Oh, if only The Scent Critic had been born ten years earlier. How I longed to be a real hippie, tuning in, turning on and dropping out – when in fact all I could manage was wearing a groove in Scott Mackenzie’s Are You Going to San Francisco? on the record player in my still-little-girly bedroom, and putting the odd daisy from our suburban lawn in my hair. I am still a sucker, though, for the sandalwood and patchouli, musk and vetiver essential oils that I used to buy in Kensington Market from the Afghan coat/silk scarf stalls there, when I was finally old enough to bunk off double hockey and go up to London on my own.
So it’s the base notes of Juicy Couture’s latest which really appeal to me. (And the name. I do like the name, man. And actually, I’m quite keen on the quirky bottle, too, which is adorned with a turquoise-and-fluffy-tasseled bracelet that you can take off and wear.)
PL&JC starts off pretty – and no real hippie was ever this clean, I can assure you. Anything smelling less like someone who’s spent the past week at Woodstock is hard to imagine: it’s light, it’s fresh, it’s a little bit fruity (but not enough to put fruit-note-phobic me off), with a breath of Ribes-like blackcurrant and apple. (It’s apple season in The Scent Critic’s house, with peeling and freezing currently almost a full-time occupation, so I can tell you this crisp apple note’s tartly accurate.)
Actually, in the middle, PL&JC goes all Estée Lauder on me: echoes of the sheer, gauzy fragrances created by Karyn Khoury for that brand. (If this is hippie-dom, it’s a swirl-printed see-thru blouse with no bra underneath.) But wait: there are resonances, too, of Chanel’s divine Cristalle: green, fresh, with a definitely lily of the valley element that’s certainly not mentioned in Juicy’s blurb.
Of all the floral notes in its heart, though, the honeysuckle burst through loudest and clearest, for me, that summery strangler of a garden vine, which sweetly announces its presence long before you notice it abseiling up a wall. The fragrance was created, so we’re told, to conjure up the ‘free-spirited, Sixties-style vibe of Malibu’– so there’s a note of ‘Malibu poppy’, though I couldn’t make it out in the haze of jasmine, hyacinth, iris and magnolia. At this point, it’s still super-squeaky-clean – like a Park Avenue princess playing at being a hippie, limo-ed to rock festivals by her father’s chauffeur. A bit of an impostor. But lovely, nonetheless.
It’s certainly young: too young to hang out for long n the dressing table of The Scent Critic, but I can think of a pink-stretch-limo-ful of teenagers who are going to love, love, love this – and I’m going to love, love, love smelling it on them when they pile noisily into our bed to watch MTV on a Sunday morning. (The days of Spongebob Squarepants are, alas, over…)
But after it’s languished on the skin for a few hours, then the hippy-ishness rolls in like a Pacific Coast Highway morning mist. There’s a sort of ‘patchouli-lite’ element and a slightly shy but nevertheless sexy muskiness once it’s been on the skin for a while – a quiet-voiced, almost whispering come-hither note. It takes a while to get here, but the journey’s pleasant enough. It’s fun to imagine yourself wearing this in a Volkswagen bus, zig-zagging up the road to Topanga Canyon with a gaggle of friends, listening to The Byrds on the 8-track. Someone would be lolling on a sheepskin on the back seat, strumming along on a guitar on a sheepskin rug – and the sun would be beating down brightly…
For an old hippie manquée like me, it’s easy (not to mention pleasurable) to sniff my wrists – and almost imagine myself right there. (Although if Peace, Love & Juicy Couture was truly an homage to the 60s, wouldn’t they have taken a note out of Christopher Brosius’s book at Demeter – and added a cannabis note, for absolute authenticity…?)