Monday, June 30, 2008
vintage perfume ad of the day: Giorgio Beverly Hills
What can you say about this perfume, application of which was practically mandated by law at one time? You see the packaging and a boat of memories comes floating back. In one of these memories, it's high school, between classes, and you're approaching the cool girls in the hallway, wishing you could evaporate, because you really don't feel like dealing with their shit, they're such a clique, really they just want to spread shit about people, which you could never really understand, because if you're so fantastic, if you're so great, why do you need to waste so much time talking trash? What are you trying to prove? That you're not the one who's ugly? That you're not as average, as generally unexceptional, as you worry you might be? As you get closer to their crowd, they contract in toward some unseen nucleus of exclusion, their backs to you, and your stomach sinks, then tightens, then you're like, Oh get over it, grow up, this is only High School, and you remember what your mother always says, "They're just jealous, that's all, green with envy." Then you remember how ridiculously out of touch your mother sounds when she says that, so ridiculously out of touch that you can't possibly be reassured by it. So they're jealous. So what. You still have to deal with them everyday. And of course as you pass there are tremors of laughter, that heartless cackle indigenous to the shallow. They're probably commenting on your hair, or your shirt, the way you're holding your books: they take pains to make sure you can't tell exactly what they're ostracizing you for, so you can't actually change something to win their acceptance, and instead will feel an overall nagging sense of inferiority. You look ahead to get through it, beyond them to a time when these girls will be bitter and disappointed, waiting at home for The Guy, who is out making money but will come home smelling like stale office coffee and upholstery that sees a high quotient of fat asses per day. You can see how their bitterness will have shaped them; their figures, their faces, their outlooks. How boring they'll be. And where will they go, what will they do, with no one, with nothing to contract into? Like you, they wear Giorgio, but the similarities end there. For them it's badge, for you it's armor. It keeps their laughter at bay, drowning it out with the white noise of near-stink. You can't put it on or smell it without seeing those yellow and white stripes, a sunny prison consigning you to life among your "peers". Even the bottle is brutal, shaped like a club, like something you'd hit someone over the head with. It hides who you really are, protecting that, so you can preserve it for a time safe enough to bring it out, if a time like that ever comes. It doesn't matter what Giorgio smells like, or whether you actually like it. It's part of your school uniform. What matters is, they can't get through it to you.
Dandy of the Day: Isabella Blow (1958-2007)
"...to keep everyone away from me. They say, Oh, can I kiss you? I say, No, thank you very much. That's why I've worn the hat. Goodbye. I don't want to be kissed by all and sundry. I want to be kissed by the people I love."Toward the end of her life, Blow had become seriously depressed and was reportedly anguished over her inability to "find a home in a world she influenced". Other pressures included money problems (Blow was disinherited by her father in 1994). On May 6, 2007, during a weekend house party at Hilles, where the guests included Treacy and his life partner, Stefan Bartlett, Blow announced that she was going shopping. Instead, she was later discovered collapsed on a bathroom floor by her sister Lavinia and was taken to the hopsital, where Blow told the doctor she had drunk the weedkiller Paraquat. She died at the hospital the following day.
Images of Blow, in which her inimitable spirit is abundantly apparent, remain iconic illustrations of committed individualism. We at I Smell Therefore I Am believe that Blow might have worn any of the following:
Robert Piguet's Fracas - tuberose softened in butter.
Frederic Malle's Carnal Flower - the exact moment of
Ava Luxe Midnight Violet - a bed of violet glowing under the moon, the smell wafting upwards with each step taken through the woods.
