|1969 Ô de Lancôme ad|
Ô de Lancôme is a fragrance I didn't appreciate until it was too late. This 1969 chypre-cologne hybrid was very green and sharp, so my mother, who dislikes chypres to this day, relegated the occasional gift bottle to a household cleaner/disinfectant, something to use on surfaces that were too delicate for bleach yet needed a good scrubbing. That's how Ô de Lancôme lodged itself in my mind as the scent of door handles and phone receivers. It took me years after I left home, discovered that I like green perfumes in general and crisp chypres in particular, that I was willing to give Ô de Lancôme any skin space. By that time the fragrance has been reformulated (probably more than once) and flankerized, which meant that I had to go vintage.
Ô de Lancôme opens with a blast of citrus rind and citrus juice infused with herbs. You spray (or pour) and see green. Even the juice in my old bottle (mine has the brownish neck you see in the 1969 ad above) is sharp and vivid-- too sharp, actually, in the first minute or two, before I start smelling the more interesting parts and a sheer floral note infiltrates the scene. The overall impression, while light and obviously citrusy, is quite different from the classic 4711 "eau de cologne" type, mostly because there isn't a hint of neroli in sight. O de Lancome is far more tart and even astringent from other fragrances in this category.
Eventually Ô de Lancôme asserts its chypre presence. When I pay attention, the green floral heart is more pleasant and subtle than I've realized in the past, and the descent into a woody-mossy-somewhat dirty dry-down is very pleasurable. I can't be sure that it's the fragrance itself or it's my old juice that has lost some refinement over the years, but I suspect the former. I remember Ô de Lancôme from the 1970s and there was a reason my mom considered it as Lysol alternative. It is great to wear in the heat, though, and as an oakmoss enthusiast I can deal with the abrasive top notes.
Ô de Lancôme in some formula or another is still available at Lancome counters, Ulta, and Lancome website ($57, 2.5oz). I wasn't impressed with any of the flankers I sniffed in recent years and found the Azure one especially unpleasant. Thankfully, older bottles are still pretty easy to find, usually around the same price (or lower) of a new bottle.
Notes: mandarin, lemon, bergamot, jasmine, rosemary, basil, honeysuckle, sandalwood, vetiver, and oakmoss.
Images: vintage Ô de Lancôme ads via hprints.com.