Alchimie de Rochas; a mystical scent seemingly vanished.

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.

It has been quite a while now.

I just realized, this evening,  that it has been almost a year since I last posted anything.  Now,  do not think it is because I have run out of things/fragrances/topics to speak/write about.  No, that is never the case.  I just felt that there are so many blogs in the world, do I really need to share my thoughts also.  Well, yes, yes I do need to share my thoughts; thoughts especially pertaining to fragrance.

Even though there are myriad blogs devoted to beauty and many others devoted to fragrance, they are just sometimes a bit similar in content.  This is sometimes a good thing, but when dealing with vintage perfumes/fragrances there needs to be a different voice.  Do I consider my voice on the subject different, why yes I do.  One simple thing differentiates my musings on fragrance from those of others; fragrance is truly an intrinsic part of my life.  Many, many people love fragrances, the industry would not be a multi-billion dollar/euros force it is if people did not.  The thing is though, I did not learn about scent, nor did I discover it along the path of life.  I was pretty much “baptized” in scent from the time I was a baby.

Now I was never actually baptized in any literal sense of the word, but I was baptized with scent as a baby.  The scent in particular was Estée Lauder Youth Dew, it was also the bath oil; my mother alway had a bottle of Youth Dew bath oil on her vanity, along with many other fabulous “classic” scents.  When my mother would bathe me as a baby, I was told, she always noticed how warm and musky my skin-scent was.  One day she thought it would be luscious smelling, on my baby soft skin, if she added some Youth Dew to the bath water.  Lo and behold a parfumista was born.  Even though I was around an half year old, it was my fragrance birthing/awakening.  As mama has told me many times since, “I never knew that small splash of Youth Dew bath oil would create such a love/addiction of perfumes.”  But, addiction to fragrances it did start.

Now when I say addiction, I actually use the term closer in meaning to passion, yet passion is too tame a term for what I feel for fragrances.  In regards to fragrances, it was always the grand classics that made my heart sing.  The glorious ones my mama adored from the 40’s and 50’s were my first loves, along with many older ones she also adored.  We had Arpege de Lanvin, Je Reviens de Worth, Femme de Rochas, Chantilly de Houbigant (vintage of course) and so many others including one of her newer loves Mystere de Rochas; of course Mystere de Rochas is now a classic in its own right.

So this is the reason I have decided to resume writing about scent.  For me it is not just something I enjoy, for me fragrance/parfum is a defining part of who I am.  From those very first drops of Youth Dew, all the way up to the point of owning a 500+ bottle fragrance collection! to the present day.  I now maintain a well curated collection of scents numbering in the mid 200s; having realized I did not “love” all of the scents I owned, I parted with many so that others could find and enjoy a special fragrance the had loved.  Now I will focus on sharing my “musing” on my favorite scents, ones which I adore that others may not know about, or maybe are not as familiar with.  Then there are some which are written about, but I feel the scent in a much different way.

i do hope you will join me in this adventure and please feel free to share your fragrant thoughts and memories with me also.

Happy 4th of July

Today, being such an important day in US history, I thought I would be inspired.

I think we should look at fragrance outside the box, so to speak, so I am going to partake of a fragrant lovely from the men’s wardrobe-Signoricci.  Signoricci by Nina Ricci is not just a fabulous men’s fragrance, it is a fabulous scent in any situation.  It could be worn by a woman just as easily as by a man.  It opens with a fresh burst (like fireworks) of citrusy goodness; that would be courtesy of the requisite Bergamot and Lemon.  It then works its way into the deliciousness of a green-floral bouquet.  This smells neither like a classic feminine floral, nor a green masculine (with those harsh woody notes sometimes present).  This is a perfectly balanced bouquet, where the leaves and the flowers themselves are melded into a perfect harmony, although the carnation seems to be a bit more showy to my nose than some of the other floral notes; but then again this is marketed as a gentlemen’s fragrance, so the carnation adds a bit more solidity to it.     The fragrance then works its way into a lovely mossy, slightly woodsy dry-down.  I know the cedar-wood in this should give it a more prominent woodsy finish, but on me it tends to stay more close to the mossy, earthiness which one would expect from the vetiver which is also present.  Civet, tonka and labdunum are also present in this scent; but, I find those to just enhance the richness of the composition as a whole, rather than any one taking center-stage.

So, in celebrating Independence Day, I am making a break from the classic female fragrances and embracing those of the opposite gender, how revolutionary …n’est ce pas.