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Friday, February 09, 2007

Exploring Thierry Mugler Le Parfum Coffret - Baby

I have always thought that scents that profess to smell “like a baby” were built on romanticized stereotypes and have little to no relation to real, actual, human babies. Most of such scents make emphasis on purity, freshness and/or powderiness. This, to me, is a reflection on a politically correct, sterile society obsessed with extreme cleanliness. There is much more to a baby than the smell of shampoo we use on its hair or the powder we put on its tiny bottom. A fragrance that strives to be baby-like, even a very-clean-baby-like, has to be more than simply reminiscent of Johnson & Johnson products. Babies smell –rather obviously- of milk; poor little pumpkins drool quite heavily when they are very small, and so they are always slightly redolent of a vaguely vinegary smell of saliva. However much care one takes to keep a baby clean (and hopefully we all take a lot of care), however promptly one changes its diapers, the very faint smell of urine will be inevitably present in the background.

The wet nurse in Suskind’s Perfumer, the one that leaves little Grenouille with Father Terrier in Chapter 1, has always seemed to me to be a sentimental fool. Quite frankly, I don’t believe that any wet nurse familiar with babies would describe the smell of an infant in such romanticized notions. Babies do not smell of “fresh butter”, “griddle cake” or “caramel”. Having said that, she is right in one thing- once you smelled them, you love them. And perhaps she did not mean those things in a literal sense and I should give her credit. The milk, the saliva, the pee and the poo, the baby shampoo and the talc all combine to create a smell that is more delicious than any caramel. Babies smell “sweet” and “magical”, because they are cute, helpless, smiley, endearing little creatures, and because they are YOURS.

I am glad that Les Christophs (Christophe Laudamiel and Christoph Hornetz) did not try to create Baby, one of the 15 scents from Perfume Coffret, inspired by the movie Perfume, based on the sappy ramblings of the Wet Nurse. Nor did they follow the clean-powdery trend, typical of contemporary perfumery. Baby is a very simple, very quiet fragrance that combines delicate citrus notes, a very subtle almond accord, and what I can only describe as a rather true smell of milk. It smells of a baby who not too recently took an orangey-almondy smelling bath, had its milk and is now resting with that serious, determined face that babies have when they are asleep, snorting ever so softly. When I make an emphasis on not too recent a bath, I mean that I detect something musky-dirty lurking in this scent, underneath all the fresh citruses …something like the faintest hint of Human Existence. Uncomplicated and delicate (at times hardly smell-able) as it is, Baby became the first scent ever to evoke in my mind an image, or a memory, of an infant, and for that I applaud its creators.

Having said that, I don’t really have any use for this fragrance, or for baby-smelling perfumes in general. I would feel strange smelling that way myself, and my child already has a natural smell all of her own. Perhaps when she is grown up and I am very old and very nostalgic, I would sniff Baby and long for the time when she was tiny and smelled milk-y and drool-y.

Le Parfum Coffret can be purchased at Thierry Mugler USA, $700.00 for 15 bottles.

You can read the reviews of other scents from the coffret, Boutique Baldini, Amor and Psyche and Nuit Napolitane, here.

The images are from and


Blogger tmp00 said...

Interesting- it seems that Human Existence is a thread that runs through a lot of these. Wonderful review!

1:06 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so right about the smell of babies. I remember thinking I was going to die one day when I walked into a restroom in a library and was assaulted by the smell of putrid diaper emanating from a trashcan.

But you're right that the people we love (babies, partners) are the ones that smell the best to us. I thought your image of yourself as an old woman perhaps wanting to relive the scent of drool and milk was very nice.

2:41 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Colombina with her reviews could lull me to buy ANY perfume on this earth (oh, and probably from Mars and Pluto as well...) BUT a scent called Baby is just not inspiring to me. No, thank you Colombina, this one won't grow any new one in my farm for lemmings.

3:09 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't comment as I'm too busy gurgling, cooing and clucking over the photo of supreme cuteness.

