One Thousand Scents

Friday, August 01, 2008

Two Bad

I had this big project planned for the entire month of August and possibly beyond, even bigger than the month of Demeters, and, well, it's not ready, because, as it turns out (who knew?), I have a life beyond blogging. Maybe September. If not, then next August. (It has to be one of those months. You'll know why when it happens.)


According to Perfumeshrine, Miel de Bois is about to be discontinued. Apparently, mastermind Serge Lutens and perfumer Christopher Sheldrake didn't even like it. But I did! I don't perceive that supposed urinous quality at all; I just smell a dense, thick, riveting complexity. If it really is being discontinued, and if I can find a bottle for a good price, I'll be buying.


In my first year of university, the mandatory English course used a textbook containing a chapter called "Varieties of Badness", detailing the various ways in which literature can run off the rails; I enjoyed this so much that I began actively searching out literary badness, going so far as to read a biography of dreadful novelist Amanda McKittrick Ros and hunting down a copy of The Stuffed Owl: An Anthology of Bad Verse, a disintegrating paperback which I still own.

Just as there are varieties of literary badness, there are varieties of olfactory badness. Here are two.


For years now, Escada has been cranking out interchangeable, silly fruit-punch scents aimed at young women. Last year, they added Sunset Heat to the line, and broke the mold by making one for men, too; Sunset Heat for Men.

The most recent women's scent was called Moon Sparkle, and I couldn't quite believe it, but they called their men's version Moon Sparkle for Men, as if someone had dared them to. The fragrance is shockingly bad, entirely worthless from start to finish, a blot on the anonymous perfumer's name. Sunset Heat for Men wasn't any good, either, but at least it was just another pointless entry in the overcrowded fresh-scent-for-young-men market. This one is atrocious.

Once again, it consists of a load of synthetic fruit perched atop a load of glaring, synthetic wet on a base of harsh, synthetic wood. This time around, the aquatic notes in the middle are peculiarly aggressive; they jam themselves into your nose, hammer their way in, and will not be ignored or avoided. There seems to be some attempt at complexity, but rather than being a carefully constructed unity or a succession of identifiable notes, it's just a slurry. I am assuming that you couldn't possibly care about the list of notes, but if there's one person out there who does, here they are:

bergamot, mandarin, pepper, ginger, violet, green grape, floral aquatic notes, georgywood, cedarwood, marine amber, vetiver.

You couldn't pick out any of them if you tried. And what the hell is "georgywood"? Some rare wood that grows only on the African savannah, or beside an Italian lake? No, it's a woody-amber synthetic. I'm sorry I asked.

Even the bottle is bad, a duplicate of last year's Sunset Heat without the ridges which might have given it a modicum of graphical interest. Even the name is bad. The scent is aimed at young, hip men, judging from the ludicrous packaging (block-jawed hipster in candy-striped jacket before a silver moon), and yet it's been given a name that suggests an animated Japanese cartoon aimed at eleven-year-old girls, and adding "for men" at the end doesn't make it any more masculine. Moon Sparkle for Men? Why not Pretty Sequined Pony for Men, or Unicorns Daisies and Rainbows for Men?

There's only one explanation that makes any sense. Trying to get out of the men's fragrance line altogether, Escada deliberately sabotaged their latest launch in an attempt to lose as much money as possible. It wouldn't surprise me if legions of young women bought the women's version and then the men's version for their boyfriends, but if guys are buying this scent, then I don't want to know about it. At least, being a yearly limited edition, it won't be around much longer. The bad news is that in a few months there'll be another limited-edition Escada for women, and, if we're unlucky, another one for men, too, and this whole miserable cycle will start all over again.


The One for Men, the men's version of Dolce and Gabbana's successful women's scent, isn't shameful or horrifying. It's merely bad in a dull, depressing, garden-variety way. An oriental scent, it starts with the usual shot of citrus, married to the usual warm-bright spices, which gradually give way to the usual vanilla-wood-amber drydown with a little tobacco, and not much of that. There is not one thing in this sad little fragrance that is remotely interesting or offbeat, nothing that could make it stand out, nothing that anybody who's been paying attention hasn't smelled a dozen times before.

The bottle's nice, though.


  • In defense of Moon Sparkle, I love the lady's version. It smells like a piece of the blue Hubba Bubba that has melted onto the sidewalk at Coney Island. Personally I would have named it Sneaker-Gum, packaged it in a filthy Converse high-top and marketed it to 12 year olds.

    I agree that the men's version is dreadful and the bottle is dull. Even the lady's bottle is a more "modern" interpretation of the already weird Escada yoni-bottle. But I love that there's a new flavor each year. I'm looking forward to the one that smells like old Necco Wafers at the bottom of a backpack.

    By Blogger the oblitterati, at 2:00 PM  

  • I haven't tried the women's version, but I'll take your word that it's lovable. I wish all of their women's scents weren't so interchangeably the same. How many fruity florals does the Escada customer need, anyway? I mean, look at the notes for Moon Sparkle: strawberry, blackcurrant, citrus cocktail, red apple, sweet pea, freesia, jasmine, rose, raspberry, musky notes, sandalwood, dry ambery notes. Could you tell it apart from the other ones, or from any of several hundred other fruity florals on the market in the last eight years?

    I do think the bottle is very beautiful, a stripped-down and beautifully recoloured interpretation of the florid original, but then I generally like Escada's bottles, even the strange nuclear-orbit Acte II perfume bottle. Not so much the bottles for Magnetism or Sentiment, come to think of it, neither the men's nor the women's, nor the three Escada Sport bottles in the late nineties. But I like the Escada men's house bottle very much, the one they used for Escada Pour Homme, Silver Light, and Casual Friday, though this new one is just boring.

    And yet you know I'll be checking out the new men's scent once it's launched. I can't quite imagine what they're going to call it. Something appalling, no doubt.

    By Blogger pyramus, at 3:56 PM  

  • I just got a chance to re-sniff the men's version and the calone hit me like a whale carcass. I had to push it away.

    I agree with you that the uccession of fruity florals seems repetitive, but Moon Sparkle is weird. Most fruity florals aim for either fizzy levity (Moschino Funny, Anannas Fizz, Euphoria, Petite Cherie), or gourmande vanilla "sophistication"(Miss Dior Cherie, Delices, Nina). Despite the many notes listed, Moon Sparkle has none of these niceties.

    Escada just clobbers people over the head with fruit, Body Shop style, and Moon Sparkle is a weird overheated strawberry/blueberry rubber thing that's like wearing a gimp suit to bathe in pie filling. I would recognize it in an instant.

    By Blogger the oblitterati, at 10:56 AM  

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