Lancome Poeme : Perfume Review and In Search of Dark Orange Blossoms

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Poeme Bal

Poême : Missing the Poetry

When I first smelled Lancôme Poême six years ago during the time of its launch, it struck me as unbearably shrill and synthetic. It is a testament to the cheapening of fragrance formulas over time that when I smell it today, it actually seems to contain more naturals than most of the current big prestige launches. Of course, the quality of the materials is only one aspect of a well-made perfume; the balance between different parts of the fragrance is what determines how it behave and whether it ultimately pleases its wearer. Poême is an example of an interesting oriental orange blossom idea that is executed in a heavy-handed manner. It is like a nicely cut dress made out of a cheap fabric—appealing idea, but ultimately very unpleasant to wear.

Poême was created in 1995 by Jacques Cavallier. While the marketing materials talked at length about some mysterious blue Himalayan poppy, Poême is essentially a tuberose and orange blossom accord sketched in a classical oriental style, with warm musk and balsamic vanilla notes outlining the base. Today the fragrance smells surprisingly dated, with the heavy amber recalling the style of fragrance that produced Elizabeth Arden Red Door and Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds. The peppery green accord reminiscent of Estée Lauder Estée and Spellbound adds a harsh bitterness to the shrill floral accord. The effect is unctuous and thin at once, an achievement in itself.

Oriental Orange Blossom : Exploring the Modern and the Vintage

So, why do I bother reviewing Poême, a commercial and creative failure? The fact is that talking about Poême gives me a chance to highlight a few of my favorite fragrances. First of all, Hermès 24 Faubourg is a super orange blossom and jasmine composition that recalls the shape of Poême. It fleshes out the oriental orange blossom idea that Poême merely suggests before the pungent, oily tuberose overtakes everything. The perfumer Maurice Roucel is known in the industry for his ability to create dramatic and seductive effects, and his talent is obvious in 24 Faubourg, a seemingly posh and proper fragrance that nevertheless has a smoldering undercurrent.

Somewhat older is Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles, which cradles its iris and orange blossom heart in a dark embrace of incense, patchouli and vetiver. The orange blossom lends a luminous note to this elegant, full-bodied oriental. If you care to step even further back in time and apply your detective skills to the task, Jean Patou Chaldée, now discontinued, can provide a fascinating example of a dark, yet radiant orange blossom amber. Originally created in 1927 as a tanning oil, Chaldée manages to be lighthearted, seductive and sophisticated, an absolutely irresistible combination.

On the other hand, if you love orange blossom interpreted in the plush, dusky timber of an oriental, then Guerlain L’Heure Bleue is the fragrance to explore. Dark, velvety, with a delicious licorice meringue top note, this composition retains its beauty and elegance even today, almost a century after its birth. Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar launched this spring offers a similar idea, but in a breezy and cheerful interpretation aided by a generous dose of mandarin and green notes. It still retains the moody allure of an oriental orange blossom, yet it is always ready to break into a smile. Lovely!

P.S. So what about the star rating for Lancôme Poême? I gave it 2 stars. The other fragrances mentioned are 4 star rated, while L’Heure Bleue gets a full 5 stars for all of its magic.

Sample : my own acquisition

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40 Comments

  • Linda: Thank you so much for this interesting post! I am entirely of your opinions, and I love the phrase “a nicely cut dress made of cheap fabric”, which seems to sum up the fragrance. I too enjoy the Hermes – having bought this on impulse because I loved the elegant presentation and the rich, slightly retro perfume.
    I’ve been searching for Chaldee for ages: but have had no luck on U.K. sites: which is frustrating, because I would love to add it to my collection of “Ma Collection”. And, of course, L’Heure Bleue remains a favourite: discovered when I knew nothing about fragrance and just happened to sniff this in a department store. Of course then I was totally hooked! It really is a work of genius.
    Best wishes,
    Linda May 6, 2011 at 8:32am Reply

  • Victoria: I think that Chaldee is worth searching out, but 24 Faubourg and L'Heure Bleue really satisfy my dark orange blossom cravings any day. That being said, I do not wear 24 Faubourg often as I do not feel that it is quite my type of scent. I am much more of a Guerlain girl at heart, I suppose.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 6, 2011 at 9:57am Reply

  • Suzanna: Someone sent me a giant bag of modern samples. In the midst of this was a decent-sized sample of Chaldee. At first, Chaldee seemed intense and demanding, but this was only in relation to what else was in that bag. It was demanding only in the “they don’t build ’em like they used to” way, and taken on its own was a luminous orchestration of the way perfume used to smell, created with materials no longer used or available.

