Suzanne's Perfume Journal

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Elusive, Elegant, and a Joy to Wear:

L'Artisan Parfumeur ORCHIDÉE BLANCHE


Thanks to the generosity of a fellow blogger, I have been enjoying a small decant of Orchidée Blanche by L’Artisan Parfumeur. Launched in 1985, Orchidée Blanche was retired from L’Artisan’s vast line of fragrances three years ago, and, today, finding a bottle is a bit like stalking the elusive and endangered ghost orchid. It’s easier to find vintage Coty Chypre, which was last produced in the seventies, than it is to find a bottle of this. That’s rather mysterious, don’t you think, considering that it hasn’t been out of circulation for all that long?  (Or maybe it’s not as elusive as I think—maybe it’s my eBay searching skills that are lacking.)  At any rate, after wearing this little beauty for a couple of weeks, it’s pretty easy to imagine a legion of perfumistas carefully guarding their last bottles of this scent. Orchidée Blanche reminds me a lot of my beloved Chanel No. 22. It has a crisp, mineral-like starchiness in its top notes; a pronounced iris note that lends a touch of powderiness to its middle; and a sweet, vanilla accord at its base—the perfect counterbalance to the dry and crisp aspects of the scent. But whereas Chanel No. 22 is much more complex and multi-layered, with a vintage feel or sensibility, Orchidée Blanche is simplified: it almost smells like the sketch one might come up with if one was playing around with perfumes and trying to do a scent along the lines of Chanel No. 22. Orchidée Blanche’s more streamlined nature somehow equates it to smelling more contemporary, in my mind. This is not to suggest that it is either superior or inferior to Chanel No. 22, but rather, that the two are companionable. Like sister scents. With Chanel No. 22 being the older sister that Orchidée Blanche emulates to a degree, while staying true to her own sense of style.

“I think I’ll wear my ivory twin set and pearls, and maybe a crinoline slip under my skirt,” Chanel No. 22 says decisively, as she stands before her closet.

“Hmm, what do you think of this?” Orchidée Blanche asks, as she eighty-sixes her own skirt and twirls in front of the mirror in just the crinoline slip and a slim t-shirt—her only accessory a pair of colorful strappy sandals.

Every bit as chic, but decidedly more pared down than Chanel No. 22, Orchidée Blanche is like the perfume version of the classic white shirt: simple, elegant, and effortless to wear. The perfume notes for Orchidée Blanche include bergamot, magnolia, nectarine, iris, honey and vanilla. Magnolia, a flower that smells like a combination of gardenia and jasmine, with lemony and spicy accents, certainly accounts for the blanche aspect of this scent, but I would have to say that it takes a backseat to the iris. Particularly in the beginning and middles stages of this perfume’s trajectory, iris is the defining note: root-like and sharp in the top notes-stage; leathery after those top notes burn off; and, after a half hour of wear, gently powdery. In the drydown, it cozies up nicely to the fragrance’s other two key players, honey and vanilla, which are lightly confectionary.

There’s something about the overall progression of the fragrance that makes me fantasize about shoe shopping in Paris … in springtime … with cupcakes involved. (Do they serve cupcakes in France, or is that an American thing?)  If not cupcakes, then some other diminutive sweet. A macaron, perhaps. It’s such a happy fantasy it inspired me to do a couple collages of photographs [editor's note:collage no longer on this site, as it was lost when website was revamped], and because the frames of the collage remind me of windows, for a brief hour or two, I felt as if I were window-shopping in Paris—which is about all I could afford to do there, anyway. Ah, well, that’s why I love perfume. I may not have Paris, but at least I have Chanel No. 22, and, for as long as the decant holds out, Orchidée Blanche, too.




Credits: Photo of Chanel patent leather strappy shoes is from the the blog ParisParfait.typepad.com; photo of Eiffel Tower is from Art.com.

March 17, 2009: