Critic Jan Moran describes this underdiscussed masterpiece by Rochas as a ‘dark, dank forest’, and for me, this is a very apt description of a perfume that truly lives up to its name.

Mystère dwells almost entirely in the lower notes, in the murky, sylvan depths – particularly in the stunning vintage parfum if you can find it ( I have a private stash). All, here, is patchouli, rose, resins, vetiver, styrax, leather, civet, and a strange and unexpected marriage of cascarilla bark and cypress overlaid ingeniously with galbanum, rosemary and coriander: the unusual accord that gives the perfume its impenetrable, curious, and unmistakeable identity. Top notes are creamy, almost metallic:  peppered florals that weave in and out of the centred, sodden heart like the lighter, sun-peppered moment before you lose your way.

One of my favourite ever perfumes – on me it becomes a smooth and brooding amber – this rather atypical Rochas is a very enigmatic scent that never raises its voice with shrill notes, nor clichés of any variety, nothing to disturb the immaculately crafted aura of the top soil. It draws you in, tells you nothing, and leaves an incredibly well controlled, unique – and deeply erotic – sillage in its wake. Recommended, but smell Mystere first – this is an acquired taste.


Filed under Flowers

55 responses to “MYSTERE by ROCHAS (1978)

  1. katherinec

    Wow, this sounds amazing

    • It is. I once worked with a woman in her fifties who was in an affair with a younger man and it described her atmosphere perfectly. On her, it smelled quite dirty and animalic, but utterly compelling. A very unusual rendering of femininity. The vintage parfum de toilette is a good strength as well: it’s very much a disco era scent, kind of related to Balmain Ivoire, in its creamy metallique aspect, but where Ivoire is lady-like and brocaded, satin, shimmering, Mystere goes all mulched and warm-veined.

  2. katherinec

    Well yes who knows if I would actually like it but I love your description… goodness knows it sounds interesting. The erotic side I cannot imagine but the dank forest, something that avoids cliches (sorry to paraphrase), and well all the ways in which you describe, you describe in a way that is tangible like a thankful door handle, like a relief. Or something. Who would be thankful for a door handle or a dank forest.

    • We would.

      But I think the cliche point is quite important: many perfumes DO smell extremely obvious, and stereotyped, like slipping into a restrictive, cultural glove. Mystere smells weird, and indescribable, and achieves genuine distinctiveness. I think it suits me as it is androgynous at best, masculine, probably. Like Vol De Nuit ( did you ever try wearing that one?) it has something intangible and odd, but also soulful and intelligent.

  3. katherinec

    Every time you write about another great creation I can’t quite believe that they came to be, that the people with the right temperament came to this medium, the chances seem so slight and yet what complex things burgeoned..

  4. katherinec

    And yes God I loved it (Vol De Nuit) and am saving it for the right time – I can’t begin to describe it though.

  5. katherinec

    I think I quite like the idea of strength or darkness that isn’t feminine (or stereotypically masculine?) but that still have the indent of human desire (and perhaps that desire isn’t sexual as such), soulful but with the mark of human desire and that desire being something quite essential and profound… A mixture of complex non-cliched stuff perhaps!

  6. katherinec

    Thing is maybe I don’t smell enough current releases but rather than feel restricted by them I don’t engage with them at all, like they’re just not tangible to me, but if I did engage they would be suffocating on many levels. Thinking about Vol De Nuit, it suited me well I think, but not as a projection, more as a completely magic veil, the fearless briskness of it, which in turn projects itself.. I don’t know, so much to say about it.

  7. Lilybelle

    I haven’t smelled Mystere in ages. It was enigmatic, as you say, and captivating. I can conjure up the scent memory as I sit here and think about it…many, many years later. Such a terrible shame it is so rare now.

    • I was lucky to find it then!

    • Renee Stout

      Mystere was given to me as a birthday present by a man I was dating back in 1984. Our relationship didn’t last longer than a few months, but to this day we’re friends, as it said a lot about him that he knew to gift me with such a classy and strange sent even before I realized I was a “perfumista”. Who knows, maybe he was the cause of this perfume obsession. Anyway, to this day the smell haunts me and I can’t find the original scent anywhere on ebay for less than a fortune. I want it, NEED it even, but I just can’t afford it. I’ll keep searching everywhere in the hopes that I’ll one day stumble upon a vintage bottle of it in some off-the-beaten path antiques mall in my travels.

