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sherapop

Perfumes, Persons, and Poems. Perfumes as Persons, Part I.

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[B]My ugly divorce from [I]Mitsouko[/I][/B]

Upon draining the last drop of my beautiful 3.1oz gold-encased bottle of Guerlain [I]Mitsouko[/I], I reached immediately for my back-up 2.5oz bottle containing, I naďvely thought at the time, the same precious elixir. Not so, I was devastated to discover. All of the charm and seduction of the opening had disappeared, leaving a vague, watery opening in its place. As the fragrance dried down, it improved somewhat, but only near the end was I able to recognize anything even faintly resembling the [I]Mitsouko [/I]so dear to me.

My natural conclusion was that the new bottle, in the classic design, had simply sat on a shelf at some warehouse with sketchy climate control for far too long. Relieved by these ruminations, I set out, undaunted, with a spring in my step, to purchase a new replacement, anxious to be reunited with my favorite perfume. Upon the arrival of the package harboring my treasure within—or so I thought—expedited to my domicile by one of my favorite on-line emporia, with whom I have never had troubles of any kind, least of all the receipt of spoiled perfume, I ceremoniously ripped the cellophane off the box, marking with flourish and even a touch of melodrama what was to be the beginning of a greatly anticipated reunion. I slowly removed the nozzle, savoring the moment, and sprayed some on. To my horror, I found the same insipid opening I had recently sniffed upon spritzing on the contents of the back-up bottle which I had soberly reasoned must have gone bad. As the famous and frankly plaintive adage goes ([I]pace [/I]George W. Bush), [B]“Fool me once: shame on you. Fool me twice: shame on me.” [/B]

Now I was forced to accept the tragic fact: Guerlain had indeed fiddled with the formula. Whether this unthinkable act was carried out in an attempt to conform with new health restrictions imposed on the perfume industry or simply to save money—or for some other obscure LVMH reason—mattered little. Whatever the ultimate explanation of this hatchet job might be, it had become as clear as frosty vodka in a lead crystal glass that my days of savoring Mitsouko were now officially over. I do believe that I felt every bit as cheated and jilted as the faithful spouse and homemaker whose formerly devoted husband suffers a mid-life crisis and runs off to the Caribbean with his dental hygienist, leaving only bills and bitterness behind.

When asked to name my favorite perfume, it used to be easy to answer: [I]Mitsouko[/I]. To give such an answer today would simply be false. Moreover, to those who have only sniffed the reformulated perfume, such an answer would cast doubts on my own perfumic prowess! [I][B]That[/B] is her favorite perfume?[/I] I can imagine those aghast at what [I]Mitsouko [/I]has become snickering quietly to themselves. And they would be right, because this [I]Mitsouko [/I]is not a perfume that I have any real interest in wearing, and I'm not at all sure that I will ever again.

Reformulations of perfumes such [I]Mitsouko [/I]originally launched long ago—when different materials were available and the qualities of certain materials were quite different as well—have been said to be necessitated on various grounds. The legal banning of the use of certain substances is certainly one of the most frequently cited rationalizations for reformulation, but there are obviously many others as well—involving probably more often than not purely economic factors, which play an important if not paramount role in managing businesses. In many cases, it seems likely that someone in the upper management echelons deemed it financially necessary to cut the production cost of a perfume.

The strategic goal need not be to increase the net profit per bottle, as reformulated perfumes are often sold at lower prices as well. The reasoning in such cases appears, then, simply to be that it is more profitable to sell many bottles of a less expensive perfume at a lower price than it would be to sell fewer bottles of the original perfume at an elevated price. The name of great perfumes is the most powerful marketing ploy that there could possibly be. Do whatever you like to [I]Shalimar[/I]—reformulate, water it down and even sell it in Walgreens for only a few bucks—but continue to call it [I]Shalimar[/I], and people will buy and wear it, you may rest assured. [I]I'm talking to you, LVMH[/I]—though you apparently got the memo long ago.

