Stella was the first fragrance launched by Stella McCartney, English fashion designer and daughter of Beatle Paul McCartney. (I’ll never say “ex-Beatle” — once a Beatle, always a Beatle!). The version I have is Stella 2014, the relaunch of the 2003 original. Although it is said to be the same fragrance, commenters on Fragrantica detect some meaningful differences, mostly that the 2003 original was more rose-dominant, and the 2014 reissue brought forward the citrus and peony notes. Not having the original to compare, I will say that I agree with the assessment that the citrus and peony notes in Stella 2014 are prominent. For the first several minutes of wearing it, I mostly smell the top notes of mandarin and peony, very little rose. The mandarin is especially prominent and it’s very nice — a bright, cheerful citrus that is fresh without being edgy, the way bergamot sometimes smells. It had been a while since I last wore Stella, and I almost didn’t include it in this “Roses de Mai Marathon” because I thought it might not be rosy enough! But then about 20-30 minutes in, the rose suddenly appeared.
This is one of the things I do love about a well-designed fragrance: notes really do come and go, changing the experience in a kind of olfactory hide-and-seek. And there is no question that Stella was well-designed; the perfumer who created it was Jacques Cavallier, whose list of fragrant creations takes up many pages and includes several legendary fragrances. One of his less famous creations is another one he did for Stella McCartney, a personal favorite of mine: L.I.L.Y.
The rose note in Stella is also fresh, to go with the mandarin and peony. It smells to me like a pink rose, but not a babyish pink — brighter but not garish. The rose note lasts for a good while, especially if you spritz yourself generously. Ats it dries down, Stella becomes slightly musky, not heavily so. The rose becomes barely perceptible, but it’s still there. I smell light musk more than I smell the listed amber and wood notes. But it’s very pleasant and soft, a nice skin scent for close up. And the opening half hour is delightful — a burst of sweet mandarin, juicy and bright, with a lush but subtle peony, followed by a true pink rose.
All in all, I’m happy to own one bottle of Stella (I have the EDP) but I don’t think I’ll need another. I enjoy it, but I have other rose fragrances I would choose before this one. This is one of the fragrances I may end up passing along to one of my daughters if they like it!