St. Clair Scents — Part I: The Queen of Butter & The Intersection of Artisanal Food & Artisanal Perfume

What happens when The Queen of Butter, Diane St. Clair, a woman who makes the most coveted and expensive butter in the world, carried in some of the most famous temples of Haute Gastronomy like Thomas Keller‘s French Laundry and Per Se and sought by other Michelin-starred chefs (who are frequently turned down), decides to turn her attention to fragrance? The result is St. Clair Scents, a new indie perfume house that applies the same artisanal philosophy and naturalistic aesthetic to fragrance that Ms. St. Clair uses to make the best butter in the world. Today, I’d like to focus on the intersection of artisanal gastronomy and artisanal perfumery to tell the unusual tale and journey of Ms. St. Clair. At the end, there will be a brief scent summaries of her new trio of fragrances: Gardener’s Glove, Frost, and First Cut. Next time, in Part II, I’ll review all three fragrances properly and at-length.

What really fascinates and intrigues me is Ms. St. Clair herself. Perfumers come from a wide variety of backgrounds, particularly the self-taught ones who make artisanal perfumes, but I’ve never encountered someone whose background is in gastronomy or luxury food. Nor have I ever encountered someone who is already an established rock star in their own world — nay, a superstar in their particular niche — who then decided to start from scratch in a completely new field, taking on the challenging, insular, and often exclusionary world of perfumery, learning and doing everything themselves from the ground-up, all without deep pockets or wealthy investors. Not until now, not until Diane St. Clair.

Photo source: St. Clair Scents.

Diane St. Clair with some of her Jersey cows. Photo: Gareth McConnell. Source: Animal Farm at AnimalFarmVt.com [Photo lightly cropped by me at the top.]

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Perfume Review – Ormonde Woman by Ormonde Jayne: The Dream Landscape

Thomas Gainsborough. "Open Landscape with Shepherd, Sheep and Pool." The Victoria and Albert Museum

Thomas Gainsborough. “Open Landscape with Shepherd, Sheep and Pool.” The Victoria and Albert Museum

If a perfume were a painting, I think Ormonde Woman would be one of Thomas Gainsborough’s famous landscapes. The perfume by the niche luxury house of Ormonde Jayne is reminiscent of the famed 18th century painter’s portrayal of nature, all bright light contrasted by dark intensity, hidden mystery, and hints of rich warmth. Gainsborough created a dream-like, hazy impression through soft brush strokes and, yet, there is the dark verisimilitude of the Dutch painters, like Rubens, who inspired him. Light and dark, depth and surfaces, reality and a dream — it is all simultaneously evoked by the brilliance that is Ormonde Woman.

The unisex perfume was the very first fragrance put out by Ormonde Jayne upon its debut in 2002, and it is the luxury perfume house’s signature scent. It is a scent of some renown, has received a five-star rating and was named as one of the 100 great classics by the perfume expert, Luca Turin, in The Little Black Book of Perfume: 100 Great Classics.

I’d heard vague, breathy mentions from people of this “amazing” scent, but never really paid much heed until some months ago when one of my oldest friends — who knows almost nothing about perfume — asked me about it. I was so taken aback by her interest (and in a niche perfume, no less!) that I ordered a sample. In all honesty, it took me months to get around to testing Ormonde Woman because I tend to be put off by things with a lot of hype. (I still haven’t seen the movie, Titantic. And I never will.) So my first foray into the Ormonde Jayne brand was with Tolu. It captivated me and rendered me weak with joyous admiration. It also made me determined to explore the brand’s signature perfume. And, you know what? The hype over Ormonde Jayne is fully warranted! Ormonde Woman

Ormonde Jayne is described on Fragrantica as a chypre, but I think Tania Sanchez has a better description in her book with Luca Turin entitled Perfumes: the A-Z Guide. There, she categorizes it as a “forest chypre.” (In a nutshell, a chypre perfume is a scent that begins with citrus notes and ends with either oakmoss, patchouli, musk, or some combination thereof. You can read a more detailed explanation of the important chypre category of fragrances in the Glossary.) Ms. Sanchez’ five-star review of Ormonde Woman helps explain, in part, why the perfume is so special:

Of the many feminine perfumes since [Chanel’s] Bois des Iles that have been composed around woody notes, the others that I can recall have been cozy, powdery-rosy, touched with mulling spices, with the warm furred feeling of a napping cat by the fire, or, more recently, hippie-inspired simple concoctions meant to evoke mostly the gorgeous smell of hard-to-get sandalwood oil. Ormonde Woman is the only abstract woody perfume I know that triggers the basic involuntary reflex, of stepping into a forest, to fill one’s lungs to bursting with the air. This is a full-fledged perfume with all of the sophistication of Bois des Iles and its ilk, but none of the sleepy comfort. Instead, it has the haunting, outdoors witchiness of tall pines leaning into the night — a bitter oakmoss inkiness, a dry cedar crackle, and a low, delicious, pleading sweet amber, like the call of a faraway candy house. Lulling and unsettling in equal measure, and truly great.

Gainsborough. "Moonlight Landscape with Pool."

Gainsborough. “Moonlight Landscape with Pool.”

I agree in large part with Ms. Sanchez’s review. I certainly agree that Ormonde Woman can be lulling and unsettling in equal measure, but I would also add some other adjectives to the mix: “mesmerizing,” “hypnotic,” and “unisex” for starters. However, I think it’s almost regrettable that she used the word “witchiness” in her paean to the perfume. It has led to a plethora of reviews talking about Ormonde Woman’s witchy aspect with a few unsettled posters even writing that they feel it is a scent best suited for Halloween. I think the adjective minimizes the perfume to something that is only a tiny part of its essence, and hardly the sum total.

The Tsuga tree or, "Black Hemlock."

The Tsuga tree or, “Black Hemlock.”

The source of all this magical business stems from one simple cause: Black Hemlock. It is the key to the Ormonde Woman and, though it may conjure up images of warlocks and witches, it is actually just a type of spruce tree. To be more specific, it is the name for a pine tree of the Tsuga genus. Ormonde Jayne was the very first perfume house to use the ingredient — a sign of its innovative, creative approach to perfumery — and, according to Wikipedia, others have followed suit.

