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.
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.
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.
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.
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.