It’s been a long, long time since a perfume has made me laugh.
Writing about perfume, or critiquing it, is often a blank-faced, stoic, solitary process. Whereas I can bite into a meal and immediately acknowledge whether it is good or not, with a fragrance I cannot tell until I have a chance to properly test it out. This can take from a few hours to many days, or even several weeks. Unfortunately, due to my rapid reviews schedule, I must systematically weed out those fragrances that will not be worth my time, or that of my readers. Who would have thought that a Chanel wouldn’t make it past this initial phase?
This sample was acquired at a Chanel counter in downtown Toronto, one with a sales staff that could have been more knowledgeable. When they couldn’t find for me a vial of Beige, they instead gave me some others from the Les Exclusifs de Chanel collection, including Sycomore. I put it on without reading about it or looking at the notes, and a wide smile crept on my face. In a minute I’ll tell you why this was, but now, let’s delve into the story behind Sycomore.
Sycomore is the name of a group of trees with similar leaves, including a type of maple and fig (neither of which are in the composition). What I struggled with even more than the name was the passage on the house’s website:
In 1930, Mademoiselle Chanel had already dreamt of a woody perfume that would stand apart.
I get that Ms. Chanel was a visionary, but to predict a fragrance 78 years before its release? Call me crazy for being skeptical.
After some research I discovered the 1926 Bois des Iles by Ernest Beaux, which to my surprise does seem to be at the very least a source of inspiration for Sycomore, with three matching notes out of Bois de Iles‘s listed 21… so maybe not. In any case, I found the statement a little far fetched, but if anybody can come forward with what exactly Chanel.com was referring to when they wrote the above passage I would gladly entertain it.
As for the scent, this is where the mystery turns to comedy. Sycomore, the $160/bottle Chanel that’s supposed to smell like a majestic vetiver for the ages, smells purely like Lipton Cup-a-Soup in chicken noodle soup flavour. I should know, given that my diet last month consisted of several dozens of them post having my wisdom teeth removed. Given, in the first minute or two after application there’s an explosion of champagne and citrus like in Lush Cosmetics’ Celebrate range, but that gives way almost instantaneously for the hilarity that is spicy, warm chicken soup. To me there’s no getting around that.
Verdict: I would imagine that there’s a market for scents like this, and that it is people getting over a cold. While absolutely delicious-smelling, this perfume is hardly a perfume at all. Furthermore, it lasts all but three hours on my skin, and that’s just unacceptable for such a price-tag. I would highly recommend you to stay away from Sycomore unless you’re into smelling like a practical joke.
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