On (good) reformulations: Lanvin’s Arpège

Like death and taxes, perfume reformulations are a certainty.

The word ‘reformulation’ pushes all the wrong buttons for many perfume enthusiasts, but I try to be positive. For today’s post, I will steer my ship away from the rocks of Guerlain and Dior reformulations into the safer waters of what I feel is a good reformulation: Lanvin’s Arpège.

I have two samples of vintage extrait: one which has turned quite badly, and one still lovely one that Danielle sent me. I also have vintage ‘Eau Arpège’ (which I take to be EDT), and the modern EDP. I like them all, but vintage Eau Arpege the least.

Perhaps my bottle is in poor condition, or perhaps I am just observing the difference between and EDT and and EDP. But there is something sharp in the top notes of Eau Arpège that I don’t care for: aldehydes perhaps, or the hesperidic notes. (You know you are serious perfume geek when you start to use words like ‘hesperidic’).

After that the perfume improves but there is also a kind of oily and artificial quality in it too, for me at least. I don’t know where that comes from. I have a faint memory of having smelled Arpège when I was a child, and this oily quality is what I remember. I don’t know how I came to smell Arpège then, as my mother certainly never wore it. But we also had a mini bottle of Lanvin’s My Sin as well, as I distinctly remember staring at it and wondering who in their right mind would call a perfume ‘Eau (Oh) My Sin’. Weird. I suspect these perfumes might have been presents from my mother’s older sister. Nice lady, but her gifts were constant reminders that her husband earned more than my father.

Right, back to Arpège. The modern EDP for me is beautiful from start to finish. I find it intensely rich and creamy, less hesperidic (there I go again) and less floral than Eau Arpège. I feel enveloped in sandalwood, amber, musk and patchouli. Vetiver lends a crispness which prevents the whole thing descending into a complete featherbed softness. As Victoria has said in her review of Arpège, the modern version is velvet to the older Arpege’s brocaded silk.

Vintage extrait is a different story again. I’m not sure how old Danielle’s sample is, but it is the darkest and richest of them all. And the dirtiest, probably because of an especially prominent jasmine note. It is amazing that something this big and sexy could uncurl from such an innocent little sample bottle.

Do you have a favourite reformulation? Do tell! Feel free to use the word ‘hesperidic’. Go nuts. Or – oh okay – just tell us again how much you HATE today’s Mitsouko or Diorella or whatever. Go nuts there too. You are among friends. 🙂

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30 thoughts on “On (good) reformulations: Lanvin’s Arpège

  1. Lovely, and I am going immediately to look it up, but having hesperidic explained would have doubled my enjoyment. I’m off to educate myself. Embarrassingly I quite like the current Shalimar reformulation, still love the old stuff, but this has a lightness and clarity that I enjoy.
    Portia xx

  2. I’ve not gone down the road of vintage fragrances just to avoid the heartbreak, so there are many pre-reformulations I have never smelled. I enjoy the modern take on Shalimar, and I’ve heard that my beloved Black Cashmere is actually a bit easier to wear in its latest incarnation. Also, I love both the pre-and-post 2011 versions of Après l’Ondée, both are beautiful, just in different ways.

    I laughed at your closing comment, Anne-Marie. Mitsouko is a hot mess on my skin.

    1. Well, at least you know where you stand with Mitsy! I have heard that modern Femme is actually harder to wear than the older version, but it all depends on how you feel about the cumin in it, I guess.

      I did not know that Al’O changed in 2011. Do you know anything more about that?

      1. It’s my understanding that IFRA got all up in heliotropin’s face in 2011 because it’s an allergen blah blah blah….. Heliotropin gave the older formulation of Après l’Ondée its almondy aspect. New Al’O is very iris-centric with violets, it’s a cooler fragrance than the pre-formulation. Being an iris girl, I still enjoy the new iteration, but it is definitely not the same. (Went looking online a few months ago before I bought the new version, and could find NO information. Because of that, I think I’ll eventually do a wrist vs. wrist of the two.)

        1. Oh my lord, I had not heard that about heliotropin! Does that mean that L’Heure Bleue will be affected too!? Splutter! I mean, L’HB must have been tweaked often over the years but the consensus seems to have been that it was still pretty good. Now I wonder … I went scrambling back through my TPC orders and found that I bought by L’HB decants in late 2010 and early 2011, so hopefully I got them before this latest adjustment, if there has been one.

  3. (Mitsouko HATES me, BTW.)

    I love me some vintage scents, and aldehydic florals are up my alley too – so of course I own both a mini of modern EdP and a 7.5ml bottle of what seems to be maybe 1970s Arpege parfum. I sincerely wish I could merge the top/heart of the new EdP with the heart/base of the old parfum!

    The base of the vtg parfum is so so gorgeous with all that woody stuff – sandalwood and vetiver and a lovely aged patchouli. It’s the overripe florals in the heart of the vtg that I really struggle with – they’re flowers in a base three days past their prime, a little dank and certainly rich. You’re right, there’s a richness/oiliness to it that I sometimes find difficult to wear. But the base of the new EdP is so thin compared to the vtg that I don’t really love it either.

    1. Crikey! I find the base of the new EdP very satisfying. How funny. Those overripe flowers in Arpege make it quite edgy, I think. Was it Angela on NST who made a similar observation? That No 5 is the freshly cut flowers but Arpege is the same bunch five days later. Something like that.

  4. I’ve gone on the record before that Lanvin Arpège may be my favorite perfume of all time. It’s not something I could wear daily, but I think it’s remarkable, complex, and powerful. However… I’m only familiar with the current EDP! I have shied away from trying vintage because I’m worried I’ll fall in love with something that’s hard to obtain (plus, in general I hear the current version is very good). I am definitely interested in trying vintage *someday*, but I’m in no hurry. Do they currently make extrait? Now, THAT I would definitely like to try.

