Perfume Review: Dior J’Adore L’Absolu

I almost never notice perfume ads, except for the ones posted on perfume blogs, specifically the “new launch for Perfume X” and “I hate this ad” posts.  Probably that’s because A) I don’t watch a lot of TV,  B)I don’t subscribe to any fashion magazines, and C) I live nowhere near a large city where I might see a billboard, or an in-store ad.  If I’m shopping for something other than food, I’m probably at Lowe’s, or Dick’s Sporting Goods, not Macy’s, and that’s a semi-sad commentary on the shopping excitement of a mother of three.

Okay, so I do watch some TV.  But it’s likely to be either the Discovery Channel or the Food Network, neither of which is big on fragrance advertising.  And having said that, I have to admit that even I saw that TV spot for J’Adore.  You know the one: starring the lovely Charlize Theron in a slightly-suggestive, upscale striptease.  It’s been around for several years, apparently, but I hadn’t seen it until, oh,  Christmas 2008, and I really only noticed because The CEO and I were watching some movie on TV.  Usually he flips around during commercials (does that behavior come standard with a Y chromosome??), but he stopped dead and said, in reverent tones, “Look!  Is that Charlize Theron?”

“Looks like it,” I said.  “And she’s taking off her clothes,” I pointed out, helpfully, knowing that he’s a fan.

“Yes, she is,” he replied, smiling, and didn’t change the channel until the sultry voice-over of “J’Adore… Dior” had finished.

I admit, a little shamefacedly, to not hating that ad.  I should be offended as heck by the Perfume = Sex framework, which generally bugs me.  The not-so-subliminal message is, of course, that J’Adore makes beautiful women take their clothes off.  But I watched Charlize stalk through this gorgeous house in her Manolos and gold beaded evening gown and jewelry, flinging it all off with what looks like relief after the stress of an awards gala, saying things like, “Gold is cold, diamonds are dead… Don’t pretend, feel what’s real.”   And I thought, “Hmm.  If it smells real, I might like that.”

I’d be willing to bet that a lot of women get J’Adore as a romantic gift from their boyfriends and husbands who bought into the “this perfume gets hot women naked” angle, and possibly because of its romantic name: “I adore you” in French.  Also, the bottle is rather attractive, which is always a plus for men buying Valentine’s Day and anniversary gifts.  J’Adore was composed by Calice Becker (who has composed a number of scents that I really like) and released in 1999 as a fruity floral, with accents of plum, jasmine, and orchid. 

So I went into Macy’s one day, right at the very beginning of my interest in perfume, and trawled the fragrance section, picking up various bottles and sniffing them.  I was so new to the experience that I didn’t even know what a mouillette (scent strip) was for.  I hated Deseo and Pink Sugar, was repelled for the hundredth time by the sharpness of Shalimar edt, and really enjoyed MJ Daisy.  A tester of J’Adore beckoned, and I sprayed a little in the air and sniffed.

I did not like it.  It smelled metallic and chemical to me — and I’ll remind you that at that point in my sniffage, I was used to drugstore fragrances and body splashes from Bath and Body Works, and therefore well-acquainted with synthetic aromachemicals.  J’Adore smelled to me like it was an honest but failed attempt to produce something that smelled like fresh flowers and warm skin.  I was annoyed at the fake smell of the “feel what’s real” perfume, and crossed it very firmly off my list. 

But after reading a review of L’Absolu in Perfumes: The Guide, I thought, “You know, it could have been good with more naturals; I’ll hunt up a sample.”  And when one came my way in a sample swap, I expected something better from it.

Notes for J’Adore L’Absolu: mandarin, champaca, ivy, jasmine, orchid, rose, ylang, tuberose, plum, amaranth wood, blackberry musk.

L’Absolu, a limited edition that can now be found at some online discounters, is indeed far nicer than the original.  There’s lots of good jasmine and rose in here, with some creamy ylang-ylang and a tuberose that I didn’t notice in the original version.  Everything is blended and pretty; the drydown is coherent and pleasant, and seems like it might actually contain some of that bright-smelling Australian sandalwood oil rather than a generic “woods” note.  It’s attractive start to finish, and I think this is the way the standard version of J’Adore should have smelled: worthy of its Dior heritage.