Linda Pilkington, the founder, nose and soul behind the Ormonde Jayne brand, talked about the Black Hemlock note and the persona of the Ormonde Woman with the blog Riktig Parfym (formerly Fragrant Fanatic). I highly recommend reading the interview; there, as in all the other interviews that I’ve read with Ms. Pilkington, she comes across as charming, down-to-earth, self-deprecating, open, direct, and full of warmth. (I realise that I’m starting to sound like a crazed “fan girl,” as Americans put it, about Ms. Pilkington. I plead guilty.)  Her explanation of the ingredient is as follows:

Ormonde Woman is based on hemlock and there are 3 types of hemlock. There is the tree, the bush and the plant. The plant (which is not the hemlock used in OW) is poisonous and if you boil it and then drink the water you’ll first get a sensation that you’re feet are numbing and as the poison spreads through your body, you get paralyzed and die. This was used in 15th-16th centuries as a womans way to murder a man. As a woman usually is physically weaker she cannot strangle a man, but to boil a plant and put into his food isn’t usually a problem. And it’s still done today. So, the persona of Ormonde Woman is a woman who knows what she wants. She has long raven colored hair, wears a long black cape and rides through the woods at night, maybe to meet a lover?

Ormonde Woman and its notes are described on the company’s website as follows:

Beginning and ending with the unique scent of Black Hemlock absolute – rarely used in such luscious quality and quantity – this utterly hypnotic, unconventional and mysterious woody essence is combined with jasmine and violet absolute to create a dusky, seductive perfume.

Top NotesCardamom, coriander and grass oil
Heart Notes: Black hemlock, violet and jasmine absolute
Base Notes: Vetiver, cedar wood, amber and sandalwood.

Source: Miriadna.com.

Source: Miriadna.com.

Ormonde Woman opens on me with fresh, zesty citrus, bitter resin, a massive dollop of spice, and bright greens. At first, I thought it was like spicy grass but, after some contemplation, I think it’s more like fresh moss. Not oakmoss, per se, or, at least, not the usual oakmoss. There is none of the pungent, almost dusty, grey-mineralised aspects of the note. Instead, this is like the brightest moss were it jade green, wet from

Image: Moody. Source: Canadian Govt. Website.

Image: Moody. Source: Canadian Govt. Website.

dew, and covered with amberous spices. People are right when they say that it evokes the green, mossy floor of a forest. It is almost tinged with dark shadows; there is none of the sweet mildness of freshly cut grass on a summer’s day. That comes later. For now, the moss is wet and tinged by the cedar and sandalwood trees around it.

Yet, the real focus in the opening hour is the Black Hemlock. It is fascinating. Resinous evergreen with burnt notes and black licorice. The strength and prominence of the note seems to vary widely with the amount of the perfume used. In fact, I think the quantity you use may dramatically change your impression of the opening. The first time I tested Ormonde Jayne, I didn’t dab on a lot; only 2-3 tiny blots from the vial on each arm. With that amount, the Black Hemlock note was prominent, but not the sole focus. The second time, I dabbed on quite a bit (4-5 smears, approximating 2 big sprays per arm). The Black Licorice Wheelsresult was as if a black cloud had suddenly descended upon the forest. There was a massive, monumental dose of black licorice, much more of a burnt aroma, and a contrasting cool, chilled, mentholated impression. For some reason, it calls to mind the image of something like tar. Not the tar that they use to pave roads but, rather, the treacly, thick, blackish paste found in Marmite. Actually, there is more than just a visual similarity to Marmite. There is a quiet saltiness underpinning the sweet spice. It’s faint, flickering in the background like a ghost, but it’s there.

Antique Spice Drawer on Etsy. Source: Prairie Antiques.

Antique Spice Drawer on Etsy. Source: Prairie Antiques.

In greater doses, the spice accords in the perfume also gain heft, and my impression of bright green grass or dewy moss become much less. The faintly lemony note of coriander and the lightly spice earthy-sweet notes of the cardamom were much more noticeable. But something else was apparent. Star anise. I could swear that I smelled the Chinese Five Spice mix, dominated by its star anise element. There was also a strong impression of spiced wood, almost like a faintly dusty spice drawer in an old cabinet where the wood has absorbed decades of strong spices.

Tsuga Needles

Western Hemlock. Source: Puget Sound University.

The licorice was not only more prominent in greater doses the second time round, but so too were the mentholated, chilled camphor notes and the evergreen. Having never smelled Black Hemlock prior to now, I have no idea if the minty-mentholated notes come from the cedar or from the spruce/pine tree. Regardless, they become stronger and stronger until — 30 minutes in — the predominant note emanating from my arm is pine needles. They’re so fresh and concentrated, it’s as though you scraped them right off the tree and crushed them between your fingers.

An hour in, the pine needles fade and have their place taken by sandalwood. Ormonde Woman is actually the first time in a long time that I’ve smelled real, actual, genuine sandalwood in a truly prominent way. A large portion of the perfumes which claim to have that rare, exorbitantly expensive ingredient and which I’ve tested lately seem, to me, to have absolutely no visible, noticeable traces of it at all. In truth, after the recent test of one perfume which claimed to have sandalwood in its notes, I was starting to wonder if I even knew what it smelled like anymore.

Well, it’s here. And, it’s not synthetic! It is sweet, lightly smoky, like creamed honey and molten resin mixed with wood. I’m rather awed by its strength and character, given the scarcity of true sandalwood and its cost. In fact, the strength of the note here makes Ormonde Woman a modern call-back to  those rich sandalwood orientals of the 1970s and 1980s, before the Mysore wood was over-harvested and had to be placed under government protection. The sandalwood mixes with a faintly aromatic, woody, cedar-y scent; with the slightly green-sweet-earthy aspect of cardamom; with the bright, dewy, wet moss; and with a vague breath of something floral. It is a play on bitter and sweet, woody and green, wet and dry.

That vague floral note soon turns into pure, sweet jasmine. Ms. Pilkington has said she likes to work with hedione, a compound often used in conjunction with Jasmine Absolute (which is a part of Ormonde Woman). Hedione lends a vaguely green, fresh tone to the jasmine here. When combined with the lemony fresh notes of the coriander, they cut through any possible indolic heaviness that the flower may have, leaving only sweetness and brightness. I’m afraid that jasmine is the only real floral note that I can smell; in neither of my two tests could I really smell the violets that others have noted. Frankly, violet seems like such a dainty flower that I don’t know how it could possibly compete with the heavy woods, the faintly smoke elements, the resins and the spices.

