Hindu Kush (AbdesSalaam Attar/La Via del Profumo)

Do you have a perfume for self-defense?

This past week, an unpleasant incident caught me off guard and left me deeply rattled. In the aftermath, I found myself analyzing the episode blow by blow, trying to determine what I may have done to attract trouble. Crazy though this may sound, it crossed my mind that scent might have played a small but telling role in the whole fiasco.

That day, I'd set aside the bold concoctions I usually wear to road-test a soft, "pretty" fragrance totally uncharacteristic of my taste. Cloaked in soft gentility, I felt strangely tentative, as though I had misplaced my very backbone. Insecurity permeated my demeanor, broadcasting a subliminal message: I'm vulnerable. Take advantage of me.

Long story short, someone did. And while nothing but nothing excuses his actions, I confess the thought occurred to me: He wouldn't have DARED try it if I'd been wearing my armor.

In my scent wardrobe, there is a small but essential group of fragrances I characterize as protective-- each one an olfactory guardian totem who enhances my inner strength and confidence. When I wear these fragrances, measurable changes occur. My lungs expand; my shoulders level; my head lifts; my eyes narrow. Even though I know that the ability to stand my ground and stare danger down originates within myself, the fierce energy thrown off by these particular perfumes is undeniable. They are my defensive weapons, my psychic jujitsu. Softer scents don't make the cut.

Among totems, the best ones are those with teeth. Ever since Suzanne sent me a decant of Abdes Salaam's Hindu Kush, experience has put me in the habit of calling this perfume "The Wolf". Its potent combination of spruce, spice, and incense serves as both reminder and warning: My teeth are sharp. Don't trifle with me.

In a twist of irony, it was actually The Wolf I'd first contemplated wearing on the day of my misfortune. I clearly felt it call out to me (did it know what was coming?) but instead I guilt-tripped myself into giving the untested milquetoast floral a chance.

I will never ignore the cry of The Wolf again.

Scent Elements: I'm not certain. But I'm pretty sure it howls when the moon is full.

Ô de Lancôme (Lancôme)

Created in 1969 and recreated twenty-five years later, Ô de Lancôme plays like a compilation of citrus' greatest hits. You know and love them all, and you don't mind having them assembled in one place-- a jukebox ready to reel off all your favorites at the drop of a dime. Bring extra coins and your most trusty dancing shoes, though, because the effervescent youthfulness of this mix will have you jerking, swimming, frugging, and ponying your little wig off.

Oldies? No... goldies.

Scent Elements: Lemon, mandarin, bergamot, jasmine, rosemary, basil, honeysuckle, sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss

White Gold and 24K Gold (Jivago)

Choosing a daily perfume is a process similar to prospecting for gold. Today, for instance, I grabbed my morning fragrance blind out of a pile of as-yet-unsniffed scents. Squinting at the label, I harbored momentary doubts; normally I would look askance at a company that packages their perfume like Goldschlager, the gold-flake-laden firewater beloved of hoochie-mamas everywhere. But then I remembered the gushingly positive report a colleague of mine had given Jivago's 24K Gold (2010), and I figured she must know what she's talking about, so I went for it.

What's the word on White Gold? Well, it's white, all right. Largely consisting of prim muguet and very light musk, it smells as crisp and hygienic as a batch of dry-cleaning just picked up from the laundromat. A nice floral sweetness balances atop all this laundry starch, and I won't deny it smells very nice indeed for about three minutes. But it dries down fast -- AWFUL fast -- and settles on unexciting vanilla for its endnote. Consarn it!

If you're panning for a nice everyday fragrance, I'd go with 24K Gold instead. This warm amber floral lasts longer and pleases the nose with its promises of comfort. In this instance, it proves the real article, while White turns out to be nothing but fool's Gold.

Scent Elements: White peony, lily-of-the-valley, iris, rosewood, white musk, vanilla (White Gold); jasmine, tuberose, Bulgarian rose, lily-of-the-valley, iris, amber (24K Gold)

Arsène Lupin "Le Dandy" (Guerlain)


TO: Caldey Island Lavender
FROM: Arsène Lupin "Le Dandy"
CC: Antihéros
RE: Your missing mojo

Found it.

---END MEMO---

Scent Elements: Bergamot, bigarade, pink pepper, cardamom, violet, sandalwood, patchouli, frankincense

Antihéros (État Libre d'Orange)

If Caldey Island Lavender is still looking for its lost mojo, it might be hornswoggled into thinking that Antihéros has stolen it. But this thin, sad lavender cologne could not be further from the "hedonistic and sun-drenched creation" its creator claims it to be. Just as Dr. Evil turns out to be just some schlub named Dougie, Antihéros admits (even if État Libre won't) that it's all swagger and no substance.

No, baby...no.

Scent Elements: Lavender, musk, woods

Cimabue (DSH Perfumes)

The medieval Florentine painter named Cimabue died in the city of Pisa in 1302. The modern American perfume named Cimabue died on my wrists a scant hour after I applied it. It was a golden hour, assuredly; I've heard that for some, the exaltation lasts an æon. But my skin proved me a philistine, impervious to the scent of heaven.

My mind, too, is an artless blasphemer. Deep beneath my surface ripples of delight, it whispers the troublesome opinion that some DSH perfumes ultimately smell the same. That familiar citrus-and-Christmas-spice theme-- how many times has it appeared before? Does she use a base? it wants to know-- not that that's a crime; many perfume houses do, but still. I shush it, stifle it, try to distract it with words of uncertain praise. It's pretty, isn't that enough? I ask.

Quick as a wink, the old heretic replies: It's not that I don't get it. It's that I already GOT it.

Going to hell in a handbasket, that's us.

But every Pilgrim's Progress has its Sloughs of Despair. I won't give up, of course. I have a long way to go before I've sampled the entire DSH menu, and I know there will be be some stunners among the standards. In the past, DSH has knocked my socks off with fragrances so idiosyncratic, so audacious, they can't do other than stand radiant-- and alone. If art is 'what you like', then THAT is what I like: a side order of sui with my generis.

Scent Elements: Absolutes of Moroccan rose, saffron, carnation, tuberose, and vanilla with bergamot, cardamom, bigarade, clementine, neroli, lemon, nutmeg, cinnamon, clove bud, rose geranium, jasmine, beeswax, Mysore/East Indian/Tamil Nadu sandalwoods, labdanum, opopanax, and Siam benzoin

Reading the minutes.