    I cannot wear 24, Faubourg. It is a coiled chignon of a fragrance, very chic, very French, and too “tight” on my skin. L’Heure Bleue, though, is one of my favorites and I think I will wear it today. May 6, 2011 at 10:33am Reply

  • violetnoir: Hooray! Five stars for L’Heure Bleue!

    I need to test the new Oscar de la Renta the next time I visit the mall. I wore the original on our wedding day, some upmteen years ago!

    Hugs! May 6, 2011 at 11:51am Reply

  • Maria: Is it Esprit d’Oscar a good one, you say? I’m very curious, I would be most excited about a good new release. May 6, 2011 at 11:53am Reply

  • behemot: When I tried Poeme sixteen years ago, I disliked it immediatelu. There was something about it that put me off. I had a miniature bottle which was a part of Lancome “gift with purchase”. I tried it again in a few days and ended up with massive headache. Since then I never stayed close to Poeme.
    Therefore my rating for Poeme will be a really , really LOW. Maybe one star.. May 6, 2011 at 12:35pm Reply

  • Mare: I just love your posts! It helps that always agree with you 100%, yet I always learn something new. May 6, 2011 at 1:09pm Reply

  • dee: Poême is one of those scents that I smelled ages ago, but had no memory of. Recently I tried it (while smelling all the current Lancome offerings), and was quite frankly appalled. It was AWFUL. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of tuberose, but this went beyond the pale. I think you may have been too generous with allotting it two stars! 🙂

    On the other hand, I was happy to see you give 24F four stars—even though it feels somewhat dated to me, it’s the kind of dated equivalent to a mink coat from a previous era; it’s still a mink coat!

    I still haven’t tried Bal a Versailles (need to do that!), but I do have the new Jean Desprez fragrance on the way, and am looking forward to trying it—a blind buy, oh my! May 6, 2011 at 2:57pm Reply

  • Austenfan: I remember smelling Poême when it first came out. As I was a great Trésor fan I had high hopes for this one. I hated it then, and have never tried it again. I was kind of glad that it got such a bad review in Perfumes; the Guide.
    It’s again a pleasure to read your review. I will have to sniff 24 Faubourg one of these days. And Bal à Versailles. May 6, 2011 at 3:26pm Reply

  • Victoria: Perfect characterization of 24 Faubourg! Some days I do not mind it; others, it feels like I'm wearing my grandmother's perfume. Not in a sense that it seems old-fashioned, but because she embodies that kind idea of glamor for me.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 6, 2011 at 5:28pm Reply

  • Victoria: I would love to hear your thoughts on Esprit d'Oscar. I've never worn the original, although I know it well. Perhaps, you will find the new one too tame.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 6, 2011 at 5:30pm Reply

  • Victoria: It is along the lines of L'Heure Bleue, but citrusy, fresh and more floral than oriental.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 6, 2011 at 5:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: Yes, it smells so cheap, it is really not worth Lancome name. Most of their fragrances are much better than this.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 6, 2011 at 5:32pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thank you so much for your kind words! 🙂
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 6, 2011 at 5:35pm Reply

  • Victoria: I like the shape of Poeme (from a purely technical standpoint,) so that's why it gets two stars from me. I would never wear it though.

