Perfumista tip: on reformulations, or why your favorite perfume doesn’t smell like it used to


One of the many hazards of writing about perfumes is that they're not static objects. If you pick up a new bottle of Jean Couture Coriandre, what you'll smell won't be at all what I smelled when I first bought it in the late 1970s. It might not even be the same as what I smelled when I reviewed Coriandre a couple years ago, and found it to be an entirely different animal than the scent I remembered. The Coriandre you smell tomorrow, or next month, or next year, might have changed yet again.

This has obvious implications for anyone blogging about perfume or reading perfume blogs. When you read a perfume review, unless it's about a perfume that launched recently, you can't be sure that what you'll smell in the stores is the exact same fragrance.

This article is meant as a very basic primer on reformulation, and most of what I'll cover is well-known to seasoned perfumistas.

Perfumes get reformulated all the time, and they always have. Why? Well, there are any number of reasons. Sometimes companies substitute cheaper ingredients as a cost-saving measure. Sometimes once-plentiful natural materials become scarce or extinct. And some materials, such as natural animal-derived notes, have been replaced with synthetic substitutes because of consumer preference and/or trade restrictions.

Sometimes ingredients are found to be unsafe, and sometimes, especially with older perfumes that relied on pre-made specialty bases, they simply don't exist any more. And sometimes, of course, perfumes are reformulated to bring them in line with modern tastes.

It's also important to remember that perfumes that rely on natural materials might have subtle variations from year to year anyway. A crop of jasmine from one year might smell different from the prior year, and a crop of jasmine from one part of the world might smell different from the same plant grown elsewhere.

Perfumes are being reformulated at a more rapid rate than they used to. Vanilla, jasmine, oakmoss, coumarin, birch tar, citrus oils, heliotropin, styrax, opoponax...these are just a few of the fragrance materials that are restricted and/or banned by IFRA1 or are under consideration for restriction. The most recent set of IFRA standards (the 43rd Amendment) was issued in 2008; perfume companies are supposed to reformulate all existing perfumes to be compliant with these standards by August, 2010. In practice, if you've been doing much sniffing lately, you know that many old favorites have already been redone in advance of the deadline (goodbye and thanks for the memories, Sisley Eau de Campagne2).

Perfume houses, for obvious reasons, don't tend to publicize reformulations. After all, who wants to hear that their favorite perfume is no longer exactly the same as it used to be? Also remember that a perfumista's idea of reformulation — the perfume no longer smells the same — may not be the same as that of a perfumer or a perfume house. If Australian sandalwood is substituted for now-scarce (and costly) Indian sandalwood, you could argue that the "formula" hasn't changed, but to a perfumista, the result is the same: the perfume doesn't smell like it used to.

So how can you find out if a perfume has been reformulated? Well, the best way is to trust your nose. Asking a sales associate is usually a waste of time: in my experience, they almost always swear up and down that the perfume hasn't changed even when it's patently obvious that it has. Customer service and public relations departments of the various perfume houses, more often than not, do the same, and this is true even when it's obvious that the original perfume would not possibly meet modern IFRA standards.

Trusting your nose, however, has its own pitfalls. It's important to remember that the last dregs of your three year old bottle of perfume won't smell the same as a brand new tester even if the formula hasn't changed at all.

Unfortunately, we can't constantly seek out and test new samples of everything we've already reviewed here at Now Smell This. That means you should approach every review, especially the older ones, with caution (which strictly speaking, you ought to be doing anyway). If you do smell a perfume that we've covered here and that you're quite sure has been reformulated, you can do your fellow readers a favor by leaving a comment to let them know.

1. IFRA is the International Fragrance Association. Here is a brief summary of their mission, from IFRA in a Nutshell:

[IFRA's] main purpose is to promote the safe enjoyment of fragrances worldwide.

IFRA represents the fragrance industry regional and national associations worldwide. IFRA is the reflection of the industry's choice to regulate itself and and [sic] its activities result in a Code of Practice and safety Standards, which members must adhere to, in order to achieve the objective of protecting consumers’ health and our environment.

If you want to learn more about IFRA's restrictions on the raw materials used in perfumery, you can see their whole list of standards here. Two excellent resources for those opposed to the IFRA standards are the aromaconnection blog and Cropwatch. You can also take a look at all the articles on Now Smell This tagged IFRA.

2. I'm not meaning to pick on poor Eau de Campagne in particular; it just happens to be something I smelled recently (and barely recognized). I should also point out that I don't even know if it's a victim of IFRA standards; it could easily have been redone for some other reason.

Note: image via Parfum de Pub.

Many thanks to Tania Sanchez for her help with this article!

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  1. CynthiaW says:

    I understand some reasons for reformulation (but I reserve the right not to like them) – the part that burns my britches is that they don’t even have to tell you. There you are merrily buying a perfume that you’ve worn for years, shelling out hard-earned money, and BAM – reformulated in an unacceptable fashion.

    I’ll never forget the look on my grandmother’s face when she bought me a bottle of her favorite perfume ( Emeraude) only to discover that it had been mutilated and smelled horrible.

    • Robin says:

      Oh, how sad! Emeraude must have been beautiful once upon a time, before it went mass market.

      • Yes, I have some of the vintage, from the square art deco bottle. It is a plush, bosomy oriental, nothing like the sad, sharp stuff of today–or even ten years ago.

        • mals86 says:

          Vintage Emeraude is my Holy Grail. I wore it in the 80’s and loved it then – and when I snagged a bottle of 70’s-era (I’m guessing by the packaging here) pdt, I found it to be the most absolutely smooth, lovely thing ever. “Plush and bosomy” hits the nail on the head. I now have six bottles, ranging from a 4oz pdt to a 1/8oz parfum, all gorgeous. I’d grab that big bottle on the way out of the house, in case of fire (assuming the kids are out!).

          Shame, SHAME on Coty for messing this one up… I know, I know – changes have to be expected. But reducing a scent to a ghost of its former self – for heaven’s sake, just go ahead and discontinue the thing. At least when I buy my multiple back-up bottles, Coty itself isn’t getting my $$. (I guess I’m just lucky Emeraude was in such widespread distribution in the 70’s – and that it doesn’t seem to suffer much from age.)