    I think I read someone somewhere saying that the current version of Chanel No. 22, the Les Exclusifs version, is better than what was around in the 80s, but don’t quote me on that. No. 22 is another favorite of mine, again, though, I’m only familiar with the modern Les Exclusifs EDT.

    Another one I’ve heard (but don’t know for sure about) is Givenchy L’Interdit. That one is weird because they turned it into a fruity floral that had nothing to do with the original perfume in the 90s, then did a faithful reformulation in the 00s (back to the original aldehydic-floral-strawberry). I think I remember some people saying they really like the 00s reformulation and maybe even better than the vintage. I’m actually very curious to try that one but never have – seems to be a rare beast.

    1. I know EXACTLY how you feel about vintage Arpege – I have avoided vintage Femme for the same reason. I don’t ever see extrait in the shops these days, but a check of the website might conform if it is in production.

      I don’t know much about No 22 – and I don’t actually like it – but I do know something about L’Interdit. I was thinking of making my my next post for BoTo will be about vintage and modern L’Interdit. So now I will!

      1. ooh, I’ll look forward to your L’Interdit review. It’s one of the things I most want to try in the next year….

        I checked the Lanvin website for the info about extrait, and while they have a short intro to their perfumes on the main site, there is a link to a lanvinperfumes.com for more info, and that link is dead… hmm.

  5. Hello! This is my first post here, but I’ve been enjoying the blog for a little while now.

    I agree with you and the other commenters about Arpege. I have a small bottle of extrait I got in a Melbourne shop about 5 – 6 years ago, so it must be the modern version, and it is beautiful.

    New Carons get a few bad reviews, but I absolutely love Infini. I have the extrait, again 5 – 6 years old. Have never smelled vintage Infini, and don’t really feel a need to since the modern is so great.

    Modern Habanita is also very good. Reformulations are not ALL bad!

    1. Hi vinery1, and welcome! What was the Melbourne shop? I don’t live in Melbourne but I holiday there occasionally, and I know the perfume retailers a little bit.

      I love Infini, but I have a little mini of the vintage EDT, and it is lovely but fleeting. The extrait must be magnificent.

      As for Habanita – the modern is FABULOUS. You are so right. It is one of the most fascinating perfumes I own, and lasts a day on my skin. I would have included it in this post but I have never smelled the vintage so I can’t compare. Well, I bought some vintage Habanita on ebay but it turned out to be so damaged that I could not get much out of it.

      1. Sadly, that store is now ‘discontinued’.

        Since posting my comment, I thought of Bandit, an old favourite that keeps on making me happy.

        I know this is REALLY stretching it, but the new Grossmiths are quite good. Of course I’ll never smell 1891 Phul-nana, but I have the modern version and that is just fine.

        1. Really!? Is that the store in one of the arcades in the CBD? Paint n Powder, or something?

          Glad you like the Grossmiths.

  6. First, I want to confess that I’ve never tried a single perfume by Lanvin. The reason is really stupid: I mixed the name of the brand with Lavilin (brand that produces deodorant that supposedly works for days – I always thought it should be really harmful).

    I do not wear or test too much vintage perfumes so I do not have too many things to compare in either direction.

    I do not hate the current version of Diorella – but I do not remember any more how it used to smell. I do not mind current Miss Dior – but I have only vintage parfum to which I compare the modern EdP.

    1. I’m fine with both those modern Diors too, although I notice that the modern Diorella seems to lack diffusion, on me at least. Smells lovely tho’!

      Lanvin has gone in some odd directions, and I’m not sure that anything other than Arpege is worth bothering with. Hope you get a chance to try it!

      1. Most of Lanvin’s modern fragrance collection, other than Arpege, seems to be fruity or fresh florals. However, I have heard some nice things about their brand new masculine fragrance, Avant Garde…

  7. I own Bandit in the latest reformulation and really like it, though I must admit I haven’t smelled the original. There seems to be consensus among those who have that the modern version is good. I do miss the oakmoss in Mitsouko but I still enjoy the modern version, I think Guerlain at least tried really hard to get the modern version as good as possible with the modern restrictions unlike others that try to cheapen the formula (Dior…).
    I’ve only tried Jeanne Lanvin-boring and very pink- from Lanvin, but I’ll make sure to try Arpege in future.

    1. Bandit has a complex reformulation history, from what I have learned. I have a decant from an EDP from the 90s (? not sure, would have to go back and re-research it) and it smells nothing like the vintage stuff. It is soft and powdery and slightly sweet, quite easy to wear. I’ve read other people remarking on how oddly unlike it is. But I think there have been further Bandit releases since then that return to the original bitter leather Bandit of old. I’m uncertain about all this …

      I’m okay with the modern Mitsouko too, and L’Heure Bleue. I think you are right. Guerlain puts a lot of effort into making the best possible adjustments, given the restrictions.

      There must be plenty of oakmossy Lauders of yore, and no-one ever complains about them being reformulated … and yet they must be … ? Private Collection … Beautiful …

  8. Oh, and the bottle in the photo must be an old one? The ones I’ve seen in the store are round and black I think.

  9. Farnesiana is my current favorite reformulation. Was just at the NYC Caron Boutique and although I liked N’Aimez Que Moi now and Poivre, En Avion and Tabac Blond are still on the casualty lists. The Caron folks seem to want to homogenize the line and the perfumes are just too diverse. Secret Oud is nice though

    1. Thanks, those are all good tips. How luck you are to be able to sample them all at once. Farnesiana sounds nice. I love the sound of the name, too.

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