Ô DE LANCOME ( 1969 )





I find wearing Ô de Lancome almost unbearably nostalgic.

This is one of those perfumes that is indivisible from my own life and my family; the walls of our old house in Olton, Solihull.  My mother used it, my sister had her own bottles kept proudly on a glass shelf as a pre-teen child, and I would wear it also, sometimes, the scent so appealing with its poignant optimism of late spring and summer; its cool sanctuary of lemon and lemon leaves, petitgrain and orange, and white shaded groves of honeysuckle and jasmine flowers that breathe tangibly – but just indistinct enough –  to pluck. Snoozing on the grass, lost in blissfully shallow summer dreams, dusk would gently then approach, and with it, late light sleep in cold white sheets, and that familiarly reassuring, softer, darker and more tenebrous, basil-vetiver finish.

I have referenced this perfume before, in relation to Lancome’s Trophée and another, quite similar citrus scent – the vanished Quiproquo by Grès (also by perfumer Robert Gonnon). They share the same refreshing lemon green leaf top notes and the effortless, balanced finesse. But only Ô de Lancome has that soft, panoramic serenity that seems to contain every aspect of summer, from the joy of intense sunlight as you run and tumble on the flower-edged garden lawns, to the moist, whispering secrets of the darkness of plants when you hide, oblivious and excited, among their leaves. The comfort of cotton blankets as the sun is going down; and the inherent, unavoidable dread that it is all, all of it, going to pass.

A few moments ago I went out to the local shops to get some things for a late breakfast. Unthinkingly I picked out something fresh from the cologne section of my perfume collection (kept downstairs for last-minute ease), sprayed it on the back of my hands, and went on my way out the door. The sensations that this vintage Ô de Lancome – which I have not worn for a very long time – then provoked in me were astonishing: pure emotion and a flood of memories, but not just photographic snapshots of particular parts of our old house and our old childhood bedrooms, but more like complete immersion in them. I could see my younger sister’s dresser and her incipient perfume collection; feel the light in the garden from my parents’ room at the back, the flickering shadows of the white on the walls like trespassing on my own past.

They live in a different house now, a much nicer one. Lighter, more spacious, more dreamy, more tranquil. And with a much, much bigger garden (my mother’s pride and joy). We all enjoy gathering there – it’s a place that you can sprawl, relax, and forget some of the darker times we had at Dovehouse Lane. But that old house from my childhood is still the place I dream about: in my subconscious it’s the place I always go back to, never the new place. And though in the physical, corporal sense I know that I can never return there – and wouldn’t necessarily even want to – I also realize that now, in a different, more profound and spiritual, almost metaphysical olfactory sense,  I can.


Filed under Citrus, Flowers, Lemon

25 responses to “Ô DE LANCOME ( 1969 )

  1. Nelleke Oepkes aka Booknose

    Dear m. G,
    longtime no see from me. Blame it on the digi-sheiks!!
    March has come in like a lion, but April is beckoning. In your words I can almost smell the fresh scent of wet leaves, clover and citrus melisse? is crushed in my hand as I walk along the green green grass of home.
    The trees in my little park around the corner have silvery twigs, just before sprouting green and it is time for rereading The Secret Garden , that my mother read to me ages ago ….
    O de Lancome without her ^ has to be searched for , maybe in my box of samples. It is time for …

  2. Lovely post Neil. I have had the same experiences with a few different fragrances from my past. It’s amazing how a smell can bring you back to another place and can make you feel the same way you felt years ago when you first experienced it.

  3. I like how you can write about memories and create a mood of reminiscence, a certain dreamy nostalgia, without a trace of sugary sentimentality. This is so good.

    • Thank you. I thought I was being pretty sentimental actually but that scent just overwhelmed me today and I had to get it out.

    • Renee Stout

      I agree Robin. He is the most amazing writer. This brought me to tears because it’s exactly the feeling I had when I first smelled Frances Denney’s Hope Perfume again. At 13, it was the first perfume my mother had given me and it evokes memories of my childhood home that bring on bittersweet moments of reverie every time I smell it.

      • Amazing how instantaneous and how intense those memories and emotions are triggered by scent, Renee. How lovely you have that with the perfume your mother gave you.

      • It’s such an intense feeling, isn’t it? And I find it doesn’t necessarily happen every time either. You could sniff the bottle and get a kind of ‘trained’ reaction to a scent because you know you are expecting to feel that way, but at another time it can catch you off guard and you are just plunged through a time portal. I find that miraculous.

      • Can I ask Renee, what kind of perfume is that? I am intrigued. Hope is such an unusual name for a scent.

  4. Veritas

    LOVE this…the review and the fragrance …..

    • It was perfection, wasn’t it? Just to rejog my memory, how bad is the reformulation? I haven’t smelled it recently but last time I did I was shocked. It had none of the beautiful creaminess and had lost that classic soothing quality.

      • Veritas

        Bad…just like all reformulations….I can’t even go near Cristalle or Calyx because they are skeletons of their original formulations….

      • I think skeletons is the perfect word actually. Bois De Jasmin said the newer formulation is even more refreshing, more lemon etc which certainly catches my fancy but I remember when I smelled it one time that there was none of the ‘inner beauty’ left, if you know what I mean. It had just become chemical and bright without any of the heart. Such a shame. I love Cristalle and Calyx as well. Or DID. Calyx was strangely dirty despite its glowing, papaya jungle greenness: it was fresh and funky at the same time I always thought and I loved to smell it on other people. Such a happy smell.

      • Vertias

        Yes! Exactly! It is the “funk” and the “murkiness” that I miss from the three we are talking about….maybe the lack of oakmoss or other restricted ingredients? Wondering if the scent could be altered by adding Eden’s oakmoss absolute ? You know you inspired me to do this with other fragrances! You always vamp up the top notes (with citrus oils) whereas I tend to add base notes (like oakmoss, patchouli, agarwood, etc) to mainstream/fruity concoctions (I do this with the Escada limited editions as I am still collecting those bottles after 22 years!

      • Actually today I am wearing reformulated Caron Eaux Fraiche ( WHY did they change it, it was the perfect citrus?), with added lemon, bergamot, AND vetiver. And it really works!

      • Veritas

        ack! my comment disappeared! Yes, you hit the nail on the head..the “murkiness” and “funk” is what is missing from all three…they have been “cleaned up”….I guess I could always add a dollup of Eden’s oakmoss absolute…you inspired me to add essential oils to more mainstream/re-formulated perfumes…whereas you add topnotes (citrus oils) I tend to add base notes (oakmoss, patchouli, agarwood)…I do this with the Escada limited editions which I still collect for the bottles (after 22 years)

        and if this comment is a duplicate just delete one of them!

  5. Lilybelle

    What a lovely post. 🙂 ❤

  6. I completely forgot about Frances Denney fragrances. Thank you Renee for jogging my brain and my scent memory.

  7. A K

    This was the first perfume I bought for myself on a school trip to France. I remember other girls buying jumpers in Benetton. Your post made me feel profound nostalgia. I often try to re-capture it but have not yet succeeded. Recently I tried Monotheme, Il Libro degli Agrume Bergamotto.

    Thank you, N. Shall email soon. Ax

  8. Such a glorious post Neil. It always amazes me how a fragrance can take us right back to certain points in time. I have a few that are able to do the same for me also. Loved reading this.

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