French designer fashion and perfume brand Lolita Lempicka became famous in 1997 with the release of the legendary Lolita Lempicka, which quickly rose in the ranks of the best selling women’s fragrances in the world. Inspired by fairytale and magical forests, Lolita Lempicka is a unique and playful perfume with notes of licorice, ivy, and violets.
That trend would be continued in 2000 with a male counterpart to Lolita Lempicka: Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin. Does this landmark masculine fragrance still stand the test of time more than twenty years later?
Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin is a soft, sweet, and romantic gourmand fragrance with a twist of licorice and absinthe. Elegantly presented, with great performance and good value for money, Au Masculin is worth owning, though its vintage touches might turn some off.
Want to know more? Let’s take a closer look at Lolita Lempicka’s Au Masculin.
Top Notes: absinthe, ivy, aniseed, licorice
Middle Notes: orgeat syrup (orange blossom, almond, rose), violet, rum, sandalwood
Base Notes: tonka beans, vanilla, cedar, praline, vetiver, labdanum
Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin is all about licorice.
First I’ll talk a little bit about my history with licorice. Most American readers will know that black licorice is really not a thing in the good ol’ US of A. Oh sure, you can buy it, but you’ll probably be the only one in the tri-state area doing so.
In America, sweet, red licorice (AKA Twizzlers) are favored over the black, herbal stuff. And so I spent most of my life not liking black licorice. I never hated it, but I never liked it either.
That all changed when I went to Europe, where black licorice is quite popular, especially in northern European countries like The Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway.
Even in southern Europe, though, you can find anise flavored drinks and sweets – take Italian sambuca and pizzelle, for example, anisette and pastis in France, Spanish anís, Greek ouzo, or Turkish rakı. While there, I developed a taste for licorice candies and liquors (though I still haven’t acquired the taste for salty liquorice), and now love the stuff.
Nothing better than some sambuca chased with a bit of coffee, am I right?
So I will say that I am quite inclined to enjoy this fragrance, being a lover of black licorice. That isn’t to say that you won’t enjoy Au Masculin if you don’t like licorice or anise; just know that the licorice, anise, and wormwood is quite noticeable.
The opening of Au Masculin immediately brings a few different things to mind. You certainly get a green ivy-vibe, an herbal twist, and some definite booziness which brings to mind absinthe, Jägermeister, and Chartreuse. However, from the outset the powdery vanilla and tonka of the base can be smelt loud and clear.
The clash between greenness and powdery coumarin sweetness immediately reminds me of barbershop fougère fragrances. It also instantly calls a few other 90s and early 2000s staples to mind: Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male (1995), Versace’s The Dreamer (1996), and Armani’s Code (2004). Yes, Au Masculin definitely smells like a product of its time, and that fresh, clean, powdery, cologne-like barbershop vibe remains throughout the life of the fragrance.
Personally, I quite like that part of the fragrance, as I own and love The Dreamer and quite like Le Male and Code. Smelling it instantly takes me back to the late 90s and early 2000s – the scents that people wore, the optimism and hope, the vibrancy of the times. It’s like a little time machine to a happier, simpler time. However, if you aren’t all that keen on fragrances like that, you might not enjoy Au Masculin.
Soon, through a veil of booze and vanilla, the licorice begins to emerge. This is where it begins to differentiate itself from stuff like Le Male. On skin, there is a bitter but candy-like licorice vibe that really does smell like a bag of freshly opened licorice wheels. This blends perfectly with the herbal touches (which retreat in the drydown) and the emergent vanilla-praline-tonka bean powder base.
The closer you get to skin, the more bitter, herbal, green, and licoricey the fragrance smells, while in the air you get a rich, dense, creamy vanilla kind of scent with a touch of licorice and those clean barbershoppy flourishes. I love the smell so much; it reminds me of a thick, creamy shaving foam mixed with vanilla ice cream and licorice syrup.
In the deep drydown, the sweetness starts to fade a bit as the woods appear out of a fog of powder and vanilla, but unfortunately the greenness is nowhere to be found at this stage, just a humming warmth. That warm, woody, vanillaey, powdery sweetness is all that remains on skin for hours and hours.
