“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.
Top: Bulgarian Rose and Coriander
Heart: Sichuan Pepper and Golden Japanese Lily
Base: Gauaic Wood and Milky Amber 
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.
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!
This review is based on a sample of Le Feu d’Issey generously donated by Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels, thanks again B!
Image 1 letsdothisman.blogspot.com
Image 2 coloribus.com