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Five Decades of #Scent Memories: National Fragrance Day 2017

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Dear reader, I am now in my fifth decade and due to toast the start of my sixth in 2020 when I turn 50.

To me, scent is like a Tardis. It takes you back in time so fast that you can be stepping out the Tardis door into 1976 after one whiff of Panache.  More instantly evocative than a photograph or a song,  a fragrance can whisk you back to the scent of the primary school teacher whose name you forget, but whose perfume you can recall as if a switch has been flicked in your head.

Please join me on my mini odyssey through the smell of the 70s, 80s, 90s, Noughties and Twenteens and do share your #scentmemories below.

The Smell of the 1970s.

1970s

I was born in 1970. The first ten years of my life can be summed up, at least in the olfactory sense, as a combination of cigarette smoke (not mine), the smell of a roast cooking, mud, ferns, bluebells, Woogiraffedleigh Green Apple Shampoo, Avon Pretty Peach and Avon Occur, in a giraffe shaped bottle, no less. Quite how giraffes and perfume go together, I never thought to question, but he literally had some brass neck.

My teachers wore Cacharel Anais Anais, which hasn’t changed to this day, as long as you sidestep the “Delice” version. I can’t remember what scent my mother wore, but she always smelled nice.  My grandmother wore Coty L’Aimant, which I didn’t recognise then, but which moves me to gusty sighs of melancholy  now she isn’t here.

BeFunky Collage70s home

The Smell of the 1980s.

Formative years mean a thirst to both stand out and blend in at the same time. I was groping for an identity and slowly moving into and out of adolescence. It was 1981 before I gradually weaned myself off

sindyplaying with Sindy dolls. I can still vividly recall the smell of the vinyl heads and strange nylon hair, inevitably knotted to all hell within a week of ownership.

My first ever scent that I paid for myself was a splash bottle of Bluebell perfume from Boots No 7. Long since discontinued, I have sought that bluebell scent ever since.  My mother bought me a bottle of Jontue from a trip she went on, and one Christmas I had a bottle of Cachet.  I wore this A LOT.  I also remember Avon Eau Givreé: a beautiful green hesperide that has long since been discontinued.

My teens saw me receive my first ever bottle of proper fragrance from my father for my 18th birthday. It was Estee Lauder Beautiful and I still love it now. 1988 saw me leave home at go to Exeter Uni, where the most memorable scents were Marlboro cigarettes, red wine and lashings of Cacharel LouLou.

1980s collage

Meanwhile, over in Denver Colorado, Alexis Carrington was cracking the whip.  Excess, big shoulder pads, big hair and big smells were all the rage.  On the High Street, there was the unmistakable cloud of Giorgio Beverly Hills and a miasma of Dior Poison mingled with Body Shop White Musk and Dewberry. The Nightclubs smelled of Calvin Klein Obsession, and my one little egg shaped bottle took me into the 1990s.

The Smell of the 1990s

The caring, sharing Nineties sobered everyone up and made us wear ozonic scents in an urge to cleanse ourselves of the Eighties excesses. All my friends smelled of Issey Miyake L’Eau D’Issey, which is no bad thing. I had discovered Chanel Cristalle, also a light scent that was the opposite side of the spectrum to Poison, Obsession and Giorgio. The 1990s saw me graduate and move to London, which smelled very different to Devon.  London air is thicker, dirtier and there were more cigarettes smoked and more traffic fumes, but reader, to me it was the smell of freedom and wonder and possibility.

collage 1990s

1992 saw the launch of the iconic Thierry Mugler Angel. I remember smelling it for the first time in Harrods Perfume Hall and thinking “but why would I want to smell like chocolate?” I appreciate it now of course, for the multi-faceted classic it is, but back then it was revolutionary among the ozonic and airy fairy Nineties scents. Meanwhile, in 1997, Gucci launched the now much-mourned Gucci Envy.  So good was this floral green scent with a vein of metal running through it, that I dumped Cristalle and remained almost exclusive to Gucci Envy until it was cruelly taken from us in 2007.

