Inspired by littlewing’s stinkiness post, I have collected some of the more amusing reviews from my favorite perfume guide. The book is Perfumes: The Guide by Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez, and it features capsule reviews of hundreds of perfumes. The reviews themselves are quite evocative and often hilarious. Enjoy!
Allure Homme Sport (Chanel) – one star – A pleasant but studiedly nondescript confection of citrus-metallic notes set against a sweet-spicy background related to the drydown of Pour Monsieur. Like being stuck in an elevator for twelve hours with a tax accountant.
B*United Jeans Man (Benetton) – one star – The name brings to mind the copulating cartoon ducks of the parody “Fly United” poster from the seventies, and the fragrance brings to mind precisely nothing besides the paltry sum the formula must have cost.
Delices eau de toilette (Cartier) – one star – Probably called Delices the way the furies were called Kindly Ones, for fear of upsetting them. This is a woody-vanillic fruity so loathsomely potent and crass that I cannot find a bad word to say about it. On second thoughts, I can: it’s not even vulgar.
Desir de Rochas Femme (Rochas) – one star – Thoroughly unpleasant fresh-rosy floral that whines like a dentist’s drill and hurts almost as much.
Dunhill (Dunhill) – two stars – A somewhat loud and cheap-smelling fresh woody fragrance, with the familiar feeling of Father’s Day soap-on-a-rope.
Iris Ganache (Guerlain) – three stars – It’s as if someone fixed what was wrong with Insolence—that top note of hair spray and terror—but lost what was wonderful. After a beautiful start, like Apres l’Ondee with caramel, Iris Ganache gets stronger and sweeter, until all that’s left is strident, oily amber. Too bad.
Jour de Fete (L’Artisan Parfumeur) – two stars – I have a hard time seeing the point of this kindergarten accord of vanilla and heliotropin, a sort of perfumery “duh” with no other virtue than bland, sweet pleasantness. Nice on a baby, I guess.
Morgan de Toi (Morgan) – one star – In French slang, morgane means “crazy,” so this would be "Nuts About You.” Smells of bubble gum. I was going to say “cheap bubble gum,” but then I remembered there is only one kind.
Narcisse Noir eau de toilette (Caron) – two stars – Shed a tear for Narcisse Noir. Where is the darkness, the strangeness, the smell of the cold, damp ashes after a bonfire, the animal breath—the drama? It was for women in columnar gowns, marcelled hair, and red lipstick waving foot-long cigarette holders and making life memorably difficult for everyone. It was one of Caron’s few truly indispensable fragrances. It is now a pretty, safe little sweet jasmine and orange blossom. How can you ruin a man’s life properly wearing this?
Nocturnes (Caron) – two stars – Neither I nor anyone I’ve ever met has ever been able to account for the existence of Nocturnes, a floral aldehydic so predictably pretty it would be considered too normal for a Miss Texas lineup.
Pink Beach (Victoria’s Secret) – one star – Strong, syrupy fruity floral for girls who want to smell like Kool-Aid. If you like this kind of thing, your thong is probably showing above your jeans.
Romance Men (Ralph Lauren) – one star – About time somebody gave women that order, which reminds me of Peter Cook wondering if “Gentlemen, lift the seat” was an invitation to upper-class larceny. The fragrance is so unmemorable that the only appropriate review is “It has a smell.”
Romance Men Silver (Ralph Lauren) – two stars – In the vast, desolate landscape of modern masculines, this is far from the worst, but it is hard to imagine someone sentient actually preferring this to anything else: it would be like falling in love with one particular dollar bill.
Rosa Flamenca (Parfums de Rosine) – four stars – I have no idea what connection lies between paint thinner and flamenco, but I’m willing to accept there may be one. This fruity-woody rose, with its expansive accord from turpentine to dry amber, feels like a Serge Lutens fragrance that ran away from home, and reminds me of a fantastic dress I once had, a sheer brown mesh layer over a shocking pink sheath: from a distance, merely a deep wine color, but up close, a startling contrast. Clever and striking.
Rumeur (Lanvin) – one star – Baseless.
This is what I pulled out at a glance. The great and ecstatic reviews tend to be much longer, and I lacked the patience to pull them out. But I strongly recommend this book, both for the bitchiness and the invaluable learning experience.