For your sake, Dear Reader, I wish that my weekend had been spent at the Algonquin Round Table. I'd relate its highlights in the sublime style of "The Conning Tower"... and its low points via the fumbling drôlerie of "The Treasurer's Report". Alas, I lack the dry and airy wit of Messrs. Benchley and Adams. But neither of them possesses gams half as shapely as mine, so I suppose we're quits.

Anyway, Mondays are more suited to Dorothy Parker. Here's one of her little killers:
Into love and out again,
Thus I went, and thus I go.
Spare your voice, and hold your pen-
Well and bitterly I know
All the songs were ever sung,
All the words were ever said;
Could it be, when I was young,
Some one dropped me on my head?

--"Theory", from Sunset Gun (1928)
Oh, it wasn't as bad as all that... Monday, I mean. Thinking wistfully of my much-missed pal JoanElaine, I wore the Jean-Louis Scherrer vintage EdT that she sent me last summer... and lo, into my email this very afternoon landed a fantabulous email from Mistress J herself! Even more serendipitous, when I went back through my inbox to find the email in which she and discussed swapping our Scherrers -- her JLS for my Nuits -- therein I found the following quote: I'm going to read a few pages of Dorothy Parker and then off to slumberland. (In Dottie's words, "What fresh hell is Zzzzzzzzz....")

Ah, Mrs. Parker, our guardian angel most debonair, your halo looks lovely tipped sideways....

If the world had room for only one chypre, Jean-Louis Scherrer EdT would survive the second-to-last elimination round. It hits all the right notes (oakmoss, hyacinth, cedar, vetiver) at all the right volumes.  Walking the middle way between the dirty/sticky/deep (Aromatics Elixir) and the crisp/light/uptight (Knowing), it ends up sitting pretty-- Queen of the Emerald City.  Had Dorothy Parker lived to see JLS launch, she (at age 86) would have loved it-- particularly as her beloved Chypre de Coty had by then been discontinued. Who knows? She might have held out for 100... just to savor more of the rich scent of Scherrer.

Well, that's all I have to report for now, Dear Reader. Well, not all-- there's still a weekend's worth of thrift bounty to be chronicled. Watch this space...

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, green notes, violet, cassia, hyacinth, carnation, tuberose, gardenia, iris, jasmine, rose, oakmoss, vetiver, costus, sandalwood, cedar, amber, musk, civet, musk

Route du Thé (Barneys New York)

You know summer has arrived when wild chicory blooms by the roadside. As soon as the weather turns bright and hot, the cerulean flowers of this hardy weed (Cichorium intybus) can be seen nodding on the border of every byway. In town, where concrete and blacktop abound, the flowers take on a pale, sad, undernourished tint. But the rich soil of the southern pinelands turns chicory bloom a profound, almost fluorescent blue rivaling that of the heavens.

Another indicator of the season's launch is the return of crisp and cooling fragrances to my wardrobe. It's not an easy landing for the poor things, for the Scent Cabinet overflows with spicy, rich autumn and winter perfumes... and as per usual past Memorial Day, real estate's at a premium.

Last year, Annick Goutal's Eau d'Hadrien was my go-to summer fragrance, but it fulfilled this duty alone. This year, I've been trying my darndest to develop a more versatile summer category that I still find comfortable to wear. Aquatics and tropicals -- two fragrance types I've never been able to embrace -- need not apply. Instead, I'm testing a lot of hesperidic eaux, apothecary concoctions of herbs both sweet and savory, and florals more sheer than I normally favor.

But the combination of citrus and tea maintains an incontestable lead... and Route du Thé is a pretty near perfect specimen.

Last year, I picked up a couple of unused 6ml. purse rollers of Route du Thé at Ye Olde Antiques Barn. I gave one to Nan (who embraced it wholeheartedly) and one to DC, who wore it for a while and then handed it back. Today I slipped it into my shoulder bag, strapped on my sandals and hit the road.

The day was gorgeous-- cobalt-blue sky sweetly sprinkled with fairweather cumulus clouds, bright sun glittering on glossy oak leaves, a light breeze riffling the grass. And oh, the chicory flowers! Joined by yarrow and Queen Anne's lace, they lined the roads like colorful parade-goers waving enthusiastically at my passing car. I hit a couple of antique stores (more about that later!) and when the afternoon heat began to increase, I applied Route du Thé to my inner wrists as a cooling remedy.

It's all about relief, refreshment, renewal-- sweet orange, lightly tannic tea served up at just the right level of chill, and muguet providing equal amounts of dew and shade. It's crisp, slightly ozonic, fresh as the breeze that follows a summer thunderstorm-- but as sunny and light-suffused as a day during which no storm cloud would dare show its face. It's uncomplicated-- a supreme virtue when one means to travel light.

Sure, I'll keep dutifully exploring the eaux, herbal tinctures and florals... but I have a feeling I've found my summer love.

Scent Elements: Citrus (lemon & orange peel), lily-of-the-valley, amber

Femme/Homme (Maison Francis Kurkdjian)

This review will be neither easy nor happy. It wasn't easy to wear the perfumes I intend to discuss, and it doesn't make me happy to tell you that I disliked them. In general, I admire the work of their creator. But the dissonance that resulted from encountering works of his that didn't jibe with me left me unsettled... for months.

When I wear a perfume, I expect it to speak to me. I don't necessarily have to like what it says, but at the very least I expect it to face me squarely and say something-- not hide itself, not clam up, not babble a load of bombastic nonsense to obfuscate my understanding of it. (We'll leave that to the PR copywriters.) If it contains a puzzle, I don't mind working hard to solve it so long as the payoff justifies the investment of my time and my senses.

I haven't tried every single one of Francis Kurkdjian's perfumes, but the ones I've worn spoke to me. No, I beg your pardon-- they sang to me. I suppose I expected that every single one would. And I suppose, too, that it's possible to find one (or a few) that don't. You can be turned off by a song (or even an entire album) without losing respect for the singer. But the dissonance I was talking about-- the gap between you and the creator -- forces you to grope fruitlessly for elaborate theories, all to explain something that's actually quite simple.

You can't have everything.

I've had these samples of the APOM ("A Part of Me") and Lumière Noire series for a long time. I tried again and again to wear them, to understand them -- first singly, separately, then in pairs, then as a whole. I tried to get them. And I couldn't. (Maybe he's right. Maybe I am not equipped.)

