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.