In the middle stage and the final dry-down, those latter accords still remain. On me, it’s all creamy, delicious, intoxicating sandalwood, resinous amber, and faintly lemony wood. There is still a faintly tarry, smoky note, though the mentholated, almost camphorous notes of the cedar (and Black Hemlock?) have mostly dissipated. There is also the mild sweetness of summer’s grass and the earthy greenness of vetiver dancing in the shadows, faint but there nonetheless.

I have the oddest visual image in my mind: a large, chewy, sort of brownie square. It’s tarry, black, smoky, and moist with bits of light-brown cedar chips sticking out of it and chunks of chilly black licorice. It’s speckled with little glowing orbs of sweet, honeyed amber that dot its surface and the whole thing is wrapped in a box filled with jade-green, dewy moss, sweet emerald-green grass, and delicate white jasmine.

Gainsborough. "Landscape with Cows and Human Figure."

Gainsborough. “Landscape with Cows and Human Figure.”

But, most of all, I feel as though I have entered a Gainsborough landscape through a dream. To me, Ormonde Woman is a perfume of great contrasts where the woods are dark and mysterious, drawn in realistic detail, but there are contrasts of shining bright light and parts where everything is soft, hazed, romantic and dreamy. One is jolted at first, then enveloped in softness. Based on my experience with Tolu, I think such contrasts are something that Ms. Pilkington does very well. They are also one reason why there is such depth and complexity to her scents.

It is utterly mesmerizing, and most definitely unisex. Not feminine, but unisex! I’ve read that the men’s counterpart, Ormonde Man, has oudh and pink peppers in it, and that it’s supposed to be much less sweet. I haven’t tried it to know but, frankly, I think a man would smell divine in Ormonde Woman. In fact, it seems to be a big hit with men due to the strongly woody notes and the Black Hemlock.

That said, I don’t think Ormonde Woman is for everyone. It will be too masculine for women who prefer lighter, sweeter or floral scents. My friend who initially asked me about it months ago enjoys light, airy, fresh green scents; for someone like her, Ormonde Woman would be far too much: too tarry, too spicy, too woody. In addition, the bitter aspect of Black Hemlock seems to have been a problem for a number of people, leading them to react quite strongly. Interestingly, a few perfume bloggers who recoiled upon first essay ended up falling in love with the fragrance some time later after trying it again. So much so that they bought a full bottle!

On Fragrantica, one male poster, “smcandsmc,” wrote something that I think sums up the fragrance perfectly:

Stunning. Wow. Grassy top lifted me off the ground, gorgeous rich middle keeps me suspended in mid air. […]  Seriously having an out of body experience over this. Plotzing. When I read rhapsodic descriptions of the vintage classics in their vintage formulations that I will never experience, this is the depth, richness and quality I imagine.

The superb richness and quality that “smcandsmc” noted is a key characteristic of Ormonde Jayne scents. The perfumes consistently scream high-quality luxury in a way that has utterly transfixed me. I’m sure there will be some in the line that won’t suit my personal style, but the quality of those I’ve tried thus far cannot be denied. They have been outstanding across the board. You can tell that the highest quality ingredients were used in order to create the most luxurious, wonderfully indulgent, seductive experience possible. And the fragrances repeatedly meet the brand’s overall philosophy:

quality and true luxury, the pursuit of beauty and elegance. […]

[The return] to the golden age of perfumery, an elegant era when fragrance creation was a fine art.

Perhaps more importantly, Ormonde Jayne fragrances are approachable and wearable. They are not edgy, sometimes discordant, intellectual art that you would admire but rarely (or, in some cases, never) wear. I can see women and men alike wearing Ormonde Woman frequently, whether on special occasions, for a casual dinner, or just simply to the office (though I would advise caution with regard to the quantity used if you plan on wearing it there). Ormonde Woman has a high degree of concentration: 25% in its most basic form (which seems more akin to extrait de parfum for some other lines), so the sillage can be very strong depending on the amount sprayed. On me, Ormonde Woman wasn’t as strong or potent as Tolu, but it had good sillage for the first two hours, becoming close to the skin around 3 to 3.5 hours in. As a whole, it lasted around 6.5 hours on my perfume-consuming skin. On others, it generally seems to last a long time (8-10), though I’ve read some conflicting reports of its tenacity.

I could go on and on about both Ormonde Woman and the Ormonde Jayne line itself. Truth be told, my initial draft was well over 4,000 words! I have struggled to give you the essence without sounding like a crazed loon but, if space and my readers’ valuable time (not to mention patience) were not an issue, I would wax rhapsodic for several more hours about the astounding quality of the brand. The depth, the richness, the luxuriousness, the ease with which the perfumes transport you elsewhere upon first whiff, their almost lyrical nature….. it is a return to the “golden age of perfumery” indeed.

DETAILS:
Cost & AvailabilityOrmonde Woman is available in perfume extract (30%) and eau de parfum (25%) in 50 ml bottle, as well as in accompanying bath, lotion, cream and candle forms. It is available at the Ormonde Jayne boutique in London or on the company’s website. It is not sold in any department stores in the U.S. The website offers purchases in USD currency and, there, the cost of Ormonde Woman is as follows: a 1.7 oz/50 ml bottle of eau de parfum costs $126 (£80), while the pure parfum comes in a 1.7 oz/50 ml “premium French flacon with a gold OJ motif stopper and Japanese ribbons” and costs $300. There is a set of travel sized purse sprays (4 x 10ml) that costs $100 and a Discovery set of all 12 fragrances in 2 ml mini-sprays for $75. The perfume is also available at Harrods in London and, I’ve read, at Fortum & Mason. Please note that Harrods only sells Ormonde Woman in the expensive bottle for £184.00, not in the £80 bottle available on the brand’s own website. Ormonde Jayne fragrances are also sold in Brussels, Belgium at Senteurs d’Ailleurs (whose website is under construction, so I can’t link you to anything) and at Osswald in Zurich, Switzerland.
OJ Discovery SetI highly recommend the Discovery Set which the Ormonde Jayne website describes as follows: “Ormonde Jayne’s Discovery Set is comprised of 12 x 2ml mini sprays of eau de parfum, together with a brochure explaining each perfume, all housed in a black and gold box… and whats more, the shipping is complimentary worldwide.”
Samples: You can also order samples of Ormonde Woman from various sample sites. I obtained my sample from Surrender to Chance which sells samples starting at $3.99 for half of the standard 1 ml vial. It is also offers Ormonde Woman in parfum concentration for the same starting price. Surrender to Chance ships worldwide for about $5.95 (though it’s a little bit more for larger orders over $75), and for $2.95 for all orders within the U.S., regardless of the size of the order.

