It’s not often that I come across clear evidence of fragrance dilution and reformulation within so short a period of time as a mere two years, but it happened this week. Two bottles of Parfum MDCI‘s Chypre Palatin, purchased roughly two years apart, are unquestionably different in both their visuals and their scent.
The source for this unfortunate discovery is my mother, whom I bring up occasionally on the site because she’s a die-hard perfumista who set the foundation for my love of scent and with whom I frequently share my fragrance finds. She’s generally unenthused by the vast majority of modern fragrances but Chypre Palatin is a major exception. She loves it passionately, and rather took me aback the other day by saying that she might even love it more than vintage Shalimar which she collects in its oldest vintage extrait form and that it may even be her favourite fragrance ever. My mother was running dangerously low on Chypre Palatin, at least by her standards, and wanted another bottle. It would be her third since 2014. Her last one was purchased sometime around May or June 2015, possibly July, so just a little over two years ago.
I was concerned about the possibility of reformulation. Last year, I’d heard one or two people mention in passing that they thought Chypre Palatin was weaker and may have been reformulated. There wasn’t widespread talk of reformulation, but the possibility was one to consider for a few reasons. First, it would fit the time frame: the fragrance was originally released in 2012 and we were now in 2017; in my experience, most companies dilute or reformulate their fragrance after 5 years. Second, I knew several other MDCI fragrances had already been reformulated. In 2014 or 2015, I obtained a sample of Invasion Barbare (2005) from Osswald NYC which smelled quite different to one that I had purchased on eBay several years before and that, if I recall correctly, the seller had said was from an older bottle. (2008, I think?) In the newer Osswald sample, the white musk had been amped up to an unpalatable degree, while the core elements had been weakened. I wasn’t a fan, and that’s the main reason why I’ve never written about it. (The same issues are why I’ve never written about Ambre Topkapi, originally released in 2003, and some of the florals or fruity-florals in MDCI’s line; they’ve been reformulated in a way that makes them feel quite average or uninspiring to me.)
I spoke to Franco of Luckyscent about the age of his Chypre Palatin stock in the hope that I could obtain an older bottle and thereby minimize the risk of reformulation. He said his bottles were ordered last year. So, 2016. He also said that people didn’t buy Chypre Palatin with the frequency that they did Invasion Barbare, an extremely popular fougère, so MDCI didn’t produce it as frequently. Those facts combined with the timing — we are just hitting the 5 year mark since the fragrance’s debut — led me to hope that it would smell just as it always did.
No such luck. In my opinion, it’s completely changed. The colour of the juice was the very first sign because it’s glaringly different:
The colour of the liquid in my mother’s bottle is not an anomaly because my Chypre Palatin is the same. In 2014, I purchased one of MDCI’s sample sets, 6 x 10 ml bottles, and requested that all the fragrances be the same, Chypre Palatin. I then decanted 5 of them into an atomiser spray. As you can see in the photo below, it is orange-red as well:
Colour is the first clue, but scent is the second and main one. I could tell something was different merely from sniffing the atomizer. The new version is lighter, more aromatic, much sweeter, more vanillic, and with more white musk but significantly less of the salty, plush, emerald oakmoss and the darker, richer notes in the base, like the leather and resins.
When applied on skin, the base and core dilution seemed even more obvious to my nose, particularly the oakmoss. That oakmoss is actually what made the original Chypre Palatin stand out and become such a family favourite. Bernard Duchaufour used an expensive extraction technique to remove the one oakmoss molecule which made the material problematic for IFRA/EU regulators and which led to their stringent restrictions on oakmoss in perfumery. Without that offending molecule, perfumes could have as much oakmoss as they wanted. Which is what Chypre Palatin once had. Huge amounts of real oakmoss which created not just a vintage vibe but also a certain grandeur missing from most modern chypres.
That depth of body, opulence, and mossy excess have now disappeared, both in my opinion and that of my mother. In addition, the citrus opening is now sharp, the lavender is suddenly extremely prominent, and, for the first time, there is both a strong ISO E-like aroma in the opening as well as a subtle underlying synthetic scratchiness that I’d never encountered with Chypre Palatin before. The new version gave me a migraine when I sniffed my arm up close for too long.
On top of all that, the new Chypre Palatin also feels weaker in its body and sillage. My mother would waft a room-filling cloud with just two sprays. The new version still emits a cloud, but it’s smaller, lighter, airier, less resinous in feel, and not particularly green.
To me, Chypre Palatin is now simply okay and, sadly, quite average in character rather than being a head-turning deluge of grandness. It feels particularly average when compared to some recent fragrances over the last two or three years which have recreated vintage levels of mossy excess through other means. For example, Bogue’s MAAI and Aeon’s 001 (both created by Bogue’s Antonio Gardoni) which manipulate vetiver and tuberose to recreate the verdant lushness and greenness which we associate with vintage-era oakmoss, or Areej Le Doré‘s now sold-out Siberian Musk which managed the same feat through vetiver and galbanum. All three of those fragrances pair their oakmoss with a strong, deep core of dark resins, leatheriness, amber, and musky sensuality. In the new Chypre Palatin, those elements are now a shadow of what they once were, just like the oakmoss.
