I am a big fan of black licorice. My favorite is the Finnish national treasure known as Panda, and I dislike all of the fake-o varieties, which I'll not list here. If you dislike black licorice, then you don't care, and if you're into black licorice, then you already know who all of the imposters are, so there's no need to name and shame...
Licorice has been used in a fair number of perfumes, but only one house has made of licorice a focal note: Lolita Lempicka. All of the perfumes of this house either feature licorice or are compatible with it, at least according to my nose. In this way, they form a theme-linked set every bit as coherent as the rose perfumes of Les Parfums de Rosine.
Roses are beloved to so many people that it's not that extraordinary for a house to focus on that flower. But licorice? That was truly an innovation on the part of Lolita Lempicka. Just thinking about it makes me want to go brew up a cup of licorice root tea. Be back shortly...
Nearly the entire line is designed specifically for women, and the governing aesthetic of this house literally screams (or is it squeals?) out femininity. It's true: the whimsical packaging is geared more for girls than for women. The fantasy fairy-like images and embellishments seem like they belong in some sort of bedtime story about sprites and elves and unicorns.
Despite its generally girlish-leaning tendencies, the house of Lolita Lempicka has produced a couple of masculine fragrances, and the male counterpart to Lolita Lempicka Le Premier Parfum is called Lolita Lempicka au Masculin, logically enough. I've reviewed these perfumes before but decided to take them up today in a direct side-by-side test in order to answer the gripping question: His or Hers?
Lolita Lempicka Le Premier Parfum (1997)
Caveat: this is a sweet perfume. Indeed, I'd go so far as to warn that this is a very sweet perfume. To some sniffers, the manifest sweetness is bound to be a big turn-off, and usually I would number among them. However, going against the grain of my own general tendencies, I have always liked Lolita Lempicka, even though it really is too sweet for my perfume tastes. It is possible that I am won over in part by the whimsical bottle, but I do not think that that is the whole explanation. No, there are reasons grounded in the perfume itself.
For one thing, it's not just a thick purple syrup, as one might surmise from gazing at the note line-up commencing with, of all things, pineapple—one of my least favorite notes in perfume! Instead, the many layers do tease apart, and the wood and the myrrhish (myrrhoid?) base make the drydown quite a bit less sweet than the opening. I cannot claim to detect the vast majority of notes, but there is definitely some layering in here. I have a couple of friends who do not experience any layering whatsoever when they wear this creation, and for them it is far less agreeable, seeming closer to a dessert syrup than to a perfume.
The second reason why I don't write this one off, and indeed rather like it, despite the fact that it exceeds my normal sweetness limit, is because it smells as though it's made with lots of and only good stuff. I have a tough time dealing with this sweetness level in an average mainstream designer fragrance. Usually they are so obviously drenched in sucralose or nutrasweet or some other chemical atrocity that I wince upon application.
Not so, with Le Premier Parfum, although I must also confess that I do not wear this perfume very often. Why? Well, excuse the repetition, but the answer is the same: it is simply too sweet. For me, wearing this perfume is akin to eating Bassett's Allsorts. It's something that I like to do now and then, but not all that often. Sometimes I'll go on a binge and eat two bags in one month, but then I won't eat any for a long time after that. Within a single bag (bottle), there are lots of interesting flavors mingling, but the by far most dominant note is black licorice, which simply is not something that I wish to eat every day—although I enjoy it when I do. Even less do I wish to smell to other people as though I work at the Bassett's factory.
I wonder whether others smell the same intensity of licorice in this perfume? Yes, the violet is important, and the vanilla and heliotrope, but everything in this entire composition has been tinged with the scent of glycyrrhiza or licorice root. To my nose, the pseudo-myrrh (whatever it is...) serves really as a base for the licorice, which has seeped through everything, leaving a grayish coating behind.
I hate to admit it, but the sweetness of this perfume even rivals something like Guerlain Insolence. Fortunately, however, there is no repulsive plastic or polymeric je ne sais quoi in the Lolita Lempicka. No, this composition smells natural enough that it definitely will not be standing alongside Insolence at the post-nuclear holocaust Perfume Hall of Fame.
