Scent Semantics, January 3, 2022

Scent Semantics, January 3, 2022

Welcome to this month’s installment of “Scent Semantics“, a group blogging project! The participating blogs are: Scents and Sensibilities (here), The Plum GirlThe Alembicated GenieEau La LaUndina’s Looking Glass, and A Bottled Rose. I hope you’ll all check out the Scent Semantics posts on each blog! The word of the month is “luscious.” I’ve struggled a bit with this, as luscious often implies something edible or juicy, and I don’t have many gourmand or fruity fragrances. I thought about riffing off my newly opened “January Joy Box” from 4160 Tuesdays, which is in fact bringing me much joy; it extends the holiday season in the nicest way but so far the offerings haven’t been gourmand or fruity. We have been eating many luscious holiday foods and treats for a few weeks now, including this amazing Pavlova my oldest daughter made, from Mary Berry’s recipe:

My daughter’s holiday Pavlova; recipe by Mary Berry

If that doesn’t say “luscious” to anyone, I don’t know what will. And it tasted as delicious as it looked! The flavor and the aroma combine the lightness and sweetness of meringue with the tartness and sweetness of the berries, to great effect. In fact, it occurs to me that a gifted perfumer could make a wonderful fragrance based on that combination, as long as the sugar took a back seat to the berries. The closest thing I have in my fragrance collection is probably Esteé Lauder’s Modern Muse Le Rouge Gloss, a flanker of Modern Muse which is a sweet, fruity, cherry-based fragrance with a modern chypre vibe. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a chypre, but it has a similar structure, with top notes of Sour Cherry, Carrot Seeds, Pink Pepper and Mandarin Orange; middle notes of Vinyl, Rose, Leather and Jasmine; and base notes of Honey, Vanilla, Patchouli, Styrax, Saffron and Labdanum, according to Fragrantica.

I had picked up a small bottle of this from a discounter’s clearance shelf, out of curiosity, but hadn’t yet tried it, so this month’s Scent Semantics assignment gave me a good reason to sample it. I think it has been discontinued, but it is still readily available online. The cherry I smell at the opening isn’t sour at all, by the way. What pops out right away is the pink pepper note, underwritten by red fruit and a bit of sweet citrus. I don’t know what the “carrot seed” note adds, since it’s not clear to me what “carrot seed” is supposed to smell like, as opposed to carrot. It has been described as soft and musky, and it seems to accompany iris or orris accords quite often in fragrances. Here, I think it adds a musky note to the opening stage of Modern Muse Le Rouge Gloss. The opening is lively and disarming, clearly designed to appeal immediately to someone trying a tester in a store like Sephora.

The heart stage is intriguing; the cherry note continues, but this phase does in fact suggest the “gloss” of the scent’s name, as if the red cherry and vinyl accords had combined in some mad re-creation of Salvador Dali’s famous “lips” sofa, originally inspired by a photograph of Mae West with her signature full, pouty lips, which he turned into a Surrealist portrait.

Red glossy vinyl sofa shaped like lips, by artist Salvador Dali
Lips sofa by Salvador Dali

Luscious and glossy, indeed! And it seems that Mae West qualifies as a “modern muse”, at least to Salvador Dali.

Surrealist portrait of Mae West by Salvador Dali
Mae West’s Face which May be Used as a Surrealist Apartment, by Salvador Dali; image from Art Institute of Chicago, artic.edu.

As it dries down further, the cherry accord morphs into a rose; the transition is very subtle, as roses can indeed smell like different fruits, including cherries. (I grow a very pretty rose called “Cherry Parfait“, but the name is because of its colors more than its fragrance). At this point, most of what I smell is a light, fruity rose with an undercurrent of vinyl. I don’t notice leather, or jasmine. If there’s any leather here, it is the shiny patent leather seen in this shoot of Kendall Jenner, who is Esteé Lauder’s model for Le Rouge Gloss, here modelling Miu Miu fashions, but the patent leather in Le Rouge Gloss is faux leather, made from vinyl.

Model Kendall Jenner wearing red patent leather jacket by Miu Miu.
Kendall Jenner for Miu Miu; image by Alasdair McLellan.

In the final stage, I clearly smell honey and a bit of vanilla. These base notes are well blended, they don’t hit you over the head with sweetness. However, the final stage of Le Rouge Gloss is a bit weak compared to its opening. It doesn’t have the “oomph” of a real chypre, and although patchouli is listed as a featured base note, I don’t smell it, or the listed styrax and labdanum. I do smell a hint of saffron, which warms the overall impression.