“The People v. Amarige” – Prosecution & Defense

The People v. Amarige – Case # 13-92745B

The Bailiff: “Oyez, Oyez, the Court is now in session. The Honorable Judge Charles Highblossom presiding. On the docket, The People v. Amarige, Case # 13-92745B. The charge is olfactory assault and battery. State your name and business before the Court.”

[A small, balding man rises]: “I am the District Attorney, Luke Sneering.”

[A tiny, dark woman rises]: “I am the Public Defender, Grace Hopeless-Causes, representing the Defendant, Amarige de Givenchy.” [She points to the table where Amarige sits. She is enveloped in the most luxurious white furs, drips gleaming diamonds, and wears the largest, frothiest hat this side of a royal wedding. The defendant’s chin is raised defiantly, her eyes staring straight ahead, but she nervously fingers her diamond choker.]

[The white-wigged judge bangs his gavel]: “The Prosecution may proceed.”

THE PROSECUTION:

[The D.A., Mr. Sneering]: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. We are here to convict Amarige, from the house of Givenchy, with being the most heinous perfume in the world. Countless have fallen prey to her horrors. You will hear testimony from asthmatics whom we will wheel in from the Intensive Care Unit where they landed after a mere whiff of her olfactory napalm. You will hear of her ubiquity in the 1990s, Amarige 1990sassaulting you from every magazine perfume strip, invading your home through your mailbox, until there was no escape. You will hear from Luca Turin, the perfume expert, on how she is “truly loathsome,” a perfume he rated one-star, and which he hates the most in all the world. And, in the end, you will do the right thing: you will convict her of assault and battery, even though what we really should be charging her with are crimes against humanity!

Let us start at the beginning. Amarige was let loose upon the unsuspecting public in 1991, a fruity-floral Frankenstein created by the legendary nose, Dominique Ropion, who really should have known better! Her parts, according to Fragrantica, consist of:

top notes are composed of fresh fruit: peach, plum, orange, mandarin, with the sweetness of rose wood and neroli. The floral bouquet, very intense and luscious, is created of mimosa, neroli, tuberose, gardenia and acacia with a gourmand hint of black currant. The warm woody base is composed of musk, sandalwood, vanilla, amber, Tonka bean and cedar.

In those long-ago days, as the perfume blogger The Non-Blonde states so well, there was no escape from her fumed tentacles. You didn’t have to buy it to wear it.

[You] didn’t have to: you could go into a public building, a friend’s home or get on a bus and emerge with your hair and clothes smelling of it. Amarige was so recognizable and obvious that even I, lover of assertive perfumes, couldn’t deal with it. Not to mention the fact that it’s so very peachy you could feel the juice dribble on your chin.

The Non-Blonde may have had a baffling change of heart on Amarige, but she was right when she said that “women who maintain the old habit of marinating themselves in Amarige should have their noses and sanity examined.” (Frankly, I think the Non-Blonde should have her sanity examined for her sudden appreciation of Amarige. No, time does not heal all olfactory wounds!)

I said at the start that what we should be charging Amarige with are crimes against humanity. The world agrees with me. I present as witnesses, some posters from Basenotes.

[The court security guards wheel in the witnesses that they have ferried over from the Intensive Care Unit. From their gurneys, they feebly lift their heads to take the vow to ‘tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,’ so help them God. And then they testify.]

  • Tuberose’s reputation has been damaged almost irrepairably by this most horrid affair. If I were her I would sue.
  • Truly, truly awful. Radiates out to the orbit of Neptune. Causes asthma, retching and a stampede for the exit. Frightens children and pets, ruins dinner-parties, restaurant meals and plane journeys. Could be used to eradicate vermin from silos and warehouses. [..] Please people, stop buying this hideous juice so Givenchy will stop making it. It’s an abomination, a crime against humanity. I can’t understand why any woman would want to smell like this, or why her significant other would want to smell it on her. A chemical disaster of Chernobyl proportions.
  • this Perfume is a migraine in a bottle. […] The absolute worst fragrance I’ve ever smelled.
  • I own a bottle of it due to my initial attraction to its smell in small quantities. Wearing it, I feel nauseous and completely unable to eat anything. I tried to scrub it off in the shower but it won’t die. I haven’t eaten anything all day. I think this toxic odor could be useful as a diet aid.
  • Horrible, HORRIBLE soapy smell broadcasting out to the planet at gigawatt levels. I made the mistake of spraying this onto my wrist and I thought I’d never be able to remove it. This smell made me feel nauseous and headachey.

The final witness comes from Fragrantica:

If I had to describe this perfume in one word it would be ‘haunting’ because it’s unpleasant and, like the eerie warnings written in blood on the walls, impossible to scrub off.

‘Blood on the walls.’ Blood on the walls, people! The eerie warnings come, in part, from tuberose, one of the most indolic flowers around. What is an idole, you ask? I draw your attention to Exhibit 3, the Glossary of perfume terms. It is something found naturally in many heady, white flowers — like tuberose. In excessive amounts, it can lead to a feel of extreme full-blown, over-ripeness. In cases of fragrances like Amarige, it can turn to an aroma of sourness, even cat litter feces, plastic flowers, urine,  garbage heaps of rotting fruit, or all of the above. At best, Amarige is a fetid, rotting stinker that will turn from over-blown flowers to pure sourness and cat urine. At worst, it will choke up your airways, prevent all breathing and render you utterly unconscious. All in just 2 small whiffs.

You don’t believe me, I can see it in your eyes. Well, we shall prove it to you. Guards! Bring in the testers!”

[The guards set up two, tiny canisters at each end of the room. The jury shifts in their chairs nervously. A cordon of security blocks the doors. The District Attorney dramatically puts on a giant gas mask, akin to those used by soldiers in the first Persian Gulf War when there were fears of Saddam Hussein using chemical warfare — or Amarige — against American troops. Mr. Sneering points to the guards and nods.

Pfft. Pfft. Pfft.  

Three small whiffs of scent are released from each of the two canisters. White flower after white flower suddenly fills the room. They flit here, they flit there. They are omnipresent. There is a smell of orange, orange blossom, more orange blossom, and still more. It spreads its powerful molecules around the room like a carpet unfurling a wave. Little spectres of happy yellow mimosa flowers dance along the orange carpet. There is a shadow of some silken amber rising up, peeking its eyes above the wave of orange. Peach makes an appearance, adding to the orange haze filling the room and cocooning the white ghosts of tuberose and gardenia. The powerful ghosts dance merrily up to the District Attorney and punch him in his gas-masked nose. He falls back, but rises with a glare.

