Lanvin Scandal ~ perfume review

Lanvin perfumes

I'd been yearning to try Lanvin Scandal for a while now. It seemed like references to Scandal turned up everywhere: in a list of leather scents, in my research into perfumes made in the 1930s, in other perfume blogs. The problem was that Scandal was discontinued in 1971. At last, in a swap, I got my hands on three precious milliliters of it. Now I just had to hope I wouldn’t fall in love with Scandal.

A spritz of the amber-brown liquid on my arm, and the tingle of aldehydes spreads over a warm profusion of orange flower, jasmine, rose, and something very slightly like the scent of a peaty single malt scotch. As the fragrance settles, the flowers remain strong but reveal a pinch of clove — this could be carnation — but not as much spice as in, say, Weil Zibeline.

Then the leather begins to surface. Scandal’s leather is dry, closer to that of Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles than to Chanel Cuir de Russie, but it is still fine leather. If Cuir de Russie’s leather is a 1950s calfskin handbag that snaps shut with a click, then Scandal’s leather is also calf, but a high-heeled boot, well worn but the sexier for it. Cuir de Russie’s flowers are cool and elegant while Scandal stays warm until the end, when the leather begins to fade slightly and a residue of sandalwood lingers for another half hour or so.

Overall, the fragrance is luminous but dark, like topaz on velvet. It is correct but not proper, and carefully but lushly constructed. If I had to assign it to a movie star, I’d choose Jeanne Moreau in a trench coat and — yes — those calfskin boots and an expensive handbag, running through the rain on a Parisian street to a café to meet someone she shouldn’t be seeing. When she takes off her coat and the scent of cold city falls away, the Scandal on skin, warm now, mingles with the perfume of coffee and cigarettes.

Andre Fraysse created Scandal in 1933, the same year Guerlain Vol de Nuit and Creed Angélique Encens were released. Besides general descriptions of Scandal as a leather chypre, I couldn’t find a listing of its notes. I can see why the grand and classic Scandal might falter against the hippie-fueled years of the late 1960s and early 1970s, but I don’t understand why it couldn’t weather the storm with its peers, Jean Patou Joy, Rochas Femme, Balmain Jolie Madame, and Chanel No. 5. Why Arpège and not Scandal, for instance? Go figure.

As you can tell by now, I did fall in love with Scandal. But thanks to some loons in Lanvin’s marketing department, Scandal will have to live on my shelf of unattainable dreams, right up there with Sean Connery in Goldfinger and jeans that actually fit.

Note: image via Parfum de Pub.


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28 Comments

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Someone she shouldn't be seeing…

    That's pure poetry! ;-)

    The rush of seeing someone we shouldn´t be seeing.

    Lovely description.

    Intriguing fragrance.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Angela!

    Found this in a book for Scandal:

    Top: neroli,bergamot,mandarine,muskateller sage.

    Heart:juchten, iris, rose, ylang

    Base: incense,civet,oakmoss,vanille,vetiver,benzoe.

    A few days before, I read the ingredients and dreamed about testing:)

  3. Anonymous says:

    Don't pass up the chance to smell it, if it comes your way. It's a shame it was discontinued.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Thanks! This is terrific! I thought I smelled incense in the drydown, but I didn't list it, because I couldn't imagine the mix of leather and incense, but there it is. I don't see aldehydes or leather, either, but I swear I smell them. I wonder what “juchten” is?

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hi Angela: I found a definition for “juchten”: 'Russian Leather in perfumery'. K

  6. Anonymous says:

    Perfect! Thanks, Kevin.

  7. Anonymous says:

    I need to check my little black box, I think I may have a drop of this in there to test. :)

    You should be writing novels, Angela.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Jeans that fit, huh? Well have you tried Paige Premium denim? I used to cringe at the thought of plunking down two hundred bucks but ever since I tried these I am a changed woman. I own three pairs and I want more… try the Laurel Canyons or Hollywood Hills, unbelievable. Just trying to make at least ONE of your dreams come true!!!!!! Aren't we all pissed about a discontinued? For me it's Todd Oldham's signature scent for women… To die for! And he's still alive! (the bastard!)

