Mitsouko Eau de Parfum (Summer Review)

This review is not intended to be a rehash of all the reviews that came before; there is nothing I can say about Mitsouko's heritage that hasn't been said better by Monsieur Guerlain. If you are a fragrance connoisseur, you are acutely familiar with Mitsouko in at least one concentration, and have already digested countless articles and blog posts about it. If you are new to the perfume scene, then let me direct you to the aforementioned blog, a terrific humanitarian guide to this "reference chypre," a French masterpiece of 94 years, and counting.

Instead of describing notes and aroma chemical impressions, I'd like to highlight a few emotional and cognitive responses to wearing Mitsouko EDP in the summer. I've had my generous sample for a while now, and have worn it a few times. I'm wearing it as I write this. My first feeling upon applying Mitsouko, every single time I apply it, is disappointment. This perfume is considered a classic, a bonafide masterpiece, a reference not just for traditional chypres, but for traditional French perfumery, something only Catherine Deneuve could forgivably spill all over her bathroom floor. This is iconic stuff. Yet whenever the top notes hit me, I'm awash in ennui. Or, more accurately, I'm awash in wall lacquer from Home Depot.

Forty minutes later, I'm immersed in something old, in a bad way: it smells musty, pretentious, and very grave. I need to try L'Heure Bleue before passing judgment on whether these are pre-WWII Guerlain qualities, or just exclusive to Mitsouko. I do know that by 1925 Jacques Guerlain had created Shalimar, which is decidedly more cheerful and accessible, so already I suspect these bad-dream qualities are unique to Mitsouko. Then again, it makes me think of the infinitely more-cheerful false chypre by Chanel, 31 Rue Cambon, and despite my reservations about that fragrance, I like it better. At least Chanel infuses the chypre concept with a brassy array of citrus and stone fruit notes! Guerlain's structure is bleaker, with only the undecalactone to stew in July heat.

That brings me to the idea of Mitsouko as a "fruity chypre." Classified by the Leffingwell as such, I find this to be highly deceptive, like saying a Christmas fruitcake meets your recommended dietary allowance of fruit. Humidity, sunlight, and gentle mistings of sweat fail miserably to elucidate on the peach note that supposedly resides in the heart of Mitsouko, and I'm left with only a stale, lipsticky labdanum sweetness instead. It feels bloodless and beigey-pink, if that has any meaning, an effect better achieved in chypres that are far less accomplished, like 31 and Bleu de Chanel (an unlikely champion of pink grapefruit-infused labdanum). In other words, Mitsouko's peach effect is monotone, and very sadly synthetic.

Then there's the hope of being transported to new places by good raw materials, dashed by the same cinnamon that resides in Grey Flannel, and a markedly smaller dose of the bready Biolandes iris molecule, which is again encountered in a richer form in Chanel's Les Exclusifs. That irritates me. Guerlain's perfume is almost a century old, and has been reformulated into the predictable style of mimicking naturals without adding anything to the abstract form. At least 31's materials collude to give me two impressions: one of bright fruits on a honeyed, resinous, faux-mossy base - I definitely smell real bergamot, milky-lactonic patchouli powder, iris, and labdanum - and one of a liquid radiance that rapidly swoons into a dusky amber, all curved lines and modern aerodynamics. There is a flatness to 31's base, but I like the fragrance as a whole. Not so, Mitsouko.

Mitsouko EDP's disappointments are so multitudinous that by the time its powdery, rosy-ylang drydown arrives, I'm too annoyed to think much of it. How does it smell? Like wet paint, smeared by a chain smoker's lipstick. Summer heat only adds to its tobacco-induced halitosis. Perhaps I should try the pure parfum instead, but stay tuned for December's winter review of the EDP. I'm hoping cold weather improves it.