Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Tocadilly by Rochas: fragrance review

There is a French expression "mettre en valeur" which roughly translates as to highlight, to draw attention to one's best features. This is what Tocadilly by Rochas does; an ethereal scent that highlights the flowers of spring I love ~lilac, wisteria and mimosa~ beautifully, yet transcends the genre of floral. The feeling I get, when I sort this out of my perfume wardrobe at the first hints of spring, is just like the interplay of cool and warm one experiences upon imprinting their breath "fog" on a wet window pane.

Tocadilly by Marcel Rochas is a floral which launched in 1997 amidst a sea of aquatics and marines. It was said that it represents the younger sister of Tocade, an intensely rosy vanillic fragrance by Maurice Roucel from 1994, yet I do not perceive the kinship of spirit that should tie them in such a close relationship. They both have the same design of flacon, nevertheless, created by bottle designer Serge Mansau; but to Tocade's red packaging hues Tocadilly conterpoints blue-green-purple tones and the aura of the scent is complimentary.
Perfumer Christopher Sheldrake (currently at Chanel) is best known for his oeuvre under the wing of Serge Lutens composing a sumptuous line of persuasive orientals and opulent florals. In Tocadilly those preconceptions are shed and Sheldrake reveals a light, lacy touch that is capable of creating diaphanous effects which do not lack staying power or diffusion. The composition is segmentated into interesting facets of aqueous, fruity, floral and lightly ambery-powdery, fusing into a playful, cheerful and tender composition that is above all soft.

Three years before the modern aqueous lilacs of En Passant (2000), realised by Olivia Giacobetti for éditions des parfums Frédéric Malle, Tocadilly had captured this unholy allience between "clean" and "dirty" (Lilacs naturally have an anisic spiciness/powderiness recreated through anisaldehyde and heliotropin in fragrances, as extraction is so uneconomical/unyielding*; yet they often also possess an animalic undercurrent like pollen dusted on impolite feminine parts, especially the mauve-tinged blooms). The watery impression of Tocadilly is less "marine" than En Passant and the yeasty note is absent completely, rendering a must-try for both lovers and haters of En Passant.
The unusual pear note comes from the flavour industry and was contemporarily explored in Annick Goutal's Petite Chérie. Yet in Tocadilly it's not as easily decomposed and the absence of intense sugary lappings helps along, focusing instead on the almost pollen-like aroma of wisteria and lilacs. The mimosa is detectable ~and delectable, providing the emotional foil for the overall spring-like tonality which runs through the fragrance. Yet one would be hard pressed to designate Tocadilly to any particular season. It's utterly friendly and wearable in almost all settings and all climates, easing itself with an insouciant shrug of the shoulders and a child-like innocence that's not without a little mischief.

Notes for Rochas Tocadilly:
Top: cucumber, lilac, hyacinth, pear, jasmine, tiare, wisteria, mallow, mimosa and mandarin.
Heart: glycine/wisteria, coconut and heliotrope.
Base: sandalwood, musk and amber.

Sadly discontinued, Tocadilly is still available online.

*There is a fragrance that is purpotedly using a natural extraction of the flower itself, Highland Lilac of Rochester, to which we will return soon.

Photo Dreams and Cookies II via meren.org. Lilacs shot by PerfumeShrine, all rights reserved.


  1. E, you gifted enabler! I was reading your review, and regretting for the 100th time that I never bought a bottle of Tocadilly when it was readily available. Of course I clicked over to Fragrancenet immediately and snagged a bottle. Thank you (I think.)

    And by the way, very nice review.

  2. Just ordered a bottle too!

  3. That sounds so lovely, but too tempting...

  4. Ooh, you are so kind, E! I might just take advantage of this wonderful offer!


  5. M,

    thanks, words flow when I like something. It's when I'm lukewarm that I can't find the right phrases.

    Hope you enjoy!!

