Last night, well truly for the past few nights, I have been thinking of Alchimie de Rochas. I have been dreaming of its deliciously warm and inviting embrace. Then I was wondering how such a glorious scent has come to disappear from the shelves and it seems the collective memories of most perfume lovers.
Let me start off by saying, I am not the type of person who usually adores sweet gourmand scents. I usually need some spice ( actually a lot of spice) and some dirtiness to the fragrance…alright…a LOT of dirtiness in the fragrance. Alchimie may have some spice in it, but dirty it is most definitely not. No, not even close. Another facet of fragrance I am not too fond of is the fruity accord, at least the modern ones. The classic fruity accords are delightful; Mitsouko, Femme, Quadrille, Fete, the modern ones- not for me. But alas, there are fruits incorporated into Alchimie but somehow the are classically integrated and not the fruitbowl effect we have come to think of.
Now with two strikes against it in what it contains, somehow this scent is magical and completely captures my every last fiber of being whenever I wear it; I definitely do not wear it enough. The parfumeur Jacques Cavallier, he of M7 fame, has managed to work two classes of ingredients, the sweet gourmand and the fruits, into this fragrance so as to make the final outcome neither fruity nor sweet gourmand. The scent is more of a sweet/rich, ambery , woodsy, vanilla masterpiece, one that also has lightness and brightness to it.
Now the official notes are; Top: Black currant, Bergamot, Peach, Plum, Cassia, Lilac and Pear. Middle: Mimosa, Rose, Jasmine, Heliotrope, Lily of the Valley, Wisteria and Coconut. Base: Vanille, Sandalwood, Tonka Bean, Caramel and Musk. (Courtesy of Fragrantica)
The most amazing thing about this scent is, while wearing it ( I have an excellent nose) I am not aware of the floral notes, nor the fruity notes. The only thing discernible about them is that they add lightness, sparkle and an ephemeral quality to the scent. This fragrance borders on being a floriental, yet never really becomes one. Coco de Chanel being a classic floriental might be a distant cousin to this scent, but Alchimie is not sharing the spicy heart that is Coco. Alchimie does not need to be spicy to be sexy. In all her vanilla, carmalized, sandalwood self, she just is sexy, effortlessly sexy.
Now, having talked about what it contains and what is is Not like, let us think about what is the magic of Alchimie. The magic is simple. This is a gloriously wearable scent. One that transcends the fragrance families and makes one of its own. This is the scent of warm autumn nights, romantic walks on long country lanes, a delicious vanilla bean creme brûlée that is not too sweet, a delicious salted caramel from Brittany. Yet for all the food connotations, this is not a scent one could interchange with dessert, this is a well rounded, fully wearable scent of a woman. No, sugary, syrupy concoction here.
My impressions of this scent are immediately of vanille, caramel and woods. From its first application on my skin the warmth and comfort of vanille are apparent, quickly followed by a salted caramel note. The coconut seems to add a dimension of the exotic to it, but it never veers into Comtoir Sud Pacifique territory. The sandalwood and tonka bean start to play into the composition and bring this beauty down to earth and give it a nice sultry feeling, albeit one that is never heavy. The musc note, truly not overdone here, helps to soften and smooth the whole, giving it a polished quality. While I may not be fully attuned to the fruit and floral notes I know they are there. How do I know this? Because with all of the warmth, sweet and woody qualities, this scent has a distinct lightness of being to it, it never feels weighed down, nor sickly sweet. This is the work of a master.
Now the sad part of this, Alchimie was discontinued years ago. Why was this not a bigger hit than it was? Why was this not to be a scent for the ages? Why are there so many lesser creations still so readily available? While I may not be sure exactly why, I think the qualities that make this such a perfect scent in my opinion are the ones that worked against it. Alchimie could never really be put into a family of scents easily, as I said she danced on the border of a few. The scent was almost as seamless as a pastel, yet it had body to it and great structure. While it had all the makings of an oriental or floriental scent it really never could have been one, it did not have enough heaviness nor spice to it.
The good news is that one can still find this scent online, not too reasonably but it is still out there. It seems that while this was not a mass market success, those who loved it still do and will pay dearly for another chance to stroll that autumn country lane with her.