Tobacco perfumes celebrate their first century this year. Caron's innovative and trend-setting Tabac Blond was launched in 1919 and took the world by storm. After four years of war when it seemed that smoking was almost universal, Caron introduced an accord which had never been used in perfumery before: tobacco 100 years ago was as exciting, controversial revolutionary an ingredient as oud is today.
Tabac Blond inspired a whole slew of tobacco-based scents throughout the 1920's and 30's; then after a lull - for perfumery like any other art has its own cycles of fashion - tobacco returned in the 21st century in more ingenious creations. Nowadays there is an added piquancy to the ingredient in that pipes, cigars and cigarettes are almost taboo in millennial society: there are therefore not only a nostalgic memories in tobacco fragrances but also an element of exciting defiance, a minor act of rebellion.
Perfumers may or may not use actual tobacco extract in their formulae. Vanilla, hay, clove, leather and patchouli can all be used to suggest an appropriate mood. And tobacco scents by no means invariably have a smoky aroma. They can have the golden-green damp and honeyed tang of raw tobacco, blended with narcissus in Tabac Tabou. Or as in Jasmin et Cigarette, they may suggest roll-up papers and flowers dusted with ash. Impartial as to gender, the Tobacco Family can also evoke vintage glamour, luxurious locales and furnishings. Elegant sensual and unusual, tobacco deserves a place in every connoisseur's perfume wardrobe.