Gone, But Not Forgotten Series Part 4: Wonderfully Weird – Le Feu d’Issey by Issey Miyake

Lady Gaga

“My general impression of Le Feu d’Issey is that it’s an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ scent, in the sense that there is just so much going on, in fact, I would go as far as saying that the kitchen sink has probably been thrown in as well.”

When I first thought about the Gone, But Not Forgotten Series there were a few perfumes which I knew absolutely had to be added and some that I thought I would explore after receiving suggestions from my readers. Le Feu d’Issey is one of those fragrances that I knew had to be part of this series, but there was one little snag – I had never smelled it and it’s nigh on impossible to get hold of.

Luckily for me Perfumeland is full of lovely, wonderful and generous people and none are lovelier than the ultra-lovely Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels who came to my rescue and very kindly donated a sample of Le Feu d’Issey so that I could review it for this series. Thanks B!

Despite being discontinued, Le Feu d’Issey was given a five star rating by Luca Turin in Perfumes The Guide and is also included in Sanchez and Turin’s latest book ‘The Little Book of Perfumes’ as one of the top 100 perfumes of all time. It also has quite the cult following and a reputation for being wonderfully weird. All of these facts have ensured that Le Feu d’Issey has stayed at the top of my ‘Must Test’ list (a list that gets longer and longer by the day) for a good few years, and when I did eventually get to try it I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

Le Feu d'Issey

The Notes

Top: Bulgarian Rose and Coriander
Heart: Sichuan Pepper and Golden Japanese Lily
Base: Gauaic Wood and Milky Amber [1]

How Does it Smell?

Looking at the above list of notes you wouldn’t expect Le Feu d’Issey to be that extraordinary, in fact it just looks like your typical spicy rose, nothing new and nothing unusual. This could not be further from the truth, Le Feu d’Issey is most definitely unusual and it’s an exceptional example of how a perfume can not only smell good but it can also smell interesting.

Le Feu d’Issey, meaning ‘The Fire of Issey’ is a break from tradition for Issey Miyake in the olfactory sense, it smells absolutely nothing like any of the other fragrances in the line. It was released in 1998 and was composed by Jacques Cavallier, the nose behind other exceptional fragrances such as YSL’s M7 & Nu (another scent in this series) as well as Jean Paul Gaultier’s Classique and the two original Issey Miyake fragrances: L’Eau d’Issey and L’Eau d’Issey Pour Homme.

My general impression of Le Feu d’Issey is that it’s an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ scent, in the sense that there is just so much going on, in fact, I would go as far as saying that the kitchen sink has probably been thrown in there as well.

The first spritz of Le Feu d’Issey contains a ton of sour citrus notes that smell like a mixture of lime and bergamot which is followed by the smell of warm toast. The bread note here is very different to the salty/yeasty nature of Womanity by Thierry Mugler, it’s much more doughy and savoury. A sprinkling of pepper emphasises the savoury note and gives it a welcome touch of spice.

So, we’ve got citrus, we’ve got bread, what could be added next to really mix things up? A spicy, milky rose? Yep, that’ll do it! The spicy and milky rose is the central accord, around which all of the other facets of the scent whirl in a constant, every changing spiral of good smells. The lactones do a great job of taking Le Feu d’Issey into reassuringly comfy and cosy territory. On paper this mixture of scents should smell absolutely horrific and kudos has to be given to Jacques Cavallier for having the balls and the skill to put them together into a mainstream perfume AND make it work, Tim Gunn would be proud.

Contrary to it’s rather bright start, Le Feu d’Issey warms up considerably throughout it’s development and by the time it reaches the dry down it has become quite woody and the lily, in all of its salty white floral glory, really starts to bloom. What I really love about the dry down is that the ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ effect manages to last and in the dry down you can really smell bits of the milky rose, touches of the warm toast, drops of bright citrus and the aforementioned lilly and woods, not a single part gets left out.

Le Feu d’Issey is suprising in two ways, firstly because it seems so out of place amongst Issey Miyake’s sparse, minimalist aesthetic and secondly because they never really gave it a chance, how dare they discontinue something this good?! It is a roller coaster ride of a scent, yes it is weird, but it is wonderfully so and If you ever come across a bottle for a good price then I implore you to buy it, I might just scold you for missing out on a gem.

Why Was it Discontinued?

We all know that in the mainstream arena perfume is just a cash cow for designer brands and if it doesn’t sell then it gets discontinued. Le Feu d’Issey was released in 1998 (a time when fresh and clean was everything) and it feels as if it was way ahead of its time, mainstream consumers found it way too weird and couldn’t connect to it therefore it fell by the wayside and was eventually discontinued.

Availability

Bottles of Le Feu d’Issey show up on eBay every now and then and they always sell for quite a high price, usually well over £100 for a 50ml bottle. If you do see one for cheaper than that then it may be worth investing!

Disclaimer

This review is based on a sample of Le Feu d’Issey generously donated by Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels, thanks again B!

