Summer Scent Random Roundup: Agustin Davila HUB El & Ella, Costume National Scent Gloss, Ligne St. Barth Vanille West Indies & more
Every once in a while a fragrance I have never heard of before, or something I would never have tried on my own, drops in my lap as the result of a swap or a gift sample included with a purchase. Some of them I set aside for leisurely testing later and never seem to get around to actually trying them. So now that the lazy days of summer are here I decided to delve into my sample stash and see what looked interesting, with an eye to what would be suitable for wearing when the sweltering heat settles in for a long stay.
I was not familiar with the Agustin Davila line at all until I acquired a sample packet containing two vials, El (Him) and Ella (Her). This is a Spanish house, and the two HUB perfumes (2008) are aimed a younger wearer – specifically “fragrances for modern and active women and men which inspire happiness and joy, modernity and strength through their original citric, spicy and fresh notes.” Well, I am not sure about the original part, but the women's version is perhaps a little more unusual than the masculine one. Opening with bergamot, black currant and basil, it softens to heart of florals and several fruits, including watermelon, green apple and pineapple, with just a touch of marine accord. Thankfully the green apple is not dominant, because I have found that it is one of the most artificial “fruit” notes in perfumery. Once it settles down it is dominated by magnolia and pineapple, both of which I really like, so it's something I would definitely wear in hot weather, as it is quite sheer, and the base of sandalwood, musk and ambery notes is not very persistent. The men's counterpart opens with a heavier hand, and the unfortunately it is immediately dominated by a too-strong marine note and too much patchouli, which is a shame, because the rest of it sounds good and includes notes of bergamot, grapefruit, labdanum, lavender, cardamom, nutmeg and woods. For a while in the middle of its development the spice notes come out on top and it's quite pleasing, but they thin out fast and the drydown is mostly marine and patchouli with tantalizing hints of what it could have been. The brand has a stark, tech-inspired aesthetic, and I am not sure how these scents are meant to translate into that idea.
I found Costume National Scent Gloss (2004) to be fascinating because it does not smell very much like what one would expect from a perfume. I know that sounds strange, but it reminds me of other things when it's first applied – nail polish, hairspray, and retro beauty products that I remember from my childhood and teen years, in a sort of a candied, abstract way. It is a spicy rose and orchid composition with modern musk base, very feminine and actually quite ladylike, and it dries down to nice, subtle skin musk. It's not bad, and I found that it interacted with my skin chemistry surprisingly well after that unusual opening, which I will admit I wish had lasted longer because it becomes pretty conventional after that. This brand seems to specialize in perfumes that are more or less background scents, not standout originals, so it does fall into line with the other ones, and like them it's fine for office wear or for an occasion for which you are not sure what to wear, as it will almost certainly not offend anyone. If you are looking for a rose perfume that won't be too overwhelming, it is worth a try.
I don't remember the last time I paid any attention to a new Ralph Lauren release except for a cursory sniff at the perfume counter, because they come along so frequently now that I can't keep them straight. Romance Always Yours (2008) is a flanker to the popular Romance and is a transparent, watery floral, which is not exactly a shocker. What is shocking is that it is presented as a “sophisticated floral chypre.” That might pass muster with the usual Lauren customer but to anyone who has actually smelled such a perfume- Chanel Cristalle, Clinique Aromatics Elixir, Sisley Soir de Lune, or Rochas Byzance, to name just a few – this description is a real stretch. Yes, it's a broad category, but I am unable to discern any degree of chypre character in this. It's fresh, soft and youthful with notes of freesia, ginger, rose, lotus, violet and allegedly, patchouli and oakmoss, which must be of a parts-per-million dilution verging on homeopathic, i. e. to the vanishing point. Sweet, girly and mostly synthetic, it is perfect for its target audience, of which I am not a member.
I have a confession to make; I have a weakness for vanilla scents, even some of the cheaper ones, and I adore the good ones, and Ligne St. Barth Vanille West Indies is exactly the kind that does it for me. It's about halfway between the exceedingly sugary Comptoir Sud Pacifique signature and the darker Montale vanilla style, and it has a sensual, slightly smoky character that's positively addictive. There is orchid just under the surface and a hint of caramel, and yes it is sweet, but sometimes that's just what is called for. I am just perverse enough to wear something like this on the hottest day of the year, and everyone around me can just deal with it. It did not throw a lot of sillage when I did wear it, but it lasted for ages, and it's actually quite well behaved in public. At $125 for 50 ml (you can find it at Beautyhabit) it's a considerable investment for a straight-up vanilla fragrance, but it is actually Parfum strength so you don't need a lot, and if you are a true vanilla fan, you have to it. If not for the inconvenient fact of having to work in an office for a living, I could wear fun stuff like this every day.
Disclosure: My samples of all the perfumes in this review were obtained in private swaps.