Thursday, May 26, 2011

Twin Peaks: Musc Ravageur & L de Lolita Lempicka

Tracing kindred spirits in perfumery is occasionally as uncomplicated as finding the common mastermind behind them. In the case of Musc Ravageur and L de Lempicka that one is none other than Maurice Roucel, celebrated perfumer and creator of some of the most delectable orientals and florientals in existence (and the occasional stellar chyprish floral, such as in K de Krizia). Although the fragrances are not 100% interchangeable, as evident in my review below, they bear a keen similarity that would have lovers of one eager to discover the other and those on a budget discovering a smell-alike that isn't a travesty.

In Musc Ravageur the explosive departure of bergamot, tangerine and cinnamon is set against a backdrop of vanilla, musk and amber. No flowers, just a refined skin scent. Yet contrary to name, Musc Ravageur isn't really about musk! Though it is rather "dirty". It's more of a spicy oriental, old-school-style and raw. And the reason I am including it in a section devoted to musks is mainly due to nomenclature and readers' expectation.
If you have been fearing (or loving, like myself) the reputation of Muscs Kublai Khan and Christopher Brosius I Hate Perfume Musk Reinvented, you will be puzzled by this one, recalling as it does the base of such classic orientals as Shalimar or even less classical, like Teatro alla Scala by Krizia.

Smelling Musc Ravageur on skin one cannot but form an opinion towards the latter. Musc Ravageur, just like the big paws of its creator, is more of a naughty & voracious home cat with a furry tongue giving you a bath, rather than a wild tiger in the jungle shredding its prey in pieces. A very sensual amber -rather than musk, compare with Kiehl's Original Musk oil for instance- is hiding in the core of the fragrance. A characteristic citrus-spice top note is there (I detect clove and lavender as well), which recalls the Gallified "oriental" mould, and a silky vanilla-amber dry down which isn't really sweet, but interplaying between warm & cool, almost a bit herbal. The artistry lies in having the amber perform like a Chinese gymnast: all over the place, but with an elasticity that creates the illusion of weightlessness!

The fashion designer with the borrowed names, Lolita Lempicka, came up with a wonderful vanillic scent in L de Lempicka, that has lured even me, who am not crazy about vanilla like -apparently- most of the rest of the female population at this particular moment in perfume history. L is no ordinary childish foody vanilla because it manages to combine an ambery depth with a salty kiss, like skin baked in the Mediterranean sun, under a cloudless azure sky. Featuring immortelle flower, the infamous note in Annick Goutal’s Sables and Christian Dior Eau Noire, it has a weird sense of hot summer images (immortelle is a very usual sight around the Mediterranean coast) despite vanilla’s traditional association with winter and homely smells. A cul de sac manicurist's existence in a crammed, abandonded apartment in the suburbs of some French town during the summer perhaps? More appealing, surely.
In Sables the impression is more of a wearable maple syrup, a very warm hug, a drier beach with no fish like that near a fossilised forest at the island of Lesbos. Sables is like seeing the earth’s history in a long gaze and a moment of eternity becoming yours.
L de Lempicka comparatively is much tamer than the Goutal and for that reason, above all, it will undoubtedly be more popular. It features also orange and cinnamon notes that contribute to the likeness I detect with Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur. However the effect is not as spicy-dense in L de Lempicka, while at the same time L comes off as more calorific and rounder, more ambery. L de Lempicka also lists almond , bergamot, precious woods (sandalwood) , tonka bean (coumarin notes)and solar musks. It comes in Parfum and eau de parfum and my review is based on the latter.

Related reading on Perfume Shrine: see more smell-alikes on the Twin Peaks articles link

Photos of Catherine Deneuve,top via MademoiselleB, bottom film still from Roman Polanski's thriller Repulsion


  1. Zazie16:20

    I am always surprised when I read that "Musc ravageur" is not really about musk... Let alone it's link to shalimar...

