Tell me: what lengths have you gone to, to get your hands on a fragrance…? Continents scoured…? Begging letters sent…? Pilgrimages made…? Well, so consumed was The Scent Critic with the desire for Plum by Mary Greenwell – the debut fragrance from one of the world’s top make-up pros – that yesterday, she left behind deadlines and a To Do list as long as three arms to make a 140-mile round trip by train with one thing only in mind: bagging a bottle of this extraordinary, extravagant, exceptional chypre.
Now, first off, why would a make-up artist launch a fragrance, before a range of maquillage…? Because, Mary insists, scent has always been the finishing touch when she’s been making up Christy, Naomi, Linda, Cindy, Claudia (or you name them…) But heck, this is some debut. It’s rich as Onassis. Intense as Einstein. Bold as Lady Gaga. (And I bet, when LG launches her first fragrance, it’s not a patch on this.) In point of fact, I’ve been in love with Plum since Mary gave me the very last dregs of the sample vial she’d been carrying round in her own handbag, a couple of months ago. (When that spritzed its last, I truly felt bereft.)
Anyway, I can’t think of a more appropriate setting for last night’s launch than The Connaught’s spiffy new ballroom, because Plum is a very, very dressed-up fragrance. Could be worn with a tiara. (Although equally, by someone looking for a truly unforgettable signature scent of their own, with jeans.) What makes it super-special, in The Scent Critic’s opinion? 100%, confidently feminine, Plum – which is boldly being launched as an eau de parfum – has not a single harsh moment, as it develops on the skin. Indeed, the perfect, soft edges and the way it elegantly segues from top to heart to base remind me of a Joy, a No. 5, a L’Air du Temps. (Yes, the Scent Critic honestly thinks it’s that good.) It grabs you at first whoosh, taking no prisoners. (Shrinking violets need not apply for Plum; it has a personality as big as Mary Greenwell’s.) Lush top notes are fruity without being over-sweet: the plum of its name, a Mitsouko-esque, Bellini-ish dash of peach, some classic citrus notes and tangy blackcurrant. And then, oh then, the heart literally folds around you like a Slanket. (I that’s way too downmarket an association, but the gardenia, the rose and jasmine and orange flower absolutes – along with an understatedly exotic touch of tuberose – really do warmly enfold, envelop and cocoon you like a comforting fleecy blankie.)
Those heart notes linger and linger. (It also seems to have a special affinity with fabric, so that anything you wear while spritzing give off great pleasurable wafts of Plum, next time you slip them on.) But eventually – and in true diva supermodel style, they turn up late – the base notes sashay sexily in: the classic oakmoss signature of a chypre, patchouli, amber, white musk, together with a whisper of cedarwood, if I’m not mistaken.
A little bird in the fragrance world had intimated to me that Plum might actually be the work of Pierre Bourdon (one of the greatest-ever fragrance creators), who retired some years ago. (M. Bourdon was the perfumer behind Kouros, Davidoff Cool Water, Paul & Joe Bleu etc.) Actually, the ‘nose’ turns out to have been François Robert, a fourth-generation perfumer with a serious pedigree (his father created Madame Rochas and Dioressence, while grandfather Henri was responsible for Cristalle and No. 19 during his tenure at Chanel). François has notched up some pretty impressive work of his own including the re-work of Arpège, and Lanvin Vetyver. Well, mark my words, Plum has all the makings of a great classic, a fragrance with a century’s lifespan, maybe even an immortal – and it had to come from someone with a very rare gift. (One can only hope that House of Fraser – who are the exclusive stockists – know what they’ve got their hands on, and do it justice.)
And now just one aside, before The Scent Critic shuts up. (I could go on and on about this – as we say in our family, ‘like a roll of wallpaper…’) Since Mary’s worked for just about every major make-up brand in the world, unsurprisingly, there was a fair smattering of glamorous PRs at last night’s soirée. So, I hung out a bit with the Chanel-ettes (as you do). And when I mwah-mwah-ed them on my way out – headed for that seemingly never-ending late night train ride home, swinging my scented quarry joyously from my arm (in its sexy, Schiaparelli-pink bag) – one of them said: ‘Well, you smell very Chanel.’ Only it was Plum.
Seriously, seriously sophisticated, then, the whole fah-bul-ous fusion. And as one last bonus, Plum also possesses staying power worthy of the Duracell bunny. I’d made a bee-line for the bottle – hefty, expensive-seeming, with an almost lethally heavy gold top that’s too-too-Courrèges-dahlings – the minute I arrived, for a longed-for fix. Then 12 hours after I first spritzed, Plum was the first thing to enter my consciousness this morning. A very nice wake-up call for the senses indeed.
And definitely worth a 140-mile journey. (Although if you’re lucky, there may be a House of Fraser much closer to you than that.)