Pineapple is one of those fragrance notes that seems to elicit strong opinions, Either you love it and can’t get enough, or the very thought of it makes you back away slowly from the offending perfume as if it were radioactive. I am firmly in the former category myself, being a fan of pineapple in virtually all of its forms and uses, with the notable exception of pizza – that’s just wrong. From piňa coladas to Thai food, everything is better with pineapple. Of course, there are also a slew of cheap and artificial pineapple-scented products around. Pineapple suffers a fate similar to raspberry, orange or rose, where the bad synthetic renditions give the whole group a bad name. I will studiously ignore these and concentrate on actual perfume.
The undisputed dowager queen of all pineapple scents is Colony by Jean Patou, one of the twelve resurrected and then sadly discontinued Ma Collection scents, and my other favorite of that group in addition to Vacances. It was first released in 1938 during the Golden Age of French perfumery, and upon smelling it is immediately apparent that it is a beautiful relic of days gone by. It is actually a chypre scent, probably the only pineapple chypre ever made as far as I can tell. It is endowed with a heavy, syrupy and languid helping of pineapple, spices, carnation, iris, ylang ylang and a perfectly divine overdose of oakmoss that keeps it sophisticated and tamps down any excessive sweetness. Any astringency comes from all that oakmoss, in fact, as the pineapple is very concentrated and has no trace of the fresh, raw fruit in it. I cannot tell you how much I adore this perfume; it is so very sexy and grown-up, yet it has that hint of tropical romance to it that gives it such a charming character. The reissued version may not be an exact replica of the original, but the Ma Collection fragrances were probably the most accurate renditions of vintage formulas ever made.
Skip ahead several generations and its descendant in the House of Patou is Patou Forever, a much lighter fruity-floral composition, but the pineapple is there. It is more realistic pineapple, not too sweet, but it’s sharp and fresh and yet not acidic or thin. It’s a perfect summer scent, greened with vetiver and embellished with other fruit accords. I will need to get some more of this once my Colony runs out; sadly, it’s only a matter of time before it’s gone forever.
Most other pineapple themed fragrances available today all seem hew to the light and fresh style, at least in my experience. Ananas Fizz by L’ Artisan Parfumeur is ethereally light, so much so that it is very fleeting on my skin, which is a pity as it is really a very nice fragrance. It is not strictly a pineapple “soliflore”, but that is one of the dominant notes. It is complemented by citrus, coconut, vanilla and light woods. It is eminently suitable for summer as it is about as sheer a scent as I have ever tried, and typical of the lovely and transparent creations Anne Flipo has done for L’Artisan.
On the sweeter side, Comptoir Sud Pacifique has Vanille Pineapple, with the fruit accompanied by frangipani, coconut, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, passion fruit and musk. As with most CSP scents, the top notes fade rather quickly, leaving the vanilla, coconut and sugar to duke it out, and in this case the top note is just pineapple. It’s a fun perfume, make no mistake, but not everyone wants to smell like pineapple upside-down cake all day. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)
Which brings me to the opposite end of the pineapple spectrum from Colony and another discontinued scent – Bath & Body Works’ Fresh Pineapple. I was doing my usual smash-and-grab stocking up at the semi-annual sale recently and picked up the shower gel, which I had not tried, then I saw a little bottle of cologne on the clearance table for almost nothing. I thought, why not, it’s pineapple and coconut, what could go wrong? As it turned out, the shower gel was pretty decent, but the spray cologne was pretty thin stuff – it started out with an in-your-face gush of freshly cut pineapple, joined quickly by coconut, but the pineapple turned harsh and a bit sour, and there was an unpleasant interval while that fizzled out; definitely a synthetic pineapple accord. It was not too bad after that, but it was mostly coconut by then and I don’t think that is exactly the real thing either. This is one of those photo-realistic modern fragrances that are made to literally smell like the picture on the bottle – that can be fine, and this is probably better in hot and humid weather when something so simple is all you want.
To illustrate the evolution (or should I say decline) of pineapple in perfume, I am offering a sample each of Jean Patou Colony and BB&W Fresh Pineapple. Both are discontinued, but for only one of them is that a tragedy, and when you try them side-by-side you will see why. If you want to be in the draw please indicate in the comments. The winner’s name will be selected the week after this post appears.
Image credits: Vintage Colony bottle from collector site passionforperfume.com. Pineapple upside-down cake, photo by Tina Cornett at myrecipe.com. (I am totally going to make this – it has macadamia and cardamom in it.)