          • mals86 says:

            DANG IT! I have bids going on more (blush) Emeraude – hey, they ain’t makin’ any more of the old stuff! – and here I go, praising it to the heavens… oh, please, don’t everybody go bidding against me now… although if you do, it’s my own fault.

        • SmokeyToes says:

          Ohh! I loved and remember the vintage Emeraude. It was quite lovely, today’s version isn’t even to close.

          • AnnS says:

            My Mom used to wear Emeraude in the 70s and I remember how warm and plush it was.

    • benzippo says:

      I totally agreed with CYNTHIAW!

      After numerous expensive mistakes which I somehow felt cheated each time, I have now resorted to source my favorite classic perfumes from smaller independent perfume shops usually tuck at the corner of a shopping mall, instead of buying direct from brand counters in departmental store.

      At least I have a chance to purchase the real deal despite they being old stock where the fragrance may have changed a little rather than saved for the namesake and bottle and packing, the new juice is either bland, empty or whatsoever which I have nothing good to write about as compared to the original compositions as I remembered!!!

      Dior’s Poison do not smell what I used to remember. Nina Ricci L’Air Du Temps is only nice due to its bottle of Doves where the reformulated juice is another sad, sad story altogether and the list goes on and on….

      This is pure disgust as the big wigs companies assumed we are all are so dumb to be not able to detec the difference.

      I would rather they either discontinued it altogether and launch flankers instead. At least this will not dissapoint our expectations and most importantly, do not feel shortchanged and cheated.

      • Robin says:

        It’s also worth looking for vintage bottles on eBay — sometimes they even specify the year it was purchased.

      • merty55 says:

        AMEN! I feel the same about Amazing Grace by Philosophy. It used to be a lovely fragrance and now its almost unscented and that goes for a lot of their fragrances in the Grace line. There have been thousands of the same complaints to Philosophy and to QVC and neither has answered the question but now we know why. It’s a shame because people are spending hard earned money of what used to be a beautiful fragrance just to end up spending more money to return the item. Just be straight up with the customers, you changed the formulation and now it sucks!

        • Slothweirdo says:

          FINALLY, Amazing Grace gets mentioned! The change in their formula has wasted my money, time and the compliments on my scent whenever I went out have disappeared. I was told that the diluted scent happened when Coty took over. But the same thing has happened to me with Jessica Mcclintock. It doesn’t last, and it’s no longer in production. That perfume has the most exhilarating notes for my nose. But from what I’ve been reading, all of the notes that I love best are being banned. I need to find a new signature scent now. I love Chanel Crystalline Eau Verte but that lasts 5 minutes on me.

  2. Jill says:

    Thanks so much for this article! My most recent disappointment involves Tuscany per Donna by EL. For a while in the ’90s it was my favorite scent, and recently I decided I wanted to smell it again. I bought a “vintage” mini of it on eBay, but it had turned. I decided to buy it directly from EL (thanks CynthiaW for the promo code a few weeks ago, I also got Cinnabar!) and it is not the Tuscany per Donna I remember! It could be that my perfume tastes have just changed severely and I don’t remember it the way it was … but it seems QUITE different. :(

    • Robin says:

      Lucky for me, I guess, I don’t know the original Tuscany well. That’s a shame.

      • Joe says:

        Now I’m really curious to smell the Tuscany per Uomo that’s being sold as part of those new Aramis relaunches. Luckily, I still have a lot of a very old bottle for comparison.

        • Jill says:

          I’d love to know what you think if you do get to compare them!

    • TwoPeasInAPod says:

      I’m quite certain Tuscany Per Donna was reformulated when it was switched from Aramis to Estee Lauder. I loved it when it was an Aramis fragrance! When I went to repurchase it, it had become an EL frag, and most definitely, it did not smell the same. I have no idea if EL has reformulated it again since acquiring it, as I haven’t sniffed it since.

      • Jill says:

        That’s interesting! When I first purchased it, which I think was in ’96 or ’97, it was already an Estee Lauder fragrance. I remember buying it at the EL counter in a department store. I would have loved to smell the Aramis version!

        • Robin says:

          You guys know EL owns Aramis, right? They switched TPD because they decided the EL division would do a better job marketing it than the Aramis division, where it wasn’t doing as well as expected. Not saying it wasn’t reformulated at the time (I have no idea), but just wanted to be sure it was clear that the fragrance never really “changed hands” in the strictest sense.

          • Jill says:

            Oh, thanks for clarifying that! I didn’t realize Aramis was a division of EL; I thought it was a separate company that EL bought in the ’90s or something. I was always a little murky on that.

  3. mals86 says:

    Thanks for the timely, common-sense heads-up article, Robin. It’s good to remember that Things Change, when buying perfume.

    (Is this an excuse to hoard, or what? Just kidding – but I am definitely off to buy another bottle of Shalimar Light before it disappears entirely.)

    • Robin says:

      I wonder what will become of Shalimar, for that matter…yes, it might well be time to hoard, although for many scents it’s already too late.

      • rickbr says:

        The only thing to us is hope that new, interesting fragrances will be launched. Which, considering the new launches, it’s a remote possibility :(

        • Robin says:

          I do think there have been some great new fragrances this year, but still…to wipe out fragrance history like this is terribly sad.

    • rickbr says:

      Mal, shalimar light is such a delicious creamy citrus scent, don’t? I remembered that when I tested it from a sample that a friend sent me, I thought it was a delicious creamy lemon vanilla, perfect for summer. Allure Edition Blanche has something of this creamy lemon vanilla, but in AEB the lemon is a little bit powdery and a little bit less sweet than in Shalimar Light.

      • mals86 says:

        Have not smelled Allure EB, Rick. I just did a review on my blog yesterday of Mauboussin, and how the drydown reminded me somewhat of Shal Lite, though.

        It is just now occurring to me how many “backup bottles” I have, and I note that all of them are for discontinued scents: Shalimar Light (well, I’m planning that one for Oct. 1, to get it into 4th qtr!!), L’Arte di Gucci, Emeraude, vtg No. 5 parfum… my philosophy being, Get It Now because there will never be a time when there will be more available, even on ebay and discounters. There will only ever be less. Sigh.