In a few words, I’d describe Au Masculin as: creamy, rich, sweet, powdery, bitter, herbal, and woody.
As I have a tester bottle, I can’t comment too much on the box of Au Masculin.
From what I can tell, however, Au Masculin came in an olive green box with the Lolita Lempicka heart logo and “Lolita Lempicka” written in the brand’s characteristic fantasy-inspired font. The box was decorated with some leafy indentations, which are also found on the bottle itself.
The bottle of Au Masculin is an absolute gem.
Made of thick, heavy blue glass, it looks like a shard of glacial ice or an ancient, unknown jewel unearthed from the ruins of a forgotten city. There are vertical details which remind me of tree bark, and leaves in raised, frosted glass. In the center is the jagged outline of a heart, and “Lolita Lempicka” done up in letters that I think were intended to seem like they had been carved into the trunk of a tree.
I absolutely love the design; while it is beautiful and definitely stands up today, it also gives me a distinctly 90s and early 2000s vibe, reminding me of the semi-transparent plastic of Gameboys and N64 controllers.
I was very lucky to find a bottle of the rarer earlier formulations, which had a sprayer that was built into the top of the bottle, rather than having a removable cap. A translucent blue plastic ring with the tree details protects the sprayer, which is depressed by pushing down from the top. The sprayer emits a generous mist of fragrance and feels quite nice, tactilely speaking.
I just love the whole design, vibe, and actual feel of the bottle in the hand. It feels like a lot of thought, effort, and care went into making it, and it really lives up to the fairytale inspiration, too.
It’s at this point in the review that I should point out that Au Masculin in the form that I have (2001 vintage) is discontinued and actually pretty hard to find.
Later presentations eschewed the built-in sprayer for a golden, removable cap, a design I still quite like, though not quite as much as the OG.
Au Masculin was later discontinued in favor of 2018’s Lolita Lempicka Homme. Technically speaking, this is a different fragrance, and I might buy it one day just for comparison’s sake.
However, from what I can tell, it’s essentially just Au Masculin in a different bottle with a different name and a note or two changed here and there (sugar, for example, instead of praline). The new bottle is a lot less inspired, in my opinion, though still nice, with a parallelogramish shape, grey-blue color, and a nice mahogany-colored wooden cap.
Overall, the presentation for Au Masculin is unique, creative, and very high quality.
The performance of Au Masculin is quite acceptable and above-average.
The longevity of Au Masculin is excellent.
Four to five sprays net me eight to ten hours on my perfume eating skin, and longer on fabric.
That’s more than acceptable longevity for me, and quite a lot for an eau de toilette.
Projection & Sillage
The projection and sillage of Au Masculin is also quite good, though not beastly.
Four to five sprays give me two to three hours of consistent projection and arm’s length sillage, after which it gets closer to the skin. I get regular whiffs throughout the day and even deep into the drydown.
That is perfect projection and sillage for me. People won’t be able to smell you from across the room, but they will definitely pick up your scent if they come close to you. Au Masculin creates a beautiful scent bubble around you.
Value For Money
In the form that I have it, Au Masculin is discontinued, and is going for increasingly high prices on Ebay (~$70-80 at the time of writing). That price will only continue to go up as supply becomes more and more scarce. I was very lucky to pick up a 2001 tester bottle for around $35, and so I would say that Au Masculin offers very good value for money.
However, if you don’t feel like hunting vintages on Ebay, you can still buy the current version of Au Masculin, called Lolita Lempicka Homme. That fragrance retails for €81 (~$91) for a 3.4 oz (100 ml) bottle, or $0.91/ml.
That’s pretty standard designer perfume pricing.
Lolita Lempicka Homme is also widely available on discount perfume websites like FragranceNet and FragranceX. At the time of writing, a 1.7 oz (50 ml) bottle is available for as low as ~$22, and a 3.4 oz for ~$41. That’s over half price, so I would consider that to be a good deal.
Taking the uniqueness of the scent, performance, and presentation into account, I would say that Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin/Homme has excellent value for money.
Who Would Like It
This is a fragrance that will appeal to a certain subset of people.