And at the same time, I can’t help but think that I should have been wearing something like it when I was sixteen, instead of the enormous, flirty, white-flowers-and-the-kitchen-sink Chloe that I actually did wear.  J’Adore L’Absolu is perfectly pretty, a nice background scent, and a fragrance that I would find entirely appropriate on my fourteen-year-old daughter.  It feels a little too young, and perhaps too naive, for me to wear. 

I notice that I’m having this reaction toward lovely, happy florals lately — anything that would have captured my heart when I was twenty and which smells like the olfactory equivalent of a cloudless summer day just depresses me now.  Which, of course, says a lot more about me than it does about the fragrance in question.  J’Adore L’Absolu, Van Cleef & Arpels First Premier Bouquet, Teo Cabanel Julia, Keiko Mecheri Mogador… beautiful, well-done, interesting, summery florals all.  And they all made me feel like I had an elephant sitting on my chest.

I don’t know why.  Green florals often have a youthful, fresh-faced quality, and that genre is one of my favorites.  I never seem to feel old and tired when I wear them — not even the tender, young Vacances or Crown Bouquet makes me feel my age. 

And it’s not that I mind straight-up florals.  I think the difference is that the ones I mentioned above seem romantic to me: hopeful, wide-eyed, starry, hearts-n-flowers romantic.  Girlish I can wear.  Simple I can do.  Romantic?  Makes me feel like an idiot.  The CEO and I are coming up on eighteen years of marriage.   I don’t want to imply that it stinks, because it doesn’t.  But romance seems very silly to me at the moment.

Here’s the only blog review I could find for J’Adore L’absolu:  Patty at Perfume Posse.  There’s also a brief description of the original at Bois de Jasmin, and a thorough, thoughtful review of the original at Perfume Shrine.

Top image is from Fragrantica.  Second image is courtesy of Perfume Shrine. Lower image is Flowers store from EmilyBi at flickr.


16 thoughts on “Perfume Review: Dior J’Adore L’Absolu”

  1. I was with you all the way on this – the ad, the original J’Adore (it is rather synthetic, I quite agree), and the superior scent of L’Absolu; though my memory is a little dim I know I preferred it. And as you know, I like the Eau Florale Cologne version – and don’t the bottles all look very similar?!

    Also like you, I don’t really do romantic any more, after 15 years with Mr Bonkers, who was not overly that way inclined at the start. He did give me an egg cup for our first Valentine’s Day, I do recall. A sort of wacky, Alice in Wonderland one – I have it still.

    Where I am on slightly shaky ground is the cut off point between girlish florals and the romantic ones you feel don’t suit. For example La Chasse aux Papillons I’d call girly, also Tuberose Gardenia, and Ralph Lauren Romance. I wouldn’t call the latter “romantic”, despite the name, as it is a bit thin and pink. I just cite it as an example of a scent that purports to be romantic, but may not be.

    I can see J’Adore as romantic, definitely, and know someone who wore it on her wedding day, but am not sure what else goes in which category. And of course one must be careful not to tip into full blown sexy, I take it?

    1. FS – yes, all those J’Adore bottles look much the same. I find them pleasant, though.

      An artsy egg cup for Valentine’s Day? Hm. For my first birthday after we were married, The CEO gave me an Extremely Romantic (!) dual alarm clock. Left to his own devices, he tends to give me practical things on special occasions, although there have been a few exceptions (the small diamond pendant on a gold chain for one birthday, a really lovely set of tuned wind chimes for another). Over the last six or seven years, I’ve been buying my own things for him to give me, which we both tend to like because he hates shopping, and I get to pick out what I want.

      Girly vs. Romantic… I shall have to ponder that to see if I can come up with a set of guidelines. At the moment, it’s just a nebulous feeling. There might be a small bit of overlap between Romantic and Sexy, but Sexy Romantic, like LeLong Pour Femme or Citizen Queen, isn’t emotionally difficult for me.

