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Perles de Lalique – A thoroughly modern chypre – Friday, September 14, 2012 New Fragrance Listing

Photo - Wikipedia - White Pearl Necklace -tanakawho, June 5, 2006

The decision about which frag I post each Friday is sometimes made ad hoc. Sometimes I plan well ahead - because I’ve got my hands on new launch frag, or because we’re featuring specific notes or noses - but  some weeks there’s that insistent inner voice saying  “I feel…I want…I need”. That “other me” voice guides my hand and lifts the box out of the drawer, and what did it choose for today’s post? Perles de Lalique.

Perles de Lalique – Nathalie Lorson - 2006 –is a modern chypre. Which means it’s lighter than the classic chypre that contains the trinity of bergamot, oakmoss and labdanum, plus floral and wood notes, of course. The chypre style is a trend in new launches – Mon Parfum Cherie pour Camille by Annick Goutal, Bottega Veneta, 34 Boulevard St. Germain by Diptyque are some recent examples, but these new scents  differ from the richly layered spicy powdery chypres created by the great 20th C. houses such as Coty, Chanel, Rochas, Caron – the classic frags are often referred to as “old lady smells” by the uninitiated. The modern chypres are different because they use different ingredients. Our modern smell preferences, and the impact of IFRA with its restrictions and outright bans on traditional ingredients has resulted in major revisons to the classic chypre trinity. (You can read the excellent 3-part series on Chypres on

Ever heard of Iso E Super? It’s not a celeb spin doctor, or an on-line game, it’s a chemical used in the fragrance industry in perfumes, soaps, and lotions, and its smell is pure magic. Created by International Flavours and Fragrances about 20 years ago, Iso E Super is a patented molecule which is described by IFF as woody, floral, ambergris…"Smooth, woody, amber with unique aspects giving a ''velvet'' like sensation. Used to impart fullness and subtle strength to fragrances. Superb floralizer found in the majority of newer fine fragrances…” It has a lovely iris note, as well as soft wood, and an airy, open, transparent quality which  makes frags feel light and spacious, becoming skin scents with incredible but quiet tenacity.

Many new frags contain Iso E super – Jean Claude Ellena built his minimalist style around it – try Poivre Samarkand by Hermès and Cartier Déclaration, Geza Shoen created a perfume which contained nothing but Iso E, which he says is impossible not to like – Molecule 01  from Escentric Molecule. Nathalie Lorson uses Iso E Super brilliantly in Perles de Lalique as one of the ingredients in the new chypre trinity. You won’t find it listed as a note, but there’s lots in there according to Elena at

I love how Perles de Laliques opens with such a fresh accord, totally modern – no sweet, no floral – pink pepper right away, followed by a light spicy rose which blooms quickly. The rose and pepper are joined by iris to form an almost sour green accord for a few moments, like pickle brine, which then intensifies and becomes more floral, heating up into a lush spicy rose-iris mix which becomes the heart of this perfume. It’s a very sophisticated scent which hovers on the edge of sweet floral but then withdraws and remains understated, truly modern and very chic, then becomes even more so as the base notes develop.

In the drydown, earthy vetiver, a light dose of dark patchouli, then cashmeran with its musk/cedar/sandalwood accord soften the spice, tone down the green and deepen the florals ever so slightly, keeping the rose and iris accord as the beautiful centrepiece. The result is a creamy, iridescent, close-to-the- skin, dream of a silken scent that feels light as air. If pearls had a scent they would smell like this - creamy, velvet smooth, and lightly sweet and spicy, but still with a faint salty hint of their underwater home.

Compared to a classic chypre, such as Guerlain's iconic Mitsouko, Perles de Lalique may seem to lack the heft, and the powdery richness, the complexity of that older perfume. The traditional chypre structure has segued into the modern interpretation - bergamot has been replaced by pepper, the oakmoss by vetiver, the labdanum by patchouli - and synthetics have been added to the mix, which has opened the windows and turned on the lights in the world of chypres.

In Nathalie Lorson’s Perle de Lalique, the complexity and the quality of the chypre structure is still there, though – it’s just different. And that’s what my "other me" was seeking today – a real honest-to-god perfume, one that that lifts my mood, stays close to me and visits all day, and above all, entertains me.

Perles de Lalique is the perfect example of a modern chypre.

Today we're adding Perles de Lalique to our decant listing. Decants are $4.00.