      • No, obviously, I will send you some, I can spare enough for you to have at least a good dose of nostalgia. But as Lilybelle and Brielle know, it takes me an eternity to send these things out. As Brie, Olfactoria, Feraljasmine, and Katherine as well as others know, I do usually eventually keep to my promises.

        You need to smell it again!

        I have a nice parfum de toilette that I can spare a vial or two from. We will talk later.

  8. Veritas

    As always, a fantastically crafted review !
    Have a wonderful summer, my dear!

  9. Renee Stout

    Vol de Nuit is Gooorrrrgeous!

  10. Dearest Ginza
    This has been on my list for ever and then the epilogue.
    I am determined not to write a review until I have at least a sample of the parfum at my discretion, but frankly it’s becoming almost impossible to come by.
    You, and Jan Moran, have just made my hard grow fonder for something that has never been anything but absent from my life so far.
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    • It looks like there is another candidate for a syphoning. Will I have any left for myself?

    • Strangely, I have just gone upstairs and while Duncan attempts to sleep, rifled through my cabinet to spray on some parfum. How thick and mysterieux it is indeed, involving and dense. And yet: I think (like the Guerlains where the parfums de toilette often trump the extraits, somehow) the silveriness, which is an essential component of its boggy persona, is more apparent in the exquisite parfum de toilette.

      you are on the waiting list.

      it might have to stop there, though.

      • Dearest Ginza
        Please don’t think it was a crie de couer of that kind!!
        Apart from not wanting to rob you of the family jewels, I wouldn’t trust the international postage system (especially our paranoid Royal end of it) with any perfume these days.
        Enjoy your dark mysteriousness, I’m sure my boat will come in one day… after a long while of searching 60mls of Norell by Norell (not a later manufacturer) in cologne format arrived today, so I’m green with delight.
        Yours ever
        The Perfumed Dandy

      • No. I get by these things. You just have to lie: very easy.

        A syringe of Mystere shall wing its wayeth. When the moment is right.

  11. Renee Stout

    Thank you sooooo much for your kind offer. I would love to smell it again! Please let me know what information you’ll need from me.

  12. Renee Stout

    But now, like theperfumeddandy, I feel a little guilty. Just know that if there is ever anything that I have that you’ve ever wanted to try, just let me know as I love sharing my treasures with people that I know will appreciate them as much as I do.

    • no no no, i can spare it. i am just TERRIBLE, truly terribile, at packaging things up. i just can’t get round to it, ever. i need to have finished the teaching term, have nothing to do, then to suddenly say – right, grab an envelope, package that mother up, and send it out. it is something i love doing, but usually i simply can’t be arsed. however, i can feel your need for mystere from here. i myself love it, but don’t wear it very much. i just need to have SOME there, just in case. the bottle is fairly full. and that scent is so unique! is there anything else like it?

      • Renee Stout

        I COMPLETELY understand about being motivated to go to the post office to mail things out. I have a list of people that I have to send catalogs out to. They’ll eventually get them (LOL)! You’re very generous.

  13. One of my mother’s favorite scents and one of mine also. It is truly a fragrance that stays within the contralto/ mezzo range, but it has that rich power to it. Two other scents that had that same type of feeling were both by Alexandra de Markoff, Enigma and Alexandra. Both are deep, rich and captivating, if not down right hauntingly lovely. These type of scents are the polar opposite of the present days love of fruity floral trite-ness. Mystere is a fragrance for a woman, not someone who wants to forever be in adolescence; as far too many women these days want to remain. It also makes a fabulous men’s scent, without the obvious in-your-face testosterone infused aura.