  2. I don’t exactly remember when J’Adore came out but I know I was in my early 20s and liked it. Now it feels to me the same way you said – like it’s made for a girl/young woman to smell feminine and floral.
    I like it, I just don’t see myself reaching for it.

    1. Ines, it is youthful and feminine, and I do see why lots of women would “graduate” to it from, for example, Bath and Body Works scents. It is rather complex for a floral, and I suppose it doesn’t smell chemical to everyone, or it wouldn’t sell.

  3. Wonderful review!

    I usually get the elephant thing when I stumble upon a smell that I used to wear and does the madeleine thing – wether the scent belonged to a good place in my life or not… I guess I just don’t like time machines, after all 😉 !

    I don’t think I’ll ever stumble on l’absolue, too bad; and the original j’adore… Lucy would scream: bleah!

    What surprises me most is that the original is such a huge best seller, and my surprise does not stem from my dislike(I see why MJ sells, and Angel, …but j’adore?). It is so…nondescript, and chemical!

    Well, whatever….

    1. Z, thank you! Scents that I used to wear seem generally stuck in the past for me, too. I wore Chloe for so long during my teenage years that I’d *never* wear it again. I don’t know that I could even use those Freesia bath products again, the ones I used on my honeymoon. Sigh.

      J’Adore is sort of boring, isn’t it?

  4. Chuckling over the dual alarm clock! Mr B gave me a digital tape recorder for my work not so long ago, which might be the equivalent. The wind chimes and the pendant sound lovely though, and I have also had some nice earrings down the years. Like you, though, Mr B and I engage in “guided gifting” / “mutual purchase funding” these days: I buy him looping stations and other mysterious effects pedals – he buys me perfume!

    : – )

    1. I think the reciprocal nature of the guided gifting works pretty well. No more “Thanks, honey, it’s nice but I could really have used a new XYZ…”

  5. I tried Tresor in Love today and had the same reaction. It’s very romantic (obviously) and I admired it very much, but I just couldn’t imagine myself in it. There is no turning back. And anyway, there are different kinds of romance, just as there are different kinds of sexiness.

    1. Anne, I wonder if the idea of “romance” in perfume as belonging to the young is what’s turning me off now that I’m (ahem) over 40? Anything that smells pretty and floral makes me think of my long-fled younger days, and consequently is depressing me?


  6. I’m in the same state of mind (and same age!). Maybe my problem is that I am equating romance with naivete, but it need not be so.

    The big, sophisticated and classic florals can still be romantic. YSL Paris, say, or EL’s Beautiful. They don’t seem young womanish to me although that is how Paris used to be marketed (until parisienne came along!). Beautiful is still pointed towards the wedding market. But I don’t think they work for really young women.

    I smelled Beautiful on a flight attendant yesterday, a woman in her 40s I would say, and it was a huge success on her. I nearly stopped her to tell her so, but well … I didn’t.

    1. Oh, Paris is sooooo huge and, yes, romantic. It doesn’t have the same emotional effect on me as the “romantic florals” I was talking about do. I think its enormous presence, its lack of shyness, keeps it from being the sort of thing that bothers me.

      Beautiful I never liked, but I’ve come to realize that most of the Lauders have a common base that just nauseates me. I mean, I’ve tried. I TRIED. I wore some vintage Knowing parfum for a couple of hours one day, and it was lovely until the base showed itself, and it became unbearable to me very quickly. Beautiful, despite its bride-related marketing, has never seemed a young woman’s scent to me – it has a slightly more sophisticated angle, I think.

  7. Am I the only french woman who notices that Charlize says in the commercial: JE DORS (which means I’m sleeping) and not J’ADORE (which means I adore)… anybody out there, allo???

    1. S, I don’t really know if I have any French readers! I don’t speak French (I studied Spanish instead, which is probably more useful for most Americans), and so would not know the difference by pronunciation.

  8. malsnano86 says:

    I’d be willing to bet that a lot of women get J’Adore as a romantic gift from their boyfriends and husbands who bought into the “this perfume gets hot women naked” angle, and possibly because of its romantic name: “I adore you” in French.

    For your information: J’Adore doesn’t mean “I adore you” ….
    it means “I adore”

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