    I get loads, seriously, loads!!!, of musk from Musk Ravageur, it's twin sister (for my nose) being MKK by serge Lutens (not one decibel lower than MR), and finding a distant cousin in Clair de musc...

    Couldn't it be that some of the musks in MR are of the many-are-anosmic-to-me variety? I find the similarity with MKK so striking; MR only dimming that berry facet of the animal-in-the-musk variety while amping the cinnamom opening to mittle-european dessert levels.
    I know it is not the general opinion, but MKK and MR to me are almost the same fragrance....

  2. E.,

    Your description of both scents are on spot :-) I, too, think they're similar even though others often tell me I was wrong, so I'm even more happy to see that you're feeling the same way.

    I prefer MR because of it's naughtyness. L is the better behaving sister that loves to eat vanilla ice cream.

    A third sibling could be Le Labo Labdanum 18, IMO it resembles a lighter version of MR.

  3. To clarify:
    I'm Malena :-) Tabatha is my blogger name!

  4. Anonymous02:41

    Thanks for the article. I like MR and dislike L so I will have to put them side by side to check out the similarity ... I have samples of both. I think the marine and citrus throws me off with L.


    May I ask an unrelated question? I have to decant a vial of a perfume I have and was wondering if it's better to spray or to pour. Both are equally expedient in this case, so that's not an issue, but I wondered if either method exposes the perfume inside the bottle to more air, and might make it a little "spoil-ly." I had a SL go bad this winter in spite of cool dark conditions so I have become a little paranoid!

    Obviously there's air in the perfume bottle already, and so I'm embarrassed even to ask ... since maybe it doesn't matter. But it seems like pumping the sprayer repeatedly might aerate the perfume, or conversely spraying rather than opening might preserve the enclosed space of the bottle. Also, one additional fact is that this perfume came new capped with an accompanying sprayer, which I attached and used. Any advice?

  5. Zazie,

    you have me all ruffled! :-)

    I haven't thought about MR and MKK together (don't really find them alike myself) but in all honesty I haven't performed a side by side comparison thus far, which I will immediately perform after your most interesting intervention! Given that my nose is highly tuned to musks (which I love in almost all shapes and forms), I do not reject the possibility that there might be one variety to which *I* am anosmic to. I haven't found one yet, so the possibility is very realistic that this might be it, wouldn't you say? If so, then I'm perfectly willing to eat my words.
    Will return!

  6. C,

    they're very similar indeed but I think the bottle throws people off re: L. They expect a sea/mermaid scent (net and shell and all). It's nothing but.
    MR is rather naughty (not exactly raunchy), while L is mellower, more dessert-like.
    You're absolutely right, Labdanum 18 is also by Roucel and reproduces the accords in the base; that smooth ambery-suede like murkiness.

  7. C,

    yes, thanks for clarifying. What a gorgeous avatar, is that you? Very very pretty!

  8. And forgot to say, will be visiting!! :D

  9. Anon,

    you're welcome. Are you sure you're comparing the original L de Lempicka? (I think there are at least two summer variation-flankers, one Fleur de Corail and another one if not mistaken, don't recall 100%)?? I don't find the original having any marine notes and the "citrus" is cinnamony-orange, more like a Xmas dessert than anything. The bottle is quite throwing off as it predisposes for a summery marine scent (blue, net, corals)
    By all means, do a side by side comparison if you have the original L and return to let me know! I'm most interested in such experiments.

    Of course unrelated questions are perfectly welcome! :-)

    To be practical and to the point:
    The air pump sprayers usually protect the juice better than splashes. The vigorous pumping action shouldn't really affect the remaining juice, but it might get some juice stuck in the pump. That might stick and deteriorate with passing time, giving the impression that the perfume went off when you first spray after a while. But if you spray a couple of times, that dislodges the stuck bits and the fresh juice comes out later. So you needn't worry too much about decanting.

