Second chance Monday: Guerlain Mitsouko — I get it, I (finally!) get it

MitsoukoShe likes me, she really likes me. Channeling Sally Field at the Academy Awards in 1985, this post shares a very pleasant surprise for me: finding favor at long last with Mme. Mitsouko. I want to thank the Posse’s Musette for loving it and mentioning it often, and Roja Dove for several of his creations, which helped whet my appetite for scents of this nature. Now I am no fragrance expert, so this is just one perfume lover’s take on a formerly avoided classic.

In the past, I never had any luck with the great Guerlain lady, no matter how I tried. In my defense, though, most of my trials were early on in my fall down the rabbit hole. And the ones I attempted were all of unknown modern vintage and most likely the EDT, although I do remember spritzing the EDP a time or two. (Does anyone have any idea how many times this has been reformulated?) Not to mention there was no telling how long the various store testers had been sitting out on counters and shelves in the light and heat.

On each try, I recall there being a vaguely murky unpleasantness about it, almost a mustiness, and that, combined with an undercurrent of bitterness, overpowered everything else when it hit my skin. “This is what people are waxing poetic about?” I asked myself, puzzled, although I knew in my heart that Mitsouko was a sophisticated, complex scent and difficult to pin down. I just figured that maybe I just wasn’t cut out to be a Mitsy person.

But I’ve heard so many folks testify over the years about how the vintage or parfum version of something turned them around, that I knew there might be hope for me.

So after loving other chypres, and also several of Roja Dove’s beauties, and knowing of his background and history with Guerlain, I figured his Diaghilev (and several other of his chypre-ish creations) couldn’t be all THAT far-flung from Mitsouko. And maybe my nose had developed a deeper appreciation for such over the years. So I took the plunge and got a teensy-tiny sample of vintage parfum. I opened my mind, opened the vial and gingerly applied.

The heavens did not open with angels descending singing “hallelujah” or anything quite so dramatic, but this time Mitsouko’s beauty was plainly evident, unfolding in lovely succession. At the start, the bergamot, rose, jasmine and peach were present, gently glowing, and as it wore on, a dusky warmth ensued as the florals, fruit and spices mixed softly, giving it a plush creaminess and pleasing fullness that had been lacking in my previous attempts. Then, at long last, its woody, mossy drydown rounded everything out to create a smooth and happy ending.

Now I probably won’t be reaching for this very often, and I don’t feel the need to scour the ends of the earth to get a bottle of the vintage, even if I could find it and afford it.

My experience is from dabbed, so I am a wee bit curious about spraying, but cost and availability aside, do I really want to push my luck? Not so much. I’m just happy that Mitsouko has deigned to glance my way and give me a slight nod and the hint of a smile.

Now if only I could get Shalimar, Jicky and Chanel No. 5 to love me …

Have you ever battled with a scent, trying to “get” it and failing time after time, and then one day, for whatever reason, it just clicks?

P.S. I realize the Sally Field quote above is not accurate as to what she actually said in her acceptance, but is a common misquote. But I like it, anyway, and it worked for me.

42 Comments
CC ... January 14, 2014

I've given up on "getting" Mitsy. However, vintage No.5 and Shalimar, I love...so I'm not a complete philistine, thankfully. :-)

Dina C. January 13, 2014

Like Tammy and Rosarita, I grew up wearing Arpege, so I was well prepared for Mitsouko. I had never heard of it until I read "Perfumes The Guide" by Tania Sanchez and Luca Turin. His description made me want to try it, so I ordered a sample. I thought it was amazing stuff. I have a bottle of recent edt nowadays, and I like wearing it in the fall best. My stomach clenched up reading Michelle's story of loss. I just want to reach through the internet and give her a hug. So sorry this happened!

Jennifer Counts January 13, 2014

Mitsy I liked pretty much right away, though the formulation I actually own a bottle of isn't the best. Shalimar was a tough one for me the first time I tried it. I had gotten a set of carded samples on ebay. The first time I tried it, it made me think of baby wipes, which was an association I wasn't thrilled with. Smelling vintage changed my mind on that one.

poodle January 13, 2014

Mitzy and I do not play nicely together. I still can't find what everyone else raves about. I have trouble with a few of the classic Guerlains. I'm okay with it though because there are plenty of other perfumes out there to tickle my nose.