There is an audible gasp. A woman in the far back of the visitor’s gallery clutches her throat and gasps for air. Juror #4 faints completely. Jurors #6 and #9 have a look of rapt enchantment and glazed joy on their faces, much to the disgust of the District Attorney who sneers at them. In her seat, Amarige smiles faintly. With an almost imperceptible flick of her dainty chin, she tells the ever-growing, large white ghosts of tuberose and gardenia to move near Juror #5 who told of her upcoming wedding in Voir Dire. They move and the Juror suddenly sits up straighter in her chair, dreams of her wedding day and of Amarige trailing behind her in a billowing cloud of white.

The Jury Foreman has been watching these proceedings with unease. When Juror # 2 keels over beside him, begging for medical help and saying she is dying, he starts to back away. Quietly, he inches towards the door and then flees outright, only to head straight into a wall of security. The gas-masked police officers grimly shake their heads. He looks at them pleading. “I can’t take it any more. Get me out of here,” he whispers. “It’s in my nose, it’s burning my skin. There is so much fruit all of a sudden. I’m surrounded by peaches and a whiff of plum. It’s cloying, synthetic and artificial. And it’s covering every inch of me, like fruited animals devouring my skin. I need a shower. Please, have mercy.” They sympathetically shake their heads again and drag him, kicking and screaming, back to his chair.

The Judge has had enough of these theatrics. He orders medical attention for the gasping or collapsed bodies, lying crumpled like rag dolls throughout the room. He orders all the windows opened and the room to be fumigated before the court will reconvene the next day. He contemplates also ordering psychiatric evaluations for those jurors who had beatific, hypnotized, enraptured smiles on their faces, but decides he cannot seem biased.

The next day, the court reconvenes and the District Attorney resumes his case.]

“Ladies and gentlemen, I apologise for subjecting you yesterday to the horrors of Amarige. But, I had to give you the chance to decide for yourself. The People’s case will conclude with our expert, Mr. Luca Turin, the most famous perfume critic in the world. Before you is Exhibit 4, an excerpt from his book with Tania Sanchez, Perfumes: the A-Z Guide. Note the categorization of Amarige as ‘Killer tuberose.’ Killer. Not extreme but ‘killer.’ The one-star review reads as follows:

We nearly gave it four stars: the soapy-green tobacco-tuberose accord Dominique Ropion designed for Amarige is unmissable, unmistakeable, and unforgettable. However, it is also truly loathsome, perceptible even at parts-per-billion levels, and at all times incompatible with others’ enjoyment of food, music, sex, and travel. If you are reading this because it is your darling fragrance, please wear it at home exclusively, and tape the windows shut.

Ladies and gentlemen, the People rest their case.”

THE DEFENSE:

[The Public Defender, Grace Hopeless-Causes, rises and speaks]: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I am here for one reason and one reason only. To represent the shamed, silent, closeted minority of women who adore Amarige and feel she has been most unjustly accused of crimes against perfumery! She has been vilified for far too long and it’s time for the Amarige lovers to defend her!

The weight and power of Luca Turin’s reputation has added the final, unjust nail in Amarige’s coffin. It is not tuberose who should sue Amarige, but Amarige who should sue Luca Turin for defamatory libel!

Don’t believe the District Attorney. He has presented only one, very slanted, side to the story. Did you note how he had only one witness from Fragrantica? Why is that, do you think? I’ll tell you why: because that was the sole, truly harsh review of Amarige. He didn’t tell you of all the others which spoke of the joy, the happy, dancing aura of Amarige, the image of beautiful wedding days, or posts writing of “sumptuous” finishes, of “sophistication” and “class.” There is no mention of how it is addictive, of how you can’t stop sniffing your wrists, of how intensely feminine it can make you feel.

And there is not a word about how it can drive men wild.

No, the District Attorney has presented a very lopsided, distorted picture of Amarige. Even when he quotes Luca Turin, he leaves out the words of his co-author, Tania Sanchez, who wrote in that same book:

Amarige is a genius work of perfumery, utterly recognizable, memorable, technically polished and spectacularly loud.

The D.A. quickly brushed over how they wanted to give it four stars. FOUR. And there is not a peep out of him over the fact that the very book he quotes as expert opinion actually lists Amarige in their top 10 BEST list at the back! It is in their 10 Best Loud Perfumes list, next to the 5-star Fracas, 5-star Angel, and the 5-star Lolita Lempicka perfumes. Strange for a perfume that Mr. Sneering and Luca Turin would have you believe is a crime against perfume humanity, no?

amarige1998Yes, Amarige is loud and a diva. Yes, one big squirt can blow your head off. But no-one ever said you should bathe in it, for heaven’s sake! Plus, don’t let the opening blast fool you. Amarige has average sillage and longevity. After the first ten minutes, it can fade to a much tamer level. If you don’t believe me, read Fragrantica, Basenotes or MakeupAlley, and see similar comments for yourself.

To all those who have had asthmatic attacks as a result of encounters with Amarige, I apologise. She apologises. Truly. But the same thing could happen from Lolita Lempicka, Angel or a whole host of perfumes. Why have they not been brought up on charges? Why does Luca Turin adore and worship the brilliance of Angel — a scent which many have compared to toxic nerve gas — but not the admittedly “genius,” “technically polished” masterpiece of Amarige? And, in all cases, isn’t it the fault of the wearers who spray on too much? Blaming Amarige for medical injuries triggered by over-use is akin to blaming a car manufacturer for accidents that may arise from someone texting while driving.

Where we concede and confess fully is the charge that Amarige is a diva. Yes. Yes, she is.Maria Callas Amarige is Maria Callas, the legendary opera singer, taking center stage under the bright white lights, and showered with diamonds by billionaires like Aristotle Onassis who loved her more than he ever did Jackie O. Amarige is not meant to be a simpering, quiet wallflower, sitting in the corner, awaiting a man to ask her to dance. She will push her way to the center of the floor and dance by herself, mesmerizing a room — public opinion be damned!

