Guerlain Mitsouko

Perfume has always been “a personal thing.” But in 2015 in Seattle my very sophisticated second-cousin who voted in the Electoral College, competes internationally in winter sports, got a perfect score on her SAT and spent years as a Shakespearean actress reproached me for my use of perfume at the opera by saying, “The bastion of Seattle is fragrance-free.”

“Is that Chanel No. 5?!” she asked with a hint of annoyance as we sashayed up the stairs to our seats.

“No! It’s Mitsouko, actually.” I replied. I enjoyed her company and it scared me to possibly offend her sensibilities that much.

She was still hostile albeit intellectually intrigued. Mitsouko is fascinating.

Smelling Guerlain Mitsouko, which debuted in 1919 ahead of Chanel’s in 1921 its easy to see her mistake. Although Mitsouko is considered a Chypre and No. 5 a Floral Aldehyde the rose note of the early 20th Century is perhaps similar in both. And actually, if you consider the precursors to No. 5 like Rallet No. 1 and etc. they seem very close in age. Of course, Jacques Guerlain composed Mitsouko as inspired by Claude Farrčre’s novel ‘La bataille’.

…Funny thing though, there’s something both buttoned-up and old-world opulent about Mitsouko. It is very evocative and powerful like Chanel No. 5, sure. But Mitsouko’s bergamot is also prim in the most delightful way.

I love Mitsouko. As a fan of chypres I can say it’s arguably the greatest masterpiece of the genre. The best peach chypre in human history? …And yet as a grand chypre it’s temperamental, demanding and difficult at times and not a fragrance to make any sort of assumption about. Still, it’s stunning on the right person or in the bottle. It’s a rare beauty. A rare gem.

Regardless, if you’re on the West Coast don’t wear it to get compliments.

Lavender from a cousin’s garden.