Light and dark: Rochas Femme and Annick Goutal Mon Parfum Chéri, par Camille (Anne-Marie)

My name is Anne-Marie and I am making my debut on Perfume Posse. I write regularly for the perfume blog Beauty on the Outside ( Other than that I’m just your regular ol’ perfume lover, except that I live in Australia, so my precious perfume purchases take just that little bit longer to get here!

You might think it crazy in an inaugural post that I should take on Rochas Femme and Goutal Mon Parfum Chéri, par Camille. The first is a towering achievement in the history of perfumery, the other a homage to it. But many great perfumes inspire comparisons with other art forms, and I am taking a musical direction for this post. I hope you’ll stay with me.

I must begin by stating straight up that I am discussing the 1989 re-orchestration of Femme. I love the modern so much that so far I have been refusing to risk spoiling that pleasure seeking out the vintage. I will get to it one day.

You will have gathered by now, if you know the modern Femme, that I am no cuminophobe. In fact, the nostril-searing blast of cumin feared by so many people almost passes me by. I do know what cumin smells like – I cook with it all the time – but what I get from Femme is a cumin note that beautifully mimicks the scent of warm, human skin.

Femme acknowledges that we all live in and perceive the world through our bodies. How could it be otherwise? And how are we to experience perfume except through the interaction of the perfume and our bodies? Why pretend otherwise? What Femme does is allow us to love our bodies. Yes! I just know I smell good in this and I am proud of myself.

When I wear Femme, too, I hear the sound of the violin, especially the wonderful violin concerti of the nineteenth century. The closest to Femme for me is the first movement of the Tchaikovsky violin concerto.

Rich, raw, tender, exotic. Here it is in a 2007 recording by Janine Jansen:

If Femme is the violin, Mon Parfum Chéri, par Camille for me is the cello. There is a similarity in style: both are fruity chypres with added spice. Yet when I first smelled Mon Parfum Chéri in the EDP concentration I was stunned by the dark patchouli in the opening. There is no preamble, no sweet introductory melody in flowers or citrus, but a dark and almost harsh medicinal patchouli-and-plum accord. The wrench of it reminds me of the opening bars of the Elgar cello concerto. Here’s the incomparable Jacqueline du Prés snatching beauty out of the dark earth, just as Camille Goutal and Isabelle Doyen do with Mon Parfum Cheri:

Those soaring melodic lines reveal tender details that had been wrapped inside, like the notes of violet and heliotrope wrapped into Mon Parfum Chéri. I’m not especially aware of iris as iris, but I don’t doubt it is there, refining the patchouli, perhaps, and making the perfume sing.

And sing it does, just like that glorious cello in the hands of Jacqueline du Prés. There is nothing fussy or aggressive or over-performed in her style. She draws no excess of attention to herself but brings the music to us with supreme conviction and control.

Similarly, I don’t sense any fussy excess in Mon Parfum Chéri. I ignore the satin, lace and lipstick references in the marketing and packaging. It doesn’t need that stuff, not for me anyway. Look at how the hair swept off du Prés’ brow reveals the strength and sensitivity in her face. See what I mean? It is enough.

  • Mindy says:

    Getting caught up with my Google reader so I’m late to the party to welcome you. What a lovely post.

  • Ari says:

    Gosh, wish my sample hadn’t leaked out before I’d gotten a chance to try it. MPC sounds just beautiful. Great to see you here, Anne-Marie! 😀

    • annemariec says:

      Thanks Ari. Sorry to hear about your package. 🙁 Hope you get another chance …

  • annemariec says:

    Many thanks Sam, I’m so pleased to have offered a new dimension on a perfume you already love. I wonder what you will make of Femme these days?

  • Sam says:

    I’m a bit late commenting, but I just wanted to say–wow, what a review. So beautifully written, and wonderful to read a lovesong (so to speak) to my beloved MPCPC. Comparing “her” to a cello! Perfection. I think you’ve inspired in me new depths of appreciation for the perfume. I haven’t tried Rochas Femme in, literally, decades, and back then it was waaaay too grown up for me. But you’ve made me want to test those waters again. Thanks!

  • Hester says:

    Isn’t Femme just absolute self-confidence in a bottle? Such warm, mature, knowledgeable womanity! I’ve found, however, that it’s vital to spray from a little distance; if I spray too close to the skin, it overwhelms.

