Lancome La Collection

I had a heckuva Christmas weekend playing with the new Wii Sports whatever, and Nok-Hockey, and various other toys.  Buckethead got a totally inappropriate rocket that flies up a gazillion feet that’s powered with some sort of explosive device, which the Big Cheese assembled.  And then we all put our boots on and trudged down to the ballfield to set it off, and what a riot.  I can’t believe how high it flies, and then the parachute floats it back down.  Of course my entire downstairs now smells like cordite, because God forbid we leave that thing outside on the porch.  The Cheese is going to have to trudge back out to Guns, Ammo ‘n Lionel Trains (no, seriously, and how American is that?) to get some more incendiary devices.  Tonight we took advantage of the melting snow and brief bout of warmish, non-rainy weather to go see the local light display at Brookside Gardens.

So this post is a little sketchy, but I thought I’d review what I got — Lancome La Collection — for Christmas.  I remember seeing the individual fragrances on the Lancome counters for about, oh, six minutes when they were released a few years ago, and the Lancome ladies always acted like they were ashamed of them.  They kept stashing them behind the counter.  Anyhow, I remember thinking nice! And then poof, they were gone, and I never got to smell them again.  The four in the set were supposed to be re-releases from the Lancome back catalog, although I’ve never smelled the originals, so I can’t speak to their vintage accuracy – if anyone else would like to do so, please do.

Here’s some notes from Perfumania: “Magie, an Amber Floral scent featuring Jasmine, Violet and Musk is from 1950. Climat, a Green Floral fragrance featuring Lily of the Valley, Narcissus, Heliotrope and Vetiver was launched in 1967. Sikkim, an Oriental Floral scent with Ylang-Ylang, Jasmine, Oakmoss and Galbanum came out in 1971 and Sagamore, for men, is a Fresh Woody scent that was launched in 1985.”

At least right this second, Perfumania is running a buy one, get the second for 50% off deal, so you can get two sets of them for $105 total if you want to organize a split or keep one to give as a gift.   Each pretty stoppered flacon is half an ounce of EdP (so I think that totals 60ml per set if I’m doing the math right, for $50ish), and someone on the DC perfumista board mentioned that she thought the set originally retailed for $150, so that’s a great deal.

While I’m rambling, I may as well add here that there were several other (LE?) scents re-released that aren’t in this particular set, and maybe not part of La Collection, but were in the same gorgeous stoppered bottles, including Cuir, a makeup-powder-glove leather which I adore (and bought a bottle of) but which bitterly disappointed fans of the original, much more leathery scent.  There was Mille & Une Roses, a rose scent which several of you liked very much, and … that other one that bored the crap out of me.  Peut-Etre, which all I got was powder.  Someone chime in here and tell me how great it is.

I dove right in to my gift set with Sikkim, which is the one I remembered liking best.  You know I love me some heavy-handed floriental.  It’s – oh, wait, BACKTRACKING –

The GREATEST thing about this set of fragrances is the monumental whiff of “old lady” I get when I pop the top of the box off.  You know … that mixture of galbanum, musk, oakmoss, castoreum and god-knows-what that makes Britney fans throw up a little in their mouths.  Just taking the top off the set and smelling the miasma is a delight.

So. Sikkim.  Here’s a more complete list of notes: aldehydes, ylang ylang, bergamot, galbanum, gardenia, thujone, carnation, jasmine, narcissus, orris, rose, amber, castoreum, leather, moss, patchouli and vetiver.  Big opening, a poke right between the eyes with the sharp stick of galbanum and all those creamy white florals.  Then this wonderfully sweaty part comes out on me, which I think must be the castoreum, maybe aided by the narcissus, and that is love love love. I wish the dirty bits lasted longer – it’s missing from the drydown, at least to my nose, which is sort of when you expect some of those intensely animalic notes to appear.   Once the jasmine and ylang settle, this is definitely more bitter than sweet – you can smell the wormwood and leather for sure.  I think this would smell great on a man.  It’s a really interesting fragrance, probably not everyone’s cup of tea, feels very old-fashioned without being dull.  It does go a bit powdery on me eventually but not frighteningly so.  Drydown could last a little longer (I got maybe four hours, but I applied pretty lightly).  Two thumbs up.  I probably wouldn’t wear this to the office, it’s the sort of scent I can really see getting on a fragrance-hater’s nerves in the next cubicle over.

