Rochas Femme – Lightning Strikes Again … and Again

Rochas Femme and other sampling delights.

Louise bought a bottle of Tauer Orris unsniffed after reading my raves, then emailed me that it smelled nasty on her. I couldn´t even imagine such a thing, but we got together and she sprayed it on. It was … criminal. Her skin took all those glorious top notes that radiate from me like a force field of light and throttled them. Orris wasn´t inert on Louise; it curled up and died. Smelling a fragrance go wrong on someone else´s skin really drives home the whole “skin chemistry” concept – and provides a lot of incentive not to buy expensive things unsniffed. (Don´t worry, this story has a happy ending – I bought her bottle from her.) Below are several fragrances that make me profoundly grateful for my sense of smell, starting with …

Rochas Femme – new version with cumin. Notes besides the cumin for post-1989 Rochas Femme are: peach, plum, sandalwood, rosewood, lemon, rose, jasmine, oakmoss, patchouli, musk, amber, civet, and leather. But you´ll mostly be noticing the CUMIN. (Can I make the font bigger here?) CUMIN CUMIN CUMIN. I laughed through the first half hour of this. It´s definitely not something I´d spray on and then sail out to church or board a plane. But even in the first four minutes, you can smell that whatever´s buried under the McCormick´s spice bottle is worth it. I´m going to agree with Angela´s guess – in the reformulation, cumin was added to try to recreate the shock value of the original for our jaded market. Whether you´d swoon or scrub would probably depend largely on your feelings about the cumin (which never goes away completely, at least on me.) It might also depend on how you feel about the original Rochas Femme, although to my nose they’re so different I find it difficult to compare them at all. Vintage Rochas Femme to me is more closely aligned with, say, Jolie Madame. Where new Rochas Femme is warm and luminous, its forerunner is cool and woody, a dark, leathery chypre with a plummy counterweight that smells … well, either a little dated or very much of its time, depending on your perspective. I’m happy with the new version, but the vintage Rochas Femme is unquestionably the more elegant fragrance, and a profoundly beautiful one. There’s really only one Rochas Femme; as Bois de Jasmin said in her eloquent review, the newer version is “not unlike attempting to clothe Michelangelo’s David.”

Guerlain Aqua Allegoria Winter Delice. Notes (via Perfumebay) are: Ginger, Norway Pine, labdanum, vanilla, gingerbread and incense. Ina described it as “Christmas in a bottle” and also referred to potpourri, which worried me. I am welcoming this one to my incense lineup with a yodel of love and open arms – like a deep breath of fresh, cold winter forest, with some ginger. It also had surprising lasting power on me. Here´s a tip — in this rare case, the online discounters seem to be cheaper than eBay. Do you like Christmas? Incense? Winter solstice? Bracing walks in the fresh outdoor air? You need to try Delice. I can imagine people hating Femme with a passion, but this one seems broadly appealing.

CK One Electric – it´s NEW!!! It says so right on the bottle. It´s the color of antifreeze – that day-glo green. No, seriously. I wonder if it glows in the dark. Anyway, it smells like the original CK One, reformulated with … antifreeze?

Maitre Parfumeur et Gantier Or Des Indes – notes via luckyscent are: bergamot, oppoponax, sandalwood, amber, vanilla, geranium, lavender. I give up on this one. I get this wonderful opening – the meat-juice of Kolnisch Juchten melding with the sparkling classic aldehydes of Piguet Baghari! Sounds interesting, right? Then 45 seconds later the entire thing collapses into … this murky essence of powdery nothing. My skin just eats it.

JAR Bolt of Lightning. Some of the other JARs are much prettier. But this is the one I told Patty I´d give my right tit for (she sent me a decant and told me keep my tit.) Bolt of Lightning starts off dark and green, like bamboo in a thunderstorm. It´s the smell of breaking tender stalks of plants in the summer, only you´re dreaming the entire thing in one of those ultra-vivid dreams that leave you feeling a little off the next day. After a good two hours, the sap moderates and is joined by a white floral – my best guess is lily, moving toward gardenia — and the combination has such surreal, disturbing beauty that I basically can´t put this on if I have to think about anything else.