    • annemariec says:

      Yes! Hester I love your comment. You say more in a few sentences than all the reviews I have read put together.

      Okay, so perhaps I should say that those of us who wear Femme HOPE that we are warm, knowledgeable, mature … 🙂

  • Dionne says:

    Ahhh, Anne-Marie, thank you for that music. The Wild Things have been watching Backyardigans today, and that was the perfect palate-cleanser. Beautiful.

    I tried Femme last summer, and loved the warm skin aspect of it. Beautiful stuff, although like you, I really don’t need 100ml of it. Who do we talk to around here about a split? I haven’t tried MPCPC yet, and hadn’t realized it was in homage to Femme. Dark patchouli in the opening? Oh my.

    And once again I say, “Dang, woman, can you ever write!”

    • annemariec says:

      Dionne, I appreciate your comments very much. But then I read other people’s stuff and think, hell why do I even try? Well, we all have lots to learn from each other, hey.

      To be honest I have never dabbled a toe into the split scene. Perhaps someone else can chime in.

  • nozknoz says:

    Brava, Anne-Marie – I love both these perfumes, and your words and musical selections have captured them perfectly!


  • Mals86 says:

    Beautiful, BEAUTIFUL review, dear Anne-Marie! (My favorite phrases? “Snatching beauty out of the dark earth,” and “Look at how the hair swept off du Prés’ brow reveals the strength and sensitivity in her face. See what I mean? It is enough.” Sigh. Sighhhh. Thank you.)

    I rather like (reformulated) Femme, but I have avoided all proximity to MPC as I am so hypersensitive to patchouli. I think I may stick to my leetle decant of Femme.

    • annemariec says:

      Hi Mals, great to talk to you over here. I’m glad yuo like the post. Funny how it akll came together. Great works of art create further inspiration, and links across different art forms.

      MPC is really heavy ion the patchouli. How are you with ‘clean patchouli’?

      • Mals86 says:

        In small amounts, the heart-note “clean” stuff bothers me less than the earthy stuff. And I tend to tolerate it better, and even possibly like it, it if it’s been aged, especially if it’s paired with rose. Funny how the aged smells fresh and herbal to me, and the standard smells dusty, dirty, moldy…

        But I tend to be overwhelmed with it if it’s more than a background note, I admit. If people other than myself describe a scent as being heavy on the patchouli, I’m probably going to feel like I’m drowning.

        • annemariec says:

          Glad you can cope with patchouli in some form. It’s hard to avoid!

  • Patty says:

    You know I loved this article and especially the cello comparisons. I adore the cello, there is nothing else even remotely like it for ability to break my heart. And that Elgar Cello Concerto is *exactly* like MPCPC, which I adore. It’s not easy or always beautiful, but it draws me close and makes me listen.

    thanks so much for writing this, and hopefully you’ll write many more!

    • annemariec says:

      Many thanks again Patty, I’m so pleased you like this. I agree with you about things that are not easy or beautiful – they are often the most worthwhile things, the things that stay with us.

  • Ann says:

    Anne-Marie, what a wonderful debut post on the Posse!! I really enjoyed it, especially your glorious musical references. I do love the violin, but cannot do cumin, thus Femme has long been out for me 🙁 , so it will be the cello for me today. The Goutal grabs me and pulls me in, daring me not to embrace its earthy beauty. I don’t know that I would get a full bottle but I am enjoying my sample. It would be good to try this in the EDT as well, just to compare. Thanks again!

    • annemariec says:

      In that case you must steer clear of Femme. Funny, last night I was wearing Parfum d’Empire’s Aziyade, which is also very heavy on cumin, and from that one I do get read the cumin loud and clear. So I understand where you are coming from.

      The Goutal plays a few mind games. Does she care if I like her her not? Probably not. She would just give a throaty chuckle and walk away. I too would like to try the EDT. The Non-Blonde prefers it:

  • Austenfan says:

    Great first post here! Glad to see another review of Mon Parfum Chéri. It’s a very great favourite of mine.
    You have now convinced me that I need to try current Rochas Femme.

    • annemariec says:

      Isn’t it great to find a new review of a perfume you like? I love that feeling. Glad you like the Goutal. I don’t suppose it will be a huge seller for the company, so here’s hoping they sell lots of their popular fragrances to keep MPCPC afloat!

      Hope you enjoy the Femme.

