Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds (parfum)

I had long dismissed Elizabeth Taylor’s fragrances as being too big and bombastic for me, based on my reaction to her first fragrance, Passion. Passion was a big old honkin’ oriental, and given my usual reaction to that genre, it’s not surprising that I absolutely hated it then (and still hate it now).

Liz as a young woman was so stunningly beautiful, and so perfectly aligned with the standards of feminine beauty in her prime, that I was never surprised at her celebrity. She was also a very competent actor, in contrast to the many models who turn to acting as a career but retain their “stand there and look pretty” skills instead of learning to portray emotion. By the time she began to release fragrances under her own label, she had a Former Star status in my mind, having not appeared in film for several years, and having gained weight and married a politician. (The then-Mrs. Warner was once an attendee at a party some staunch Republican neighbors of ours threw, back in… oh, 1980 or ’81, I think. Think of that: Elizabeth Taylor, on my block! I never laid eyes on her, though.) White Diamonds, composed in Sophia Grojsman’s inimitable, bosomy feminine style, was released in 1991. But it was so much of the era of Dynasty and Dallas, all dress-up“fancy”, that I felt it would definitely not fit my sense of style. I avoided it, as best I could: I often smelled it on older ladies, the kind of woman who will dress up in her nicest Alfred Dunner pantsuit and add Sarah Coventry jewelry before getting her hair set and then going to the grocery store! In short, it was for my grandmother. It was definitely Not Me.

But when Angela at Now Smell This reviewed White Diamonds back in the spring of 2011 and found it better than she had expected, I determined for myself that I’d find a way to test it somehow. Ebay is my usual go-to source for small portions of fragrances that aren’t new, and this was no exception. I snagged a 5ml bottle of White Diamonds parfum, in box, for $4.

I opened the bottle and took a sniff, and instantly recognized it. Yes: big white floral with a buncha stuff in there, the olfactory equivalent of a red sequined cocktail dress with shoulder pads, worn with high matching red heels, teased hair, and way too much jewelry, not to mention scads of blue eyeshadow and blood-red lips and nails. It is Obviously Dressy and a little Over the Top, perfectly in keeping with its decadently luxurious name. It’s White Diamonds, plural – not your engagement ring solitaire, not the single diamond on a slender gold chain.

On skin, it goes like this: some soapy aldehydes and a luscious, almost overripe peach, as well as an immediate hit of tuberose and jasmine/orange blossom. It reminds me just a bit of my old Karl Lagerfeld Chloe, though White Diamonds is even more in-your-face than Chloe was. It smells rich and soft and blatantly feminine. There is a noticeably spicy carnation in there, as well as a rose note. Sometimes, though not always, I can pick up on a strange ashtray smell, which I at first thought my memory was adding in, but have since smelled in a few other fragrances as well (vintage Chanel Cristalle edt, and Ysatis). It can smell a little… dirty… like post-coital sheets, perhaps from the influence of narcissus. Eventually WD settles into a soft, plushy floral-musk drydown, with tiny hints of wood and moss, that retains its luxurious character. The whole experience lasts about nine hours on me, which is nearly unheard of! It stays comfortable and pleasant throughout. I’ve heard it called “soapy,” but it’s not nearly as soapy as most orange blossom fragrances seem to veer on my skin. Instead, the tuberose and narcissus seem to pull it toward “cosy” instead.

Notes for White Diamonds, according to Fragrantica: aldehydes, neroli, bergamot, orange, lily, carnation, cinnamon, violet, rose, jasmine, ylang-ylang, narcissus, tuberose, orris root, amber, patchouli, musk, oakmoss, sandalwood.

The parfum is softer and less radiant than I remember smelling on most of those ladies of my grandmother’s age when WD was new. And if they’re selling this mini bottle at about $12 retail, there’s no way that the ingredients are top-notch, but I do smell what I think is at least a bit of natural tuberose in there. The entire thing is soft and floral and cooshy (a little like Liz’ famous curves?), and I think most men, even ones that regularly wear women’s fragrances, would feel uncomfortable in it, given its cultural connotations of femininity. White Diamonds does feel a little dated and definitely not of the current era. But oddly, for all the long list of notes and the jam-packed overripeness it can sometimes give off, it’s actually pretty. It is not young and innocent, but it is pretty. My teenage daughter, who’s notably sensitive to skank, wrinkled her nose, but my sons and husband all commented on it smelling nice on me. Unasked! That’s a fairly high endorsement.

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