Sagamore is the men’s offering (I think some of the original La Collection gift sets had Mille & Une Roses in its place).  Again, I have no way to compare it to the original 1985 scent.  Here’s a more extensive list of notes cribbed from Fragrantica: “lavender, clary sage, petit grain, bergamot and lemon; middle notes are carnation, ginger, cinnamon, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, rose and geranium; base notes are sandalwood, amber, patchouli, musk, benzoin, vanilla and styrax.”

Can I just say?  Yum.  At the top you gotcher lavender, yer petitgrain and citrus blah blah – but (and I’m thinking it’s the benzoin/vanilla end of those notes) in my opinion a woman could wear this and it doesn’t smell like you’re wearing a Generic Guy Cologne.  It was spicy, powdery, woody and sweet on me, and I thought the lavender was lovely and I don’t even care for lavender particularly.  I don’t see too many reviews of this, and the few on Basenotes are kind of meh.  But I think it’s well worth smelling.  One review on Basenotes calls it a “masculine floral” and that’s the perfect description – not an attenuated, butched-up feminine, but a reasonably flowery scent that is woody as well.  Again – regular readers know I am in total support of switching it up – in fact I love really “feminine” scents like Fracas on guys, and vice versa.  I’m just saying that, within the confines of some of the notes that in modern perfumery signal man-scent, this manages to be both interesting and beautiful.

Climat was the one I was dubious about, and what an idiot I am.  First off I am pretty sure Climat is the one that Luca Turin told the great story about hunting down (on his now-defunct personal blog) along with the help, I think, of Octavian.  And apparently there was an interim period when the Climat version being made was terrible.  But according to The Guide it was properly resurrected for La Collection, and LT gives it four stars and calls it an “abstract floral” and “excellent.”  Here’s a more extensive list of notes from Fragrantica: violet, peach, jasmine, lily-of-the-valley, bergamot, rose and narcissus; middle notes are aldehydes, rosemary and tuberose; base notes are sandalwood, tonka bean, amber, musk, civet, bamboo and vetiver.

Anyway, I was a bit afraid of Climat.  I’m not a huge fan of super-dry aldehydes, which on me are too aloof and uncompromising, and I feel the same way about intensely green scents (particularly ones with LOTV), which I find interesting but unwearable.  Climat is something else entirely.  I feel as if I’m smelling two perfumes at once – the soaring, verdant, aldehydic/grassy top (think something like Cristalle) and a stunning, waxy-rich gardenia-ish floral down low which makes the whole thing work, at least on me.  I understand how the smell of this fragrance might have haunted Luca Turin for years (decades?) until he put the call out on his blog to try to identify the fragrance.  The drydown, once the aldehydes and green notes fade, is spectacularly lovely, like honey with its sweetness cut with vetiver.  I think this would be wonderful on a man, by the way.  I’m going to guess that aldehyde and green freaks might find it a disappointment, particularly if your skin really brings out the sweet, but I think it’s a monumental fragrance.  In terms of the idea of how a great fragrance can move you to a new place, a place that you didn’t know existed, this is it.

Magie I haven’t tried yet and will probably review on Wednesday, this is long enough already.

I would describe these scents as classic and elegant, in the manner of, say, Chanel.  Taken together they’re much different (and much more appealing to me) than the rest of the offerings of the Lancome perfume lineup, many of which smell peculiar to me and several of which I loathe.  So if you’re put off by the Lancome name, fear not.  If you’re a fan as I am of “old lady” scents and didn’t get around to trying these during their brief appearance, you might want to consider a set (and no, I’m not making money off anyone selling them.  I just think they’re great.)  If you fall in love with one of them, it looks like they can all be found individually from various discounters.

illustration (although the long box is nice too): lancomespain.com.  The bottles are small, simple, elegant stoppered flacons with a nice weight to them.

