Here’s the second installment of mini-reviews of the most popular women’s fragrances in the US last year. For Part I, click here, and for the description of the original project, click here.
Estee Lauder Knowing – I once owned a miniature bottle of Knowing parfum, and it was glorious for two hours: rosy-green chypre with plenty of moxie and plenty of waft. There is a ton of green stuff in here, with some sharp green bergamot, some rich patchouli, some galbanum and moss and woody notes, and there is a full delicious rose with some mimosa for depth. After two hours, though, Knowing begins to make me feel physically ill. (I traded away that mini, feeling really happy about getting it into some appreciative hands.) Resmelling it in EdP on my skin, I had much the same experience – gorgeous for two hours, and then immediately nauseating.
My aunt wears this, and she smells wonderful, both elegant and warm. This is the aunt who just retired from a 35-year career as a chemist, and I always thought she smelled the way I would expect a “career woman” to smell: like she has good taste and won’t put up with any nonsense, even-tempered, secure in herself. I’m beginning to realize that if I apply Estee Lauder scents to fabric, they smell whole and coherent, rather than the sickening mess they degenerate into on my skin. Dear Estee, it’s not you, it’s me.
The classic – some would say cliché – gift to a woman on Valentine’s Day is, of course, a heart-shaped box of chocolates, a dozen red roses, and jewelry. (My teenage daughter’s boyfriend brought her a card and six red roses yesterday; she gave him a handmade card and some candy. All together now: awwww, how sweet!) I don’t like chocolate in perfume, and the idea of jeweled perfumes will have to wait for another day, so here’s a look at some rose perfumes that I love. (Also, it’s an excuse to post beautiful pictures of roses.)
I do indeed love, love fragrances in which rose plays a major part, from light and girlish ones all the way through to dark Gothic ones. So many fragrances contain at least a little bit of rose – even if you can’t smell it on its own, it’s there, making everything smell round and full. I’ll admit up front that it is very, very difficult to find a rose fragrance that smells just like a freshly-cut dewy rose, because in order to obtain rose essence, the rose petals have to be treated in some way – from steam distillation to enfleurage (which involves pressing fresh petals in fat), to the modern scientific method called distillation moléculaire – and you always get “cooked” rose, not fresh. I figure if I want fresh roses, I’ll go to the florist.
For rose perfumes, I have a stash! Some of my favorites, starting from the light and girlish end:
Chanel No. 5 – I have a long history of familiarity with No. 5, and reviewed the parfumhere. I have been wont to grab a spritz or two from the tester when I breeze through the mall (it’s not often, but that’s a whole ‘nother story). I tried the EdP last summer and was surprised that I did not like it much; there’s an odd plasticky sort of accord in the drydown that seems out of place and just plain wrong. In Perfumes: The Guide, Luca Turin says that the EdP composition contains Polysantol, described as “the oily and prodigiously durable sandalwood drydown of Samsara.” (I didn’t mind Samsara so much, but I do admit that it smelled cheap to me, which I declare to be unforgivable in a Guerlain.) My store doesn’t have a parfum tester, so I make do with the EdT, which is still lovely and instantly identifiable as No. 5. I begin to wonder whether so many people continue to buy it because it is a) Chanel, the epitome of “classy” to so many Americans, b) despite reformulation, still smells mostly like itself, thus c) recognizable. No. 5 still has its furious whirlwind of soapy-whooshy aldehydes, and its golden-glow floral heart of rose, jasmine and ylang. It’s still worth wearing.
Coco Mademoiselle – this, as regular readers might remember, is the other fragrance, besides Dune, that my younger sister has forever banned me from wearing because she’s claimed it as hers. What she hadn’t realized is that her Coco Mlle is safe from me: I don’t like it. I smell it on a lot of women our age (30s and 40s) in this area, and I don’t like it on them, and I sure don’t like it on me. It’s a patchouli bomb on me, with a sharp screechiness to the topnotes and a muddy indistinctness to the floral notes. I wore it every day for about two weeks in 2011, connecting with a character I was writing whose signature scent it was. (Would it surprise you to find that I took an intense dislike to the character and stalled out on writing her story?) Continue reading Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US, part I of the mini-reviews
Got several indie reviews for you: DSH and CocoaPink, plus a Montale. Not everything on the DSH website is going to suit everybody – but there’s certain to be something for everyone. I don’t do well with the heavy balsamics, but I hear that for those who love such things, Dawn’s are regarded as being absolutely wonderful. And all-naturals tend to up and flit off me after about half an hour, but her Rose Vert is gorgeous and sticks around for hours. I miss the duplicates of classic scents (they’re discontinued and mostly out of stock), but Dawn has begun to create several vintage-inspired scents that are getting a lot of love on the perfumista front: Pandora, Vert pour Madame, Mirabella.
I first heard of CocoaPink via Annemarie at Beauty on the Outside – she likes the Chergui dupe. The scent list is skewed (drastically) to the sweet side, and some of the names are really silly, but I liked a couple of the offerings. The company seems more focused on body products than straight-up perfume, and the fragrances are not all that terribly complex, but the body butter is really nice and rich, and it’s a bargain for strongly scented, emollient body butter if you like sweet stuff.
DSH Perfumes Fleurs d’Oranger – inspired to test more orange blossom scents after the success of the Serge Lutens fragrance and By Kilian Sweet Redemption, as well as the orange blossom part of Elie Saab, I ordered a sample of Dawn’s Fd’O from her Les Rouges line of Beaux Arts Parfums. It’s a pretty, orange-flavored orange blossom with wafts of neroli, veering soapy like most orange-blossom fragrances on me, but for a shorter period of time. It’s not soapy for long, and eventually pulls up a really pretty beeswax-vanilla base. Lasts quite well. Very lovely, and if you liked Sweet Redemption, you might want to try this one.
Sorry for the delay in posting – I had to give the orphan calf Sammy a bottle this morning, and then I had to go pick up a crucial resource for Bookworm’s science fair project (boy, is she gonna owe me! I’m going to demand a clean room. And hugs).
Carolina Herrera – I ought to have liked this. You know me and my tuberose lust – I saved the sample for a year or so just so I could do a review for the Tuberose Series. And this is really gorgeous for the first ten minutes: a full-blown sunny oh-baby tuberose-jasmine combination, after which it goes soapy and sour for the next three hours. After three miserable test wearings, I have Officially Given Up on this one.
Bottega Veneta – I applaud the idea of a mainstream perfume, available in department stores, not smelling like candy or froot* or frooty candy or the doofiest, lowest-common-denominator mall juice. I applaud the idea of a pleasant, wearable leather scent for grown women. I further applaud the advertising campaign not showing naked women writhing in pseudo-sexual bliss, but focusing on a fully-dressed woman alone in a lovely landscape.