Perfume Directory

La Belle Hélène (2011)


La Belle Hélène information

Year of Launch2011
AvailabilityIn Production
Average Rating
(based on 26 votes)

People and companies

PerfumerBertrand Duchaufour

About La Belle Hélène

La Belle Hélène is a feminine perfume by MDCI. The scent was launched in 2011 and the fragrance was created by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour

Reviews of La Belle Hélène

La Belle Hélène works with an old-fashioned, slightly dowdy, powdery floral base and gives it a lighter, enlivening twist with fresher notes of linden and pear. The latter cannot escape a synthetic destiny – indeed I have yet to come across a perfumery pear that doesn’t smell a bit plastic. Combine this with the lactones that that are standard issue with Bernard ‘Milky Veil’ Duchaufour and you have a perfume that plays incredibly safe, dressed in pastel pinks and mauves, but on the wrong day will irritate the hell out of you. For something that has its sights set so definitely on the comfort zone, it instead inspired existential ‘is that all there is?’ thoughts in this wearer.
24th December, 2017
rbaker Show all reviews
United Kingdom
The opening blast is all ripe fruit: sweet ripened candied pear with a hint of citrus and a generous lashing of aldehydes to an extent that is has a touch of booziness attached to it. Quite delicious. Dried mirabelles prunes are added in the drydown, as are floral undertones. The latter consist of mainly osmanthus with a nice ylang-ylang mixed in. The heart notes continue the fruity main chord with the floral side bringing welcome variety and balancing the fruitiness nicely.

The drydown is a bit more predictable, following the MDCI tradition of ambery soft and quite bright patchouli with white musk characteristics increasingly evident towards the end. At that stage the powderiness sets in, but is is very gentle in this case, like a gossamer thread woven over the other notes delicately. Fairly generic woodsy impressions appear throughout the base notes too.

The sillage is moderate, the projection very good, and the longevity eight hours on my skin.

This is a nice spring scent, more vivid and performing better that many other creations of this house, and, apart from the base, does not lack some originality; the first hours are the best moment in the development of this composition. In spite of the name, I get neither chocolate nor vanilla though. 3.25/5.
30th August, 2016
Whereas most of the line, despite smelling at least 300 years old, have a high degree of focus, this one’s more panoramic. It’s cotton candy, lipstick, and a mix of fruit notes, all shot through a hazy lens. There’s a green pear that’s fleshy and ripe, but it’s subtle in the mix, and threaded with a slight shampoo quality that’s draped over the whole thing. This, I think, is coming from a phantom apple—which has inevitable associations to hair products for me. Then it deflates into an affable, but tiresome milky fruit. Wearing the scent almost feels like being at a great party (in the 18th century, of course) and then being taken hostage twenty minutes by an absolute bore that can’t get away from. Like pretty much every other scent from this brand, La Belle Helene should come with an accompanying powdered wig.
08th June, 2015
This is a beautiful piece of work, and entirely fitting with Claude Marchal’s focus on commissioning perfumes that nod at French classicism without getting bogged down in pastiche. La Belle Helene has the feel of an old school fruit chypre but none of the somber tone that characterizes most of the classic examples. It opens with a shimmering pear note that’s realistic without straying into Pear Drop or acetone territory, and sharpened with juicy tangerine. Held aloft by a spackle of fizzing aldehydes, the opening notes smell slightly boozy and metallic, like the feeling you get when you knock back a glass of champagne too quickly. It’s sweet though – you have to be ok with some sweetness to like it. I do, and for me, the sweetness of La Belle Helene falls – just – within acceptable limits.

I love the start, but really, the best is yet to come. The heart notes are comprised of orris butter, plum, myrrh, rose, and osmanthus, which meld to forge a most wonderful vintage lipstick or cosmetic powder smell. It smells absolutely gorgeous – soft, rosy, waxy, and creamy. Literally, like the most expensive and most luxurious body cream you could ever afford, perhaps one of those Chanel ones that come in the white box. The osmanthus, in particular, provides an apricot jam note that is close to edible. What’s even more impressive is that the pear note is still present and detectable in the heart notes, and casts its bright, green fruit aroma over everything. At some point, the iris starts to dominate things a bit, and the perfume takes on a more powdery character.

By the time La Belle Helene reaches its drydown, much of the sweet fruits and florals have been whittled away to reveal a more adult backbone of sandalwood, moss, and patchouli. The landing is soft rather than bitter, and has an inky cocoa feel to it, an effect deliberately created, I am guessing, to suggest the dark chocolate sauce that is poured over the poached pears and whipped cream of the famous dessert this fragrance is named for (Poires Belle Helene). Delicious and elegant – a real gourmand treat in the beginning, and then a chypre in the base.
06th April, 2015
Genre: Chypre

Osmanthus is popular with niche perfumers. Witness The Different Company’s, Ormonde Jayne’s and Keiko Mecheri’s Osmanthus; Hermèssence Osmanthe Yunnan; and Parfum d’Empire’s Osmanthus Interdite. Now, close on the heels of Serge Lutens’s Nuit de Cellophane, comes Parfums MDCI’s entry, by Bertrand Duchaufour. Many characterize osmanthus as a fruity (apricot) floral note, and Duchaufour’s apparent object in composing La Belle Hélène is to see just how much fruit he can load the flower with before burying it altogether. The answer? A lot.

La Belle Hélène opens on a powerful fruit accord that spans candied pears, peaches, and apricots - all in Technicolor, stereo, and 3-D. These top notes might be mean to smell appetizing, but fruit at this intensity tends toward a plasticky, artificial character that’s anything but tasty. After a few minutes’ wear the fruit calms down just enough to reveal the powdery floral facets of osmanthus, backed by the sugared almond of heliotropin and a doughy iris note. These last two soften the profoundly sweet fruit accord while pressing the composition more firmly into gourmand territory. Indeed, the buttery, yeasty component that lurks deep within Duchaufour’s Amaranthine and Fleur de Liane finds fuller expression here. (Is it any coincidence, I wonder, that a similar accord anchors the French bakery allusion at the core of Serge Lutens’s more recent Jeax de Peau?)

La Belle Hélène balances precariously between fruity floral and gourmand – at least until the base notes emerge in full, to take the scent in a whole new direction. You see, beneath the flower-garnished fruit tart lies a classic chypre foundation of patchouli, moss, and labdanum that’s far more abstract and sophisticated than I’d expect from a run-or-the-mill fruity floral. In fact, as the chypre foundation comes into full focus, La Belle Hélène reveals itself as a modern, intensely fruity gloss on historic precedents going back - by way of Yvresse, Badgley Mischka, and MDCI’s own Enlévement au Sérail - as far as Mitsouko. Could I do with a little less of the cloying fruit syrup up top? Yes. A little less powder? Yes, that too. Nevertheless, Le Belle Hélène is one clever composition, and if you’re at all susceptible to hyper-realistic fruit notes, osmanthus, or fruity chypres, you ought to give this scent a wearing.
19th June, 2014
MDCI continues their exploration of fruit themes (pineapple in Le Rivage des Syrtes, peach in Peche Cardinal) in high-quality fashion with this pear chypre (!!). This is one of the rare fragrances that smells exactly like what you would guess it would smell like based on its description, and it is wonderful. (Interestingly, this fragrance is not made in Duchaufour's standard postmodern style - although I really like his usual style it's nice to see him working in a more classical mode here.)
22nd March, 2014

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