Guerlain Mitsouko is by far the most fascinating, and at times frustrating, perfume in my collection. I have a complicated relationship with her. How I feel about Mitsouko depends very much on what she decides to show of herself to me on any given day. Some days, she is cold and reserved, and whatever glimpse of peaches I get is more like a pan of hard, unripe fruit being simmered in formaldehyde in a far off room than the ripe, juicy fruit of which others speak. Oh but when she decides to relent! There is nothing better than Mitsouko when she is in a good mood. Slowly, she will drop her standoffish reserve and part her musty curtains to reveal a bed of spiced peaches on a dark, mossy bed – this Mitsouko is playful and mysterious.
I am working on a theory that you can break Mitsouko a little, or at least try to bend her to your will by placing her in situations where she is forced to come out of her shell. I discovered this when I spritzed it on one day in Spring this year before going for a long, six hour walk through the city with my husband, young son, baby daughter and my mum. By the end of the day, Mitsouko had taken on this salty, outdoorsy, herbal aspect that merged with the faint sweat on my skin. It was if both Mitsouko and I had finally learned to stop pacing edgily around each other and just chill out a bit.
Part of my frustration is her unpredictability. I can never know which one of her Janus faces she will show me on any given day. I own Mitsouko in many different concentrations and vintages: the 2013 EDP, a 1970’s EDT, a 1960’s EDT (onion bottle), the modern pure perfume, and lastly, a 1970’s spray deodorant. Each one of them smells, and behaves, slightly different on my skin, and none of them are consistent in what they reveal to me of their character. For example, today, to write this , I sprayed the 1970’s EDT – a version with real oakmoss listed on the back of the bottle – on the back of one arm. It is usually the friendliest version of them all, for me. But today, its opening was rather severe and unforgiving.
Two hours in, however, and I get a surprise! For the first time in my relationship with Mitsouko, she is giving me a glimpse of her spiced floral mid-section, the rose, ylang, and jasmine that when combined with the peach and moss, manage to smell like freshly proved bread dough. It’s delicious. I am not sure how long this little détente will last, so I am holding my breath, hoping not to alert her to my presence. If it is not clear by now, then I will say it openly: Mitsouko is not a perfume you own. She owns you. As for me, she’s grabbed me by the short and curlies, if not my heart strings, and doesn’t seem like she’s letting go anytime soon.