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    Odile's avatar

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    Mitsouko by Guerlain

    I first became intrigued by this scent while reading The Collector by John Fowles (psychologically fascinating read, by the way). Inspiring more than one real-life psychopath, the book is about a disturbed young man who abducts a beautiful art student and holds her captive in the cellar of his remote estate. The captive-protagonist is vibrant, idealistic, compassionate, philosophical, dignified, and forcefully determined to live. She embodies a thrilling fullness of youth and passion and joie de vivre. She is the perfect foil to her emotionally dead, clinical, and hollow captor who lacks the ability to appreciate any of her remarkable qualities beyond just her physical beauty. In one pivotal scene, she has steeled herself to seduce her captor, her desperate will to live finally usurping her principles. She is certain she can melt his cold, detached soullessness by giving of herself; by showing him human tenderness and vulnerability she believes might inspire him to show mercy. Intent on her aim, she emerges resolute from a long, near-ceremonial bath wafting “oceans of Mitsouko.”

    I found this scene haunting, weighty, chilling. From this time I have associated Mitsouko with solemn resolve, beauty with the strength and fragility of spider’s silk, uncertainty as deep and vast as the ocean. A fragrance associated with human spirit that has been pushed beyond its limits and has emerged from the other side stronger, more powerful, and with the realization of possessing a kind of freedom that cannot be taken by another. That simple description “oceans of Mitsouko” has stuck in my mind; I longed to experience it, and yet, for some reason this curiosity was shelved and forgotten. Now many years later I have finally tried Mitsouko for myself and it brings all these impressions and associations flooding back to me upon first sniff. Incredibly, this smells exactly as I would imagine it on the beautiful young captive in her damp, earthen cellar on a dark, isolated night, prepared to take on and defeat the worst of human nature with the best of human nature – compassion and forgiveness. Lovely, melancholy, beguiling, intoxicating, austere and yet warm, a touch sad, but also wise and knowing. Poignant. I do not think it was happenstance that Fowles chose to incorporate this fragrance as a sensuous detail into his eerie tale.

    I have a teeny-tiny decant of vintage extrait; I suspect it has degraded a bit with time because on my skin the top-notes seem nonexistent. It cuts straight to a heart of overripe peach nestled in a mossy heart with just a hint of spice, mainly clove. I find this stays very close to my skin and almost melds seamlessly into my own chemistry. The voluptuous softness of the peach perfectly rounds out the sharper edges of the moss. I find it addictive, achingly beautiful, and unlike anything else I have experienced. Beside Mitsouko, all of my other favorite chypres (especially those by Bernard Chant) seem like they’re . . . missing . . . something. That round, soft sweetness reigning in the deeply hypnotic and expansive mossiness is utterly unique to Mitsouko (as far as I have yet to come across, anyway). Since sampling this, I simply don’t feel like wearing any of my other fragrances. I’m sure this will change with time, but right now I am under Mitsouko’s spell. I am awaiting a mail-order of the modern EDP and can only hope it will not disappoint me. I am hoarding this small decant of vintage, indescribably saddened by the knowledge that I might not be able to replace it; that eventually, this scent will cease to exist.

    I don’t understand the reviewers who claim they don’t “get” Mitsouko. I guess I don’t see what there is to “get” – it is beautiful. End stop. I don’t get bread, dough, pickles, rancid nuts or cooking oil from this. It isn’t a fickle scent on my skin – she has been consistently lovely. Maybe I will understand when I try the newer formulation. Maybe I just got lucky with my chemistry. I find it timeless, quite more so even than sister-scent Shalimar. I have a wardrobe of fragrances others might consider “old lady” and though I enjoy them and appreciate them, I can understand where the “old lady” critique might apply. I don’t feel this way about Mitsouko. I am suddenly all but intolerant of the “modern” fragrances in my collection – they don’t speak to me the way Mitsouko does. They never have. I am also a little saddened to think this may be my one and only olfactory experience of this magnitude, no other fragrance has yet passed my radar that has carried with it such anticipation, such expectations, and so much weighty context. I will enjoy the search, however!

    16th December, 2010 (Last Edited: 17th December, 2010)

Loving perfume on the Internet since 2000