If you're among those who judge fragrance by its colour as to what to expect smellwise, you're going to be misdirected by the Lancome fragrances trio this summer. Lancôme crowds its counters with three "new" releases: Ô, Ô d'Azur and Ô de l'Orangerie. All three are comprised by the popular-again-concept of a light, chilled "eau" for summer freshening up, but with a new ethereal execution and less of the sscreetchy feel of the 1990s. Of those three, Ô is not new at all: It's a reissue of the classic Ô de Lancôme, reviewed on Perfume Shrine a while ago and still retaining its gorgeous green shade.The other two inadvertedly manage to confuse the customer with their added tint: Ô d'Azur, last summer's edition still circulating, is coloured a fetching light beige, when the name (Blue Water) would suggest otherwise! Ô de l'Orangerie (Orange Grove Water) is coloured a nice, diaphanous celadon, when common wisdom would forsee a yellow tinge, as befits an orange blossom scent! But Pantone scale choices aside, all cater to a laid-back approach to personal scent for the warmer months of the year, with the classic being undoubtedly the best of the three.
Ô de Lancôme falls under familiar concerns: A re-issue is always cause for frantic comparisons among perfume cognoscenti: Is it like it was? Has it been ruined in the process? What happens with restrictions necessitating a slimming course for its body? I am happy to report that Ô de Lancôme hasn't subjected itself to too much Weight Watchers, feeling as crisply green and naturalistically lyrical as it was: Green, like snapped leaves in one's palm, with a citrusy tang which provides an immediate spring on the step, it's no wonder Ô de Lancome, composed by perfumer Robert Gonnon, has been a fresh, bring-on-the-changes scent since its embracement of the revolutionary youths of the 1970s. The re-issue is perhaps a bit attenuated in the final stages of the drydown, gaining the character of a light floral instead of a mossier chypre-like ambience, in tandem with the latest reformulation which happened in the late 1990s, but it's still very good; its execution of transparency without losing substance is akin to that in Bulgari's Eau Parfumee au The Vert. If you liked Lauder's citrusy Pure White Linen Light Breeze a couple of summers ago (this year's Lauder citrus is Bronze Goddess Soleil which you can find reviewed here), you are also advised to try this re-issue: they share the musk aspect under the citrus greenery.
In the newest Ô de l'Orangerie the classic Eau de Cologne mould is most perceived, predominant in the top stages, vibrant, refreshing, snapping with brio.The classic pairing of a bergamot top with light herbal notes and lavender is the combination that evokes cleaning up, splashing on a feel good fragrance to feel "bien dans sa peau", the French expression to denote feeling good about one's self. The concept is great, which is why it has withheld for centuries, but the problem has always been how to extend the duration on skin; traditional perfumers solved part of the problem with using alcohol tinctured with ambergris or musk: a smidge gives a little tenacity so top notes do not evaporate instantly, though too much would completely overshadow the delicate effluvium. Modern perfumers, such as in this case, solve the problem with synthetic musks: The composition progresses to a "clean", non indolic orange blossom that reads as "fresh floral", a "clear" jasmine buyoed by musks, benzoin and a tiny bit of cedar (read Iso_E Super). This gives great lasting power and wafting to what would otherwise be a fleeting cologne. It's pretty, but its lack of character means it won't substitute my beloved Fleurs d'Oranger by Lutens any time soon.
Ô d'Azur originally came out in spring 2010, to commemorate 40 years of the introduction ofthe classic green Ô. It is supposed to evoke that fantasy of so many: a Mediterranean summer, all white-washed houses atop bare rock, brilliant in the sun, with the blue waves crushing softly and interminently. It's not an easy task to do and many fail miserably (see Elizabeth Arden Mediterranean which -frankly speaking- smells nothing Med!), usually suffusing everything with an ironfist of Calone (that synthetic "melon" note). Others manage to evoke the ambience, by going about in unusual ways, like with salty florals: see the magnificent Lys Mediterranee by F.Malle. Perfumers Domitille Bertier and Sophie Labbé didn't do too bad for Lancôme, although the end result does feel a bit of a pastiche. With the hindsight of thousands of aquatics and diaphanous fruity florals on the market, the composition is reminiscent of several things at once. Still, it manages to stand a bit on the upper side of that abysmal depth, the impression of what could have been "elegant" were it fleshed out properly. L'Oréal regretfully doesn't invest the budget to do so. Official notes include: bergamot, lemon, rose, peony, ambrette seed and musk. Ô d'Azur in reality is pretty, built on an indeterminate cyclamen-rose accord with pink pepper on top, layered over "clean" and skin-like musks (ambrette seed among them) that keep a low hum to the fragrance for a long time, although the fruity and floral touches disappear quite soon.It's a no brainer, but its dullness would probably get to you after a while.
Ô, Ô d'Azur and Ô de l'Orangerie by Lancome come in Eau de Toilette concentration (Sizes are 50ml, 75ml and 125ml. For reference 2.5oz retails for $55, available at major department stores). Even though they remind one of summer limited editions, they're not supposed to be: Lancome means to keep them in the line for good. The commercials and advertising images with Lancome face Daria Werbowy are ticket for fantasy, to be sure.