  4. rickbr says:

    There are rumours that M7 from YSL has also been reformulated. Now he’s bottled in a slightly diffent bottle (translucid with a brown sticker on the back), a cheaper bottle, in my opinion. And, while the scent looks like it has remained the same, some of it’s density, power looks like it has been gone.
    I think that the problem with fragrances is that some fragrances become part of our lives and history. When they change a fragrance, it looks like they’re taking away some important part of our history whithout our permission. It’s sad, it’s like someone you love simply change drastically and it’s not the same anymore.

    • Robin says:

      Oh dear, that’s a shame. M7 was a great scent.

      • rickbr says:

        And it was the scent that started my passion for fragrances. We can still find it in the older bottle and old formulation, but someday it’ll be ottaly gone :(
        Well, at least cruel intetions has something of what I like in M7. The problem is that he is 3 times expensive thant m7 is

  5. rickbr says:

    What’s the excuse for banning vanilla from fragrances? Although i think it won’t affect in general the gourmand scents, don’t? I have an impression that the vanilla used in fragrances today is almost tottaly synthetic.

  6. pinkfizzy says:

    Geez, I didn’t know that VANILLA was restricted. They’re not going to ban cookies and ice cream next are they? Noooooooo!

    I’m guessing next they will ban anything of natural origin, just to be sure. Nothing at all to do with the aromachemical companies, of course.

    • Robin says:

      Vanilla, not yet, just proposed…see the link I posted just above.

  7. ScentScelf says:

    Great article, Robin. It’s great to have a sort of precis of the whole situation, even if you’ve been tracking it for a while. The idea of approaching “older” reviews with caution is a good one.

    The IFRA compliance/reformulation situation is NOT a good thing for anyone wishing to curb hoarding tendencies, of course. I try to settle the anxiety by reminding myself there is no way I would ever be able to do a full survey of what is available in order to figure out just what is worth vaulting…and that compromising my ability to pay the mortgage due to the demands such an, erm, investment would pose is probably NOT a good thing….

    …but they can be so beautiful… ;)

    • Robin says:

      It makes things harder for bloggers…you can’t review an older scent either unless you know the exact provenance of your sample.

      • ScentScelf says:

        I know…yuck. Plus, how do you use “classics” as referents? It’s hard to compare/contrast when you can’t trust that we all are able to understand the something you are referring to.

        It’s a good thing this doesn’t happen to old movies…what if Citizen Kane became a skiing dude flick? “Ah, that guy acts just like Kane,” says you. But do you mean “Kane,” the newspaper mogul? Or Kane, who tackles moguls? Both might have an important element of Rosebud, and both Rosebuds would be sleds, but the overall effect would be really different.

        {tilts head to one side, wonders if she makes any sense at all, but doesn’t delete…}

        • guerlaingirl says:

          Excellent & comedic parallel!

        • mals86 says:

          No, I’m getting you. Totally appropriate.

        • Daisy says:

          yup, exactly.

        • mals86 says:

          Which is why I’ve started to put approximate vintages, so far as I can tell, on my Excel file. For example, the bottle of Diorissimo I have is from 2007 – not the current stuff, but the reformulation before that. So if I send a sample out of something I own, I usually add a note with a description of how old it is. If I know, that is. Sometimes I don’t, given my proclivity for buying old stuff on ebay, but even then you can sometimes tell from the packaging. None of it’s niche, though – I don’t know how you’d tell with niche…

          • Joe says:

            Someone once posted a web address that can *possibly* help you tell the vintage of certain packaging if you put in the manufacturer and code number on the bottom of the bottle. I found it useful for dating my Mitsouko (2002 I think), and all I can say is it’s on one of the old reformulation threads from the past year.

          • Rappleyea says:
          • ScentScelf says:

            Hey, Rappelyea, that’s cool! Thanks.

        • lilydale aka Natalie says:

          Actually, that’s a very apt parallel… Remember when Ted Turner started colorizing old movies? What we need is something akin to the National Film Registry, although I can’t imagine the U.S. Congress drawing up a list of historically important perfumes — can’t speak for the EU, but you’d think at least France would have a stake in this as part of its national patrimony.

        • Mademoiselle says:

          Brilliant analogy! My mother gave me a bottle of ‘Rumeur’ by Lanvin, in 1969 or thereabouts – it was way too sophisticated for me (I was in my teens at the time) but I felt so grown up. I treated it like liquid gold at the time. Over the years, and having evoloved into the semi-sophisticated person I always wanted to be, I tried to track it down but was told that it had been discontinued and then I discovered this blog, which I check in on regularly. Sadly, having read the review of the reformulated version, I no longer feel the need to experience ‘Rumeur’ as it now is. It would be the same for Black Narcissus – my mother’s all time favourite.

  8. norjunma1 says:

    Thanks for the wonderful article Robin. It’s always good to remind yourself that when it comes to scent, perhaps living in the moment is the best approach. It also makes me a bit glad that I acquired a taste for the current rendition of Mitsouko before tracking down a vial of the vintage juice.

    • Robin says:

      LOL…yes, sometimes it’s just as well!

  9. rickbr says:

    There’s a case of a perfume that has been reformulated and I prefer the actual to the old one. It’s Cartier Must pour femme. I had a chance to test the old one one day, and I thought it was too much animalic for my tastes.

    • Robin says:

      I have one too: Vent Vert. Although I think sometimes it’s just a matter of which version you smell first and get used to. For that matter, Vent Vert may well have been reformulated yet again since I’ve smelled it.

      • Gilty says:

        Robin, which reformulation of Vent Vert do you like…the one with the polka dot cap or the one with the polka dot bow?

        • Robin says:

          Ack…I don’t even know, I have a decant! But also seriously doubt that there are only 2 “formulas” since the original…

          • Gilty says:

            I’m sure you’re right…probably more than two versions out there. That would have been way too easy…two bottles, two reformulations…

          • There have been at least two official “re-orchestrations” (Calice Becker then Nathalie Feisthauer), possibly more tweaks unrecorded.

    • ScentScelf says:

      I don’t know if Arpege is exactly that for me, but I’d be equally happy with either version.

  10. monkeytoe says:

    It is a little heartbreaking to think that even fewer people will come to love the smell of oakmoss or birch tar. I don’t understand how I can eat an orange (or ten–even the peel if I want), but I can’t spray it on my skin from a bottle of Eau de Guerlain. Heck, I could decide to eat a pound of cloves if I wanted!

