Cabotine’s Double Personality: One of the most memorable fragrances

Cabotine's Double Personality: Comparing Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum

Cabotine’s Double Personality: Comparing Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum

26 years have passed since Parfums Grès launched Cabotine and a lot has been written about it. No wonder; this perfume is still a bestseller and a scent that leaves an imprint on everyone with its massive sillage and unusual accords. When a perfume doesn’t lose its relevance after almost three decades, this is proof of its artistic value and Cabotine has always been a startling fragrance since the day it was born. Conceived as a flanker of the formerly glorious Cabochard, Cabotine is actually an independent fragrance with a life of its own. In fact, I can say they have nothing in common except for the green shades and their strong personality.Cabotine is one of the most memorable fragrances of the 1990’s. Like it or not, you have to agree with me on this.

If we consider all the perfumes that Madame Grès launched during her career, we may find Cabotine too extraverted, too young or too colourful. It may be so, but it was also a groundbreaking work and it led the way for other iconic fragrances that followed the same mood, such as Givenchy Amarige or Dior Tendre Poison.Cabotine was the 12th fragrance of the house, and it was launched while the brand Grès was being sold, leaving the hands of Madame Grès. It is, therefore, not a perfume envisioned by the legendary fashion designer. However, I think of it as an equally emblematic and true Grès product, to the point of being the one that people know the brand for today.

Madame Grès

An example of Grès haute couture

 He is also working for the niche segment, with four fragrances for the brand Odin. But it all started with Grès. When Jean-Claude Delville created Cabotine, he wanted to come up with an affordable formula that used an innovative ingredient while giving it a powerful presence.Cabotine was created by perfumer Jean-Claude Delville from IFF. It was the first major commercial composition in his career. Until today, Jean-Claude has a good number of great fragrances under his belt. Examples are Clinique Happy (1998), Givenchy Organza Indecence (1999), or more recently Marc Jacobs Mod Noir (2015). This goal was arguably reached through the pioneer use of a ginger lily accord, together with tuberose and hyacinth, adding a massive dose of aldehydes.

Ginger Lily

Native of the Himalayas, the Ginger Lily is best known as the flower used in the stunning garlands of Hawaii. This is the first time it has been incorporated into a fragrance using the unique “living flower” technique: a method of extraction that enables the natural fragrance of the flower to be captured without actually cutting the flower itself.Parfums Grès

Cabotine’s bottle was designed by Thierry Lecoule

The floral-aldehyde fragrance group was already a traditional perfume category at the time, but the absolutely effervescent character of Cabotine and its assertive richness and almost unreal expansion was a real achievement. To create something new and surprising is something very difficult in perfumery nowadays. But when a perfume that was innovative in 1990 remains so after 26 years,  enough evidence is delivered that we are standing in front of a masterpiece. I accept no refutation on this. Barbara Herman, in her book Scent and Subversion says it well: “Here is the Big Bad Eighties in perfume form: a collision of soaring green candied fruits – peach, plum, and cassis – with old-school lipstick and cosmetic face powder. Strong, but beautiful for its type.”

Launched in 1990, the floral bouquet of Cabotine has become, in just a few seasons, a reference. After only two years, CABOTINE received the International Award for Best Women‘s Fragrance from the Accademia del Profumo in Italy. Cabotine actually means “actress”… a woman of a thousand different facets. Young girl or woman? Cabotine is both. Energetic and lively on a day to day basis yet also glamorous from time to time, active yet sophisticated, Cabotine loves playing the role of exquisite elegance. Half innocent, half provocative, but always romantic, sensual emotive, carefree and seductive: this is the Cabotine woman.” – Parfums Grès

I have a personal memory associated with Cabotine that I would like to share. Cabotine always brings me back to my teen years. I must have been around 15 when I first smelled it. I was in a new school and I made a new friend who fascinated me. Her name was Sandra and she was beautiful and kind. She reminded me of Laura Pausini, the Italian singer. She had lived in Paris with her parents for many years and she had come back just recently, so she had a bit of a French accent and she spoke perfect French. We would always sit next to each other in classes. Most of all, I remember her perfume. It was always very present and to me it symbolized the allure of that French city I had never visited. It was a symbol of dreams and sophistication: Paris. Sandra was a bit older, a bit more experienced and always a bit more refined. And she smelled wonderful. That perfume was Cabotine. More than 20 years have passed and even today as I wear Cabotine, there is always a glimpse of that beautiful friend. I lost track of her, but I still treasure her perfume. And it’s now a perfume I wear with great pleasure.