    As to atomisers, is the one you have attached in your bottle a bulbous one, like those retro things that one has to squeeze and the juice gets out of them? If so, I would suggest not leaving it on the bottle when not using the fragrance, as they're known across several brands to let the fragrance evaporate. They're not air-tight. The other type of atomisers, the simple pumps, are perfectly all right, as long as they screw on top tight.

    Hope that helps! And please bring on whatever question you have.

  10. Very funny, this morning I decided to put some L on but then realized that I had very little left in the bottle so I put some Grey Flannel on instead! I know not remotely related--sometimes you have to just switch gears. I'm laughing because when I first tried L about a year ago I didn't really like it because it reminded me of scent a preschooler teacher might wear and I thought it was too sweet. But oddly enough, something kept drawing me to give it "another try", which I did and now I really like it.

  11. I also sometimes notice musk in MR. I thought it was the animalic 'MKK-type' musk shifting back and forth with a sweeter 'white' musk--but I could be mistaken. Anyway, I love MR. By the way, I think it is okay to layer MKK with MR.

  12. TFC,

    changing gears is fine and dandy!
    So what is it that made you like the L after all that time elapsed? Changing tastes? Appreciation of things you familiarised yourself with? Curious! :-)

  13. John,

    thanks for commenting. Perhaps I came off too dismissive of the muskiness in MR. Didn't mean to imply there is none, but rather it's more of a spicy oriental to me than a really, simpy, fundamentally musky scent (a la MKK which is musky through and through). Then again, not only have I not really compared the two side by side (although I own both), I never thought to layer them. Now there's an idea!!! *evil grin*

  14. I would say familiarizing myself with something new,since this scent is much sweeter than anything I've ever worn. But as L didn't turn rancid or do anything funky on me, there was no reason to dismiss it's sweetness as inherently bad.

  15. TFC,

    ah, thanks for clarifying! Very illuminating. Sweet turning tancing or funky: interesting and noting it down as a deterent. (I was thinking along the lines of cloying, headache-y or just too juvenile for too sweet and this opens up a new vista)

  16. I'm happy to say I prefer L to MR, since it's so much cheaper. I did find MR similar when I tried it, but I was overwhelmed by a sharp woody amber that made it uncomfortable for me.

    I agree that L is a summery version of a spicy oriental. I love it in the heat. For winter, Roucel's Oro for Roberto Cavalli has a similar feel.

  17. Anonymous00:26

    Follow up from me ("Anon" :D ):

    Thanks for the decanting advice, also I don't use bulbs b/c I've been warned before about their breakdown ;)

    I think I *was* thinking of L Coral Flower ... BUT I also associate salty musks with a marine impression (maybe because of ambergris? but that's not here) so I may have been thinking about that too when I remembered L as being marine-y. Either way, I did enjoy the side by side for the spirit of the two perfumes, which is very similar. L was also much sweeter and vanillic than I remembered. But MR still wins, it has so much character!

    Also, "just like the big paws of its creator" -- you mean Roucel? That's hilarious. Seeing the pic on the tester card was my fave ... he looks like a muppet, which I mean in a good way -- very genial! Anyway his frags are always have a great attention to balance, and a great sense of fun IMO.

  18. Elisa,

    good call: price comparison for what you get is always a wise move. I'm a bit of in the minority here in that I believe the mainstream has so much control over this and that that there can't be a misstep when the composition and budget is good to begin with. The rest is artistic vision surviving the focus groups.
    But not all focus groups are worthless, I suppose, otherwise there wouldn't be any good frags whatsoever.
    MR is more individual and doesn't give a hoot. L is more pliable and willing to cajole and seduct, I suppose; glad you like it!

    And thank you for reminding me of Oro by Cavalli. I had completely forgotten about that one!

  19. Anon,

    yeah, I kinda thought you might be talking about Fleur de Corail edition. I recall it being sweet. Not as distinctive as L.

    You're absolutely right that ambergris and salty musks might give you a marine impression!

    Yup, did mean Roucel and his paws: he IS like a Muppet indeed, good call, LOL! He looks like a person catching the very best and most pleasurable in life in every way, doesn't he?


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