FeralJasmine January 13, 2014

Hi Ann, glad the Lady decided to cooperate with you. I don't care for most Guerlains because the base goes weird on me, with a prominent note that smells a lot like disposable diapers (in their unused state, I hasten to add.) so I have finally given up on the line, except for SDV. But I recognize them as classics, except in the newest forms, and love to hear about other people wearing them.

Tiara January 13, 2014

Feel so bad for Michelle....that's awful. I finally got No 5 but have given up on Shalimar, Mitsy, Joy and a few others. There are so many other perfumes to enjoy that I don't mind skipping these. I don't want to work that hard at pleasure!

Sherri January 13, 2014

Yes, definitely! A lot of the Frederic Malles were just "okay" the first wearing, BUT after about three wearings, I fell head over heels in love with Lys Mediterannee (it took the Tom Ford lily to make me crave this one and in turn fully appreciate what a beauty LM is!), Portrait of a Lady (took dropping a sample onto the bathroom floor; don't recommend this method of becoming addicted :-) ), Fleur de Cassie (it initially smelled like Apres L'ondee to me; not that there's anything wrong with AL, just kinda reminded me of my grandmother. It took 3-4 wearings to fully appreciate it, and the thing with FdC is it always smells different each time I wear it! Iris Poudre, I absolutely hated first sniff, and now adore it! Lemme tell you, FM selling that discovery set is a great move on their part. We, as perfumistas, get to spend time with each fragrance, and speaking from my experience, end up with several full bottles one we get to know the fragrances (and one needs several wearings to become acquainted with this line especially). The quality of these perfumes is amazing and quite addictive! Also, my two cents on Chanel No. 5: try an OLD vintage bottle of Eau de Cologne (not EDT). Mine has an $8 sticker from Walgreens on the bottom on the box if that's an age indication. It is absolutely gorgeous! It has a not exactly snuggly (Chanel and snuggly seldom go together in my mind) but sensual quality the other versions lack, and none of the irritating whatever it is about other Chanels that bothers me.

Lynley January 13, 2014

Oh Michelle I just want to send my condolences, that's such a tragedy. I'd have cried for hours! Fracas is my loathe to love frag. I HATED it, and any tuberose. They just smelt sickly sweet and plasticy and made my head hurt. Then one day I tried it again and just 'got' it. It's like it was a totally different smell and I could notice all the nuances I couldn't smell before. It even made my lifelong nemesis Poison (vintage parfum only) almost likable! :)

rosarita January 13, 2014

Thanks for sharing your story, Ann! I haven't spent much time trying to "get" Mitsouko because I've read so much about how wonderful the vintage is and I don't want to fall down the vintage search rabbit hole. What I've sampled is undoubtedly modern and all I smell is peach and I'm not a fan of peach; Shalimar on the other hand is perfection to my nose, and I didn't discover it till nine years ago. Chanel 5 has been part of my life for decades but then Arpege was my first perfume, given to me when I was 8. Personally it's been gourmands that I am just now "getting" and I enjoy the occasional fruitchouli, which took a good ten years to grasp. Still not for everyday use.