Ever since I read this great article written by Marlen, I wanted to add something else to that hommage. Something that Fragrantica readers commented on from time to time, is the existence of an Eau de Parfum version, which is a bit hard to find. So, why not answering these questions while adding my own feelings for Cabotine? Also, my bottle of Cabotine was a vintage and I wanted to see how the formulation had or hadn’t been changed over time. I also wanted to see the difference between the Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum. So I contacted Parfums Grès and the company kindly sent me two bottles in different concentrations. Oh, what a happy day that was. Was I in for a very pleasant experience that extended my love for Cabotine! First of all, let me tell you right away and kill any doubt: Cabotine smells exactly the same as it did back in the day, give or take. And yes, there is a substantial difference between Eau de Toilette and Eau de Parfum, while keeping the same heart and the same personality.


Eau de Toilette vs Eau de Parfum

Cabotine is probably one of the most positive perfumes I know. There is an explosive aldehydic freshness right at the top that is like a loud laughter. It makes me smile. This is an accord of happiness. Cabotine is icy in the first moments, but also green, soapy and floral. But the initial aldehydes really dominate it in a bubbly fashion. This is the moment when you love it or hate it. If you dislike aldehydes you are done. For an aldehyde hater this can come accross as harsh, oldfashioned and almost unbearable. Then, the creamy flowers and fruits start to emerge, with tuberose and hyacinth in the main role. This is when the difference between the two concentrations really emerges.


The Eau de Parfum still has aldehydes in good amounts, but it’s softer. While in the EDT the opening is explosive and hits you in the face with all the notes full blast, the EDP is rounder, gentle and slightly more subtle. It doesn’t laugh out loud, but it still smiles with joy and optimism. Not so effervescent, the EDP is still soapy and fresh, but has more manners. And this is the main feature of this concentration; there is a restraint, a sillage that is not so exaggerated. There is a politeness, an extra elegance.


The two concentrations obviously share the same DNA but lets say that the EDP is the older sister, the serious one, the one that has more “finesse” in her mood and is a bit wiser in her decisions. Cabotine in EDP is in fact more about the romantic flowers and not the molecules. While the aldehydes are still important, what I smell in the EDP is a wonderful floral balance. Tuberose was used in a concentration that lets us smell it with its sweet and green facets in a very natural way. This links to the green aspects of hyacinth and the cosmetic vintage vibe that the flower has. Ylang ylang is not so prominent, but it gives a tropical hint. Then, there is something that my nose reads as narcissus. However, this flower is not listed in the composition. After asking about this, the brand representatives told me that narcissus is not a perfumery raw material here, but is can be considered “in the same family as lily of the valley, represented by liral and lilial in the Cabotine formula.”

Lily of the Valley

Jasmine is also used in a sweet carnal way to envelop all the other flowers. This sensation imparts a creamy, animalic tenderness. The fruits are used in addition to the flowers to make it juicy and succulent. It all feels so much more balanced, refined and rich than the EDT.

I wouldn’t say that the EDP is a stronger or more intense variation. It’s not. This sillage is actually more discreet, and longevity is not increased (as if needed). The EDP is about a different balance of notes, more than strength. It feels more natural, less extroverted, more sophisticated. Of course you lose a bit of the charm that comes from the crazyness of Cabotine EDT, but you get a masterful floral freshness with opalescent vibrations of colours from green to yellow and white. Cabotine EDP is a sparkling show of light and reflections. A different view on the more famous version for a person that searches a toned down personality with the same (if not more) charming and colourful mood.

Ginger is a leitmotiv for Cabotine

I would recommend Cabotine EDP for the day and EDT for the night, if you want to have both. They are 90% the same, but the small difference is noticeable enough to justify the existence of these two versions. While the EDT is the explosion you probably already know, EDP is more demure, but more interesting too and it provides a natural vegetal experience of flowers and green notes, instead of the caleidoscopic dynamic boost of the EDT. Regarding longevity, I would say the EDT lasts longer, and the EDP sooner becomes almost like a skin scent (I said almost, remember this is still Cabotine). In the drydown, the EDT still gives you musky ginger and spices with a youthful vibe of nonstop vibration while the EDP reads more as a calm, green, purring animalic with a touch of fruits still lingering on the skin together with the creaminess of woods and a sensual grin.

Cabotine EDT can be found for 63$ (3.4 oz spray) while the EDP costs 75$ (3.4 oz spray). If you find it on online discount retailers you can get these as cheap as 23.99$ and 27.99$ respectively or even less. The differences in packaging are minimum. The box looks the same, but in the bottom there is a specification of the eau de toilette and eau de parfum versions. The bottles are the same, but while the juice in the Eau de Toilette is darker and gold, the Eau de Parfum is lighter and green. If you don’t have a box and you are not sure of what your version is, just look at the sticker under the bottle. It shall tell you what the concentration is.

So yes, I would highly recommend getting the EDP for all of those who love Cabotine. It can be more expensive and not so easy to find, but it offers you another way of looking at this work of art and it may even extend your admiration for Cabotine. As for the ones that could never be convinced, well, here is a good opportunity. Please try it and tell me if you agree with me. I would love to read your opinions.