A familiar scenario took place chez The Scentimentalist last night: a new bottle of scent was brandished—an oldie and, yes, a goodie. Its cap was tugged off roughly in nostalgic anticipation; expectant alveoli quieted and at the ready.
Spritz! And in for a sniff, for that first moment of nasal recall.
But—oh!—that wasn’t First! At least, not the First I remembered. Since when did its voluminous jasmine note smell so grimly diluted, its narcissus accord like the daffodils going mouldy in the vase by my fireplace?
A vexing tale, but true. And one that, over the past few years, has afflicted The Scentimentalist’s nostrils with deadening frequency. For First, like so many other landmark scents, has been ‘reformulated’—nay, adulterated, readers!
This phenomenon has been hastened by a plethora of factors, most of which have been dwelled on in more detail and with a good deal more erudition than here. Certainly, the IFRA Code of Practice with its attendant standards and regulations has proved a prime mover in this regard, notably in the run-up to 2010. Most galling have been its steely (but by no means new) restrictions on oakmoss; hence, perfume websites now abound with articles bewailing this injustice—in some cases, with very good cause.
In a great many instances, it is the harsh realities of ‘the bottom line’ that have been a driving force behind reformulation, with costly—and often diminishing—components being steadily replaced by infinitely cheaper, and yet very serviceable, synthetic substitutes.
The letter of the law has also prevailed, with many reconfigurations emerging from the banning of substances, natural or otherwise, including those identified as irritants or allergens, or as unsustainable or demanding environmental protection.
In the case of vintage Rive Gauche, it was arguably Tom Ford’s ego that was sufficient to tweak this perfume masterwork—but why, and for whom? Once unimpeachable and now unspeakable, afficionados are advised to check the detail on the packaging: if the name ‘Rive Gauche’ is flanked by two small, black squares, then you know you’ve got a bottle of the new—and less glorious—juice.
Sticking with YSL, perhaps the news that has created the most disquiet in perfume fora this year is the desecration (for it can only be described as such) of Opium. Presumably in a bid to deflate its late Seventies big-hair credentials, YSL has seen fit to render it altogether ‘lighter’, with a reported note (—oh, the horror!) of ‘rubber bands’ …
So where does all this leave the guileless and unlucky shopper, who—like The Scentimentalist—seeks out a beloved scent that one has worn without interruption, or perhaps wore just a few years hitherto, or even several decades before, only to find that it is now little more than a simulacrum?
Well, to start, it should be accepted that, invariably, there will be tears (cf. The Scentimentalist and the new Diorissimo, Joy and No. 19). This may, in certain instances, evolve into unbridled, impotent rage (cf. The Scentimentalist and the newer Tabac Blond and Cristalle). Meanwhile, in the very best-case scenario, mere confusion and hapless bewilderment will reign (cf. The Scentimentalist and Ysatis, Oscar de la Renta and Habanita).
Or then, you could just go with it. Shit happens. And change—we frequently find—can be scary.
Contrariwise, you could remind yourself that, for many great scents things are not all bad, and that there’s still some solid stuff to be had. To wit, though the beast that is Bandit has now changed more times than you’ve changed your own pantaloons, what exists on the shelves at this time is pretty tolerable, ditto Mitsouko.
And then, of course, there’s one final suggestion (though you may, like The Scentimentalist, end up living in perfumed penury): get your ass quick sticks onto ebay and snap up every old-formulation bottle IN EXISTENCE!
What are your reformulation woes? Share them here, with The Scentimentalist.
And thanks to Michael Fowler's mummy (once, but sadly no longer, a devoted wearer of Opium) for inspiring this post.