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

If you thought Part III was a bad bunch, just wait. This was worse, waaay worse, way the heck past worse and into Will the Horror Never Stop? I am warning you now: snark will ensue. Sensitive people should go read one of my more cheerful reviews instead. (Try Mary Greenwell Plum, or Carnal Flower. Better yet, try reading my review of SSS Nostalgie, which costs less than any of these fragrances and was handmade with love and skill by somebody who still knows what real flowers smell like.)

Here’s the fourth and final installment of mini-reviews of the most popular women’s fragrances in the US last year.  For Part I, click here, for Part II, click here, for Part III, click here, and for the description of the original project, click here

Also, I hate this bottle.

Burberry Body – My lovely Chanel SA wears this. She likes it because it smells like “skin, only better.” I couldn’t actually smell it on her, so I tried it on my skin. Body starts with pale fruity topnotes, a few pale floral notes (freesia? rose?), some pallid woods, a translucent amber and a small amount of what I call “skin” musk – a nice warm/clean musk that does evoke skin rather than industrial laundry. Body radiates about half an inch from my skin, even sprayed liberally, and I imagine that’s what its wearers really like about it. If you bathed in it and walked out the door to choir practice, not even that prima donna first soprano who claims her throat closes up when she smells perfume would notice. Pleasant, but more like the ghost of scent than actual fragrance. Apparently they make a Body Intense as well. They needed to.

The hideous one.

Chanel Chance – I keep smelling and resmelling Chance, thinking “There is just no way that Chanel put something this awful in a bottle.”  But yes.  Chance smells like Light Blue on the Walk of Shame home, with stale smoke and vomit on her clothes: chemical “fresh” topnote, synthetic jasmine, musk underneath, amber gone rancid under that, cleaned-up patchouli screeching away under everything.  Truly, truly awful, and I even walked around with this thing on my wrist for four hours this time instead of just smelling it on a strip.  The things I suffer for my art!  (Collapses onto chaise longue, back of hand to forehead.  Opens one eye to see if anybody bought the act.)

No, seriously, Chance is maybe the worst-composed disaster currently being sold in my local mall (bar those tropical nightmare things Bath & Body Works is flogging at the moment). Trust me. I checked. I have, over the past couple of years, smelled everything they have, everything – and nothing is more dreadful than Chance. Not Miss Dior Cherie, which I find hideous. Not Beyonce Heat, which smells like hot peach syrup and rubbing alcohol. Not Youth Dew, which I also hate to the depths of my being, but which at the very least smells like it was meant to smell. Chance smells like a complete accident in the lab, a cruel joke by some lab assistant (“Let’s mix twenty vials randomly and see if anybody can tell the difference!”)

On the off-chance (ha! Chance!) that the tester at my mall has just gone off, I tried it from a pristine spray sample offered me by the lovely Chanel SA. Nope. Same how-in-the-world-did-the-guy-who-created-this-not-lose-his-job? mess. Why do people keep buying this thing?  Edit: the perfumer was Jacques Polge, who is no dummy.  I suspect this one was completely brief-driven, and I wonder if he’s proud of Chance.

The not-bad one.

Chance Eau Fraiche – Oddly, un-hideous. Not distinctive, not unusual, not bad. Smells a lot like Light Blue, but its fruity-citrusy topnotes are not as high-pitched. Pale florals, pale woods (cedar?), something that reminds me of green tea, and white musk follow the citrus-hyacinth top, and it lasts about three hours. At least they called it Eau Fraiche, so I don’t feel cheated. It is perhaps the least worst of Part IV. I liked it better than Light Blue, as far as that goes, and I didn’t hate Light Blue as much as I’d expected I would.

The "Are you sure there's something in that bottle?" one. Also, that poor model has been Photoshopped into Gumby-shape.


Chance Eau Tendre – This doesn’t offend me. I almost wish it would, because if it offended me, at least I would be smelling it. On paper, it lasts twenty minutes. On skin, about sixty-five. No lie. Tested it twice, two hefty sprays in the same place both times, using the “spray-until-wet” technique that usually works to keep light scents like Goutal florals in place for more than nanoseconds. My wrist was literally dripping. An hour and fifteen minutes later, nuthin’. Nuthin.’ I could barely smell it while it was on skin anyway. (I think peony. Peony? Freesia? Lily? Hyacinth? Not sure.) It’s very floral while I can actually smell it.

