Last month I reviewed La Parfumerie Moderne's Années Folles, an evocation of hotel parties on the Riviera during the Roaring Twenties. This week, just as summer arrives in my part of the world, I backed up a few decades to the Belle Époque. Oriza L. Legrand's Villa Lympia is a new fragrance evoking "an air of summer over the Riviera for the first swims of the season," with "the freshness of a gentle breeze, with hints of sea foam and salt, wafting into the shelter of a beach cabin, mingling with scents of moistened wood and burning sand."
I'm a little late to the Oriza L. Legrand party, but I'm smitten with the brand's packaging and I like its concept of reviving fragrances from its archives. Oriza offers numerous nostalgic floral perfumes that I really need to try soon. However, Villa Lympia diverges from the brand's usual path. Unlike violet or leather or heliotrope, "marine" didn't exist as a concept in Belle Époque perfumery. Yet Villa Lympia's composition includes notes of mimosa, pine, sea spray, sea grass, sea salt, immortelle, linseed oil and algae, all brought together to suggest a day at the beach. My French is limited (and rusty), but it seems to be a contemporary composition rather than a recreation of an archival fragrance.
So, what do we smell on a visit to the fictional Villa Lympia (perhaps named after the port of Nice)? It opens with a creamy, slightly vanillic white floral note that suggests frangipani more than mimosa. Then there's plenty of nose-tickling salt air, and some sandy driftwood and dried-out seaweed. Once its introductory floral dissipates, Villa Lympia feels neither particularly feminine nor masculine. It doesn't feel particularly fin de siècle, either, but I suppose the smell of the seashore itself hasn't changed much over the past century or so. Villa Lympia leaves out some of the human-made smells that we've come to associate with the beach and its surrounding amusements — coconut-scented suntan lotion, caramel-coated popcorn, cotton candy, and so on. Instead, we're allowed to enjoy the crunch of sand under our feet and the wind on our faces without all those distractions. Maybe we're even wearing modest late-1800s "bathing costumes" for the occasion.
Villa Lympia's floral side reminds me a bit of Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse (but not its sickly-sweet perfume version!) and its aquatic character reminds me even more of Reminiscence's Rem. Its staying power and sillage are somewhat light for an Eau de Parfum. I don't think Villa Lympia will replace Guerlain Terracotta or CB I Hate Perfume At the Beach 1966 as my favorite "beachy" scents (dressy and casual, respectively), but I enjoyed my sample, even if it's not typical of the Oriza L. Legrand house style. Maybe the timing just happened to be right for me.
Do you have a favorite beachy scent for this summer? Feel free to share in the comments.
Oriza L. Legrand Villa Lympia is available in 100 ml Eau de Parfum ($165). For buying information, see Oriza L. Legrand under Perfume Houses.
Note: image 2 young women in bathing suits on the beach, circa 1902 via The Library of Congress at Pinterest.