Lolita Lempicka (1997) and Lolita Lempicka au Masculin (2000)

Lolita Lempicka – the perfume original with the same brand name  – was created in 1997 by Annick Mernardo – Ms. Mernardo’s got quite a flaire for creating unique fragrances. She won Fragrantica’s Best in Show award in 2016, and is the nose behind over 100 major fine fragrances, including some of my favourites like Bvlgari Black, Dior’s Bois D’Argent and Hypnotic Poison, Armani’s Acqua di Gio, Lancome’s Hypnose, and Le Labo’s Gaiac 10 (which I’m so glad I got a good sniff of when I was in Tokyo). It would seem she’s the nose behind most of the juice in apple shaped bottles at Lolita Lempicka.

Lolita Lempicka is a floral, fruity gourmand that is supposed to be based on licorice, but the men’s version of the fragrance contains a far more audible and luscious licorice accord, in my opinion.

The notes:

  • violet, ivy, star anise
  • iris, amaryllis, licorice, orris root, cherry
  • tonka beans, vanilla, vetiver, white musk, praline

This perfume or some flanker derivative of it has been in my perfume collection since its inception. I am indeed a fan. The fragrance was created about five years after Mugler’s Angel hit the scene and introduced the world to gourmands, and this scent is a perfect example of how Angel influenced the fragrance industry.

So get a whiff of this:

It’s been raining, but it stopped a while back. You’re running into woods and trip, falling prostrate onto the forest bed. No pain – it was a gentle fall and the ground is soft and spongy. The earth beneath you is damp, but you don’t get cold. Your cheek is on the rich, damp soil, and your nose is pressed up against some wood roots. Some fairies, or some other mythical, mischievous creatures, had been playing around in this spot just before, and indeed their laughter is what brought you running into the woods in the first place.

In their panicked haste to vacate the premises before you arrived, they crapped their pants. Only they weren’t wearing any pants and their doo doo was in the form of sparkling fairy dust that popped like a firecracker and that’s what you were fixated on as you flew off your feet. The dust settled into the crevices of the bark, earth and leaves before you hit the ground. Yes, leaves. There are violets and vetiver all in your hair and on your neck. The fairy dust, which is all up in your face, radiates not stink, but rather sweet black licorice and ripe cherries. And then maybe the musk hypnotizes you into a happy nap in which you dream of concocting devious methods of enticing your crush into falling for you.

That’s what I get out of this fragrance. It’s a quirky, fun-loving, youthful, magical scent for petulant young woman (and frag hags like me) who dive heart first into joyful pursuits.

Performance wise, this one is not a beast. It can last up to 8 hours, but the reduction in projection is notable after 4, gradually becoming a skin scent. I tend to reapply this during the day.

This perfume is still in production but because it’s older, you can get it at discount prices and definitely cheap on the second-hand market. For that reason, it’s definitely full-bottle worthy. And the bottle is rather stunning, in my opinion. The naughty Eve reference with the apple is appropriate, as is the pixi-ish purply-blue colour scheme.

This fragrance was reformatted and renamed Lolita Lempicka Le Premier in 2010, but more recently they’ve brought back the original blend and called it “Original” – rather like what Coca Cola did when they brought back their older formula and called it “Coca Cola Classic.” The house has also redesigned the bottles, which are now more modern, angular, and less ornate. In most situations that would definitely be more my style, but in this case, I rather prefer the old bottle. That’s not the case for the pour homme version of the fragrance, to which I now turn.

It is Lolita Lempicka au Masculin that I find more interesting, much as I love the main fragrance of the women’s line. This is probably because the licorice is more present in the form of black jelly beans. Also, it’s a little darker, boozy and a little smoky, and it can be a little strange – the Tim Burton of perfumery.  I have a decant of the old formula that came out in 2000, but this scent has been reformulated, and the new version – called Lempicka Homme – looks to be somewhat different.

The notes:

  • violet, ivy, anise, licorice, wormwood
  • sandlewood, tonaka bean, rum, almond
  • vanilla, vetiver, cedar, praline, labdanum

Licorice is not listed here, so it must be the anise that I pick up, because that licorice vibe is amplified in the homme version. This is a gourmand, too, and although targeted at men, it is most definitely unisex. I find it a little less playful and more grown up than the female composition, but also sweet and delicious and incredibly unique. I love the way it changes on your skin. I think Lempicka Au Masculin sweetens over time, with a chocolatey, nutty vibe in the middle. Without the herbaceous and aromatic notes in this blend, you’d probably be drowning in sickly syrup, cloying onto all people in proximity of you, sucking them down with you into a sweet abys.

But no, everyone is OK. In fact, everyone is pleasantly intoxicated, not overwhelmed and not anywhere near running off in the opposite direction, screaming (well, unless they hate licorice…). It’s also because of the fantastic balance in the scent that I think you can wear it in all seasons, even summer… if there is a breeze.

While the fragrance for women was so popular in the 90s and beyond, in contrast, the one for men is a highly underrated scent – a hidden gem. You do have to love licorice to wear this one, and you have to like soft, spicy oriental blends.

If I try to think about what makes both of these fragrances so magical, it’s got to be the combination of the licorice and violet. Licorice is sweet, icy cool yet earthy, and not exactly a common note in fragrance. And apparently violet can be a sneaky, trickster of a flower: You smell (and enjoy) it, and then instantly forget what it smelled like. So, you sniff at it again and again, wanting to record it in memory, but it cunningly runs faster away the more you chase it – an ephemeral, powdery feel.

Both of these ideas are meshed and grounded with the vanilla and vetiver to create a sparkly and indeed magical effect. Even more magical is how these fragrances can smell different throughout their wear, particularly with the men’s version (I’ve smelled traces of everything from dirt to rum raisin ice cream to hair conditioner to rubber to marshmallows. It’s a wonderfully weird little nugget).

The “male” version of Lolita Lempicka also lasts long and projects well. Neither perfume is a beast in projection, however, which is a good thing, because again, not everyone likes licorice. Unlike the apple bottle in the pour femme blend, the au masculine bottle is a bit tacky in my opinion. The new one is better. But if you’re like me, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter – it’s all about what’s in the bottle and not the bottle, right?  If you enjoy licorice, both of these fragrances are worthy of a special place in your perfume collection, especially since they’re also both affordable.

Do you own either of these fragrances? What do you think of them? Have you tried other versions? Give me your thoughts!

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