Pleasures and Pleasures Bloom (Estée Lauder)

Note: Though appearing late in EstéeFest, this review was one of the first I happened to complete. Once I finished it, I scheduled it for posting and continued to work furiously on other EstéeFest reviews. However, when I read JoanElaine's delightful essay on Estée Super Cologne, I realized that the motif was amazingly similar-- unknown, unseen, across the miles, she and I somehow had been on a psychic "party line"! And while my feelings about Pleasures Bloom were somewhat tinged with regret and disappointment, I found hers about Estée Super Cologne to be bubbling with life. What she expressed mirrored what I secretly wished: that a sense of grownup celebration could somehow be retained in the current Lauder flankers. A tone reminiscent of the days of old would not amount to anachronism. Just... continued tradition, somehow.

The original Pleasures (1995) is a summer birthday party in a bottle. Pull the stopper, and you'll find a sheaf of multicolored roses just arrived from the florist, the scent of their greenery as prosaic as the period marking the end of a sonnet.  Outside, stacks of paper plates are weighted down with silverware to keep errant breezes from peeling them off like playing cards. A bottle of prosecco cools its heels in a tin bucket of ice water by the patio steps. In the kitchen, a cake waits to be slid from a white cardboard bakery box onto a cut-glass pedestal, while a virgin block of vanilla ice cream prepares for its rendezvous with a stainless-steel scoop.  At dusk, lanterns begin to glow amid the trees, and music and laughter wend their way towards the stars.

Pleasures Bloom (2010) is the same party redesigned for six-year-olds.

Instead of bubbly, there's tropical punch; instead of roses, Mylar balloons.  The cake icing packs twice as much sugar, and the noonday sun reduces the ice cream to a sticky puddle.  There's laughter, but louder and higher-pitched, punctuated by inarticulate squeals of juvenile excitement.  All the flavors and colors of celebration seem pushed to an almost unbearable extreme.  But what do you want?  It's a party.  You can't expect kids to settle for what adults like-- or vice versa.

At some point, Estee Lauder Corporation must have looked for a signature element that would distinguish its new fragrances from the heavy, ambery Orientals (Youth Dew, Cinnabar) and galbanum-rich woods (Private Collection, Azuree) of the past.  To me, that element smells like helional, the aromachemical which lends a balancing glint of cold steel to otherwise lush or vulnerable florals.  If Guerlain had its Guerlinade and Caron its Mousse de Saxe, Lauder's Hint of Helional turns the temperature down for a host of Lauder florals and their flankers.  In Pleasures, it's truly just a touch-- the veil of condensation on a chilled glass before it's filled with something sparkling, dry, and blessedly off limits to minors.

Over time, however, one can see it's become more than just a hint.  Dazzling Gold and Silver, for instance, shamelessly overdose on that frosty-sweet note-- and yet both manage to remain more sophisticated than Pleasures Bloom, which accessorizes its helional with the brain-piercing sweetness of peonies and raspberry jam.   I remember reading that the freezing process mutes the flavor in food, so more sugar than usual must be added to liquids intended for iced treats.   Some of the more recent Lauders reflect this tenet to an extreme-- more sugar, less sophistication, an odd regression for a perfume house built upon the tastes of mature women.

Breathing in Pleasures Bloom's neon gaiety, I miss the civility of earlier Lauders.   It seems to me that the party's right for the times, but I'm the wrong person for it.  After only five minutes, I long to grab my purse, sneak out the back gate, and give this little soirée the slip.

Scent Elements: Lily, violet leaf, greens, lilac, karo-karounde, rose, peony, jasmine, patchouli, sandalwood (Pleasures 1995); grapefruit, raspberry, lychee, violet flower, peony, rose, jasmine, green lily, musk, patchouli, vanilla (Pleasures Bloom 2010)