Many famous perfumes with noble lineages and reputations spanning decades have been reformulated, including such classics as my formerly favorite perfume. [I]Mitsouko [/I]can be found in many shapes and forms, and although all bear the same name, only those corresponding to the formula in my first bottle of this perfume actually contain what I regard as genuine [I]Mitsouko[/I]. (It is possible, of course, that my first bottle did not contain the original formula, but I fell in love with it anyway...) The second and third bottles, which I purchased in the twenty-first century, harbor, to my dismay, a far less noble perfume disguised in the regal robes of [I]Mitsouko [/I]and claiming to be the same, though this is obviously not the case, for it is but a cheap imposter.

In order to relive the wonderfulness of my earlier [I]Mitsouko [/I]experiences, I now must settle for removing the cap off the original bottle, sniffing the beauty still there to be found, and then reminiscing about what it was like to wear a truly great perfume. When I attempt to wear either of the two imposter perfumes, rather than finding myself enraptured in olfactory delight, I find myself depressed. (Although I'm no aficionado of country music, a bit of wailing Willie Nelson music in the background would not be unfitting.) Merely donning one of the reformulations of [I]Mitsouko[/I] is enough to induce in me a Proust-length meditation on the imminent Fall of Western Civilization and the nature of human corruption. Once a person has taken a single tiny step onto that slippery slope, by sacrificing even one formerly sacred value, it becomes very difficult, if not impossible, to reverse the damage done. Perfumes, too, have a hard time traveling back in time, dragging themselves up from the dregs to their formerly pure, unadulterated state. When all has been said and done, it may ultimately be impossible for those who betray their loved ones to ever regain their trust again.

The first, most natural, reaction to such a betrayal is anger. Why me? What did I ever do to you, [I]Mitsouko[/I]? But this anger is misdirected, ultimately futile, and perhaps even self-destructive. [I]Mitsouko[/I] has changed, effectively hit the road with some half-wit harlot half my age while keeping the same name and leaving me in the lurch, devastated and dazed.


(to be continued...)
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  1. lisa16's Avatar
    Sherapop-- do you know when this reformulation happened? I am curious because I am new to Mitsouko, having only smelled it for the first time a couple of months ago. I too ordered it from one of the internet emporia. And I wonder if what I own/smell is the reformulation. Is there any way to tell? Is there a stamp on the bottle or a handy label change?
  2. Birdboy48's Avatar
    I would not blame Mitsouko; I would pity it, and blame the evil step-parents who subjected it to the sort of cruel abuse which would harm anyone's soul, and once accomplished, then sent it back out on the road in the same fine coach, but in poor and shabby clothes.
  3. sherapop's Avatar
    [QUOTE=lisa16;bt5844]Sherapop-- do you know when this reformulation happened? I am curious because I am new to Mitsouko, having only smelled it for the first time a couple of months ago. I too ordered it from one of the internet emporia. And I wonder if what I own/smell is the reformulation. Is there any way to tell? Is there a stamp on the bottle or a handy label change?[/QUOTE]

    Greetings, [B][COLOR="magenta"]lisa16[/COLOR][/B], and thanks for dropping by!

    I must confess ignorance as to the date(s) of reformulation of [I]Mitsouko[/I]. I only know that the bottle which I purchased pre-Y2K contained a very different perfume from the bottles I purchased post-Y2K. That's an excellent question, though. My two new bottles are of edt and edp--both are the classic bottle design--and neither is the same as my former bottle of edt. I actually think that using the classic bottle design is a bit deceptive in this case, suggesting, as it does, that what is inside is the original perfume. Of course, it's no more deceptive, I suppose, than using the same name...

    There are some obscure letters and numbers printed on the different bottles, so it might be possible to contact Guerlain and try to decipher what all of this means. I don't think that they deny having reformulated their wares, so it's possible that they would share the history of this perfume's tragic Fall, though of course they do not regard it in such a way.

