One day, once Steve Jobs figures out how, you’ll almost certainly be able to smell perfume reviews. (It may take till 2050, but hey.) If you could smell this review, you would also smell a background note of paint drying – because by declaring this Eat, Pray, Love fragrance week, The Scent Critic has slightly painted herself into a corner here. When I started this blog, I decided only to review fragrances which I felt were worthy of their place in cyberspace: wearable, desirable, notable, intriguing, innovative, even revolutionary. (There are enough beautiful fragrances that already exist probably to keep me going for a lifetime – let alone my pick of all the new launches – so why devote space to duds?) And then along came Love – the third in Fresh’s fragrances to mark the release of the film of Elizabeth Gilbert’s blockbuster book. And I’ve got to go ahead and review it, even though I don’t – alas – love Love, because a promise is a promise.
Now, I do love Eat – with its light-as-air gourmand fizz. And I’m utterly enraptured by Pray, which (as I recounted earlier this week) is nirvana in a bottle, with the power to drop my blood pressure faster than you can say ‘om’. So: was a hat-trick too much to hope for? Maybe. But it’s also a taste thing: I’m just not that good with florals. They can go all soapy on my skin, and this really has its majorly Camay moments. Still, let me hold your hand while I walk you through Love’s different stages. Because maybe you’re a soft florals person, and you’ll find love with Love. Maybe even live happily ever after with it.
Let’s start with the fact that it’s meant to conjure up the final third of the book – in which our heroine travels to Indonesia and – no longer so bruised by her divorce, and very much more at ease in her sun-kissed skin – she (hurrah!) finds love again. To echo that, notes include ‘dewy jasmine’ and mango blossom. (If anyone out there knows what mango blossom smells like in real life, do post a comment, because I haven’t a clue.) It’s said to open with bergamot and redcurrant – but try as I might, all I get is fruit pastilles: Love starts out like yet another of the fruity fragrances with which the perfumeries are awash right now.
Then the heart notes sweep the fruitiness aside – and this, for me, is when it gets slightly cloying. Taire AND jasmine AND something called Lisylang, which is a new note from the Robertet fragrance company, fractionated from ylang-ylang, which they describe as: ‘Very pure and clean white flowers bouquets with jasmine, monoï, frangipani undertones, spicy lily and gourmand coco milk aspects’. (Lisylang sounds like it could be an entire fragrance in itself, if it was ever used solo.) Lisylang also, says Robertet, has ‘floral water topnotes’ – and Love definitely boasts the transparent, lily pond qualities of many of the sheer florals which were launched in the wake of Estée Lauder’s Pleasures. But together, these exotic flowers-of-the-Pacific notes make up a posse of big white flower guns, riding into town. And there ain’t no hiding place.
The base notes – which really take a good four hours or so to fight their way through – I find much easier to live with on my skin: a hint of sandalwood, a tiny smidgen of vetiver, albeit both hiding slightly shyly behind the ‘velvet amber’, which again accents the sweetness. Reading Fresh’s blurb, it’s said to ‘bottle the bright, colourful, anything-is-possible feelings of falling in love. Scents of passion, like percolating pheromones, sun-caressed skin and salty kisses, are combined with the lush aromas of Indonesia’s exotic landscape.’
W-e-l-l… I dare say if you like a white floral, you might actually fall for this. (Personally, I think I have been spoiled lately for those by Guerlain Idylle, which is a seriously hard act to follow.) But while this may be a grand, sweeping statement, I think florals, in general, are awfully hard to get right: in the wrong hands they can smell old-ladyish, or overpowering, or simply unbalanced. And for me, it’s the too-sweet soapiness of this that stands between me and Eat, Pray, Liking this.
Still, I can’t help hoping that there’s a film of the book of Elizabeth Gilbert’s terrific follow-up book, Committed – because I’d rather like to see what Fresh make of that. (It would have to have the stated aim of becoming someone’s signature fragrance-for-life, wouldn’t it?) And meanwhile? Two out of three successes isn’t bad at all, in the grand scheme of all the fragrances – the good, the bad and the seriously dodgy – which The Scent Critic gets to sniff her way through, in the space of an average week. Many of which smell very, very much worse than drying paint. (And therefore are not worthy, to my mind – not to mention my nose – of ever being featured here…)