  6. Lulu,

    hope you enjoy then! I find it very easy to wear myself.

  7. D,

    yeah...I know!! It's at rock bottom prices, which makes it a nice steal. I wish I could get such prices where I am! (grrrr)

  8. R,

    you're welcome! I hope to pinpoint good and value-worthy options always.

  9. Stella P21:48

    I will order tomorrow; the price was even so low that one doesn't have to pay import taxes! :)
    Had a sample of En Passant that I tried last week, and enjoyed that too, but it was a bit to aqueous for my taste, and floating. Actually I like Yves Rocher's lilac scent better, but the realistic scent picture of lilacs it has to offer, can be to much of a good thing..
    (wisteria I don't know the smell of, and I can't even identify the tree, but saw the desperate housewives on wisteria lane tonight.. :)

  10. sounds wonderful! I love pear but it's difficult. I didn't know of this- thank you very much. I've always had a fondness for the mad Tocade bottle!

  11. Sounds perfect for Spring... and I love the whimsical packaging!

  12. wow such a good price! buying!!

  13. Anonymous14:31

    Dear E,

    Thank you for a beautiful review and for making a floral fragrance sound enticing (I am not one for florals, but that is a whole other saga for another day). That said, this sounds perfect as a gift for my Mother.

    Thank you also for the photo of the boy; he looks exactly like my youngest son. That picture perfectly embodies the freshness and innocence of early spring.


  14. S,

    yeah, isn't it ridiculously low? :-)

    I never managed to make En Passant my own; I blame the yeasty note though. The Yves Rocher one is quite realistic and I had worn it for a while. Still, I prefer this one, more of a bouquet.

  15. K,

    I thought it was a perfect opportunity, it's so low as to make it practically a gift.
    Hope you enjoy!

  16. J,

    whimsical describes it perfectly. It's an odd little bottle in my collection, perhaps not as beautiful as the othes, but swooosh, what a lovely cloud of scent!

  17. Natalia,

    you're wwelcome! Your son should be adorable then! I liked this child very much in the pic, the innocence as you say and also the curiosity in the inquisitive stare.

    Many people don't like florals for several reasons and sometimes I can see why. I think this should make an excellent gift! Lucky mum :-))

  18. That's a great offer! I remember this from my days in London in the late 1990's. I received a sample of it when I bought a bottle of some other fragrance. It was a nice one, light and floral. I never saw it anywhere else after leaving the UK. Now I know where to get myself a bottle. And it is an amazing price! Thanks E!

  19. I'm so glad to find your review of this forgotten gem. I fell in love with it back in late ninetieth, but haven't bought a bottle for some reason (probably because I thought it was sort of mauvais ton to have more than two perfumes at a time back then:-)))I was looking for it on ebay some time ago, and I'm thrilled to know it's Sheldrake's work. There are quite a few light floral fans among parfumistas, and I felt kind of confused to mention it on fragrance boards, nobody really noticed this perfume among the huge amount of ozonic scents that launched then.
    Now, buying a bottle is inevitable.

  20. Audit,

    you're most welcome. It did enter the scene and disappear all too quickly, true. I think it was bad timing. I recall I bought it years later after first trying it for some unexplicable reason; was it reluctance in the mindframe it would always be around? How unwise of me...

  21. Danush,

    thanks so much for stopping by and commenting! Like you so succinctly say this is very underrated, almost unknown, which adds a bit of je ne sais quoi to those of us who know it and appreciate it, LOL! ;-)
    It's as you say a little cute floral in a sea of ozonics, so it was natural it would be bypassed. It does have an aqueous quality, but none of that screechy thing so many watery frags have. It's more "foggy".

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  24. Thanks for the review! Is the Tocadilly you are reviewing edt or edp? xx

    1. Hi Jess!

      The composition I am familiar with is the eau de toilette. It's very fresh in a dewy way, without that screechy stinging feeling of certain "marine" chemicals.


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