Annick Goutal's Sables - a bonfire in the field, its smoke surrounding you, leaving with you on your clothes.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
This Week at the Perfume Counter: In which your roving I Smell Therefore I Am reporter makes the marketplace rounds, nostrils flared
Dry Spell: Dreaming Dune
Saturday, June 28, 2008
80s Perfume Ad of the Day
Teo Cabanel Alahine, A Review
A quick background on Teo Cabanel:
Teo Cabanel is a small perfumery originally established in
The listed notes are as follows:
Top notes: bergamot, ylang ylang
Middle notes: bulgarian rose, moroccan orange tree, jasmine, pepper plant
Base notes: iris concrete, cistus, patchouli, benzoin, vanilla, musk
The listed notes don’t smell anything like the fragrance to me. Overall, I find Alahine to be a smooth, perfectly done, ambery oriental. This is one of the rare times when I read other reviews of Alahine and wonder if there’s something wrong with my nose. For me, Alahine opens with a burst of ever-so-slight citrus & floral notes, that are truly unrecognizable, I really can’t pick out the bergamot or ylang ylang or rose or jasmine, it’s all very well blended into a scent that, for me, is unique to Alahine. Very quickly it turns into a velvety amber, that is the most sophisticated and deluxe amber I have ever smelled. Alahine is oriental amber extreme with the most wondrous complexity that seems to include hints of pepper, musk, benzoin, sandalwood and patchouli. Alahine dries down fast; I would estimate it takes only 10 minutes for it to settle into the final fragrance that will last on your skin for hours.
Alahine is particularly well-mannered. It never screams, appears overdone or is even too soft or subtle. It has perfect lasting power and sillage; on my skin I’d say it lasts easily 4-6 hours and the sillage is just enough for those close to you to smell it. I imagine Alahine wafting around me all day in circles - swirling and swirling like an accomplished and practiced ballerina. I’m choosing these words very specifically; Alahine, if she were a person, would be accomplished and practiced. Alahine, if she were a person would be sophisticated, polite and charming. Ms. Alahine would be wearing the most beautifully crafted, high-quality dress, perhaps custom made for her, however, it wouldn’t shout out to you in a crowd, it would be tastefully classic. Ms. Alahine is the sort of woman at a party that effortlessly works the room, most everyone comes by to speak with her anyway, she doesn’t request the attention, others just magnetically flock to her. She’s a born charmer, with naturally pretty features, she’s the epitome of class and distinction, yet humble and kind.
I’ve never sought out ambery oriental perfumes before. I still don’t typically rush to purchase fragrances described as such even now. Alahine is perhaps my first ambery oriental love. Maybe I don’t know of the others that smell like this so I don’t have anything to compare it with; nevertheless, I think it is exceptionally beautiful. Alahine is one of the few “uncommon” perfumes that I wear which always receives compliments. And, not that I’m supposed to care very much about the packaging, but the bottle is so lovely and elegant. Everything about Teo Cabanel, and especially Alahine, is just beautiful.
Juliette Has a Gun: A Review
Juliette Has a Gun: Lady Vengeance
I love the name.
The marketing is brilliant.
The box and bottle are tres chic.
But the juice is “meh.”
Juliette Has a Gun: Miss Charming
Same as above review for Lady Vengeance.
Their new fragrance launches this fall, I hope it’s good, otherwise I think Juliette Has a Gun is one of those niche lines that might not make it.
Friday, June 27, 2008
Angela nailed it: We're Sensualist Geeks
Yesterday I read the post by Angela at Now Smell This, shaking my head in agreement and laughing out loud. Almost all the comments that followed her post vibrated like bees in a hive working for the same purpose, having similar motivations and all pursuing their ultimate pleasure…pleasure itself.
Thursday, June 26, 2008
An Open Letter to Annick Menardo
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
vintage perfume ad of the day: YSL Cologne
Rooms With a View: Jasmine et Cigarette and Rien
Etat too sets out with a proposal, and the perfumes just as arguably aspire to a state of mind. The difference is that woman. It isn’t that she’s not there. Someone, man or woman, most certainly could be. It isn’t even that great pains have been taken to keep whoever this person is unspecified. It’s just that the people at Etat, like those at Comme des Garçons, are more interested in place and thing than person, per se. Where is this place? What does it feel like? What does the air smell like? What are the objects in the room, or building, or landscape? What just happened here—or might if you stick around? The mood is not that of a woman in her element, whatever that might be, but of the elements themselves.