I don’t think that today’s crowd that favors ambroxan-heavy fragrances like Dior Sauvage or Versace Dylan Blue would gravitate towards this, though Au Masculin does have a very appealing scent profile nevertheless.
This is a soft, sweet, introspective, and romantic scent, and hence is probably going to appeal more to those types than macho man gym bros (not that there’s anything wrong with macho man gym bros).
Of course, liking sweet scents and having a tolerance for powder is a prerequisite for enjoying Au Masculin. Liking licorice and anise will also further incline you towards Au Masculin. While it will likely appeal to older people just because of the release date of the fragrance, Au Masculin feels quite youthful and would not be at all out of place on a young person in their late teens or early twenties.
Finally, despite ostensibly being made and marketed for men, this is 100% unisex and could absolutely be worn by men or women.
When To Wear It
Since this is a dense, rich, sweet, and creamy fragrance, the best time to wear this will naturally be in cooler weather, i.e. autumn, winter, and early spring.
However, I don’t think it would be that out of place on summer nights, so long as it’s not too hot and humid; the green touches in the fragrance give it a certain freshness that makes me think it could work when it’s warmer out, too.
As far as occasions go, I could see this working for most. You could wear this to the office, so long as you go easy on the trigger, and I think it would be a great date night fragrance. Casual hangouts and semi-formal occasions would work as well, though if you’re wearing a suit and tie, I think there are better options out there for you.
Overall, Au Masculin is a pretty versatile fragrance.
As I’ve mentioned, there are quite a few similar fragrances to Au Masculin out there.
Jean Paul Gaultier’s Le Male is probably the closest match, though I do vastly prefer Au Masculin. As I said before, Versace The Dreamer and Armani Code are also quite similar. For a more modern interpretation, you could try Prada Luna Rossa Sport or Luna Rossa Extreme.
None of these fragrances, though, have the same licoricey twist or focus on gourmand elements. Another classic fragrance from the early 2000s, Yves Saint Laurent Body Kouros, has also often been said to be a “darker” take on Au Masculin, though I haven’t smelt it myself.
From Lolita Lempicka itself, there’s of course the modern version of Au Masculin, Lolita Lempicka Homme.
If you can find them, there were also flankers to Au Masculin: Au Masculin Eau de Perfume Intense, Au Masculin Illusions Noires Eau de Minuit, Au Masculin Fraicheur, and L’Eau au Masculin. I’m currently hunting for Au Masculin Eau de Parfum Intense and L’Eau au Masculin on Ebay, but depending on where you live, you might still be able to find them for an affordable price.
On the niche/luxury end of the spectrum, Hermes’ Brin de Reglisse from the Hermessence line has often been touted as an upscale version of Au Masculin. Histoires de Parfums 1725, released in 2001, is also often pointed out as a niche Au Masculin. Finally, a more recent release, By Kilian’s L’Heure Verte, which is centered around an absinthe accord, has been compared to Au Masculin.
Want to know what a niche fragrance is? Feel free to check out this article if you’re curious.
Pros & Cons
- Beautiful gourmand fragrance based on licorice and anise
- Good performance and beautiful presentation
- Good value for money, especially for the new version Lolita Lempicka Homme
- The smell of licorice is just as polarizing as its taste
- Though somewhat unique, there are other, non-discontinued fragrances that might scratch the same itch
- Bottles can be hard to find
The Final Word
Overall, I absolutely love Lolita Lempicka Au Masculin, even kind of addicted to it. Licorice tends to have that effect, after all.
Au Masculin is a soft, sweet, creamy, romantic, and beautiful fragrance which is absolutely worth seeking out while bottles aren’t too expensive. Though there are other fragrances with similar scent profiles, like Le Male or The Dreamer, I find that none satisfies me in the same way as Au Masculin. The fragrance also boasts strong performance and a gorgeous bottle presentation.
I attribute not a small part of my reason for loving Au Masculin to nostalgia and my fondness for the fragrances of the 90s and early 2000s. Even so, Au Masculin is a rock-solid perfume that still stands the test of time twenty years later, and is a must-have for licorice lovers.
★★★★☆ 4.5 stars out of 5.