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.