  • I love the way you’ve compared these fragrances to musical performances. Brava.

    • annemariec says:

      Ha! A first for me. I’m not normally that erudite, I assure you, but thanks!

  • FragrantWitch says:

    What a wonderful review, Anne-Marie! Thank you for the Janine Jansen intro- I will have to get some of her recordings. Jacqueline du Pres is just ahmayzing and lovely on a Sunday morning. I’ve just bought a dusty bottle of Femme from a local pharmacy that I suspect has had it hiding under the counter for 20 years so I have high hopes for it! I’ve been wanting to try the Goutal for a while and now I really need to get a decant and try it. I look forward to reading more posts from you, thanks again!

    • annemariec says:

      Many thanks FragrantWitch! And I’m glad your Sunday morning was enhanced. I love watching du Pres perform, partly I suppose for the lure of her story. Sad, but joyful as well.

      How I wish I lived somewhere where dusty bottles could be bought! I just never see them. Sigh. Hope you like the Goutal.

  • Patricia Hall Borow says:

    Femme is one of the ones I sleep in, but (take deep breath, out on a limb here) I just don’t “get” MPCPC — and I’ve tried, I really have!

    • annemariec says:

      I sleep in Femme too! But MPCPC is formidable, I admit. I wear it much less often than Femme. No problem about not ‘getting’ a fragrance. If you try and can’t like it, move on. Plenty of other fish in the sea.

  • YAY An Aussie on the Posse! Congratulations AnnMarie. I am now off to grab both.
    Portia x

  • Poodle says:

    I’ve been wanting to try Femme for a while. It is usually found pretty cheap so a blind buy wouldn’t be too terrible if I didn’t like it. I think the more I hear about it though that I might like it quite a bit. Maybe this will be my incentive to click on the buy button. Thanks for the review.

    • annemariec says:

      I put off buying it for ages – kept adding and then subtracting samples from my shopping cart. Finally a wonderful perfume penpal sent me a sample, and the rest is history! ‘Where have you been all my life!’. So yes, do give it a try if you can.

  • This is so nice having reviews over the weekend!

    Welcome, Anne-Marie, and what a great article on Femme and MPC par C! I am going to have to try this modern Femme! I have the vintage (which is beautiful) and am not averse to cumin; now I am very tempted. The good thing is, I could put it on my mother’s day suggestions list, and one of my kids could actually afford and find that one!

    I don’t get any lace-satin-lipstick feeling from MPC either. I get more antique-y, old–grieving for the past. Maybe the story behind it has influenced me!

    Hope to hear more from you and thanks for a great review!

    • annemariec says:

      Thanks Sheri! Yes, Femme is inexpensive. Only trouble is that these days it just comes in 100 ml bottles, and I don’t need 100 mls of anything. I’ll see how I feel when the current decant runs out.

      MPCPC does have an an antique-y feel, you are right. Also, it makes me think of a strong woman who has eliminated extraneous stuff from her life and who is living simply and boldly.

  • HemlockSillage says:

    Anne-Marie, welcome to the ‘Posse as a presenter. I love the musical direction you took with your review. One of the things that I inspires me about perfume is that it is art, and in talking about it, it seems so reasonable to draw on images and sounds from other media. The two recordings you selected were amazing in themselves, and thank you for the introduction to Janine Jansen. I’d heard recordings of Jacqueline du Prés, but this makes me want to seek out MP3s for my player.

    Femme is an amazing fragrance, and it was the reference March sent me to learn about cumin in perfume. I loved your statement that “we all live in and perceive the world through our bodies,” and the idea that cumin in fragrance respresents warm skin. Yesssss.

    Now I’ll have to try Mon Parfum Chéri. I like the beauty of the violin, but love the cello. Perhaps I’ll feel the same way about Femme and Mon Parfum Chéri. Thanks again, for a thoughtful comparison. Be well.

    • annemariec says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful comments HS, I’m glad you enjoyed the piece. It was fun to write. I love those recordings visually as well as aurally. I especially love the gorgeous silk dress Jansens is wearing – very Femme!

      Nice to hear from a cumin lover, I’m only just learning about it myself. It is interesting that the 1990s ads for the reformulated Femme are very sensuous – they feature close-ups of a lots of skin on a woman’s body. Nothing blatant or gratuitous, but just the curve of her back or shoulder, or the drift of her cleavage. Beautifully done.