Rochas Alchimie : Perfume Review

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The curious part about sampling a lot of fragrances is that contrary to my expectations, my tastes have gotten more eclectic, rather than more constrained. When I started writing articles here at Bois de Jasmin, I had very strong opinions on what I liked—jasmine (hence, the name of my blog!), iris, sandalwood and what I avoided—vanilla, fruit, anise. Well, seven years later, I realize that I like vanilla sweetened perfumes as much as I enjoy heady jasmine and cold iris perfumes. When I first tried Rochas Alchimie a few years ago, I didn’t even give it much chance. It contained every single thing I thought I disliked—rich vanilla, sweet caramel, juicy red berries and a sprinkling of sugared anise seeds. I thought it would be best as a dessert, not as a perfume.

When my reader Henrique asked me to review Rochas Alchimie, it turned out that I would be in for a nice treat. Henrique described Alchimie as his magic potion, a beautiful elixir combining “succulent fruit, caramel, flowers, vanilla and anise and woods. They create an aura which is warm, sophisticated, but also personal. It is a confident perfume, a kind of scent that is used, first, to satisfy our own desires, and second, to please those closest to us.”  All of it sounded good enough to give Alchimie another chance.

Alchimie was created in 1998 by the perfumer Jacques Cavallier. Cavallier has a knack for creating some of the best polarizing perfumes such as Alexander McQueen KingdomYves Saint Laurent M7, Issey Miyake Feu d’Issey. (Notice that all of these have been discontinued.) Alchimie is still around, but it’s so fiendishly difficult to find in stores that for all intents and purposes it might as well be gone.

As I spray Alchimie on my skin, it explodes into the bubbly notes of peach, orange and black currant. This compote is laced liberally with coconut milk, so it has an indulgent, decadent quality that instantly makes my mouth water.  Just when the sweetness threatens to become cloying, it’s cut through by the spice. It reminds me of Lolita Lempicka in its ability to combine gourmand sweetness with an elegant green accent. A sheer lily of the valley note is another great palate cleanser, and after this interlude, I’m ready again to be indulged by candied mimosa, passion fruit mousse and caramelized almonds.

The drydown of Alchimie is likewise sweet and gourmand, but it has such a beautiful warmth that I found it hard to resist. It wraps me like a soft shawl, cradling me in its amber and sandalwood embrace and teasing me with a mere hint of crème brûlée. Just as I think that I’ve figured it out as a vanilla rich gourmand, in the late drydown Alchimie displays its sensual side. The musk feels dense, the woods become bittersweet and smoky. It’s as intoxicating as it is delicious, and this is an irresistible combination.

I agree with Henrique that Alchimie is a perfect fragrance to wear on oneself, as a guilt-free perfume indulgence, but it’s also a noticeable, statement making perfume–whenever I wear it, I receive compliments. Rochas Alchimie can be found online at various discounters, and if you search, you can even buy it at a bargain price. However, if you have no luck, I recommend trying perfumes like Caron Montaigne and Chanel Allure Sensuelle. Montaigne is one of the most elegant gourmand ideas, where the edible notes of vanilla and caramel are rendered abstract and muted. Allure Sensuelle is earthier and lustier, with a rich dazzle of patchouli playing up its voluptuous amber sweetness.  The fact that I’m now searching for perfumes similar to Alchimie proves how much my tastes have changed. Who knows, maybe, in a few more years I will be giving Aquolina Pink Sugar four stars…

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45 Comments

  • Kristy: Try as I might, I can’t quite get with the anise. A little bit is good – but more than a little and I start to want to take a shower. Is anise very strong here? Your review makes Alchimie sound so good. June 15, 2012 at 9:30am Reply

    • Victoria: Anise is there, but it isn’t overly strong. I think that even if you don’t care for this note, you might still enjoy Alchimie. It’s a fun gourmand fragrance. June 15, 2012 at 10:10am Reply

  • Suzanna: I’ve been curious about this one for a long time, so thanks for the review (and for feeding the lemming). Now I must hunt down a sample.