    • Robin says:

      If everybody knew people who’d suffered serious distress from using these fragrances, it would be easier to understand. But in all my years of blogging, only have heard of a few cases of skin allergy, and most of those have been from cinnamon.

      • Rappleyea says:

        And as an aromatherapist, I can tell you that the cinnamon issue probably isn’t even an allergy. Cinnamon, clove and lemon are just very caustic on the skin.

    • Auguszta says:

      Exactly! I don’t get this ban craze at all. We’re always told food, skin, hair, etc. products of a natural origin are good for us, synthetic stuff is evil. How can it be the other way round in the case of perfume? And is nobody allergic to synthetic ingredients? Now that I find hard to believe.

      • Elisita says:

        I know this comment is from forever ago, but as a member of the healthcare industry, I have to mention that all things need to be taken with a grain of salt. Natural does not equal “good” or “safe” and synthetic does not equal “bad” or “cancer”. E. Coli, Salmonella, any number of viruses….these are all natural; but you don’t want them in or around you if you can help it. On the other hand, the development of synthetic insulin and thyroid hormones have saved millions of lives; as many people could not tolerate naturally derived versions from cows or pigs, which yielded lots that weren’t exactly the same from one batch to another, and they are now readily available to all who need them. It’s the same with perfumes. Everything has it’s pluses and minuses.

  11. AnnS says:

    One of my favorite parts of being a perfumista is all the research, shuffling around the internet and blogs, and then trying to obtain something really special. It is equally fun as disheartening when these frags are reformulated. This year I spent quite a lot of my funds stocking up on some of my favorites that are likely candidates for reformuations, and had three very exceptionally fortunate finds of “vintage” fragrances where the seller clearly had no idea what they had. As my most recent big love is Mitsouko I am a bit torn about the reformulation issue. I actually do like the current edp reformulation, but I would also love to get my hands on some from a decade ago, or more. I wish I could turn back the clock and buy some bottles from the 80s & 90s and put them in cold storage!

    I try not to get too upset about reformulation issues though, esp. because the most insidious reforms IMHO are those that are just about the holy buck. It is one thing to be outraged by the IFRA guidelines, but a whole other matter when it just a handful of ill informed bean counters who are slashing down a beautiful fragrance. It just goes to show that perfume is one of the few cultural forms – art forms – that really straddles a few categories as far as being really special stuff. Fragrance is a liquid treasure, like jewelry, art, books, etc, and it is hard to see the classics destroyed. It makes me feel like one of those nuts with a fabulous wine cellar…. There are groups of people who make a big deal about archives and preservation for books, newspapers, photography, even music is preserved etc, etc, and yet it is a shame that fragrance is so ill-valued even by it’s own industry.

    • norjunma1 says:

      It does seem like that “age old” tug-of-war between creatives and number crunchers. The former always rallying around the art, the latter, around the loot.

      I seem to remember Luca Turin talking about museum perfumes in Duftnotes way back. In particular, the Versaille Osmotheque, which sounded like candy land and is only accessible to members of the French Society of Perfumers. If only they’d share!

  12. 2scents says:

    Thanks for the informative article. Perhaps as an art form, perfume is more like wine, coffee and other natural products. Raw materials do change year to year, which only makes it more special when it is spectacular. Consistency in product is not my top concern. When I worked in specialty coffee, our emphasis was on consistency of quality, not necessarily of taste profile. I could sacrifice some old familiarity if I had the security that I would always get the best that the perfumer could put forward with the materials available.

    • ggperfume says:

      Well said. I especially agree with that last sentence.

    • bergere says:

      Excellent point, 2scents. It seems that it is much easier to achieve consistency of product when the product isn’t that great to begin with. Think of McDonald’s–it’s certainly a consistent product, if the quality is consistently low. I think Robin made a comment some months ago about not getting too worked up about what is lost, but trying to experience the best new perfumery, and I heartily agree.
      I was a little shocked, though, at the long, long list of banned perfumery substances! What are perfumers going to use for their palette?

      • Daisy says:

        pink pepper and watery dew drops. :-(

      • Rappleyea says:

        I’ve spent the last several months doing just that – sampling like crazy to find the “best new perfumery” and it’s only made me appreciate the old classics even more. I’ve spent quite a lot lately on eBay buying older versions of my beloved Guerlains.

  13. A great, commonsense article, R., the kind we count on you for. I especially love the [sic] in the IFRA quote. ;-)

    I have calmed down about reformulations for the moment (now that I have bottles of Joy in EDT and parfum), but I will say that if I truly love something now I buy a damn bottle, even if it’s too big, and even if it’s costly (within limits). I don’t wait until I’ve drained the decant/sample (though I’d much prefer to) because I’m afraid it will have changed or disappeared by the time I’m ready to purchase. Same goes for vintage scents–if they appear in my ebay search, and the price is not astronomical, into the closet they go.

    Almost all my purchases in the past year have been full bottles of treasured samples. Really, it’s not a bad way to buy. And I’m slowing down now. (No, really, I am…)

    • Robin says:

      LOL…I’m no fan of IFRA, but the [sic] was not meant to poke fun given that this blog is riddled with typos.

      Congrats on your Joy! Maybe the stupidest thing I ever did was not buy Diorissimo extrait 3 years ago when I could have.

      • Rappleyea says:

        Robin, my source for vintage in Japan has a bottle of it. I’ll ask her for the price if you want me to. She’s shipping me a(nother) bottle of vintage Mitsouko as I write, and is shipping free as I’ve bought other stuff from her!

      • Robin says:

        Thanks, but I’m too chicken to buy vintage extrait…I’d be really mad if it wasn’t to my liking.

        • Rappleyea says:

          I can understand that Robin. I don’t know what made me so bold. I’m not usually that way, but her prices were great so I bought Mitsouko and Vol de Nuit, both in extrait. They were both perfect.

    • mrspoz75 says:

      Wow, how has Diorissimo changed? I have an old bottle I bought at least 15? years ago, smells like lillies of the valley? I have about 30 different perfumes, not one of my favs, but I am curious…

      • Robin says:

        Yes, it has definitely changed since 15 years ago.

        • Kimilee says:

          I’ve heard that they had to change the fragrance source because of cost: But I’ve discovered that in France you can still buy their version which smells very close to my memories of the original! French perfumes seem to be much better than others, I think they still use higher grade ingredients than the rest of the world.

