Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US: part II of the mini-reviews

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.

Estee Lauder Sensuous Nude – This is really lovely, if quiet, for about ten minutes. I get a nice citrus and pink pepper opening, and some nice soft synthetic jasmine, and then it does that Lauder thing I just hate. I managed forty minutes and had to scrub. Still, it’s a perfectly pleasant quiet musk skin scent, and I see why it sells. (Jovan Musk for Women and, for that matter, J Lo Glow, are both nicer if you ask my personal preference for a quiet musk skin scent. Or DSH Special Factor X.) On clothing rather than skin, it doesn’t make me feel nauseous, but I still don’t like it.

Fan di Fendi – okay, can I just say? Eeewwwww. Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, I’ll go on with a (slightly more) serious review. I get lemon-and-rubbing-alcohol topnotes, a coconut note, and a freaking ton of patchouli over an astringent woody-amber that keeps trying to shiv me in the eyeball. It smells like a number of other currently-popular, so-called-sexy fragrances easily available now, except uglier. It’s the top half of Light Blue surgically joined to the bottom half of reformulated Rumour, walking around in slutty animal-print nylon underwear and a garish makeup job, packing a machete and a maniacal glint in her eye.

Why would anyone wear this? SA’s were pushing it, and nobody really gave it a good sniff before throwing their credit card down? Huh. I predict this one only has novelty value, and drops out of the Top 20 next year.  However, I could be wrong.  Victoria at Bois de Jasmin liked it, and a number of other bloggers found it pleasant but nothing special, “just another fruity floral.”  Am I just grouchy?  I don’t think so – I’m finding it completely awful, and I tend to have much higher tolerance for fruity florals than a lot of bloggers do.

Prada Candy – I already wrote a mini-review of this, which I will republish here because it remains my opinion. “This one I was prepared to savage because I still hate the idea of grown women smelling like dessert, but I just can’t. It smells like, duh, candy, specifically caramel candy, which despite my dislike of frooty candy like Nerds, remains with me. Caramel sauce, caramel apples, chocolate-covered caramels? Yum. And Prada Candy is just as delicious, the rare gourmand that I enjoy. After a while, the caramel sort of wears off and you’re left with benzoin and vanilla, which is less edible but still nice. I suspect that my IQ drops about twenty points when I wear Candy. It makes me giggle.” I still have a couple of applications’ worth in my store sample spray, and I’m planning on using them up. I understand why this sells well: it’s friendly and sweet and giggly, and yet somehow not totally inane.

Taylor Swift Wonderstruck – bleargh, froot salad in Jell-O with vanilla pudding, followed by boring laundry musk. I mean, you know me – I really like a good berry-vanilla gourmand like Tauer Une Rose Vermeille or Hanae Mori, but this only starts out as gourmand. -Ish. Seriously, this is just simply Frooty Vanilla Laundry Musk. Bookworm liked it for about ten minutes, after which she changed her mind and decided it was dull. It is, however, at least inoffensive.  And the bottle is cute.

(Oh, Taylor, Taylor… sweetie, I know you’re young, but this is just all wrong. Barbie would scorn this. Darlin’, you know I’m a fan. Don’t take it personally, okay? Grow up a little and wear something that smells congruent with that lovely red lipstick you wear so well, and your polished appearance in public. I’m thinking… Cristalle, maybe. In the more-floral EdP.)

Thierry Mugler Angel – Good Lord, I hate this thing. Okay, okay, it’s groundbreaking and unusual and distinctive and all that, but it is truly hideous. I’ve already mentioned my fondness for berry-vanilla gourmands at least twice, and the topnotes here are toothsome. However, almost immediately they start a catfight with that patchouli-heavy fougere underneath them, and after about fourteen hours (one spritz! One! half a spritz, even!), the fight’s over and I’m the one lying bleeding in the alley, with a splitting headache.

I still can’t believe I managed to not scrub this off. Oh, the things I suffer for my Art! (Collapses onto chaise longue, raises back of hand to forehead. Sighs gustily. Peeks to see if anybody bought the act.)

I see why people buy Angel: it is distinctive, and its gender-bending tension is certainly dramatic. It gets attention. It has a big personality. Also, it is quite the bang for your buck – it radiates like nuclear waste and lasts for days. But I repeat my earlier comment: it is truly hideous, nauseating and dreadful. The sooner this one goes away, the happier I will be. (I know it won’t go away. Dang.)

