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Loulou – sensuous and innocent and a masterpiece

Photo: perfumeniche.com

LouLou by Cacharel, EdP vintage bottle, 1989

Kay and I both collect fragrances. And when we started this blog, we each drew up a list of the fragrances we owned, ones we wanted to buy, and ones we would never sell as decants from our collections. One of the perfumes on my list was Loulou by Cacharel.

Cacharel is a French ready-to-wear clothing and accessories line founded in 1962 by fashion designer Jean Bousquet. The brand became popular and well known for its colourful, youthful, feminine and refined style.

In 1975 Bousquet wanted to add a line of fragrances so he hired L'Oréal to create fragrances for Cacharel. The first, Anaïs Anaïs, was launched in 1978. It was a huge success and over the years was followed by many fragrances like Cacharel pour l'Homme, Noa, Amor Amor. Then in 1987, Loulou was launched.

Signed by master perfumer, Jean Guichard, who was given the brief to create a fragrance that was innocent, fitting with the youthful and feminine ethos of the Cacharel brand, yet seductive. Guichard found inspiration in actress Louise Brooks' performance as Lulu, in the 1929 film Pandora's Box. Lulu is a young dancer and a prostitute - a child and a woman - the perfect combination of innocent and seductive.

Loulou became one of the top-selling perfumes of the 1980's and a classic of modern perfumery. In his book, 'Perfumes: the Guide', Luca Turin gives it five stars, saying 'This is one of the greats.'

Michel Edwards, the international fragrance expert, includes Loulou in his book 'Perfume Legends' and credits it with launching the '…vanilla vogue of the Nineties and a cavalcade of fragrances with mouthwatering scents', in other words the gourmand fragrances we know today.

Loulou is constructed around vanilla (innocent) and tiare (seductive). In 'Perfume Legends' Guichard says: 'the idea of vanilla came straight into my head because we wanted something sensual that smelled of skin. In France, people say that a young girl's skin smells of caramel. That is the smell of toffee, which is a bit vanilla-like…So we started working around the vanilla-toffee notes." To make the fragrance more provocative and sensual, they turned to tiare: floral, creamy, indolic.

I bought my bottle in 1989 at the airport in Paris. Truth be told, I don't even remember smelling it, I bought it for the bottle. That gorgeous blue opaline faceted flask with the red top that looks like a flame was irresistible. When I finally got down to smelling Loulou, I knew it was something special. Smelling it now, I realize it still is.

My Loulou opens with bergamot, not a blast, but a whisper. The bergamot is joined by a light, fruity, tangy note of black currant buds. I smell green leaves, not fresh garden leaves, but the leaves in a deep dark forest. I smell the spicy and herbal aspects of marigold, sweetened, and freshened by mandarin. Then slowly, the heart notes start to come forward. Opulent, indolic jasmine, almond/vanilla faceted heliotrope, sweet, powdery mimosa set the stage for tiare. It's sensuous, indolic and creamy. Rich, fruity ylang-ylang supports the tiare.

Once the floral heart is in full bloom, Loulou becomes irresistible. It's fresh and powdery, sweet and indolic all at once. Iris extends the powderiness to the base where Tonka bean, smelling like almond and vanilla custard, opens the way for the cozy, sweet, toffee-faceted scent of vanilla. Here it is, the sensuality of the tiare alongside the tenderness of the vanilla. What an olfactory experience this is. And just when you think it's too sweet, a note of smoky, resinous incense reins it in. Musk helps, too, by adding warmth, while sandalwood, woody, soft and rich, gives Loulou a sensuous smoothness.

The sweetness may be quieted, but that vanilla/tiare combo lingers for a long time, making Loulou so many things at once: tender, sexy, moody, resiny. I think that's what I've always loved about it.

My vintage bottle of Loulou doesn't have the big presence it used to have, but even when I wear it now, it smells original and new.  You know, I think I like it better now than when I first wore it.

Loulou1987 vintage, is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $15.00 for 1ml.

Image - perfumeniche.com