          • Robin says:

            Thanks. The cosmetic companies swear up and down that the formulas are the same world-wide (and it would, in fact, be expensive to maintain more than one formula, which makes it seem unlikely), but of course I have no way of establishing if that is true.

  14. dollparts says:

    Does anyone know if Lolita Lempicka’s “L” has been reformulated? I smelt the tester the other day, and it smelled way more spicy than the bottle I got about three years ago.

    Thank you!

    • Robin says:

      I’m sorry but I really don’t know!

  15. AnnE says:

    Thanks for a great article, Robin. It’s hard for many perfumistas to approach this subject without emotions taking over, and kudos to you for your level-headed approach to such a hot topic.

    Two experiences I’ve had recently with reformulation are with a couple of chypres. I know, I know, nuthin’ new there; but these are not as well known, perhaps: Aqua di Parma Profumo and Jil Sander Woman III. In both cases, I have vintage bottles – one I bought myself decades ago, and one purchased second-hand. They are just shadows of their former selves, even though, in the case of the Jil Sander, not even the packaging has changed (this is usually a dead giveaway, I’ve come to conclude). Caveat emptor, to be sure.

    • Robin says:

      I will say this for Acqua di Parma: they made it very clear they were reformulating Profumo.

      • AnnE says:

        Oh, I wasn’t aware of this. My mistake.

        • Robin says:

          They announced it as an “updated version”, and even announced the perfumer (Nathalie Lorson). Prior to that I don’t think they’d been doing much to promote it anymore:

          • Racine says:

            I tried the new Profumo d Parma and I found it very similar to Aromatics Elixir. Was the original similar too??

          • Robin says:

            I’m sorry to say I don’t remember it well enough to say for sure…hope someone else will chime in. If I go on memory, I’d say no, although it was a chypre.

  16. Gilty says:

    Due to reformulations, LT and TS have re-ranked many of the Diors for the pb edition of the Guide, as well as Chanel No 5 extrait.

    It’s always a struggle, trying to decide between a bottle of something new and a backup bottle of something that may get reformulated or just plain disappear (or end up selling for crazy prices on ebay, which amounts to the same thing…)

    • Robin says:

      My poor, poor Diorissimo. *weeps*

      • Gilty says:

        Don’t cry for me, Diorella… (or rather, do!)

        • moon_grrl says:

          Oh, man, they haven’t screwed with Diorella AGAIN, have they?

  17. tjoppie says:

    How sad that aromachemical companies are so greedy and cynical about “protecting our safety” that they use their mouthpiece (the IFRA) to ban natural ingredients so they can foist their synthetic and copyrighted lab creations on us!!!!!! Coumarin, Opoponax have been used for millenia and are naturally occurring so therefore cannot be copyrighted. How brilliant to get them banned on the flimsiest grounds and replaced by some synthetic that can make shareholders rich and the art of perfume poorer! QUITE A DISGRACE

    • Robin says:

      That argument is often made, but I’m still not sure if I agree it’s the main reason. Certainly worth considering though.

      • Rappleyea says:

        I’m afraid I think that it is the ONLY reason, cynic that I am.

  18. Joe says:

    What???! What have they done to Campagne!? I’ve been getting ready to buy a bottle, and now I hope my decant is the reformulation. Waaah.

    Ah well… I guess time marches on.

    I also had no idea that even VANILLA had been restricted by IFRA. Wow. Seems so benign.

    • norjunma1 says:

      For the love of God man! Back away from that Vanilla Latte!

      • mals86 says:

        Talk him down from the ledge…

      • Daisy says:


        • Rappleyea says:

          Makes me really glad I own a “vintage” (2007 on release) bottle of Spiritueuse Double Vanille! LOL!

          • Daisy says:

            vintage 2007 —that IS old….maybe it’s turned….you can send it to me and I’ll check that out for you ****cackle cackle****

          • Rappleyea says:

            And I’m even older than that, but I’m not senile enough to send a bottle to you to be tested and ever hope to see it again!! ;-)

            Besides, just break into the stash in your basement!

    • Robin says:

      Campagne is now your basic “men’s sport fragrance”, much “fresher” than it used to be.

      • Joe says:

        Oh oh. Maybe I should just skip trying to buy a bottle from a discounter (assuming I won’t be able to return it) and just get some Memory of Kindness for my tomato leaf fix. Too bad. Wow. I thought Sisley was quality product.

        • Robin says:

          I was just thinking recently how awesome it was that Sisley kept right on making EdC. But like I said, I don’t know why it got redone — could be it wasn’t compliant w/ IFRA.

        • lilydale aka Natalie says:

          Not sure which discounter you’re buying from, but Fragrancenet was fantastic when I returned a crappy bottle of Bandit — they covered return shipping and everything.

      • london says:

        My version bought a couple of years ago is still the same as the original version I remember (I think…). So maybe the reformulation happened very recently.

        • Robin says:

          Yes, I think within the past few months actually. When I smelled it last year it was fine.

  19. Kseni says:

    I believe that perfume has to do a lot with memory, and especially with preservation of memories as such. Since it is one of the easiest way, perhaps, to provoke involuntary memory (Marcel Proust). While it is desirable, it is not without a catch. Perfumista, who is in search for new impressions, is no less concerned with preservation of the old ones, so the ones that already enriched her/his collection should stay the same, only they do not. Because initially the investment is made in into something that notoriously resists preservation. Would it not be easier to preserve a postcard, a book, a furniture, something which does not alter its own formula so drastically with time. After all, life is constant only in the fact that it changes, once it stopped it means that it reached death’s territory. Everything evolves so does the memory and the memory of perfume together with that what remains in the bottle.

    I became interested in perfumery only two years ago. I love your blog, and I constantly read some others. The notorious fight against reformulation is everywhere. Seldom it is excepted as neutral, most of it is bad. It killed Mitsuko, Jicky, Bellodgia, Diorissimo, etc., basically it ruined everything I wear now. It makes me feel bad, even though most of the time I cannot even compare. I am just reading and joining the process of morning of our losses. Am I really aware of how bad the loss is? Can I find a sample to compare? And should I compare? Lets take Bellodgia, it contained eugenol, which was used to produce, correct me if I am wrong, smell of carnations, also proved to provoke allergic reaction, especially on people who are prone to allergies, like I am, and, unfortunately, most people I know. Perhaps I will just get a rush together with a cute bottle from the ebay, but who can tell that the formula in that bottle has remained intact and is the “real” one, the one that always feels somehow better than the “fake/new” one? It just feels strange to have this ongoing clash between the new and the old, which runs so tragically parallel to battle between “the real” and “the fake.”