51 Comments
Sonia December 30, 2009

Is there anybody here who got the set and likes Climat the least? I'll swap it with you. I have Climat, Sikkim, Sagamore and Magie in the set and I love Climat the most. Couldn't find anybody on MUA :(((

london December 29, 2009

Sikkim sounds fab and I like Climat and Cuir and love Mille et Une Roses but I am going to throw my hat in the ring in defence of Peut-Etre which I think is an amped up Bvlgari Femme. Restrained, powdery and ladylike. And although that's not very me, sometimes I wish it was.

tmp00 December 29, 2009

I am not going to listen to this at all. You aren't forcing me to go and sniff this. Resistance is really not futile.. :((

Winifreida December 29, 2009

I've been oft tempted by these in my internet prowls! But am having to put a stop to the blind buys (am exercising a lot of self-control by getting samples at TPC rather than just going, oooh one more won't hurt as I hover over a 'buy' button). I did get Cuir unsniffed, am glad I did as I am finding I'm not a fully-fledged leather gal yet and I'd read it was a safe bet as an intro to leather. Hey what did everyone get for Christmas (for ourselves lets face it!!!). Ive epayed myself into the red on a quest to get all my old favs from long ago...vintage now I've learnt the horrors of reformulation...everything from Tabu to Bal a V, Fidgi, Capricci, natch the Guerlains...at the moment I've got all those on at once (like what Tania S. said about the greedy id!) But the best Christmas present here in the wide brown land downunder has been beautiful soaking flooding RAIN. Rivers inland that dried up years ago are now flooding, its wonderful!

mharvey816 December 29, 2009

I'll second everything you posted about mon cher La Collection, except for the grievous slander against Peut-Etre. I may be the cheese that stands alone on this, but I love that one as well. It may rank in the lower half of the La Collection internal list, but it's still head and shoulders better than anything with Hypnose in the name. Like that's hard. Thanks for reminding me about how Sikkim might not be office friendly. I'll have to dig it out to wear to work tomorrow. >:p

Musette December 29, 2009

I love Cuir. Tried it, courtesy of La Shelley. Loved it (I yarped on this already so I'll be brief). Forgot about it. Renewed the love, courtesy of La Shelley. Just got my first bottle. It's not a real leather on me but it's lovely and warm, which is an unusual thing for me to love, as I tend to like 'em a little slicier and dicier. I think. That rocket sounds smmokin'!!!! El O would be first in line to guest-fire. xo >-)

sweetlife December 28, 2009

Oy. You keep convincing me to try these and they keep whapping me across the nose as though I were a bad dog. Couldn't do your beloved Cuir--opened *very* sharp on me, as did Sikkim. I think it's something about the Lancome signature composition. But now I think I'm bound to try Sagamore (in spite of disliking lavendar) and am dying to try Climat (I love a little galbanum hit now and then!).

Austenfan December 28, 2009

Funny you should be reviewing these. I offered myself a couple of Collection Lancômes over Christmas. A UK online retailer is selling them for a song. I got Cuir ( back-up bottle, love the stuff), Sikkim and Magie. Unfortunately they didn't have Climat, but they do sell the collection of 4x 15 ml. bottles. ( with Mille et Une Roses in stead of Sagamore). I might get those as well. Am I the only person in these perfumista spheres who actually likes Trésor? I don't wear it often, but sometimes it's just right. Your review made me giggle, as most of your reviews do. Especially the rocket. I was thinking that such a toy would probably be illegal in my over-regulated country ( Holland). But I am sure many Dutch children would simply love to have one! Best wishes for 2010, and please keep this blog going; it's giving me a lot of pleasure.

Connie December 28, 2009

Oy ... I really should proofread before hitting send. Shen=When and EFP should be EDP... I better get some coffee first ... then dab the Climat..:)

Connie December 28, 2009

And PS ... how utterly ridiculous to have a "signature" sent at 18!!! The folly of youth, sigh... :)