The Smell of The Noughties

The Noughties saw a revolution in celebrity fragrance.  Elizabeth Taylor had been churning them out since 1991, but they were largely seen as fan fodder until 2002 when Jennifer Lopez launched the brilliant Glow. It was a clean, white fragrance that pleased the crowds and began a snowball of celebrity fragrances taking off.  Britney Spears got in on it, as did many of her contemporaries and soon the perfumeries were chock full of celeb scents. Sarah Jessica Parker brought new possibilities with SJP Lovely and some of the snobbery dissipated when we realised that celebrity stuff can be pretty darn good. (I’m still a celeb scent geek)

noughties collage

The noughties also mark the only two years of my adult life where I have been without any fragrance and that’s because I had my sons during that decade.  Their first scent memory is of my skin.  No deodorant, no perfume, just me.  It wasn’t easy getting those babies, but it was worth it.

The Smell of the Twenteens

Now things really start to spice up. I started my blog on January 2nd 2013. It was a combination of an urge to write and a channel for my reawakened perfume passion. This was brought about by a lean period, during which Chanel was very much out of reach.  As a result, I developed a bit of a cheap and cheerful habit as my receipts from allbeauty.com will attest.  From that, and the three huge boxes of samples that dear Lisa Jones let me borrow, the floodgates opened.

twenteens

The biggest scent launch of the Twenteens has to be the seminal Lancome La Vie est Belle. The fruity floral explosion of the early ‘teens segued into a river of caramel and praline   Hot on its heels was YSL Black Opium , which dismayed many Opium fans, but brought a  cohort of new fans to the brand.

In recent  times, I’ve been coming across the semi-ubiquitous jasmine sambac note that  seems to be so popular right now.  You can find it in  Paco Rabanne Olympea,  Givenchy Dahlia Divin and Versace Eros. The big launch of 2017 is Mon Guerlain, and whilst it’s not my cup of tea, I do harbour hopes that it will  lead us into a big lavender  trend.

As we point in the direction of 2020, I’m looking forward to the alleged forthcoming trends of milk notes, peony and a renaissance of my favourite genre: green notes.

Interestingly, celebrity fragrance sales are on the wane, but guess what’s on the up?  Niche perfume.  Which is very good news indeedy.

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How about you?

What scents bring back instant memories for you?  It doesn’t matter how random or everyday they are, I always love to hear from you.

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Lancôme La Vie est Belle L’Absolu

fragrantica
fragrantica

 

Yesterday, just after lunch, I tried Lancôme La Vie est Belle L’Absolu and could NOT get it off.  It’s now Sunday evening.  I have had a shower, washed my hands many times and finally, only a bath shifted it.  Think cloying caramels and chocolate with a spiky base à la Thierry Mugler Angel, concentrated into essence form and with a staying power only rivalled by a tattoo.  I will even have to wash my coat as it rubs off onto my skin every time I wear it.

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Lancôme La Vie est Belle  has proved to be a bestseller and seems to have tapped into a trend that dictates that it’s desirable for your perfume to make you smell like Thorntons Chocolatier.  Personally I dislike anything too gourmand ( with a few notable exceptions)  because it feels like I  am eating perfume or using food on my skin : my senses get confused and don’t know what to tell my brain.

Lancôme La Vie est Belle L’Absolu was initially a pleasant surprise- finally I could smell those flowers and make out the iris, and… was that rose?  With a hint of blackcurrant?  Wonderful- for about twenty minutes. Then the caramel barged in and took over, smothering everything and turning up the volume until I was walking home holding the guilty arm away from my side as if I blamed it.

The verdict is this:  If you like this, you have a bargain on your hands.  Even a small bottle will outlast anything permanent in your life. Staying power is nuclear.  Your whole house will smell of it, and your friends will smell like this, and your car and the bus and your children and their friends.

Unfortunately I didn’t like it at all.

 

Stockists: Lancome La Vie est Belle L’Absolu is available from Sephora.com or Lancome-usa.com or lancome.ca if you are in the USA or Canada or Europe.  In the UK, you can buy it from John Lewis, Debenhams, Amazon UK or House of Fraser.

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Guerlain La Petite Robe Noire EDT and EDP: Loves Me, Loves Me Not

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La Petite Robe Noire was launched in 2009,  and can be found at the forefront of any Guerlain display, often standing in front of its Maiden Aunts, Mitsouko and Shalimar.