I will say that, consistent with Esteé Lauder’s design tradition, the bottle of Le Rouge Gloss is really pretty (also clearly meant to appeal to a potential buyer on first sight). I don’t particularly care for the shape of the Modern Muse line’s bottle, with its square top, but it has a certain Art Deco appeal. The version for Le Rouge Gloss, though, is in a deep red glass with the sheen of the lacquer the scent is supposed to evoke, and it looks gorgeous. In the small size I have, it’s like a lovely accessory. I think it might be a bit overpowering in the full 100 ml size, but I do love that red glass.

Red bottle of Estee Lauder's fragrance Modern Muse Le Rouge Gloss
Modern Muse Le Rouge Gloss; image from ireallyreallylove.com

All in all, I’m glad to have my small, discounted bottle of Le Rouge Gloss, and I can see wearing it occasionally when I just want something light, pretty, and undemanding. I won’t be seeking out another bottle, but I’ll enjoy this one!

See what the other Scent Semantics bloggers have to say about “luscious” at their own blogs! They are: The Plum GirlThe Alembicated GenieEau Là LàUndina’s Looking Glass, and A Bottled Rose. 

Scent Semantics blog list
Check out the other blogs doing Scent Semantics!
May Melange Marathon: Beautiful Magnolia

May Melange Marathon: Beautiful Magnolia

This is one of the few new 2021 fragrances I’ve tried this year. I was excited to get a sample from a kind sales associate, because I love the scent of real magnolias, especially the pink ones that bloom in my neighborhood, and I hoped this might resemble it. Sadly, it doesn’t. Beautiful Magnolia doesn’t live up to its predecessor, Beautiful, either, unfortunately. To my nose, it smells like a pleasant but nondescript flanker of Elizabeth Arden’s Sunflowers, and I wouldn’t be able to tell you which one. It’s pretty, and light, and it may do very well in some markets, but it’s not really for me, and I think its price is too high.

Fragrantica classes Beautiful Magnolia as a “floral aquatic” and lists its notes as follows: Top notes are Magnolia Petals, Lotus and Mate; middle notes are Magnolia, Gardenia, Solar notes and Turkish Rose; base notes are Musk, Cedar and Sandalwood. What I smell are: a bit of citrus, a bit of unnamed white flower, a hint of mate, white synthetic musk, and something slightly fruity. What I don’t smell are magnolia, lotus, gardenia, rose, or wood. I think the bit of citrus I smell is supposed to be “solar notes.” I can’t say much about dry-down, because Beautiful Magnolia doesn’t seem to have a true “drydown”, it just fades away, humming the same few wordless notes as when it entered the room. It is a very linear scent.

What a disappointment! I don’t often write reviews of scents I don’t care for, and this isn’t a “dislike” for me, it’s just that I expect better from Estee Lauder, a brand that has created so many memorable and classic scents. What I do dislike is the price for what Beautiful Magnolia is — $128 for 100 ml. I also dislike its recycling of the name “Beautiful” — the original Beautiful was a gorgeous 1980s floral, and even reformulated, it is so much more interesting and lovely than this. Comparing the two is like comparing artificial plastic flowers to the real thing. They may serve a purpose, and even be likeable, but they’re not on the same level.

Artificial magnolia flowers
Real magnolia flowers; photo by Deena on Pexels.com

Every spring, I eagerly await the blossoms of the pink magnolias. Some years, I am bitterly disappointed because a late frost comes along just as they’re about to bloom, and ruins the flowers. Nothing can be done about that; you just have to wait another year, until the next spring and the next magnolia flowers come. It’s a missed opportunity. That’s how I feel about Beautiful Magnolia. As Luca Turin once wrote about a different fragrance, “Encore un effort!” Please!

Do you have any recent fragrance disappointments? Or unexpected delights?

Featured image from: https://thewiltedmagnolia.blogspot.com/.

May Melange Marathon: Beyond Paradise

May Melange Marathon: Beyond Paradise

“Melange” is an apt word to use for Estee Lauder’s Beyond Paradise, as it is truly a melange of different florals. In their book “Perfumes: The Guide A-Z”, Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez not only gave it five stars, but also close to three full pages of discussion (most perfumes got a paragraph). He calls it a “symphonic floral.” Calice Becker was the perfumer who created it; Beyond Paradise was launched in 2003. The bottle I have is the teardrop-shaped, rainbow-tinted original. The batch number on the bottom suggests it dates to 2013. Fragrantica lists that version’s notes as: Top notes of Hyacinth, Orange Blossom, Grapefruit, Bergamot and Lemon; middle notes of Jasmine, Gardenia, Honeysuckle and Orchid; base notes of Hibiscus, Plum Wood, Ambrette (Musk Mallow) and Amber. The 2015 version in the rectangular bottle is described as having top notes of Blue Hyacinth, Orange Blossom and Jabuticaba; middle notes of Honeysuckle, Jasmine, Orchid and Mahonia; and base notes of Ambrette (Musk Mallow), Plum Blossom, Paperbark, and Woody Notes.