Today, once again, I spot-tested them-- Femmes on the left arm, Hommes on the right. Finally, I think I've got a bead on it: they're not four separate perfumes, but points along a single spectrum. The strong-natured, polar-opposite Femmes take up the extreme ends, while the Hommes -- curiously incorporated of aspects from both Femmes -- fall into the middle. (Kurkdjian's website itself supplies a clue when it describes "A game of opposites for two accords, like two extremes coming together...")

APOM Pour Femme is an aggressively aquatic orange blossom, jangling like a dozen electric alarm bells all the way to a harsh chemical-cucumber denouement. There is not a single moment of this fragrance I can tolerate-- not one. It seems much more like a mainstream "fresh" masculine than anything inspired by (or intended to boost) femininity-- but maybe it's not really intended for this purpose. While the acronym 'APOM' purportedly describes a self-offering made by the wearer to the world, could it actually be what Kurkdjian wants us to have of himself? As the recipient, I would rather envision the frisky Le Mâle or the dead-sexy Absolue Pour le Soir standing in for the man than this face-slapping bully of a scent. Please, Francis, say it isn't so.

Lumière Noire Pour Femme starts off in the guise of a thick cashmere-wrap Oriental, all rose-colored spicy warmth. I like this opening well enough... until it devolves into a baby-powder-and-diapers accord summarily rejected by every adult cell in my body. The cultural infantilization of women is nothing new, but when the desire to render me harmless and weak is addressed to me so blatantly, it really gets under my skin. Cui bono? Not me, not you, and not what could have otherwise been a lovely perfume.

Lumière Noire Pour Homme seems like a mixture of the aforementioned two fragrances in a 3:1 ratio. It launches like APOM Pour Femme, but ends up like Lumière Noire Pour Femme. Neither is especially good news, but as it works out to roughly half the strength of its parents, it can't do much harm.

APOM Pour Homme is so nondescript for the first ten minutes, you might forget to smell it again further on. This would be a mistake, because it possesses real charm and real feeling. In its mauve-tinted candy-heart drydown, it manages to gather all the elusive graces of the other compositions together and array them to their best advantage. It is tender, quiet, a sweetly open smile on the face of the shyest person you know. Alone of the quartet, it speaks... but in a murmur so low it could easily be missed. (I also admit to feeling a little wistful that its soft-spoken message is for les hommes, and not for me. God, you men. Do you have any idea how fortunate you are?)

Overall, I liked the gentle Hommes far better than the strident Femmes. (This clearly opposed dichotomy along the gender line would worry me if I hadn't already met Ma Dame and Le Mâle, two of the sweetest, most engaging gender-benders in the field.) I cannot say I liked the APOM duet over the Lumière Noire duet, or vice versa; each included one perfume I didn't mind alongside one I flat-out couldn't stand. Of them all, APOM Pour Homme gets my vote as the perfume worth watching (and wearing)-- but being so reticent, it's not quite what you'd call a world-beater.

In summary, these two collections seem to reach for something that they can't quite grasp-- and even though for my part I'm stretching to the limits of my ability, I just cannot manage to meet them halfway. Our fingertips almost touched... almost. But we shouldn't feel bad about not bridging the gap. We tried, didn't we?

Maybe next time...

Scent Elements: Orange blossom, cedar, ylang-ylang (APOM Pour Femme); orange blossom, cedar, amber (APOM Pour Homme); rose, patchouli, daffodil (Lumière Noire Pour Femme); rose, patchouli, artemisia (Lumière Noire Pour Homme)

Smiley (Jeanne Arthes)

I know absolutely nothing about the Jeanne Arthes line except that all of their fragrances -- one right after another -- occupy the most horrid, hideous, cheap, tacky, RIDICULOUS bottles ever conceived by mankind. Two working nerves and a shred of taste are all it takes to make this observation. In making it, however, I must admit that my perception is influenced by the following factors:

a) A monster case of PMS, which has rendered me liable to bite the head off anyone who comes near me;

b) Three degenerative lumbar discs which all teamed up and went on the fritz two days ago, leaving me with a clenched jaw that no amount of Aleve can loosen;

c) The fact that I hate everything and everyone.*

Obviously, I am the perfect candidate for Smiley.

Engineered (and I do use that word advisedly) by Firmenich nose Jean-Pierre Bethouart, Smiley has been marketed as "the first antidepressant perfume"-- a blend of aromachemicals which have a specific effect on the pleasure/reward center of the brain. According to this report by the BBC, theobromine and phenylethylamine (both constituents of chocolate) act together as a sort of neurochemical tag team, suppressing adrenaline reuptake and treating the central nervous system to a shot of "happy therapy".

Yeah. Sure. Whatever you say, Doc.

Carol of WAFT had included a manufacturer's sample of Smiley in her legendary Bag of Wonderful. Nan sprayed it and loved it-- enough that when my appendix blew, she lent it back to me for therapeutic purposes. Until today, skeptical of all claims (and assuming that Arthes itself might be the French version of snake-oil pitchman extraordinaire Harvey Prince), I continued to hold Smiley at arm's length. See A, B, and C for why I finally broke down and dug it out of hiding.

First things first: me and my little black thundercloud took to the Interwebs. My first discovery was this promotional video for Smiley on YouTube. If you don't have the strength to click on the link, I can describe it to you very easily: three and a half minutes of frowny-looking faces affixed to Rubik's-Cube-style squares which turn and turn again until everyone is grinning like a damn fool. From watching this masterpiece, I learned two things:

a) Dance music makes me angry to a degree entirely disproportionate to its actual badness.

b) While I hate being told to smile by other people, I have no compunction whatsoever towards muttering at a computer screen, One of you motherfuckers had better smile soon or SO HELP ME GOD....

The next thing I found was this blog article-- helpful, since Arthes' website is "under construction" and Smiley's dedicated homepage (the adorably named "happytherapy.com") no longer exists. All that was left for me to do was to pick up the sample sprayer and spritz away.

I can dispatch the fragrance in two words: Missoni Lite. Don't assume that's a bad thing. I happen to love Missoni's super-gooey citrus-chocolate floral YumFest. Just consider this the "skim" version-- neither as complex nor as tenacious, but pleasant. If I saw a bottle of it at my usual thrift haunts, I wouldn't hesitate to snag it.

Now for the punchline. One hour into wearing Smiley, I inadvertently knocked over a tote bag full of heavy wood-and-glass picture frames at my desk at work. It fell on my ankle. Impelled by the thick, black, greasy cloud of profanity that came boiling out of my mouth, colleagues came a'running. For a moment, there we stood-- me, hopping up and down on one foot; them, staring at me in concerned befuddlement.

