Perfume Review: Lancôme Climat

Tested in three versions: vintage (late 70’s/early 80’s?) parfum and new (2006?) La Collection edt, from my personal collection, as well as a private  sample of the old blue-and-black packaging from the 90’s. 

I wore the La Collection version first, on a blustery Saturday in January, before all the snow came. A story here: my hometown boasts a couple of “historic” hotels, one of which was bought by a university, renovated/enlarged into a hotel-and-conference-center, with its own restaurant and bar, and is now thriving. The other hotel, after the original owners died, was purchased by Doubletree Hotels and partially renovated. It did well for a few years, and it was during this time that The CEO and I were married and spent our first night of conjoined life in the honeymoon suite of the Patrick Henry Hotel. After a few years, Doubletree found it was losing business to the hotel/conference center, and it pulled out. The new owners took long-term residents, and the glamor of the Patrick Henry faded pretty quickly. There have been at least two changes of ownership since then, and there was talk of tearing down the building so as to avoid dealing with asbestos abatement. Most recently, a local businessman, wishing to prevent the loss of the beloved building, bought it, intending to sink several million dollars into renovation. The beautiful carved caryatids will stay and grace Williamson Road.

On that blustery January day, the hotel sold off a large part of the old furnishings. Instead of sending old bedsteads and artwork and lamps to the dump, the new owner sold them and donated the proceeds to Habitat for Humanity.  I didn’t manage to pick up any furniture, but I did buy a colonial-frame mirror for $25 (mahogany! Beautiful – and a really heavy sucker, too) aaaaand la piece de resistance, the key to the room we stayed in on our wedding night. Now how cool is that?

Climat was keeping me company that day, and I enjoyed it very much. Having seen several reviews calling it an old-fashioned white floral, I’d predicted I’d like it – but I was surprised at how much so.

Notes for Climat:

Top: violet, peach, aldehydes, bergamot, rosemary

Heart: lily of the valley, rose, narcissus, tuberose

Base: sandalwood, amber, tonka bean, musk, civet, bamboo, vetiver

The first thing I smelled were the aldehydes, of course. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think it’s worth repeating: I like aldehydes; they say “Proper perfume!” to me. It’s not that everything I wear is an aldehydic floral, but I tend to feel comfortable and at home in them. (Early exposure to Mom’s No. 5 is my explanation for that. And also that I have an uncomplicated relationship with her, so that the smell of her perfume is pleasant to me.) Immediately under the aldehydes, I smelled what I call “aromatics” – bergamot and herbs, somewhat similar to the beginning of Alahine, where it’s bergamot and lavender. This is a very juicy, green note that carries on for some time.  Under that, though, before I even got to any florals, I noticed the civet. Yeah, civet… I was able to pinpoint it pretty easily, since I’d worn both Ubar and Parfum Sacré within the previous week. I tend to like civet, too, in small amounts where it gives a gravity and depth to florals that might be somewhat lightweight without at least some ballast. Here the civet is very quiet and makes me think of one of the favorite smells of many perfumistas – cat fur. I wouldn’t say cat butt – just warm, dusty fur. But please be aware that your mileage may vary (YMMV), and you should have a working relationship with civet before purchasing any Climat!

From that point, Climat settles into a beautiful, well-blended floral scent. It’s still wearing that hat with a veil (the aldehydes), and some lacy undies (the civet), but Climat is a New Look dress scent if there ever were one. It’s a 1967 creation in white gloves and a fitted bodice, all buttoned and prim in roses and lily of the valley. There may be some tuberose in there, but it’s like black-and-white photos of a tropical vacation. I’m actually a little surprised not to see iris in the notes; Climat can be a little powdery, particularly in vintage parfum, and it reminds me a little bit of the powdery-smooth iris in Goutal’s Heure Exquise.

The base is lovely and very quiet, primarily sandalwood and vetiver, with just a hint of vanilla, and the warm cat-fur accent of civet. Climat lasts about 5-6 hours on me, about average for eau de parfum on my skin; the vintage parfum I have is probably age-damaged, because it doesn’t last that long. If I had to come up with just a few words to describe it, I think I’d have to pick “smooth” and “ladylike.”

I’ll warn you now: if the idea of yourself being described as “ladylike” made you spew coffee, Climat is not for you. If Cuir de Lancôme seemed too Donna Reed for your taste, you won’t do any better with Climat. (Try Sikkim or Magie Noire – even the current version – for a Lancôme fragrance that doesn’t wear pantyhose and heels. Incidentally, Sikkim is a lot like a spicier version of Stetson, and I think it would be terrific on a man.)

Here’s Luca Turin on Climat:  Created in 1967, Climat was born old, a laggard latecomer to the Ma Griffe tweedy-floral category… The Collection version of Climat is excellent… and makes an ideal grown-up fragrance for someone who clearly isn’t.