    Mink coat! D, that's a perfect description too!
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 6, 2011 at 5:37pm Reply

  • Victoria: 24 Faubourg EdP has a beautiful orange blossom (other concentrations go heavier on jasmine,) and there are days when it works perfectly. I need to be in a certain mood to wear it.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile May 6, 2011 at 5:38pm Reply

  • MJ: Interesting post by Suzanna above describing 24 Faubourg as a “tight chignon” of a fragrance and “chic.” When it first came out I did find it somewhat unapproachable. Wierdly I now enjoy wearing it in the fall with jeans and a leather coat. I get a “dirty patchouli” kind of hippie vibe when I where it. It becomes a very sexy on skin. Very enjoyable in the fall. (Never did like Poeme. Thanks to your review I now know why. May 6, 2011 at 7:35pm Reply

  • behemot: And here you can see the description of Poeme I found on one of the retailers website:

    “Spirited. Adventurous. Intuitive. A scent of contrasts: the icy transparent blue Himalayan poppy embraces the intoxicating, desert Datura flower… for the first time in a fragrance. Experience this radiant composition of ‘Poême’… vibrant, sensuous, long-lasting.”
    EDP 3.3 oz for $89.

    It sounds like a different fragrance.. Himalayan poppy???
    And one can purchase Goutals for that price online! May 6, 2011 at 8:07pm Reply

  • Victoria: Thanks for a laugh! I don’t even know what is funnier the blue Himalayan poppy or the datura used in fragrance for the first time. On the other hand, they did not lie, the fragrance is impossible to scrub off! It lasts for days, and it can withstand a dry cleaning on fabric. May 6, 2011 at 9:16pm Reply

  • Victoria: I find that the EDP and the parfum are definitely sexier and less well-behaved, they have a richer, more seductive facet. The EDT is too “chignon and trench coat” for me. May 6, 2011 at 9:19pm Reply

  • hongkongmom: NARCISSE NOIR vintage parfum….it absolutely fills my needs….a huge big perfect love for it…couldnt live without l’heure blue .
    now i need to purchase the annick goutal
    a few days before u wrote the article, I had tried it on and was amazed at the gorgeous wafts that dept creeping up from my wrist during the day…it was so clear, warm and pure…I had gardenia passion on the other and it paled away in comparrison….ur SPOT on review convinced me to put it on the TO BUY list.
    Never tried poem and I need to revisit 24 Fauberg.
    Thanks for another beautiful and evocative review! May 8, 2011 at 11:00pm Reply

  • Victoria: I am so happy that you found it enchanting. I do too! Every single time I smell it, I feel a rush of pleasure. Such an amazing fragrance! May 9, 2011 at 11:30am Reply

  • Aniela: I like wearing Poeme from time to time. It remainds me of a bright, sunny, winter holiday day. It is cold and happy at the same time. I feel lighthearted, without obligations (even obligations to smell pleasently to others ;-), when wearing this scent. May 20, 2011 at 5:53pm Reply

  • Christine: The terrible review and harsh comments about Poeme made me feel horrible, since it’s been my scent for years. I wore it with confidence and received (I believe) sincere compliments… sigh… how embarrassing and sad. I’ll keep reading and try to identify a better perfume. Well, knowledge isn’t always good news. January 28, 2013 at 12:09am Reply

  • Lisa Daisy: Gee, I am surprised with the low rating you’ve given Poeme! It is one of the few florals that doesn’t dissappear on me. It’s so luscious!!!I absolutely love it’s honey- sweet presentation of my favorite blooms so much that I consider it one of my signatures!!And there you go, I could never understand the high marks for L’Huere Bleue as it doesn’t wear well on me- stays cold on my flesh. November 7, 2013 at 3:45am Reply

    • Victoria: Lisa, perfume is so personal, and what works for me may not work for you and vice versa. That’s ok! This is exactly what makes exchanging thoughts on perfume and exploring fragrances fun. If Poeme works well for you (and as you can see from the comments, you aren’t the only one who loves it!), then it’s all that matters. Thank you for mentioning your different experience with Poeme here, because another perspective is always helpful. November 7, 2013 at 3:53am Reply

  • Rose: I recently came across the description of notes for Caron Narcisse Noir, which to my mind seemed to share a lot of common with those of Poeme and 24 Faubourg? I haven’t yet tried Narcisse, therefore, I would like to know if there is any similarity with Poeme? Or maybe Poeme was somehow inspired by it? January 15, 2014 at 10:03am Reply

