Vintage finds: There’s a lot more to Lucien Lelong than Indiscret – And a Prize Draw
The only Lucien Lelong perfume that most people know about is their great sharp, fruity Oriental Indiscret, deservedly the star of the line. Most of the scents from the elegant past of this great fashion house are long discontinued, which is unfortunate, especially for someone like me who is just discovering these treasures. I first became aware of the only truly modern Lelong, 1999’s Pour Femme, a few years ago when I fell hard for it at my local perfume shop. This luscious floral-Oriental is a bombshell scent for sure, and with its rich notes of florals such as magnolia, lilac and orchid and honeyed, syrupy Kadota fig on a base of sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss and musk it smells like something out of the glamorous Hollywood golden age, and I just adore it. Later I discovered that they now have a web site where they sell not only this and Indiscret, but several of their old classics, either in the original version or brought back in reformulation. Tailspin, Sirocco, Balalaika, Opening Night, Bain Parfait and Orgueil for women are available, and the lone men’s offering is Robin Hood.
I decided to see if I could find some of the original versions of these scents, but I had no idea how in-demand the Lelongs in general were; I had seen vintage bottles of Indiscret sell on auction sites for pretty impressive numbers but I had never really looked for the others. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the older Lelong perfumes are not always as hard to get as many others are; having been whipped into submission in my attempts to get even a small bottle of classic Shalimar Parfum I had expected the worst. I believe that one advantage was that the odd hobnail glass bottles with long necks that the fragrances came in for a long time (and the ones other than Indiscret and Pour Femme still do) can appear a little cheap in photos, and to the untrained eye they look a bit like drugstore specials. Another factor is that these scents are relatively unfamiliar, and many people looking for vintage perfumes might buy according to name recognition and go for the Guerlains and Chanels instead. In any event I was able to obtain three pristine vintage bottles for very little money: Indiscret, Tailspin and Sirocco. The first two came in an unopened gift set package, and I knew they were really old when I opened the package and examined it more closely. There was a Fedco price label on the box. This was a California members-only department store that existed only from 1948 to 1998; the price was all of $1.99, so I know that it was from the earlier years of the store’s run. The Sirocco bottle was individual, and the seller did not know the provenance, but it does not carry a bar code so I know it’s at least before that era, since everything has one now.
The most surprising one of these three was Indiscret; it was completely lacking in the green sharpness of the opening that makes it so unmistakable today. I don’t know if it is because the top notes are destroyed due to age or if Indiscret was massively reformulated at some point. However, once it’s been on the skin for a while, it reveals itself to be the real thing, as the distinctive rich, spice-laced heart notes are still there, and once I got over the opening I loved it. Tailspin revealed itself to be a true delight, with a fresh, almost bouncy joie de vivre reminiscent of Jean Patou’s masterpiece Moment Suprême. It has a lively herbal opening that is followed by a soft, breezy floral heart with a pleasing and somewhat soapy character. I plan to wear it a lot when spring comes, and on winter days when I really need a lift I will splash it with abandon. Sirocco is an Oriental fragrance with a compelling dry coriander flourish at the beginning that drew me in immediately. As it developed I noted a resemblance to a certain well-known classic perfume, only instead of all that dark vanilla it’s got an absolute ton of my beloved oakmoss in the base; I won’t need any Shalimar for a while after all.
Now I really want to try all the old Lelongs I can find, and if that is not possible I would feel confident in buying the back catalogue fragrances from the Web site, as they are very reasonably priced. I even sent the company an e-mail asking if they were considering re-releasing any other classics, but they have no plans to do so at this time. (I had read about their legendary Magnolia perfume, sadly long gone. If it were half as good as the magnolia in Pour Femme, I would sell my soul for it. I also asked them who did Pour Femme for them, but they declined to reveal that. )
I am offering a sample set of four Lucien Lelong scents - the three vintage ones mentioned plus a sample of Lelong Pour Femme. The vintage fragrances are all Eau de Cologne, but they have plenty of lasting power, and the Pour Femme is Eau de Parfum. Indicate in the comments if you are interested, and please note, I can only ship to U.S. addresses at this time, and any commenters posting as “Anonymous” who do not put a name in the body of their message will not be entered in the draw. The winner’s name will be drawn by an online randomizer program the week after this post appears.
Image credit: Lucien Lelong fashion sketch from Flickr.com Fashion Sleuth photo set, some rights reserved.