Charles Schultz, the creator of Charlie Brown and Peanuts, once said “All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.” Le Chocolat might help as well. It is a pure parfum from the Belgian house of L’Antichambre, a boutique in Brussels that originally made only customized, bespoke creations. In 2013, its founder and nose, Anne Pascale, launched a line of parfums or extraits available to the public, one of which was Le Chocolat, though it was originally called Le Chocolat Ambre at the time. The name may have changed, but the scent supposedly remains the same.
According to Luckyscent, Le Chocolat’s notes are:
Lemon, jasmine, chocolate, amber, vanilla.
Le Chocolat opens on my skin with delicious, rich, very expensive-smelling chocolate. It veers between something like a chocolate truffle, a chocolate mousse, a Mars bar with its caramel center, and Cadbury’s. If you’ve ever smelt Cadbury’s chocolate, you know that it has a certain aroma that is strong and simultaneously a bit milky. Le Chocolate, though, smells much more expensive than a mere Cadbury’s bar.
Other notes quickly follow the namesake ingredient. There is a subtle floralcy that hovers in the background like a pale, gauzy veil, never smelling of any particular flower, let alone jasmine, but seeming more like baby-soft, white petals. Equally indistinct at first is the vanilla. It’s a buttery, silky note, but it generally seems content to sit on the sidelines, indirectly weaving its magic from afar. Much, much more prominent is the lemon which feels warm and sun-sweetened. Within minutes, it grows stronger, dancing a tango with the chocolate on center stage, as everyone else looks on from afar. The amber is silent during all of this, but it wakes up after 15 minutes, stirring in the base. It is clearly labdanum amber, as the note sends out little tendrils that are toffee’d, and slightly honeyed, almost verging on caramel but not quite. For a brief instance, there is even a faint wisp of something smoky about it.
Le Chocolat is constantly changing its focus on my skin during the first two hours. Initially, for the first 20 minutes, it’s all about the lemon and chocolate, flecked with a smidgeon of vanilla and the quietest hint of abstract floralcy. Ten minutes later, the perfume turns into something that is primarily labdanum amber, nestled within a haze of chocolate that feels almost indistinct and abstract. Then, five minutes after that, the perfume shuffles all its notes like a kaleidoscope, turns into a lemon-dominated chocolate, before changing back into an amber fragrance. This goes on forever until the end of the first hour and the start of the 2nd when the lemon weakens and the vanilla joins the mix. Now, there is a new player in the constantly changing landscape. One moment, Le Chocolat feels like amber-vanilla fragrance, the next it is vanilla-chocolate.
Throughout it all, the chocolate seems to play second fiddle to whatever else is dominating center stage, trailing behind its skirts eagerly, but never the solo star of the show. The ingredient itself is constantly defying easy characterisation. One moment it feels like dark truffles, then like a milkier Cadbury’s, then a caramel chocolate, before it veers back into something darker again. Generally, though, the note feels like a gauzy abstraction that hides behind a solid wall of either rich, smooth labdanum or rich, smooth, creamy vanilla.
All of this makes it incredibly hard for me to tell you how what Le Chocolat smells like in any set, consistent manner, or to break down its development into distinct stages. This is one superbly blended fragrance whose notes wax and wane like the tides, creating new kaleidoscopes and zigging one way every time I think it’s about to zag in another direction.
Even the sweetness levels are hard to pin down with definite certainty. I have a very low threshold for excessive sweetness, I’m not really a gourmand lover, and I cannot abide vanilla that is like Pink Sugar or crystallized icing. Le Chocolat generally isn’t a problem for me, and doesn’t exceed my limits. Generally. Most of the time. In most of my tests, nothing in Le Chocolat during the first hour felt suffocatingly cloying or painfully gooey, unlike other gourmands that I’ve tried lately. Even better, the vanilla was neither drenched with crystallized sugar nor felt like the singed crust on a creme brulée.
Then, at the start of the 2nd hour, something changes. The perfume turns much sweeter, perhaps because the lemon note weakens. The vanilla wakes up in the base and starts to send out little tendrils that, for about 15 minutes, are definitely far too sugary for my liking. Yet, just when I start to feel some alarm, Le Chocolat shifts again. Suddenly, the vanilla veers sharply away from the sickly, cloying territory. Now, it merely feels buttery, creamy, and with that tasty undertone of something in a cake batter, though less sweet. It generally remained that way until the end except for a few more occasions where, again, for about 15 minutes at a time, the perfume returned to its sugary, sweet profile. On the other hand, I have to say that — in one of my tests and on my right arm which isn’t my main testing arm — Le Chocolat definitely exceeded my threshold limits for a good 2.5 hours and the vanilla was excessively sweet. Honestly, this is such a chameleon fragrance!
Only a few things are constant on my skin. The first is that the “jasmine” is nondescript, short-lived, and merely an abstraction that is the least important element in the mix. The second is that nothing in Le Chocolat smells synthetic or cheap. Every note feels expensive, deep, and luxuriously smooth. The third is that Le Chocolat acts just like an extrait in terms of its sillage. It’s generally a soft scent, without massive projection. Using 3 smears roughly equal to about 2 small sprays from a bottle, Le Chocolat initially wafted 2 inches above the skin, before dropping to about 1 inch at the end of the 2nd hour. Yet, the perfume surprised me during a good portion of the first four hours by sending out little tendrils that curled up about me when I moved. Le Chocolat became a skin scent on me just under 4.5 hours into development, though it was still easy to detect up close for quite a while.