    • you are so right. i have never heard of the Alexandra, but I agree: this is WOMAN or….MAN. it is amazing.

      it has that curve of the bass clef to it: if you haven’t smelled it, you can’t imagine it from the notes: but as lilybelle said, even after all these years she can remember mystery, it has that clout, that INVESTMENT

  14. I am still cherishing that fascinating dank jasmine oil that you so kindly sent me some of, and our discussion then of the “swamp” note seems pertinent to the “Forest” quality of Mystere. I hasten to add that I have never smelled Mystere and prefer not to; the last thing I need is one more very expensive obsession. But I am intrigued by the scent of the forest floor, especially because right now I’m on a hiking trip in one of the world’s truly beautiful places and thinking a lot about the scents of nature. Why are the murky, sylvan depths so seldom explored well in perfumery? The bitter greens and earth notes are easy to find, but what’s missing, to my nose, is the strangely fresh-fungal notes of healthy dirt, the dirt that lives and (through its microfauna) breathes, the dirt that creates, the dirt that we came from and will return to. The scent of live dirt is the narcotic death-note that underlies the scent of a gardenia in full bloom, a note fully of the earth but not dirty in any conventional way. This is the note I smell when hiking, the scent of a breathing functioning forest. It can’t be duplicated by throwing in a dash of patchouli; it’s far more complex and resonant than that. It sounds as if it is very present in Mystere. Are there other scents, maybe a touch easier to find, that have it?

    • ‘The breathing functioning forest’: what a beautiful way of expressing it: I know exactly what you mean.

      Actually last night I went out drenched in Mystere: edt, parfum de toilette, and parfum, and realized that I had overstated the forestiness of it, as it smelled more ambered and velvety, quite Vol De Nuit-ish. It doesn’t have the freshness of a forest, but it does have that aspect of the shadows; you know the warm spaces within the mulch that are also exposed to sunlight. A sun kissed humus, if you like. I do love it. At some point I will get some to you.

      I can’t quite think of any other perfumes that have this quality, although my beloved L’Artisan Parfumeur L’Eau Du Navigateur, which is heaven, has a similar fauniness.

      • My husband wears the Navigateur, and I love your term “fauniness.” Also, just as a point of interest, thought I should let you know that my autocorrect strongly disapproves of the term ” fauniness” and wants us to say “faux nines” instead.

      • The autocorrect is a dunce.

      • Yes, but a very amusing dunce. I leave it on simply because I’m fascinated by the stuff it comes up with. In my clinical notes I often have occasion to note “erectile dysfunction,” and autocorrect usually wants this to be “textile dysfunction” but every now and then takes a flyer with “reptile dysfunction.” Which I love dearly. So I keep it on just to see how else it might beguile me.

  15. carole macleod

    I just doused myself in Mystere, in preparation for reading your review. I love this scent, and the description sylvan describes it perfectly. It reminds me of roots and leaves and dirt. There was a special spring close to my grandparents house-we would walk miles into the woods to find it. There was the smell of the mineral spring, trees and leaves and damp earth, moss, and some tiny little flowers here and there, barely visible, but giving off disproportionate amounts of scent. To me Mystere is that image in perfume form. I knew nothing about it when I bought it. This next paragraph will make the rest of you weep:

    I bought it in Saint John, New Brunswick, where my favourite perfume store was getting rid of some of its stock. They would do this on a semi annual basis-they said it was to get rid of old stock but I believe-I truly believe-it was a way of bringing beauty to the people there. Make something beautiful affordable. So there was a whole table lined with 100 ml bottles, each carefully wrapped in decorative cellophane. Each cost $20. CDN. There was probably 20 bottles. I took the time to admire the display, which was really beautiful. I tried the tester. At that time I was not familiar with Rochas. The owner of the store said it was the signature scent of a friend of hers-that all the women in the store associated the scent with that lady. So I bought one bottle, and I treasure it. Every time I spray some on I think of that cold waterfall, and all the woodland scent that went with it, and also the incredible generosity and respect that my favourite perfume store has for its customers, of which I have been one for 20 plus years.

    • jennyredhen

      The other thing that resonated in your post is the kindness of those shop owners After the first and second big earthquakes here many destroyed shops just gave everything away to people in the street. People were giving stuff away everywhere or it was just lying around waiting to be taken!!!
      People were driving around the destroyed streets handing out food, blankets household goods etc .. ordinary people not the Red Cross… though they have done HEAPS as well…. the kindness of strangers.. we have been through the Apoccalyse here and it is survivable.

    • How beautiful. I have only just seen this.

