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Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Vintage finds: There’s a lot more to Lucien Lelong than Indiscret – And a Prize Draw

By Donna

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 Fashion Sleuth photo set, some rights reserved.

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Anonymous Claudia0219 said...

Generally i am not huge on vintage fragrances, but i am intrigued by Lucien Lelong. Unfortunately many of the Vintage (Guerlain, Patou) fragrances smell like old and vintage on me.

12:11 AM EST  
Anonymous Claudia0219 said...

And yes please enter me in the draw :)

12:12 AM EST  
Blogger tmp00 said...

I am intrigued, and I am asking to be included..

12:40 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, please enter me in the drawing, thanks. Alica -

1:15 AM EST  
Blogger CeyouOnB said...

Please enter me in the drawing, also.

1:21 AM EST  
Blogger Datura5750 said...

Interested indeed!

2:29 AM EST  
Blogger Tama said...

These aound intriguing - I'd love to be inteh draw!

2:34 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I like the sound of these and would love to be included in the draw!

6:10 AM EST  
Blogger Jarvis said...

Sounds intriguing. Please include me in the draw!

7:20 AM EST  
Blogger Victoria said...

Please include me in this draw - thank you! I am utterly fascinated by vintage fragrances and would love to try these. They sound wonderful.

8:21 AM EST  
Blogger lovethescents said...

Oh what fun! I've been trying to discover and understand vintages lately. Just purchased Jean Desses Celui! Have a few of the Patous Ma Collection (Que Sais-Je and Chaldee, and hoarding minis of Vacances), but I've been wanting to try Lelong for ages. Please enter me in this exciting draw and thank you for offering it to us.

8:37 AM EST  
Blogger woodgirl said...

Please enter me in the drawing. My mother wore Tailspin years ago in the 1960s. Loved the scent and was fascinated by the bottle, which reminded me of a battle club, and I would try to use it as such . . .I was a bit of a tomboy.

8:55 AM EST  
Blogger ScentScelf said...

Donna, thank you for the thorough report on your Lucien Lelong finds! I wonder if Indiscret sells so well at auction because it still has a solid fan base. I remember hearing a story about Elizabeth Taylor buying an entire CASE of nude lipsticks that were being discontinued by the manufacturer...she said something like, "if you know it works for you, you want to stay with it." At the time, I was a kid, and thought she was a little woo-woo.

Now I have of course developed my own little woo-woo-ness. ;)

Would love to be in the draw!

8:59 AM EST  
Blogger Cynthia said...

Wow - I've never heard of these before, but now I want, I want, I want! You make them sound fabulous - if I'm not lucky enough to win the samples, I may have to check out the website and spring for one or two.

10:12 AM EST  
Anonymous lilacskin said...

please enter me in the kind of you to share your good fortune!

10:38 AM EST  
Blogger lutefisk said...

Thank you for this chance--I would love to be included.

10:54 AM EST  
Blogger Mals86 said...

I have a small tassel bottle of Indiscret, bought fairly inexpensively this summer during my wild chase after Vintage, Discontinued, and Sadly Ignored scents. I have no idea how old my Indiscret is, but it doesn't seem to be age-damaged. To my nose, it is an elegant, delightfully rich and dark fruity-floral (apricot and fig?), miles from floofy modern fruity-florals, that eventually subsides into a Youth Dew-like oriental base.

I hate Youth Dew. (Screws up face and whines like a child facing a plateful of spinach.)

So no need to enter me into the drawing. In fact, I probably need to find a home for my Indiscret, as well as some of my other vintage ebay mistakes (Patou Chaldee mini, anyone?).

But the Pour Femme description sounds luscious, and right up my alley. Maybe I'll find a sample of that somewhere.

10:54 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love trying vintage, and would like to be entered, thanks!

11:44 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,
I wanted to thank you for doing this post on some of the less known vintage perfumes out there still... as I am very intrigued and curious about so many of them. Sadly, I'm in in Canada, so not eligible for your draw...but thanks for sharing these impressions. It sounds like they used high quality ingredients and went for complexity...and possibly density...which I crave in perfume.
They sound great!

11:47 AM EST  
Anonymous birdwingwhir said...

I hadn't heard of Lucien Lelong before your review Donna, but these sound intriguing. Please do enter me in the draw! And thanks for being so generous with the samples.


12:02 PM EST  
Anonymous Roberto C. said...

Sounds really interesting, please enter me in the draw.

12:04 PM EST  
Anonymous Chris G said...

I'd love to be entered in the draw. Thanks!!
Chris G

12:50 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Put me in the drawing.

