Second Act: Roses For A Diva
(Donna joins Perfume-Smellin' Things as a regular contributor, look for her posts on Tuesdays. For more of Donna's articles, please visit Aromascope)
Thanks to March over at Perfume Posse, I now have a generous sample of the “new” (2004) fragrance by Inès de la Fressange. My previous review on Aromascope was for the very nice 1999 release, and I had been unable to find the one that came in the gold bottle with the oak leaf overlay. I can now report my findings on this elusive scent. When looking for one of them, you are likely to find the other, since the names are so similar. Hello, Earth to Marketing Department, Mayday, Mayday! We have brand confusion, incoming!
Despite my difficulty in ferreting out this one, there was no confusion at all when I tried it on – it is very different, sweet and rosy and not at all spicy. The 1999 perfume has a hefty dose of carnation to keep it a little bit sharp. The only sharpness in the newer one is right at the beginning when there is a little puff of bergamot, mandarin, a little blackberry and some peony. Then the rose comes along very quickly. At first it is a standard, one might say classic, iteration of a rose, which to my nose resembles that of Paris de Yves St. Laurent, which is a very good thing. However, it quickly turned very sweet and jammy on me. In fact, it smelled very much like the rose petal syrup that I sometimes make in high summer. I do not mark it down for that at all – I am all about the jam, and it can be as sticky as it wants to be as long as it still smells like real flowers and/or fruit and does not go all artificial and cloying. This does not. It becomes virtual haze of rose and berries, sweet yet very natural smelling, but there is nothing to anchor it. There is no wood to speak of in this. The base has patchouli and vetiver but I cannot detect either. Once the heart notes are revealed they do not really deepen at all, but they are very pleasing.
This fragrance is attributed to Alberto Morillas, and I sense his light touch in this. I do detect his signature “watery” transparent notes, and some iris, but no metallic ozone notes or fake “aquatics” as are so common in mass-market fruity-florals. I was afraid it would turn into CK One on me there for a minute, but then something nice happened – the water notes all went away and a warm, comforting rose and musk scent remained, close to my skin and long-lasting. I did not expect it to last very long after realizing it has so little in the way of base notes, but the rose settled in and stayed for good. I was sniffing my arm for hours afterward. I would say it took about two hours from the first application to reaching this final stage, and it was worth the wait.
This is a prime candidate for layering with a wood, leather or incense fragrance. I will experiment just a bit with it. To keep it at the same level as it is but add some bottom, I will try with Jo Malone Vintage Gardenia. The myrrh and cardamom in that will add some punch. To add just a bit of leather and “dirt” but still keep things more or less civilized, I will pair it up with Balmain Jolie Madame. And when I want to knock some socks off, and NOT at the office, it will be layered with Tauer Perfumes Lonestar Memories.
First up – I wore it to work paired with Vintage Gardenia. It worked perfectly. The incense really gave the rose something to stand on, and it lasted nicely all day. Since both fragrances are light formulations, it never got too sweet, and the gardenia is so sheer that it never overpowered the mix. I will do that again.
Next, a bolder approach: It’s time for the Jolie Madame test. I thought this might work since it is a fragrance with very little sweetness, and the flowers in it are unrelated to those in Inès. When I first combined these two I thought I had made a big mistake, but soon something clicked and it smelled just lovely, very balanced. The rosiness of Inès softened the severity of JM and the end result was a very classy aroma, the kind of scent one would expect to smell on a lady in a suit and pearls. Maybe it’s just my own skin, but this combination was really a success. It may also be because the JM I have is the EDT and therefore is relatively light. I plan to try layering with other fragrances more often due to this little experiment.
Finally, I got up the nerve to try the Inès with Lonestar Memories, which is an EDP. If Hermès Ambre Narguile is “The Nazgûl” to those who can’t stand it, then Lonestar Memories is “The Balrog” – darkly billowing with smoke, tar and pitch, it takes no prisoners. It is a love it or hate it scent, as far from a floral as I have ever experienced, and there is no middle ground. I love it, though it’s not one I could wear very much in my daily life – but I do need to take it out and smell it quite frequently. Anyway, I put that on first and then blitzed my arm generously with Inès. At first, I noticed no difference – The Balrog had utterly devoured the tender roses and fruits and was gnashing its teeth for more. It was as though I had not even put the other one on at all. Oh well, I thought, some experiments are just that – they don’t work. But wait – after about 30 minutes, the beast had been tamed, at least a little, and though the result could not be called rosy, it had mellowed into a glowing hearth fire with spicy holiday overtones. A little bit of rose peeked through later, but the main effect was the minimizing of the tarry notes and the slight sweetening of the smoke to the point where it was actually a comforting smell. I had not really expected this to work at all so it was a pleasant surprise. The Balrog had become The Malrog. (Full disclosures: 1. I am a big Lord of the Rings fan. 2. The Malrog is a geek humor classic resulting from an Internet contest to fashion an image of the monster out of marshmallows. This particular one was only in third place but it’s my favorite. 3. I am too old to find this sort of thing hysterically funny, but I do anyway.)
Final verdict: this is a very feminine and civilized perfume, nicer than 90% of other celebrity scents, if indeed it can be called one since its namesake is not all that famous over here across the pond anymore. (I suspect that is what happened with the 1999 scent as well – Americans have a short attention span for fame in most cases.) I wanted to see if I could turn this lady into a bad girl, and to a certain degree I succeeded. It is lovely on its own, and quite on a par with the first one – very good though not great, and nothing I would be ashamed to wear. I can see why it was lost in the shuffle when it was released, but again, it is better than many others that sell big on their names alone. The real Inès may not be a big star in the public eye anymore, but she always will be one to me.
Per OsMoz.com, the notes for this fragrance are as follows:
Top notes: Mandarin, Orange, Neroli, Bergamot, Blackberry
Heart notes: Lily-Of-The-Valley, White Rose, Peony, Iris
Base Notes: Patchouli, Benzoin, White Musks, Vetiver
Image Credit: Rose Petal Conserve from Grasse, France from lakeland.co.uk.