The most noticeable change involves the vanilla. At the start of the 3rd hour, it really surges to the forefront, vying with the amber for the lead. By the time the drydown kicks in 90 minutes later, Le Chocolat’s feels primarily like a boozy, dark Bourbon vanilla fragrance, that is followed closely by strong streaks of toffee’d, caramel amber, but with only a faint suggestion of chocolate. The floral petals had vanished long ago, but the lemon now becomes a nonentity as well. Well, most of the time. On occasion, little bits of it pop up in the background.
Le Chocolat is now primarily a tug-of-war between the vanilla and the toffee’d amber — and the vanilla wins in the end by a hair. From the 6th hour onwards, it’s really the central focus of the scent, though the amber trails closely behind it, sometimes wafting a tiny whiff of smokiness and balsamic darkness. As always, the namesake chocolate note weaves in and out, usually more nebulous than anything distinct or concrete in its own right. In its final hour, Le Chocolat is merely a wisp of dark, creamy sweetness. All in all, the perfume generally lasted 8.5 hours with the equivalent of 2 sprays from a bottle, and just under 7.5 hours when I used less.
I really have no idea how this perfume is going to manifest itself on anyone else. Le Chocolat is such a seamless, well-blended scent that it takes on a prismatic, chameleon quality, and your individual skin chemistry is going to make a substantial difference in terms of what appears on you. Even then, I suspect the individual notes are going to wax and wane like the tides, and the sweetness levels may also vary from one hour to the next.
Those divergences probably explain why opinions about Le Chocolat are so split. There isn’t much consistency. Most people think Le Chocolat is wonderful, but a small handful found it to be either vile, a scrubber, or unremarkable. Some people experience no lemon or jasmine, others do. Some think it’s too cloyingly; others think the exact opposite. On Luckyscent, there are four reviews, and they are all positive Five Star ones which talk about how delicious the fragrance is. For example:
Ohhhh…..chocolate/amber lovers take note!!! This is a must sample!! An expensive chocolate, not milk, not candy, not bitter, wrapped around a golden layer of warm amber, kissed with lemon ( not a tart lemon) and jasmine…..Loved this from start to end.
On Fragrantica, the reviews are very mixed. Most people say Le Chocolat is a complex, deliciously rich gourmand that is perfect for winter and never excessively sweet, but 2 people found it to be cloying and “vile.” A 3rd initially felt the same way before suddenly changing her mind upon a second wearing, and saying Le Chocolat was “PERFECT!” (All caps in the original.) I suspect the perfume’s chameleon nature was responsible for her complete 180, because this is a fragrance that you should really try more than once, in my opinion.
Basenoters are equally split in their feelings. In the perfume’s official thread, one review is negative and one is positive. In the former, “Buzzlepuff” enjoyed the “rich and deep” opening, but had to subsequently scrub the scent as it far exceeded his sweetness threshold. The main problem was an “overuse of vanilla and amber” which dominated on his skin. I have to say, I had complete sympathy when I read: “I am admittedly averse to gourmand and sweet fragrances, but I can’t help it. I feel an insulin reaction coming on.” Poor man, I felt that same way about another fragrance just the other day.
The 2nd Basenotes commentator is also not a gourmand lover, but he actually thought Le Chocolat was “excellent.” “DrSeid” wrote:
Le Chocolat Ambre opens with a sweet natural smelling milk chocolate accord with just the faintest hint of an amber undertone. As it moves to the early heart phase the milk chocolate remains but the sweetness dies down just a hair as a boozy vanilla extract emerges and grows in strength until it overshadows the the milk chocolate, but only just. During the late dry-down the vanilla extract dissipates as slightly sweet amber from the base reveals itself to meld with the remnants of the milk chocolate. Projection is slightly below average to average and longevity is average at about 8 hours on skin.
Le Chocolat Ambre broadcasts two of its starring ingredients in its name but they could have easily added vanille in there too, as during the heart phase the fragrance is just as much about vanilla extract as it is milk chocolate. The fragrance is highly minimalist and linear (something that seems to be a hallmark of most of the releases from L’Antichambre), with the milk chocolate arriving at the open before a milk chocolate and vanilla extract middle and finally milk chocolate and amber late. Other than those three notes I am hard-pressed to detect anything else going on as published notes of lemon and jasmine are completely MIA. The bottom line is that while gourmands are not really my thing, it does seem like L’Antichambre has a real knack for putting out superior smelling ones and Le Chocolat Ambre is no exception. If you are looking for a high quality chocolate vanilla and amber gourmand fragrance this release is definitely for you, earning an “excellent” rating of 4 stars out of 5.
As you can see, the responses are all over the map, even amongst those who are not fans of gourmand fragrances. So, if you love chocolate, amber, and vanilla, I think you should try Le Chocolat for yourself. It’s not exactly cheap at $170 for 50 ml, but it is a pure parfum with extremely high quality, a truly smooth luxuriousness, and an appealing richness. I would certainly wear it myself if a bottle ever fell into my lap, but I’m a little hard-pressed to find it special, complex, or distinctive enough to spend $170. There are other fragrances that beckon to me far more but, then again, I’m not a true gourmand lover, and they might feel differently.
My only suggestion if you try Le Gourmand is to be a little patient and, if you can, give it more than one wearing. It may not be the same scent from one hour to the next, never mind from test to test. In that sense, it almost proves Forrest Gump’s point that “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.”