The Connection between Serge Lutens & Jason Mraz
The original song, Summer Breeze, was written and performed in 1972 by Seals & Croft.
Jason Mraz did a cover of Summer Breeze that rocks my world.
I was driving home from the office this evening when Summer Breeze came on the radio. It made me think of… I mean… it actually made me smell Serge Lutens A La Nuit.
To me, this is a musical rendition of Lutens A La Nuit. Is it possible that listening to music can cause an olfactory hallucination? Well, I would have to say, yes, it’s possible, because it happens to me.
Please have a listen…and enjoy some Jason Mraz….
Why Luca Turin Matters
Because perfume is art, though people will tell you otherwise. These are the people who once said--perhaps still say--that photography isn’t art, either. Perfume is sculpture; composition on an often imaginary canvas. It depicts and portrays, interprets, can be figurative, representational, abstract, surreal. Perfume paints a picture which is seen differently according to who's looking and where it’s put on display.
Because perfume is science, and memory, emotional and inarticulate, and someone who can speak eloquently, with intelligence, technical precision, and imagination about it is practically a godsend in a world which can barely remember what it was doing thirty years ago, let alone yesterday. Someone who does remember, and can elucidate how perfume and memory interplay, applying science without killing the delicate sense of mystery intrinsic to this exchange, is more than a Godsend. In a world without God, he's an expression of faith.
Because he treats perfume as if it is worthy of excitement, and passion, and the money we spend on it, and the fantasies we build around it. Because he doesn’t regard time or money spent on perfume to be time or money wasted. He treats the great perfumes as if they were wonders of creation, which they are, and describes them in ways which value and encourage our engagement with them. Because he treats our disappointment in those which pander to our dollar at the cost of our intellect with respect and empathy, recognizing that art is serious and trust sacred.
Because he has a sense of humor—about himself, about obsession, about ego, failures and successes, the absurd and the sublime. Question: How many people at Caron does it take to fuck up the classics? Answer: the more the messier. Because he has a bullshit detector. He works at his writing. It's informative and entertaining. Angry and blissed out, with exquisite cadences and finely-measured, poetic description. Because he isn't afraid to hold an opinion, or get it off his hands by putting it out in the open. Because many people are afraid of having an opinion at this point and literally have nothing to say which hasn't been fed to them, subliminally or otherwise. Because he's an incredible stylist with a sharp pen, and his talent qualifies him as the Dorothy Parker of perfume criticism.
Because he wouldn’t wince at this comparison. Because his bullshit detector specializes in the realm of gender codes and prehistoric sex role stereotypes. Why shouldn’t a man wear Magie Noire? Shouldn’t he, simply because you say he shouldn’t? Because by expressing unqualified enthusiasm for feminines and masculines alike he collapses those categories as we understand them, and liberates the mind to think about art freely, without the imposed restrictions of shame and conditioned perception.
Because he takes manufacturers to task for butchering perfume “formulas”, recognizing that the word formula belies a weird alchemical ecosystem where, with one change, an entire world of associations changes, perhaps forever, destroying memories, robbing people of their pasts, defacing art and devaluing history. Because he knows that continuing to treat perfume as photography rather than art allows such criminal behavior to pass off as business, when really it isn’t even good business, as anyone desperate to throw down cash for the real Emeraude would attest.
Because for people who care about perfume Luca Turin is a dream come true.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Dandy of the Day
"Specifically, Brick Red," he added.
Dear Abby did not respond.
He believes great, even obsessive care should be taken in one's dress and the dressing of one's friends. Enemies can fend for themselves, but he gives them enough rope. His appearance outside people's bedrooms at the break of dawn is not altogether unheard of. From the window, he makes discreet, attentive suggestions. Do not please inflict yourself upon the nylon green blouse, his eyes sigh. Even nylon deserves a better hue.