There are other good black licorice perfumes: Bvlgari Jasmin Noir, Hermessence Brin de Réglisse and L'Artisan Parfumeur Méchant Loup are a few which leap to mind. Lolita Lempicka Le Premier Parfum is considerably more complex, but a lot more sweet, so I'd be surprised if very many guys took a liking to this composition. But that's okay, because the house of Lolita Lempicka launched a perfume precisely for those who find the sweet opening of Le Premier Parfum too much. That said, I should add that the drydown becomes somewhat less sweet and more woody, should someone who usually shuns sweet scents wish to stoically wait it out.
Perfumer: Annick Ménardo
Notes (from Parfumo.net): pineapple, ivy, mahogany, star anise, violet, lemon, iris, jasmine, lily of the valley, amaryllis, glycyrrhiza, vetiver, heliotrope, almond, musk, praline, tobacco, tonka bean, vanilla
Lolita Lempicka au Masculin (2000)
My first review of this perfume was not favorable. It seemed synthetic and somewhat unappealing. Perhaps I was having a bad nose day. It is also possible that I harbored a fifty-cent whore prejudice against it, as my tester bottle cost me on the order of $20.
I may also have been adversely affected by the bottle itself, which perversely enough looks as though it's made of plastic, though it's really made of glass! Bizarrely, it actually looks a lot like a prop for one of the Friday the 13th movies. From a distance, it could easily be mistaken for a tombstone in a haunted graveyard. The whimsical sprites in the forest theme of this house must have been difficult to translate into masculine images.
So was I in a surly mood just because of the bottle when I tested Lolita Lempicka au Masculin? Who really knows? I'm of the considered opinion that everything in our experience may bear on our evaluation of a perfume, so why not how the clumsy bottle feels as we attempt to spray it on?
By the way, as an aside, this may be a good place to point out that all of the bottles of this house's entire collection feature a built-in sprayer-top. There are no separate caps. Perhaps Lolita is one of those people who easily loses detachable parts such as caps and so decided to design each bottle so that the cap cannot be lost because it's already attached. Well, that's one possible theory, but whatever the real reason may have been, one fortunate consequence for perfume and perfume bottle collectors is that tester bottles are empirically indistinguishable from non-tester bottles, so unless you're interested in the box, you can save some money by buying the tester, knowing that you will not be deprived of the cap, because it's permanently affixed.
Since first receiving Lolita Lempicka au Masculin and reviewing it rather unfavorably, I have come around and now appreciate its virtues. Yes, I have to admit that I've warmed up to this scent and can say that sometimes I enjoy wearing it. But that's the problem for me: it's a gamble. On a good day, I find it complex and compelling. On a bad day, I just want a bath. For this reason, since I never know whether I'm going to have a good or a bad nose day with respect to this fragrance, I do not choose to wear it unless I already have a bath on the horizon.
Today was a good day. I do not smell car interiors and rubber. The labdanum appears to be coming through, and also a touch of basil. Today, Lolita Lempicka au Masculin smells like a very fine unisex scent to me.
Perfumer: Annick Ménardo
Notes (from Parfumo.net): aniseed, basil, glycyrrhiza, violet, almond milk, rum, sandalwood, tonka bean, praline, vanilla, vetiver, cedar, cistus
Concluding Assessment: His or Hers?
When I want a more savory and drier treatment of licorice root, L'Artisan Parfumeur Méchant Loup is a better choice. It is also more dependable on my skin than Lolita Lempicka au Masculin. However, I have to admit that I have come around and now believe that the Au Masculin version of Lolita Lempicka is a better perfume, all things considered, than its female counterpart. Why? Because it's not a dessert-event perfume.
Lolita Lempicka au Masculin is an oriental woody with a dominant licorice note and lots of fascinating facets and layers, both bluish green and brown. So, yes, I must admit that it is a more wearable perfume. Your results may vary, and mine may too, but all that matters in today's evaluation is how these perfumes strike me today. I do greatly prefer the original bottle and confess to having developed a fetish of sorts for the feminine perfume bottles of this house, but as far as the perfumes are concerned, His gets my vote today.
Running Tally: His or Hers?