Welcome to this month’s installment of “Scent Semantics“, a group blogging project! The participating blogs are: Scents and Sensibilities (here), The Plum Girl, The Alembicated Genie, Eau La La, Undina’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:
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.
Luscious and glossy, indeed! And it seems that Mae West qualifies as a “modern muse”, at least to Salvador Dali.
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.
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.
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!