He wears Guerlain--specifically, L'Heure Bleue. It reminds him of a dense, textured sky. Over which: a field. Wind eddies through the grass, creating elaborate patterns. Birds fly overhead with the common sense to recognize that they are purely decorative. The rodents stay clear of the picture, out of common decency. There is a torte in the field which has not yet been discovered by the ants. He decides to eat the torte, the freshly-baked scent of which wafts in filigreed vapors up to his nostrils and straight back to his childhood, where a bed bedecked in twill and velvet and satin and brocade awaits his arrival.
Generation Sap: Fath de Fath
What gives you pause is that first dry down, during which you detect something ever so slightly off-putting. That smell is Benzoin. An ingredient in many fragrances, typically oriental variants, Benzoin is a resin derived from a tree or shrub of the same name (more formally, Styrax Tonkiniensis) which is native to Indochina. Incisions are made in the bark, through which the tree excretes a honey-colored sap. During the process of cultivation, this viscous material hardens. The food industry uses Benzoin as a flavor additive in gum, pudding, soft drinks, and candy, a cheaper substitute for vanilla. Its aroma is sweetly balsamic, vaguely woody—a glass of soda left out overnight, tart and flat. Benzoin works excellently as a fixative and shows up in the basenotes of many fragrance pyramids. In some scents its presence is more easily discernable. The well-orchestrated symphony of Opium renders it all but invisible, and yet it affords that overall composition a certain resinous heft. Body Kouros aerates it with the addition of eucalyptus. Dune qualifies as one of the strangest, most imaginative uses of benzoin, pairing it with Aldehydes; the bright, shimmering form you first ascertain turns out to be a mirage, and you're left with a vast expanse of hollow, spectral diffusion. In contrast, L’Instant, Obsession for Men, and Shalimar employ benzoin with considerable subtlety. Fendi Theorema uses it more transparently, augmenting its waxen character with dewy fruit. Par Amour features it perhaps even more pronouncedly than Fath de Fath, resulting in a rose by way of Madame Tussaud’s. Tuscany per Donna livens things up with carnation.
The top notes of Fath de Fath reportedly include cassis, mandarin, lemon, and pear. Lily of the valley, Heliotrope, and Orange blossom manage somehow to tame the beast of tuberose in the heart of the fragrance. If no one told you, you might not even sense it there. The patchouli in the basenotes likely contributes to keeping the low profile. Tonka, which smells of hay, is often included alongside benzoin, as it is here. Fath de Fath resembles Bal a Versailles in some respects, substituting the uncanny, destabilizing influence of benzoin for civet. The fragrance bridges trends from vastly different eras, lightening up a classic sensibility, transcending time and place in the process. Ultimately, there’s something slightly askew in its elegant diffusion, modernizing and dating it simultaneously. It would be as out of place in the fifties as it was in the nineties, and maybe everywhere in between. That dissonance can be quite attractive in a perfume, and in Fath de Fath it creates a subtle dichotomous frisson, like the heavy bass of Beck rattling the windows on a restored Bentley. In the final analysis, Fath de Fath might just drag your mother into the 21st Century, if she’s agreeable to the idea—or perhaps it will encourage you to meet her halfway.
Monday, June 23, 2008
Frederic Malle, Le Parfum de Thérèse: A Review
I’ve read that Le Parfum de Thérèse is Edmond Roudnitska’s concept of olfactory beauty, incandescent, ever-changing composition that is both soulful and awe-inspiring.
It took me awhile to try Le Parfum de Thérèse (henceforth LPdT) because I rushed off to try Carnal Flower and Lipstick Rose first. When I finally did try LPdT I felt I’d wasted valuable time, valuable sniffing and swooning time, because it’s just so heartbreakingly beautiful. I wish I’d come to know it sooner.
Others smell all sorts of melon, plum, oranges and leather. I think they smell this because it’s in the list of notes; it’s the power of suggestion working on them. I suppose if I smell it closely, too closely in my book, I could pick out these fruits, definitely the orange and some rose and jasmine, but I try not to dissect. As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, I prefer to evaluate the perfume, the work as a whole, the way it smells as it wafts up to my nose from the keyboard as I type this, or as a lover might smell it on me in an embrace.