Both versions of Beyond Paradise are meant to be “fantasy florals” with a tropical theme; part of the length of Turin’s review is a long digression into the nature of abstract floral fragrances and how challenging they are to create, with a tip of the hat to perfumer Calice Becker, an acknowledged master of the art. According to contemporaneous press and PR coverage when it was launched, it included “proprietary notes” gleaned from a collaboration with The Eden Project, a fascinating conservation site in Cornwall, which involves massive biospheres located in and above an abandoned quarry and which I’ve had the privilege to visit. It does in fact house many rare and tropical plants, so it must be a great resource for unusual smells.

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Scent Sample Sunday: Aramis Calligraphy Rose

Scent Sample Sunday: Aramis Calligraphy Rose

Several of the perfume blogs I follow are featuring lists and questions about favorite autumn fragrances, and I’ve found myself mentioning, more than once, Aramis’ Calligraphy Rose, which I like to wear in the fall and winter as a “floriental” — still floral, which is probably my most favored category of fragrance, with added oriental fragrance aspects like spices, myrrh, frankincense, etc. Per Fragrantica, its top notes are oregano, saffron and honeysuckle; middle notes are turkish rose, myrrh, styrax and lavender; base notes are labdanum, musk, ambergris and olibanum (frankincense).

Calligraphy Rose was one of a trio of Aramis eaux de parfum launched from 2012-2014: Calligraphy (2012), Calligraphy Rose (2013) and Calligraphy Saffron (2014). It was created by perfumer Trudi Loren, who is listed with Maurice Roucel as co-creator of 2006’s Missoni, awarded five stars by Luca Turin in his original “Perfumes: The A-Z Guide.” It has been discontinued but is still widely available online for reasonable prices.

To my nose, Calligraphy Rose starts out green and sweet, which makes sense given the top notes listed. The oregano I smell is the green, growing plant, not the dried herb. The sweetness must come from the honeysuckle note, which Gail Gross wrote about in a wonderful review of Calligraphy Rose last January at CaFleureBon. For her, the honeysuckle was very dominant. It is less so for me, though its underlying sweetness never leaves. On my skin, the rose note emerges quickly and strongly, and it persists for a long time, which I love. I have layered Calligraphy Rose with other rose scents such as Taif Roses by Abdul Samad Al Qurashi, a powerful rose attar, on occasions like Christmas Eve, with happy results; any lasting rose fragrance will have the same effect of amplifying the already-strong rose note. I bet it would layer beautifully with Viktor&Rolf’s Flowerbomb Rose Twist, a perfume layering oil, or with Tauerville’s Rose Flash, with its 20% concentration. One could emphasize other notes in a similar fashion, such as adding a lavender or frankincense layer, pushing it in any direction one prefers. Calligraphy Rose is a bit of a chameleon.

As it dries down, Calligraphy Rose on its own becomes less floral and more balsamic, like a lovely balsamic glaze. This “glaze” was made with honey, and includes herbs. Having started out quite green, it becomes warmer, thanks to those warm base notes. In fact, its progression is not unlike the progression of autumn itself, from the lingering green of still-living plants, to the late flushes of rose blooms, to the warmth and spice of winter dishes. P.S. It lasts for hours and hours! One spray on my wrist is still wafting faintly off my skin almost 24 hours later as a warm, sweet skin scent. Use with a light hand, but you’ll smell marvelous for a long time.

Calligraphy Rose is a truly unisex fragrance. Launched under Estee Lauder’s men’s brand of Aramis, it suits both men and women. It is less gourmand than Montale’s Intense Cafe, more herbal. I love it!

Misty Copeland: Modern Muse

Misty Copeland: Modern Muse

Great news! Estee Lauder has announced that prima ballerina Misty Copeland will be the new face for their fragrance Modern Muse. I am so pleased! You can see a couple of wonderful videos with her at that link.

I love ballet generally; I have long been a fan of American Ballet Theater; and I admire Ms. Copeland. I also appreciate that this new role for her adds to diverse images of beauty and fashion, including not only race but also the strength and grace of her physique. The tag line for the campaign is “Be An Inspiration.” Misty Copeland is the perfect embodiment of that. Well played, Estee Lauder, well played!