Egoiste began its creation in the mid 1980s. Legendary perfumer Jacques Polge was researching the Chanel archives and came across a formula by Ernest Beaux (creator of Chanel No5). This formula (Bois des Iles) required a high percentage of sandalwood inspiring Polge who at the time was working on a men’s fragrance to accompany the launch of a Chanel menswear line. The menswear idea was cancelled however many in Chanel HQ pushed for the fragrance to be released. As a result Bois Noir was launched and sold in limited quantities only through Chanel boutiques. The fragrance was a complete departure from the fougere style of men’s fragrances currently in the market and was never intended to be a big success. Bois Noir lasted a year before disappearing. In 1990 it was decided Bois Noir should be launched to a wider audience and thus Egoiste as it is known today was born. To accompany the launch Jean Paul Goude created a TV advertising campaign that has contributed to the fragrance’s cult status. Directly translated as ‘selfish’ L’Egoiste ad quotes 17th century French playwright Pierre Corneille staying away from the stereotypical approach to men’s fragrance marketing with semi naked male models. I recommend watching it on Youtube if you are interested. The fragrance flopped in America and did not enjoy the global success intended by Chanel. After 30 years with Chanel, Polge still names Egoiste as his favourite piece of work for the fashion house. “It was so new and singular-and still is”. Perhaps it was this ‘newness’ that lead to its failure? I wonder if today’s men’s market would be more receptive? In saying that people still pull faces when I wave a wrist of Egoiste under their noses and ask for a critique. It’s certainly not for everyone. Egoiste is a perfume icon and much more interesting than the 1994 release of Platinum Egoiste that carries the Egoiste name but none of its personality. Whilst Platinum Egoiste is available everywhere, sadly Egoiste is now in limited availability after Chanel lowered its global distribution. I still see it in parts of Asia and online.
If you have been raised on the ozonic men’s fragrances of the past decade Egoiste can be quite a shock to the olfactory senses although the recent trend in gourmand scents may make way for an Egoiste renaissance. I’m not sure I would class this as a gourmand scent but it is a close relative due to the high percentage of vanilla and ambrette seed. Cinnamon and coriander lend to this ‘foody’ theme, the result being something very sweet! I normally shy away from anything with a lot of vanilla but there is something peculiarly attractive in Egoiste. I bought my first bottle in South America in the mid 90s. I found it in a Bolivian market after deciding I needed a new scent to deal with the humidity and dust. In my head I can still slip back to that time when I open the bottle and take in the scent. When the bottle is first sprayed damask rose is easily identified. This is supported by carnation, which also lends itself to the spicy nature of the fragrance. While most masculine perfumes beat their chests in the base notes Egoiste shows its masculine nature quietly by referencing traditional men’s cologne. Once your nose makes its way past the vanillic assault notes of lavender, thyme and tangerine make themselves known. Sandalwood also becomes more present in the drydown.
This fragrance has a big personality and requires a wearer who will not be easily overcome by it. Egoiste has a polarizing effect so I would not suggest it as your office fragrance. You may find you have a group of co-workers hovering over your desk all-day and wonder why some colleagues have stopped visiting. It’s better utilized as a weekend or evening scent. At night in a bar the sense of smell becomes heightened due to other senses being overwhelmed by loud music and poor lighting. Drawing a silage of Egoiste as you move through a room will ensure you can be found, even in the darkest of corners. If you live in a country where smoking in bars is permitted Egoiste is completely compatible with the smell of cigarette. There is nothing worse than the mix of cigarettes and that of fresh ozonic scents currently flooding the perfume market. Although men tend to go for lighter scents in summer I strongly recommend a dab of Egoiste on hot summer days. Especially if you are spending the day around water. Its warm woody presence makes a nice contrast to a watery sunlight environment. Egoiste is a sophisticated fragrance which can be worn easily by the over 30s crowd. Guys under 30 should ensure it suits their personality before investing.
Hermes Amber Narguile, L’Artisan Vanilla, Christian Dior Dune Pour Homme, Etro Ambra, Yves Saint Laurent Opium Pour Homme, Christian Dior Ambre Nuit.
Perfumer: Jacques Polge, Francois Demachy
Bottle designer: Jacques Helleu
Release date: 1990
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Woody Oriental