Part III will appear some time next week, after I have time to go back to the mall and spritz and ponder awhile, and Part IV the week following… I was planning to have posted a Three-way Fragrance Throwdown today, but I haven’t finished it.  Oops!  Look for that next Friday.

All images from Fragrantica.

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30 Responses to Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US: part II of the mini-reviews

  1. Kathleen says:

    “Barbie would scorn this” – beverage just came out my nose…AWESOME!

    Now, I need to quit reading and Tweeting and write about some Clinique.

    • mals86 says:

      Thanks! I do like me some Taylor Swift, but BOY was I disappointed in Wonderstruck…

      (Clinique what? Skin care & makeup? I’m just nosy.)

      • Kathleen says:

        Today was Aromatics Elixir day for me, just posted. I’m doing them in alphabetic order, then going back and back and catching Coco Mademoiselle last.

        • mals86 says:

          Ooh, you’re way more organized than I am. Do you have a blog, or are you posting at Ari’s?

          Actually, I’m going to have to drive quite a ways to get hold of some AE at the mall in my parents’ town. They don’t have it here.

  2. tammy says:

    I have no doubt that the juice is horrendous, but I don’t see how I am going to be able to resist that Wonderstruck bottle. I hope it hits the discount sites soon…Ima have to buy it!

    I haven’t tried many Estee Lauder perfumes, but Lancome is the house for that has that “thing”.

    I love the initial minutes of almost all their perfumes, but within half an hour, something shows up that makes me feel anxious. It’s very bizarre. I especially loved Mille & en Rose, but I can’t wear it longer than 20 minutes or so without a sense of impending doom.

    • mals86 says:

      I know, I know – the Wonderstruck bottle is just So. Cute. Pretty shape, pretty color, pretty charm thingy.

      So Lancome is bad for you… I feel for you, I really do. “Impending doom” is a great descriptor for whatever-it-is that just shows up out of nowhere and flattens you. (Une Rose makes me feel hunted. I kept checking behind the doors.) MeuR is very pretty, but I traded my mini bottle away because I didn’t love it. I do love Climat and Cuir, but those were both La Collection, and discontinued. Did Cuir do that Doom thing to you, too?

      • tammy says:

        I haven’t tried either. I am quite sure I’d l love Climat, but I just haven’t gotten to it yet! And the Cuir…well, leather is not my thing, and since I already know Lancome hates me, I never tried it, either.

        I am currently having a torrid affair with Chanel 19 and Jubilation 25!

        • mals86 says:

          You might not get on with Cuir or Climat – I just wondered. I am something of a leather wimp – I like it as an accent, not the focus (I do NOT like Cuir de Russie at all, or Bandit either).

          No. 19 is worthy of a torrid affair. Jub 25 I don’t care much for, but I shouldn’t have been surprised; it’s a fruity chypre. I like the (men’s) XXV, though, it’s a nice incense.

          • mals86 says:

            And should ‘splain – Cuir de Lancome is as at least as floral as it is “good leather handbag.”

          • tammy says:

            It’s a fruity chypre? OMG, all I get is the most glorious warm cumin (could be tarragon I am reading as cumin, though) and enough aldehydes to give it a little French feel. It reminds me most of Party In Manhattan, which is my HG.

            But then we both my nose is worthless. I never have gotten any rose out of L’Arte de Gucci!

          • mals86 says:

            “Fruity chypre” for Jub 25 is what most bloggers are calling it… and yes, there’s cumin in there (probably tarragon too – I didn’t get the full ride because I wound up scrubbing).

            I can see how your nose would get overwhelmed by all the other STUFF in L’Arte, but the rose is pretty clear to me.

  3. Tiara says:

    “slutty animal-print nylon underwear and a garish makeup job, packing a machete and a maniacal glint in her eye”….reminds me of a woman I worked with many years ago.

    Cannot imagine SPRAYING Angel. One drop on my wrist is all I can handle but it smells great on me.

    • mals86 says:

      Oh no oh no… I reminded you of the evil colleague. (Wait, she walked around in her underwear? Or you just imagined the slutty animal-print skivvies were there?)

      Well, the Angel sample came in a spray bottle. Maybe I’d have had LESS of a headache from a drop, but I bet you money I’d still have had a headache. I did sort of goose the sprayer until it dripped, instead of giving myself a good healthy squirt the way I’d have done with something less, um, like Godzilla.