This is one way in which the perfume cannot compete with the reality. The back of a baby's neck, the top of its head, the delicate wrinkling of its toes... I'm sighing.

Quintessentially brilliant review, M. I'm sighing again.

4:04 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting line of thought (and brillantly writen, as always...sighing with Leopoldo): Baby smell good and magical because they are helpless. Trick of mother nature, makes us love them, unconditionally. Question: Are we all genetically imprinted to love the wonderful, magical, never forgettable smell of a baby's back of the head? I guess so.

6:08 AM EST  
Blogger chayaruchama said...

I love this review.
Perhaps, it is one of those 'museum' scents we so enjoy taking out, admiring its mastery, and then putting back in its cherished place, until later...
Not really wearing, per se.

Leo, love, there is very little more aphrodisiacal than a man cooing over a baby-
Makes even indurated women swoon !

Keep warm, honey, and take care...

6:37 AM EST  
Blogger elle said...

OK, am going to have to do a full confession here and admit that I don't think I've actually ever smelled a baby in my entire life. Not even my goddaughter. I do have a few friends w/ human children (most of us have canine and feline children), but I was always convinced I would break them if I held them...way too fragile looking and too important to risk that. Besides, I can count on my fingers the number of times I've been in a room w/ a baby. I've been on buses and subways w/ them, but I don't think that counts - other smells take over there. Have *got* to go resniff my Baby sample. I probably thought it was "off" since it didn't smell of the expected J&J products.

6:43 AM EST  
Blogger marchlion said...

Baby head baby head baby head. Is there anything more fabulous? I sniff random strangers' babies, surreptitiously, if they'll let me. My 10YO daughter, oddly enough, has retained her baby smell. I sneak in there after she's asleep (I check on them all) and sniff. Utter bliss. 4YO daughter lost that smell at 1, but her twin brother still has it...

I believe Cristopher Brosius once said it was the most common request from customers.

Let's see... if I am remembering correctly, the French/Italians use orange-blossom-smelling things on their babies, so OB scents are less popular in common perfumery because it has strong associations as a "baby" smell. Folks in the U.S. associate "powdery" with babies, an association not automatically made abroad...

8:25 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh, M, I am so moved by this review because despite not romanticizing the smell of babies, you capture just why we love it anyway. No, I don't need or want this perfume, but I will give my niece and nephews an extra snuggle when I next see them.

8:33 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! I do find something dirty present in all of these, in some more than in others. I just call it Human Existence :-)

9:07 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Well, I don't know, I don't know...when my daughter smells bad, she still smells good, but when my husband has been working out or what not...there is no olfactory magic happening there, making me think he smells intoxicating. :-D

9:10 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Lady Jane,
What a lovely thing to say! Mars, Pluto! :-D Thank you. :-)

9:11 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! Baby's toes are the best. I've been obsessed with my DD's feet for the last 4 years :-)

9:12 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I do think it is a trick of nature. For a creature from another planet, the smell of baby head would be nothing special. :-)

9:14 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

It is a museum scent. All 15 from the coffret are. Some of them are wearable though, and this is one of the most wearable ones.
I also agree about men with babies. Nothing cuter, just nothing.

9:15 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I thought they were breakable too. When DD was first born and I had to dress and undress her...gosh, I was afraid her little armies would break. I learned since then that they are sturdy, resilient little creatures, believe me :-)

9:17 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

The most common request from customers? really? I wonder if they would actually wear sucha scent or just have it around for sniffing and feeling sentimental.

9:18 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

This makes me more happy than if you said you were moved to go and purchase the coffret :-)

9:19 AM EST  
Blogger NowSmellThis said...

For some reason, "I don’t really have any use for this fragrance" is just cracking me up. That applies to about 98% of what I'm smelling these days, LOL...

