lancome: 10 posts

Fascinating Perfumery: How Violets and Ionones Made History

It’s not an understatement to say that without the humble violet we wouldn’t have perfumery as we know it today. At the end of the 19th century when the fashion for violet perfumes was all the rage, several German chemists set out to isolate the aroma-material that gives this flower its delicate and yet persistent scent. Until then violet essence was distilled from the flowers of Viola odorata, a process that required more than 33,000 kg of flowers to obtain a kilogram of violet oil. The search for Veilchenduft, the scent of violet, led to the discovery and isolation of ionones, a class of materials that are sweet and powdery.

In today’s film, I describe how this violet-scented revolution happened and compare different types of ionones. The term ionone is derived from the Greek word “iona,” which means violet, and “ketone” referring to its chemical structure. Several isomeric ionones occur naturally in flowers like rose and violet as well as in different fruit and berries. Fine grades of Japanese green tea are rich in ionones as is milk–if a cow eats ionone-rich alfalfa, ionones will then be found in its milk.

I mention several violet gold standards such as

Coty L’Origan

Guerlain L’Heure Bleue

Chanel No 19

Chanel Coco

Rochas Femme

Yves Saint Laurent Paris

Lancôme Trésor

This episode focuses more on the classics, and in the next film I will discuss modern fragrances featuring ionones. Ionones: Sweet and Powdery includes even more perfumes and information on these fascinating materials.

Of course, I would love to hear about your favorite violets, vintage or modern. 

Sugar Free

If you’ve been asking yourself why so many fragrances are sweet these days, then you are not alone. Even non-gourmand blends are getting sweeter, be they floral or woods. In my latest column in the FT magazine, Six Sugar-Free Perfumes, I explore various options that veer away from sweetness.

“Why does every perfume turn so sweet on me?” complained a friend, sparking a mission to find her a fragrance that didn’t have caramel, chocolate or other patisserie notes. With the success of Thierry Mugler’s Angel and other popular gourmands, perfumes have been growing sweeter and more edible over the years. While only recently a cotton candy accord of Lancôme’s La Vie est Belle would have been considered more suitable for pudding than perfume, today it’s a new benchmark. Our appetite for sugar seems to have found a parallel in the olfactory realm, and every season there are more perfumes promising to replicate famous desserts from crème brûlée to apple pie. To continue reading, please click here.

What other non-sweet perfumes can you recommend, for men and women?

Photography via FT HTSI

Lancome O de Lancome : Perfume Review

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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.

odelancome

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.

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Lancome La Vie Est Belle : Perfume Review

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‘Please see my review of Viktor & Rolf Flowerbomb‘ — this is how I originally started my post on the newest Lancôme perfume La Vie Est Belle. This big Lancôme launch takes a lesson from its flop Magnifique and does everything by the book: a fetching package (check), something pink (check) and a safe, easy to like perfume (check). It’s even better if you tag on a well-known spokesperson (check, Julia Roberts looks gorgeous in the ads).

While my initial reaction was to dismiss La Vie Est Belle as another copycat, after wearing it for the past couple of weeks I’m not so sure what I think. The citrusy top notes laced with tangy raspberries were facile, but addictive, while the gourmand drydown tempered by earthy iris was surprisingly mellow.  I readied myself for another cheap fruit compote, but I discovered a trendy and likable perfume. I would have had an easier time making up my mind if it smelled cheap, but it doesn’t.

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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.

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