    • Robin says:

      It is sad and strange, and I do think in this case ignorance is bliss. But some of these fragrances I really would rather see get discontinued than reformulated.

    • annemarie says:

      It is easier to preserve books, archives, objects etc. Every use contributes to their deterioration, but they can be represented digitally for research purposes. But every use of a bottle of perfume, even just opening it for a sniff, contributes to real, actual loss. Which is sad. I especially like your words ‘the investment is made in into something that notoriously resists preservation’.

      However, even with archives etc, only a tiny weensy fraction of everyting that is created and used in the world gets preserved in a library or museum or private collection. A fraction of a percent. There is loss everywhere, and forgetting is an important part of life, not just remembering.

      And there is renewal, and new life, and new perfumes to explore.

  20. hongkongmom says:

    I am one that is on the road of “ignorance is bliss” I have nothing “vintage” except for that glorious tiny bit of very old amouage pour femme which my husband foud in Brunei. I have been reading a bit and am curious as to what exactly vintage means…i see on e-bay, that vintage can apply even to the 80’s preformulation of certain fragrances.
    So back to the road of ignorance…luckily, blissfully, I tend to stick to my here and now(oops i missed both l’arte de gucci and f de bois in pure extract and I am even lucky enough to use a serge from last season and enjoy the high all over again and with him i discover that i liked things that i did not before….maybe even a little deeper than before…as i am that little bit older(and wiser…hee…hee)…
    is it a reccomendation then to not buy the bellodgia extract that is available

    • Robin says:

      At this point, even perfumes from the early 90s could be called vintage! Yes, it’s better not to know.

  21. says:

    TOTALLY OFF SUBJECT. Estee Lauder’s granddaughter will be on Wednesday’s Martha Stewart to talk about perfume making. Check local listings for times in your area. Denise

  22. Jared says:

    I guess my biggest concern is Mitsouko with the recent oakmoss issue. I bought my bottle about a year ago, and of course that’s been reformulated, but even the bottle I have I love and I don’t want to see it go even further. I wonder how much it’s going to change and if I should start stocking up on whatever’s out there right now??

    • Robin says:

      I thought Mitsouko had already been brought into line w/ current oakmoss standards?

      • Jared says:

        Hey if that’s the case, then great! I won’t worry about it too much then. Now I just will stay away from the vintage so I don’t know what I’m missing and stay blissfully ignorant.

        • Robin says:

          Yeah, but I could be wrong. I am really only paying half-attention to all the reformulating/IFRA news, because I don’t entirely want to know ;-)

  23. Kankuro says:

    Does anyone know if Jean Paul Gaultier “Classique” has been reformulated? I remember it as an intense and sweet fragrance with lots of amber and vanilla. But last time I testet it, it smelled less intense and less vanillic, like a watered down version of the fragrance I remember…

    • Robin says:

      I don’t know, sorry.

  24. nwatts88 says:

    What is stopping perfume houses from ignoring IFRA rules? Especially niche houses, whose PR staff seem to have enough self confidence to endure a scandal or 12?

    • This is a murky issue, but as far as I’ve been able to figure out, the rub is with shipping into and out of the EU. I believe (please double check!) that it is possible to sell IFRA non-compliant frags if one sells direct to the consumer, but if you are big enough to ship lots to a store, and so go through the EU official channels, then you must comply. But someone else do please chime in about this.

      • Robin says:

        IFRA is essentially a trade organization w/ voluntary membership…members agree to comply with the standards. In practice, all the large fragrance & flavor organizations are members, so that covers the bulk of the world’s perfumes (IFRA says 90%, I think). So the first thing that’s important to understand is that it isn’t IFRA “against” the F&F companies…IFRA, in a sense, *is* the representative body of the F&F companies.

        Plus: very important to understand that the vast majority of “niche houses” use the same perfumers at the same F&F companies that everyone else does.

        Beyond that, yes, the IFRA standards haven been incorporated into the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) Cosmetic Directive and the EU Cosmetic Directive. How that affects indie companies (as opposed to “niche”) is something I know nothing about.

        My understanding, originally, was that perfume companies could choose to use higher concentrations of restricted materials if they included a warning on the label, but in practice that does not seem to have happened…so either my understanding was wrong, or it simply isnt’ something companies want to do.

  25. RossM says:

    I think my first ‘reformulationgate’ scandal occurred with my wife’s beloved signatute perfume Chanel Allure. She purchased a bottle last year and after applying it a couple of times thought there was something wrong with it – little to no sillage and longevity and a very thin, less robust and anemic aroma. She was considering returning it back to the place of purchase but seeing that it was an airport duty free in New Zealand that wasn’t an option.
    Since starting my fragrance journey this year, however, I’ve since come to the conclusion that it must have been reformulated. It’s a very disappointing for me as this scent was one I strongly associate with her and now it seems that it’s lost forever!
    Oh well, I guess she’s still around so I shouldn’t complain! LOL

    • Robin says:

      LOL! Yes, at least you still have her.

      I can’t comment on the Allure as I haven’t smelled it, but I do think Chanel puts more resources into doing “respectful” reformulations than other brands can or will…so I’m guessing it could be way worse.

  26. flittersniffer says:

    This isn’t about reformulations, but is perhaps an unusual tale about a perfume not smelling as I thought it should… I recently managed to get a Guerlain boutique in the USA to agree that a bottle of my favourite scent did not smell sufficiently like itself to be commercially saleable. I was not the bottle owner, I might add, having only bought a decant, but I followed the supply chain to its source and went into amicable battle with all the relevant parties along the way. Sniffing trials were conducted with SAs in a Guerlain store in another country and amongst ordinary members of the public using samples of this scent culled from different sources, and the bottle owner (who had never smelt it anywhere else, so had no point of comparison) had the scales fall from her eyes – and nose! The SA who sold it to her deserves great credit for his integrity, for he completely agreed that the perfume was out of whack on every parameter I had flagged up, and agreed to replace the purchaser’s bottle without a quibble. So in the fullness of time, I hope to receive 15ml of the real McCoy!

