It's becoming very clear to me that perfumes from the '40s and '50s are those that really call my name. Take Robert Piguet's Bandit, composed by Germaine Cellier and purported to be Marlene Dietrich's signature scent. Bandit is a classic leather chypre whose dominant twin notes — the sting of galbanum with the warmth of leather — encircle any sweetness that could emerge from jasmine or rose. Instead, Bandit uses them to round out and undergird the primary badass butch character of the perfume. I picture a bouquet of flowers wrapped with a black whip instead of a shiny ribbon.
I'm not sure if the bitter green and sharp/sour galbanum, mixed with the other notes, is supposed to come off rubbery-smelling, but it does, and it's a good thing! Bandit's sharp angles make you pause and think. Its cacophanous notes are its appeal, like an instrument playing off-key in an atonal modern music composition or a modernist portrait of a woman with a blue face and green lips. As one commenter on a Basenotes forum put it: "Sharp green + sweet floral + sour vetiver = olfactory mayhem." Mayhem is right!
Wear Bandit only if you like to be brash and loud. This is not an office scent, and I'm not even sure it's a date night scent, unless your date wants to be tied up and pistol-whipped. As one commenter put it on a Basenotes forum, "I love the idea of smelling like a whip-cracking, ball-busting pirate queen."
Dry, non-floral, leathery, sexy, dirty, harsh and rubbery — call it what you will, but Bandit makes being bad smell good.
UPDATE: I got a batch of Bandit that has not turned and whose top notes have not disappeared. All the angles I've talked about are still there, but their edges are worn and fit seamlessly together in this masterpiece of a perfume. It really is the scent of a complicated woman with a past, whose femininity is tantalizing and mysterious (think Isabella Rossellini in David Lynch's Blue Velvet).
Heart notes: Jasmine, orris, rose, carnation
Base notes: Castoreum, patchouli, vetiver, myrrh, oak moss, amber, civet
(note: Haarman & Reimer guide does not include galbanum or isobutyl quinoline in its list of Bandit's notes. Not sure why...)