(image source unknown)
Perfumer Annick Ménardo
Lolita Lempicka is often identified as a post–Angel flanker, the first of Angel’s progeny, many of which would follow. Most of those would be defined as cotton candy + something loud, the ‘loud’ most often being a harsh floral note or a startling fruit note. While this group of followers can be considered imitators, they don’t necessarily fall into the same (sub?) genre as Angel, one I call “Unresolved Gourmands”, or fragrances with a food element combined with something else to make them appear simultaneously edible and poison. A great trick, and one that Angel pulls off impressively, but one that most of the followers miss by being strictly gourmand, and purely dessert at that.
I understand the line from Angel to Lolita and it has to do with corresponding principles of construction. Despite sharing a patchouli/praline base, though, Lolita takes you for a very different ride than Angel does *. While Angel’s first and virtually only state is dissonance, Lolita is poised and unflappable. Lolita hints at its gourmand-era origins, but slyly. A dominant violet-anise accord steers it as close to l’Heure Bleue as to Angel, yet it doesn’t come off as derivative of either. This green streak starts cool and leafy but folds into a vetiver basenote, which, once it was pointed out to me, I couldn’t miss. Ménardo managed to combine this cool green accord with a cherried praline base to give a complex sweetness without falling into the traps of the gourmand genre. There’s none of the exaggeration of dessert notes that can make gourmand perfumes seem caricaturish. How Ménardo juggles these two sides of the perfume without friction or dissonance is remarkable. Props to her.
Lolita strolls in the vicinity of so many sweet and gourmand perfumes of its day, and to look at a list of notes, it might look like pure dessert, but Annick Ménardo threw in enough counterpoints and unexpected ideas to keep it well out of the sugar shack. Lolita didn’t take as definitive a gourmand stance as Angel’s other progeny did (eg. Chanel Coco Mademoiselle, Miss Dior Chérie, or Lancome La Vie est Belle.) The way that the Post-Angel perfumes juxtaposed cotton-candy and pralines with patchouli and screechy white florals made they wear like purgatory. Lolita separates itself from these beleaguered gourmands not in different notes but in a conspicuous measure of sophistication.
If I haven’t made the point, Lolita is utterly charming. Also, my friend Aleli wears it and she’s wonderful.
* I think of Lolita as having a patchouli/praline accord and Angel as having a patchouli/praline discord.