Colognes are close cousins to gin, vermouth, and other spirits flavored with botanicals. Until the late 19th –early 20th century when denaturated alcohol gradually began to supplant grape spirits as a perfume base, you could safely take a swig of your Eau de Cologne. Today, I wouldn’t recommend it, but take a whiff of Ô de Lancôme, and you can easily imagine it served on the rocks with a twist of lemon. It smells exhilarating–green and lemony, with a pleasant earthy note of wet woods.
If you’re familiar with Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage, Ô de Lancôme will seem familiar. Launched in 1969, it was Lancôme’s answer to Dior’s marvel–you see, even back then, perfume companies were happily copying each other’s blockbusters just as they do today. But while in the 1970s, it was probably just another nice cologne, today Ô de Lancôme stands out for its classical elegance and nonchalant style. You can easily wear it to the gym, to a cocktail party or even a board meeting: It’s really that versatile.
For my part, I love Ô de Lancôme the most on hot summer days, when everything else feels oppressive. The initial hit of lemon crushed with basil leaves is bracing, and the herbal bitterness makes it even more so. The crisp citrusy prelude fades into the mossy and earthy backdrop. It’s like stepping inside a cool and damp garden shed to escape the intense sunshine.
As your eyes adjust to the darkness–and as Ô de Lancôme loses all of its citrusy dazzle, you notice other elements taking shape. There is a delicate curl of jasmine, the nutty richness of vetiver, and an earthy slick of moss, all topped off with dry amber. In its original version, Ô de Lancôme had a darker, inkier drydown, thanks to the liberal dose of moss and different amber materials, but today it’s more transparent. It’s plainer, but also more refreshing, which is a boon on those days when even sitting in front of a fan with a glass of iced lemonade requires effort.
You can, of course, find other colognes and even better ones, like Eau de Guerlain, Chanel Eau de Cologne, or Annick Goutal Eau d’Hadrien, but I like the simplicity of Ô de Lancôme. It’s not overly sweetened, not cluttered with exotic spices or heady flowers. It’s just lemon, green jasmine and moss–shaken, not stirred.
Guys, please don’t worry about crossing over to the feminine fragrance section to look for Ô de Lancôme. Just like Eau Sauvage, it’s androgynous enough to smell great on both men and women.
Ô de Lancôme Eau de Toilette includes notes of lemon, tangerine, bergamot, petitgrain, honeysuckle, lily of the valley, jasmine, rosemary, basil, moss, vetiver, ambergris, and musk. Available at all Lancôme counters, Planet Parfum and other big perfumeries.
Sample: a sample from Sephora compared to my vintage Eau de Toilette dating to the 1970s and an original from the Osmothèque perfume conservatory