Suddenly -- despite the pain, and for no earthly reason I can name -- I burst out laughing. I laughed until tears came out of my eyes. After a moment, my colleagues started laughing, too. In no time at all we were all hootin' and hollerin' with glee while everyone out at the service desk undoubtedly thought we had lost our minds.

I'm not saying that this would never have happened if I was wearing any other perfume.

But it's a thought.

*Except you, silly.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, orange, pimiento berry, cocoa, praline, curaçao, myrrh, musk, patchouli

Signoricci Vintage Eau de Toilette (Nina Ricci)

What a world: my first Nina Ricci fragrance ever, and it's pour homme! How could I have never worn L'Air du Temps? I've smelled it on other people, of course, and I own a gorgeous-but-empty Lalique dove flacon... but the juice that rocked a thousand worlds has never once touched my skin! What kind of female am I?

Answer: the kind who wears Signoricci.

Signoricci is a dry masculine citrus with a pronounced green bent and a long, confusing history. So far as I can piece together from various dialogues, here is how it goes: the original launched in 1965 and was known simply as "Signoricci". In 1976 it was joined by "Signoricci 2" (the same aromatic citrus made smokier with vetiver and sage) and was rechristened "Signoricci 1". When "Signoricci 1" was discontinued in the 1980's, "Signoricci 2" dropped the now-superfluous digit and received a makeover that left it brighter and sweeter than either of its predecessors. Bottle and packaging redesigns occurred all along the way, confusing the hell out of the faithful.

Box, bottle, and all, the secondhand-but-never-used miniature I recently acquired exactly matches those depicted in Signoricci advertisements of the mid-1960s. Ergo, mine must be the original Signoricci, dated 1965-1976. Whew!

My first impression of Signoricci: it's Estée Lauder Private Collection for dudes! All right, scratch that-- Estée's fragrance came seven years after Nina's, which means that Private Collection is actually Signoricci for signoras. Where they intersect is a very precise point on the map... and it is colored deep, deep green.

While Private Collection's galbanum is a richly saturated scent like that of a pine forest in humid weather, Signoricci's galbanum is sere and austere, laced with aromatic, slightly saline herbs and grasses (identified in part by Perfume Intelligence as "Provençal hay", "Alpine lavender", and of course, vetiver). Too sweet a citrus would have buried this accord; Signoricci's citrus is asciutto-- brusque and exhilaratingly dry, the perfect counterpoint to this gust of sun-warmed Mediterranean wind. Again Perfume Intelligence chimes in, specifying lemon seed as Signoricci's prime acidulant. Unmoderated, it could be corrosive enough to turn you into seviche-- but a warm coumarin-amber base restores the pH to neutral.

On its own, Signoricci is one smoothly persuasive fragrance. Still, I can't help it-- the idea of introducing the signore to la bella femmina Private Collection is irresistible. Something tells me they'd get along like gangbusters.

What do you say? My wrist, 'round eight-thirty?

Scent Elements: Bergamot, lemon, mandarin, carnation, lily-of-the-valley, rose, galbanum, oakmoss, vetiver, cedarwood, civet, tonka bean, labdanum

Jasmin et Cigarette (État Libre d'Orange)

Addiction iconique, declares its maker-- and Jasmin et Cigarette surely captures our cultural obsession with superstars who smoke. Few visions are sexier than a beautiful woman captured on black-and-white film as she nips a stray fragment of tobacco off of her tonguetip with an impeccably manicured ring finger and thumb, all the while balancing a slender, elegant cigarette in the same hand. She looks at you with a directness bordering on menace through a mesmerizing ribbon of smoke, and you're irretrievably smitten.

Jasmin is an intensely feminine perfume...and her taste in cigarettes runs to mentholated. Underneath the radiant warmth of coumarin-laced tobacco, dried fruit, cedar and spices, there's an icy current emanating from that ghostly-white, ladylike flower. I am unerringly reminded of the Nat Sherman deluxe cigarettes in which I used to indulge. Both Hint of Mint and Touch of Clove had special "flavor crystals" embedded in their filters, turning each inhale into an unsurpassed sensory thrill. Touch of Clove numbed the tongue slightly with its spicy-warm medicinal quality, and Hint of Mint-- well, Hint of Mint was quite simply an icicle that you could light on fire and wave around, Bette-Davis-style.

Wearing Jasmin et Cigarette is an olfactory ventriloquism act: it throws its voice, and the hearer perceives an entirely different entity than the one you might think you know. Some have reported to me that I smell lovely up close, but like a chainsmoker from a distance; others (like Nan) enjoyed my sillage from across the room but were taken aback by a sniff directly from my wrist. Oscillating between wood and smoke, flowers and ashes, vulnerability and toughness, Jasmin et Cigarette is a mercurial scent that switches its tactics constantly. What to make of it?

It all depends on which zone you're standing in when you smell it: smoking or non-smoking.

Scent Elements: Jasmine asbolute, tobacco, apricot, tonka bean, turmeric (Cucurma), cedar, amber, musk

Calcutta Eau de Parfum (Soivohle)

Sometimes I want to know everything about a perfume before I wear it. Its history, its notes, the perfumer's inspiration-- all these seem vital to my experience. But at other times, I have to acknowledge that they hinder me. An asphyxiating slick of ad copy floats on the surface of my consciousness; my own associations have to struggle to break through.

Recent news about Chandler Burr's "Untitled" project on OpenSky* has got me thinking. If the purpose of all marketing is to guard the product from the consumer's natural judgment until the proper hints can be whispered in his or her ear, then "Untitled" represents a brave new gesture in merchandising. With no bottle, packaging, taglines, imagery, or concept to adulterate our responses, all we need to do is inhale and decide for ourselves.

What can a perfume do to us when its name doesn't get in the way?

Calcutta is a discontinued Liz Zorn EdP from a trilogy called Amber Girls, revived for a brief time on the Soivohle website as a limited-edition "retro" offering. I'd enjoyed Carol's review of Calcutta on WAFT, particularly as I'm a bit of a nerd when it comes to descriptions of the attar distillation process. With two legendary attars -- motia (jasmine) and kewra (pandanus or screw pine flower) -- woven into its composition, I depended upon Calcutta to whisk me away on a magic carpet ride to the lush mangrove forests of the Bengal...

...but what could I expect of a perfume named "CAL-06"?

