At the coffee shop, gym, supermarket, subway, at meetings, on a plane, walking the dog – whenever I wear this scent somebody – male, female, young, old – stops me and says: What perfume are you wearing? (Men just say: You smell good.) When I tell them Cabotine, they write it down so they can go buy it.

I first came across Cabotine at T.J.Maxx, where I find so much else. I thought the packaging looked fresh and pretty and French (see Instant Gratification below), so I bought it, took it home, spritzed myself and loved it.

Cabotine is indeed French. Says “Made in France,” right on the bottom. Light but sophisticated. Easy, not overpowering. And that cute little rounded bottle with the happy green stopper that looks like a posy of green flowers starts the day off just fine.

But, when I looked into the background of Cabotine in order to write this post, I found myself transported into a strange, wonderful parallel universe.

There are people out there who, it’s safe to say, obsess about perfume (Yes, I’ve read Perfume: The Story of a Murderer, but that’s fiction. This is real). The liquid stuff in a bottle that smells good is so much more to these imaginative souls. Cabotine is a conduit that takes them to a French village, the jungle, the country club, a bridal shower, a French tabac (see fan comments below).


Cabotine's top notes (term of art) contain blackcurrant buds, pear, plum and corriander. The heart is composed of rose, tuberose, ylang-ylang, ginger lily, hyacinth, heliotrop, fresia, violet and iris. And the base notes are cedarwood, vanilla, tonka bean, cybet, musk and amber. Yikes.

It was created by Jean-Claude Delville in 1990. The stopper was created by Thierry Lecoule. Its slogan? Je suis comme je suis. “I am what I am.” Very Bridget Jones, if she were French. Or Pascal.

The name, Cabotine, has a charming and piquant provenance. One version has the masculine Cabotin as the name of a famous street comedian and theater director (and “charlatan”) at the time of French king Louis XIII (1601-1643). That morphed into “cabotine” which has come to mean “theatrical and pretentious,” a person who thinks her talent is greater than it is. Hmm.

Here’s the French version, which I won’t translate fully because there are enough cognates for you to get it: à l'origine signifie actrice....une femme aux milles facettes qui joue de son charme au moyen d'un regard, pleine de joie de vivre et de spontanéité. Quelques fois espiègle (playful), souvent enjouée, elle est dynamique, insolente, désinvolte, un brin (blade, sprig) provocante. Parfum sublime.

In short, theatrical. Playing many parts. Logical, because this fragrance seems to be, as you can read below, many fragrances in one. Jean-Claude and Thierry had a sense of humor – and of history.

“I've never worn Cabotine,” writes one perfume fanatic. “I'm scared of it, frankly - but in college I knew two young women who did. One was a tragic figure herself, outshone by her gorgeous sister and at the mercy of less-than-reliable men, but seemingly strong and irrepressible, an insecure party girl craving the status of a spoiled queen. Cabotine suited her perfectly. She received it as a gift from a male friend who smelled it and knew instantly that it was hers.” Now, there’s a novel in the making.

Instant Gratification: Cabotine "Je suis comme je suis."

If you want more besotted comments, from all over the world, scroll down to read some from of the most evocative, curated from the Perfume Community. These are quotes, BTW, not my personal takes:

Cabotine reminds me of…
  • A woman walking in a small French village very early in the morning.  
  • Mademoiselle Cabotine is well worth the wait. After almost an hour, she makes a dazzling peacock feather appearance and, contradictorily enough, she transforms into a much more natural, very energizing, sharp but delicate fresh green fragrance, full of summery sensuality.
  • This is not a shy pale girl. This chick has an attitude, painting her nails in green and smoking Gauloises.
  • Any woman wearing this perfume projects an image of sincerity, joy of life, simplicity (in the best sense) and a determined and optimistic personality.
  • Ladies in beautifully-tailored suits, ladies who wear gloves. This is Dior Tendre Poison's beautiful, discreet, experienced aunt.
  • You should bow to a woman wearing this before approaching, rather than come and lick her shoulder like some gourmand scents suggest.
  • In the beginning, this smells like a bridal shower or cocktail hour at the country club. Later it's something more personal, sexy, and I think memorable. I can imagine a man remembering you by this unique scent, as a strong alluring woman. At least I hope so. 
  • Music in a bottle - an absolutely charming, complicated but harmonic fuga played by a string quartet at church in the warm, early spring-evening. The sun is still shining but already softly; light is pouring in from windows and you can smell flowers in the altar. The door is left open, and the breeze brings wafts from outside.  
  • Oh, my beautiful Cabotine, making the world a prettier place just by being in it. A well-kept secret, that only a few of us share. Such a well-structured perfume, with lasting sillage* and complex notes, for so relatively cheap? Surely there must be some mistake.
  • *Sillage (see-ahhge): "A term used to describe a scented trail left by the fragrance wearer. It comes from the French word for "wake," as in the trail left in the sky by an airplane or on the water by a boat. Sillage defines how fragrance diffuses around the wearer." This novel gets better.
  • Unique, yet familiar, like you have met in a distant past, in another life.  And better.  
Smells like…
  • Very expensive
  • A complex, classic French scent that is not for the faint-hearted.
  • What I love is that Cabotine is both sharp and dry AND sweet at the same time. With this contrast of personalities playing off each other, you never get bored. 
  • When I first sprayed this on, it smelt green like fresh cut grass and then after about 40 – 60 seconds the flowers pop up. All sorts of summertime flowers! After a couple of hours though, this scent begins to change. An innocent, dewy fresh summer smell starts to evolve into a more exotic, deep, rich, sultry and very sexy floral. 
  • One of the last masterpieces from a time before perfumery got overrun with tons of cheap synthetic concoctions that have no staying power or personality. Amen. 

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Thanks for your comment! ~Katey Lee

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