Thérèse, Mr. Roudnitska’s wife, was one lucky lady. Le Parfum de Thérèse is a stunning masterpiece. There’s a definite wildness to it, a very natural, fresh, joyous wildness, the way one might smell if you were to go for a picnic, stretch out on a blanket in a meadow on the loveliest day in June. LPdT smells to me as if you fell asleep during your afternoon picnic, took a little nap on your blanket, and awoke to find yourself smelling of everything around you; clovers, grass, herbs, all the ripe fruits and wine you brought in your basket and the leather of the horses saddle. (Yes, you rode a horse to this perfect little picnic, this IS a fantasy, mind you.) The top notes do burst with a very fruity sweetness, but this is temporary. I find LPdT to be a kaleidescope of aroma - not layered one on top of the other - but rather, each note tumbles around and around and lingers in the middle/heart notes for eternity.
Le Parfum de Thérèse is a complex scent in that is simultaneously fresh, warm, sweet, tangy, tame, wild and salty. LPdT is traditionally feminine with a little edge, a slight subversive quality due to the hint of leather and vetiver in the base. LPdT dances playfully in a joyous and spirited way, completely oblivious to everything around it, dreamily doing its own thing, in its own time. LPdT doesn’t pay heed to market research, it doesn’t care about which types of perfumes are selling well or whether it’s on the cutting edge or it’s a classic. In this regard, we at I Smell Therefore I Am, would call this a Dandy of a Perfume.UPDATE (2 hours later): One important thing I forgot to mention in this glowing review is that LPdT doesn't have enough lasting power. You'd never think so after the initial burst - it's so strong in the beginning - but it only lasts on my skin for about 90 minutes - 2 hours maximum. For a perfume this expensive this is a problem. If it were less expensive I'd happily re-apply. So, due to it's fleeting nature, I tend to treat LPdT as a special occasion perfume. The bottle feels like liquid gold in my hand (gold is the color of the juice itself and gold as a reminder of the wasted coins spritzing out into the air and disappearing...sadly...too soon).
Dandy of the Day, Defined
Don't think only men can be dandy. Women are dandy too. They even had their own term for it. Several terms, in fact. Quaintrelle, dandyess, dandizette. Famous courtesan Cora Pearl was an early quaintrelle. We use the word dandy to mean both genders. We use it to mean beyond gender; rather, a state of mind and a state of being. We use it on this blog to celebrate the unusual and to speculate what kind of perfumes would best befit these particular forms of maverick individualism.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Fun game: What do these TV personalities wear?
Angela: White Linen by Estee Lauder. Rather than run the risk of Angela’s scorn, I’ll guess the only perfume she could possibly wear. Or maybe Vera Wang, The Fragrance, yes that’s it, she’s more current than White Linen. I felt her scorn and Vera Wang popped hastily into mind.
Pam: Beasley, she’s a tough one. She’s traditional and feminine yet she has an artistic side and an irreverent sense of humor. I’m going with Dolce & Gabbana The One, because she thinks she’s found the one with Jim Halpert (lucky dog!).
Kevin: Polo, the green bottle, from the 80s. Kevin thinks he’s a ladies man. Kevin wants to show off his masculine and sexy side, and to him, this = Polo.
Jan Levinson-Gould: Jan’s a Coco Mademoiselle woman. She’s sultry, sexy, uber-feminine with a spicy take-charge personality. She knows men go crazy when she splashes Coco Mademoiselle between her inflated cleavage. She occasionally likes a nice leathery fragrance, like Caron Tabac Blond or Chanel's Cuir de Russie when she's experimenting with bondage.
Phyllis: Anais Anais by Cacherel. Phyllis is traditionally feminine; she knits, she wears girlie clothing, I imagine her to smell floral and powdery. She found Anais Anais when it first came out and it’s been her signature scent ever since.
