I knew very little about Harvey Prince when I received an email from a PR representative, offering a giveaway on this blog. Right away, I went to the Harvey Prince website to scout around a bit.
The website says that HP was founded by two brothers who didn’t want perfume to be “overwhelming, overpriced, and full of toxic chemicals,” and after composing a fragrance found inspiration in the person of their mother. The website also points out that certain smells have certain effects on our mental processes, and that each of the Harvey Prince scents have been created to take advantage of these olfactory receptor-to-brain linkages in order to affect behavior and perception.
While I am not opposed, in theory, to this version of aromatherapy, some squinty-eyed part of me is rather skeptical. Does this sort of thing actually work, I wonder? And whether or not, as reported by scientific study, men actually become, um, interested in a woman smelling of lavender and pumpkin pie, will these scents actually smell good?
Because I have to say, I don’t think I want to throw this Man Bait lavender-pumpkin-pie scent out there on my skin and having guys follow me home. I’m quite certain The CEO would not approve. Sure, I’ll try it on him and see what he says. Or does. (I may actually report the results, depending.)
I’ll also point out that although the website claims that the Harvey Prince fragrances are hypoallergenic, and do not contain “parabens, phthalates, PCBs, BPAs, GMOs, sulfates or other toxic chemicals,” these do not seem to be all-natural perfumes as that category of fragrance is usually defined. They do not smell like the natural fragrances from independent perfumers that I have worn before, coming far closer to smelling like mainstream perfume house releases. And to be honest, the marketing research is so all-pervasive that the “no synthetics” spiel comes across as a ploy to appeal to customers who like the idea of their fragrance being different than all those accessible scents that just anybody can buy at Walgreen’s, or at Macy’s.
But I put aside my skepticism to test these scents and judge as dispassionately as I could how they actually smell, and whether I would buy them for myself. The results were mixed; I’ll explain.
The six samples sent to me so kindly by Harvey Prince were:
Ageless. Meant to make the wearer seem younger, “smell as young as you feel.” Notes: pink graefruit, pomegranate, mango, jasmine, tuberose, ylang-ylang, sandalwood.
I have been unable to ascertain whether Ageless is a version – reformulated or not – of the fragrance Ageless Fantasy by Harvey Prince, which Luca Turin called “pear-melon version of Tommy Girl,” in Perfumes: The Guide. However, since Ageless Fantasy is described in the same terms as Ageless, as being able to make the wearer seem approximately eight years younger, I have to assume that the two are at least related in some way.
Pink grapefruit and mango are supposedly antidotes to that “old age” smell that skin gives off as certain fatty acids break down. Oh-kay. Seems that grandmother-smell has a basis in scientific fact, and the Harvey Prince claim could be true. It just seems to me that it wouldn’t necessarily work on fairly young people; for example, it’s not likely to make a 32-year-old woman smell as if she’s really 24. If you’re 70 and you wanted to smell 60, that might make a difference.
But enough of the scientific angle (which I can’t prove or disprove on my own): what does it smell like? I offered sniffs from the bottle to my teenage daughter and son (the tween-age son refused), without any context. Gaze said “shampoo” immediately, and then – because he’s a sweetie – added, “nice shampoo.” Bookworm, who’d been in another room and hadn’t heard her brother’s comment, sniffed and said, definitively, “shower gel.”
And I concur: a functional fragrance meant for use in a personal care product. Oh, it’s rather pleasant – fruity but not sweet, floral but not overpowering, fresh and clean and minimal in a modern just-out-of-the-shower, won’t-offend-anyone-on-the-city-bus kind of way. And it does smell young, completely innocent, as if someone had lifted 40% of the top- and heartnotes out of Marc Jacobs’ Daisy. On skin, the waft as I move my hands about or sniff two inches from my wrist is actually very pleasant. Smelled closer to, with nose to wrist, the scent is considerably less pleasant: very chemical, with lab-created jasmine and woody notes and something that reminds me of the cucumber-melon kind of shower gel that everybody loved so much in the 1990s. (Also: tuberose, my foot! I’d bet the farm that this thing has not been within six hundred miles of an actual tuberose flower. But there speaks the tuberose fan, for what it’s worth.)
