When I first started posting on the fragrance discussion board at Makeup Alley, around 2004, I had a very basic idea of what I was looking for in a new fragrance for myself. I knew I loved rose scents, and I was a longtime fan of the rich vanilla in Jean Paul Gaultier Classique. Perhaps, I thought, I could find a perfume that combined the two notes. I finally ventured to ask for rose-vanilla fragrance recommendations, and a few veteran members of the discussion board offered suggestions. The one that was most enthusiastically named and seconded by other members was Rochas Tocade, so I set out to try it as soon as possible.
Tocade was created for Rochas by perfumer Maurice Roucel and was released in 1994. Its name translates as “whim” or “caprice,” and its composition includes top notes of magnolia and bergamot, heart notes of rose, orris, and geranium, and base notes of cedarwood and vanilla. Its vaguely silly-looking bottle, designed by Serge Mansau, reminds me of a figure wearing a turtleneck and a conical hat, or a toy for an infant. If had seen that bottle in a store, without knowing anything about the fragrance, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up, but thanks to the good advice I’d received, I was willing to give Tocade a chance.
Tocade is a floriental with a gourmand leaning, and it’s definitely a perfume-y perfume; anyone looking for a fragrance that feels “clean” or “shower-fresh,” or even “airy” or “dewy,” can stop reading here. There’s a sharp, peppery note in Tocade’s immediate opening, but otherwise, it’s a very warm, sweetish fragrance that envelops its wearer. If I had to pick apart the various threads of Tocade’s composition, I’d say the vanilla has a pastry-like, buttery-almondy feeling and the rose is full-blown; but it’s actually somewhat difficult to separate these notes. The rose and vanilla are tightly interwoven into an olfactory chord, like one of those couples who speak in unison and finish each other’s sentences. Even more like those couples, Tocade is cheerful, with a glowing ambery base encasing its rose-vanilla duo, and it’s also a bit insistent — it doesn’t cling to the skin so much as it adheres to it. If I apply two or three spritzes of Tocade, I can still smell it distinctly at the end of a full workday, and it has changed very little. It’s a remarkably linear fragrance. What you get during the first hour is what you’ll get seven or eight hours later: Tocade is Tocade is Tocade.
I’ve tried a few other rose-and-vanilla perfumes over the past few years; after Tocade, my favorites are Bond no. 9 West Side, in which the rose and the vanilla are more distinct from one another, and and Guerlain Nahéma, with its spiced-peach aspect and its mossy “Guerlinade” base. Some other variations on this theme have pleased me less; Jo Malone Rose Water and Vanilla, for example, feels too sugary to me, like a pink-and-white petit four. I always come back to Tocade, particularly during the colder months of the year. It feels too plush and overbearing for the summer, and I need to be in the right mood to wear it; still, Tocade’s wacky bottle keeps working its way to the front of my perfume cabinet, and I’m glad to have it there.
Rochas Tocade Eau de Toilette is carried by many online perfume retailers, often at a steep discount; you should be able to find a 100 ml bottle for about $40, if not less.