Lolita Lempicka L de Lolita, 2006

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(image Valeria Lukyanova, source unknown)

Frédéric Malle Musc Ravageur is the classic ‘whole lotta everything’ perfume. It’s an Aromatic Fougiental with gourmand tendencies. It doesn’t blend categories. It lumps them all together in the same bottle. Keeping the different genres at arms length from each other is a remarkable technical accomplishment. Unfortunately, it also leaves Musc Ravageur open to love/hate criticism. Fougère fans will find too much sweetness. Those hoping for a warm amber will find the aromatic elements jarring. It’s not gourmand enough for others.

I don’t know if perfumer Maurice Roucel had plans to spin off a set of flankers by overdosing particular notes, but Musc Ravaguer is an ideal starting place. Helmut Lang Eau de Parfum glides past the aromatics and amps up the musk. Le Labo Labdanum 18 makes a marshmallow of a perfume by emphasizing vanilla and removing much of Musc Ravageur’s kitchen sink.

L de Lolita doesn’t so much overdose a particular note as accentuate the ties to the gourmand genre. The perfume makes its point with patchouli. The camphorous side of the material replicates the aromatic top of Musc Ravageur, but by skipping the lavender L de Lolita skirts fougère references. Patchouli’s chocolate side combines with a maple syrup note (immortelle) to create a dessert feel. Juxtaposing patchouli’s contrastingly cool and warm sides while adding skosh of cotton candy gives Lolita a passing resemblance to Thierry Mugler Angel. Angel’s trick, though, is its inherent dissonance. It suggests food and poison in the same sniff. L de Lolita is far less conflicted than Angel and lands squarely in the desert camp, ultimately smelling like a German Chocolate cupcake.

L de Lolita misses the point. Angel balances food and toxin in a 50-50 mix. It draws you close with cotton candy and then blasts you with camphor just as you get intimate—it’s a classic tease. L de Lolita distorts the ratio. 90% cupcake draws you in but the 10% poison isn’t enough to push you away—it’s classic nausea.

There is something technically fascinating yet conceptually crass about L de Lolita. For all the expertise that that may have gone into manipulating genres and layering notes just so, the experience it asks the wearer to have is trite. L de Lolita creeps too far into the laziness of the gourmand genre. The experience it offers is,  “Hey. Wanna smell sort of like a cupcake?”



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  1. Ines says:

    As a big lover of L, I must disagree. :D
    That said, the one time I had a chance to meet Mr. Roucel, that was the perfume I was wearing and well, of all the people there, I was the only one he asked what I was wearing. :D I think he was rather pleasantly surprised how it wafted…

    1. jtd says:

      Ines, apparently the proof is in the pudding, not the cupcake. You met Roucel? And you wore L?! I’ll defer to your expertise on the matter.

      Have you ever tried Roucel’s Lyra by Alain Delon? It was released in 1993 and smells like the precursor to the whole MR/Helmut Lang/le Labo family.

      1. Ines says:

        Unfortunately not, but what you now said sounds like something I’d love to try. :)

  2. jtd says:

    Hi, WordBird! I hadn’t smelled L de Lolita in years until recently when someone near me at work was wearing it. I recognized it but couldn’t place it. After an hour or so something went ‘click’ and I identified it. I can’t say I’m a great fan, but I find the lineage interesting.

  3. lisawordbird says:

    By coincidence, I wore a spritz of L on my hand yesterday, having bought a bottle when it came out because I was crazy about gourmands at the time. Since then, I’ve developed a taste for chypres and my fondness for the sweet and sticky things has waned. In fact, my bottle of L had been stuck at the back of a cupboard for a few years, as I found it indigestible and sickly.

    So yesterday I expected to want to scrub off that rich, sweet vanilla fudge that I remembered. But actually, I spent most of the day with my hand glued to my nose. Whether my skin has changed or the juice has macerated and mellowed over time, I don’t know. Probably the only difference is my perception, but I enjoyed it. It is indeed sweet and rich, and it has an overdose of vanilla in it, but there’s a balance to it that is beguiling.

    Now, I have no intention of trading this for my beloved Madame Rochas or Miss Balmain, but I think I may well wear it to bed tonight, for a cocooning vibe.

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