Creed: Creed wears Creed’s Green Irish Tweed. He has to, it’s his namesake. He knows a guy who steals it off the truck as they transport it to Neiman Marcus. He doesn’t see the problem, HE doesn’t steal it, the other guy does.
The New Adventures of Old ChristineChristine: She wears whatever she can get her hands on that morning. She has about 6-8 bottles of perfume. All sexy, spicy, loud, florals and orientals. Today she realized she ran out of deodorant so she grabbed some Victor & Rolf Flowerbomb and spritzed way too much and gave a few shots towards her underarms.
Liz Lemon: Liz is too busy to buy perfume, she barely has time to buy new bras or undies, and they all have holes in them. So, Liz’ friend, Jenna routinely gives her perfume as gifts for her birthday or Christmas, so she just wears whatever she gets. This past birthday Jenna gave her Guerlain Insolence. Liz sorta hates it, it’s very fruity and floral but she wears it anyway, she figures it’s better than nothing and these headaches will go away eventually.
Jenna: Jenna purchases fragrances that are certified man magnets. She has a list of the exact types of men each fragrance attracts so she knows precisely what to wear given which man she'll meet up with on a given day. Today, she has a doctor’s appointment, so she’s wearing Dior Midnight Poison because doctors are known to become weak in the knees when they come under the spell of Midnight Poison.
Now it’s your turn ~ what do you think?
Can we all stop talking about perfumes as if they become extinct after a shelf date and should be retired to some olfactory graveyard, where they might be admired but never worn? Fine, you mother wore Lanvin Arpege. My mother drank milk, rode a bicycle, used Crest toothpaste, and shaved. It doesn’t keep me from doing all of those things. Okay, so that was my father. Okay it was my neighbor’s father. The point is, everything reminds you of something. Seeing that running faucet reminds me I have to go to the bathroom. Perhaps I shouldn’t, as someone else once did.
All over the perfume blogs you hear two frequent cautionary prefaces, like warning labels on hazardous chemicals: “This is technically for women but I think it might be good on a man,” and “It smells like my grandmother.” The first one we’ll save for some other time. As for your grandmother, Arpege is a useful reference point.
Arpege was created in 1927 under Jeanne Lanvin for her daughter’s 30th birthday, or so the story goes. Her daughter was a musician; thus the name. Andre Fraysse, then 27, was commissioned to create the fragrance, and was assisted by Paul Vacher. Fraysse went on to do Rumeur, My Sin, and Scandal, also classics. His son, Richard, is an in-house perfumer at Caron, under whose supervision the classics there have not been treated so kindly. Like most perfumes of a certain age, Arpege’s formula has periodically been nipped and tucked, most recently by another Fraysse, Hubert. The fragrance is, as always, strong on aldehydes, one thing which is said to date it (though Chanel No. 5 has more aldehydes, and continues to sell very well, thank you) and it dries down into leather and tobacco accords, also said to be dated, go figure. The fact is, perfumes don’t really go out of style; people are just desperate to seem current, and will follow whatever trend is sold to them in order not to seem “old-fashioned”, a marketing term which conditions them to continue consuming. Ultimately the only relevant barometer should be whatever you think smells good. A flower smells nice. Is that outdated? Think of Arpege as a bundle of flowers left out in the sun, on a leather car seat.
A magical property unique to perfume is its ability to change mercurially according to various environmental factors. Most of us smell rose in compositions which are said to contain it, just as when we say table we all generally know what we’re referring to. If you start describing the table in detail, you enter a more associative realm, and open the issue up to personal interpretation. It was a low wood table with inlaid tile and wrought iron legs. Was it a coffee table? Oh I suppose. But it was taller than that. Taller than what? A coffee table. How tall is a coffee table? I should say a coffee table comes up to your knees when you sit down. Doesn’t that depend on how tall you are? Well, yes , it does, but—oh shut up.
