Red, White & (Sacre)Bleu: 4 American Favorites for July 4
To honor the Independence Day, today we salute American perfumery. Tom and I decided to each list four favorite American fragrances, and we invite you to do the same. I was going to preface the list by attempting to characterize American perfumery as a whole. My idea was to draw a parallel with designer sportswear, which is said to be one of the biggest American contributions to fashion, and to argue that American fragrances are overall based on the same principles of modern practicality, versatility, casual wearability. Then I thought of American classics like Youth Dew, Cinnabar, and Obsession, and the ambitious foolishness of such sweeping statement became apparent to me. Undoubtedly there are many perfumes made in the States that would answer the description of "designer sportswear" (many Lauren, Klein, Lauder, Hilfiger scents do have that easy-to-wear, "democratic" feel about them). But there are many others that could not be farther from that mold, and with the increasing number of perfumes in general and niche or "niche within a luxe brand" lines in particular, it seems to be less and less possible to come up with any generalizations about American (or any other) perfumes. (In all honesty, I couldn't call DelRae's or Ford's creations, "sportswear".) So, without much further ado, here are our lists.
Estee Lauder White Linen Breeze
An Ameircan scent that I have loved the longest. White Linen Breeze, with its clean, somewhat fruity feel, its aquatic undertone seems to be far removed from my usual tastes, and yet I have been wearing it for over a decade. It has a tender, airy, gently feminine feel that I adore. This is one perfume on my list, which, with its easy, breezy, beautiful casualness does perhaps fit the parameters of a "designer sportswear"-like scent.
Parfums DelRae Bois de Paradis
I agonized choosing between Bois de Paradis and Amoureuse and finally decided on the former, simply because I discovered and fell in love with it first. Parfums DelRae collection is a successful merge of the American and the French, the latter being represented by the perfumer responsible for the scents, Michel Roudnitska, and to be very frank, as far as I am concerned, three out of four Delrae scents seem to me to be French more than American...although please don't ask me to rationalize this very irrational feeling. Bois de Paradis is a sensual, luscious, exquisitely harmonious woody-oriental, a blissful, dreamy, indeed paradisaical fragrance.
Tom Ford Black Orchid
Again I went back in forth, vacillating between Black Orchid and Velvet Gardenia, and again I made a decision based on the "it was here first" principle. Black Orchid seems to be a love or hate scent, with the hate group being perhaps the bigger of the two. For me, from the very first sniff, it was love. The darkly-sensual, earthy facets of the composition are very evident on my skin, making Black Orchid brooding, dare I say, carnal, and a little wicked, in other words- quite perfect.
Donna Karan Gold
One of the most recent American favorites of mine, Gold is a scent that contrasts the effervescent, intoxicating aroma of Casablanca lilies with the dark earthiness of patchouli. I could never resists a contrast done right, and the white-black, refined-barbaric are among my most beloved juxtapositions. I find Gold to be a remarkable scent, remarkable both for its unapologetic floral headiness and for its undeniable beauty.
Honorable mentions: Tom Ford Velvet Gardenia, DelRae Amoureuse and Debut, Bond No 9 West Side, CB I Hate Perfume Memory of Kindness and Black March, S-Perfume Sloth, Le Labo Ambrette 9, Normal Kamali Baby, Agraria Balsam and practically all Antonia's Flowers fragrances.
When Colombina suggested this assignment for the holiday, I jumped at the chance. Then I kind of realized what I was jumping into: most of my fragrances are not American. When I think of American I think of the big houses like Ralph Lauren or Calvin Klein: ones that put out serviceable if in my opinion not very interesting scents. This is of course leaving out worthy designers from Norell to Donna Karan who have come up with classics- but I weeded them out because some of those classics are hard to find or are things that although I like them I would personally not wear them. Since July 4th is nothing if a glutton's delight- more about wolfing down hamburgers and going to the beach then really thinking about our nations beginnings it seems churlish to write about things that one can't get. So my four favorites are available (inveterate snob though I am they are not available everywhere), as well as being ones that I wear regularly:
CB I Hate Perfume Musk
Chris Brosius is a genius in the old-fashioned sense of the word and his perfumes reflect that. They are actually far more than perfume: they border on some sort of performance art. Some of them are so personally transporting that I almost think the man has invaded my brain to mine the memories for them. For some of these creations, however, that quality actually (for me anyway) actually detracts from their wearability. CB Musk I was almost afraid of, since it was described as being almost the olfactory equivalent of a prison gang-bang. Leave it to me and my de-skank-o-tron skin to turn this into a purring kitten of a scent: slightly fruity and absolutely divine. I wear it on its own of course, but it also adds depth to so many other scents: Smoky leathers like Kolnisch Juchten are warmed by it while light scents like Eau d'Hadrien are made slyly dirtier. A true gem and I hope that he never stops making it.
Le Labo Patchouli 24
In the comments for my review of this Lily wrote. "The guys in the store told me that it has 'big shoulders' and that I must have 'character' to wear it". As time has gone on from my initial impression I detect more of the patchouli that I had previously as well as a bit more of the vanilla that Colombina wrote of- none of which detracts from the bewitching smoky leatheriness of this scent. I wore it for three days straight when I first got the sample from their site and promptly begged a friend to drop by their store when she was in New York. Luckily, this one is both one of the less pricey ones they have as well as being one that they will actually sell to you without having to make a personal appearance. Also luckily, Le Labo seems to be opening more stores. Unluckily, they have not opened one where I live. Yet.
Tom Ford Moss Breches
I was pretty skeptical about the release of a huge collection of new scents, especially (forgive me, Tom) from someone who isn't, say, Chris Sheldrake. While I did have to admit that they were and are very nice, really the only on that was a knock-it-out-of-the-park for me was Moss Breches: it's combination of earthy green vetiver and rooty patchouli have quickly shot this one form "Should I" to "how long do I have to live on Ramen to get it?" Certainly one of the best of the most interesting set of new releases by a mainstream American designer, well, ever.
And finally a blast from the past:
Barneys Route du The
Waaaay back in 1986 Barneys introduced this summer classic- a green tea that is light enough to be worn in the ghastly heat of a New York summer, but with interesting depth to it. Some complain that it's bitter: I find its sharpness as wonderfully refreshing today as it was when I first wore it 20 years ago. The slightly bitter dusky green tea is nicely supplanted by light amber and citrus. It's like a snapshot of New York City: slightly brash, not too accessible, ever so slightly in-your-face. I hope Barneys never stops selling it.
What are your American favorites? Please, share! Perfume-Smellin' Things is going to be on a two-day break on July 4th and 5th, but will be back for business as usual on Friday, July 6.