Connie December 28, 2009

My first encounter with Climat was my first year in college, Fall 1976. I'm giving the year as a reference since its launch was 1967 (boy, am I old or what?). I have no idea if this one was already reformulated, perhaps someone will enlighten me. All I know is I was 2 months away from turning 18 and I had never had a reaction to a perfume before. It all started when a lovely girl from Spain sat next to me in class. After a couple of weeks I asked her what she was wearing and she said "it's called Climat and I had to ask someone a couple of years ago what she was wearing, too, because it smelled so clean and delicious to me." She then told me that at that time she did not see it sold in stores in the U.S. but since she would go home to Spain on extended breaks she would purchase it there. I don't remember if I found any then or not but in January of the following year (1977) I started working Part Time at an airline while still in college and on the very first trip to Europe a few months after I had my very own bottle of Climat. It became my signature scent and I wore it exclusively for many many years. In the early 80s when it was getting harder and harder to find (even in Europe) I was lucky enough to have a co-worker who commuted to her home in ST. Croix and would do a perfume run for the girls every couple of weeks or so. She would come in on the flight loaded with fragrant goodies from the perfume shops and duty free stores on the island. I was the only one who ever asked for Climat. Fast forward many years and a friend got me a bottle of Climat from Belgium in 1996, only remember the year because other events in my life were taking place at that time. Again, don't know if it mattered that it was procured in Europe as to which reformulation, if any. I'm afraid I wasn't educated enough on detecting differences from memory as many of the fabulously intelligent posters on here are. I guess it reminded me enough of it to transport me back to those early years, though. Over the years, I've gotten LOTS of Climat in various forms. I have a little bottle of the parfum which I've had for years and don't recall when I even got that as I had always purchased splash EDT or EFP bottles, originally, and then spray bottles for a time. Shen Saks sold that collection you mentioned years ago I remember specifically going in to buy it for nostalgia's sake. It came with a body creme and a bulb atomizer and is an Eau de Parfum. I don't know if this particular reformulation is the one Luca Turin speaks of. Anyway ... I've prattled on much too long so I am just going to dust off that EDP bottle I got at Saks and while away some hours awash in memories. Thank you, March!

violetnoir December 28, 2009

Climat! What a great fragrance. I bought my bottle several years ago. I think I tested it at my local Nordstrom, kept sniffing my arm, and then found the time (as only us perfumistas can!) to go back to Nordies to pick up a bottle that very same day. It smells very much of its time in the late sixties, doesn't it, March? Now, if only I could find a bottle of Oh de London! Talk about a smell from the late sixties! Hugs!

Robin December 28, 2009

You've made me want to revisit these. And agree -- it was very odd how utterly unexcited the Lancome counter staff were about them the few times I stopped by. They're much more interested in Hypnose.

Tommasina December 28, 2009

My mother wore Sikkim and Climat when they first came out. I *think* she also had Magie - I know she had the Noire version, for sure. I feel such a failure when I say that they're Just Not My Thing, Deah :( I tried Peut-être a few weeks back, and my notes just say, "peut-être PAS". I do remember that it made me sit right up the moment after I sprayed it on, and I went "whee!" and thought it very pretty, indeed; but then it quickly degenerated into a powdery, flowery, somethingy, but not-very-much-of-anything type of smell, and I ended up scrubbing it off in the loos. Not a scrubber as such; but not really *anything*, you know? Mille et Une Roses I *want* to like, but I just don't: it's too 'woolly', somehow. I like my roses - such as I like 'em at all - clear or fresh or peppery (I'm not of the 'give me dark, jammy roses' - another perfumista fail, I feel), and I find no clarity in this whatsoever. Every time I've tried it I've got frustrated with it and scrubbed it off - again, not because it's intrinsically a scrubber or nauseating or whatever, but because it's not doing what I want it to. Little Miss Impatient, me. And over-talkative, too:[email protected]

mals86 December 28, 2009

I've been eyeing that La Collection set on ebay for months (there are several for about $45); Sagamore has really been the sticking point because it sounds So Not Me. Climat sounds like my thing. Also would love to try Cuir - alas, this means More Samples... Because of my vintage-minis-on-ebay spree this past summer, my bedside cabinet has that Waft of Old Lady smell. I love it. I'm sure your boys are having fun with that rocket. Mine would probably love such a thing - they had a blast with their Air Hog (work off an air pressure doohickey, shooting up a good 40-50 feet and bouncing when they land) until a neighbor kid broke it.