    Your question leads directly to a tangential issue which is super relevant to those of us who are members of big fragrance communities such as basenotes. One of the most disruptive consequences of serial reformulation (such as everyone knows is done chez Caron...) is that when we review a perfume, we may or may not really be disagreeing, since there's no way of knowing whether the reviewer who appears to be spewing nonsense has actually smelled the same perfume!

    I am reminded here of a relatively recent review of Christian Celle [I]Calypso Rose[/I], which I wrote at the other major fragrance website. I claimed in that review that, contrary to all rational expectations, [I]Calypso Rose [/I]was not really a rose-centric perfume. Many months later, after wearing [I]Calypso Rose[/I] straight from the bottle on multiple occasions, I deduced that my decanted vial must have actually contained [I]Calypso Mimosa[/I]!

    So, why is this relevant? Because in the case of reformulation, the problem is much worse. Apparently contradictory reviews of a reformulated perfume may be taken to offer evidence for either the "confused" reviewer's confusion, or else the wildly disparate reception of a single perfume. I think, in other words, that reformulation produces a kind of Tower of Babel situation in our communications about perfumes.

    Unless we have been assured that the house does not reformulate (either on principle, or because the perfume was launched so recently that it would be absurd to do so...), then we cannot know whether we are actually discussing the same thing!:undecided:

    Thanks again for your input!
  4. sherapop's Avatar
    [QUOTE=Birdboy48;bt5849]I would not blame Mitsouko; I would pity it, and blame the evil step-parents who subjected it to the sort of cruel abuse which would harm anyone's soul, and once accomplished, then sent it back out on the road in the same fine coach, but in poor and shabby clothes.[/QUOTE]

    Ah yes, [B][COLOR="darkorchid"]Birdboy48[/COLOR][/B], the ever-vexing question of moral responsibility rears its head, as it always does when moral personhood is in play!

    [B]Who is really responsible, in the end?[/B] If we absolve [I]Mitsouko[/I], then why not absolve the evil step-parents as well. Why, after all, would anyone choose to be an evil step parent, I ask you sincerely!!!!

    As the classic saying goes: [I][B][COLOR="seagreen"]Forgive them, for they know not what they do.[/COLOR][/B][/I]

    Or should we, in this case, adopt a rather different version of the prescription:

    [B][I][COLOR="red"]Do not forgive them, for they know precisely what they do, and, given the choice, they would do it all over again![/COLOR][/I][/B]
  5. awesomeness's Avatar
    The much-maligned & reformulated Rochas Femme is so much better than the current drivel that's called Mitsouko, imo. I just don't get the fascination with Mitsouko. Maybe that it can be purchased at Target was the first clue. ;-/
  6. sherapop's Avatar
    [QUOTE=awesomeness;bt5894]The much-maligned & reformulated Rochas Femme is so much better than the current drivel that's called Mitsouko, imo. I just don't get the fascination with Mitsouko. Maybe that it can be purchased at Target was the first clue. ;-/[/QUOTE]

    [COLOR="darkorchid"][B]awesomeness! [/B][/COLOR]How awesome of you to drop by! Your bold contrarian stands are always a joy to read! If the truth be told (though this is bound to irk someone), many people appear to be riding out the wave of a great name--just as I describe above with regard to [I]Shalimar[/I]. Newsflash: that bottle of [I]Shalimar[/I] you snapped up in Walgreens is *not* the perfume that your grandmother (may she rest in peace) wore so religiously!

    Oh, and I should add that, yes, as a matter of fact, my bottle of Rochas [I]Femme[/I] (obviously reformulated) smells pretty wonderful to me. You and I do not always agree, but on this one we definitely sniff nostril to nostril!!!

    You're just in the nick of time for the next installment, O Awesome One: please do stop by again!:coolold:



Loving perfume on the Internet since 2000