2:03 PM EST  
Blogger ahsumaker said...

Donna, thank you for posting about these -- totally not on my radar. I'd love to be entered into a drawing for the samples.

2:15 PM EST  
Blogger Beth Schreibman Gehring said...

WOW Donna,
These sound like fun!!! I've never tried them! You know me, which one do you think I would like?

2:49 PM EST  
Anonymous Tiara said...

I think you could get me to try smelling a can of garbage--you make all of these sound great.

Please enter me in the drawing, especially since they DON'T smell like garbage!

4:55 PM EST  
Blogger acrossbee said...

Please include me! Vintage scents are my weakness.

5:46 PM EST  
Blogger elle said...

So glad to see these reviewed! Pour Femme really is scrumptious. I think Tailspin is probably my other fave of the ones I've tried. I don't need to be entered in the drawing as I have bottles of all the ones you reviewed. I first really got into vintage when Jaime showed up on ebay and he had tons of Lelongs (I was just a tad compulsive about Jaime's vintage stock - no regrets either). He still may, but I haven't checked his off ebay site (European Antiques or something like that) recently. I didn't know Lelong had its own web site! I'm definitely going to have to check it out, but I'm also glad that they really are still so readily available on ebay for decent prices.

6:24 PM EST  
Blogger Dixie said...

What an enjoyable post! And I love the picture! Please enter me in the draw.

6:30 PM EST  
Blogger Tammy said...

These all sound so lovely, and I'd love to be entered in your generous draw, thank you!

7:34 PM EST  
Anonymous karthaar said...

Please enter me too!


9:20 PM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

Thanks for the review on these. I'm also just beginning to explore vintage fragrances, and would love to be entered in the draw.

9:59 PM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Thanks for commenting everyone, and those who wish to be in the draw will be on my list!

Lovethescents, I want/need a lifetime supply of Vacances too!

Beth, I think you might just be a Sirocco girl, since you love Shalimar so much. They are definitely in the same neighborhood.

Tiara, LOL, thank you, I hope I never steer you wrong! :-)

Elle, somebody told me about the European Antiques store just recently - my jaw fell on the floor. Lovely, unbelievable stuff, and some of it is even affordable! Christmas is coming, time to make my list...

12:31 AM EST  
Blogger DWR said...

Please enter me, I'd love to try these!

2:19 AM EST  
Blogger vicuna1 said...

Please enter me into the drawing. I would love to try these and compare to my Ciro's I've been collecting!

7:55 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love to try these! Please enter me in the drawing.
-- Gretchen

11:24 AM EST  
Anonymous maitreyi1978 said...

Please enter me in the draw. Thanks.

3:00 PM EST  
Anonymous joy said...

Oooh, sounds great...please enter me in the draw. Pour Femme is still on my to smell list. I've never even heard of Tailspin and very little of the others. Your review makes me want to try them all!

4:15 PM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

I've had a vintage Lelong perfume for years but haven't been able to identify it as the label has rubbed off partially. If anyone is interested in identifying it (or purchasing it), my email is

7:22 PM EST  
Blogger Dorothy said...

I'd like to be considered!

2:32 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My grandmother, who was a very elegant woman indeed, wore three of the Lucien LeLongs - Indiscret, Tailspin and Balalaika. They sat in their Parisienne (of course they're female, n'est pas?)splendor on her vanity, looking down on their handful of American counterparts. My granddad's work took him to Paris once per year and he always came back awash in French perfumes. So while the LeLongs would dwindle, they would never run out. Years later, after my grandmother passed, I found what had to have been the last three bottles granddad brought her before he retired. Still cherished, I'm sure, but never finished. I like to think she took the occasional sniff in her later years, remembering granddad.

1:24 PM EST  
Blogger T-Rex said...

Please put me in the drawing! Thanks. :-)

4:01 PM EST  
Blogger Deanna said...

I'd love to give these a try :)

3:49 AM EST  
Blogger Unknown said...

So interesting! Please enter me in the draw. Thank you.

4:12 PM EST  
Blogger Scentimental Fool said...

Yes, please! I love vintage fragrances and have never gotten a whiff of Lucien Lelong

12:54 PM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please throw me in as well. I'd love to get a vintage sniff or three! Thanks,
Laura M

1:11 AM EST  
Blogger Flora said...

Please note, the prize draw is now closed and the winner will be announced soon. Good luck, and thanks to everyone for commenting and entering. I am happy to be able to share these lovely fragrances and spread the vintage love around!

12:27 AM EST  

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