Shelley December 28, 2009

>:d< Nok-Hockey! Rockets! Lancome La Collection!! I have a set of four, too, and am SO glad I do. Climat is an interesting creature; offers me a balance between green and floral in a soft way--where No. 19, which I adore, takes no prisoners. Magie challenges my aldehydic fears in a generally good way. Sikkim is a groovy thing to have sitting on the bench ready to come up and hit. Right there, three different characters...you could travel with these (not through TSA, natch =(( ) and have a nice selection of something-to-wears. Unfortunately for me & my preferences, my fourth bottle is Mille et Une Roses, which I know Patty is a fan of. And it is a very nice straight up rose. I am wildly, wildly jealous of a scent which includes lavender in its notes and is a "masculine floral." In the constellation which includes a love of Reverie au Jardin, Terre de Hermes, citrus and woods, I think I could hang a star for Sagamore. >sigh< But thanks for describing it for me; armchair travelling is a necessary substitute for many of my explorations, and you guide so well. Peut-Etre? Aw, shucks, guys; I'm gonna come out of my shell and point out that, according to the PR copy at least, it translates as "perhaps." Which is closer to my experience than "meh." I only had a little sample, and chewed it up a while back, but I recall liking it and being sad that I wasn't going to be able to step up to a decant. Maybe I still have a drop...will go rummaging... Rockets. Wait 'til you go out in the spring with them. Go ahead, follow behind if you're not part of the outing. It's fun to do that, because the parent-child team with rockets starts trailing other kids like the Pied Piper of Fire & Explosives. Then the grown-ups come out..."I remember my Estes blah blah blah..." I had *no* idea. But the grins on my own DH and kids faces...fantastic. Yeah, I freaked out about explosives in the basement/garage. Sometimes I am slow...I suspect that having one parent play the role of You'll Shoot Your Eye Out is part of the attraction. ;)

DinaC December 28, 2009

Thanks for reviewing these, March. They all sound interesting, but particularly Sikkim and Climat. As someone who likes green and galbanum, you definitely created some curiosity this morning. To me, Heure Exquise by AG does that thing you were describing -- a green scent that has enough ballast in the bottom notes that it never gets too screechy or harsh. Dina

Natalie December 28, 2009

Oh, how I love that galbanum icepick to the nostrils! I know nothing about these scents, and I prefer my leather on the biker-jacket end of the spectrum rather than in the ladies' haberdashery department, but these do sound worth a sniff. But model rockets? I do know about them... Get thee to Estes, woman, on the double! One of my brothers was a model rocket freak when we were kids, and occasionally he deigned to let me assist him. Just one tip: bumblebees do NOT enjoy being astronauts (I swear, if reincarnation actually happens, I'm going to come back as whatever creature those poor bumblebees prey upon...).

Francesca December 28, 2009

What a great post and review, though I had to laugh at your mention of Peut Etre---Why didn't they just call it "Meh"? Most of these sound great...Oh dear, a dent in my tiny year-end bonus? I met the former Queen of Sikkim at a book publication party once, and she was lovely and charming, so I really want to try Sikkim. And, Yay, it's Monday and I don't have to go to work. In fact, I'm going back to bed right now.:d

Rappleyea December 28, 2009

" You know … that mixture of galbanum, musk, oakmoss, castoreum and god-knows-what that makes Britney fans throw up a little in their mouths." =)) God, I've missed you! Great review.

Eric December 28, 2009

Wow, these all sound fantastic. I might have to high-tail over to Lancome and see if I can sniff these; my car just broke down and the money to cover it is sadly also my perfume budget.... Sikkim sounds amazing and Climat as well. I really would like a green scent. And man, I wish I coulda been there for that woosh of "old lady" right out of the box. That sounds amazing too. ;3

Fiordiligi December 28, 2009

I am alarmed by the adventures with rocket-type things! Boys, eh? Oh dear - cordite and perfume?! Very James Bond. Anyway, I haven't sniffed this reissued set or any of the Lamcome reissues except the lovely Cuir, but I do remember back in the day when Lancome was indeed a proper perfume house and not a chemical factory.....What a lovely present. Look forward to your thoughts on Magie. It's another holiday in the UK today by the way - the official Boxing Day holiday!

rosarita December 28, 2009

Oh, how I love Christmas vacation and not having to get up on Monday to go work at school. It means I can be up late enough to read the Posse at night, which feels quite decadent. /:) I have several decants of Cuir and just love it. I'm not good with big, bold take-charge leathers and Cuir is perfect; somebody on the MUA frag board called it leather on training wheels. Now you've convinced me I need to try Sikkim, it sounds wonderfully unique, at least in today's market. And the old lady scent that makes Britney lovers throw up a little in their mouths? I LOVE that scent, almost as much as I love that description. :">