      • Tiara says:

        Just imagined her in bizarre undies because the rest of her clothing was, um, interesting! She always had a bit of that crazy, dangerous vibe surrounding her and was often described as brassy. However, she was intelligent, efficient, and one of the most kind-hearted individuals I ever worked with. The book cover gave no clue to what was inside.

  4. Jen says:

    You have nailed Fan di Fendi perfectly. What a piece of crap (sorry). I was astounded that that mess came from Fendi!

    • mals86 says:

      I’ve not been a huge fan of the house, so I wasn’t expecting much – Theorema was nice, but it didn’t move me. Fan is truly horrendous.

  5. annemariec says:

    You’ve had a really bad bunch this time! I admire your courage. Speaking of ghastly tho’, I spritzed Diesel’s Loverdose today. I just cannot begin to tell you how abhorrent … so I won’t …

    What have you been wearing as an antidote to all this stuff?

    • mals86 says:

      It has been a bad batch! Haven’t seen Loverdose, and I doubt it will show up at my local mall… but I’ll be sure to avoid it if it does!

      When not testing icky stuff, I’ve been wearing Chamade and Plum and Voile de Fleur. They do make up for it.

  6. RusticDove says:

    I enjoyed my sample of Prada Candy. It actually reminded me of Mariah Carey M, but it’s much more nicely done. But the caramel note does bring the ‘toasted marshmellow’ note of M to mind.

    You crack me up with your aversion to EL! It’s one of the mainstream houses that I really like. I love Tuberose Gardenia from the Private Collection and I have a bottle of the original Sensuous too. I enjoy some of their older classics too – yes, even Youth Dew, which I know makes some folks run screaming.

    Enjoyed your mini reviews C!

    • mals86 says:

      I think I smelled M in a store a couple of years ago, but it didn’t make much impression and I can’t remember it!

      I do wish I could wear the Lauders. I don’t know what it is in the base (if I knew, I could just avoid…) that makes me so nauseated. PCTG had less of whatever-it-is than most of the others do, and in case you missed last week’s installment, Beautiful was really great on my scarf and never turned my stomach at all. I mean, I COULD start wearing Lauders on my clothes, apparently, but it seems so pointless, when I have all these other things that I already love!

  7. unseencenser says:

    Mals, you made me laugh with a lot of these. And of course you are quite correct, though I struggle to find something Deeper in some of these bestsellers.

    I picked up that Wonderstruck bottle in the Sephora today while tracking down J’adore, and I have to say I loved the deep glittery purple of it. With the charms. Because I am five. Sadly though, your assessment of the juice is totally correct. I didn’t bother to put it on.

    I’m going to go back to my sample of Fan di Fendi, though, because I didn’t find it as objectionable as you did. I was going to compare it to original Fendi and see what I thought.

    The more I smell of these fragrances, though, the more I want to go back to my own collection and bathe in things I actually *like*.

    • mals86 says:

      If I could buy that Wonderstruck bottle and put something else IN it, I’d be happy. It is adorable.

      I may be sensitive to something in Fan di Fendi, but I did truly think it was awwwwwful. As in, how in the world did this even get released?

      It is amazing to me that so many of these fragrances smell so terribly *chemical* – and I begin to see why the anti-fragrance people are increasingly vocal. Hardly anything from this list smells natural (No. 5, but less natural in anything but the parfum, maybe Candy… and some of the Lauders, but as always I can’t wear those). I’ve been spoiled.

      • unseencenser says:

        I was thinking the same thing, but I get reluctant to say it, since as you say there are people ready to jump on the “perfume is toxic” bandwagon. I feel physically uncomfortable sniffing some of these things, and I feel sure that they contain ingredients that will one day be banned but just haven’t yet (given the thorough and scientific testing procedures of – oh wait.) Even a Guerlain or a Chanel, that might make some claim to natural ingredients but clearly have not that many, don’t cause the same kind of reaction as this stuff.

        After smelling a lot of this stuff I came home to put on some Untitled No. 7 – which is an oil.

  8. Pingback: The Top 20 Roundup! « Scents of Self

  9. Natalie says:

    I’m totally with you on the Fendi. Ick. On the other hand, I do still like Sensuous Nude and may even get a bottle when summer rolls around.

    I admire you, Ari, and the others for doing these mainstream reviews. I often think mainstream deserves to be taken a little more seriously than it is, but maybe that’s just my wishful thinking.

  10. Pingback: Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US: part III of the mini-reviews

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