One Thousand Scents

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Cheshire Copycat: Laurence Dumont Vanille Chocolat Shower Gel

When I said last week that sooner or later every fragrance line comes out with a version of Angel, I didn't know how right I was.

I often buy scents and tuck them away for later, often unsampled; I have the satisfaction of knowing that I have it in my possession, but I feel as if I don't really own it until I've opened and worn it, and I find that exciting--the constant temptation, the repeated denial, and then the giving in. So a few months ago, when I placed an order with Sephora, I had them throw in a tube of Laurence Dumont's Vanille Chocolat shower gel, and didn't even break the seal until yesterday. It seemed like it would be an autumnal sort of scent, warm and comforting.

However, Vanille Chocolat, or at least the shower-gel version, is essentially a duplicate of Angel. Not a note-by-note recreation, but a sketch, a simplified impression. The notes listed on Sephora are "vanilla, patchouli, chocolate, honey," and that should have been my first clue. As soon as I opened the tube and took a sniff, all I could think was, "What the hell?"

The top note is a synthetic fruity scent which is almost immediatelyburied under the familiar chocolate-vanilla-patchouli core (heavy on the patchouli). It's very sweet and very pleasant, and, well, it's Angel, stripped down.

The advertising copy on the tube promises that the "shower gel...will let your skin soft and deliciously perfumed all day long". Okay, they mixed up "let" and "leave", but they're French, we'll cut them some slack. What's practically false advertising is that "all day long" bit, because the gel doesn't leave even the slightest trace of scent on the skin. It vanishes! The fragrance is all washed down the drain, every bit of it--something I've never experienced with any soap in my entire life. How do they do it?

I was so expecting chocolate-vanilla on my skin, and so disappointed, that I had to anoint myself with Cocoon before heading out to face the day. Now there's a fragrance that knows how to do chocolate-vanilla-patchouli.


Friday, October 06, 2006

Mix and Match 3: Body Shop Invent Your Scent

I'm surprised that one important category of perfumery, the chypre fragrance, isn't represented (not even by Chymara, whose name would seem to be taking a stab at it). It's not as if The Body Shop wouldn't know what to do with it: they used to have a gorgeously sweet perfume oil called Chypre (which a Body Shop manager I used to know insisted on pronouncing "chiffre", as if she were afraid that the name would otherwise sound like "sheep"). Otherwise, they've more or less run the gamut. I wish they had taken a few more chances, though: a genuinely unisex collection (maybe one true floral in the bunch) with one wholly herbal-aromatic scent (so good for mixing) would have been daring and enjoyable.

Top: green basil leaves, fresh lemon, orange, aromatic, mint. Heart: ozone, peony, white lilies. Bottom: spices, musk

With a name like that, I was hoping for this to be a lot greener and a lot mintier--perhaps something akin to Guerlain's Herba Fresca. The basil leaves are startlingly potent--it's almost pesto without the garlic--and the entire top note is vital and unexpected. But then there are more of those damned lilies! The entire thing turns into yet another fresh floral, as if the world needed more of those, and any interest that the top note generated just dies away.

Top: violet leaves, bergamot, red pepper berries, palmarosa, rose leaves. Heart: rose petals, peony, muguet, fresh jasmine, cyclamen. Bottom: sequoia, sandalwood, white musk

The bottle's pink, the name's girly, so you know this has to be a floral, and it is--an exceptionally pretty one, rosy and light-hearted with a decided baby-powder undertone. It's lovely and happy--it calls to mind dozens of women's scents, particularly Gaultier's Le Classique and Oscar de la Renta, without seeming like a copy of any of them.

Top: ginger, bergamot, lime, tangerine. Heart: ginger, cardomon, pepper, freesia. Bottom: cedarwood, sandalwood

If you know anything about etymology, you're going to expect that this smells of ginger, because the Latin name for that spicy root is zingiber officinale. You'd be right, too: that's just what it smells like. (The name is clearly a cross between "Zanzibar" and "zingiber".) The ginger note is much truer and spicier than that in the offbeat Bulgari Blu Homme, and the whole composition has a rough-and-tumble spark to it; all edges, none of them smoothed over by vanilla or ambergris, just those spicy notes zipping in and out of a slightly musty cedar.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Mix and Match 2: Body Shop Invent Your Scent

Although this line is, typically, pitched at women, the advertising material makes one weak stab at getting men to buy some of the component scents (or getting women to buy it for their men): one of the combinations, which they've named "Cool Male", is a combination of Beleaf and Citrella. Two things wrong with that: "Citrella" isn't the name of a guy's scent, and both of the scents are unexpectedly floral. They would have been better off pitching Altaro plus Zinzibar, which is all man and heroically sexy to boot.