Had I not known ahead of time what I was getting, this snippet of label code -- the sole adornment on the tiny quarter-dram vial acquired as part of a Soivohle manufacturer's sample lot -- would have been indecipherable. Its three letters and two numerals admitted nothing, evoked nothing-- no dreams, no journeys, no wishes. It left the contents of the vial in shadow-- until I opened it.

And then the contents of the vial propelled me onto the library floor in search of a book I had not read in a very, very long time.

Published in 1982, The Darkangel by Meredith Ann Pierce describes a world not unlike our own-- because it IS our own. The moon, colonized long ago by Earthling terrafarmers, has become home to a sort of Early Medieval agrarian society rooted to the lunar plains. When the season is right, kirtle-clad village maidens climb high into the mountains to pick hornbloom, a type of trumpet flower which produces a precious intoxicating nectar. "Each trump was filled with a tiny drop of pale golden liquor, sweeter than ginger and richer than rum," writes Pierce.

The heat contained in this potent ambrosia is legendary; one stray droplet will scald unprotected skin. This the main character discovers when she is assailed by a darkangel -- an Icarus-like demon whose raven wings swallow the sun's light. Startled, she drops a hornbloom flower and feels its honey "spill hot as a tear-- no, hotter: hot as tallow; it burned her hand." Later she will awaken on the mountainside, half-frostbitten from lying unconscious in lunar shadow. Only the remaining dregs of priceless hornbloom nectar can bring her benumbed flesh back to life.

There is something unearthly about Calcutta that calls to mind both magical lunar flowers and wings as black as deep space. The first is easy to pinpoint: Liz Zorn has built Calcutta on a foundation of motia attar made from Jasminum sambac-- AKA night-blooming jasmine, sampaquita, and Queen of the Night. While this double-petalled jasmine variant is not to be confused with the OTHER Queen of the Night-- Cestrum nocturnum, a star-flowered nightshade whose heady perfume doubles as a dangerous neurotoxin -- its effect is certainly narcotic.

And sweet? My goodness! Calcutta's crystalline sampaquita is so honeyed you'll want to lick your fingers. The presence of kewra (a common flavoring in Bengali rasmalai) amplifies the deliciously sticky 'petal jam' quality of this confiserie to new dimensions. Buried deep in its center is a hot, hot ginger heart slowly dissolving in a lambent amber flame. The heat of it penetrates you to the quick and lasts well into a buttercream sandalwood drydown.

But then why so eerie, why so cold? Perhaps these fleshy white petals that never see sunlight remind me too much of the darkangel-- that cold and lovely creature of deep night, with eyes as occluded as quartz and skin as smooth and cold as polished alabaster. And while a perfume called Calcutta might not have offered sufficient camouflage, under the alias of CAL-06 he found me... thirty years after our first fateful encounter.

And when this vial is empty, he will never come again.

*Quite possibly the only thing that interests me about this site, which (like Gwyneth Paltrow's GOOP) seems like little more than a shopfront for celebrity vanity and entitlement. Sorry.

Scent Elements: Kewra (pandanus) attar, motia (night-blooming jasmine) attar, ginger, sandalwood, amber, vanilla, musk

Vraie Blonde (État Libre d'Orange)

As most mothers worth their salt know, the best way to rein in a misbehaving attention-seeker is to yawn and say, "That's nice, dear..." Outrageous behavior (which so desperately craves acknowledgment) cannot cope with an answering attitude of mild, unsurprised boredom.

This leads me to wonder about État Libre d'Orange. Some of their releases, from the packaging straight through to the scent, are a blatant effort to flummox us. (Sécrétions Magnifiques, what-what?) Others seem incredibly quiet by contrast, as if yesterday's tantrum has knocked all the fight out of them. (Josephine Baker! How this icon -- the very embodiment of SNAP! -- could have inspired so humdrum a fragrance quite frankly beats me.) Sometimes these two mindsets -- the subdued and the bold-as-hell -- are even found mixed together in the same bottle (Like This, Tom of Finland).  

What's the matter, kiddo? it makes you want to ask. Shout or sulk in the corner-- which is it going to be?

Juvenile deliquency aside, Team État is at heart a lovable bunch. Regardless of how they might howl and kick their heels from time to time, they always manage to perk up, stop sniffling... and start planning their next act of mischief.

État Libre d'Orange, in other words, is the Clifford of fragrance.

As far as naughtiness goes, 2006's Vraie Blonde is worthy of at least a demerit or two. The product artwork provides ample warning: this is definitely one of ELdO's "bad kids", the type you ought to keep an eye on at all times. It switches from almond milk to Bellini cocktail to pepper grinder in the space of minutes, forcing you to put your hands on your hips and say, "Don't MAKE me come over there..." You can try Mother's method of ignoring it until it settles down, but this is difficult to do. Presently it turns sweet, appealing, and tractable, looking up at you doe-eyed through a fringe of baby eyelashes, and you feel your heart melt like a popsicle in August.

Oh, Vraie Blonde, you find yourself sighing. I can't stay mad at you.

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, champagne, peach, rose, white pepper, myrrh, patchouli

White Shoulders (Evyan)

In the sixth grade, I encountered two memorable volumes in our classroom library: The Endless Steppe, a gripping personal memoir of Siberian exile... and Starring Sally J. Freedman As Herself by Judy Blume. Strange as it may seem, these two books have one thing in common: both contain descriptions of the child-heroine's first perfume experience.

In The Endless Steppe, author Esther Hautzig recounts how her mother smuggled along a bottle of L'Heure Bleue for the interminable train journey to Altai Krai. In the stifling darkness of an overcrowded cattle car, she allows ten-year-old Esther a secretive, grownup dab of fine French parfum. Its potent beauty becomes their shared weapon against fear and dehumanization. And what of Sally J. Freedman back in balmy Miami? Her pivotal perfume scene finds her fretting over whether a spritz of her mother's White Shoulders will overpower her fifth-grade "Latin Lover", the aptly-named Peter Hornstein.

You couldn't ask for two more divergent moments-- one full of tragic grandeur, the other frivolous and carefree. Even as a kid, I found myself drawn to the former. I could connect to it-- hazy Oriental perfumes being already a part of my budding scent lexicon. But no one close to me -- not my mother, nor any of my friends' mothers, nor my great-aunts, nor my schoolteachers -- wore White Shoulders. I grew up without any fixed reference to it save that which I found in books.