    • Victoria: I don’t think that they’re at all similar, except that both are based on an orange blossom note. Narcisse Noir is darker, warmer, more animalic, and Poeme is sweet and bright. January 15, 2014 at 11:03am Reply

      • Rose: Dear Victoria,

        Thank you for the reply. In fact, I was asking as one of my relatives used wear it a long time ago, and it was a perfume with quite a prominent orange blossom note. However, the perfume my aunt wore (she passed away some time ago) was launched before the 90s when Poeme and 24 Faubourg appeared. For all these years I still have been wandering what was that perfume…After reading you post I thought for a while that maybe L’heure Bleue (although I have tried it only in EdT version which seemed rather powdery and ‘heliotropic’)… January 15, 2014 at 12:29pm Reply

        • Victoria: I was thinking about it over dinner, because I would have loved to help you find it. Could it have been Coty L’Origan? It’s another floral oriental with an orange blossom note. If not Caron Narcisse Noir, it could also have been Narcisse Blanc. January 15, 2014 at 2:51pm Reply

      • Rose: I meant that the perfume my aunt wore was very similar to Poeme and 24 Faubourg… January 15, 2014 at 12:34pm Reply

  • emy: Hi there, I just happened to see your review by chance. I appreciate the accuracy of your review but I disagree on evaluating Poeme as a failure. It has been “my perfume” since 1995 and it suits me wonderfully. I receive complimets on a regular basis, and I have had (random) people asking me about its name when walking on the streets or travelling on trains, subways…so in the end I guess it just works for some people and not for others. 🙂 March 6, 2014 at 12:58pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Emy! It’s very good to hear another opinion and your explanation. In the end, it’s what works for you, and I’m sure that it smells great on you. March 6, 2014 at 3:18pm Reply

  • Pandora: Poeme is the only perfume I’ve worn and had people stop me on the street to ask what I’m wearing. April 9, 2014 at 9:35am Reply

    • Cornelia Blimber: I have a very soft spot for Poême. I think it is comforting, especially the vanilla in the drydown. But also the radiant opening. I used to smell mimosa in it, now I learned that it is orange blossom.
      I am glad to know that there are more Poême lovers here on BdJ! August 10, 2014 at 5:42pm Reply

  • Janna: My signature scent has been Poeme for years and it has gained me many compliments. Like Emy & Pandora, I have been stopped in the street to be asked what it is & I was chuffed when a stylish young woman asked me to write down the name so she could ask for some for her Christmas pressie (I’m in my 50s). Esprit d’Oscar, however, is truly horrid on me! I agree perfume is very individual & reacts differently on different people. December 14, 2014 at 5:48pm Reply

  • eva: Dears, I absolutely disagree with this article! I have been wearing Poeme since I was 20yrs old, I am 35 now. I had people stopping me on streets, taxi drivers, friends, shop assistants, interviewers saying what is this perfume? It smells divine. It is a strong scent but it fits my personality and I hope they will never stop making it. And I am cosmetics fan and tried lots of other perfumes from grand brands such as Chanel and Dior. September 4, 2015 at 4:34pm Reply

    • Bonnie S: Amen, I too adore Poeme, started wearing it in my twenties then spent a decade exploring the vast world of perfumes. I have finally returned to Poeme for good, because no other perfume makes me as happy and confident. October 31, 2015 at 6:05pm Reply

  • Elena: After reading the review I feel the need to speak up for my favorite perfume. It’s almost devastating to love perfumes, collect, analyze, search, read about them and know that the “one” that really worked for you is considered a failure. Well.. Poeme for me is devine. Is crisp and sunny. Optimistic, romantic and lasting. I receive compliments almost every time I wear it. By men and women, all ages. How can that be a failure? December 11, 2015 at 7:40am Reply

  • Meow: To each his own because L’Heure Bleue smells like cat pee to me while I love Poeme April 25, 2016 at 8:42pm Reply

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