The lovely Chanel SA told me that Chance Eau Tendre was her best-selling Chanel fragrance. “People are passing up No. 5 Eau Premiere for Chance Eau Tendre?” I asked her. She nodded. “And Coco Mademoiselle?” She nodded again. And then my brain exploded, so I can’t tell you any more.

Clinique Aromatics Elixir – The second time I went by the Clinique counter there was a different SA manning it, not the one who had told me that she didn’t have a tester for Aromatics Elixir. I had access!

What I did not have was the will to put this nuclear-powered, vicious greenie on my wrist. Nope. Chickened out and put it on a scent strip… which made the drive home with The CEO a little, um, fraught. We’d been chatting idly about how everything at the mall counter seems to smell exactly like everything else, all glorified shower gel. So then I took the AE scent strip out of the little Belk bag the nice Chanel SA had been so kind as to give me, as a sort of refutation that eeeeverything smells like shower gel.

Because AE does not smell even remotely like shower gel. It smells, to me, like (there is just no way I can say this politely!) urine. I get green notes – herbal stuff and patchouli and moss – and, I think, marigold and jasmine or other white florals, and some labdanum and a huuuge geranium-rose in there someplace, as well as some woody notes, possibly cedar. Also some of that balsamic thing that I really hate but which fits here with the balsamic-patchouli-woody character. There is a definite whiff of stale urine to AE. I mean, it’s distinctive all right, and I honestly think I could handle smelling it on someone else better than I could on me, but pee? Gah. The funny thing is, I usually like blackcurrant buds, and they don’t usually smell like pee to me. But AE does. Edit: the notes list indicates sage, which Luca Turin mentions as smelling urinous to some people. Guess that’s me.

However, AE may just be the winner of round IV, because it ACTUALLY HAS A SMELL THAT IS NOT GLORIFIED SHOWER GEL. I still don’t like it, and IMO, Estee Lauder Knowing totally kicks Aromatics Elixir’s butt for wearability among vicious green fragrances, but there it is. Something I don’t like is, unbelievably, the best-smelling fragrance of the Part IV bunch.

Further edit: three days later, the scent strip with AE on it smells lovely, a nice floral-soapy thing with plenty of waft. I stuck the strip in amongst my towels.

Gah. Now I am supremely depressed. Honestly, when Tresor Midnight Rose is the best-smelling thing you try at the fragrance counter, how can you not be depressed? (This may not be quite fair: I did not have skin space for No. 5 or Esprit d’Oscar, or even my rice-pudding guilty pleasure Marc Jacobs Daisy. Those would not have depressed me. Still. I’m depressed anyway.)

All photos are from Fragrantica.


21 thoughts on “Top 20 Bestselling Women’s Fragrances of 2011 in the US: part IV of the mini-reviews”

  1. This set of reviews is hilarious! Love!

    I can appreciate Aromatics Elixir even if it’s not something I’m particularly tempted to wear. I keep hoping to find the Aromatics Elixir Perfumer’s Reserve in the wild but haven’t; I was hoping/thinking that it might be like Eau Premiere, a nice wearable updated version of the fragrance (not that original No. 5 isn’t eminently more wearable than AE, though).

    The Chances are completely dreck. I will admit to kind of liking Burberry Body, there are times while I like that kind of very light, humming skin scent. If someone gave me a bottle I’d definitely wear it, but am I gonna go out and buy it… no…

    I want to do the Top 20 reviews myself; see here, you’ve finished and I haven’t even started!!

    1. Oh BOY, did I not have fun researching them. Writing them? Yeah. That’s the only pleasure I got out of this set, honestly. It was a disappointing last batch; I suppose I inadvertently grouped them so that the ones I liked wound up in the front half.

      Body is so Not There. I don’t mind a skin scent, but gosh, I don’t want to pay that much for it! And yeah, AE was the best out of this bunch even though I don’t want to smell like that at all… I think the PR version was only in certain stores for a limited time.

      I’m DONE because I didn’t do full reviews… 😉

  2. I love the occasional snark, so I got a kick out of these. The only thing on this list I’ve tried is Aromatics Elixir, and it was HORRIBLE on me. Which is really too bad, because it’s the signature scent of the aide Spud had last year, and she smelled amazing in it. Absolutely glorious.

    1. Constant snark is not so much fun as occasional snark.

      I am sure there are people who wear AE well! Especially if the application is delicate – but if not, hoo boy. Now I understand that the SA who told me they didn’t have a tester was just skeered of it.