The first time I tried it last year I was a little irritated since I had  recently tried Lancome La Vie Est Belle and thought “Oh no, everything’s gone gourmand!” As an habitual baker, I try and avoid smelling like food. It’s kind of a busman’s holiday to me.

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uktv.com

Recently, a kind Guerlain Sales Lady persuaded me to try both La Petite Robe Noire  EDP and La Petite Robe Noire EDT, emphasising that the two were completely different. Today  and yesterday I have been wearing one on each arm. Here is my judgement on the matter:

 La Petite Robe Noire EDT

Playful and fruity, this smells floral and light with a background of cherries. With more green notes than the EDP, this is a youthful gourmand, with the typical red berries that are smelled everywhere right now. The Jasmine, Rose and Neroli keep it light, whilst cherries and apples keep it fruity. The floral notes make this preferable to its more gourmand big sister, the Eau de Parfum. In fact when the cherries fade, the floral notes remain, making this a very pretty scent.

Radiance and longevity are both good: this is Guerlain after all. However the main drawback is that this is not particularly original and in a blind test, I would not have ever said it was Guerlain. On the High Street, it fits right in. It’s a shame really, as I always saw Guerlain as a fashion leader rather than a fashion follower.

 La Petite Robe Noire EDP

This so totally different that they ought to warn EDT fans off by giving it a different name. If you took a Cherry Bakewell Tart with its Almonds, Cherries and whiff of Anise, and Imageconcentrated it into liquid form, keeping it in brand new Tupperware until it was ready, then this would be the end result.  If Serge Lutens had run out of money half way through making Louve, this may be an approximation of the end result.  The Almonds and Cherries dominate. The vanilla adds a custard note. And something, somewhere disagrees with my skin, hence the plastic vinyl note, like old fake peaches.

This doesn’t come cheap, but smells like it does.

 Verdict

La Petite Robe Noire EDT is pleasant but generic. I would buy it, but I wouldn’t be faithful.  La Petite Robe Noire EDP is completely different. If you like Almonds, go for Hypnotic Poison. If you like Cherries try Serge Lutens Louve. If you like vinyl notes, then you are a bit mad and there is no hope for you.  Have a glass of wine instead and God bless you.

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Lancôme La Vie est Belle- La smell est belle as well

31GF44xVAlL._SL500_AA300_I first tried this latest offering from Lancôme as a squirt on my arm as I walked through my local department store. Julia Roberts is the face of the fragrance, and since she doesn’t do this kind of thing very often, I figured it must be a good product.

I’m more of a Green Notes person myself, and I generally dislike anything gourmand i.e foodie, unless it’s food. In other words, keep your vanilla and your tonka bean and your caramel and praline notes in Thorntons. I don’t want them on my dressing table.

Thus were my thoughts as La Vie est Belle dried down on my skin as I left the department store.

However, I think you have to wear a scent exclusively for a day at least before you really know it. I also think you have to not wear anything else that day (clothes being the obvious exception).

I have a 2ml sample of La Vie est Belle and that is just about enough, and no more, to wear it all day, and that is what I have done today.

Top notes are pear and blackcurrant, as listed on Fragrantica, but I got the vanilla and tonka bean immediately. In fact if you look at the Fragrantica page, you will see that actual users of the perfume vote praline and vanilla as the most prominent notes, beating the fruit and flowers into hefty submission.  Perhaps they too were overwhelmed with confectionery smells by the time they reached the double doors of House of Fraser.

Having dismissed it before and worn it all day, I have sort of changed my mind. There are more floral notes than I first realised, and it is really very pretty. I often roll my eyes at fruity floral, but this one ain’t bad.

My complaint is that it is kind of a mix up of everything. It’s fruity, with its pear and blackcurrant, it’s floral with its iris and Jasmine, and its gourmand with its praline and vanilla. Just to spread it even more thinly among the crowd, its also Patchouli. Fans of Thierry Mugler Angel or Viktor and Rolf Flowerbomb might like it. It’s kind of a crowd pleaser, and it has indeed been well received. However, it made me go cross eyed trying to categorise it.

It will has its  many, many fans, but the combination of patchouli and praline make it too much like Angel for me.  Pretty though.

 

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