First Impressions, Perfume, Reviews

Life Is a Cabaret Old Chum: First Impressions of Andy Tauer’s Les Années 25

Yesterday I had the good fortune to get my hands on a bottle Andy Tauer’s latest “immersive sculpture,” Les Années 25, from one of my local perfume shops. It was a blind buy, for sure, but having read it described as “Tauerade meets Guerlinade” by Instagrammer @stellaflynndiver and “a modern vintage fragrance” by whoever writes the copy on Tauer’s website, I felt confident about this one. Still, the gentleman at Twisted Lily encouraged me to give it a spray before I go, y’know, just in case. So I gave their tester a spritz, fell into a Roaring Twenties time warp, and now that I’ve crawled out of my Cabaret k-hole, I’m here to spread the good word and share my first impressions. 

One caveat before we get going, though: my experience with Les Années 25 today has been quite different from yesterday’s in-store try. The band’s all there and the song’s still gorgeous, but the arrangement and tempo are different. The impressions below largely come from when I tried it in store, as I suspect my bottle might need a few uses to sort itself out. That said, I made sure to discuss them both here, and I’m all but certain I’ll be returning to Les Années 25 at some point with a more thorough. Since reviews of Les Années seem few and far between right now, I mostly wanted to just get something out there for anybody who’s on the fence about getting it (SPOILER ALERT: make like a Nike catchphrase and JUST DO IT).

Anyways, Les Années 25 works through somewhere between three and four accords as it plays itself out. There’s the opening accord, which is a citrusy blend of bergamot, petit grain, and a bit of fresh ginger for spice and good measure. Then there’s the heart accord: a breathtaking, powdery benzoin that to my nose is somewhere between top-shelf tonka and that decadent vanilla drydown you get from Jicky. I imagine the powder’s thanks in part to the iris–and maybe the Bulgarian rose, too? Neither floral listed in the notes honestly popped out, but I could easily see how they were employed to soften the benzoin. Then there’s the base, well rather, bases that seemed to trade places almost at whim. One’s a sweet, wispy aura of a thing I’d peg as sandalwood and vanilla; the other’s a balanced, bitter hum of oakmoss, vetiver, and patchouli. Both are wonderful.

When I first wore it, these accords each came out in distinct phases, like movements of a symphony or the Von Trapp children singing themselves off to bed. You could feel the curtains go up on a new act, though as mentioned, the base has a way of switching things up on you without notice, which I can imagine being off-putting for people who hate things like spontaneity and fun. Somewhat curiously, though, my bottle has yielded somewhat different results. The opening feels more mature: just like moi, it’s more bitter than before, as if the petit grain has taken center stage. The noticeable citrus *pop* you’d find in Guerlain’s classics has been replaced with a stately, sophisticated accord. Added to that, the transitions now feel like languid segues instead of distinct scene changes, so you’re never acutely aware of when one accord ends and the next begins; instead, you just realize you’re already there. I imagine it’ll take a few more wears to find out which way my bottle prefers to play the tune, and I’ll be curious to see what she settles on, though they both sound splendid.

Les Années 25 has this beautiful way of feeling instantly familiar yet entirely new. The composition and structure feel quite classical, yet this one has a sheer quality to it that also feels bracingly modern. I find most perfumes, particularly old ones, seem to have a certain body that fills the nose, while Les Années lacks that physicality entirely. This feels most apparently in the heart, where that rich, decadent benzoin manages to feel like some kind of zero-calorie witchcraft: it’s fills you up without taking up any room at all. It’s as if Andy Tauer once dreamt of old Guerlain, and Les Années 25 is the only way he knew how to transcribe it.

As I understand it, Les Années 25 is a limited edition of about 500 bottles, which I think is a shame, because something this great really should be kept around. It’s bad enough that we’ve already lost so many of the old greats to reformulation and discontinuation, so I shudder to suffer these slings and arrows of losing this new “old” gem, as well. Moreover, given today’s strained political climate, there’s a real genius in making a perfume that channels the cosmopolitan, optimistic post-WWI era before the Great Depression and World War II and the Holocaust. Les Années 25 isn’t finely crafted nostalgia. It feels like Tauer’s made a deeply humanistic evocation of crossroad in history to remind us whether Les Années 25 is a fragrance we can wear into a better future or something we put on before the sound of the Seven Trumpets plays Sally Bowles off the stage one last time, well, that’s all up to us.

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