Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Le Galion Sortilege Vintage Parfum de Toilette

If you ask my husband he would tell you that all vintage perfumes that are not Guerlain smell exactly the same. They are all very perfumey, too floral for his taste, and since his wife has this weird perfume hobby and he's been subjected to he also knows now to recognize aldehydes and would tell you that he just doesn't like them. He doesn't care if one has more violets and the other is rosy. He can't tell them apart. Sortilege by Le Galion is a perfect example for this genre. So I know better than to stick my wrist under his long-suffering nose until the aldehydes burn off and Sortilege is far on its way between heart notes to drydown.

It seems that when Le Galion launched Sortilege in 1937 they wanted like many perfume houses at the time, to have their own powdery aldehydic floral and play in the Chanel No. 5 field. They sort of succeeded, as Sortilege has this refined elegance that goes with pearls and a nice little hat. The heart is a very recognizable rose-lily-jasmine blend. It has a French feel and while it was not meant to be worn with jeans, I find a certain pleasure in doing so. Because I can.

The fun thing about perfume of this kind is that the vintage juice usually has a dirty drydown. Unlike today's standard synthetic wood-clean musk- plastic vanilla you smell everywhere, perfumes of yore had interesting animalic facets. Sort of like Grace Kelly's sordid past, secret affairs and family scandals. Sortilege has more amber and sandalwood than skeletons in its closet, but it's still quite fun to wear at this stage.

I had a bunch of vintage samples of the pure parfum and EDT. Some of them were older or too stale at the top, so I waited until I got my hands on a sealed little bottle of the parfum de toilette (just like the second one you see in the top ad from 1965) . It confirmed my general opinion about Sortilege and I like it especially because it seems a bit sweeter than the samples I've tried. I still wouldn't wear it on a first date or anything of the sort, but it's a lovely little relic. While I got an original Le Galion bottle (once again gambling on eBay), I know that Long Lost Perfumes is the current owner of the name and formula, but I've never tried their version. If you have, how close it to the original?

Vintage Sortilege ads from


  1. Long Lost is pretty close; not quite as dirty in the base.

    Unfortunately, it's probably as good as one will get...BIG SIGH.

    My connection to Sortilege is powerful; it's one my mother wore, when she truly looked like Ava Gardner.

    I dissociate her cruelty from the perfume, and wear it any way...

    It has her elemental force and femininity in it.

  2. Love to explore vintage perfumes but find most of them not something I'd actually *wear* - however, I enjoy wearing Sortilege.

    And Je Reviens (the straw-colored stuff, not the blue), and L'aimant, and that ancient grande dame No. 5.

  3. Grace Kelly. Perfect. All those ladylike cool blonde perfumes that were quite something else hours later.

  4. I love vintage ads! And these are so lovely:)

  5. Sortilège used to be my favorite as a young girl back in the 1970's. I was surprised to read your comment about wearing it with Jeans because that's about all I wore back then. I remember liking "Femme" a lot also, but thinking I was too young to pull that off.
    A few years ago, I thought about buying a bottle and was sorry to learn that it was no longer manufactured.
    Maybe I'll try the Long Lost version...
    Thanks for posting...

  6. Found this old post while googling for sortilege. At an antique store, I bought a bottle of uncertain vintage containing some perfume. This is the first vintage pefume I buy, and have no clue whether it's real or not. But anyway, if real, the top and the floral part is mostly gone, what's left is an excellent sandalwoody-ambery drydown that's not too sweet but, at times, almost recalls old books (off notes? but they're not bad at all). And just a drop is enough.


  7. Does anyone know the history of Le Galion and why they stopped making sortilege?

  8. I too wore Sortilege in the 70's and only ever wore jeans, no bra and a T-shirt. I adored the juxstaposition of Femme-Fatale and casual and really mourn its passing along with that of Jacomo's Chicane and Balenciaga's Le Dix...pure classic parfum heaven.

  9. Omg...i too adored have impeccable taste. I have just bought some Jacamo Chicane to bring back 1975 and my absolute perfume heavens are Sortilege and Le Dix. Cannot believe it...I could weep for my youth!


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