One Thousand Scents

Friday, April 25, 2008

Wood You: Lancôme Miracle Homme

I was so, so tempted last weekend at a department store.

This is a limited-edition bottle for L'Homme by Yves Saint Laurent, designed by architect Jean Nouvel. The base for the bottle is the hexagonal-bolt cap for the original L'Homme bottle, and the flaçon, while it may be snickeringly phallic to some, is sleek and minimal (it's more test tube than phallus, and so resembles the bottle for Catalyst for Men by Halston).

There are a couple of nice features, one you can see in the picture and one you can't. That tiny green blob near the top of the bottle is the YSL logo encased in a curvy little capsule; it's inside the bottle, and it floats and bobs around in the juice. I like! The thing you can't see, which I like even more, is that the sprayer tube is made of a plastic with the same refractive index as alcohol, so it's literally invisible: there just doesn't seem to be a tube inside the bottle at all. When I noticed this, I was just dumbfounded. (You can read a little more about this new technology at Cosmetic/Personal Care Packaging Magazine's website.

I wanted that bottle. So cool! It would be like have a little sculptural executive toy on your dresser. But the problem is that I just don't like L'Homme any more now than I did when it was first released. It's thoroughly nondescript. I tried re-smelling it a couple of times, just to see if I could justify owning the bottle, but no. It's boring; not quite a blot on the company name, but still a waste of space. I was so disappointed that I ordered a bunch of stuff from Imagination Perfumery instead, due to arrive on Tuesday or so. I'll let you know how that works out.


Last week, the New York Times published this article about fragrance blogging, and I was a little shocked by two things. First, this:

“No question, the industry people are unnerved,” said Rochelle R. Bloom, the president of the Fragrance Foundation, a trade group. “I often get calls from executives pleading, ‘Can’t you do something about all this chatter.’ ”

They don't want us to chatter! They don't want us talking about their product in anything but the most glowing terms. Well, fuck that. Any reviewer or critic worthy of the name is going to write what they think.

Second, this, about fragrance writer Tania Sanchez (the wife of Luca Turin: they have a new book out, which I've ordered and will no doubt be obsessively discussing and quoting from in the near future):

She told of a prominent blogger threatened with a lawsuit by a perfume company because she had deemed its product only “O.K.,” and “a little disappointing.”

A company threatened to sue someone who wrote a less than flattering review?

Well, let's see if I can get in some kind of trouble.

Dear mass-market fragrance company:

Nearly everything you've released in the last twenty years has been horrible; for women, a boring, uniform fruity floral that's just like all the other fruity florals that all the other mass-market fragrance companies have been vending (not everything has to have pink pepper and lychee in it), and for men, a boring fresh aquatic/ozonic scent which likewise. You're insulting your customers with your relentless sameness. A little originality would be nice.


Dear high-end fragrance and design house:

The quality of your product, while generally high, has been in a decline for some time now, and it doesn't help that you've almost certainly been releasing between six and twenty new scents a year, which is more than the market can absorb. At least half your recent releases have been mediocre at best. Reformulating the established and classic scents isn't improving them, and your efforts to capture the youth market is dragging you down to a level you should be ashamed to occupy.


Dear niche perfumer:

"Natural" is not necessarily better than synthetic, and perfume, however nice (and it often is), is still just perfume and not a cure for cancer, no matter how insanely high-flown your descriptions of it, nor how much you charge.



It must be nice to be able to write about all the newest scents that come down the pike. Me, I don't really have the opportunity: most new scents never make it to my town, and I just can't afford to order samples of everything (I already spend way too much on this obsession of mine), so I'm limited to reviewing whatever happens to gravitate into my orbit. Luckily, that's still plenty. And why would I want to talk about only the newest things? A lot of the new stuff isn't much good, and there are a great many older scents that are classics, or at least very good.

Lancôme's Miracle Homme was released in 2001, a year after the (dreadful) women's version, and while it's nothing earth-shaking, certainly not miraculous, it's a nice, unobjectionable sort of men's scent, and there's nothing wrong with that.

After a wet, crisp opening that smells of red pepper (and a carroty note, to my nose) and, supposedly, maple leaves (not a huge impact there, and no maple-syrup note), the scent settles down into what can only be described as "wood coffee" (which, as it happens, is the name of a Comme des Garçons scent that I've never tried). There's a bitter coffee overtone and a dry handful of cedar, but neither of these is as intense as I would have liked; I guess I thought the scent would have been improved by the punch of, say, the cedar in Yves Rocher's Nature Millenaire. (Mugler's A*Men has both notes, and the coffee is stronger, but that scent is as sweet as Miracle Homme is dry. Mugler is actually coming out with what sounds like an all-coffee version of A*Men that I am going to have to try, because while I don't drink coffee, I love the smell of it.) Miracle Homme's slow drydown is more wood, gaiac and rosewood, supplemented with vetiver.

The bottle, it must be said, is a very nice piece of work, a chunk of glass that gives the impression of rectangular solidity but which is actually comprised entirely of curves and odd angles; the only flat surface is the bottom. The cap is slightly tapered and of gunmetal chrome, the box is dark coffee brown (a hint at the contents), and the overall presentation is appealingly masculine. I just wish the contents were wonderful instead of pretty good.


  • I enjoyed your letters to the fragrance industry, and the idea of your signing them "Pyramus" made me smile. We can all band together and write an open letter to the fragrance industry and sign with our screen names.
    The whole idea of being able to make a few calls and get "chatter" to stop is disturbing, but it's also the product of some pretty naive thinking.

    By Blogger Existentialist, at 2:37 PM  

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