You’ve Changed

A familiar scenario took place chez The Scentimentalist last night: a new bottle of scent was brandishedan 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.

Butoh!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 injusticein 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 costlyand often diminishingcomponents 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 masterworkbut 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 newand less gloriousjuice.

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, wholike The Scentimentalistseeks 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.


  1. Dear Scentimentalist, you're so right, the new Diorissimo smells all plasticky. It's horrible. Like an idiot I went and bought a bottle before you tested it and reported it wasn't worth buying. In fact, this was my first perfume purchase! Then recently I was excited to obtain a bottle of vintage Diorissimo on ebay - but it's still in its box and cellophane, so I don't dare open it! Really a tale of disaster from start to finish. My experiences with Bandit have been so much happier...

  2. No surprises that Diorissimo was the first scent up to be targetted here. Such a shame! Truly a case of a good scent -- no, beautiful scent! -- gone bad! Why don't you sell off the bottle you don't care for, Frances? I can't imagine it's at all worth hanging on to. You are very lucky to have such a fabulous stash of good quality vintage scents to partake of. Those Le Galions were a gorgeous investment, to my mind.

  3. I like the oxymoron of tears at Joy's changing...

    Must check out that rubber band note in the new Opium, though a lighter version of most things is something I usually welcome!

    I used to own both Ysatis and Magie Noire in the 80s, and find the new ones unacceptably civetty. Unless I have changed in my tolerance of civet?

  4. Isn't it sad and disquietening - all these reformulations. The word 'reformulation' has taken on a bitter tone and taste for me.

    My recent disappointment with Vol de Nuit extrait is another to add to my list and to your list of 'changed' perfumes. There's only treemoss in it now. I don't know why they had to remove ALL the oakmoss as it's only restricted .

    I tried the new Opium - yes, it's definitely changed - lighter ,somewhat plasticky. The new EDP bottle is hideous .Perhaps for those who never owned Opium prior to the change, it will be a good perfume ...but not for those who cherished the now 'vintage' jus.

    Hitting Ebay is something I have done but there comes a time when you have to accept and move on ... and to better things .... like niche perfume ! *GRIN*

  5. re the reformulated Diorissimo - there's not much left now, Scentimentalist, because I disliked it so much that I sprinkled it all around the place trying to get rid of it. Then I moved house :(

  6. I kind of like Mystic Knot's attitude, as William Blake wrote:

    He who binds to himself a joy doth the winged life destroy.
    But he who kisses the joy as it flies lives in eternity's sunrise.

    However, even niche scents are subject to reformulation! The singular tragedy of Czech and Speake #88 comes to mind. Niche really is the answer cause it's the high volume of designer stuff that brings about the changes. Before anything selling maximum product is the goal.

    It stands to reason that one day a niche company will be be established to remake some of these old perfumes, or to approximate them as closely as possible. At least there seems to be sufficient demand to bring this about.

  7. Fab comments! And very wise, truth be told ...

    Flit: Ysatis just smells 'lighter' to me today, though I still think it smells pretty good, whereas Magie Noire is a dilution - if still pleasant - of the stonker it once was. It is far less raunchy, and arguably less civetty, to my mind.

    Mulling over the 'niche' thing, particularly the proposition that a niche company will pick up these old formulas for an older audience that now outnumbers the young, and has more spending power to boot.

  8. For me, It's Shalimar. I know many never liked it in the first place, but to me, the mysore in the old formulation (EDT and EDP) was simply divine. They just don;t make it like they used to, so I must take my chances with ebay ; )

  9. Oh, La Bonne Vivante, I believe Shalimar has a great many admirers here ... :-)

    I've been wondering how the Hermes brand stands regarding reformulations? Any comments? I should really ask my mother -- she has been wearing Caleche now for many a decade, and I don't recall any complaints from her.

  10. I ordered Ystais online and was stunned at the change. The scent dissipates with almost frightening rapidity. The note alterations are so profound that it is simply no longer Ysatis. How very sad.

  11. Agreed on Ysatis, Anonymous. An '80s phenomenon thinned and cleaned out. No point.