As for the charge that she is a cloying monster with some potentially synthetic undertones, we plead the Fifth. Even if true, and we are not saying that it is, many other perfumes are too. And, yet, do you see them in this courtroom? Speaking only for myself, I do not find Amarige to be synthetic. I think she is exactly what Givenchy and Dominique Ropion meant for her to be. As Fragrantica explains:

The name of the perfume ‘Amarige‘ is an anagram of the French word ‘Mariage.’ That is why this fragrance is as intensive as a strong feeling, merry, juicy and unforgettable as a moment of happy mariage. It is so opulent and floral that it seems like its composition includes all the beautiful flowers that exist in the world.

The Amarige woman is graceful, playful and charming, a real French woman in love. She radiates joy and gives a happy smile.

Maria Callas Tosca

Maria Callas in “Tosca.”

Despite her opulence and diva status, Amarige can be a cheap date. You can find a 1 oz bottle on Kohl‘s for $50 or on Sephora for $49. A 1.6 oz bottle costs $67 on Sephora, and much less on eBay. Compare those prices to more reputable white floral or tuberose scents: Robert Piguet‘s Fracas starts at $95; while Frederic Malle‘s Carnal Flower starts at $230 at Barneys.

Whatever she is, I realise this is the most hopeless of all lost causes. Amarige’s reputation has been destroyed beyond all measure. I can sit here and talk to you about her lovely white femininity, her peach exuberance, that dry-down of spice and amber, and it will make no difference at all. There is simply no hope of restoring her good name.

But I make this plea to you, ladies and gentlement of the jury: do not let the perfume world’s easy, facile dismissal of Amarige influence you. They are not objective and they have followed Luca Turin like sheep. After all, they proudly admit their love for Fracas, another white flowers explosion that make people gasp for air.

Admittedly, Fracas is a much more elegant creature than the brazen hussy, Amarige. And, yes, hard as it is to believe, Fracas almost seems like almost a quiet, shy child in comparison. But are they really so different as to warrant Fracas’s triumphant twirl in the spotlight as a cult favorite and legend, while Amarige wilts in the wilds of guilty obscurity? Again, Fracas may be of slightly better quality and there is not a hint of anything synthetic about it. But it too is an over-blown indolic scent that can turn sour or lead to thoughts of rotting fruit. Amarige is more fruity than Fracas, true, but there is luscious peach, orange and amber in Hermès‘ sophisticated 24 Faubourg, after all.

Unlike 24 Faubourg’s sophisticated woman, however, Amarige is like a happy child, all yellow, orange and white dancing flowers, full of exuberance and femininity. It is not a scent for those who like discreet, quiet, unobtrusive fragrances. It’s not for those who can’t stand heady, narcotically powerful ones, either. And it is most definitely not for those who can’t bear white flowers.

But if you love Amarige, I beg of you: do not go quietly into that good night, hiding your face in shame and covering your scarlet letter, that “A” which marks you as an A-marige lover. Rise up and defend her name. Admit your folly and sins. Admit she is glorious. Don’t wear her only in the privacy of your own room with the windows duct-taped shut. And find her not guilty of crimes against perfumery!”

[The Public Defender sits down and the jury leaves for its deliberations. There is no word from them for three days. Then, finally, they return.]

THE VERDICT:

Hung jury.

[Nine jurors wanted to convict.

Three held out, utterly in love, and on their way to buy a bottle for themselves.]

Perfume Review – Chanel Les Exclusifs Sycomore: Mighty Vetiver

Close your eyes and imagine you are in the heart of a forest at Yosemite National Park.

Source: Deby Dixon Photography

Source: Deby Dixon Photography

Cypress trees and evergreens intermingle and stretch far before you. The dark, dry earth is sprinkled with pine needles, and a wild boar is rooting at the tall grasses at the base of a tree, his endeavors lifting the smell of the earthy, chocolate-y roots into the air. Icicles hang from the branches where, nestled deep within, are purple juniper berries. In the heart of the forest, campfires burn thick logs of pine and cypress, and there is a smell of peppery smoke intermingling with the burning woods. Someone is cooking caramel, and burning it. You huddle deeper into your coat as the hint of frost brings a chill, but you can’t help but take a deeper breath of the vetiver surrounding you.

SycomoreGreen and brown, smoky and earthy, with a heart of cypress and wood — that is Chanel‘s Sycomore. It is an incredibly elegant smell, luxurious and leaving a smooth, trail of pure class oozing in its green-brown trail. It is richly masculine, with not a hint of florals, but this is silken masculinity in the most sophisticated, elegant of packages.

Sycomore was first introduced to the world in 1930, the creation of Chanel’s very famous, original perfumer, Ernst Beaux. From what I’ve read, it was all violet and tobacco with some support from soft aldehydes and balsamic wood. The original Sycomore vanished in the perfume mists, but it was re-envisioned and re-introduced in 2008 as an eau de toilette and as part of Chanel’s prestige collection called “Les Exclusifs.” It lesExclusifswas created by Chanel’s house perfumer, Jacques Polge, along with an equally famous “nose” in the industry, Christopher Sheldrake.

On its website, Chanel describes the new Sycomore as follows:

A rich-wood fragrance with a noble character — like the Sycomore tree that inspired it — created by CHANEL Master Perfumer Jacques Polge in 2008. At the heart of the scent: Vetiver, with an elegant Sandalwood note and dashes of Cypress, Juniper and Pink Pepper, for an earthy, warm and enveloping, yet subtle presence.

I think Chanel’s description nails it, unlike the Fragrantica‘s entry for Sycomore which seems completely incorrect in my opinion. Fragrantica puts Sycomore in the “Woody Floral Musk” category, and lists its notes as “vetiver, sandalwood, aldehydes, tobacco and violet.” I suspect both the categorization and the notes apply only to the 1930s version of Sycomore.

No, Chanel’s notes for Sycomore are the ones to follow and they are clearly listed by the Perfume Shrine as follows:

Vetiver, cypress, juniper, pink pepper, smoke, burning woods.

To get a true understanding of Sycomore, I think it’s important to elaborate a bit on the notes. For example, vetiver which not everyone is familiar with as an ingredient or as a smell, and which is the main part of Sycomore.  Chandler Burr, the former New York Times perfume critic, gave this extremely useful explanation to GQ:

vetiver-roots

Vetiver Roots.
Source: Herbariasoap.com

In the most basic sense, [vetiver is] a grass native to India that grows in bushes up to 4’x4′. It’s also related to lemon grass, as you can tell when you smell it. The stuff—it’s the grass’s long, thin roots that they distill—is infinitely more interesting though: deep, shadowed, astringent, earthy like newly tilled soil, and balsam-woody. It can be warm like tobacco leaves, it can have a crushed-green leaves freshness, or it can be cool like lemon verbena.

