Sure, I’m in Paris, but I wasn’t planning to buy perfume. I have plenty already. Besides, I’d already bought a pair of sandals and some underthings, and my budget was shot. Then I smelled Le Galion L’Ame Perdue, a chypre that would have been right at home on Rita Hayworth’s dressing table. When I discovered I couldn’t buy it in the U.S., I handed over my credit card. This baby was going home with me.
Perfumer Rodrigo Flores-Roux developed L’Ame Perdue. Its notes include lemon, Sicilian green mandarin, cardamom, coriander seeds, white pepper, datura, Egyptian jasmine, jasmine sambac imperial absolute, Bulgarian rose, ylang ylang, red lily, cloves, cinnamon, plum, mirabelle, patchouli, amber, benzoin, balsam of Peru, rosewood, vanilla, honey and oak moss.
L’Ame Perdue is a complex, spicy-fruity chypre with an initial hint of skank and miles of earthy glamour.1 It smelled familiar to me right away — it winks at Rochas Femme and Guy Laroche J’ai Osé — yet different enough to keep me sniffing. Instead of Femme’s dirty plum, L’Ame Perdue serves its fruit up with cinnamon and cardamom on a mossy wood plank with a vanilla bean. Christian Dior Dioressence’s spicy-woody oriental vibe crossed my mind, too, but despite L’Ame Perdue’s heavy hitting notes, it’s more delicate.
L’Ame Perdue has moderate sillage and good lasting power. It holds onto its floral-spicy-plum heart for a long time before flattening to a vaguely powdery chypre base. If you’ve lamented that perfume houses just don’t make them like they used to, try a sample of this.
Le Galion’s website doesn’t list any retailers in the United States, and a search of the usual suspects doesn’t turn up the brand stateside, either. But Le Galion L’Ame Perdue Eau de Parfum is available in European markets for 140 euros for 100 ml (I bought mine at Jovoy). The Le Galion website offers a 10 ml size for 25 euros.
Now for a few Paris-related fragrance observations:
- There is so much more sillage on the streets here than in the United States. People don’t shy away from spritzing on scent. Too often it doesn’t balance with their style and presence, but sometimes — thinking of a woman of a certain age in a cloud of green chypre — it does. Also, Lancôme La Vie est Belle and its clones are everywhere.
- Until August 26, the Musée Cernuschi has an exhibition on perfume and culture in ancient China. I went. The show focuses mostly on incense and how it was used in everyday life and across classes. At a few stations, you could smell a recreation of particular old incense forumulas. Dior is one of the exhibition’s underwriters, and for the final scent station François Demachy interpreted a classical Chinese incense for perfuming hair by adding osmanthus, peach, and jasmine — basically turning it into a generic modern fragrance. The museum itself is wonderful, though, and it backs into the Parc Monceau, which is worth a visit on its own.
- I spent a day in Burgundy and by chance stumbled on a parfumerie in Saint Florentin that was going out of business. The owner said her shop was too small to get the big brands, and she had left only a handful of fragrances — Weil Zibeline, Molinard de Molinard, Jean Courturier Coriandre, a lonely canister of Tabac deodorant — to sell at cut-rate prices. She said too many people buy on the internet now for her to stay in business, and Saint Florentin was depressed. (She mentioned she’d divorced not long before. A gentleman from the town wandered in and was clearly a regular visitor. Ask me, and I’d guess he’d set his cap for her and had plans for her retirement.)
1. Flores-Roux is also the nose behind Arquiste Ella, another recent fruity chypre lighter and more playful than L’Ame Perdue and definitely worth smelling if you’re a chypre fan.