Vintages How I Discovered Tosca

How I Discovered Tosca

05/10/16 08:25:31 (16 comments)

by: Miguel Matos

 


There is an immense joy when you suddenly discover beauty in something that has been around for ages.
 

I discovered Maurer & Wirtz Tosca only weeks ago, when I was in Dusseldorf, Germany. I know that many of you are probably surprised that I am writing about a drugstore cheapie that your aunties and grannies wore back in the day. But where I come from, Tosca is nowhere to be found, so I have absolutely no memories or references connected to this scent. I knew nothing about it. And sometimes it is good to be clueless when it comes to vintage perfume. That way, you can appreciate a fragrance for what it is and not for what it means to you or reminds you of.

When I was at the supermarket counter paying for a bottle of Tosca Eau de Parfum, my German friend was smiling, amused by the fact that I was buying something most Germans think of as an oldfashioned, old-lady, obsolete scent. Still, he found it charming that I was seeing it for the first time. Even the cashier was surprised when she saw someone under 70 years old buying it. And it cost only 5 euros for a 25ml spray bottle! Later on we had dinner at a locally famous bistro and the unknown lady seated next to me smiled as she saw this pink-blue-green box on the table.

Ok, I learned quickly that no German can be unbiased when smelling Tosca. For me, on the other hand, it would be the first time. Launched in 1921, this is a floral-aldehyde composition. Ylang, ylang, Jasmine and Rose de Mai form the heart of this aldehydic scent, built over a base of oriental woods and iris root. Now, as you can derive from the year it was released and the main ingredients, this is, in theory, not very far from classic fragrances such as Chanel Nº5, Madame Rochas or Lanvin Arpège. And that's exactly the impression I got when I finally opened the box and sprayed the Eau de Parfum on my skin. And boy it was a glorious experience! Please bear in mind that the Tosca fragrances I am talking about are the current formulations and I have never smelled any of the vintage editions.

The days that I spent in Dusseldorf (I went there to cover the Global Art of Perfumery exhibition), I wore Tosca before going to sleep and on the last day, when I went for a walk around this beautiful city. And I was mesmerized by the power of this fragrance, the incredible richness for such a small price, the classic aldehyde vibe, the clashing accords between fresh, floral and animalic. Forget all preconceived notions. The way I smell it, this is a gem.

On this last day, I decided to enter every perfumery and supermarket looking for more wonders. I also found an interesting Nonchalance edition, which I bought, but sitting right next to it was another version of Tosca, in Eau de Toilette, 10ml for just 3 euros. How could I not buy it? This seemed to be developing into article material. Happy with my purchases, I continued my walk and in Konigsallee I entered the major department store Galeria Kaufhof. And there it was: another version of Tosca waiting for me, in Eau de Cologne concentration. For another 6 euros I couldn't resist and got it. Ok, now I knew that this was going to be a fragrance review!

So now, sitting in my living room back home, I hereby report on what my nose tells me about these reincarnations of a fragrance that is nearly 100 years old, not minding the references to Puccini's opera or any memories from past relatives or friends.

Fragrantica's list of notes for Tosca are:

Top notes: aldehydes, orange blossom, bergamot and lemon

Middle notes: cloves, orris root, jasmine, ylang-ylang and rose

Base notes: sandalwood, amber, musk, benzoin, civet, vanilla and vetiver

“Tosca, the fragrance with the unique, classically feminine style and hint of extravagance, has a long, successful and inspiring history, which began in 1921. It was a year of great importance in the history of modern perfumery. This was the first time that perfumers had managed to use aldehydes to create new and mysterious fragrances, something which opened up untold possibilities and which continues to fundamentally shape the fragrance market today. To this day, Tosca is still made according to the same formulation that was first used more than 90 years ago. To this day, it remains a fragrance sensation which over the years has lost none of its sophisticated aura or its uniqueness. To this day, women of the world who appreciate the fine things in life wear the special fragrance that is Tosca.” - Tosca Website

Tosca: These are the three affordable gems I got

 