Haiti produces about 80% of the vetiver oil in the world, although sometimes you’ll be putting a bit of Indonesia or Brazil on your arm as well (Haiti’s is more floral, Java’s is smokier). There are folks producing it responsibly, too. When you buy a bottle of Terre d’Hermès, which is loaded with the stuff, you’re supporting around 2,000 Haitian farmers and distillers. […]

Like wine, the scent of vetiver oil improves as it ages: the best of it is made with roots that have been aged somewhere between 18-24 months; the oil costs around $200/kg when it hits the market. American scent maker IFF makes it three ways: with steam (resulting in vetiver essence, which is dryer and lighter), solvent (which produces an absolute and is darker, with the scent of rich dirt), and a new technology called “Molecular Distillation” that uses carbon dioxide to yield a scent that’s extraordinary—strongly grapefruit, fresher, zestier.

The Perfume Shrine says that the vetiver in Sycomore is said to be of the Haitian variety so, under Mr. Burr’s explanation, the more floral kind. I’m not an expert on any of the varieties, so I will take their word for it. All I know is that this vetiver smells exactly as Mr. Burr described: “deep, shadowed, astringent, earthy like newly tilled soil, and balsam-woody.”

Do you know how perfume can sometimes take on a colour aura before your eyes? WeaveSycomore opens on me all brown and green. Not khaki but some interwoven panel of dark green and green-brown. It calls to mind green roots and brown earth. Sycomore starts exactly like that, alongside pink peppercorns and an unexpected but definite note of chocolate. It’s almost like chocolate patchouli with vetiver. It’s so confusing that I go over the notes again and, still, I’m at a loss. So, I look up cypress wood which I’m not very familiar with, and that must be the explanation.

From my reading, it seems that cypress wood has a pungent, woody, spicy aroma that can also be sometimes resinous, coniferous, or cedar-like. Here, the combination of the cypress wood with the earthiness of the vetiver seems to have transformed the sum total into chocolate patchouli. You can smell each individual note, but you also have that strong overall impression.

It’s so striking that I looked to see if others had felt the same way. On Basenotes, one commentator also thought there was patchouli in Sycomore, though she concludes the cause was the combination of juniper and cypress. The Scent Critic blog and some on MakeupAlley also picked up on the chocolate edge. And finally, Victoria from Bois de Jasmin summed it up in her usual elegant succinctness: “The chocolate richness of the root is accented by the peppery and smoky notes. The composition possesses an alluring dark character, which in sensation alternates between the tannic dryness of red wine and the softly worn polish of aged woods.”

The chocolate and patchouli impression in Sycomore is so strong for the first hour that it evokes Serge LutensBorneo 1834 in its opening stages. So much so that I’m utterly bewildered by why people compare Chanel’s Coromandel (also from Les Exclusifs) with Borneo 1834, instead of Sycomore. Adding to the similarities between Borneo 1834 and Sycomore is the latter’s strong opening notes of tobacco and smoke. The tobacco note here is faintly bitter, and it is accompanied by a peppery, biting smoky note that is definitely woody.

I wonder about the “burning woods” note listed on many perfume reviews as an element (though not on Chanel’s website), and I keep thinking of guaiac wood. You can read the Glossary for more details but, in a nutshell, guaiac wood has an aroma that is earthy, smoky, tarry, peppery and similar to burning leaves. Tom Ford’s Amber Absolute is also said to have guaiac wood in it, though its official notes are equally vague and merely reference “rich woods” instead of “burning woods.” Both perfumes share a similarly woody, peppery, smoke note, so I have to wonder.

I do smell some sandalwood in Sycomore but, on me, it’s not strong at any point in the perfume’s development. Others have found it, but it’s just a whisper on me. I have to say, I doubt it is real Mysore sandalwood anyway. Anyone who has read Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez’s book, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, will be struck by their repeated, insistent comments on just how few sandalwood fragrances actually have sandalwood in them at all these days. According to them, true sandalwood from Mysore, India is so scarce and so prohibitively expensive that most perfumers use Australian sandalwood which is an entirely different species of plant and with an entirely different scent. To the extent that Sycomore has sandalwood in it (of any kind), I think it is completely overshadowed and overpowered in the initial stages by the patchouli impression from the cypress and vetiver.

As Sycomore continues to unfurl, there is an impression of burnt caramel, black cocoa powder, incense and dry earth. This is like the black version of Coromandel, without the latter’s vanilla, benzoin and powder heart. The increasingly peppery and smoky nature of the perfume makes me wonder again if they used guaiac wood to fortify any “smoke” accord, not to mention the weak sandalwood. There are also flickering hints of evergreen from the juniper which add a coolness or chill that counters the smoky earthiness. It’s an incredibly sexy, darkly mysterious perfume.

There is a dryness to the rich, earthy smell that really calls to mind dirt — not rich, dank or loamy, but sweetly dry. I realise that non-perfumistas will recoil at the thought of smelling faintly like dirt, but there is really no other way to truly describe the undertones to the very smoked, rich, woody notes. The comparison to dirt also explains Luca Turin’s comments in his five-star review of Sycomore in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide. There, he wrote:

The dream team at Chanel seem to delight in applying superior skills to existing ideas they deem worthy of perfecting: Coromandel was a reorchestration of Lutens’s Borneo 1834…. Sycomore is, in my view, a magisterial gloss on Bertrand Duchaufour’s Timbuktu [for L’Artisan Parfumeur]. The later introduced an Altoids-like idea to perfumery, consisting of a minty-licorice coolness combined with a radiant crackling-wood-fire note. […] Vetiver has both an anisic aspect and a smoky one. Cleverly flank it with Timbuktu’s two companions, add a big slug of sandalwood, and vetiver finds itself in worthy company at last. […] Sycomore [is] … the freshest, most salubrious, yet most satisfyingly rich masculine in years. If putting it on does not make you shiver with pleasure, see a doctor.

I’m surprised that Mr. Turin deems Sycomore one of the few sandalwood fragrance reviews not to warrant his usual comments about how perfumes don’t have real sandalwood in them any more, and I certainly don’t find the same “big slug” as he does, but I agree with the rest of his review. (Minus, his choice of which Chanel perfume to compare to Borneo 1834). I particularly understand his reference to Timbuktu which has often been described as having a dry dirt foundation. Sycomore has both the dirt aspects of Timbuktu and that slightly chilled licorice note underlying the earthiness of the dark patchouli…. er.. vetiver and cypress.

