26 October 2011

Autumn Drag

Like most perfume lovers (and enlightened perfume brands), I avoid assigning scents to a single gender. But that attitude differs in principle and in practice: the “wear-what-I-like” outlook doesn’t mean there aren’t clearly masculine or feminine aspects to most perfumes, whether it’s a nuance or an outright intention, and my collection, not unsurprisingly, leans heavily masculine. The few ‘feminines’ I do own fall in a distinctly androgynous zone. So, perhaps as a test of my claim to being a true ‘perfumista’ (the internet has failed horribly at generating a dignified word for us…), I recently set out to see if I could legitimately wear something that’s explicitly intended for women.

Prada Candy
I was expecting Daniela Andrier’s latest to be as big a departure from the rest of her Prada portfolio as the bottle is from the rest of Prada’s severe, square-edged collection -- like L’Eau Ambrée’s younger cousin with bigger hair and brighter teeth. Turns out, while Candy is indeed awfully sweet, it’s just as limpid as many of its predecessors. A dry, toasty note (which Dane at Pere de Pierre less charitably likens to a ‘dusty cardboard box’) chaperones the synthetic caramel accord into the world, and for me is the only point of interest. It vanishes all too quickly. From there on, it’s all smooth caramel and very soft musk. The tone that Andrier set years ago with Infusion d’Iris (which, incidentally, I own and wear frequently) doesn’t translate nearly as well here as it did with L’Eau Ambrée, so it’s a good thing the packaging alone will likely be enough to move a few million units.

Balenciaga Paris L’Essence

Wow. How did this even make it out the door? Both of my wrists were otherwise occupied when it came time to sample this one, so my poor sister’s had to stand in -- and I almost immediately apologized for asking her to volunteer her skin for this disaster. I’ve read many positive reviews of this recently-released flanker to Balenciaga Paris (which I thought was nice enough but not remarkable), but I can’t for the life of me see what they’re on about. Octavian Coifan writes, “The floral heart of the perfume surrounded by the green slightly fruity IFF violet molecules and wrapped in cotton musks reveals a extremely delicate may rose paying a compliment to a Parma Violet.” I suppose it is a bit green, and not just ‘slightly fruity’ but alarmingly so. Those IFF violet molecules don’t strike me as delicate at all, but rather screechy. I get a vague sense of an iris in the heart, but the poor thing is drowning in a vat of liquid violet soap. I would describe it as ‘linear’, but the almost overwhelming loudness of it leads me to think ‘monolithic’ would be more accurate. Women and men alike should avoid this at all costs.

Bottega Veneta Eau de Parfum
It seems like everyone who’s written about this smashing debut fragrance races to compare it to giants of the suede-leather genre: Lutens' Daim Blond, et al. Fair enough, but I’m wholly convinced of its faithfulness to the Bottega identity specifically: refined, restrained and utterly luxurious. There is a faintly sweet plum note up front that readies the palate for the ultra-smooth glove leather (no birch tar or styrax for miles). The jasmine-oakmoss-patchouli aspect plays a minimal supporting role, giving the leather accord a bit more roundness as it wears, never jostling for attention. There’s nothing terribly complex about it, which A) is yet again in line with Tomas Maier’s aesthetic vision, and B) is a big part of why it works so well. Michel Almairac has not reinvented the wheel with this leather fragrance; he’s just made an exquisite one that I, as a man, would be happy to wear.