    What made that bottle smell so wan and pale and un-Guerlain-like I have no idea, and I doubt anyone is going to conduct an inquest into the matter, but you would think a QA procedure somewhere along the line would have picked it up. I quite take the point about allowing for variances in harvests etc, which the SA and I did discuss, but that alone could not have explained all the aspects that were wrong with the scent!

    • laken says:

      Its a bit of a worry isn’t it. It sounds like RossM’s story above. Maybe its some sort of inside scam going on.

      • annemarie says:

        Or maybe a batch of the Guerlain got left in the sun on some wharf somewhere for too long? I guess things like that are bound to happen, but few of us in this community (I perceive) have so much money to spend on perfume that we can just shrug our shoulders if we end up with a dud bottle.

  27. Rappleyea says:

    Flittersniffer – It wasn’t a bottle of Vol de Nuit parfum was it? I bought myself a bottle for my birthday this year, and in a blind sniff test, I would NEVER have guessed it was Vol de Nuit. Nor, I doubt would 1,000 other people. It has changed so utterly, and is now so wan and insipid that it is entirely unrecognizable. I sent it back and luckily received a full refund.

  28. flittersniffer says:

    Rappleyea, it was Plus que Jamais, which smells fine still anywhere else you try it, whereas in RossM’s case, he seems to have concluded that a reformulation has occurred. You did well too to get your money back in what also sounds like a reformulation scenario, whereas this does appear to have been one duff bottle or batch.

  29. Bela says:

    That’s why I *never* revisit the classic fragrances I have worn in the past. If one’s love is something that is perishable and has to be manufactured – like perfume, one cannot expect it to stay the same or even to exist after a certain period. If one wants to possess something that will never change or deteriorate, one should buy gold artefacts: they last forever – untarnished.

    My other lifelong passion is the theatre – something else that’s ephemeral. The productions I have seen in the past live only in my memory and that of the other people who were fortunate to see them. Younger theatregoers will never get that chance and those performances cannot be ‘reconstructed’, but that’s OK. I am quite content with the memories I have of the wonderful perfumes I have worn. Perhaps some of the gems of yesteryear should have been left to die instead of being kept alive in a diminished state.

    • Robin says:

      I have really mixed feelings — I’d hate to see Diorissimo disapppear, but from what I’ve heard about the new EdP version, maybe it would be best to just let it go.

      • Bela says:

        Perhaps it would be better if it was laid to rest.

        The few times I’ve been unwise enough to sniff an old favourite I’ve reeled back in horror (Mystère was especially distressing). I won’t do it again.

  30. I mean, really, I spend 100 Euro on somehing I do not even know what it smells like if I buy an extrait, like LHB. Or? I mean, even if tehy have it tehre as an extrait, who knows how old it is, who knows how old the perfume you buy it is. Even if you can splurge the money it would be nice to know what you get. Suprise surprise.

    • Robin says:

      Yes, agree…it’s esp. hard to find extrait testers here at all.

  31. Kankuro says:

    In Germany, some perfume pages startet “against reformulation” campaigns. They did buttons which everyone who is against reformulation can integrate in his/her website or blog. I think its a good way to advise the people of what they can expect in the future. But I can’t imagine that they can stop the IFRA…

    • Robin says:

      Beyond that, it’s too late: most things have already been reformulated.

  32. George Sand Devotee says:

    Lush made a gorgeous perfume called ‘Ginger Fragrance’ with rose, ginger and other yummy things, floral but not too sweet.
    It was discontinued, but now they have brought it back again by popular demand. Alas, that too is no longer the same. On the one hand it’s heartbreaking, on the other hand it drove me to look for bigger and better things.
    Latest New Best Friend is Cozé by Perfumerie Generale.
    Can’t identify all the elements in it, just know it’s an amazing classic.

    • Robin says:

      Oh, shame they brought it back at all then…but glad you found a new BFF.

  33. mitsouko says:

    Reformulation is a bitter pill to swallow for perfumistas everywhere and it seems ,more and more will be reformulated. The IFRA will not stop at the 43rd amendment.

    • Robin says:

      No, they certainly won’t.

  34. GulfGirl says:

    I am crushed. I have worn Jessica McClintock for years and today I bought a new bottle after a year or so and it is NOT the same :o(

    I am so sad.

    The new formulation is so-so, but doesn’t have the same depth and richness the original had. It also doesn’t last like the original.

    I am so sad. When did this happen.
    Anyone know how to get some of the original ?

    • Robin says:

      So sorry! Your best bet is to do a search on eBay for “vintage jessica mcclintock” under fragrances on Ebay, then save the search, and they’ll email you if any comes up for sale.

    • elizrichardson says:

      Thanks for confirming what I thought. Jessica McClintock has changed, not me. It is no longer any good. I hope I can return it — feel like I have been ripped off since there was nothing to alert me. What a darned shame! The only scent I liked. Anyone have any suggestions? Have tried J’adore and Diorissimo (expensive).

      • Robin says:

        I’m sorry but I don’t remember the JM scent well enough to recommend anything similar :-(

  35. Femme says:

    Personally I find it disgusting, unethical, immoral – AND illegal (or it should be) – that anyone should have the right to sell reformulations without specifiying the differences with the original.

    And I for one certainly do not agree with the general sentiment (I don’t mean here specifically) of resignation regarding this issue and reformulations in general.

    Why should I?
    Why should we?

    Think about it: where would they be without US and our wallets?

    Consumer groups are so active in every other field – why should perfume lovers be so revoltingly passive ?

    I think it’s high time somebody put together a good petition against reformulation AND a (separate) demand for total disclosure of any change in the composition of any given fragrance.

    (If it already exists, then I apologise for my ignorance – I do do other things in life :) – and would appreciate being pointed in the right direction.)

    • Robin says:

      That would seem to require far more disclosure than seems likely to ever happen — after all, perfume companies do not disclose the fragrance composition to begin with, and I don’t see how or why they ever would. If they don’t have to tell you what, if anything, they used to create what they’re calling “jungle cactus flower” in a perfume, how can you force them to tell you when they’ve switched to another aromachemical? Most fragrances have numerous aromachemicals in the mix that consumers have no idea are in there to begin with — the list of notes given out by PR departments are only vaguely related to the actual formula for any given perfume.

