One Thousand Scents

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Runner-Up: Anne Klein II (vintage)

Unless you were around in the mid-'80s, you've probably never heard of Anne Klein II: it wasn't on the market all that long, and it was overshadowed by another of the big scents of the day. You might have liked it, though. It starts off warmly fruity, exactly the sort of thing Serge Lutens would make his name doing years later, with a hint of greenness that's almost minty, and soon opens up into a warm, rosy oriental with a long-lasting vanilla-glazed amber base.

You can't tell from the picture, but the Anne Klein II bottle is half a cylinder, sliced cleanly down the long axis. It's not a very interesting bottle: I suppose you could call it minimalist, but in truth I find it dull, as if not a lot of thought had gone into it.

And, unfortunately, the scent itself is likewise a bit on the boring side, just a little. It's attractive, mind you, but with no real distinctiveness: in the end it's just another amber scent of the sort you've probably smelled a hundred times before. As well, it had the bad luck to be launched in 1985, the same year as Obsession: both were big amber orientals, but Obsession was bigger, and in the mid-1980s, size was everything. Obsession conquered the world with its twin juggernauts of advertising and sillage: it was everywhere, and Anne Klein II didn't stand a chance. It's better than most things that are being poured onto the market nowadays, but back then it was just one in a thousand.

Where Obsession was flat-out vulgar, Anne Klein II was cozy, nuzzling: sensual rather than sexual. The 1985 versions of the scents provide a lesson in how the same basic ingredients and structure (peach-and-citrus top, spicy rose-and-jasmine middle, ambered musk-and-vanilla base) can provide such different effects. Obsession starts big and stays big: it wants to bludgeon the object of its affections into submission. After its big opening, though, Anne Klein II gradually scales itself back until all that's left is warmed-by-the-sun skin.

Back when I first encountered it and hadn't already smelled a hundred different ambers, I was completely entranced by Anne Klein II: I described it as "liquid warmth", and it is. I still have a few drops left in my vial, maybe a millilitre, and I'll enjoy it while I can: it may be unoriginal, but it's well-made and appealing nonetheless. It's long discontinued, but if you are determined to own some, you can get it on eBay for a lot of money, upwards of $40 for an eighth of an ounce. (You might also consider 1991's Krazy Krizia, said to be almost identical, discontinued but available at the usual online retailers for not much money at all, or Serge Lutens' 2000 Ambre Sultan, which is very similar to Anne Klein II but without the fruity top notes.)

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