Luckily, in literature, it flows like tapwater. Whenever a storyline requires an olfactory set piece, a detail to establish mood or character, White Shoulders seems to be the fallback name in fragrance. The frequency of its appearance in print (not to mention the strange consistency of language with which authors work it into their plots) makes it one of the most oft-cited symbolic devices in all of literature. What about this ubiquitous fragrance compels the imaginative mind so?

Perhaps its inherent contradictions tell the clearest tale. At face value, White Shoulders is a sweet white floral, packed to the rafters with heady gardenia, tuberose, and jasmine. Yet for all its indolic potential, it's the furthest thing from sexy imaginable. If Tabu footed the bill during courtship, and Chanel No. 5 or Arpege suit the occasion of an anniversary dinner by candlelight, White Shoulders covers all the rest of Mom's waking hours with its soapy-clean aura of virtue. This is a perfume tailored for maximum continuity and reassurance.

But does it really soothe the soul?

Not on the printed page, it doesn't-- at least, not fully half the time. As often as it's used to evoke wistful nostalgia or mild romantic attraction, White Shoulders serves as literary shorthand for deep ambivalence, even disgust. Through the response of every character who catches a trace of it on the breeze, we learn the identity of that which they most love... and fear.

The following is a cross-section of White Shoulders quotes culled willy-nilly from contemporary novels, memoirs, and non-fiction titles. I've grouped them in categories based on a commonality of theme, but in each case, the speaker's tone runs the full spectrum of response from rapture to horror as they contemplate the White Shoulders women in their lives. Good girls, bad girls, little girls, old ladies, mothers, grandmothers, seductresses, frumps, hicks, sophisticates-- even a ghost or two comes forward to join the discussion. Here, you may find your own feelings about White Shoulders echoed verbatim, for good or bad. The personal verdict I've come to is that our culture can't get enough of this perfume... and it doesn't know quite how to feel about it, either.


She smelled faintly of cigarette smoke, whisky, and White Shoulders perfume. She clasped her hands over her stomach, and I saw her perfect white hands with perfect red nails.
-- Mama’s Shoes
(Rebecca D. Elswick, 2011)

She smelled like the combination of rubbing alcohol and “Ivory” soap, with just a hint of “White Shoulders” perfume.
-- Land of the Morning Calm
(Harry Bryce, 2007)

Just a light sense of the fragrance of White Shoulders perfume, blue eyes, soft dark blond hair, warmth, and something he couldn't quite put his finger on.
--2012 and the Ring of Light
(Nancy E. Shaffron, 2007)

"The smell of White Shoulders perfume lingering in the air, I love your perfume, Kelley. Don't ever change it . . .”
-- Hard Impact
(Susan Andrews, 2004)

"I don't reckon I've got a Bible, but I believe I've got something even better!" A cloud of White Shoulders perfume spread as she rose and spun around to head for her bedroom.
-- The Romance Readers’ Book Club
(Julie L. Cannon, 2007)

Shirley sported her black and white saddle oxfords, her cute little pink cardigan sweater set, and her lovely smile, a hint of White Shoulders perfume, her happy face and her sweet little wrists.
-- The Canyon Kids
(Shimon Camiel, 2006)

She filled his office with the aroma of White Shoulders perfume and grape bubble gum.
-- Crucifax
(Ray Garton, 2010)

As she entered he could smell the fresh scent of White Shoulders perfume. She was a beauty with her soft and lovely body. She had blue eyes as blue as the hotel pool.
-- Another Sixth Sense: The Fort Lauderdale Story
(Brian Keith Roesch, 2002)

Even before she reached the table, Huff picked out her perfume — White Shoulders. This was the beauty's only regrettable feature, since Gertie Huff wore the same perfume.
-- Crawfish Mountain: A Novel
(Ken Wells, 2007)

As he dribbled out to the middle of the driveway he could smell her fragrance. It lingered on him. Mallory and all her friends wore the same perfume, “White Shoulders.” And it was sickly sweet.
-- The Last Jewish Shortstop in America: A Novel
(Lowell B. Komie, 1997)

When the wind was just right I thought I smelled her perfume. White Shoulders.
-- Heads or Tails: Stories from the Sixth Grade
(Jack Gantos, 1995)


My mother was a bashful champagne blonde who always smelled of White Shoulders perfume.
-- My Trip Down the Pink Carpet
(Leslie Jordan, 2008)

Within an instant a floral perfume odor began to permeate the bedroom, and it smelled like “White Shoulders” perfume. She always knows when I need her the most, my grandma was standing nearby. She had passed a few years back, but while she was alive, she wore this perfume religiously.
-- Connects
(Katrina Rose, 2011)

White Shoulders, her mother's favorite perfume, lingered in the air. The subtle tang of perspiration and leather was there too. It was a familiar and pleasant mix that tugged at Calleigh's emotions.
-- All Fired Up
(Kristen Panter, 2010)

Suddenly the perfume made sense. My mother wore perfume when I was a girl. White Shoulders. The cheap stuff, she always used to say, a dead giveaway of her wheat farmer origins. Even when she was wealthy enough to afford better she kept wearing it.
-- Iced
(Jenny Siler, 2001)

Brenda barely noticed her mother's retreat, the clacking of the heels, the faint odor of White Shoulders perfume drifting about the air like an errant ghost.
-- Wizards, Inc.
(Martin H. Greenberg and Loren L. Coleman, 2007)


Body warmth was hanging in the air, faint smells of Enid's White Shoulders perfume, and something bathroomy, something old-persony.
--The Corrections
(Jonathan Franzen, 2002)

When I approached them with Sadie at my side, Mrs. Knowles rose and put her arms around me. I was almost overwhelmed by the odors of White Shoulders perfume and Yodora antiperspirant.
(Stephen King, 2011)

Smoke, vodka, Final Net hairspray, White Shoulders perfume. On her TV tray, the little white bag of chocolate-covered almonds she never ate, this week's TV Guide, her ashtray, finally empty.
-- Where No Gods Came
(Sheila O’Connor, 2004)

A woman was peering at him, her thin face wrinkled like fine parchment paper, her gaze a watery blue. Glasses dangled from a chain around her neck, and she smelled like White Shoulders perfume and cedar mothballs. Librarian. The perfect librarian.
-- Brandon’s Bride
(Alicia Scott, 2011)

Miss Smith wore buckets of White Shoulders perfume under and between the many folds of her arms and stomach. But it was Miss Burns who captured my heart and set it free.
-- The Ultimate Teacher
(Todd Whitaker, 2009)