Smell is the same way. Maybe you’ve never liked Lolita Lempicka, then you smell it on someone you’ve just met, only you don’t know it, you only know this person smells fantastic. You don’t believe him when he tells you what he has on. Chanel No. 5 might be awfully formal, slightly powdery, on the woman in a suit dress. Someone in jeans might make it seem cozy and sulfurous. A man might make it seem like some alien life form in the shape of a guy you thought you knew. Arpege is no exception to this phenomenon. No perfume is. While it’s true that various aromachemicals and approaches fall out of use, this matters very little to people who have always worn what they choose, rather than whatever is sold to them. Scent is both specific and malleable: the smell of your house at someone else’s place might remind you of home, but the similarity forces you to see things differently. The smell of apple pie might bring tears to your eyes, while someone else will heave. The same smell is a world apart from person to person.
As a famous sitcom actress was once said to have spit at singer-songwriter Rufus Wainright after he gushed that she’d always reminded him of his mee-maw: “I ain’t your f—king grandmother, kid.” And then there's Arpege: modern and feisty, it’s been around for a while. Nuff said? Fraysse’s intention was to create a truly eternal floral, and as much as one can, he has. The opening of bergamot, neroli, and peach is vivid, thanks to the aldehydes. The floral heart is traditionally composed: Jasmine, Rose, Lily of the Valley, Ylang-Ylang. These extend into the dry down, a smooth medley of vanilla, vetiver, tuberose, and vetiver. Arpege is considered to be the first feminine to use such a large quantity of sandalwood. The aldehydes too persist well into the dry down, itself a thing of wonder. The fragrance lasts several hours with impressive intensity, then softens, lingering with woody phosphorescence. The insignia on the bottle depicts Lanvin and daughter Marie-Blanche. Both of them have passed. Arpege is still around. A perfume like this doesn't date. It's too timeless.
The Joke's on You: Moschino Funny!
Saturday, June 21, 2008
Dandy of the Day
The heart of Allure Sensuelle never quite achieves the magic of Black Orchid’s brief, hallucinatory moment of beauty. Arguably more linear, it is a consistent performer. It has some of Black Orchid’s tang but holds on to it until it figures out how to use it. It has the incense on bottom, along with patchouli and vanilla in place of truffle. It’s remarkably similar, but feels confident it has nothing to prove. Someone please tell this fragrance it’s a Chanel. Clearly it didn’t get that memo, which is where its own troubles began. Like Guerlain, the house of Chanel is on thin ice: will it mess with the perfection of its old reliables? Will it continue to produce the kind of quality women the world over have come to expect? Well, yes and no, in no certain order.
Had Allure Sensuelle been release by one of the niche lines this would be a moot issue. It’s a perfectly respectable, even lovely perfume. It draws from various currents of modern perfumery to show the others how it’s done. People expect innovation from Chanel—perhaps unfairly. So a mother lode of aldehydes were dumped into No. 5. So Cuir de Russie is the most exquisite embodiment of luxury between Planet Earth and Pluto. Why must every Chanel fragrance which doesn’t have the good fortune to be a miracle have to be considered a miserable step in the wrong direction?
Allure Sensuelle has its strengths. Its use of vetiver is accomplished and unusual for a feminine perfume, handled with considerable sensitivity to overall development. It has just the right amount of peppery dissonance, is burnished just so with the solar heat of frankincense. It lasts. It is aptly named, managing to achieve an interesting balance between salty and sweet, floral and oriental. It is arguably more androgynous than Black Orchid, and when a man smells it on a woman, he might just be taken aback by unexpected, unfamiliar urges and impulses.
If anything, Chanel must be faulted for its laziness in building a palpable sense of identity around Allure Sensuelle. A simple comparison between the genius of Ford’s creative direction (Black Orchid: vintage glamor, decadent impulses) and Chanel’s proposed fantasy (Allure Sensuelle: exactly…what…exactly when…exactly where and how?) makes clear Allure Sensuelle's true failure.
All the same, you could do much, much worse—in or outside of Chanel.