    I wear another Rochas, Absolu, which isn’t as bent towards the gourmand as Alchimie seems.

    There does seem to be a pattern of discontinuation of the modern Rochas scents. Absolu, Alchimie, Aquawoman, Byzance, Poupee (this was LE, I think, though), Tocadilly. June 15, 2012 at 10:17am Reply

    • Victoria: Rochas has some great fragrances in its collection. Aquawoman isn’t something I would wear, but it’s so well done and its watery accord is a text book example of an elegant marine effect. And Absolu is such a bombshell! Byzance is another high glamour, high volume perfume. June 15, 2012 at 11:35am Reply

  • OperaFan: I’m sure the topic has come up recently about how our tastes have changed and expanded over time due to explorations in our perfumed journey.

    I, for one, have changed my attitude towards vanilla-rich fragrances thanks to Guerlain – Chamade led the way. Its drydown, so powdey and sweet, was something I learned to love because I initially bought it for that big, bright, green hyacinth-cassis-rose opening that reminded me of so many great classics. On the tail of Chamade came Jicky, L’Heure Bleue and Apres l’Ondee. I now embrace Shalimar and its predecessor, Emeraude (vint), which as a teenager I avoided like the plague, LoL!

    Not sure I’m ready for Alchemy, but I do enjoy a gourmande guilty pleasure fragrance from time to time. DSH Majoun leads the way, and I think Montaigne is a wonderful combination of a gourmande with a great classic opening. June 15, 2012 at 10:29am Reply

    • OperaFan: Changed my mind – Majoun is not a guilty pleasure. It’s just a great perfume.

      a:) June 15, 2012 at 10:30am Reply

      • Victoria: I’m with you! A perfume can’t be a guilty pleasure for me. 🙂 June 15, 2012 at 2:05pm Reply

    • Victoria: If you like Majoun, I think that you won’t find Alchimie overly sweet and foody.

      Yes, the tastes change so much as one smells and explores more and more. I have become more of an equal opportunity sampler. 🙂 June 15, 2012 at 11:38am Reply

  • Denise Hamilton: Lovely review for a neglected treasure and I couldn’t agree more. It’s also one of my faves, which surprises me because sweet isn’t usually my thing. But the complexity save it for me, and the green&fruit leavens and tarts it up with a vaguely chypre-like bite, which keeps it from veering into toothache territory. For similar reasons, I also love Rochas Apercu. June 15, 2012 at 11:41am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you, Denise! So glad that there are other fans out there. I agree with you that the complexity of Alchimie makes the sweetness tolerable, plus that fizzy leafy note. And Apercu is another delicious oriental that wants to be a gourmand. June 15, 2012 at 1:50pm Reply

      • OperaFan: I tried Apercu in the late ’90s (then of Houbigant) and never thought of it as tending towards gourmand but more of a floral chypre. If there is any affinity between them, then Alchemy is a must-try for me. Thanks to you both! June 15, 2012 at 2:10pm Reply

        • OperaFan: Hmmm… Fragrantica says Apercu was launched in 2000, though you could have fooled me. So maybe it was the early 2000’s when I tried it? Anyway – I think it’s gorgeous. 🙂
          Also think it’s similar in style to what was Penhaligon’s Victorian Posey? Sorry don’t mean to stray from the topic… June 15, 2012 at 2:18pm Reply

          • Victoria: You’re right though! It was first launched in the 1920s, 1925 I think, so 2000 is a reissue. The original was a true chypre, while the relaunch has more vanilla and woods (more oriental notes). And yes, I think that it’s definitely more like Victorian Posey than Alchimie. Apercu is much more voluptuous, like Victorian Posey showing more cleavage, as it were! June 15, 2012 at 2:27pm Reply

        • Victoria: Apercu has enough moss and patchouli to offset the sweetness, whereas Alchimie is more of a full-bodied, high-voltage oriental. Based on what you’ve described, you still might find it too sweet, but if you ever come across a tester, do give it a try. It’s a wonderful, warm blend. June 15, 2012 at 2:21pm Reply