The Parisien smelled of musty broadcloth, of armpits and unclean bottoms, of sweat laced with "White Shoulders," the perfume in vogue with taxi-dance queens that year.
-- Bird Lives: The High Life and Hard Times of Charlie ‘Yardbird’ Parker
(Ross Russell, 1996)


She could still smell Jesse's White Shoulders perfume. Bisquick biscuits baking in the oven. The freshly printed pages of a new Sears catalogue. Links in the chain.
-- Film Society
(Gilaine E. Mitchell, 2000)

After a time, the room began to smell like him, but since he kept the door closed, the rest of the house was Granny's: Juicy Fruit and White Shoulders perfume, biscuits and peppered gravy and floor wax, the smell of lace breaking down.
-- Like Family: Growing Up In Other People’s Houses, A Memoir
(Paula McLain, 2009)

It takes me back to the claustrophobic little house my grandmother lived in, to the depths of her bedroom, where she kept an endless supply of White Shoulders perfume on her dressing table.
-- Jump
(Terra Little, 2011)

Somewhere, the smell of home: the smell of onions sizzling in butter and her mother's White Shoulders perfume. New carpeting and clean laundry and Brillo pads.
-- Come From Nowhere
(Ellen Greenfield, 2011)

I could smell us: Mother's White Shoulders perfume, what the Pine Sol had left, the sweat Mr. Knapp is given to when he isn't sitting still.
-- All Things, All At Once: Selected Stories
(Lee K. Abbott, 2007)

The house scent alternates between cooking smells, lemon wax, and White Shoulders perfume. It's a picture of taut, preparty perfection, and Constance shuffles at the starting gate.
-- Blue Plate Special
(Frances Norris, 2006)

There was a certain hush, a certain smell of Abolene cream and White Shoulders perfume. It was very quiet; it was very dark; it was subject to its own laws like the phone booth where Clark Kent was transformed into Superman.
-- Wishful Drinking
(Carrie Fisher, 2008)

When she inhaled deeply to release a heartfelt sigh, she smelled the faint odor of her grandmother's cigarette smoke, her mother's White Shoulders perfume, and the Appalachimahoochee landfill that lay less than a mile to the west.
-- Take Me, I’m Yours
(Elizabeth Bevarly, 2011)

It was the scent of the discarded past: yellowed photographs, thirty-year-old furniture, and White Shoulders perfume, which no one born this side of 1960 wears.
Looking for Lily
(Africa Fine, 2008)

Her parents' kitchen smelled like peanut-butter cookies and her mother's White Shoulders perfume. It was also dark and empty and quiet.
-- Hunger
(Barbara J. Hancock, 2010)


He could smell the fragrance of White Shoulders perfume that she always wore when they were together. It immediately brought back pleasant memories of years past.
-- Ocean City M.D.
(Tom Croft, 1998)

Phoebe lay in the dark, breathing in the scent of White Shoulders, the only perfume Pearl ever wore, a fragrance so similar to that of wisteria blossoming just outside the bedroom window that it seemed something she naturally exuded…
-- Owl Island
(Randy Sue Coburn, 2007)

A hint of White Shoulders perfume lingered on her sister’s clothes, and Jenny closed her eyes.
-- Waiting for Morning: Volume 1
(Karen Kingsbury, 2002)

Sometimes, when it rains, I can still catch a whiff of her White Shoulders perfume.
-- Leap Day
(Wendy Mass, 2004)

The lilacs that grew there reminded her of the White Shoulders perfume Aunt Tillie wore, and the scent of them that spring day sent her into reverie.
-- Always True to You in My Fashion
(Valerie Wilson Wesley, 2007)

Maybe the men sitting alone in the bakery, leaning in toward her as she poured her awful coffee, would smell her perfume, a perfume as uncomplicated, as unoriginal as White Shoulders, and remember some other’s throat, some other’s wrist.
-- The Phantom Limbs of the Rollow Sisters
(Timothy Schaffert, 2007)


Inside the box she'd found a small bottle of perfume. White Shoulders. She didn't know that particular scent was still being manufactured. It was such an old-fashioned fragrance.
-- Close Enough to Kill
(Beverly Barton, 2011)

I recall the scent of her perfume, White Shoulders, as it rose, heated, in the closeness of the little room, in the excitements of jewels and marble and money. The world has no use for all this anymore, I think.
-- Close to the Machine: Technophilia and Its Discontents
(Ellen Ullman, 2012)


A touch of White Shoulders perfume, a quick brush though her short blonde curls, and Amy was ready. She checked herself in the mirror and muttered. “Knock him dead, Aim.”
-- Love Finds a Way
(Molly Daniels, 2007)

She could hit a golf ball about two hundred yards, straight down the fairway. As she approached, I got a whiff of her perfume, White Shoulders.
-- A Dream of Wolves
(Michael C. White, 2002)


The sweet smell of her White Shoulders perfume rocked him with memories of their weekend. Tony pulled her slender form closer and felt as if he was falling in love all over again.
-- Let’s Begin Again
(Debra White Smith, 2003)

The scent of White Shoulders perfume was always present. Agnes literally oozed romance.
-- A Stranger Comes Home
(Dawn Lamb, 2006)

Her face was now a quarter of an inch from his, and he smelled the intoxicating scent of her White Shoulders perfume; in that moment she became Rita Hayworth in Gilda; no, Lana Turner in The Postman Always Rings Twice.
-- Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café
(Fannie Flagg, 1997)

I came back into the living room in my pajamas, with my hair slicked back, wearing White Shoulders perfume, a clear mating signal, but he had spread official papers all over the sofa and didn't look up.
-- Cupid and Diana
(Christina Bartolomeo, 1999)

Taking further stock of the situation, she realized that they were both naked, and then she smelled it: the elusive hint of White Shoulders perfume.
-- Ghost Moon
(Karen Robards, 2008)


I remember Teddy Bear coats, the New Look, White Shoulders perfume, pointy Whirlpool bras (not infrequently improved with cotton stuffing), Ipana smiles, eyelash curlers.
-- Essay by Alix Kates Shulman, Atlantic Monthly (1972);
anthologized in The Marriage Agreement and Other Essays (2012)

How would I know I was grown... (w)ithout saying, I have turned into my mother? Would I have to lie sprawled across a summer-bed, silver dangling from my earlobes, my child strangling in the heat of moist sheets and department-store White Shoulders perfume, before I was grown?
-- Pushkin and the Queen of Spades
(Alice Randall, 2005)

