Would you buy a perfume with this name? ‘Universal water’?

I used to get excited whenever I went into the L’Occitane shop. Sixteen years ago, when the brand had not become the great high street empire it has today, there was an element of mystique. The perfumes, often in delightful extrait miniatures, were of really high quality, some quite unbelievably good, such as their original clove/violet Patchouli (there have been two other completely different versions since, which were no way near as adorable); their wonderful Santal, Bois de Rose, Cannelle Orange, and the indelibly sweet and luscious Vanille Bourbon.

Yesterday, in Tokyo, in the of-the-moment-for-snoots Marounochi building, I came up the escalators to be welcomed by the dreary smell of duty free lounges, posh toilets, and the soul-depleting odour of industrial citrus. This was Eau Universelle, a scent with no personality. A pleasing generic sherbet lemon to begin with, yes, doused in grapefruit, bergamot and alcohol, that for 10 microseconds you consider buying, because it is so HOT outside, and you know that in summer you just want LEMONS.

But not when they are backed with that crapoid, generic ‘woods’ note; that chemical, ugly sheen that scrubs up in the background.

Not when can you feel those ‘lemons’ sucking your life force.


Filed under Citrus, Lemon, Perfume Reviews


  1. Helen

    I don’t think you exaggerate in any way to say that those hateful scents rob you of your life force, . That beautiful patchouli scent is, as you know, one of my all time favourites, wonderfully, inextricably linked to memories of time spent in Tokyo with you. (Bois de Rose is, bizarrely a ‘business trip’ to Brussells’) Eau du Contadour was also lovely (and that is the only word for its enveloping, completely un-challenging, cashmere soft scent) don’t know if it still is. Most of what they produce now, or last time I bothered to sample, is harsh rubbish for people who have no interest in perfume. The equivalent to all those bands out there that cater for people who don’t really like music.

  2. ginzaintherain

    Totally true. I wonder if the executives at L’Occitane secretly feel any loss and remorse….

  3. Helen

    They really should. I remember going to Madrid for a few days with Steve, many years ago, and discovering that L’Occitane was next door to our hotel. I was thrilled and bought some delightful herbal bath salts to soothe my aching limbs after a day of museums and galleries. Now I would feel and buy nothing.

  4. Helen

    And to answer your question…no, Universal Water is not a good name.

  5. Cath

    L’Occitane is not what it used to be. I still have some of their early stuff, the room spray and scented candles Ambre Lavende for example. THAT was amazing stuff, before they tried to become a more expensive Body Shop and added fruits to most of their products. Ugh!

  6. Robin

    I so know the feeling of just wanting LEMONS.

  7. rprichpot


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