Friday, January 29, 2016
One word comes to mind when I smell Bandit--rude. There is something so insouciant, contrary, and mean about it that makes it one of the great shockers of perfume history. It is considered a leather but it doesn't smell like leather; it smells like a fistful of burning weeds. Despite its age and French pedigree it is vulgar and trashy, something underscored by its tumultuous licensing history. I believe it became something of a hippie cult hit in the 1970s, evidenced by its presence in Jean Eustache's masterpiece The Mother and the Whore. In the film, Jean-Pierre Leaud and Bernadette Lafont have a dreary open shack-up relationship. When Lafont leaves on a trip, Leaud begins a courtship with a nihilistic, promiscuous hippie nurse played by Francoise LeBrun, who leaves the apartment reeking of Bandit. When Lafont returns she seems more annoyed by the stench of Bandit than the affair. In this context, Bandit does smell like 1970s malaise and regret; the full ashtray the morning after, two abortions later. It would be strange to smell this on someone who didn't have "a past," so to speak.
The received wisdom is that it was in bad form until the late-90s restoration, but my first bottle was a 90s extrait that smelled divine, and all 80s-90s bottles I have experienced smelled without a doubt like Bandit. Because it is a green fragrance, "vintage" hunting is useless, and I have purchased post-90s bottles that were new and boxed and had turned into a powdery nail polish mess. I don't see the extrait listed on Piguet's website anymore so I hope it was not discontinued.
I don't think it smells like Knize or Aramis or Azuree or Cuir de Russie. It smells like a bad woman--fitting, since it was a perfume made by a lesbian for a homosexual designer at a time when those identities relegated one to the criminal underworld.
Certainly in my top ten of all time, if not top five, Montana is a landmark in avant-garde 1980s perfumery that still exists in excellent, faithful form after IFRA regulations. This is one of the weird animalic 80s rose chypres that modern American noses would turn from in confusion and horror. There are others like it--Paloma, Animale--but there is something so distinctive in Montana's blinding neon green glow that reminds me of nothing else. Montana and Mugler were the kings of ruthless, fascist-inspired, unwearable 80s leather couture, yet Mugler did not put out a scent until 1992. In Montana one sees what a Mugler scent produced during his heyday might have been like. In fact, Alien's streamlined neon jasmine accord reminds me somewhat of Montana.
As for what it actually smells like, it is a giant electric rose surrounded by pepper, sour greens, sour fruit, and a salty,garbagey, urinous castoreum leather accord. From what I understand, Montana's popularity in the Middle East contributed to the development of the now-popular damasceone rose-oud accord; in a way, this predicted the Montales of the present day 20 years ahead of time. It smells exotic and Arabian, neither male nor female. Others will probably not encourage you to wear it, but that's beside the point. This is not a perfume that wants to be pretty.
A bottle of it can be seen on Catherine Tramell's boudoir in Basic Instinct. That says it all, as far as what type of woman would wear this.
Ignore reformulation talk of this one. I have had many bottles from all eras and think it is remarkably consistent. A fragrance this dirty needs its fresh green top notes and some of my older ones did not smell quite right. The bottle remains gorgeous and unchanged. A perfume this good warrants paying full retail price if necessary. For lovers of Yatagan, Magie Noire, Amouage, and the 80s in general.