off more than a little.  I wouldn’t be surprised if these are rather similar, compositionally, a major difference being a geranium-dominant rose note and lavender replace galbanum and a more floral rose.  If I was a huge fan of this sort of thing (or didn’t already possess bottles of vintage Acteur, Herbal 900, Halston Limited, etc.) I probably would have purchased the HB bottle too (another issue was that it was a splash bottle unlike the EB, which was a typical sealed spray bottle).  As things stand, I think I’ll layer EB with Acteur and say to myself, “this must be at least as good as HB by itself.”

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