Note: Imaginationperfumery appears to be selling the Apres l´Ondee EDT bee bottle online for $95. I thought Apres had disappeared from our shores completely…

lightning image:

  • Katie says:

    CK One is extraordinary in many ways, I agree. Morillas is a friggin’ genius. But pretty much everything that’s followed afterwards that has left me disappointed. For instance, Truth is nice enough, and is almost interesting, but like all their other fragrances that have since been released, it too reeks of committee room compromise more than of artistry. Pity, that. I still kind of like it, but I wish there’d been a bit more edge to it. I have no idea what the hell is up with Euphoria. I mean, I get it from a marketing and sales perspective, but not from the actual smelling, really.

  • March says:

    Gaia — yes, definitely — another trip to Bergdorf is just what you need. Give Franz a big smooch and eat one of those giant, tasty salads 😡 in their lunchroom right there … seriously, they were amazing.

  • March says:

    Katie — CK One and Be were interesting enough — actually CK One was groundbreaking. But ever since then — meh. Euphoria I don’t get AT ALL.

  • March says:

    Cheez — excellent point about the cumin in Femme. Even though it’s very strong, there’s so much of the rest of that gorgeousness showing through that it seems funny rather than offensive…

  • March says:

    Madelyn — thanks for your tip — I am REALLY overdue for another visit to NYC…

  • I really regret not trying Bolt of Lightning on my skin. There was only so much wrist space and I wasted too much of it on Jarling. I need to get myself to Bergdorf soon.

  • Katie says:

    Still waiting for the sequel CK One I’ve been dreaming of: CK One Electric Boogaloo. Until that time, I’ve decided to ignore all of the crap spinoff CK fragrances. Calvin Klein just needs to stop making fragrances entirely, until they can relearn how to release something that isn’t botched or boring.

  • Cheezwiz says:

    Despite being an avowed cumin hater (I DO NOT want my fragrance to smell like B.O. or burritos!) I quite liked Femme. The cumin mostly stayed hidden under a warm autumnal fruit fragrance (as in peaches and plums gently poached with liqueur). I would have to test several times before buying to be sure the cumin monster didn’t spring out!

    Good news about the Apres L’Ondee. Note to self: pay down your credit card so you can order some!

  • Madelyn E says:

    Dear Patty and March .
    Belated congtauluations on your best Bkog nominatioon 1 You guys sure deserve it .
    Are any of you Caron fans/ I made a delightful new discovery at the New York – Madison Avemue Caron fflagship store.. a new formulation of a treasure Muguet Du bonheur is now available in a eau de parfum spray !!!! it was not previously only a edt and parfum. the new Eau De Parfum spray is about $85. I bought it for a friend who loves this gorgeous delicate lily of the valley fragrance . Any way for all you Caron devotees- good news. BTW – this new scent is more robust than the edt – and sings that Spring is almost ( maybe not in Denver) here !
    Scented Regards-
    Madelyn E

  • March says:

    trinity — sorry about the Orris!!! But I think it’s sold out now, yeah, I’d hang onto it and put it up on eBay. If it makes you feel any better I’ve had my share of disasters. Usually they end up getting swapped for something I much prefer…

    That Narcisse I loved. Not something I’d want to smell every day, necessarily, but I think it smelled great on me, and it lasted forever, in a GOOD way.

  • March says:

    Maria — yeah, lots and LOTS of cumin:o

    New Femme doesn’t even smell like the old one that much to me. I do like it, though. But the old one … really, no comparison. Breathtaking.

  • trinity says:

    Hi March
    I know first-hand about that skin-chemistry thing. I also bought AT Orris unsniffed, and it was a total nightmare on me. Bad, just really, really, bad. I am the owner of a completely full bottle that has been sprayed exactly once. I guess I’ll just hold it awhile and then put it up on ebay. Sometimes buying unsniffed works out; sometimes not.