  9. Anonymous says:

    Hmm, what else is in that “little black box”? Sounds mighty tantalizing.

    I like the idea of writing a novel. Maybe each of the characters could be a perfume and carry its characteristics: the naughty, playful Dzing!; the romance-novel-reading, pink-wine-swilling YSL Paris; and the salty codger Old Spice.

  10. Anonymous says:

    K, I have a friend who has Paige jeans and swears by them, but I still balk at shelling out that kind of cash. Of course, I'd easily spend the same amount on perfume and not blink an eye–I know it doesn't make any sense! In the winter I end up mostly wearing old Pendleton skirts with knee socks and cowboy boots, and in the summer it's cotton sundresses. (Do I sound like a slob? I prefer “bohemian”.) Maybe I'll break down and try those Paige jeans….

  11. Anonymous says:

    This is one of my all-time favorite perfumes! Thank you so much for the wonderful review. I would wish for them to revive it, but I know they would change it. I guess the most that I can wish for is that they don't use the name for some unrelated, boring “modern” scent, as they did with Rumeur.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I agree, it would be a travesty if they “improved” it into mediocrity, or stole its name, like with Rumeur. I also hope they don't sell the formula, like they did for My Sin, to another company to make with inferior materials. Maybe, though, it would be better to have an inferior version than nothing at all? I'm not sure.

  13. Anonymous says:

    I have deep, deep love for this one. Loved your review!!
    Having smelled the new “Rumeur”, I pray that Lanvin does not dare re-issue Scandal. I hope they let it stay gracefully dead rather than resurrect it as a politically correct zombie of its wonderful self.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I bet they leave it in the perfume graveyard. But what if they could rework it respectfully, just as Arpege was reworked? If Rumeur is the direction Lanvin is taking these days, though, I'd rather they leave Scandal alone.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I dislike Arpege with every fiber of my being, but this one sounds like a dream. From reading the notes, I just *know* it would have worked for me. What are they feeding the people of Lanvin?

  16. Anonymous says:

    I love Arpege's bottle, and I try it at least once every 6 months, but it hasn't grown on me, either. I'd much rather have a bottle of Scandal. *sigh*

  17. Anonymous says:

    I have you to thank for sticking my nose into Femme (old and new) — I have to say I like both of them a great deal, although they're very, very different — the original seems much closer to, say, Jolie Madame.
    I'm rather fond of the new Arpege, too. Smelling the vintage Rumeur, however, pretty much ruined the new version for me.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Hello, some of my favorite girls !

    Politically incorrect, is right…

    Scandal has hips, breasts, smokes Gitanes, and trails sables…

    I smelled her at age 3 and it blew my lil' mind.

    I knew then , that REAL WOMEN smelled like that, and if I ever got to be beautiful OR gutsy, that it was for me.

    I didn't know it would disappear from view !

  19. Anonymous says:

    What a terrific perfume to jumpstart a perfumista! I love your description of Scandal. Hips, breasts, sables, cigarettes–definitely!

  20. Anonymous says:

    I'm so glad you like Femme! It can be a tough one to love, but once you do, no other perfume is the same. The cumin in the new really does set it apart from the original. I haven't smelled the vintage Rumeur, but I'm not wild about the new one.

  21. Anonymous says:

    What an absolutely perfect review. I adore this scent and have spent a fortune trying to get it on ebay. Have bought two tragically “off” bottles (did not pay enough attention to the color) and only have one small bottle that is wonderful beyond words and which I'm considering getting a hurricane proof box for.
    You should write a full script around that movie scene. I really want to to see it now, even if it would require a recasting of the divine Jeanne Moreau.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Elle, thank you! I have fantasies about going to an estate sale and stumbling on a perfect, boxed bottle of Scandal for 25 cents. (Why not just go further? Why not add a diamond necklace for a dollar?) I suppose there's some value in having something unattainable to yearn for.

