Private Collection (Estée Lauder)

Private Collection (1973) is a spirited chypre overflowing with verve, wit, sex, and magic. Whereas some chypres broadcast hard-edged cosmopolitan chic, this one radiates a softness and benevolence worthy of an Earth Mother. The goddess upon whom Private Collection is predicated was, of course, the late Estée Lauder-- a woman famous for her serene self-confidence and feminine allure, not to mention a forceful character capable of throwing quite a scare into those unwise enough to cross her. Full-bodied, dignified, and just a bit remote, Private Collection mirrors that age-old dichotomy: Lady Bountiful to her friends and lovers, Gorgon to her foes.

Like fraternal (but not identical) twins, Private Collection and Azurée share the sturdy armature of the classic chypre: bright citrus, intense moss, buxom woody amber, sly and sexy indoles. But while many of their features are to some degree interchangeable, the personality, comportment, and apparel of these two fragrances are resolutely individual. (After all, what lady of fashion likes to appear in public wearing the costume of another?) Whereas Azurée harbors a penchant for smartly-tailored leather, Private Collection prefers to go skyclad, clothed only in moonlight. Instead of smoky birch tar, she enlists galbanum, pine and reseda (mignonette) to entice the wearer into a labyrinth of scent associations as emotional as they are hypnotic.

Owing to the perfect harmony of Private Collection's composition, what could swerve in the direction of witchy theatrics instead leads one to the chypre's quiet, meditative center-- a place of deep peace and restful separation from the mundane world. One might be sitting in the twilight of the forest floor-- or at the bottom of the deepest lake, the sky but a pale glimmer overhead. No wonder Estée Lauder was prepared to keep Private Collection all to herself. Luckily, she chose to pass Nirvana on to all of us... and I for one am proud to be a member of her coven.

Scent Elements: Bergamot, honeysuckle, linden, hyacinth, jasmine, rose, chrysanthemum, neroli, ylang-ylang, coriander, galbanum, pine, reseda, heliotrope, sandalwood, patchouli, musk, amber