My mother is absolutely gutted. If Chypre Palatin was one of your favourites, you may be, too.
[UPDATE 8/24: The owner of Parfums MDCI has responded in the comments and vehemently denies any change in the fragrance. He states:
How to say this?
How to fight a nasty , destructive rumor?
Chypre Palatin has never, ever been modified, changed, altered, diluted.
along the years, colour may have varied, so much so that we do not use chemicals such as UV filters.l
Colour will change with time, depending on storage , and the high content of natural ingredients in the formula is also a factor.
But NO, rest assured that the formula has not been changed…
I stand by my opinion. Three people tried the fragrance in the new bottle and they all thought it smelled different than it once did. I did side-by-side tests of the new bottle as compared to the two older ones, and the scent was weaker, sweeter, less oakmossy, less resinous, and with the other issues that I noted above. The company has changed a number of its fragrances, in both my opinion and that of the manager of one of MDCI’s retailers. Yet, the company insists here that this one has remained exactly the same. My opinion is that it is not the same.]
[UPDATE #2 8/24: The owner of MDCI, Claude Marchal, has replied again in the comments below and has requested that his comments be added here. He writes:
How come before writing such an incriminating and dammaging article, and posting it on the web, the author did not even take the pain to ask what could explain the changes in colour in “Chypre Palatin”?
Why draw such conclusions and create such reactions in the public?
Does having “subjective and personal” views mean it is OK to write anything and not bother with the consequences?
Changing a formula is not something we take lightly, and to illustrate this, I have refused to bring back to life one of our favorite fragrances, “Enlèvement au Sérail”, because the attempts to reformulate it were not satisfactory, and still are n’t. Rather lose clients and $$$ than a reputation built bottle after bottle, year after year.
As for “Chypre Palatin”, the formula has never, ever been modified, nor has the concentration. The juice has been in the past coloured, but it is no longer the case, we prefer to leave the juice as free as possible of unnecessary ingredients, such as UV filters.
Herebelow is the confirmation by Art et Parfum, the lab that produces for us: I would really appreciate if it could be posted in on your Blog, as well as my reply. It is in French, but enough readers will understand it as is.
Pour faire suite à notre échange sur le Chypre Palatin, les deux dernières fabrications datent de 2015 et 2016, nous sommes en 2017.
D’un point de vue analytique et chromatographique, les deux productions sont totalement identiques .
D’un point de vue olfactif, nous constatons un écart naturel dû à une année de macération en plus, phénomène qui doit être accentué dans l’alcool, notre analyse ne portant que sur les concentrés en pur et les solutions alcooliques faites ce jour.
D’un point de vue de la coloration, ce parfum contient beaucoup de matières naturelles, ce qui en fait sa richesse, telles que du patchouli, benjoin , santal , lavande, jasmin , rose , girofle, pour ne citer que celles-ci, mais aussi plus de 10 % de notes hespéridé, mandarine, clémentine, citron ….
Ces matières premières issues d’agrumes sont colorées à l’origine et se décolorent dans le temps pour devenir transparentes en vieillissant.
Certaines sociétés essayent de stabiliser la couleur avec des complexes de filtres UV type covabsorb.
Vous avez pris le parti sur ce parfum de ne pas ajouter d’additif cosmétique.
Aux vues des matières premières présentes dans ce parfum, les agrumes se décolorant, il est donc normal qu’il devienne plus clair dans le temps.
Sur d’autres parfums la couleur peut au contraire foncer à cause de la vanilline, de l’indol ou autres matières premières.
Ce que je peux vous garantir c’est que cette formule est conforme par les constituants à la formule d’origine de Monsieur Duchaufour et que nous n’avons effectué aucun changement pour quelque raison que ce soit.
De plus, lorsqu’un de nos parfumeurs effectue une modification à partir d’un concentré existant et vendu, que ce soit pour des raisons réglementaires ou tarifaires, cela pouvant engendrer, ou non, une modification olfactive, le client final et metteur sur le marché en est systématiquement informé, une nouvelle référence est créée, et doit être validée par lui avant toute production.
Je reste à votre disposition pour toutes informations complémentaires,
I can only repeat what I’ve said. The fragrance smells different in my opinion and that of others who have tried the new bottle. Colour alone isn’t the issue. The fragrance smells different in our opinion. One of the people with this opinion has worn Chypre Palatin every week for three years and through two prior bottles. This third one smells different. On her, on me, and in comparison to the older bottles. The company insists there has been no change. We shall have to leave it at that, although if Monsieur Marchal wishes for me to add further statements from him, I shall do so.]