      For that matter, trying to think of any other industry that is held to such a standard of disclosure, and can’t — companies tweak products all the time w/o telling their consumers.

      At any rate, I have no personal interest in such a thing, all I would like to see is that IFRA stop their very proactive stance against the use of natural materials in fragrance. The only organization that I know of, as I said above, that is working in any kind of concerted way to combat IFRA, is Cropwatch. You might contact them — if they have a petition, I don’t know about it.

  36. mrspoz75 says:

    I miss the original Ambush by Dana. Used to wear it as a teenager back in the 70’s, now the original fragrance which used to be sold in drugstores and was as plentiful as Old Spice commands over a hundred dollars when you can find it on ebay. I also just called Philosophy today to ask why Amazing Grace smells so completely different from 10 years ago. And Paris by Yves St. Laurent was always one of my favorites, but something is off about the fragrance now. Anybody else experiencing this?

    • Robin says:

      I have not smelled a new bottle of Paris in the past year, so couldn’t say, sorry! But there are almost no fragrances that have been on the market that long w/o being reformulated in one way or another.

  37. wiccansong says:

    Diors Hypnotic Poison has been reworked… wanted to cry but i called their LA office to complain about it not smelling right and the customer service lady said they no longer had the same ingredients available. So i got this new straight from Dior it is no longer the same and it really smells wrong it was a lovely scent now it just stinks.

    • Robin says:

      So, so, so sorry to hear that! Glad they admitted it though.

  38. maaries says:

    I agree that the reformulations–without disclosure prior to purchase–is immoral, unethical, and would seem to me to be illegal if it acts as a fraud upon the buyer–which certainly seems to be the case. I remember back in the 1980’s (?) when GM put Chevrolet engines in Oldsmobiles without disclosing this to Olds purchasers. Big scandal and lawsuits–defrauded customers called it the “Chevmobile.” How is reformulating a perfume–and not disclosing it or changing the name–not the same sort of fraud? If the new formulations had a name like “Diorissimo Light” or “Diorissimo Reflections,” then you would know of the change and make a choice to try or not. What they are doing currently is clearly fraud–the customer is paying the price for a known scent, and they are getting something else. This is clear “bait and switch” to me. How about some lawyers out there bringing a class action suit on this fraud? They may continue to reformulate, but they should not be able to sell one product disguised as something else.

    • Robin says:

      If it is fraud, it is a very long-standing one; perfumes have been reformulated for years, some of them many times over by now.

  39. bloomans says:

    Has the Dolce Gabbana perfume changed? The one with the red top and clear glass bottle. I think it was their first fragrance. I used to love it , doesn’t smell like it used to when sprayed from bottle . The store clerk told me it was my chemistry that has changed.

    • Robin says:

      I do not know, but it would be the rare fragrance that old that had *not* changed.

  40. LadyR says:

    Dioressence has been difficult to buy in the States the last few years – I just came back from Rome and found the newly packaged Dioressence in the Duty Free shop in Fiumicino airport.
    It seems to have been reformulated but smells better than the
    last reformulation and more like the vintage that I first wore in the 70’s. Hopefully it will be for sale in the US again soon. I bought
    three large bottles to stock up!

    • Robin says:

      Glad you liked it! Supposedly all the reissued Diors will be at Saks in the US.

  41. Loved this article. I asked about this on your facebook page since I had no idea companies reformulated. It makes sense after reading all the reasons but it’s heartbreaking. Someone mentioned the original Jessica McClintock – that wonderful heavy lemon – it’s so weak now. My reason for looking into this was my anger at Clinique’s Aromatic Elixir. Today I just found this from “” forum: “Clinique has released a limited edition version of their 1972 iconic fragrance Aromatics Elixir called Aromatics Elixir Perfumer’s Reserve. It has a stronger white floral accent of jasmine sambac and tuberose set against the mossy-woody structure of the fragrance.” Well this is interesting news. Others must be complaining too perhaps? Maybe other companies will come out with “reserve” lines? What do you think?

    • Robin says:

      Companies have been doing “reserve lines” and the like (variations on an existing scent are more generally called “flankers”) for eons, so no, that isn’t a direct response to the reformulation really. And bear in mind that any flanker also has to adhere to IFRA standards, and they’re usually limited edition. Sometimes they’re more expensive and they actually use the extra money on the formula, but sometimes not.

  42. DivineFragance says:

    It is by far, the best explanation-beautifuly writen, by the way, I have ever read on reformulations.
    Once upon a time, I asked a pro if could be possible that Chanel 5 was “changed” several times-in particular, when I was a child, many, so many years ago; this person said to me something like this: “Not only is possible, and more than likely, but the reason noone is telling you the truth, is one simple fact, Chanel house cannot afford to recognize such a myth, a full legend, is not the same it once was”.
    So thank you for your comment, in particular, regarding to international standards.

  43. Deppaholic says:

    Oh, just spent a fortune on a Vintage Guerlain. I am a 70’s girl, and have been searching Ebay. Everything has changed, so sad.

  44. Jodes7 says:

    Dior – Dior Addict
    Dior – Dolce Vita
    Both reforumulated beyond recognition…… Could of cried a river when I discovered Dolce Vita had been changed – was forever receiving compliments on that, there is no depth to it anymore, just a sickly sweet mess – similar to all the ‘modern’ perfumes that the department stores are pumping out now.

    • Lulu1958 says:

      Sorry honey I feel your pain aswell ):

  45. Lulu1958 says:

    Gurelain Samsara eau de parfum has been reformulated and Clinique`s Aromatic`s elixir and Dior`s Dune. This is just a tip of the barrel .
    I most recent 04/2015 purchased from John Lewis 100mls Spray of Gurelain`s Samsara eau de parfum I was very disappointed to find it evaporates within 10mins whereas the same I purchased 2005 was so lasting I could still smell it on my clothes the following day.
    This is a very sad time for perfume addicts ):

  46. merty55 says:

    THANK YOU so much for this article, now I understand what happened to Amazing Grace after Coty brought Philosophy. It’s a disgrace how they can ruin a beautiful fragrance and think that we the consumer is to stupid to know the difference and on top of that, still charge a high price tag for junk. Amazing Grace is almost unscented now. Thanks again for your insightful article, I appreciate it.

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