Coty L’Aimant ~ fragrance review

Coty L'Aimant, vintage advert

“Look what I found for you,” my coworker said and handed me a Coty L’Aimant perfume ad shrink-wrapped on cardboard. It was all in gold and red, featuring a woman in a 1950s coiffure gazing into a tiny stage peppered with various L’Aimant products, from perfume to compacts to body powder. Each product was adorned with a horseshoe magnet encompassing a heart. “To be a magnet — wear a magnet — always!” the copy said.

Well, I could use some magnetizing. Who couldn’t? I remembered the bottle of vintage L’Aimant Eau de Toilette stashed in my perfume cupboard. It was time to put it to the test.

François Coty and Vincent Roubert created L’Aimant over five years, and the fragrance launched in 1927 — for context, the same year that saw the birth of Lanvin Arpège, Caron Bellodgia, and Jean Patou Chaldée. In his book Perfume, Nigel Groom lists L’Aimant’s notes as bergamot, neroli, peach, strawberry, jasmine, rose, ylang ylang, vanilla, vetiver and sandalwood. The fragrance fell out of production, then relaunched in 1995, when Groom claims it became the most popular perfume in Great Britain.

To me, L’Aimant smells like a warm aldehydic floral thicker and less spicy than vintage Arpège, but warmer than Chanel No. 5. It seems to aim for the sweet spot No. 5 staked out seven years earlier: an elegant, feminine skin scent with a (then) modern rush of fizzy aldehydes. By giving L’Aimant a fluffy, vaguely powdery bed of sweet vanilla and sandalwood and a pinch of fruit, Coty makes L’Aimant approachable and easier than No. 5 for some people to wear.

That’s not to say that L’Aimant is entirely easygoing. Twice when I’ve been wearing it, I’ve caught a whiff of fecal civet. Only a flash, though — it reared its head, then disappeared into the fragrance again. All in all, it’s a beautifully blended, well-behaved fragrance. For this type of fragrance, though, I’m still crazy about vintage Arpège. However, L’Aimant is a lot easier to come by.

Like so many old fragrances, L’Aimant has probably seen enough reformulations to rival the pages in the New York City telephone book. My bottle of L’Aimant Eau de Toilette is shaped like a heart with a faux sharkskin label and Art Nouveau lettering. My guess is that it’s from the 1950s, and like many fragrances that old, its citrus top notes are shot. I don’t have a sample of new L’Aimant on hand to compare it to, but I have smelled new L’Aimant, and I remember a brash, ambery floral that didn’t tempt me to pick up a bottle.

I bet lots of you have memories of L’Aimant, either because you wore it yourself, or because it calls to mind beloved grandmothers and aunts. I hope you’ll share some of those stories.

Coty L’Aimant is still in production and available at drugstores. A 50 ml bottle of L’Aimant cologne spray is $24 at the Vermont Country Store and even less expensive at online discounters. Vintage bottles are easy to find online and at yard sales for a pittance.

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41 Comments

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  1. Bejoux says:

    This was the first fragrance I ever wore. I was six and I had stolen it from my mother’s dressing table. I put it on my wrists and the base of my throat just like she did, then carefully replaced the bottle and went off to play. I was amazed when she knew exactly what I had done hours later – the magic of perfume! Many of the more modern versions are very harsh and I am still searching for the right vintage bottle that I hope will give me the magic again, for a moment.

    • Angela says:

      I love that story! I bet that even if your mother scolded you, she was smiling inside when she realized that you only wanted to imitate her going about her magical routines.

      • Bejoux says:

        It’s so good to revisit old classics and remember how great they were – your review has really inspired me to renew my search!

        • Angela says:

          I’ve seen lots of L’Aimant out there–at thrift stores, yard sales, and estate sales. I bet if you keep your eyes open, you’ll stumble over a bottle soon.

    • C.H. says:

      Oh, that’s so great–I love incriminating perfume stories :)

      • Angela says:

        What a great idea for a post!

    • Kelly Red says:

      I remember as a kid not figuring out how my mom always knew when I “sneaked” her White Shoulders. As if a scruffy kneed 8 year old with scabs on her elbows and dirt ground into her clothes NATURALLY smelled of divine white florals.

      • mals86 says:

        Hilarious.

      • Angela says:

        Funny! I imagine your mother sniffing and saying, “You smell like dirt–and gardenias. Have you been into my White Shoulders?”

  2. annunziata says:

    I have never tried L’Aimant, and the first time I ever heard of it was when I was reading Ruth Rendell’s Anna’s Book. Anna wore L’Aimant and I always meant to check it out if I could come by some of the vintage stuff — I assumed that it had been reformulated to death.

    • Angela says:

      I’ll have to look for the book! I wonder how Rendell describes the perfume (if she does)?

      • annunziata says:

        I’ve corrupted many of my friends and turned them into Rendell addicts. I don’t remember her ever describing a scent, which is an interesting point since she mentions them often in her fiction and is a superb writer.

        • Angela says:

          As much as I love a good mystery, I’ve only read a few Rendells. You’ve inspired me to seek out more of them!

  3. annemarie says:

    I’ve been curious about L’Aimant (and L’Origan) for ages but they are not sold where I live and I’m cautious about the many vintage reformulations, despite the relatively low cost. And when it comes to No. 5-alikes, I’m more interested in Baghari, I think. So this morning I took advantage of a discount code at TPC and grabbed 8mls of that. My few quick tester sniffs of Baghari suggest that it is less well-behaved than L’Aimant?

