Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Oriental Lounge, Celine Ellena: A Review

I've been anxiously awaiting The Different Company's Oriental Lounge this fall. My bottle arrived from Aedes last week and I admit to not being initially enamored with it. Before wearing Oriental Lounge, I read the interview with the perfumer, Ms. Ellena, on Grain de Musc. Take the time to read it, it gives the reader a unique perspective and definitely enriched my sniffing experience.

I haven't loved anything from The Different Company yet. I like Osmanthus, Sel de Vetiver, Jasmine de Nuit and Sublime Balkiss, but it isn't love. My favorite from the line so far was Sublime Balkiss, which is a very light, modern take on a berried chypre. From Ms. Ellena's comment on Grain de Musc I believe it's true that The Different Company (TDC) sorely needed to add an oriental to their arsenal, something spicy and wearable in cold weather. And so we have, Oriental Lounge.

Here's the thing about me. While I'm an absolute perfume enthusiast and worship loads of classics there's a part of me that looks positively towards the future of perfumery. Even in the midst of all these horrendous reformulations and IFRA restrictions, I still have hope for modern interpretations of classic structures, like the oriental. While I liked Sublime Balkiss, I enjoyed it's take on the old fashioned chypre format, the issue for me is one of longevity. Sublime Balkiss just isn't potent enough for $175 of my hard earned dineros. A good example of a modern chypre, for me, is Estee Lauder's Jasmine White Moss. This is a modern chypre done well. Jasmine White Moss looks fondly upon it's older chypre cousins while still being it's own sort of chypre and I love it. This is what Oriental Lounge is doing for me. Oriental Lounge is born of Shalimar and other classic orientals but it's done well enough and differently enough to be worthy of your time. Ironic that Celine Ellena said orientals aren't her favorite category because I think this is one of her best works for TDC.

Oriental Lounge, what it smells like: Angela from NST is right, Oriental Lounge starts off with a familiar Shalimar-esque beginning, in fact, it reminds me of Shalimar overall, except without the lingering citrus, less obvious aldehydes and zero civet/animalic/musky stuff. So, I do think you wouldn't be terribly far off by categorizing Oriental Lounge as a cleaned up Shalimar. There's a sharp bergamot/citrus start over an ambery-vanillic base. And I initially agreed with Angela that it seems flat and linear. I tried a spritz at Barneys back in October and my first impression was that it was too sweet, flat and boring. It turns out you need a few sprays (not dabs) to experience this perfume. But I should point out, that while you need a few sprays, Oriental Lounge is not fleeting or overly sheer, it has good enough presence.

If you absolutely adore Shalimar and think it's Guerlain's gift to orientals you probably won't be impressed with Oriental Lounge. If you like and appreciate Shalimar but find it old fashioned, a bit strong and difficult to wear, but you still like the idea of it, and find yourself sniffing it in private, then Oriental Lounge could be your ticket to the modern oriental airway. Now I will not mention Shalimar again, because while Oriental Lounge definitely draws from it's roots, it's interesting enough to be described on it's own merits.

After reading the interview with Ms. Ellena on Grain de Musc I realized the best part of Oriental Lounge is the caloupilé note (aka curry leaf). Apparently this note is what gives Oriental Lounge it's slightly green and metallic vibe. The addition of curry leaf (not to be confused with Indian food, there isn't anything foodie about Oriental Lounge) gives Oriental Lounge a nicely jarring quality. It isn't all warm, cozy and snoozy, in part because of this curry leaf aspect. Oriental Lounge is a lovely balance of sweet and dry, this may be, for me, the best part of it. I usually don't like flat, sweet, ambers in the least. But put a hunk of amber inside a swarm of dry, spicy, citrus and herbal notes and I'm there. Oriental Lounge can be described as lush, creamy and mysterious. There is a gourmand touch but it might only be a hallucination, something the scent makes you imagine, because really, it's not particularly sweet nor gourmand at all. The dry down does go a bit sheer and linear on me, it's main characteristic is a sharp ambery wood, but the hours prior to the dry down are swirls of warm oriental dreaminess.


carmencanada /Grain de Musc said...

Hi Abigail, thanks for the link to Grain de Musc... The gourmand aspect you're getting is certainly the tonka bean. There isn't any vanilla in the blend, though: in fact, Céline wanted to try her hand at a vanilla-less oriental. But the labdanum/tonka combo would kind of create the illusion of vanilla, if only because our scent-memory expects it with the other two notes..
I'm no big fan of orientals either but I've been wearing Oriental Lounge quite a bit.

+ Q Perfume Blog said...

Hi Abigail, thank you for sharing the link. I am crazy about Ellena.
I love Sel de vetiver. I think it is a great salty perfume.
The way the vetiver was used is really special.

Tara C said...

I need to get a spray decant of this. The dabber sample vial was okay, but it came across as flat, linear and short-lived.