Eau Flirt. Meant to attract the passionate attention of men; “this perfume flirts for you.” It’s also described as “seductive, sparkling, wicked.” Notes: lavender, pumpkin pie, citrus, jasmine, freesia, ylang-ylang, nutmeg, cinnamon, ambers. This is the fragrance that garnered mentions in the New York Times and Cosmopolitan. Also, according to Harvey Prince, as reported on the CBS Early Show, Eau Flirt was “the clear victor versus a popular, classic Chanel perfume” in a “blind smell test among men.”
My assumption is that the “popular, classic Chanel” is No. 5. But which version – edt, edp, or parfum? It matters. And did the men undergoing the sniff test smell the fragrances immediately after spraying? On skin, or on a card? I’m going out on a limb here to say that most people, 85 years after No. 5’s debut, are going to prefer light-and-fresh citrus topnotes to the overdose of aldehydes that No. 5 is so famous for. Aldehydes are difficult – and I adore them, but I know that most people don’t. This may be the reason that Chanel updated No. 5 to create Eau Premiere, by adding a lot of citrus, more soft rose, and a big slug of friendly warm musk. Would the test results have been different if the men had smelled the perfumes after two hours? I’m betting they would. And would Eau Flirt have beaten Eau Premiere? There’s no way to tell unless someone does that study.
I’m also betting that the public at large doesn’t know that the way a perfume smells in the first two minutes isn’t the way it smells after two hours. (No. 5 is truly lovely in its heart-to-drydown phase.) As for the specific appeal to men, I can only say that The CEO shrugged with indifference. It didn’t appeal to me much, either, being a sort of “bottomless” fragrance with very little base, just a faint soft ambery sweetness. But then I’m not much of a lavender fan, either, and I found these light florals very insipid.
According to my offspring (offered sniffs from the bottle, independently and at different times of day), Bookworm found it “boring and sort of… weird. Like it’s falling apart.” Gaze, on the other hand, said, “Oh, I like that one. I really do. Can I smell it again?” And he may be a small guy, but he’s definitely a guy, so maybe there’s something to this theory – not that every man will find Eau Flirt magnetic, but at least a few do.
Eau Fling. Meant to attract and excite men; “a modern-day love potion.” Notes: lavender, blackcurrant, plum, raspberry, apple, jasmine, nutmeg, cinnamon, musk, rare woods. I think this is another one of those lavender-pumpkin pie nexus fragrances, but I like it a great deal better than Eau Flirt.
It is fairly fruity on the open, but Fling is darker than Flirt, and I think the dark fruits transition better to the spicy notes. From the spices, it moves on to a generically woody base that is warm and comfortable. It lasts longer than the two HP fragrances I tried earlier, settling down for a good four hours on skin.
Gaze said he found Fling pleasant but had a strong preference for Flirt; Bookworm liked Fling better and so did I. The CEO commented that it made him think of the smell of the hair salon at first, and then it calmed down and became more snuggly. He was noncommittal on whether he liked it.
Coupling. Meant to engage the romantic, sensual interest of a man. This fragrance seems to have been based on a Glamour magazine poll looking at the kinds of fragrances that turn men on. The winning smells were “the clean, fresh scents of gardenia, freesia and cucumber, and sophisticated, spicy scents of patchouli, cinnamon, amber, and nutmeg.” Coupling, according to Harvey Prince, combines both [clean/fresh and sophisticated/spicy].
This one, judged strictly from the notes, looked like a train wreck to me. Notes: gardenia, cucumber, pumpkin, nutmeg, jasmine, marigold, patchouli, vanilla. I mean, if you asked me my favorite things to eat, you’d get (at various times) some combination or other of “caramel, parmesan cheese, broccoli, cinnamon rolls, mushrooms, Jonagold apples, tilapia, Mom’s beef-vegetable soup, tomato sandwich on white bread with plenty of mayo and freshly ground black pepper. And cheesecake.” But all at once? That’s just wrong.
But if you served me a meal of several courses that included my favorite foods – starting with a bowl of soup, adding that ‘mater sammich and some grilled tilapia with mushrooms and broccoli, and finishing up with either the cheesecake or the apples and cinnamon rolls, it might make sense.
That’s what Coupling does. (Thank goodness.) You start off with a cucumber note that gradually segues into a light white-floral heart, not too sweet and heady, and then Coupling slides into a white-floral/spice accord that I like a lot. Eventually it goes (“clean”) patchouli-vanilla, and that sticks around for several hours.