    • Henrique Brito: Never heard of Rochas Apercu, will have to search for it now! June 15, 2012 at 4:53pm Reply

      • Victoria: Henrique, it’s by Houbigant, not Rochas! June 15, 2012 at 4:54pm Reply

        • Henrique Brito: That’s explain why i couldn’t find any Rochas Apercu… June 15, 2012 at 4:58pm Reply

          • Henrique Brito: Searching for bottles on ebay, to my happiness i discovered that it’s not so expensive. And there is even a parfum version! I’m a sucker for parfum concentrations, they seem exactly my perfect idea of a scent – complex, but more intimate.

            Btw, i forgot to mention when i suggested it on your long lost series that i’m a sweet tooth person (of course, with restrictions, pink-sugar sweet is not my alley). My dream is to find a perfect blend of vanilla, tonka, and sandalwood someday (and if possible, oud too!) June 15, 2012 at 5:03pm Reply

          • Victoria: Come to think of it, Denise probably meant Rochas Absolu, because that’s another fragrance close to Alchimie in spirit (much closer than Houbigant Apercu, even though Apercu is another bombshell). If you haven’t tried Absolu, I highly recommend it. June 15, 2012 at 5:06pm Reply

            • Henrique Brito: Rochas Absolu was my first rochas fragrance 🙂 I had a bottle of it, i remember it as an interesting fig aroma, not so sweet but certainly on the oriental side.

              Rochas feminine fragrances are pleasant to me. The masculine one, tough, i never managed to like. I had macassar, monsieur, moustache, aquaman, rochas man, rochas man intense, globe. They never appealed to me, altough i could see that they were very well-crafted fragrances. But the feminine ones are very good – one of my favorites is vintage femme de rochas, the plummy cousin of mitsouko. June 15, 2012 at 5:17pm Reply

              • Victoria: Absolu is another Jacques Cavallier creation, I believe. It has a gorgeous cedarwood and incense drydown with lots of vanilla and resinous notes. In the drydown, it smells like an antique wooden box stuffed with amber beads. Alchimie is more of a mouthwatering, gourmand blend, a temptation of another kind. 🙂 But both are equally addictive. June 15, 2012 at 5:22pm Reply

  • Anna Minis: Rochas has many great perfumes indeed! But now that Wella has sold it to Proctor and Gamble (or was it the other way round?) I fear there will more perfumes be discontinued or changed. I remember very well the Femme before ±1999. It had a note of overripe, almost rotten peach, and that made it so interesting. Rochas declared in 1999 (?) that they had to remove “son coté trop fruité”. Now Femme is more ”clean” but it is still one of my favorites. Another treasure is my bottle of Lumière, Eau de Rochas, Byzance, Tocade. I certainly will try to have “Alchemie”, thank you for the review. June 15, 2012 at 12:30pm Reply

    • Victoria: That’s true, they reformulate and refashion all the time. But at least, in Europe it’s sold at Sephora type perfumeries. In the US I hardly ever see Rochas at stores. Will add Eau de Rochas to my list. It’s such a bright and happy citrus. June 15, 2012 at 1:53pm Reply

  • Civava: I remember this scent very well, but at that time I didn’t pay too much attention to that delicious aspect of this one. I tought it was a bit too sweet so I didn’t buy it. June 15, 2012 at 12:41pm Reply

    • Victoria: Sounds like you also have a small sweet tooth in perfumes. 🙂 Mine has certainly grown over time, because in the past I also thought Alchimie to be too sweet. It isn’t a perfume I can wear every day, but on a cool evening, it’s perfect. June 15, 2012 at 2:00pm Reply

  • Amer: ok, the first paragraph is like reading my own thoughts. The materials you mention and the way you describe them… only difference is that I still can’t stand prominent anise since it gives me a headache! Jasmine, sandalwood and iris (in this order) are the three notes that got me hooked on perfumery and while searching for jasmine perfumes to saturate my craving I stumbled on your blog in the first place (and have been hooked on that for a few years too).

