Mitsouko Eau de Parfum (Guerlain, In Case You Didn't Know / Winter Review)

AAHH-Ha. NOW I get it.

A lot has changed since August. Before I get into it, let me reiterate what I wrote last summer. This isn't going to be an exhaustive note break-down and analysis of the EDP, nor is it going to be a romantic historical biography. There are literally a thousand of those sorts of posts already published on countless other blogs, far and wide. This is just an explanation of how I currently (and indefinitely) perceive the EDP concentration of this classic by the venerable Old World Parisian house of Guerlain. And yes, a lot about my Mitsouko situation has changed since August, both physically and spiritually. First, the physical. Then, I'll talk about my spirit.

Something strange occurred a little while ago. My Perfumed Court EDP sample was really bothering me. Even now, in twenty degree temperatures, it still doesn't smell very good. It doesn't smell right, so to speak. I still get an angular, angry, peach-lacquer effect, and the oakmoss sticks out like a sore thumb. The cinnamon is stale. The citrus smells like petroleum. There's the presence of elegance, but it lacks any and all of the requisite charisma and charm. So I chewed on that for a while, and realized that I hadn't read up enough on this fragrance, despite the thousands of available pieces written about it. I've read my fair share, mind you, but I had to go back to Monsieur Guerlain, and re-read his evaluation of the fragrance, and its history.

That's where I realized I had messed up big time in buying a sample online. It's likely that they wanted to be hip and chic in doing this, but the Perfumed Court sent me an oakmoss version of the EDP, very likely from a few years back, or a few years before Edouard Fléchier was hired to re-tool Mitsy for IFRA regs. This wouldn't qualify it as one of TPC's "vintage samples," because Mitsy is almost 100 years old, and I doubt anything after the late seventies or eighties would be considered true "vintage" in this case. But I think the ladies who run TPC are of the "older-is-better" school of thought, so whenever they can get something ten or fifteen years older, they feel it's better than getting bottles brand new.

There's a big issue with that, of course: the chemistry of the perfume may be damaged by time. If fifteen or twenty years have passed, and they're sending samples from this fifteen or twenty year-old "better" bottle with oakmoss, that would explain the inherent risk of buying a sample of Mitsouko from TPC. Some people appreciate receiving old stock. I don't. The fragrance will have inevitably changed, and what arrives in the sample sprayer will not be what went into the bottle in the factory all those years earlier.

This has been acknowledged elsewhere. As Andre Moreau so eloquently put it when discussing the vintage EDT version on his blog, Raiders Of The Lost Scent:

"Since perfumes 'mature' with age, the vintage EDT could have aged, and gotten even stronger."

Indeed, the same could have happened to the EDP, even one only a decade old. That could account for the shrieking strength of its bergamot and moss, and the unpleasant "shiny" aspect to its peach lactone. I'm inclined to think this sample was intentionally taken from the old stuff, which unintentionally gave me a bad impression of Mitsouko. Oh, the bitter irony.

Fast forward a few months, and I do something most people who are iffy about Mitsy would not do: I blindly purchase what I know to be a brand-new bottle, judging from the packaging and the ingredients list. Even though I'm expecting it, I'm still surprised to see there's no oakmoss listed on the box. This is the ultimate "reference chypre," but without oakmoss? What is the world coming to? And not only that - they put treemoss in its place! What is this, a cheapie from T.J. Maxx? I bought it anyway. As I was buying it, I thought to myself, "The oakmoss is what's annoying me in my sample, more than anything else. It's not the presence of oakmoss, but the fact that it smells unbalanced against the citrus and labdanum. This bottle has NO oakmoss, which means there is NO CHANCE that oakmoss will annoy me. The peach lactone might be integrated with a smoother, airier, sweeter construction. That's how treemoss smells, after all. I hope I'm right." I took my bottle home and did not use it for a few weeks. I was afraid to touch it, lest I find I should have spent $50 on 2.5 ounces of something I actually like. Then one day I said to myself, "What the fuck?" and made my move. I decided it was cool enough outside to wear Mitsouko, a new formula of Mitsouko, with renewed faith. I sprayed. I smelled. I fell in love, almost immediately.

Thierry Wasser's updating of the formula is, without any doubt, a triumph of postmodern perfumery. Everything I dislike about my sample is ironed out in his blend. There's a muted bergamot note, very high-pitched, but sniffed in the abstract, as if through a white veil, which makes it fresh, clean, but also ethereal, and softer than any other citrus note I've ever smelled. The peach lactone, the treemoss, the roses and jasmines, and even that difficult Biolandes iris synthetic, all smell unified, balanced, and pitch perfect. This is truly a soul-lifting chypre. I wore it again today to work. The ride to work was a happy one. The workday was frequently punctuated with Mitsouko, which made it a better day than it might have otherwise been. I sat through a very long and boring meeting with my arms crossed and my hands folded under them, up against my shirt. I went to scratch my nose, and caught a whiff of Mitsy's far drydown (nine hours in) on my wrist. Suddenly the meeting was a lot more bearable. I can't really describe just how wonderful this stuff smells, because words don't do it justice. Its template is from 1919, a template faithfully adhered to here, and yet it smells new.

See the quiet, and quietly depraved beauty of Catherine Deneuve above? Her flawless, peachy-soft skin is subject to a thousand imaginary whips and lashes in the auburn mood of Luis Buñuel's black tragicomedy, Belle du Jour. Watch that movie, and observe just how incredibly nonchalant she is in it. That's how my Mitsouko EDP smells, right from the nozzle. That's what I expected it to smell like all along.


  1. To be fair, Mitsouko is a challenging perfume no matter what iteration you get your hands on, in my opinion. All the Guerlains took me a while to appreciate; I had to keep going back to them time after time before reaching that "aha!" moment. Now I have a bottle of the EDP - a fairly recent version, about 4 years old. There's also an EDT decant that I got in a swap which is probably older. I like both, but still need to be in the right mood to wear it. I like The Perfumed Dandy's description of it as "petroleum and peach schnapps" (http://theperfumeddandy.com/2013/02/26/petroleum-and-peach-schnapps-mitsouko-by-guerlain-the-perfumed-dandys-scented-letter/) because...yeah, I get that. By the way, he loves it. So Mitsy is like that fascinating, complicated, and baffling woman who you sometimes want to give up on but you know you can't live without her!

  2. True Patty, although I think if I'd encountered the current formula first, I would have fallen for Mitsouko right away and not found it nearly as troubling as I did before. There is something to be said for keeping the "big-boned, bad-tempered" feminine chypre in a good mood: add peach lactone, add a brighter citrus note, let the dry moss fleck across it all from top to bottom, and feel the balance and the beauty wash across you gently. I've worn Mitsy all week long, and have yet to get tired of it. I also feel that, aside from the citrus notes in Shalimar, Mitsy is superior to Shalimar in every way. Shalimar is beautiful in its own right, but a little too "boudoir" for me. Mitsouko is cool and aloof, not made to seduce.


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