Derived from the Greek chrysós (χρυσός, "gold"), the word chrysalis is used to describe the hard (and often gold-flecked) chitinous casing in which a butterfly pupa undergoes metamorphosis. From this tiny, gemlike sarcophagus the wingéd imago struggles to be reborn. Once it emerges, its shape will never again change. Butterflies do not grow or moult; they retain their beautiful final form to the end of life and beyond.
Liz Zorn's Chrysalis is quite another specimen. It performs all of its transformations after it leaves the confines of the bottle. These changes range from startling to deeply unpleasant; I would be hard pressed to find beauty in any stage of this perfume's life. I derive this conclusion from not one but two samples, obtained at different times from entirely separate sources. I applied perfume from only one vial at a time and took notes. For the sake of due diligence, I endured the entire testing process twice for each vial and scrubbed inbetween. Then I combined the contents of the two vials in one sprayer and tried again. (Is that enough testing for you?) Each time, Chrysalis developed on my skin in precisely the same way, following the same progression, and ending in the same displeasure.
STAGE ONE: Boozy fruit. Presumably a combination of the fig, cognac, and absinthe notes, this thick, sweet top note made me feel queasy-- but it was nowhere near as ghastly as what followed.
STAGE TWO: Decaying garbage. I am not kidding. The gush of rancid juice that issues from the back of a fast-braking sanitation truck in stop-and-go summer traffic: this was the jist of Chrysalis' heart. My instincts blame tuberose, jasmine, and that so-called "butter tincture" for this hellish accord, which I never wanted to smell again after the first whiff. Mark, if you will, that I wore it four more times to make sure.
STAGE THREE: Maelstrom. Elements of Stage One kept bobbing to the surface of the effluvium described in Stage Two, which sort of made them both worse. This went on for almost an hour, then was suddenly supplanted by...
STAGE FOUR: Incense. What?
Strangest of all was the utter predictability of these modulations. I applied the perfume in a prescribed manner -- left wrist, left inside elbow, right wrist, right inside elbow -- and while the first application had just broken through to incense, the last would still be roiling in landfill fumes. The only moment of pleasure occurred when all four application points had reached the incense stage, but from that point, the fade-out happened quickly, and I felt too riled and put-out to argue.
As a devoted fan of Zorn's work, it's by no means easy for me to say it. But while I'm positive that she gave Chrysalis every ounce of the care and forethought she brings to her very best perfumes, it remains what it is-- an immature creation, untimely born, incapable of flight.
Scent Elements: Absinthe, Calimyrna fig tincture, watermint, white magnolia leaf, cinnamon, jasmine absolute, marigold absolute, tuberose absolute, carnation absolute, opoponax, white amber, frankincense, sandalwood, orris butter, musk seed, cognac, tonka bean, butter tincture