Mogambo 2

Mogambo

Perhaps it’s all that dry dirt and rich green which make me constantly imagine those old movies that explored the heart of an African forest — everything is slightly dark and smoky, mysterious and Tshadowy, all amidst lush greenness and dry red-brown dirt. I keep thinking of Clark Gable with Grace Kelly and Ava Gardner in Mogambo, or Humphrey Bogart and Katherine Hepburn in African Queen. I could see either man wearing Sycomore, and Katherine Hepburn too (though never ever Grace Kelly or Ava Gardner).

As time passes, there is even greater depth to the impressions of burnt umber, burnt caramel, resins, saltiness, and earthiness — all under the forest’s canopy of green-brown vetiver and wood. The patchouli impression ceased being dominant a while ago; now it is the turn of the juniper. In general, juniper has an aroma that is fresh, sweet, and like pine trees, with a slightly balsam-like, resinous undertone. Here, they make I feel as though I’m walking through an icy forest at wintertime, my feet crunching on evergreen needles, the chilled smoke of winter in the air, as I walk towards campfires of burning pine logs where someone is cooking with dark chocolate and another person is accidentally burning the caramel. There is still the chocolate note, you see, though it is overshadowed by a more resinous, caramel element. There is also an undertone of anise and licorice.

In its drydown and final hours, all those things vanish, leaving mostly sweet, faintly lemony, grass. It is vaguely reminiscent of the lemongrass that Chandler Burr referenced. The sweetness of the grass may be one reason why a number of people smell marijuana or cannabis a few hours into Sycomore. I do not, but the occasional “ganja” comment is something worth noting if you’re tempted to try Sycomore. What I do smell, in addition to the sweet grass, is a sort of creaminess that I think comes from the sandalwood. As always, however, it is faint; even more of a shadow now than before.

There are two things which confused me about Sycomore. One, which I’ve already mentioned, is that it is Coromandel which is compared to Borneo 1834, when I think it should be this Polge and Sheldrake collaboration instead. (At least, for the opening hour. I don’t think Coromandel is remotely like Borneo 1834.) The second is a far more important issue: Chanel’s gender classification for this scent. Chanel has labeled Sycomore as a woman’s perfume and, to me, that is akin to saying M&Ms are only for women. It makes absolutely no sense at all.

Not only is Sycomore unisex, not only is it the furthest thing possible from “girly,” and not only do men adore this, but it is — I would argue — actually a masculine scent first and foremost. It may be a somewhat feminine masculine fragrance, but it is a masculine fragrance at its heart. In fact, women who have not explored niche scents and who are used to the more traditional, conventional or mass-market feminine fragrances — whether of the floral, “girly,” clean, sugary or gourmand variety — may find Sycomore to be overwhelmingly masculine and an utter shock if purchased blind. This is no Marc Jacob Lola, Guerlain Shalimar or Dior J’adore.

No, Sycomore has consistently been compared to men’s colognes. In fact, commentators on both Basenotes and Fragrantica find it to be an exact duplicate of Lalique‘s L’Encre Noire for Men (2006). A few people even bring up Hermès‘ men’s cologne, Terre d’Hermès — though most people on Basenotes find that much more citrus based and without anything close to the same degree of vetiver in it (no matter what Chandler Burr may think). I agree with that. I’ve got Terre d’Hermès and like it. But, like many on Basenotes, I find them to be very different perfumes and don’t think Terre d’Hermès is a predominantly vetiver scent. As a point of interest, in a Basenotes thread asking for people’s preference as between Sycomore and Terre d’Hermes, a monumental majority chose Sycomore as the better, more elegant, and truer vetiver fragrance.

All in all, Sycomore is an incredibly lovely fragrance and as smooth as silk. It is magnificently blended, such that everything folds into one rich layer upon another. There is a paradoxical coolness to its warmth, but it is never a chilly or aloof scent. It has too much earthiness in its beating heart, radiating its fire with every thump, thump, thump. It is never cloying, and there is not a single, synthetic, cheap note anywhere to be seen. It is truly as masterful and brilliant as so many thing. It is also a very approachable fragrance; it is not one of those edgy, discordant scents that can be worn only infrequently and are to be admired mostly on an intellectual basis as works of olfactory art. I can see men wearing this almost daily and some women frequently.

And, yet, it is not a fragrance for me. For the longest time, I could not pinpoint why. I like vetiver, I wear men’s cologne, and I like smoke and resinous scents. I find it an extremely elegant perfume and, really, it should push all my buttons. In fact, its opening led me to say “Wow” and I couldn’t stop sniffing my wrists for the first ten minutes. But, at the end of the day, it was simply too much vetiver and its dryness could well be described as bone-dry. Sahara dry. For my personal tastes, Sycomore simply veers too much into the masculine without any real sweetness to accompany it.

Nonetheless, if you are a fan of vetiver, woody and/or dry scents, I highly encourage you to test out Sycomore. If you’re not a fan of either of those three categories, then you may like the sweeter, softer Coromandel. (It is my favorite of the 3 Exclusifs that I’ve tried thus far). But if you’re not a fan of patchouli, benzoin or frankincense, then I fear you should skip that one too.

Have you tried Sycomore? If so, was it love at first sniff or simply not your cup of tea?

Details:
Sillage & Longevity: The sillage and longevity of Sycomore is impressive, particularly given that most of the Exclusifs line (with the exception of Coromandel) are said to be thin, sheer, and of short duration. On me, Sycomore had good projection for the first 3 hours, and only became close to the skin after 5 hours. As for longevity, it was above-average for my perfume-consuming skin. I could still smell faint traces of it after 9 hours. On others, I’ve read reports of it lasting almost an entire day.
Cost & Availability: Sycomore only comes in Eau de Toilette concentration and costs $130 for a 2.5 oz/75 ml bottle or $230 for a 6.8 oz/200 ml bottle.  The Exclusifs line is available only in Chanel stores or on their website. I have read numerous comments from people who have tried it at Selfridges in the UK, but did I not see a single Les Exclusifs fragrance on the Selfridges website. Nor have I found it on any U.S. department store websites. It’s not on Lucky Scent either. It is, however, available on Surrender to Chance which is where I obtained my sample. Prices for the smallest vial (1 ml) start at $3.