That Unattainable Object of Desire: Lanvin Scandal- Crack the Whip

One of the saddest byproducts of incessant reformulation is it trivializes the past. There are brands which have continued to sell perfume for almost one hundred years. The problem lies as each iteration and new flanker appears that glorious history becomes trampled underneath mediocrity. One of the great contemporary early perfume brands is Lanvin. During the 1930’s it was the equal of Guerlain or Chanel. Where the latter two brands have taken that history and created a legacy; Lanvin has not. Which makes the original releases all that much harder to find.


UPDATE: One of the best things about writing these pieces is I sometimes get more information than I could find on my own. Nicolas Chabot of Le Galion Perfume contacted me to let me know that Paul Vacher was the in-house perfumer at Lanvin at the time Scandal was released. Andre Fraysse was Jean Lanvin's nephew and was working as M. Vacher's assistant. Paul Vacher would leave Lanvin in 1935. The release date is still not clear I have found sources which list 1931, 1932, 1933, and 1935. M. Chabot has documentation which says 1933. The paragraph below has been changed to reflect this new information.


Paul Vacher

Lanvin’s in-house perfumers' follow-up to Arpege was called Scandal. Perfumer Paul Vacher and his assistant Andre Fraysse who pioneered the use of aldehydes in Arpege would now go for their own take on leather with Scandal. As we moved into the 1930’s leather based perfumes had become the rage. Each of the brands was working on their own version. This interpretation was to wrap it in a fantastic floral cape. That intense heart is what makes Scandal stand out.

andre fraysse

Andre Fraysse

Scandal opens with a shot of clary sage. The original note list has a set of citrus notes but in the three different vintage samples I have acquired those notes have not survived. What does remain is mostly the clary sage carrying an herbal bite. A very demure neroli begins the floral transition as orris and rose combine in the heart. These two florals are enhanced to their highest levels. The orris is opulent velvet. The rose is decadently spicy. Together they are amazing and then the perfumers unleash their leather accord. I used to own a well-cared for and oiled genuine bullwhip. I would take it down from time to time and swing it about my head; snapping it with a satisfying crack. The more I did it the more the leather gave off this heated by friction leather smell. That is the leather accord at the heart of Scandal. I have never smelled one like it in any other leather fragrance. Together with the florals the heart of Scandal reeks of danger ahead. Those hazards are delightfully animalic as Scandal uses civet as a core to coalesce vetiver, oakmoss, and benzoin around. The civet is ferocious and the complementary notes do nothing to tame that. They instead herd it towards the leather leaving the final hours of Scandal to consume you.

Scandal has 18-24 hour longevity and way above average sillage.

Scandal was discontinued in the early 1970’s. It has become very difficult to find. I have only come into my samples due to the generosity of people who have supplied me with samples from the bottles they probably paid a lot of money for.

When I smell these leather perfumes of the 1930’s I imagine attending a soiree where the women are wearing these fragrances. I think the one wearing Scandal is the one who would have my full attention.

Disclosure: This review is based on three samples of Scandal which were given to me.

Mark Behnke