11:03 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I wish the same was true for me :-)

11:06 AM EST  
Blogger Erin said...

c: such a wonderful review that really conveys your love for and attention to your daughter. The vinegary smell of drool - so true. Your description of a baby's serious, determined face when slepping is the best I've ever read - sleeping, it's serious business!

11:41 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Thank you! You *know* what I mean, when they sleep, they look so determined, it is hard, serious work they are doing, sleeping :-)

11:46 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I absolutely agree! :-)

11:47 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree with your description of babies and Baby. ;) For some reason, though, I didn't find Baby wearable but I need to retest it.

12:10 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I find it wearable objectively speaking- it is pleasant, not repulsive, not challenging in any way. but as I said, I'd feel kind of strange wearing it.

12:35 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I found all 15 to be fascinating, and some, like Absolute Jasmin, are breathtakingly gorgeous.

1:49 PM EST  
Blogger Ben said...

Col, thank you so much for saving me $700 by reviewing these scents 'out loud'!

It would be a fascinating journey while I explored the entire coffret, but in the end I would just have some very expensive, unwearable frags.


8:28 PM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Yes...and still I wish I could afford to get Let Coffert :-D

8:31 PM EST  
Blogger lilybp said...

I didn't have much to say about Baby--but now that you've mentioned Jasmin Absolu---I LOVE that one. I WANT that one!!!! That's all for now. . .

6:53 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

I LOVE and WANT it too :-)

8:05 AM EST  
Blogger risa said...

very apt descriptions, M! my whiff of the Coffret's translation of Baby reminded me of moldy cheese, and i couldn't get that smell out of my nose for a while after. i actually liked Human Existence a lot better. but then again, there's been a lot of baby talk on many friends' blogs and quite a few of them mention that baby smell and i feel like i'm missing something - for my entire life there's never been any such thing i could isolate as a "baby" smell. each baby smells as unique as every adult does, to me. there's the smell of *nursing,* to be sure, but if a baby is fed formula the smell is distinctly different. i think there's something in the psychology or the hormones which either is or is not susceptible to the pheromones or whatever that a baby exudes. i like babies, but i don't particularly think they smell any better or worse than anyone else... and i have no interest in having children, so i can't help but thing that's part of it. it's a pretty interesting thought process!

11:56 PM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

The history of perfume oils dates back to ancient Egypt when these fine scented oils were presented to royalty as gifts. In modern times, however, when the word "perfume" is said, most people think of department store fragrances, which consist mainly of the concentrated oil and alcohol solution. Nevertheless, as more and more people are finding out about them, perfume oils are experiencing great popularity. Here are some interesting facts about perfume oils:

6:00 AM EST  
Blogger Marina said...

Interesting! I actually don't think I ever noticed any particular baby smell on my friend's babies till I had my own. And I am sure, as you say, that smell would be unique to her and other kiddies would smell different.

9:27 AM EST  
Blogger Eric said...

Choosing the right perfume can be difficult and because it is also considered an intimate gift buying the wrong perfume can backfire on you and get you the opposite result of that which you hoped for.

The first thing you need to do is do some homework, meaning research. Look at your lady's perfume bottles, the ones that are nearly empty will be her favorites. If there is one there that is nearly full chances are she doesn't wear it often or doesn't like it. Hint around and ask her what types of fragrances she likes and dislikes.

Humans are very sensory oriented and our sense of smell is no different. Certain perfumes can elicit strong reactions in both the wearer and the person reacting to the scent. Perfumes are made not only to attract but to also relax someone. If you aren't totally sure what kind of perfume to buy you can always play it safe and get something in the aromatherapy line. If you go this route, bear in mind that vanilla scents are considered to relax and a peppermint or lemon scent will be more stimulating.

3:49 PM EST  
Blogger fairlind said...

I absolutely adored this scent. It may be a bit young for me, but what the heck. It was the gentlest orange blossom smell ever, I could bathe in it daily. Note to Thierry Mugler: forget Aura, release Baby, and make a ton of money.

3:25 AM EST  

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