    Another example of skin chemistry is L’Artisan’s 2006 LE Fleur de Narcisse. Most reviews I have read range from “meh, just okay” to “I can’t smell much of anything”. This one really works for me, so much so that I purchased 2 bottles. And I don’t have 2 bottles of anything cause my tastes run the gamut from Bois de Isles to Chergui to Attrape-Coeur and back.

    I am definitely in the cumin-hater group, don’t care what the dry-down may be, I’ll never know cause cumin is straight BO on me, LOL! More power to those who can wear it.

  • Maria B. says:

    Bois de Jasmin’s review states: “Cresp recreated his vision of Femme based on the memories of the sublime classic being worn by women in his family.” I wonder if the women in Olivier Cresp’s family used a lot of cumin in cooking.

    I don’t like them messing with classics. I wore Femme in high school and felt grown up, not old ladyish.

  • March says:

    Patty — thanks for letting me have so much happiness in a bottle.:x

  • March says:

    Tom — see, another guy who can smell it and loves it!!! I am wondering, seriously, whether there’s some sort of gender thing going on with that one. I have decided that is def. the case with Armani Amethyste, BTW. The men! Ack, the men mostly loooooove that thing on little ole moi.

  • March says:

    Louise — sorry, didn’t mean that in ANY sort of “bad example” way — I just found the smell difference sooo amazing I wanted to comment on it. Usually my personal $ limit for unsniffed is $50, below which I just consider it … a gift for someone else! Or a giveaway!:d Anyhow, as you know, your loss was my gain in terms of perfect timing.

  • March says:

    Tigs — yeah, there are a few like that. I think there are some scents that are just designed to be meditated on, and BoL is one of them.

  • March says:

    Chaya — but I really like the cumin in Femme, honest — and I also like it in SL Oranger. I think if I bothered to go look at the notes for Declaration (which I loathe) there’s vetiver and/or cedar in there … you put all that together on me and stanky things happen.

    I’m spreading your word on the Delice — hadn’t considered the fake tree angle…

  • March says:

    Marina — well, comments are mixed on the Delice! How do you feel about those “evergreen” notes? To me it smelled very outdoorsy without being overwhelmingly evergreen. But I guess some people are getting the pine tree car diffuser? On the third hand, you can buy one of those little minis for $6 … or I could send you my sample:d

  • March says:

    Elle — babe, if you 😡 cumin then you reeeeally need to try that Femme. I think it’s pretty cheap online. Get the EDP, though.

    Just pretend it’s called something else. Honestly, to me it is in no way a replacement (or even much of a match) of the original.

  • March says:

    Dennis — notfairnotfairnotfair!!! Although it does seem to me, anecdotally, that it is more men than women who are reporting loving L’Antimatiere. Wonder if men in general find it easier to smell?

    I like to sit in the ocean. I do it right along the shore and let the ocean come to me…;)

  • March says:

    Judith — so Indes is one of our non-overlaps on the Venn Diagram. Although, as I said, it doesn’t smell “bad” so much as just vamoose at top speed.:-? You’re right — I didn’t really appreciate the value of sniffing with other people until I started to do it, the differences are wild. I accosted a woman on the elevator about her wildly sexy, spicy fragrance (I actually thought it might be some sort of essential oils) and it was … JM Blue Agava & Cacao!!! Which smells like, I dunno, Swiss Miss hot cocoa on me. Total snooze.

    I like that cumin Femme! But it’s not really Femme…

  • March says:

    Lee — we’ll have to save our money for other items. I have maybe two spritzes left of Rousse. What is wrong with me? How can it smell so different? I want what you and Ina are getting!

  • March says:

    Nina — I feel so much better now! I mean, the opening is a bit Mitsouko-ish — all that volume, that floral-oriental sandalwood thing … and how, how can something start with such a bang and then disappear? It’s like a magic trick. I’d rather have what I get (nothing) than gravy browning; ugh!

  • Patty says:

    BoL is a wonder, no? Definitely not one for your casual jaunt out. I’d have an accident wearing it!

  • tmp00 says:

    Orris didn’t quite fester and rot on me, but like most Iris scents, it just didn’t quite work out on my skin. My chemistry tends to am it up to IRIS.

