Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Guerlain Mitsouko is the scent of golden autumn days, ripe peaches and burnished wood. Created by Jacques Guerlain in 1919, Mitsouko was a variation on the avant-garde fragrance of the period–Coty Chypre. Chypre was based on the startling contrast among the bergamot top notes, the jasmine heart and the richness of oakmoss. Though undoubtedly beautiful, Chypre was brutal in its impact. Guerlain took the idea behind its famous forerunner and made it elegant and refined. A soft accent of peach skin gives Mitsouko a tender quality and a teasing gourmand impression. A classical Guerlinade accord of tonka bean, vanilla, iris and rose further refines and rounds out the composition. Mitsouko is a kiss to Coty Chypre’s slap in the face, and for this reason, its popularity endures to this day.
Nevertheless, Mitsouko can be a difficult perfume for someone unaccustomed to the inky bitterness of oakmoss. An integral component of a chypre style of fragrances, moss lends a beautiful bittersweet sensation. Like other grand parfums of its era, Mitsouko is also a temperamental creature. Unlike linear, modern compositions, she does not reveal her beauty all at once and forces you to savor her slowly. Mitsouko inspired classics like Rochas Femme, Guerlain Chant d’Aromes, Yves Saint Laurent Y, Yves Saint Laurent Champagne/Yvresse. Today, its influence is felt in Gucci Rush, Jean Patou Enjoy, and to an extent, in Guerlain Idylle.
On Reformulation (added 12/17/10):
Ah, the beautiful Mitsouko, over the reformulation of which so much ink was spilled. Initially, it is quite lovely with its peachy, spicy-anisic top. The main differences become obvious in the drydown, where the absence of dark oakmoss renders the base thin. 24 hours later on a blotter, Mitsouko is just a crisp, sheer Veramoss (oakmoss synthetic) and musk. On skin, the cinnamon and vanilla come through readily, which gives Mitsouko a surprisingly cheery, even jejune demeanor. While these notes are present in the original, they are more blended, so they do not stand out quite as much. If I would have worn Mitsouko extensively, I would have been disappointed. Given the new restrictions on raw materials originally used in Mitsouko, I can only say that the reformulation is a valiant attempt to capture the spirit of the original. As such, it is done as well as can be expected under the circumstances. I prefer the parfum to the sharper eau de toilette.
On Reformulation Continued (11/23/13):
Proving that reformulation is not an irreversible phenomenon that only leads to disasters, Guerlain’s new version of Mitsouko is a big improvement on its other reformulations. The creamy peaches, spicy cinnamon, and cool moss are all there, and the perfume once again feels harmonious. The dark classical oakmoss that smells like ink stained woods and walnut shells is not present (thanks to the new stringent regulations), but the dusky impression is mimicked by different woods, patchouli and new mossy aroma-materials.
It’s an obvious improvement on the version that was available previously, and when I compare them side by side, I see that the new Mitsouko is rounded, warmer and more plush. The Eau de Toilette has a bright citrusy accent, the Eau de Parfum is all about golden peaches, and the extrait de parfum emphasizes the dark jasmine. All three are baroque and rich.
I’ve checked the batch number on my bottle, and it is 3W01. I was told at the boutique that 3 stands by 2013, so if you’re interested in finding the new reformulation, please use this as the guide.