Égoïste by Chanel, although officially released by this name in 1990, is a true child of the 80's: bold, clear and with a definite presence that is unmistakable with others. It is one of the most delicious woody fragrances designed for men, not to mention its got the most dramatic yet humorous, wonderfully timed perfume commercial I've ever laid eyes upon, rivaled only by the marvellous Old Spice, which is really for a shower gel so I guess that does not really count. Perhaps it's because Prokofiev's "Dance of the Knights" from the ballet Romeo and Juliet has a way of sending shivers down my spine; and perhaps because I've been always intrigued by the use of "negative" titles for perfumes. The guy who chooses to wear it might be perfectly sweet, honest and dependable - but that should not stop them from fantasizing about taking over a whole building full of screaming females.
Sadly, Europeans are rather egotistic in keeping this beauty to themselves and it is nowhere to be found on North American soil. So, on my last stopover at Schipol airport, I picked up a chunky 100ml bottle of this masculine gem, a size that I generally avoid. This is obviously designed for a larger fist, and should last me a lifetime, because there is no man in sight with whom I can share this beauty.
Égoïste is the younger and louder brother of the demure, soft-spoken and old-fashioned Bois des Îles. It opens with a burst of dry yet sweet melange of woods, citrus and spice. It actually reminds me of another favourite 80's fragrance, which is also drenched in sandalwood: Samsara (which reportedly had a glutenous 40% Mysore sandalwood). There is no true separation between top and heart and base as they weave in and out in different phases of the perfume. At first, there is the clarity of bois de rose (rosewood), the led-pencil shaving association of Virginia cedarwood, and the sweet citrus burst of tangerine and a sprinkle of sweet cassia. There is also a hint of eugenol, not quite clove like, but softer - perhaps form carnations. Underlying notes of coumarin backed up with a generous dose of vanilla absolute. There is something about true vanilla absolute that is simultaneously woody and animalic, quite unlike the cupcake frosting character of vanillin. Égoïste's vanilla really brings this out with some help of both indole and leathery animalic notes. which add interest. It is quite well balanced between sweet, bitter, smooth, spicy and powdery - although admittedly leaning towards the sweet more so than I would have expected (or remember the original to be).
The sandalwood is not as creamy as its sister Bois des Îles (probably because what I have in my hands is a rather modern version, very unlikely containing any Mysore sandalwood) - but that also gives is an edge somehow - it's warmer and more spicy and dry than I remembered it from a few years back. It seems to be accompanied by Atlas cedar's suave fruitiness, and perhaps even a splash of violet-y ionones and plum and rose notes from damascones.
I would hardly consider anyone wearing Égoïste selfish - anyone around you is going to enjoy it too!
Beware: Egoiste Platinum has nothing to do with it besides the name, and is the only version you'll find in Canada and the USA, and to my nose it smells like generic sporty aquatic chemical trash. But it has a wonderful ad as well!
Top notes: Rosewood, Tangerine, Virginia Cedarwood
Heart notes: Rose, Cassia (Cinnamon), Carnation
Base notes: Sandalwood, Coumarin, Atlas Cedarwood, Vanilla, Leather