[1] basenotes.net

Image 1 letsdothisman.blogspot.com

Image 2 coloribus.com

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32 thoughts on “Gone, But Not Forgotten Series Part 4: Wonderfully Weird – Le Feu d’Issey by Issey Miyake

  1. Ah, my great love Le Feu!
    You really did it justice!
    Although despite the fact that everything you say is right of course, to me Le Feu is not complicated at all. It sounds so busy, but I find it calming.
    It is truly a shame that this perfume is no longer available.
    If I were Frederic Malle, I’d go to Cavallier and tell him to recreate it for Editions de Parfums. I’m sure it would be a huge hit!

    P.S.: and thanks for calling me ultra-lovely, that is ultra-nice of you. 🙂

  2. Yes, I agree that your review perfectly captures a much mourned and ground breaking scent. It was the signature scent of a Swedish friend of mine and she is desolate not to be able to find it anymore and has taken to wearing Trussardi (the white one) or Bvlgari The Blanche, but remains largely inconsolable. Am I right in thinking that Feu had a lighter flanker – is that still around? I don’t think it was as good, mind. It is the comforting milky amber quality I loved in this. Numpties. I didn’t know it was a Jacques Cavallier. Nick and I were both at a talk in Harrods where he did a double act with a man from P & G. I will never forget how he described the top notes of a perfume as being its “friendly handshake”.

    • You are absolutely right, there was one flanker – Le Feu d’Issey Light which seems to be much easier to find and much cheaper, it is even listed on the Issey Miyake website.

      That sounds like it was a great talk! Was it during the Perfume Diaries?

      • Le Feu d’Issey Light smells completely different from Le Feu d’Issey (which isn’t surprising for a flanker, right?). Ten years ago I preferred it to the original and it’s the only perfume from the brand I was ever able to wear. I think now I would have loved the original more.

  3. Back when I was new to perfume I bought a bottle for a friend. I couldn’t imagine buying it for myself. Oh, how I’ve changed…..

    If one is really desperate, Etro Etra could be a substitute.

  4. This is the first REAL review i have read; THANKS so much…a dear friend of mine has a FB (and a back-up!) of this…so I am off to email her and ask for a tiny decant; as I love anything that is different, complex and “ahead of its time”! Wonderful review…as always! Keep em coming!!

  5. I love the smell of Kitchen Sink. Om nom nom.
    So do you think this influenced Serge Lutens Jeux de Peau, which I heard has a bread note as well?

  6. What a good review.
    A dear friend of mine sent me one new sealed in it’s box. What a dear friend.

    I havent gotten round to properly testing it but as you said.

    It was released well ahead , or IMO, too late in its time.

  7. You are undoubtedly right. This perfume was absolute unanimous everytime I used it. Men, women, children, poor or rich, European, Latino, or African; EVERYONE, absolutely everyone was hipnotised by this aroma of the Gods whenever I used it. Rephrasing you, “How dare they discontinue a scent” such magnificent as Le Feu D´Issey. How dare they discontinue a master-piece of Jacques Cavallier. I still have faith that one day it will conquer the streets again, and my life for that matter.

      • What a fabulous sexy fragrance this was….I wore this extraordinary scent for many years….a hard to describe smell, but very, very addictive! Milky + smooth…with a punchy aromatic woody edge reminiscent of a burning fire then a smooth dry down scented with jasmine, caramel and anise and vanilla. Sorry…my description is hopeless, this frag was so ahead of its time! I hope it returns to the market in the near future. In the meantime I hope to find my next bottle on ebay.

  8. I adored and still have just about a half full (I think) bottle in my possession. For me it was the start of my relationship with my now husband. I bought it in duty free on my way to America for the first time. In departures I smelled and instantly fell in love with it! It was a warm, soft, sensual cashmere blanket of scent around you and instantly takes me back to so many pivotal moments in my life. Think, being proposed to, experiencing the craziness and vibrancy of America, getting married, having my first baby and second- need I say more?? I never understood why it went as it is one of those scents that whenever I allow myself a special wear of it people ask me, what are you wearing. I even contacted the perfume house and asked if they would ever consider re launching, even as a limited edition but thus far with no success. We can hope and until then perhaps pay the £300+ bottles go for now! And like one other commentator, I have never found anything that touches it scent wise and believe me I have looked, being a perfume tartlet!! Xx

  9. Oh, how I loved Feu. I have never smelled anything that good before or since. You only had to wear the tiniest bit and had to keep burying your nose in it all day. Adored it, still miss it. I’ve never found another perfume I like even half as much. Sigh.

  10. Pingback: Smell-O-Vision: Lara Stone for Stella McCartney’s ‘Stella’ | The Candy Perfume Boy

  11. Hi there. I have a bottle in my possession, it was given to me by a friend that received it as a gift but found it highly offensive. It was love at first sniff for me. I would love to know how much is left in my bottle but since you can’t see the contents, your guess is as good as mine. Does anybody know how much does the 50 and the 75 ml bottles weigh when full?

    Great blog, congratulations.

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