TOSCA EAU DE PARFUM

I think this could be one of the most persistent aldehyde accords I have ever smelled. Aldehydes usually open the olfactive pyramid and they tend to stay only so far as the middle notes. In Tosca Eau de Parfum they are present from top to bottom, never really fading away. This is the core of the composition. So if you don't like aldehydes, stay away from this. Tosca is also a very soapy perfume. It smells like a very expensive and intensive soap that is drenched in citrus and floral ingredients. The orange blossom is very evident, just like the bergamot. It is very tart and sharp and you could feel a bit  overwhelmed with its metal coldness and the acidity of the juices. But just wait a bit. Tosca develops in a myriad nuances and does it in such a fast fashion that it will leave you intrigued by the unfolding notes every 10 minutes. The jasmine and ylang ylang soon become dominant, fizzy and amplified by the action of the aldehydes. This sometimes reminds me of a watered down version of Caron Nocturnes, maybe because of the ylang. The freshness from orange blossom still backs up the more indolic flowers, and now you can see the true lineage of the fragrance. The tartness is gone and you can start to witness the sensual woods unravel, hand in hand with a not so subtle animalic accord. Some sources say civet, some say ambergris. I would say maybe both, ambergris being more evident to me. Now if you add this to a sandalwood embrace, you can imagine how it can be deep, complicated and versatile. From soapy to citrusy, floral, woody, animalic and classic to the bone, Tosca is a wonder for every open-minded fragrance lover. Especially if you are into vintages. To all men reading this: try it. You may be able to pull it off.

 

TOSCA EAU DE TOILETTE

Not as brilliant or rich as the Eau de Parfum, the Eau de Toilette version of Tosca is still interesting. Very synthetic and metallic, it opens with a pure blast of aldehydes, this time without the back up vocals of citric notes. Almost detergent-smelling, it seems to be like a pillow fight inside a laundry room where the washing powder container has spilled. Tons of laundry musks attach themselves to the aldehydes and they try to hide the floral acords which nevertheless manage to survive. The end is a bit dirty and not in a good way. I still can't decide whether this is a challenging fragrance or simply an annoying one. Not much more to say. I can't say I like it. Quite masculine though.

 

TOSCA EAU DE COLOGNE

Now this is where you can see the original connection between 4711 Cologne and Tosca. At first, Tosca Eau de Cologne seems to be the same as the classic 4711, but 30 seconds later it unfolds into a more floral backdrop. Fresh and clean, but with adorable flowers and woods, it is a whole different perfume. The aldehydes no longer dominate the fragrance as you feel the citrusy energy boosting the flowers. When you get to the heart of the fragrance, jasmine is the main player, along with petitgrain, and this results in a balance of sweet and bitter notes. Orange blossom still peeks and there are touches of aromatic herbs. The traditional cologne accord has the spotlight, and the blend seems to me very elegant and restrained. Imagine 4711 and Roger et Gallet's Jean Marie Farina, blended with some added drops of white flowers and you will have an idea. Again, I am reminded of Caron Nocturnes in the drydown of Tosca. The woody finish makes it last a little longer than the usual eau de cologne concentrations, in a purely unisex fashion of vintage characteristics.

To all lovers of classic floral aldehydes: if you are familiar with Tosca, please let go of all preconceived notions and try to smell it again with an open mind. To the ones who, like me, never smelled it before, there is absolutely no reason why you should let one more week pass without trying it. It is easy to find, and with such a small price, if you don't like it, at least you have learned one more thing about classic perfumery. By the way, have you ever compared modern and vintage formulations?

Miguel Matos is a Portuguese journalist obsessed with perfume. Miguel likes to see himself as a fragrance curator, investigating perfume as contemporary art. He directs his own cultural magazine, Umbigo, and writes texts for museums and galleries. He is a vintage perfume collector and organizes regular talks called Vintage Perfume Sniffing. He also writes on beauty and grooming for Beautyalmanac.comHe is a Fragrantica writer, translator and editor of Fragrantica.com.br

 



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IraTigris
IraTigris

Ideas are floating in the air... I'm waiting for my recent purchase from eBay with two very old small bottles of Tosca perfume and a bottle of cologne (probably from the fifties). The juice is so irresistibly Amber-colored, bottles and boxes are so clean and clear, art-deco styled, I just couldn't resist. I'm not familiar with the scent yet. Great expectations...
Your article is just brilliant. Everyone will be eager to try this great survivor after reading. Thank you!

Jun
15
2016
migueldematos
migueldematos

@sanskilainen that's great! I am happy that you share my fondness for Tosca!

Jun
14
2016
Sanskilainen
Sanskilainen

Thanks for the article! I purchased Tosca in different concentrations on my trip to Germany and I am truly overwhelmed by it. It is a must to any Shalimar-lover out there. I cannot decide which one of Toscas I love the most, edp or edc, I just use them on different occasions.

Jun
14
2016
veda
veda

Tosca!!Of course!!
How many memories...I have her on my want list, I would like to smell her again :)

May
27
2016
migueldematos
migueldematos

@lulu169 you got me haha!!