  16. jennyredhen

    Thats beautiful Carole…. I live in Christchurch New Zealand In 2010 and 2011 and 2012 we had over 10,000 earthquakes including 4 especially big ones which have pretty much destroyed the whole place … like really.. One of the results of these earthquakes is all the springs that have come up everywhere or old springs that were sealed that broke free and gushed once more, quite often in inconvenient locations…like my garage. It really is quite Extraordinary.Water everywhere. So now I want a bottle of Mystere and I know I will find one. Thanks for that.

  17. Tuskanny

    Dear Neil, I’d love your opinion on this : I recently acquired a 50 ml bottle of Mystère, ( geez !) the beautiful, the one and only I used to wear and adore, (on internet of course). Not cheap (at all) but not extravagant either. My feeling is that it’s genuine, probably one of the latest editions, and I still can find in it what it was that drove me mad, (and boy do I want too…!) but it has obviously been poorly kept (without its box) and the first sniff really worried me, but in the end, after 1 or 2 minutes, a good lot of it (nearly) came back and how gorgeous (it has a richness and a creamy depth evocative of Rouge d’Hermès ! Makes you close your eyes while inhaling, the drydown is still incredible thinking of the storage conditions, although I know nothing about them… Anyway, I noticed you mentioning quite often how you’d revive or enhance some of your perfumes, I wondered how you would manage in my shoes ? To revive the beauty that is still there, un peu éloignée, un peu dormante, et dépossédée de quelque chose d’important (?). All things relating to the forest I’ve been thinking of : cypress, I have some, and larch essentiel oil as well. The strangeness of this experience is that the more I use it, the more it seems to “get back to life”, the less time does the scent need to be powerfully present, but not lasting at all ! And missing some very important ingredients… The day I received it saw me dabbing it every hour in very small doses ( splash form), so very eager to find again the precious fumes and the ecstasy of it.
    Well, Neil, I could use your help here… thank you.

  18. Minni

    Hi! I agree to you Toscanny – I also just bought also a 50ml of Mystere de Rochas, released in 1992′, but it smells so different from Mystere de Rochas released in 1982′ – why it is, somebody knows? It is , as it seems to me, original with all barcodes, but the smell is very very weak and also missing some important ingredients…
    Would you like please to tell me – where I can buy pure parfum original Mystere de Rochas parfum (as it was in 80’ies), I search long time and I can’t find the right!
    Thank you!

    • You will never find it. I would send you some/will send you some (where do you live?) but it is VERY difficult for me to get perfumes out of Japan. I suppose only eBay, otherwise. It is WONDERFUL, I know.

  19. Christine Grice

    Hi there, I am new to this forum and have read with interest all the comments on my all time favourite perfume ‘Mystere’. I first bought this perfume whilst working in Jersey in 1981 and would still be wearing it to this day if was still being produced. I still have half a bottle which only gets used on very special occasions! I did send an email to Proctor and Gamble asking whether there would be a concideration of reviving ‘Mystere’ but alas did not get a reply. Well I tried but still live in hope that one day all our prayers may be answered!!! Ginzaintherain – you mentioned getting perfumes out of Japan – I am intrigued!


    • I have since given up though. They ALWAYS get sent back now, unfortunately. These are the efficient Japanese people, let us not forget. I have a couple of bottles still of Mystere parfum, and it is one of those scents that I wear perhaps once or twice a year, but when I do I really love it. It is unique! As for asking P + G if it will ever be reformulated, that is beautifully idealistic of you but basically, it’s never going to happen. And even if it did, it would be a crud reformulation with none of that ambery, woodland darkness at the centre. No, eek it out and sigh when it is gone.

  20. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:

    Craving me some Mystere today.

    • Renee Stout

      Update: I found a parfum mini on ebay for a reasonable price, several months back. Whenever I open it to sniff, I am wisked back to that day in the restaurant when “the lover” sat the bottle of Mystere on the table in front of me.

  21. It was once my favorite perfume…I wish I still owned it.

  22. You capture it flawlessly. Had I known it would disappear, I would have stockpiled in the early eighties when I wore it a lot. Oh, the things back then I wore as if they’d always flow through the stores like water. Alas.

  23. Sounds like my kind of perfume too. You are very fortunate to have this one in your stash. R

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