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 Kingdom, Yves 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…