    • Angela says:

      I tried vintage L’Origan once and was bewitched, but I haven’t run into bottles in my thrift store runs, so I don’t have any. I understand your hesitancy about buying L’Aimant unsniffed, too. It’s different when you’re actually at Goodwill and can uncap the bottle to make sure it’s all right.

      You can’t go wrong with Baghari! I love its subtle hit of orange. It’s not as sweet and powdery as L’Aimant, but that might be for the better. Another aldehydic floral I love is Vega. Right now, though, I’m all about vintage Arpege.

    • mals86 says:

      I have a small decant of vintage Baghari… it does go through a half-hour strikingly animalic phase (which once caused a grocery store cashier to lean back away from me in alarm). I have some l’Aimant PdT which is rather well-behaved.

      • annemarie says:

        Thanks to you both! I’m glad I settled for Baghari then. I think I’d only be smelling L’Aimant for reference, whereas Baghari is something I’m likely to wear.

        L’Origan sounds lovely too. I’m trying to remember where I read a story that Jacques Guerlain’s wife preferred L’Origan to her husband’s L’Heure Bleue. Ouch! That would make an interesting exchange of views in the bedroom chez Guerlain!

  4. C.H. says:

    Thanks so much for this review Angela! You are turning me into a total vintage fiend :)

    • Angela says:

      You’re welcome, and I’m sorry! Hopefully as you explore vintage fragrances you’ll (if you haven’t already) relax into a “if I stumble across it, I’ll try it” mode and not fret too much about perfumes that turn or are hard to find. And if your bottle eventually runs dry–well, to have loved and lost is better than not to have loved at all, right?

  5. nozknoz says:

    Angela, there is an ad just like yours on ebay right now that is labeled 1939. (ebay item number 281128550392) I generally assume the sellers know the real date, since they take them out of old magazines.

    • Angela says:

      That’s amazing! I had no idea it was so old. Thank you for telling me.

      • nozknoz says:

        It’s a wonderful ad – I’m so glad you shared it!

        Also love your review of the perfume. The Cotys are always compared to the Guerlains, but you’re right that this is so much like No. 5.

        • Angela says:

          Of course, I bet someone could argue that L’Aimant is also somewhat like Liu…although I guess that was two years later.

  6. mals86 says:

    I have a bottle of (60′s? 70′s?) L’Aimant PdT, and it reminds me of nothing so much as my mom’s hot deep-dish peach pie, once the aldehydes back off a bit. Warm cooked peaches, vanilla, and something sort of doughy. Oddly – and of course it might just be my bottle, given its age – the florals are negligible, and it’s almost gourmandy.

    Pretty and comforting.

    • Angela says:

      Hot peach pie sure does sound comforting. Isn’t it amazing how the same fragrance can differ depending on how old it is and its formulation?

  7. Ida says:

    Thanks so much for this vivid memory jolt. Sad-poignant-beautiful, and I have almost the same story as Bejoux of this magical bottle on my mom’s dressing table – and the special moment when she dabbed some behind my two ears when I set off to my first “dance party”. I knew she knew it was heady and scary and that it was all about whether “he” would notice me

    • annemarie says:

      This is why I love blog posts about vintage fragrance: we all get to share memories of fragrance. I have my own of course, framed around my mother’s favourite, Yardley’s April Violets, but I love reading other people’s as well.

      • Angela says:

        I love the stories, too. Hopefully we’re all creating stories now for future generations.

    • Angela says:

      She was anointing you! It sounds like in the end her gesture mattered more than the dance did.

    • CatManToo says:

      What fragrance was it? Do you still have a secret bottle? Did ‘He’ notice you….

      • Ida says:

        It was L’Aimant! CatManToo, letting you know that I have a cat called Katmandu. We call her Mandu for short. Do I still have a secret bottle? – not seen L’Aimant since those dressing table days. I guess I have a few secret charms. No, I don’t think he did notice me – it was an ongoing unrequited thing. Later on, worthy ones did :-).

  8. Ida says:

    Yes, and it brings tears to my eyes. She died when I was 22, and I would so have loved to have told her this (now in my late forties), and for her to have known about my perfumania – but I have all my surrogate moms and sisters on NST, yay!

    • Angela says:

      The internet is amazing for that–for finding people with niche interests and bringing them together. You have lots of eager listeners to your stories here.

    • nebbe says:

      Reading your story felt like a warm mom hug, Ida. Lovely and special. Thank you for sharing!

  9. Ida says:

    and brothers!

  10. platinum14 says:

    Ah yes! L’Aimant!
    My grand-mother (mum’s side) wore it along Emeraude.
    Of course her version was the 70′ one, the add featuring a turban wearing woman à la Steisand in Funny Girl.
    She always had a bottles of it. I don’t know if that was really her choice of fragrance. I think that it was mostly due to the fact that every drugstore offered gift boxes of the stuff-including EdT, body powder, and lotion- every year around Mother’s Day.

    Given the choice, I think she probably would have selected something like Rose Anonyme for herself(if it had been aroung at the time).
    She might even have selected SL Louve. It certainly reminds me of how her beloved Jergen body lotion used to smell back then.

    Anyway, I really should seek out this one. I own soo many fragrances but, strangely enough, the only time I get compliments on my choice of fragrance if when I am wearing a Floral Aldehyde.

    • Angela says:

      You bring up an interesting point–I wonder how many people latched onto fragrances because they received gift sets? Plus, I love how you’ve chosen fragrances that would have felt just right for your grandmother.

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