May
27
2016
lulu169
lulu169

such a funny text about our culture! I live in Cologne/Germany and I have totaly ignored such classics like 4711 and Tosca and Gabriela Sabatini, because thats something "just for the turists" lol. Now I can imagine the moment how the cashier in the German supermarkt has looked at you when buing it being under 70! LOL!!! nice, you like it, enjoy

as for the scent: Im not biased anymore. I do appreciate the quality and classic elegance of it as a vintage, Im just not into aldehyds and vintage at all, so Im not the right target group

May
27
2016
an.jorePipip
an.jorePipip

I would like to try it!

May
26
2016
VanillaTabbyCat1963
VanillaTabbyCat1963

My memory was shook awake, as I remember my mother now owning this! There was also the obligatory 4711 on the buraeu my parents shared.

I must get this, as I love 4711.

May
26
2016
indigo
indigo

I remember Tosca. My Grandmother gave me a small bottle when I was a little girl - over 40 years ago. I loved it then & emptied that little bottle in record time. Would love to smell it again today, to see if it matches my "scent memory" It's not available in the shops in this country.

May
11
2016
Fadoluisi
Fadoluisi

As a kid living in Germany I distinctly remember my mom getting the perfume as part of an embassy function gift basquet. She only smelled it once and didn´t really like it and I´m pretty sure the bottle still lies dormant somewhere in her vanity. I must make it my mission to go and unearth it to have a sniff. I wonder if she would still have the same reaction as she did almost 30 years go, provided, of course that the perfume has´t evaporated.
Great article!

May
10
2016
La DameDeNoir
La DameDeNoir

Fantastic article! I never have the chance of testing Tosca, because it is not sold in the country in where I live, but I have always wanted to try it, because I usually like very much the 4711 products. I have always guessed that the smell of Tosca would be a sort of crossover between Chanel nº 5 and the classic 4711 Eau de Cologne. I hope I will be able some day to have the chance of testing a true bottle of Tosca.

May
10
2016
NebelGeîst
NebelGeîst

Oh well, Tosca... Yes, I remember it, my grandma wore it, her friends did and on every birthday, christmas or whatever, ther was at least one bottle of Tosca upon the presents.
Last time I smelled it was some years ago, and yeah, it smelled so old fashioned, I couldn't stand it. Too aldehydic-soapy with quite some animalic notes there. It have always been there and have always been cheap, so this could have effected my thoughts.

After reading your review about this cheapy, I might revisit it and try not to be biased. To my memory it is a very feminine perfume and compared to those oldschool leather chypres like bandit I'd hardly imagine a guy wearing it.
But you got me intrigued with your enthusiasm. I'll have a look at the EdP version of this fragrance.

May
10
2016
derkargy
derkargy

One of the top-selling perfumes in Greece decades ago!Most of our mothers used to keep a bottle in their vanities.Chantilly by Houbigant(another childhood memory),smells almost the same with Tosca!

May
10
2016
Angela Agiannidou
Angela Agiannidou

Tosca!! That I remember from childhood, so count Greek aunties as well in this club. Only in my case it wasn't a biddy aunt that wore it but mother Superior.. That was popular at the time, I still remember a joke we kids had,for those familiar with the Greek Language if you change the order of words Tosca it means something rude.. I also remember the smell,that was 30 years ago. A fresh, citrusy, floral composition, i loved it for the cloves, i still like them, at the time aldehydes didn't bother me and I remember clearly sneaking in her room and dubbing some on( as if she couldn't smell it on me...kids...), very very rich, almost Baroque. Later it was replaced by 4711 in my mum's collection which I remember as if I wear it now! A superb, clean, aromatic sitrus with smooth shy woods, to me citrus was most prominent but it wasn't harsh at all,very aromatic and ideal for the very hot Greek summers at the time. Thank you Miguel for this trip down memory lane, I would love to get 4711 and Tosca again just for the thrill of memories.

May
10
2016
mapache
mapache

We have a dear Aunt named "TOSCA" !! My brother and I were Christmas shopping in the 70's and we spotted a bottle of Tosca. Wow...a scent named Tosca!!! Just right for a gift to our Aunt Tosca !! We begged our Mother to get it as our Xmas gift to our Aunt. Oh, the memories!
The same bottle of Tosca we bought her all those years ago....is still sitting on a mirror tray in her bedroom!
She will turn 85 in June.

May
10
2016
perfumecritic
perfumecritic

That's too funny. I first sniffed it when I was in Cologne a few years ago and I was intrigued. I bought a bottle a few months ago and upon giving it a full wearing, found it to be too aldehydic and overall not to my liking; I almost brought it to Milan to give to you!!!! But I figured, "Nah, I'm sure he already knows it." LOL!

May
10
2016

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