The Mémoire Liquide Reserve Edition (Mémoire Liquide)

It takes no special powers of perception to note that the fragrance industry, both mainstream and niche, cranks out new releases at a lunatic rate. The bottom line (rather than creativity or originality) motivates this effort. Perfume houses want to make money, and lots of it. Profit -- lovely stuff! -- is driven by brand visibility, which in turn is secured by as many perfume launches as you can shoehorn into a calendar year.

Look closely, and a couple of different modi operandi make themselves plain. First, there's the time factor. Established corporate houses such as Chanel, Coty, and Estée Lauder can afford to be more sanguine about their launch schedules, floating a gentle succession of flankers and limited-edition reissues downstream between major new launches. But niche houses -- particularly brand-new ones -- tend to go for broke straight out of the gate, blitzing the market with oversized multi-fragrance collections that leave consumers stunned. If one were to compare perfume with intravenous drugs (and who hasn't?), Coty & Friends clearly favor the slow IV-drip delivery method, while niche tries to pack it all into one fateful syringe. That's how overdoses happen-- not a pretty way to go.

Secondly, there's theme. Some collections (such as A Dozen Roses) are variations on a single note. Others cleave to the box-of-chocolates format, offering "one of every flavor"-- a bridal orange blossom, a sex-goddess tuberose, a citrus-tea cologne, a gourmand vanilla, and the obligatory oud. (One senses the artistic director's panic lest any potentially deal-breaking genre be omitted.) If nothing really matches, just link it all together with a series of evocative names the way Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab's been doing for years. Their Ars Amatoria collection consists of more than fifty (!) perfume oils all connected by the most tenuous of premises... and knowing BPAL, all fifty probably smell like a Jolly Rancher Jumbo-Pack.

Thirdly, there's presentation. One often sees identical bottles, each filled with a 'fume of a different (but complementary) hue, arranged as if in a police-station lineup (as here and here). If there are enough of them, they may come numbered à la Odin New York, Tokyo Milk, or CB I Hate Perfume. If it's a male/female duo launch, the bottles can be identical, but the selection pour femme should always be prettily pastel (as here). Easy-peasy, right?

Finally, there's the consideration of usage. Does each fragrance in the set stand alone as a finished product? Or is the consumer meant to use them as "ingredients" to mix up their own clumsy potions at home? (If Jo Malone represents the high-end neighborhood of the DIY model, Demeter Fragrance Library surely occupies its working-class suburbs.)

While it's challenging enough to navigate a coffret that comes from a known and trusted source (i.e. Christian Dior's Collection Privée; Cartier Les Heures de Parfum), confronting a massive multi-launch from a newcomer is a near-Herculean trial. Who can keep up? Not me, I tell you what. I find myself spent before I even toe the starting line. This may explain why I have yet to review these Mémoire Liquide samples I got at Sniffapalooza over a year ago.

Oh, God, I thought to myself both then and now. Another drop in the bucket.

I'm given to understand that Mémoire Liquide first emerged in 2006, debuting with no fewer than one hundred and fifty essences, all grouped in twee little categories comprising a vast mixable-matchable "bespoke bar". Just reading about it makes me crave a Centrum Silver and a nap. The Reserve Edition of five EdPs (Encens Liquide, Fleur Liquide, Soleil Liquide, Vacances Liquide, and Amour Liquide) marks its maker's foray into prêt-à-porter. Clearly, they've been cut using existing industrial patterns, one size fits all.

So here I am, trying to be fair and give these fragrances a chance... and I just feel tired. TIRED. Nothing's been left to chance-- and when I say that, I mean not only that every expected mark has been hit, but that absolutely no risks have been taken in the process. Even the color-coded-but-otherwise-uniformly-identical packaging of these samples deflects all curiosity. Nothing to see here, people; move along, move along...

Encens Liquide smells like a sweeter, wetter, cheaper version of Ambre Sultan. Fleur Liquide is a regulation orange blossom; Soleil Liquide a by-the-book "fresh" hesperides. Vacances Liquide is Parfums De Nicolaï Cococabana back from the dead. Amour Liquide is every single ethylmaltol-vanilla gourmand you have ever, ever smelled. Oriental: check. Bridal floral: check. Eau de Calone®: check. Cabo San Lucas vacation for two: check. Shit that smells like candy: check.

The worst thing? It's knowing that there are so many other boring collections out there just like this one... and you'll never know just how mind-deadening they are until you try them. Honest to goodness, it makes you want to cry.

Scent Elements: Amber, tea, white musk, hinoki cypress (Encens); orange blossom, mimosa, jasmine (Fleur); Madagascar vanilla, tonka bean, incense (Amour); grapefruit, tangerine, blood orange, neroli, sandalwood, white musk (Soleil); tiare, coconut, Tahitian vanilla, marine accords (Vacances)