Fleurs de Tabac (1929) by Cherigan Review

Several months ago, I had the pleasure of stumbling upon a rare perfume find. I was out and about, exploring local antique stores, when I entered a gorgeous shop – a veritable shabby-chic Shangri la – where vintage Victorian doilies existed alongside sharp Art-Deco angles. Among the costume jewelry, seafoam green cabinetry, white bird cages, and vanity trays, there were several tall perfume bottles. They were primarily turn of the centrury toilet waters, long emptied of their contents, save for one. It was a large bottle of Cherigan’s Fleurs de Tabac in ‘Lotion’ concentration (which is equivalent to modern EDT or EDP), and let’s just say it was priced to sell and I acquired it for a song. Score! I am a tobacco lover. I’ve shelled out for vintage Tabac Blond, sampled Habanita, Chergui, Bell’Antonio, Tobacco Vanille. All of those are endowed with virtues that endear them to me in different ways, but none of them quite smells like real cured tobacco. And neither does Cherigan’s Fleurs de Tabac, though to my nose it does come close .

I believe this fragrance may have been originally created for men, but has evolved culturally to become unisex.  Indeed, there are no noticeable aldehydes or ‘sparkle’, and it contains a limited amount of powder. My vintage juice starts out with the brushy, spring breeze of vetiver, a prominent ingredient in many perfumes of this era. The vetiver here contributes both a freshness and a light smokiness in that magical way that vetiver does, yet it is given an animalic twinge by the antique musks that waft up from the base, apparently wishing to give a lightly ribald birthday-spanking to the upper notes. As the scent fades down, the promise of nicotine is made manifest, sparking this ex-smoker’s reflex of deep inhalation when confronted with the aroma of tobacco. Making up the tobacco accord, I smell vetiver, jasmine, amber (benzoin), vanilla, and musk. It’s floral-oriental character is clear, yet its nature is not as powdery as say, old L’Origan or Habanita, nor as floral – or as melancholy – as L’Heure Bleue. Although I don’t detect many floral notes, its bearing is essentially joyful: it is a cigarette at a picnic as the sun shines down upon the shoulders of everyone seated on the blanket; it is an old-timer wearing a plaid fedora, sitting on a boardwalk bench, watching the passers-by and enjoying a good cigar; it’s a retired professor sitting back in his leather chair, puffing on a pipe as his grandchildren gather around to hear his tales. I can make no distinction between cigarette, cigar, and pipe tobacco here; the suggestion of tobacco is more general than that, though Fleurs de Tabac’s sweetness pushes it closer to pipes or cigars.

Unlike Tabac Blond, Fleurs de Tabac lacks the strong clove-ish notes of that esteemed classic, and it’s also light on the smoke. Yet a whisper of  smoke is still present via the vetiver as it plays among sweet amber, and in doing so fuels the  ‘tobacco’ accord. At the forefront of the conspicuous amber base is benzoin, with its thick, almost peanut-buttery, resinous sweetness made sexier by a subtle vanilla. Vintage nitro-musks, now obsolete in perfumery, up the animalic ante, expanding the sillage and softening the other notes; in its final stages, the lit stogie that is Fleurs de Tabac burns down to pure nitro-musks, animalic and unabashedly primal.

I have another fragrance by Cherigan called Chance (no relation to the Chanel scent of the same name). I bought a full mini bottle off Ebay for a mere pittance in an uncontested auction. The mini bottle itself is absolutely charming, practically dripping with Art-Deco flourishes (see pic). Chance de Cherigan is a rather nondescript, heavy amber oriental – like Youth Dew – and also very heavy on the nitro-musks. It is very weak and hard to detect on me and it is not nearly as interesting as Fleurs de Tabac.

Info on Cherigan and its magnum opus Fleurs de Tabac  is extremely meager, although I found several online references to its popularity in Cuba (for reasons that are absolutely baffling…wink).  It seems that many – or all? – of the bottles of this fabulous scent were actually produced in Cuba, prompting me to wonder, Is Cherigan a Cuban company [with a French name]? From what I can tell, the company Cherigan does appear to have been a subsidiary of Parfums Habana, Inc., which was based in Cuba. Its elusiveness and limited audience have given Fleurs de Tabac a “cult film” status in the world of vintage fragrances. Hopefully in time, it will gain more of a following and perhaps one day be spoken of alongside Tabac Blond and Habanita in discussions of brilliant early tobacco fragrances.