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxcDTUMLQJI June 15, 2012 at 2:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: Ah, me too! Anything too strong on anise sometimes gives me a headache too. Or else it has medicinal associations to me, because the medicine in the USSR used to be flavored with anise. June 15, 2012 at 2:16pm Reply

  • Nikki: I never really liked Alchimie so much, sometimes one can stil find it at discount stores; however, now that I know it is discontinued, I will have to stock up! I bought so many Tocade after reading it is a masterpiece, that I almost got tired of them although the bottles are gorgeous and refillable. I feel L de Lempicka is also in the same family, a little more beachy than desert shop though. Fun! Thanks for the review! June 15, 2012 at 2:09pm Reply

    • Victoria: Nikki, no, Alchimie isn’t discontinued. It’s just difficult to find. I never see it at the department stores, but I often see the bottles at Marshalls and TJ Maxx. June 15, 2012 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Yulya: Victoria, as always, a beautiful review. I discovered Alchimie not long ago, when a friend bought a few bottles at a bargain and presented one to me. I must admit that I would have not bought it myself for the same reasons that you described! And, lo and behold, I am in love! It is a pleasure to wear and a huge surprise for me with my signature Chanel #5 and such absolute favourits like #19 and #31. I am now watching the quantities inside the bottle disappear more rapidly that I would have thought. I am thinking of getting another bottle or even two… June 15, 2012 at 3:04pm Reply

    • Victoria: It’s different from your favorites, but it’s elegant and addictive! I’ve been wearing it over the past week, and each time I find it growing more and more on me. The sweetness is not a sugary, cloying kind, but rather like the sweetness of a real vanilla bean–rich, dark, caramelized. June 15, 2012 at 4:16pm Reply

    • sibu: im in southern africa and discovered alchimie in 2002..been trying to get a bottle ever since. Pls help where can i get one..i was soooo in love with it.. July 27, 2013 at 10:22am Reply

  • Flora: I love Alchimie – I bought in unsniffed from a discounter and fell hard. I don’t get all that much anise but I do like anise very much, so that’s not an issue. It’s very sexy juice! I am running low and I need to get more, just in case it’s really dc’d.

    The last time I checked the Rochas web site, almost all of their fragrances were gone – only Femme, Tocade, Madame Rochas and a couple others remained. I don’t know if that’s just the U.S. version and Alchime is still sold in Europe.

    So P & G has unloaded Rochas as well as Patou, after decimating them both. What a shame that they ever got their greedy claws into those great houses in the first place. We can only hope that the new owners care a little more about tradition and quality. June 15, 2012 at 4:02pm Reply

    • Victoria: I saw Alchimie at one of the perfumeries in Paris just last year, and according to Michael Edwards, it isn’t officially discontinued. But you know, if we are starting to see the perfume less and less, it probably means that it’s on its way to discontinuation. This is such a pity, because Rochas has a fabulous line.

      Like you, I hope that the new ownership of Rochas and Patou will treat these houses with care. Patou especially could be such a great house to develop, as its legacy is impressive. June 15, 2012 at 4:25pm Reply

    • annemariec: According to both the Rochas and P&G websites, P&G still owns Rochas. But the list of perfumes on the Rochas site is very small. It does not include Alchimie, or even a recent release like Muse de Rochas which came out only last year. But I often wonder if the info on a site is a good guide to whether a perfume is still in production or not.

      I’m not sure how old my vintage Femme EDC is, but it was released when Rochas was a division of ‘Germaine Monteil Cosmetiques Corporation’. This is according to the label on the box. Odd thought. June 15, 2012 at 6:33pm Reply

      • Victoria: Thanks, Anne Marie It’s Jean Patou that got sold to Designer Parfums. Rochas is still owned by P&G, but I keep getting confused anyway, because at one point it was likely to be sold as well. At any rate, I hope that Jean-Michel Duriez as a chief perfumer at Rochas get a chance to do something interesting.