Top: baies rose, cassis, bergamot. Heart: fig, muguet, rose. Bottom: santal, musk

I'm a little surprised that they're marketing this, even in combination, to men. It's not as masculine or even as unisex as you might expect: the lily-of-the-valley scent in the middle is stronger than I'd have wanted it. But it is fresh and green, and not sugary-sweet thanks to the fig note. I think men should be able to wear any scent they want, but I honestly can't see most guys spritzing this on and buying it.

Top: mandarin, pineapple, berries. Heart: muguet, rose, white lilies. Bottom: woody, cedarwood, praline, musky, ambery

Bright fresh fruit in the top note, especially a gust of pineapple, but the whole composition rapidly announces itself as a floral-oriental; the rose, ambergris and praline leap up at you quickly. Extremely nice, not overly floral, and borderline gourmand; very simplistic, but then, it is meant to be layered.

Top: pink grapefruit, kumquat, orangey, cranberry. Heart: gardenia, jasmine, pink freesia

I'd have thought they were going to make something really citrusy--a classic masculine/unisex eau de cologne, not unlike Dior's Eau Sauvage--but instead they took a shot at its feminine counterpart, Diorella (which the name suggests), souping the citrus up with flowers. The top is all citrus, reddened a little with that cranberry note--it almost calls to mind a more hesperidic Fruits Sauvages (the classic CSP scent). After that, though, the freesia takes over; the citrus remains, but it's an afterthought at that point.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Mix and Match 1: Body Shop Invent Your Scent

The Body Shop isn't known for high-end scents, though they come up with some nice ones over the years: they had a perfume oil called Moss that was delightful (it smelled like green liquid soap) and still have one in production called Woody Sandalwood, for some reason, which is dark and spicy and delicious, if perhaps a bit overbearing.

More recently, they came up with Invent Your Scent, a line of nine scents and a pretty good idea: market them as mix-and-match pairs. Each scent is a fairly minimal sketch, and you're meant to buy a batch of them and layer them in twos to give you a complete and complex scent. Some of the scents are surprisingly nice: some of them, on the other hand, aren't. (I'm guessing that most of the 72 possible two-scent blends aren't going to work all that well, either.)

So let's have a look at them in alphabetical order over the next few days, shall we?

Top: aldehydic, cinnamon. Heart: sandalwood, clove. Bottom: amber, vanilla, musk.

A basic, inoffensive, unisex oriental. The top and middle notes--they come at you all at once--greatly resemble that cheap brown-wrappered Indian sandalwood soap you still find in all the health-food stores, with a dusting of spices. The spices eventually burn away, leaving soft vanilla musk. Charming but lightweight: the opposite of the typical oriental scent, it stays very close to the skin.

Top: chocolate. Heart: jasmine, chocolate. Bottom: vanilla, chocolate.

Top, heart, bottom: they certainly have all the bases covered, chocolate-wise. And like Altaro, this is very pleasant and entirely unisex--they even gave them both manly sorts of names. Sooner or later, every fragrance line nowadays includes a nod to Mugler's Angel, and this is the Body Shop version of it. The jasmine isn't overbearing--it's actually rather neutral, like that in Rochas Man--and there's nothing to scare the boys away, not even the bottle, which is a reassuring shade of brown.

Top: aqua leaf accord, bosc pear accord, white peach, banana, lime peel. Heart: cyclamen, rose, lily of the valley. Bottom: sandalwood, amber, blonde woods, musk

I don't know what the name "Aztique" could even mean: it sounds like "Aztec", but wouldn't you expect a scent with that name to be spicy and bold? (Yves Rocher's discontinued Aztek certainly was.) This, however, is a light fruity floral fragrance. The fruit notes at the top are unexpectedly dry; this isn't a typical Escada fruit-punch scent. The floral notes at the heart--rose and lily-of-the-valley--are equally crisp. The whole thing, though, smells kind of cheap and obvious, certainly nothing new. Is The Body Shop looking for new? Probably not.