17 Comments to “Fleurs de Tabac (1929) by Cherigan Review”

  1. ooooh, yes, I really want to try that stuff, ever since some-blog-or-other (the posse, perhaps, but I’m too lazy right now to go find out) posted a snippet about it. Thanks for the awesome review!

    • Yes, it really is a rewarding scent if you are a tobacco lover. :-) And for those of us, like myself, who are ex-smokers, huffing these glorious tabac scents are a way to re-experience the joy of tobacco, without the ensuing bad breath, health problems, and nicotine stained fingers of the real deal!

  2. Anyone have information on Fleurs de Tabac by Parfums Branel (NY) from the 1960′s?

  3. Hello I have the same bottle Cherigan Chance in a leather pouche
    It was from my father who was a barber and was during the war in France
    Probably he see the French perfumes and order them lather when he was back in Holland
    My sister had a collection of arond 2000 bottles but see sell them all and this is what’s left
    Actually I have two bottles one with label and one without label

  4. Bob…..re your inquiry on Fleurs de Tabac by Branel; I have a bottle of this that is half full. I’ve had it for over TWENTY years !!! And it still smells great. The ‘box’ that the bottle comes in has writing on the side that says it’s distributor is in Miami Fla. I’ve tried so many ways to make contact with them to see if they still are in business. NO LUCK ! cannot find any place where to purchase more. My email address is larrysteckler2001@yahoo.com. Please contact me if you have info on the product……Thanks.

  5. Larry, best cologne ever. been trying to find a bottle for years. last time i found one was years ago. i know it the same because I remember it was out of Miami on Lincoln Road. angelo suppa, was living in Newark NJ.All the mens shops had it. Also likes Zinzane another one not around any more.

  6. Fleur de Tabac by Branel was created be my husband’s uncle, David Abravanel who was inspired by Cherigan’s version. The company was based in NY, and then in Florida. He retired, and sold the company to Perfumes by Dana, who would pay him based on what they sold. They never produced any,as far as his widow knew, and the scent was extinct. I still have a small amount of it. It was wonderful. He also created Beau Geste.

  7. Incidentally, David lived in Cuba from the 1930s until Castro became dictator. Cherigan was a Cuban company that would have been nationalized at the time. I don’t know if David had any connection with Cherigan, but he and his siblings owned stores that were primarily for tourists, with perfumes and interesting items.

  8. Wonderful to learn about David Abravanel and the origins of this wonderous fragrance. I still have about 2 tablespoons left in its original gold-and-glass bottle and treasure it. It’s my go-to for a sentimental olfactory pick-me-up. Since the 1960′s the scent in this bottle has not faded!! It’s as amazing as the day I happened upon it on in a NYC fragrance counter.

  9. A post of mine from another place, another time, folks here may enjoy…

    “I, (male) wore “fleurs de tabac” eau de cologne, distributed by Parfums Branel (NY,NY) throughout the 1960′s. Once I discovered this fragrance I never wore anything else. The scent is absolutely wonderful, romantic, intriguing, alluring…. well, you get the idea. Now for the best part: I saved two empties. They are with me now as I type this. One 2 fl.oz., the other 4 fl.oz. By the time I’d finished the latter, production had stopped. Oh, how I searched. I’ll confess here that a couple of times a year I’ll unscrew the gold lid just for a whiff of the incomparable fragrance which, amazingly, hasn’t faded in the least after some 45+ years. The bigger bottle still has a few drops remaining that will forever remain untouched. Exquisite.”

    • my mother had also this wonderful Fleur de Tabac in the years 1958 – 1968. I was a little child and now I still remember this perfume. She also used Habanita and I am so dissapointed that we cannot buy these wonderful perfumes anymore.

      • Yes, Fleurs is long gone, unfortunately, but Habanita is still available, although I’m not sure if the current iteration smells anything like the original. Thanks for sharing your recollections of these vintage tobacco-ish scents.


  11. Perhaps I should buy a small bottle myself. Since I still have a bit of Branel’s Fleurs de Tabac left I could compare their scents.

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