I have an affection toward Lancome perfumes. Created during his days at Quest International, Francis Kurkdjian’s Miracle Homme was one of my early 00s favourites. This scent of green wood sap, purple moss and capsicums signified an era in my own life. Balafre is another classic Lancome masculine. Created in 1967, the fougere takes its name from the Duke of Guise, Henry I. The Duke was wounded in the 1575; Battle of Dormans, becoming known as Le Balafre, “the scarred”. Appreciated amongst French Catholics of the time for his charisma and heroism, the Duke led the opposition against the protestant Huguenots. Balafre is no longer in large-scale production but has become part of a La Collection, discontinued fragrances the company produces in small quantities. With some irregularity the scent is available from the Lancome Institut in Paris. Little information exists about the fragrance or the nose responsible for its creation. This seems true of most Lancome perfumes. A surprising thing given we live in a time when brands are marketing their place in history. Shoppers are supposed to be more inclined to purchase quality and history instead of disposable and seasonal consumer goods in a post-GFC economy.
Balafre’s classic structure is a fougere purist’s dream. I am unsure if it was recalibrated for modern noses (the original dark amber bottles can sometimes be found on Ebay or antique perfume traders). La Collection’s Balafre has less clutter in comparison to the more complex fougeres of the 1980s and 90s. It opens with sharp notes of citrus and pine. These sharp edges are rounded with herbal tones of lavender and cypress. Sage and oregano add a complexity, which is more perceivable once the top notes dissipate. Fragrantica.com lists the florals as a blend of carnation, geranium and neroli. It would not surprise me if Lancome followed the success of Dior’s Eau Sauvage, created two years earlier by including Hedione in its floral composition. The dry down is a balanced accord of wood, moss, leather and amber. It feels chalky, like dry powder. Lavender and fern accompanies the fragrance to its end.
Balafre is a classic fougere that is difficult to pinpoint in terms of age. This works to the favour of those who enjoy the fougere category of perfumery but wish to avoid the dated stereotype that comes with wearing one. Fresh and masculine, it is straightforward with no surprises. It will appeal to the man who appreciates these simplicities. More adventurous men will likely want more ‘bells and whistles’ on their perfume.
Yves Saint Laurent YSL Pour Homme, Yves Saint Laurent YSL Pour Homme Haute Concentration, Christian Dior Eau Sauvage, Loris Rubino Predateur ou Proie, Roja Dove Scandal Pour Homme, Acqua di Parma Lavanda Tonica.
Perfumer: Gerard Goupy, Henri Sorsana (Robertet)
Release date: 1968
Typology (via Fragrances of the World): Aromatic Fougere