Reformulations of Fragrances: The Threat is Real

In my early childhood, my mother would bathe me in a large laundry bucket filled with warm, anise-infused water. Back when I could fit into a bucket, now I can’t even fit in my own bathtub. First-world problems. Since then, I’ve always loved the scent of star anise and the few fond memories of my childhood I associated its aroma with.

Then, I discovered Au Masculin by Lolita Lempicka, thanks to the Youtube fragrance reviewer, Redolessence (comment “Bernie sent me”). I instantly bought a 5ml mini to sample. It was amazing, I absolutely adored this total licorice-bomb. Au Masculin performed very well on my skin, it lasted all day and projected so well that I could smell it, clearly, through my clothes, even bundled up, on a frigid Canadian winter day. I quite honestly never experienced a fragrance as intoxicating to me as Au Masculin, before. Thank you Annick Menardo! 

 It didn’t take long, for me to use up the whole decant,so I went shopping around for a full bottle of Au Masculin. The issue was, that the only the new bottles (the old one had the sprayer embedded in its bottle) were available at my usual fragrance discounters; I figured it was a simple repackaging and went with the new bottle, which has an external sprayer and a cap. The presentation wasn’t nearly as nice as before, but I didn’t care, it’s what’s on the inside that counts. Impatiently, I made the order, anyway.

When I finally received Au Masculin in the mail, I savagely tore through the packaging, yanked off the cap, and drenched myself in Au Masculin. The fragrance was very different from what I had experienced in the mini-bottle; the new one’s smell and performance paled in comparison to the original. Initially, I thought my nose was playing tricks on me, so I took a break from Au Masculin for a day or two, then tried it again over the next 3 days in a row. Something was off.

Paranoid, I desperately googled for an answer to, I needed to find out if anyone had the same disappointing experience as I did. Was I nose blind? Did I order the wrong fragrance? Was I sold a counterfeit? No, I had it right. It turned out that that the Lolita Lempicka company reformulated Au Masculin, mercilessly butchering a masterpiece (it was to me, at least) in the process. 

Before this fragrance, I never paid any mind to the whole reformulation debates and complaints that dedicated frag-heads loved so much to make. It’s almost like the story about the boy who cried “wolf!”, with these people. One person writes “reformulation” on a forum or review-comment, and the whole lot of them freak out, buying 10 back-up bottles of the “vintage” edition, often at an extortionate price. Sometimes it’s just a false alarm. Chalk it up as “mass paranoia”, or so I thought.

I’ll admit, I previously looked down upon such people. Chances are that their collections are already extensive as it is, full of bottles and decants that they will never finish in their lifetime. With so many fragrances available and being introduced into the market, there will always the chance that they will find another favorite. No point in holding onto a relic. I am a bit wiser now.  Some fragrances simply cannot be replaced, no matter how closely another fragrance resembles it, or how well a supposed clone (smell-alike) imitates the original, nostalgia accepts no substitutes.

To the disappointment of many a fragster, the threat of reformulation is very much real. Lolita Lempicka’s Au Masculin showed me the harsh reality of reformulations. I honestly felt as if the fragrance house slapped me, the consumer, in the face, trying to pass-off a sad, watered-down perversion, as the original fragrance I so adored. Never before, have I actually felt angered over something as trivial as scented alcohol-water. It’s silly, but when the one thing that inspires or resurrects fond memories, is desecrated, it is understandable and justified to be outraged. The experience is akin to someone burning your baby picture in front of your very own eyes, and then telling you that you won’t miss it, anyway.

I repeat: the threat of reformulations is real.

What has your experience been with reformulations? Comment about it.

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