Scent Sample Sunday: Silences

One of the regular readers here mentioned recently wearing Silences, and Portia from “Australian Perfume Junkies” and I immediately oohed and aahed over it. So today’s scent sample is Jacomo’s classic fragrance, the original Silences.

Magazine ad for fragrance Jacomo Silences

Jacomo Silences, original ad (1978).

Silences was launched in 1978, and it fits right in with the green, woody, chypre vibe of so many classic fragrances from that decade. I’ve realized that my scent tastes seem to have been formed mostly in the 1960s and 1970s, when I was a child; given how deeply scent is linked to our subconscious, it makes sense that the fragrances of one’s childhood have particular impact. (To be clear, I own and love MANY later fragrances, but I find that I am really drawn to chypres, for instance, and to retro florals).

Fragrantica lists its notes as follows: Top notes — orange blossom, galbanum, bergamot, lemon, green notes and cassia; middle notes — iris, jasmine, narcissus, hyacinth, rose and lily-of-the-valley; base notes — vetiver, musk, sandalwood, oakmoss, cedar and ambrette (musk mallow). This list refers to the original and classic Silences, which was reissued in 2004. There is a new version, called Silences Eau de Parfum Sublime, which was issued in 2012. I appreciate, by the way, that the brand didn’t just reformulate and pretend that the new version was the same Silences. It’s easy to tell them apart, both from the name and from the packaging; Silences Sublime comes in a similar iconic round black bottle, but the lettering on it is completely different. It has excellent reviews online, but it doesn’t seem to be widely available in the US, unlike classic Silences, which can be found online for bargain prices. One can order it directly for delivery to Europe and a few other countries from the Jacomo brand website.

And Silences is a true bargain beauty! You have to like dry green chypres to enjoy it, though. It opens with galbanum leading the charge, a soupcon of bergamot floating in its wake. I don’t smell orange blossom at all, and while I’m sure the other listed top notes are there, because the opening is multi-faceted and complex, most of what I clearly smell is the combination of galbanum and bergamot, with galbanum dominating. As it dries down, two of my favorite flowers emerge: narcissus and hyacinth. The dry greenness of the galbanum persists, though I also get a hint of lily of the valley (another favorite flower). There’s a soft green earthiness that I have come to associate with iris root. I don’t smell any jasmine or rose in this middle phase.

Silences has often been compared to Chanel No. 19 in its eau de toilette version and for good reason. Their notes are almost identical, though in slightly different order and emphasis. No. 19 was created by the master Henri Robert in 1970, who also created 1974’s Chanel Cristalle. The perfumer behind Silences was Gerard Goupy, working at Givaudan with Jean-Charles Niel. Interestingly, M. Goupy was also the nose behind Lancome’s Climat, created in 1967, which in its vintage form is another green floral, though its opening is strongly aldehydic, unlike these later chypres. He also created Lancome’s Magie Noire in 1978, which has many of the same notes, also in a different order, but adding notes like spices and incense, honey and civet; it too is considered a chypre but more floral than green or woody. Victoria at “Bois de Jasmin” points out that its particular genius lies in the tension of combining its oriental and chypre accords.

So although one might be tempted to pigeonhole Silences as a bargain shadow of No. 19, it is not. Look at the sequence above: 1967: Goupy’s Climat; 1970: Robert’s No. 19; 1974: Robert’s Cristalle; 1978: Goupy’s Silences. Add in Bernard Chant’s creations for Estee Lauder, 1969’s Azuree and 1971’s Clinique Aromatics Elixir, and you see the fragrance zeitgeist of the time, with several gifted French perfumers exploring facets of dry, woody, green, bitter, mossy, dark, earthy scents — very fitting, for an era that also brought the environmental movement, the first “Earth Day” in 1970, and many landmark environmental protection laws.

Where does Silences fit on the scent spectrum? To my nose, it is more of a bitter green than the others, because of the strong galbanum opening. I love galbanum, so this delights me. It doesn’t have the leather notes that some of the others listed above have, or some of the animalic notes (it does list musk, but that may be based more on the base note of ambrette, or musk mallow plant).  Bitter, yes, but I don’t find Silences aggressive overall, as some commenters do. The opening is sharply green, but its final drydown phase becomes quite gentle and earthy while staying green, probably due to the combination of oakmoss, vetiver and sandalwood, softened by the ambrette. The complexity of its base accord is revealed in that today, I sprayed both my wrists at the same time. One wrist smells more strongly green and mossy, and the other more like a sweetish sandalwood with some lingering hyacinth.

The floral notes in Silences are quite reticent. The only ones I really smell are the narcissus and hyacinth, with a hint of muguet, all of which are quite green in their own right. So if it’s a more floral green you seek, I suggest you try No. 19 or Cristalle. Fruit? Aside from the bergamot opening note, which is subtle, there is no fruit here AT ALL. Sweet? Nope. Look elsewhere for fruity florals, or gourmands.

Have you tried Silences? Do you like green fragrances?

11 thoughts on “Scent Sample Sunday: Silences

  1. OOOOH! I love that you are wearing Silences and writing about it OH. I have the extract, PdT and EdT I think.
    You’re so right. This is a dry, stark beauty. The main things I smell are galbanum, iris and moss and I love how sophisticated it makes me feel. Not nearly so prim or straight backed as No 19, nor as friendly and pretty as Piguet Futur but a strong, thoughtful, interesting woman’s scent that easily jumps the fence to menswear.
    You’ve made my day by featuring Silences. It’s getting harder and harder to find sadly.
    Portia xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have a 7ml mini of the extrait, sought it out on eBay after Portia talked about it some time ago. I do find it very green – but I am a latecomer to chypres. They have grown on me, and I occasionally wear it in the spring. However, since it’s a mini I tend to forget I have it most of the time. Keeping my perfumes in a closet makes it harder for me to see everything I have!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. So glad you wrote this review—your and Portia’s enthusiasm for Silences is very encouraging indeed. The PdT that I ordered should arrive later this coming week, and I’ll be looking out for these developments when I try it on!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I rather like Silences than don’t (I have just a decant of it), but I’m sure I would have loved it had I tried the 1978 version. I don’t mean that the one I tried was reformulated. I think that I’m smelling the original one – it’s just too “vintage” for my liking.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. My bottle just arrived today, and it really does smell like a more powerful, greener, and drier Chanel No. 19! The first note I thought I smelled was rose, quickly chased by the galbanum. As it’s settled on the skin, one particular honeyed floral note stands out, probably the narcissus or hyacinth (I’m not familiar with either of these flowers on their own). It’s certainly captivating, though I’m not sure it will meld with me—I need to spend some time to get to know it better.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I loved Silences in the early 80’s. It was my go to scent for a good while, along with Alfred Sung. I wore Aliage by Estee Lauder and YSL Rive Gauche before that and added Must de Cartier to the rotation when it first came out. I was heavily into the green galbanum fragrances in the 70’s and 80’s. I’m going to try to find some vintage Silences and see what I think about that and maybe contrast it with newer versions.
    Thanks for reminding me of this wonderful gem of a fragrance!

    Liked by 1 person

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