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La Belle Hélène – You won’t know how good it is unless you try it (March 21, 2011 New Fragrance Listing)

  Escoffier's Poire Belle Hélène

I was a picky eater when I was a child. Mealtimes became a battlefield with my parents trying every trick in the book – the spoon-as-airplane tactic – “Open wide, here comes the plane…”, the feeding-my-doll-at-the-same-time strategy “See, Chatty Cathy loves it….” the “Just try a little bit, maybe you’ll like it” ploy. Rarely worked though. I knew what I liked and what I didn’t. And while my palate has broadened, I still know what I like and what I don’t. And there’s the rub – having very definite likes and dislikes can sometimes leave very little room for adventure or the delight of discovery.

You have to trust someone for them to take you out of your comfort zone, like when your BFF tells you that a blouse suits you.Trust takes a long time to develop, but a leap of faith can broaden your tastes, enrich your life and help you to grow. That’s what La Belle Hélène did for me.

I’m not a fan of fruity fragrances, I have a lot of trouble with fruity gourmands even. So I was bit hesitant when La Belle Hélène was launched last month by MDCI PArfums, deciding without even a whiff that this scent inspired by Escoffier’s dessert of poached pears, chocolate sauce, Ice cream and crystallised violets was not for me.Yet, something nagged at me. I have met owner and Creative Director, Claude Marchal, a few times in Paris and really, really like him. He is warm, friendly, accommodating, passionate about perfume and I have come to trust him. The perfumer, Bertrand Duchaufour – nose, genius, artist. Are there any scents of his that I don’t like? [Still thinking two hours later] Nope. I trust him too. I trust him to create a scent that I would love and enjoy wearing and recommend. So what was holding me back from trying La Belle Hélène? Well, I’m not a psychiatrist – how do I know why I do the things I do – but I do know that staying in your comfort zone leads to sensible shoes and sombre clothing. Gack!

My bottle of LBH arrived on Tuesday and I’ve worn nothing else since.  OK, I’ve been wearing clothes too, cause I love my family, but the only frag I’ve worn is La Belle Hélène.

It opens with a bright citrus tang from tangerine and lime blossom paired with crisp, tart pear. Osmanthus appears at the heart with its notes of luscious apricot jam and green violet. Rose and ylang ylang balance the sweetness and add a floral freshness to the scent. As the scent blooms, the violet gets powdery and woody – aspects which are amplified by the addition of iris which also brings out the leather aspect of osmanthus.  Anise at the base adds its own unique sweetness while myrrh, patchouli amber vetiver give it an animalic depth that is a counterpoint to the lush, rich fruits at the heart.

La Belle Hélène isn’t dessert sweet; it’s much more sophisticated than that.  And it isn’t fruity; it’s much more nuanced than that. It is spectacular – but you won’t know that unless you try it – just once.

La Belle Hélène is listed in our Decant Store. Decants are $7.00 for 1 ml.