Wednesday, 6 August 2014

The Mitsouk-alikes: Grossmith - Golden Chypre, Acqua Di Parma - Profumo & Carven - Ma Griffe

I’m a devoted Mitsouko lover. I’m working my happy way through bottle number three following my first encounter with this rather snooty beauty about six years ago. I know Mitsouko will always reside in my perfume cupboard on the ‘often picked’ shelf, perhaps turning her nose up at the lesser loved bottles.

This is one lady's collection of Mitsouko bottles that she alone used up - I salute her

However, it’s possible to get bored smelling the same scent year after year, especially if you’re a promiscuous perfume lover. One way to shake up your Mitsouko addiction is simply to change formulation. I’m currently wearing the EDP which seems to have an increased florality in comparison to the EDT (the incitement of my adoration). Although all three formulations are awash with moss and cinnamon, the lilac and jasmine notes are more prominent in the EDP.

You could consider adopting an entirely new perfume that echoes the spirit of Mitsouko. My favourite Mitsoukalikes are Grossmith’s - Golden Chypre and Acqua Di Parma’s Profumo.
Acqua Di Parma’s Profumo is very similar to Mitsouko indeed. I’ve just reached for my sample to perform my comparison and to my terror, found it completely empty. So empty that in a thorough dismantle of forlorn plastic there is not even a ghost whiff remaining. However, from memory, a powdery iris/orris note was distinct, as was a milky ‘sucking a brazil nut’ sensation. I remember thinking that, although a beautiful composition, this was a very expensive alternative and probably a bit too close to Mitsouko to warrant the £100 difference in price.

Regular readers will know that I’m a champion of the cheapie. The prices of Creed, Tom Ford, Clive Christian and their fellow moollah shelf mates appall me when I consider how much their ingredients actually cost. A high-end perfume is highly unlikely to contain ingredients worth more than about £10. Occasionally, I’ll encounter brands that really are worth the investment. For me, that means that the perfume itself is exquisite and the bottle is an object of great desire that I’ll keep forever. One of these rare brands is Grossmith who I previously featured in this article. There is no bombastic marketing team behind Grossmith, just a small family firm who resurrected their historic brand to bring it back to lovers of bloomin great perfume.

One day I shall own this grand glass monolith

Grossmith’s Golden Chypre is a contemporary interpretation of the chypre. Alike Mitsouko, it shares an earthy, spicy and arid quality that typifies what we would expect within the genre.  Golden Chypre has done the impossible act of IFRA imposed modernity– replaced oakmoss with patchouli and created a perfume that does not smell of patchouli! It’s essentially an orange juice chypre, which sounds vile, but is extraordinarily lovely. The opening is ripe with orange zest, not at all sugary sweet, but distinctively perky. This awards it an optimistic quality, unusual for the earthy chypres that tend to feel somewhat Greta Garbo in their understated moodiness. 

Greta, chypre personified

It takes about an hour for the orange vibe to diminish, at which stage it develops the complex composition of a Mitsoukalike. A faint powdery floral, a whisper of sun baked hay, a deep forest floor soiliness and hint of nutmeg spice. As I sniff at my competing arms, Golden Chypre reeks of subtlety and (dare I say it?) smells more intellectual than Mitsouko. Less dense, less obvious and intensely shape-shifting. There is a marked difference between beginning and end. It’s only drawback is that it doesn’t provide the enormous trail of Mitsouko, it sits much closer to the skin doing it’s own complicated thing in quiet motion. Although very similar at the drydown stage, Golden Chypre retains a clear personality of it’s own. For that reason, I’d definitely consider this an admirable alternative to Mitsouko, even with the significant leap in price.

My final contender is Carven’s classic chypre - Ma Griffe. This one smells the least like Mitsouko but ‘feels like’ her. I’d wear Ma Griffe in a similar mood to that which finds me reaching for Mitsy. Carven re-bottled and upped the price significantly, what was once a reasonably low priced drugstore perfume has been poshed up with no major difference other than a pretty bottle. I’d go and test it in Debenhams then buy the cheaper old bottle whilst there are still plenty available online.

Ma Griffe is a ‘feral yet soapy’ chypre. Oddly it carries a slightly urine whiff, not the almighty outright wee smell of MFK’s Absolu Pour Le Soir, more a kind of ‘freshly cleaned loo’ with a bit of wee - wee plus a pleasingly scented disinfectant. I’m not trying to put you off here, it really is a very good scent indeed. On top of Ma Griffe’s abundant earthy moss, there is a bright green astringency and a soapy aldehydic vibrancy. It is famous for it’s gardenia note, a recently revived floral trend. Despite it’s 1940s heritage, it feels surprisingly modern. Don’t buy this thinking it will smell like Mitsouko. It’s only very vaguely similar. But do hunt it down if, alike myself, you enjoy some quirk and sparkling greenery with your moss.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the Mitsoukalikes. Do you agree or disagree with my comparisons or have you discovered one of your own?


  1. I am not in the market for Mitsouko or its smellalikes, but you have done its many fans a service by reporting on how they could ring the changes on their iconic favourite.

    1. Thanks Vanessa.
      It's now about 10 hours since I applied the Grossmith scent and it has lasted really well, just a ghost of nutmeg and vetiver. I love it. It's going on the 'I'll buy one if I can hold off buying anything else for a year' list. Which never happens obviously..

  2. I remember wearing Ma Griffe back in the 90s and enjoying it, now I've discovered the weird and wonderful world of perfumes, I'm going to go and have a dig on ebay… Thanks for reminding me, Sarah.

  3. Hi Birdie,
    Good luck in your hunt. Are you in the UK? If so, I noticed someone on UK Ebay is selling a 5 pack of Carven and Worth 10 ml perfumes fairly cheaply that's ending today. Ma Griffe is in there. The latest formulation of Je Reviens is in there too but it's not very pleasant. The other discontinued Carvens could be interesting though?

  4. I'm with Vanessa: Mitsouko isn't "my" perfume so I'm not really interested in other perfumes that remind it. But still it was interesting to read your observations.

  5. Ma Griffe sounds like something that I would definitely love! I have been a long time lover of chypres. Amongst my favourite is Robert Piguet - Bandit. Ma Griffe seems to contain numerous notes that are my favourite in perfumery....such as aldehydes, oak moss, leather, jasmine, iris, neroli etc... I am actually very tempted to just do a blind buy!

  6. Years later, I'm reading this because I was looking for vintage Ma Griffe ads. I feel in love with Mitsouko in the 70's (well, also Ma Griffe). I have purchased a ton of vintage Ma Griffe and find the latest formulation (well, I lie, the one from early 2000s??) is closest to the vintage. Vintage is soft with no acidic or sharps in it. Vintage Mitsouko, ditto - the newer Mitsoukos are only okay in my world. I am off to go see if I can find samples of all the ones you mentioned on here because the Lord only knows, I NEED more perfume (smile)!!