Réplique... in triplicate.

If looks were everything, I wouldn't have bought it. The sprayer was plain and generic by design, with no decorative features to distinguish it; its cheap white plastic cap bore an ugly crack, evidence of its having once been carelessly dropped. No wonder the antique store wanted only pennies for it-- lost and unwanted, it had the appearance of garbage.

However, there's always room for magic in the odds-and-ends bin. I fished an old receipt out of my purse to use as a blotter and gave it a quick, clandestine spray. From that ugly spray nozzle emerged a swan of a scent floating on a river of green. Fifty cents, you say? Sold!

But enough of the magic; on to the mystery. The gold foil label on the bottom of the bottle read thus: "Réplique Spray Mist, Revlon Inc., N.Y., N.Y." Revlon? Don't they mean Raphael? I thought. Introduced to America post-WWII, Réplique belonged properly to the Parisian couturier Raphaël Lopez, who had produced it since 1936. I'd seen "note-faithful" dupes of Réplique advertised online, but Revlon? Really? My investigative nerve tickled, I decided some research would be in order... but before the data train could leave the station, life happened... and kept happening. You know how it goes.

Fully two months elapsed before a reminder presented itself: this post on Réplique by Bloody Frida. Having obtained two versions of the classic scent (a mini-flacon of the vintage eau de parfum and a splash bottle of a newer eau de toilette), she wholeheartedly urged her readers to try both. Such persuasive writing made it impossible for me to resist her offer of samples to compare with my dark-horse version... information about which seemed to be harder to find than a traffic cop when you need one.

Finally, a breakthrough: this snippet from the Sniffapalooza forums. Apparently, in 1980 Raphael still had two fragrances left over from its once-sizable repertoire: Réplique (a rich, mossy Oriental) and Plaisir (an aldehydic citrus-spice). That year, Revlon acquired Raphael, ditched Plaisir, and reformulated Réplique into something cleaner and more modern.

A recent blog article reposted in Now Smell This suggests that having more than two versions of a thing handy to compare side-by-side is the start of connoisseurship. If so, with three versions of Réplique to study, I could rightly be considered for candidacy. Was my Revlon redux and Frida's "new" EdT one and the same? And did they bear any resemblance whatsoever to the Raphael original? The only way to find out was to try them on...one at a time, and then (heaven help us!) all at once.

Réplique EdP is a potent, assertive creation, halfway between chypre and Oriental. The darkest and most leathery of the three, it commences with an exciting roasted-coffee note that proves all the more startling seconds later, when everything turns deep green. Oakmoss rules the base outright, but there is plenty of room in the heart for spice; here, Réplique reminded me plaintively of kümmel, that wonderfully medicinal liqueur made of seeds (cumin, caraway, anise) steeped in best vodka. Beneath this, an agreeable rumble of flowers is sensed more than smelt. Nothing surfaces to directly hit you in the face, but you feel the ground lift and ripple under your feet, leaving no doubt as to the primordial power of the unseen.

Close attention must be paid to find the distinctions between Frida's EdT and the Revlon-era spray mist. It's small -- a microscopic degree of civet, an imperceptible tip in the balance between vanilla and vetiver -- but it's there, all right. I find the Revlon to be a marvelously dry elixir with a green, bitter-herbal edge attributable to a heightened dose of clary sage-- something like Pascal Morabito's Or Black altered to fit the female form. Wearing it narrows my eyes, sharpens my tongue, and puts an definite arch in my brow. The EdT strikes me as a touch sweeter and less sardonic; here, Réplique's sly personality is relieved by a pert little wrinkle of the nose and a wistful glance now and then.

What links the trio? It's most certainly a fulgent coriander note, appropriately portioned out by grade. In the vintage EdP, it's spicy, deep, and concentrated, as befits the seed; the closer one moves to the EdT, it grows progressively lighter and greener as if regressing back to the leaf. (The lightening of mood is reflected in the gradation of tone, from the EdP's rich amber color to the pale gold of the EdT.)

Wearing all three at once is quite an experience-- every shade of green imaginable, from olive to beryl, shoehorned into a curvaceous wavelength of scent. I wouldn't layer them by any means -- why miss out on their individuality? -- yet if you apply each of these three versions in a row from elbow to wrist and take them in via one continuous inhale, the olfactory center of your brain will confirm their kinship with a glow of pleasure.

In an age when completely different fragrances are cynically marketed under the same name as if related, it's a relief to find a family of fragrances that has managed to maintain a consistent likeness even after six decades, several owners, and numerous reformulations. Respect was paid to the original idea of Réplique, and these lovely interpretations are the result.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, lemon, aldehydes, cardamom, neroli, coriander, clary sage, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, jasmine, mimosa, tuberose, heliotrope, coumarin, olibanum, oakmoss, amber, musk, vetiver, patchouli (Original EdP) / Bergamot, lemon, coriander, clary sage, neroli, clove bud, jasmine, rose, tuberose, iris, ylang-ylang, patchouli, vanilla, vetiver, amber, civet, oakmoss, musk (Contemporary EdT/Spray Mist)