Well. Dr. Turin’s always right, except when he clearly isn’t. (I will forbear to mention the Insolence debacle, the Missoni schizophrenia, and the Giorgio insanity.) I’ll respectfully disagree with him in regards to two points. First off, “tweedy floral”? Nope. No tweed. No Katharine Hepburn or Miss Moneypenny in Climat, it’s too soft. It’s a full-skirted silk gabardine dress, not dressy enough to wear out for cocktails but too dressy for business attire. Secondly, “a grown-up scent for someone who isn’t?” Did he not notice the civet? Is he seriously recommending this scent for teenagers?

Look. I’m 42. Climat doesn’t do anything to my mental age (and Bookworm took one sniff and said, “Old lady talcum powder – you know, it smells nice, but sort of grandmotherly,” so I honestly don’t see any teenagers wearing it for aspirational aging, as Turin seems to imply). Maybe I feel like I’ve finally matured into “ladylike,” when the occasion warrants; I find that concept fairly attractive. I wear my cultured pearls. I just bought my first “good” handbag, without worrying about spending the money on a nice leather purse that ought to last me years. I like the sense of poise and posture that I have when I wear Climat; it gives me a sense of confidence.

I’ll admit that it really doesn’t appeal to me on days when I’m wearing jeans, nor would I reach for it when dressed up for a Hot Date. But if I’m in my favorite contour-waist micro-denier polyester trousers and a nice sweater, I’m happy in Climat. It also goes well with my ¾ sleeve teal wrap dress.

A word on formulations: the vintage parfum I have is rather overwhelmingly powdery. I do wonder if it’s suffering from age and poor storage – the top notes are that nail-polish-y acetone of decayed aldehydes + bergamot.  It’s less sparkly than the “La Collection” version. Oddly, Lancôme does not list concentration on any of the La Collection scents. I’m making an assumption that they’re edp’s, based on their longevity on my skin. The old version of Climat in the blue-and-black packaging is inferior, synthetic dreck. Avoid it.

La Collection sets can still be found in limited quantities at online discounters, and of course on ebay. I bought my set for under $40, including shipping, for four 15ml splash bottles. The other bottles in my set are Magie, Sikkim and Mille et une Roses; some sets offer Sagamore instead of the rose one. I do wish that I could have found Climat in a bottle bigger than the half-ounce I have now.  It’s beautiful, and I find myself thinking about it often when I’m testing some crappy modern heartless floral.

Review Report: Bois de Jasmin, Perfume Posse, Basenotes.  Top image is vintage Climat ad from lmajot at ebay; lower one is Patrick Henry Hotel by mattames at flickr.

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9 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Lancôme Climat”

  1. Thoroughly enjoyable review of a perfume almost certainly not for me, in view of my lack of a “working relationship with civet”. My mileage does indeed vary wildy from other people’s where that note is concerned. It is a zigzagging, careering all over the county type of mileage, before my car finally plunges off the road down a ravine.

    Loved the fact that you were able to buy the key to your honeymoon suite – what a dear memento of your wedding!

  2. I think I’d be curious to try this– (whispering in your ear so Flittersniffer can’t hear– just for the civet.) The rest of your description: “the idea of yourself being described as “ladylike” made you spew coffee”– uh, yeah. That’s me pretty much.

    But you really live in a scent, and you convey that beautifully– this is a scent I hadn’t even HEARD of until today.

    And just to echo what FS said– the key to your own honeymoon suite? *Nice.*

  3. Ya’ll, that key… Coolest. Thing. Ever. It’s on one of those nice, heavy, old-fashioned oval brass things with the room number embossed into it (1107, if you care).

    The pic does not show the caryatids well, but they are lovely marble carvings on the face of the building. So glad it won’t be coming down in a cloud of dust, to be replaced by some glass-and-steel faceless nonsense.

    Flitter, I wish civet were kinder to you. Some of those glorious vintage things contain it… and Parfum Sacre, oh HOW I love Parfum Sacre…

    Rita, I don’t think of ladylike when I think of you – and I imagine that pleases you! Ladylike is only one expression of me, but *sometimes* it does fit. Which is nice.

    Those scents that are easy to settle into, that take you places without your moving a step… those, I just adore. It’s merely a bonus that the reviews are easy to write! But thanks for your kind words.

  4. Oh. Oh. Oh. This is the one that you recommended. Lovely review. I love civet. I love cat fur.

    I want it now. Amazon only has the wrong packaging. Must find. Perfume acquisition panic!

    Running around waving my arms, credit card in one hand,

    ChickenFreak

    1. It’s gorgeous! I’d love to swap (particularly some vintagey stuff), but I might have to hold off a few weeks. It always seems to take me forEVER to finish packaging up things* so I’ve got a couple of swaps to complete first, but I’ll email you at some point.

      *I blame my kids. 🙂

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