        I believe that Rochas was a part of Germaine Monteil Cosmetiques Corporation until the late 1980s, but I can double check if you want. I have a bottle of the EDC, and mine has a price tag with a date (1982!), which made it easy to date. June 16, 2012 at 3:51am Reply

        • annemariec: That’s good to know, thanks. Yours and my Femme must have been produced in the last years before the reformulation in 1989. Maybe when Rochas changed hands the decision was made to give Femme an overhaul. (I like both formulations … new and old … shhh … !) June 16, 2012 at 5:45am Reply

          • Victoria: I like the new formulation ok too. It still retains the character of the original and its sensuality. I haven’t smelled Femme recently though, so I have no idea how it has fared. June 16, 2012 at 1:32pm Reply

  • Henrique Brito: I loved your review Victoria! And i’m impressed by how this fragrance is different on my skin and on yours, i suspect you might have an excellent skin to hold fragrances and make them slowly dissipate. On me Alchimie is light, skinscent, very comfortable, with all the moods you mentioned but very soft. What you feel in the edp concentration i feel the same way as you feel only in the extrait one.
    Btw, my tastes also have changed with years as i started to explore massively different fragrances. I used to dislike citrus and floral fragrances and hate white flowers. Today i love them – there is something on orange flower that makes me smile without reason and that makes me feel like a child again. I love it 🙂
    I even started to like a fragrance i used to hate in the past – Serge Lutens Miel du Bois turned to me from cat pee to a beautiful and complex essay on the honey from the syrup aspect and the flowery one. What a change!
    Congratulations for your amazing review, finally Alchimie has a respectufl review on the blogs 🙂 June 15, 2012 at 4:47pm Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you for inspiring me to revisit it! It’s a beautiful perfume, but also very cuddly and cozy. It lasts for hours on me, and you’re right, tenacity isn’t an issue for my skin, but despite it all, I don’t find it to be a thick, suffocating perfume. It’s certainly rich, but it has enough bright, sparkling accents to be luminous.

      Orange blossom also makes me feel happy, whether it’s a citrusy fresh take like Annick Goutal Neroli or a sweet, oriental one like by Kilian Sweet Redemption. June 15, 2012 at 5:00pm Reply

      • Henrique Brito: Neroli by Annick Goutal is one of the few annicks that i still have to try. If it’s a citrusy fresh, i suspect it’ll be perfect for me.

        Alchimie also last on me, but lightly (maybe the day i wore it affected the sillage, it was a colder one).

        I didn’t noticed that Jacques Cavallier was the perfumer behind it. I may be a JC fan, cause M7 is the fragrance that started my passion for fragrances. Kingdom is one of my most complimented fragrances and Nu edp is one of the best ones in the incense theme. And lately i was happy to score a bottle of Feu d’issey for a more reasonable price. What an amazing fragrance! It smells heavenly from the moment you open the box.
        I guess that the only of my holy grail fragrances that he didn’t compose was Donna Karan Black Cashmere June 15, 2012 at 5:08pm Reply

        • Victoria: Neroli is citrusy fresh on top, with a green note and lots of orange blossom. A wonderful perfume!

          Sounds like you’re definitely a fan of Jacques Cavallier’s work. I still mourn the discontinuation of Feu d’Issey, which was such a stunning perfume. June 15, 2012 at 5:19pm Reply

  • Anna Minis: Yes, I remember it now- Annemarie is right: it was 1989, not 1999. Ther was a copie of the French Vogue, with with a big article on Femme. I believe that Wella owned Rochas before P&G. June 16, 2012 at 7:01am Reply

    • Victoria: Rochas changed hands a few times, I think. I remember that the worst thing about the transfer to P&G was the discontinuation of the fashion line. Rochas couture was so beautiful. June 16, 2012 at 1:34pm Reply

  • Mirela: I just have remember this splendid parfume. But, evrytime there is a “but”” iI can’t buy it in Romania,.Could you help me to have one; I must have it again..Tks. March 2, 2013 at 9:30am Reply

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