malsnano86 January 13, 2014

It took me a long time to appreciate Mitsouko. I knew I ought to at least try it, and I think I tried it in seventeen different combinations of relatively-modern edt, vintage edt, edp of unknown provenance, vintage parfum from TPC, in cold weather, warm weather, rain, sun... SIGH. Nothin' but ewwww. I also failed with several other fruity chypres: AdP Profumo, So Pretty, vintage Femme (oddly, the modern was okay), Miss Dior Cherie, Parure, Yvresse... ugh. However, after enjoying vintage Miss Dior parfum and a sample of Diaghilev edp - which has, to my nose, a distinct reference in the first ten minutes to Velvet Stage Curtain* - and shelling out for a sample of vintage Coty Chypre parfum which I promptly fell in love with, I bought one of those teeny-tiny 2ml Mitsy parfum bottles, you know the ones that come in the cute little patterned box? It was lovely: autumnal, rounded, rich, smooth. A Mitsy-loving friend tells me this was made in the early 90s, and it's a good version. I still didn't LOVE it, but at least I finally GOT it. I don't really wear it so I should probably sell it on ebay and at least recoup part of the $30 I paid for the adorable presentation. The 10ml bottle of vintage Coty Chypre parfum I paid $130 is worth every penny, though. * I'd forgotten the story about Diaghilev spraying his curtains with Mitsouko when I tested Diaghilev, and it took me several minutes to figure out why the fragrance was reminding me of middle school... our 7th-8th choir had no classroom, so we met on the auditorium stage where the piano was, and yes, there was a freshly cleaned velvet stage curtain there! I thought that was genius to put into a fragrance.

Michelle January 13, 2014

Oh Ann, I'm in mourning. This weekend the top shelf where I store perfumes somehow came apart and brought everything to the floor. Four bottles were completely smashed, Crepe de Chine, a lyre bottle of Bal a Versailles, Escada Margaretha Ley, and the most precious enormous baccarat vintage sealed Mitsouko. I cried for about 2 hours. I had some amazing luck a few years ago and picked it up at an antique fair for under $50. It was so beautiful! I had planned to open it after I defended my thesis to celebrate last year, but never could bring myself to cut that string. Boy, am I kicking myself. I don't know what I'm supposed to learn from this, I guess that everything we hold dear is fleeting, so grab a hold of it and use it now, don't wait. I'm happy that you are able to appreciate it now!

Portia January 13, 2014

Hi Ann, I grew up with most of the classics so that's what I expect fragrances to smell like. Mitsouko and I have been friends for a long time. I am starting to like fruitchouli, recently there have been a couple of them that I have had a craving for, Coco Mademoiselle and Miss Dior le Parfum have both turned mt head. All because I fell madly in love with Cacharel's Liberte last year. Now I can't see myself wearing them exclusively but at least I'm not turning away either. Portia xx

eldarwen22 January 13, 2014

At various points in my perfume nut journey, there have been perfumes that I didn't like in the beginning then just fell in love with. For the longest while, I had a hell of a time with no. 22 because I found the aldehydes to be on the harsh side. Worth Courtesan was the whole fruity thing that did go into love. No. 5 was the whole rancid thing when I put the lotion on in the department store. Now, I didn't like Mitsouko in the beginning and it was the huge peach note but I kept coming back and couldn't figure out why. Mitsy makes you work for it, it's like peeling an onion. I love the current Mitsy in EDP form and the current EDT is a disgrace to the name. It took me a while to enjoy Mitsy in vintage form though.

Martha January 13, 2014

I wonder about the confluence of factors that has to occur before a perfumista finally gets a particular fragrance? In part, I think it's due to olfactory education. You know, simply sniffing and smelling dozens of different things until you emotionally engage in an open- minded way with a scent. There was a thread on Basenotes last summer or fall about a current iteration of Mitsouko being really good, so maybe you were just smelling some lousy formulations before now. I think that I have smelled only the EDT and didn't really like it much

tammy January 13, 2014

Arpege helped me to at least appreciate Chanel No. 5, and Femme helped me come to love Mitsy. Didn't like her at all upon first sniff, but years later when I sampled and fell in love with Femme, the lightbulb went off! I really love it now. Have never warmed up to the Chanel, but Arpege and Y helped me "get" aldehydes, which had previously just smelled like hairspray or some other chemical-type thing to me. Y probably helped ease me into Mitsy as well, come to think of it. It has certainly made me a slave to oakmoss! :P (Not to mention a bitter hater of IFRA)

Liz K January 13, 2014

Mitsouko and No. 5 were love at first sniff for me but Shalimar is another story. I fear I will never understand her. Coco was the one that took me a while to love. My cousin and mother both wear it and wear it well and it always used to make me long for fresh air. I now sneak a quick (very light) spritz when I visit.