The CEO’s verdict was “Nice. I like it. It’s kind of faint, and I like most of your other stuff more, but it smells nice.” I agree. This one might be my favorite of the six Harvey Prince scents I sampled.
Eau de Lite. This is meant as a diet aid. Yes, you read that correctly. Eau de Lite is supposed to be “positive reinforcement for your weight loss goals,” and looking at the notes, I couldn’t see how this could possibly smell anything other than unappetizing: peppermint, green apple, vanilla, spearmint, fennel, jasmine, rose, sandalwood.
I’m right. The entire thing smells inedible, in a rehab-clinic, antiseptic sort of way, chilly and not pleasant at all. Sure, it might keep you from using your teeth to tear into that emergency package of Ho-Hos you keep in your desk, but it would probably keep all your coworkers within smell range from enjoying their lunches, too. Like most of the other HP fragrances, it’s light and unobtrusive, and if you want to be able to actually smell yourself, you have to apply generously. It might be better, if you truly want Diet Armor, to carry the roll-on bottle with you and sniff it whenever you have cravings. I would be suspicious of anyone who wanted to smell like this throughout the day.
Eau de Crème. This is, as you might guess without even knowing anything about it other than its name, a gourmand. Gourmands are always iffy for me anyway, and the only true gourmand scents I like are the original Hanae Mori(Cotton candy! Berries! Almond! Vanilla! FUN! Where’s the Tilt-a-Whirl?), Prada Candy (Whee, I’m wearing CARAMEL!) and the extremely-strange, I-don’t-know-why-I-like-it, Jeux de Peau by Serge Lutens (Burnt-sugar palmier pastries! I feel like a child, but a sophisticated European one! I need an espresso!).
This one, however, is a bit of a mess. The Harvey Prince PR on Eau de Crème says that it’s based on a scientific study that found “ice cream’s allure resides in its unique combination of taste and texture: the creamy sensations brought about by its tantalizing transformation from icy solid to melt-in-your-mouth bliss.” Notes: citrus, passion fruit, rum raisin, vanilla, patchouli, chocolate.
The tart citrus-like topnotes mixed with the extreme sticky sweetness of fudge and rum raisin creates a bizarre effect that reminds me of being six years old and carsick. It makes me want to tell the story of my late father-in-law, his sick daughter, and the glass of tomato juice. (Don’t worry, I won’t actually tell it.) My least favorite of the bunch, and considering my reaction to Eau de Lite, that should tell you something.
Other scents, not included in my sampler pack, that the website offers:
Submariner (for men): “Aquatic notes of Bermudian island spice and vibrant South Pacific tonka bean inspire vigor and vitality.” Notes: citrus, nutmeg, amber, tonka, blonde woods.
Yogini: “the fragrance that calms the mind, soothes the soul, and frees the spirit.” Notes: sandalwood, golden amber, sensual incense, Egyptian myrrh, pink grapefruit, blackcurrant buds, lily of the valley, star jasmine, rose petals, ylang-ylang, cardamom, madagascar vanilla.
Let’s Tryst Again (unisex): “a smoky unisex fragrance for that special rendezvous.” Notes: pepper, fennel, jasmine, rose, balsamic, amber, sandalwood, tonka.
Nightshift: “created for the night-blooming, fun and flirty female.” Notes: night jasmine, night phlox, moonflower, evening primrose, bergamot, mimosa, honeysuckle, vanilla, musk.
What’s really nice about the Harvey Prince fragrances is that they are offered in small 8.8 ml bottles, for a quite reasonable price: about $21 for the roll-on, $26 for the spray. The $60 “holiday set,” sent to me from Harvey Prince, contains six small bottles, and seems like a bargain. Check it out here.
Harvey Prince has kindly offered a giveaway drawing of a 1.7 oz (50ml) bottle of Eau Flirt. To enter, please follow my blog and “like” Harvey Prince on Facebook. For extra entries, you may follow Harvey Prince on Twitter, or mention this giveaway in a tweet or blog post. (Please delineate which extra options you’ll be adding, if any, in your comment.)
The drawing will be open from Tuesday, Dec. 27 through Friday, January 6, at 11:59 pm EST. Good luck to you! The draw is now closed.