Charlotte walked behind her, inhaling the White Shoulders perfume - the smell of her parents going out dancing or over to a neighbor's for bridge.
-- Magic Gun Trick: A Collection of Short Stories
(Jeannine Dorian Vesser, 2008)

I was a smart, mouthy tomboy in a 2,500-person town where the ideal of womanhood carried with it a lot of chiffon or mascara. Instead of pictures of music or screen idols adorning my bedroom walls, my ceiling was hung with the model airplanes I'd assembled. I didn't smell of White Shoulders perfume. I smelled of airplane glue.
-- Managing Martians
(Donna Shirley with Danielle Morton, 1999)


All the Christians sat listening to the sermon, but a great gulf separated them. She was on the other side! She could smell her mother’s White Shoulders perfume. If the atom bomb went off, she would wake up in hell, where five billion years was nothing. Five billion years was but a drop in the bucket of eternity.
-- The Hallelujah Side
(Rhoda Huffey, 2000)

Offering the ladies of her Prayer Warriors group a sheepish grin, she slipped into the second row of purple-cushioned pews beside Sister Jamerson, and was instantly enshrouded by an ambiance of White Shoulders perfume.
-- All Things Hidden
(Judy Candis, 2004)

Just before their three-day honeymoon, she'd bought a tiny bottle of White Shoulders with the last of her own money. But Carl had said perfume was as seductive as immodest dress and might lure a man to sensual thoughts.
-- When Sparrows Fall
(Meg Moseley, 2011)


I'd done badly in biology class the year before because I hadn't been able to look inside the body cavity of my dissected fetal pig—its pink skin peeled back,smelling of babies and ham and my mother's White Shoulders perfume…
-- Boy Heaven
(Laura Kasischke, 2008)

Everything smelled of White Shoulders perfume, heavy and sickeningly sweet. A bottle had broken and doused the contents of her purse. To those who had come to know Liz Wheaton, it had become the smell of fear and lingering hate.
-- A Wicked Snow
(Gregg Olsen, 2007)

The scent of White Shoulders perfume mingled with the coffee and cinnamon in the air. Shelby turned in her seat to face the mother of the most recent murder victim in Loomis.
-- A Cloud of Suspicion
(Patricia Davids, 2009)

The mattress was only a few inches deep, but from within it Hulan could smell a distinctive scent that she remembered from America. It was White Shoulders perfume. No wonder the women who slept here talked of ghost spirits. The oppressively sweet odor had always reminded Hulan of death.
--The Interior
(Lisa See, 2007)


I brushed her teeth gently and let her wash her mouth out with mouthwash again and again until the taste of vomit was gone. I touched her cheeks and throat with drops of White Shoulders perfume, the essence of Lucyhood to me.
-- Beach Music
(Pat Conroy, 2002)

I was immediately overwhelmed by the familiar scent of her White Shoulders perfume. Standing there, she seemed so close that I expected to turn around and find her behind me.
-- My Lost and Found Life
(Melodie Bowsher, 2007)

She smelled of coffee and cigarettes and White Shoulders perfume. “I love you,” I whispered in her ear. It was the last time I said it.
-- The Last Bridge
(Teri Coyne, 2010)

This exploration of White Shoulders' literary legacy was inspired by a decanted vintage sample generously gifted to me by Natalie of Another Perfume Blog. Her version, so much fuller than the current formulation, clearly declares itself the precursor (mother? grandmother?) of Estee Lauder's White Linen, which further improves on the formula by retaining the hint of sex that lifts the wearer above mere household sainthood.

Scent Elements: Aldehydes, gardenia, jasmine, tuberose, lily-of-the-valley, lilac, lily, iris, amber, benzoin, musk, civet, oakmoss

Blood Orange & Vetiver Demi-Absolute (Soivohle)

Sometimes simplest is best and most true. Blood Orange & Vetiver is exactly what its name proclaims: two gorgeously fiery accords (one smoky, one sweet) burning up the dance floor. Even if other notes were present, they would not dare to insinuate themselves into this blazing pasodoble, during which all time seems to stand still. Suspended in the passion of the moment, I am happy -- indeed, privileged -- to play the spectator.

Scent Elements: Blood orange essence, vetiver

Voile d'Ambre (Yves Rocher)

"Which one of you is wearing Shalimar?"

"Not me. I'm not wearing perfume."

"I'm wearing perfume, but it's not Shalimar."

"Well, it smells like it."

"A bit. Stop sign."

"I see it, I see it... so what is it, if not Shalimar?"

"It's called Voile d'Ambre."

"Vwa what?"

"Voile, like the fabric. Then ambre for-- well, amber. It means 'veil of amber'."


"Like a beaded curtain? Amber beads?"

"I have an amber and sterling pendant I got at the Route Seventy swap meet. They wanted twenty-five for it, but I talked 'em down to eighteen."

"This amber's different."

"Really? How so?"

"The amber they use to make perfume is different than the amber they-- oh, you want to make a right up here."

"....okay. Now where?"

"I'm parked two levels up on the left. You were saying?"

"Both are resins, but one is petrified."

"Like in Jurassic Park, with insects trapped in it."


"Not the perfume kind. It's powdery and sweet."

"Let me smell it again... You're right, it IS sweet."

"I still say it's Shalimar."

"I'm telling you, it's not."

"Like I said, it smells like it. All lemony. But lighter."

"So call it Shalimar Light. It's easier to say than Vwa Dumb."

"There's already been a Shalimar Light, and this isn't it. For one thing, it probably costs a third as much."

"That makes sense. It's at least a third as good. Here I am! See you ladies tomorrow!"

"She always gets the last word..."

Scent Elements: Mandarin leaf, cardamom, opoponax, incense, myrrh, patchouli, Australian sandalwood, Madagascar vanilla

So Elixir Eau de Parfum (Yves Rocher)

More like "So-So Elixir", this ethylmaltol floral appears to be YR's answer to the ditzy celebu-scents that crowd the pedestrian walkways of Perfumeland. Composed equally of corn syrup and overblown roses, it climbs indecorously into your lap and smothers you with sweaty cleavage, giggling like a hebephrenic all the while. Its drydown smells like iced tea left out in the sun to turn into booze-- and unlike better Yves Rocher fragrances, which live beautifully and die demurely, it hangs around and hangs around until well past last call.

If this is a reflection of the fragrance zeitgeist, it's time to change the guest list and hire a bouncer or two, because this stuff is getting old.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, Damask rose, jasmine, incense, patchouli, tonka bean