Sikkim by Lancôme
January 22, 2011

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By Grace Hummel
Co-Founder, creator and artist of A Dozen Roses, Sandy Cataldo, signing bottles

During the early part of the 1970s, America and the rest of the world became interested in a tiny kingdom named Sikkim. Hidden away in the Himalayas, the King, Thondup and Queen, Hope (formerly the New York debutante Hope Cooke) ruled over a population of just 200,000. Sikkim (Nepali,i.e. the "Goodly Region") is a landlocked Indian state nestled in the Himalayan mountains. The state borders Nepal to the west, China's Tibet Autonomous Region to the north and east, and Bhutan to the southeast, while the state of West Bengal lies to the south .

In 1970, the couple came to America to attend various parties thrown by high society, and the public was enthralled by the tales of the country and to promote the development of its industries,whose exports included Sikkim rugs.  Soon Hope interested Bergdorf Goodman into carrying Parisian designed dresses made from Sikkim fabrics, and Thondup's older sister created jewelry which was sold by Van Cleef & Arpels in New York. Bergdorf's held a fashion show promoting the clothing and the Smithsonian also held a fashion show which was presided over the King & Queen of Sikkim.

Perfume companies also jumped on the Sikkim bandwagon, Lancome introduced its newest fragrance for women, simply named Sikkim in 1971. The inspiration for the exotic perfume was the lush perfumed floral gardens of the Far East.
It is the scent of the legendary kingdom, one of the most remote places on earth, north of East Pakistan, a vertitable Shangri-La. The sun goes down behind the Himalayas, a princess, enchanted by the smell of ylang-ylang and jasmine, dreams in her beautiful palace with a magic garden view. The balcony, bathed in moonlight, brings the scent of galbanum, delicate as a kiss, together with the smell of warm oak moss. The princess, slim and elegant, goes out to the balcony only to inhale this magic, oriental night, to become one with it.

So what does it smell like? I was very grateful to receive a sample of vintage Sikkim. Aldehydes, Gardenia, Galbanum, Caraway, Bergamot, Carnation, Iris, Jasmine, Rose, Narcissus, Amber, Leather, Patchouli, Coconut, Oakmoss, Vetiver. My husband says it smells like baby powder. A ladies fragrance, but certainly a fragrance that can be worn proudly by any man.

Sikkim is a magical chypre fragrance for women, it was an Oriental blend of aldehydes,  ylang ylang, bergamot, Bulgarian rose, gardenia, carnation, jasmine, galbanum, thujone, musk, narcissus,  spices, leather, vetiver, amber, oakmoss, castoreum, patchouli and greens. The nose behind this fragrance is Robert Gonnon.

Sikkim was discontinued by 1974-1975 but was relaunched in 1989 along with two other fragrances Magie and Climat for a special show. The perfumes were hand filled from a Baccarat urn into crystal flacons.

Sikkim was reissued in 2005 along with Climat, Magie, and Sagamore as part of the perfume collection “La Collection Fragrances”, which was launched to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the perfume tradition of the house of Lancôme.

Sikkim’s original composition had notes of aldehydes, ylang ylang, bergamot, galbanum, gardenia, thujone, carnation, jasmine, narcissus, orris, rose, amber, castoreum, leather, moss, patchouli and vetiver. Sikkim is a surprising chypre of monumental proportions, and you will find it stunning right from the start. At first floral, by turns green and earthy, and finally, rich and spicy, this is such a heady and unusual scent. I have read that the new edition doesn’t smell exactly like the original. The difference between old and new is probably due to reformulation.

The IFRA, the International Fragrance Association, established restrictions in Europe on the use of a number of significant fragrance materials, especially oakmoss, which is used in so many chypre, fougere, and oriental scents. Vetiver has also fallen under these regulations.

The elegant, transparent bottles of La Collection perfumes were designed in the early 1970s by George Delhomme, one of the founders of the house of Lancôme.

Grace Hummel | Vintage Perfume Contributor