  23. Anonymous says:

    How did I miss this review? God, Scandal is a wondrous fragrance. I remember reading that Ed Roudinitska saying that it was the best leather fragrance created, better than Ernest Beaux's creation for Chanel, Cuir de Russie. I have a bottle of this stuff that I got off Ebay. I sniff it from time to time. I stumbled across a small perfume vial of this stuff and it is very very heavenly in parfum form. I did give my vial to a friend (so I thought at the time) to enjoy since she really wanted to smell this scent in it's true version. The only version before I got my hands on the real deal was the DSH version which is sort of nice but doesn't really hit the cusp of the original. There's a lot of civet in the DSH version as opposed to the original. I need to pull out this baby and breathe in and just enjoy.
    I too also would hate to see Lanvin pull this one out of their catalogue and turn into into a cheap Coty fruity floral scent like they did with their relaunched Rumeur.
    But I have to admit still being disappointed with the relaunched Rumeur, I still sort of liked the relaunched Rumeur compared to other horrid fruity floral scents that were released at the time and still are.
    Keep Scandal a nice old memory of the past. BUT ONLY relaunch if you're MAN ENOUGH to make it just as it was, the tried true dirty carnal leather scent it truly is. Geez, you'd think with Chanel & Guerlain still keeping their old formulas intact like that they been trying to do that Lanvin would want to hold onto their glorious old history like they should? Go figure?!!

  24. Anonymous says:

    You sure are a good friend to give away a bottle of Scandal parfum! (Need any more new friends?) I'm with you 100% about Lanvin and reissuing Scandal. They did a fine job with Arpege, but that was a while ago. And they massacred Rumeur.

  25. Anonymous says:

    Angela, I expect you hear this all the time, but you write beautifully. I read your articles to read your writing as much as I do to read about perfume.

  26. Anonymous says:

    I don't hear it all the time, and thank you so much!

  27. L'Homme Vert says:

    I couldn’t believe my good fortune this week, I’ve been waiting patiently for the delivery of a large bottle of extrait of ‘Scandal’ won at auction. This is a bottle from the mid to late 40’s & was still securely boxed although missing about 1/4 of it’s content due to evaporation. It is the 54 gr. presentation and perfectly preserved after all these years with the exception of the aldehydes, they really do not fare well in any vintage juice. Now I admit to my penchant for everything Lanvin with ‘My Sin’ in No. 1 position followed closely by ‘Arpege’ so after spending over an hour cleaning the stopper and removing cord & celluloid seal I will move above mentioned contenders into 2nd & 3rd places respectively.
    To call this a gorgeous leather/floral parfum is a total understatement, it is breathtakingly stunning, sure the top notes are a little messed up but after about 15 minutes this beauty serenely imparts her secrets like a genie kept prisoner in that stoppered bottle for more years than I have been alive. I detect leather and civet, tobacco, Turkish rose, jasmine, ylang & iris with woody notes of the most exquisite sandalwood, benzoin, vetyver & musc. tincture. The eventual drydown lasted for approx. 8-10 hours on my skin and the cardboard blotter is still going strong 5 days in with the warm powdery nuance of a mink pelt infused with ashes of roses and the creamiest Mysorean sandalwood. BLISS ! ! !
    Seriously folks, why this was discontinued is beyond all comprehension but I am thrilled to now have this ‘Scandalous’ Fraysse creation in my collection.
    Took a while, persistance does pay off so grab some before it’s gone forever.
    Next project is to locate some early ‘Rumeur’. :-)
    Cheers to All,
    Happy New Year for 2011

    • Angela says:

      Congratulations on your score! I’m very jealous but very happy to know it went to someone who appreciates it so much. Scandal really brings out the poetry in you–always a good sign.

      Happy New Year to you, too!

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