    I’m glad that I’m with Dennis on l’Antimatiere, I get yummy blankets and fresh sheets that someone very well loved is sharing with you.

  • Louise says:

    March, you are too kind. Orris did not just curl up and die on me…it festered and rotted. And on you…so delightful.

    And of course, lesson learned re. unsniffed. You saved me. I did buy some vintage Jolie M. on ebay (of course unsniffed), after liking the new stuff fine, and the vintage is great.

    Golly, my skin. It mostly just seems to be eating expensive fragrance voraciously lately. Leaving to linger for hours the cheap crap. Rats!

  • Tigs says:

    I lurv the cumin in the new Femme. Old Femme is, of course, a classic, but I’m plenty happy with the new one. I also love Blot of Lightning, although I don’t find it very wearable for your average day. It’s so forceful and distracting that, as you say, it’s better for the day when you are just going to sit around marvelling at how weird you smell.

  • chayaruchama says:

    Well, my puddin’- We KNOW about you and cumin…
    NOT a marriage made in heaven, lol.
    I don’t mind it, myself.

    Haven’t sniffed any JARS since Golconda- I can’t afford to WANT.

    Winter Delice?
    On me, it’s fakey-fake Xmas tree spray, a la Angel- oh so very…

    I advise all to TRY before they buy, on that one…

  • Marina says:

    Would I like Winter Delice? Should I just go ahead and finally get a mini? I haven’t tried this one, believe it or not.

  • Elle says:

    I used to always use DH as a guinea pig to test scents on before writing a review because skin chemistry changes can be so astounding. DH must have similar skin chemistry to Louise’s because AT Orris is drek on him…but amazing on me.
    On my skin Or des Indes is stunning…saying little prayer of thanks to fickle gods of skin chemistry right now.
    And I *love* cumin. Haven’t tried the new Femme, but cherish my bottle of vintage. I have to say I’m now really interested in trying the reformulated version and, speaking of lightning bolts, I feel like one should be striking me down right now for even saying that.

  • Dennis says:

    oops, make that swimming in the ocean:)

  • Dennis says:

    I’m really happy with my body chemistry these days as I am addicted to what most people on basenotes are calling the emperor’s new clothes: L’Antimatiere!
    I am addicted to it. I can’t explain it other than sitting in the sun after sitting in the ocean and old fur coats. Go figure.
    Great post!

  • Judith says:

    Chemistry does make all the difference. I always knew this theoretically, but it was really brought home to me at a sniffa, where I experienced the same fragrance smelling radically different on different people. There was one scent that smelled so different on a friend and me, that no one (including several perfumeurs) could even recognize it as the same. They thought I spritzed something else by mistake. But no. . . . Interestingly, though tastes differed as well in this group, they differed far less; often everyone would agree “good” or “bad,” but those judgments changed as different people were spritzed.
    And speaking of this. . . that’s too bad about Or des Indes and you; it’s lovely on me!

    On Bolt of Lightning, however, we agree! I put on a little (of my little bit) in your honor, and it really is incredible! Now planning several bank robberies.

    Winter Delice is very nice, though I don’t find myself wearing it often. I have no interest in CK One Antifreeze, and I can’t imagine why anyone would reformulate Femme (well, I can imagine, but I don’t like it).

    Thanks for the great reviews!

  • Leopoldo says:

    March – I’m glad you kept your booboo (as I used to call them from childland).

    You’re selling Bolt of Lightning to me. Sounds wonderful. I love distracterscents.

    Those Indults arrived this morning. I think I’m with you on them. Vanilla turns into perm solution on me (skin chemistry again); the fruity one is like some sour candy; the jasmine patchouli one is okay, but a good friend of mine has a candle combo that is oilier, indole-ier and altogether sexier….

  • Nina says:

    Relieved to hear that someone else has the same problem with Or des Indes, March! On me, it turns to gravy browning, which is so frustrating given the promise at the start. I’ve heard Or des Indes likened to Mitsouko, which for me is like seeing a resemblance between the voices of Barry White and Mariah Carey…clearly there are some very different skin reactions to scent…