December 16, 2011
As we enter the last few days of 2011 I begin to look back over the year for trends and the things I learned while exploring the new fragrances. One of those things that fall in the latter category, for me, this year is how an eau de parfum or extrait formulation can allow me to find something entirely new out of the same basic architecture as a lesser concentration. For some reason this year has seemed to prove this to me on a monthly basis. For these final days of 2011 I received two final lessons in what a parfum can do.
Comme des Garcons A New Perfume Eau de Parfum
Comme des Garcons Eau de Parfum is not really a takeoff on the earlier Comme des Garcons Eau de Parfum this is an entirely new fragrance as promised in the name. Where it is an extrapolation is in the quirky, some would say weird, others might say unwearable; mix of strong potentially unpleasant notes. All of this is done in Eau de Parfum strength which allows these potentially fractious notes to perhaps overstay their welcome. What is most surprising to me is that the choice to have this be at Eau de Parfum strength actually allows the wearer time to get past first impressions and perhaps find something to enjoy in this fragrance’s personality.
Right from the beginning the mix of aldehydes and aromachemical safraleine could come off like a toxic spill. Instead the chem lab revels in its artificial qualities as the aldehydes provide sharp edges and the safraleine provides a sophisticated synthetic blend of saffron and leather. It never smells like the real thing and it brings to mind a pleather coat fresh out of the wrapper, but I don’t find that unpleasant. After forcing a wearer to confront the unusual, the heart allows an intermezzo of hawthorn and lilac. Both of these floral notes impart a kind of flowered astringency and it works well with the top notes as it feels like out of the chemistry set a bouquet of flowers has sprung to life in the test tube. The base notes return us to the odd as the accords listed are industrial glue, brown scotch tape, and styrax. If you were the kind of kid who loved the smells of grade school like paste and mimeograph ink I think you will really enjoy the base notes here. As in the top notes the finish has an undeniable chemical quality. The interesting thing is it lingers long enough for you to experience the odd sweet quality of the glue, the sticky aspect of the tape and the sharp aspects of styrax.
This is not going to be to everyone’s taste but it will stick around long enough for you to find out if it is to yours.
Idole de Lubin Parfum
The one thing that hasn’t happened as I’ve been comparing Parfum versions to their original concentrations is a complete reversal in my feelings towards the original. Idole de Lubin Parfum was going to put that to the test. Olivia Giacobetti’s 2005 version of Idole de Lubin is beloved by many of the male perfumistas. The earlier version’s mix of boozy spice over a leather base is to many people’s liking but not mine. That version of Idole has always smelled like a bar after closing time, to me, and the only thing missing was an upchucking patron to complete the milieu. I not only didn’t get what everyone else was enjoying so much I actively disliked it. The only good thing about it to me was the Eau de Toilette version also disappeared quickly on my skin. To say I was excited to try my sample of Idole de Lubin Parfum would not be correct. I kept approaching it like a trip to the dentist to get a root canal as I would pick up the vial and quickly put it back down not willing to find out if this was going to be as disappointing. Finally the vial was opened and placed on a strip and a bit on my skin; what followed was something totally unexpected as this new composition was amazing. I kept smelling the strip and the back of my hand. For the next few hours I kept waiting for it to turn on me, to somehow find its way to the fragrance I so disliked, but it didn’t. On the two days I wore this out and about I was amazed at how different this version was on my skin; from gross to great in one fell swoop.
How did Mme Giacobetti accomplish this bit of magic? I think it is a combination of two things as she chose to add three new ingredients and by upping the concentration the overall composition became softer, more well-rounded. The rum is still there front and center but this time instead of smelling like something not meant to be seen in the light it feels like a soft warm Caribbean night with rum swirling in a snifter. It simmers and envelops and feels totally different. The spices also seem to be in much better balance as saffron and cumin mix with incense as they transition the top notes into the heart. The heart holds court with a greenly floral rock rose and a woody cocktail of ebony and sandalwood. Again this develops at a slow boil on my skin and this languorous development is very enjoyable. The base is leather as in the earlier version but Mme Giacobetti adds in a spicy amber and that choice turns the leather from something unpleasant into something that shimmers with intensity.
I was so surprised at how much I liked this new version I searched out the small decant I had left of the original just to make sure I still disliked it. After an hour the cosmetic wipe came out and I couldn’t wait to get it off. The arm with the Parfum on it laid under my head that night and accompanied my sweet dreams. I can’t believe how much I like it.
Both of the Eau de Parfums have overnight longevity and below average sillage although the Comme des Garcons is a notch more expansive than the Idole.
So my 2011 lesson ends on perfumes weird and wonderful. I wonder what 2012 has in store?
Disclosure: This review was based on samples purchased from Luckyscent.
–Mark Behnke, Managing Editor