  3. Love the snark!
    I’m glad it wasn’t just me with the Burberry Body. I was at Nordstrom and gave it a hefty spray on my wrist. By the time I walked out I had my nose glued to my wrist trying to smell it so I could figure out what it smelled like. I walked past Neiman’s and Sephora and by the time I got to the Burberry store I couldn’t smell anything. Nada. So I went in there and gave myself two more hefty, dripping wet sprays. By the time I made it to the end of the parking lot to cross the street to walk home, I was back to barely being able to smell thing. I thought my sense of smell was going and that the only scents I’d be able to smell are the sillage bombs like AE.
    Love your review of Chance. My husband gave me a bottle of it that he picked up in Duty Free on some business trip. It’s been tucked away in the back of my closet forever. Wonder if he’d notice it, if it was gone. Problem is, how to get rid of it. I’m sure no one wants to buy or swap for it. And I feel guilty throwing it out.

    1. Yeah, Body is almost not there at all. It’s just SO pale.

      Wonder if you’ve thought of selling your Chance on eBay – I bet it would go for a reasonable sum there. I agree, probably it’s not going to be a big draw for other perfumistas. Some of the things I have to get rid of (see the Shop my perfume cabinet page) are not big perfumista draws either.

    2. Maybe I’m confusing it with another perfume, but I seem to remember thinking Chance was not that bad on my skin. Or maybe I just have an odd appreciation for dreck. I wonder if I have anything you’d want to swap for …

  4. “Vicious green fragrances” (great tag line!!) love me and I love them right back. Although Aromatics Elixir requires the lightest of touches… I am usually more than happy just wearing the body lotion which has a lot of sillage itself.

    I am also a Chanel girl but have never tried Chance funnily enough. It just hasn’t ever called out to me. In the interests of research I must give it a go.

    1. I wonder if I’d do better with the body lotion of AE? I did really like the drydown. And I like green fragrances, but seems I need a LOT of floral in them. There are florals in AE, they’re just buried under the herbal stuff…

      Oh, go ahead and try Chance! (I tend to do quite well with Chanels myself.) Just don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.

  5. I tried Burberry Body at my Ulta. I sprayed one wrist and sniffed. It was not a scrubber so I sprayed the other wrist. Went to look at nail polish with my daughter and I swear in the time it took for her to pick two colors and me to pay I could not smell anything at all. I felt like an idiot huffing my wrist to try to smell something, anything!

  6. “Light Blue on the walk of shame” ha ha ha. Thanks for the laugh. 🙂

    I do not like any of these. I’m so not Top 20 material, I guess.

  7. I just went back and read the full list, and I do actually like one of the Top 20: Sensuous Nude. And if we’re counting different concentrations, Angel EdT.

    1. Oh, I did not like that. But then I have trouble with Lauders.

      Haven’t tried Angel EdT, though I’ve heard it’s more easily wearable. It’s just that anything with that much patchouli in it is pretty much guaranteed to annoy me.

  8. I enjoyed reading these reviews much more than I smelling those perfumes themselves.

    Many years ago when they’ve just released Chance and I was still wearing predominantly mainstream perfumes, I worked really hard on getting to like Chance. I was telling myself it was from Chanel, it was modern, popular, etc. And I didn’t succed. Every time I would put it on my wrist (at the time they were giving away samples right and left – with purchase, without purchase, for just looking towards the counter…), I would immediately feel nauseous. I think I do not have it even in my scents library any more – that’s how much I disliked it. I’m not sure if I’ve ever even smelled any of its flankers (why bother?) but I think I’ll be fine.

    1. Good to know – this last bunch was so awful that writing snarky reviews was the only way to get some pleasure out of them. Bleargh.

      Yeah, don’t bother smelling the Chance flankers. (Though I admit I liked Eau Fraiche better than the original.)

  9. Hi Mals, I just googled ‘What’s the best selling Chanel perfume’ and came up with your blog page for the 20 best womens fragrances 2011. You’re so funny… and so right!!! I agreed with everything you had to say. Being a perfume addict myself I’ve whiffed the best and the worst of them. I have an all time favourite that I keep going back to which is Lacoste pour femme. Wonder what you think of that one? Anyhow I’ve subscribed to your blog and look forward to reading more. Toodle loo for now 🙂 Jo

    1. Welcome, Jo! Glad you found the blog and decided to comment… yeah, we’re all addicts around here. 🙂 I’m not familiar with Lacoste pour femme, but that may be because my local mall is not well stocked. If I run across it, I’ll certainly give it a sniff.

      I did find a review by one of my favorite bloggers, who’s on something of a hiatus now but who has wonderful taste: You might enjoy that blog as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *