Category Archives: Lemon

Ô DE LANCOME ( 1969 )

 

 

 

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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.

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Filed under Citrus, Flowers, Lemon

YOU LOOK RIGHT THROUGH ME : : : EAU DE ROCHAS (I970)

 

 

 

 

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Strangely, I read the other day that Eau De Rochas is currently the venerable company’s best selling scent in France (I have never seen it sold anywhere else.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

There is a vintage bottle in my collection, but for some reason I never want to wear it.

 

 

 

 

 

This sharp, lemony perfume is an anomaly. A depressed, serotonin-dipping citrus – the image evoked, for me, of a valiumed up California housewife, staring out, trapped in suburban hell.

 

 

The sun blazes outside her white 70’s condo. But all she sees is clouds, in her pressed, grey slacks. The shadows under plants:  a schizoid effect achieved with two very opposing accords that constantly dim and sync with each other: a bright top note of Calabrian lime, tangerine, bergamot and Sicilian lemon, giving a quick flowing glimpse of freshness and easy optimism. Her inner world, though, where the lights seem to have gone out, stems from a much darker undertone of patchouli, narcissus, Croatian oakmoss, and sandalwood.

 

 

 

 

 

She blinks for a second, straightens the ironing board: wills herself to get ready.

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Citrus, Depressed, Lemon

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Ms Cabochard’s younger sister……………QUIPROQUO by Grès (1975)

Cabochard, Bernard Chant’s classic patchouli chypre from 1959, looms large and elegantly in the Parisian canon as an archetype,  and it is not surprising therefore that the house of Madame Grès should have wanted to capitalize on its success with a perfume that was the same, essentially, but different: a Cabochard re-made for a new generation.

 

 

Quiproquo, one of the rarest of my vintage finds in Tokyo antique shops, is a reworking of the powdery patchouli of its exquisitely tailored predecessor, in the sportier, eau fraîche style of Ô de Lancome (an in-house restitching in those more seventies, tennis-white contours), and a quick internet search has  confirmed my instincts: both were created by the same perfumer, Robert Gonnon (who was obviously something of a genius – he also made Métal, Anaïs Anaïs, and Empreinte among others; all delicate, yet shadowed, creatures that I adore…)

 

 

Less floral and vetivered than Ô, whose pre-reformulation was one of the greatest, cold-creamy citruses ever made, Quiproquo has the imprint of her older sister but with smoother brow, a more relaxed, upbeat scent overlaid with the brightest, most perfect lemon-leaf head-notes: like pinching the leaves from the trees, ripping them apart and letting their essence ravish your hands as you raise them up to smell on a cool, summer’s day. This gorgeous opening then subdues to a more refined, citrus-powdery chypre note as QPQ, having made her point on this dramatic family reunion, settles down for a game of scrabble with flinty Cabochard, French windows open, siblings easing into familiarity (their strikingly similar younger brother, Monsieur Grès (1982) has also made it up to the house for the weekend), mineral water sparkling in glasses, breeze from the gardens and tennis lawns, this Saturday late in May, drifting in gently.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Citrus, Lemon, Patchouli, Perfume Reviews

A bristling citrus: PHILTRE D’AMOUR by GUERLAIN (2000)

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With so many perfume houses releasing limited editions that are released, fanfared and then disappeared without trace, it becomes easy to equate their brevity on the market with similar levels of imagination. Neverthless, occasionally, the spontaneity and lack of expectation placed on limited editions can produce bursts of creativity that lead to more singular, less market-tested and common-denominator fragrances; scents that pop up unexpectedly like crocus-bulbs in spring and enchant you with  their fresh-breathed joie de vivre.

For a while at the beginning of the 2000’s, Guerlain would release limited perfumes that were not flankers to their main-line-up perfumes, but separate work, released in a prolific spirit of productivity that yielded such well-regarded treasures as Guet Apens and Gentiana.

In a spirit of mercy to these more inspired saplings that were culled before their prime, some of them were given a reprieve, a chance to star again, however briefly, on the billboard of ‘Les Parisiennes’, a kind of Guerlain Golden Hall of Fame for discontinued classics and limited releases that stubbornly refused to die a death, and Philtre D’Amour, a wonderful, moody citrus, is one of them.

I found my bottle at the flea market and bought it unsniffed, expecting, as the name would suggest, something sultry and floral. Spraying the scent was thus a total shock. Philtre D’Amour is a sour, concentrated, and very natural accord of verbena, myrtle and lemon-leaves layered delicately over a sharp, fantastically dark patchouli: a mysterious and lovely, almost powdery citrus chypre that leaves an intriguing and surprisingly nuanced trail in its wake.

She is a delicate thing, this Philtre; treat her carefully, don’t rub her up the wrong way or step on her emotions, and she will yield; show you through the ivy-covered doors of her secret garden to the other side: her neroli’d, fresh air garden petals of jasmine diced with petitgrain: gentle walks around the topiaries, the April skies opening up and bestowing newness, vitality and Spring as the lemons shine youthfully and you sigh gratefully that someone out there still knows how to make a modern, yet classically structured, perfume.

Vistas and groves open up when I smell Philtre D’Amour: it is slight, it is curious, but it is something I would wear all the time if I had more of it:  the delicate, little 30ml cylinder you see in the picture is kept for special, precious use.

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Filed under Chypre, Citrus, Lemon, Patchouli, Verbena

THE LEMONS OF DREAR: EAU UNIVERSELLE by L’OCCITANE (2012)

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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.

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Filed under Citrus, Lemon, Perfume Reviews