Glowing in the Dark: Tableau de Parfums Loretta
Perfume lovers tend to fall into one of two camps with tuberose. It's either love or hate most of the time, with few in the middle ground, as it is a polarizing note. I am in the love camp with a few notable exceptions such as Givenchy Amarige, which is so heavy and synthetic that it literally makes me ill. I revel in the powerhouse tuberoses like Fracas, Carnal Flower and Beyond Love, and even Serge Lutens' ferocious Tubéreuse Criminelle was love at first sniff for me. So I was eagerly awaiting the arrival of a fragrance by Andy Tauer named Loretta, which was inspired by a character in filmmaker Brian Pera's Woman's Picture series. (The first fragrance in the Tableau de Parfums series, the retro-inspired floral aldehyde Miriam, is truly stunning and deserves it own review.) I thought I had experienced all the facets the tuberose blossom had to offer, but I was wrong. From the moment my decant arrived I know it was something very special. (After all, it was created by the man who can even make the demure lily-of-the-valley appear larger than life.)
To begin with, I could smell the fragrance before I even opened the package; how it got through the mail without attracting the wrong kind of attention I can only guess. I was afraid that it had been damaged, but when I opened the box it was perfectly intact. Yet the most intriguing aroma was emanating from the sealed vial, which was further encased in a plastic bag. It arrived with its sister scent Miriam, but Loretta was the one that was giving off the smell, like a radioactive isotope in a leaking containment vessel. With some trepidation I unwrapped the small but deadly container and sprayed it on my wrist. My first reaction was...instant love. It was huge, it was intimidating, it was radiating, and it was Just Too Much, but I adored it.
Loretta is by no means a straight-up tuberose perfume in the Fracas manner, far from it. It is dark, oddly candied, and fruity/leathery in a very decadent way. It reminded me of something that I could not quite pin down, other than an interesting parallel to Serge Lutens' recent Une Voix Noire, if only for the slightly smoky sweetness of each, much amplified in Loretta, and then I read what someone else thought of it – that it was a lot like Dior's Poison. Yes, that was it, but I never liked Poison! How could I like Loretta, or even stand to be in the same room with it? Let's just say that Loretta embodies the things I do like about Poison without those notes I can't abide; the smothering heaviness and that weird oily/nutty feeling that always stuck in my throat. Loretta is akin to Poison in the way the tuberose is treated, to bring out its darkest personality, taking it to the extreme without holding back. However, it is also unabashedly gorgeous, and its character is a tribute to classic feminine fragrances of the past, not a deliberate attempt to shock, potent as it is; the intoxicating tuberose and just-short-of-rotting fruit accord may be the centerpiece, but it is decorated with orange blossom, rose, woods, sweet spices, vanilla, an especially penetrating aged patchouli, and leather. After many hours it dries down to a delicious amber with lingering hints of that tenacious patchouli. If we could travel back in time about sixty or seventy years, perfumes intended for women - adult women - would smell very different than they do now, and that Loretta would fit in just perfectly with the fragrances of the time. When I wear it I feel as though I should be all dressed up, sporting silk stockings, gloves and a fabulous hat with a veil.
Loretta is available at Luckyscent as an eau de parfum; I am plotting to get a full bottle of this, but I don't think I am the only one who is wishing for a parfum strength. It is entirely unnecessary, since it is already more than strong enough, but I would love to revel in something so extreme that it would be almost painfully beautiful. For the time being I will console myself with the knowledge that the final Tableau de Parfums release, Ingrid, will arrive later in 2013. (I never smelled Dark Passage, the limited edition fragrance that was only available to backers of the films, but I understand that it was really wonderful.) If it's anywhere near as good as the others, it will be well worth the wait.
Image credit: 1938 photo of actress Whitney Bourne taken by George Hurrell via pearlmodern.blogspot.com., original source unknown..
Disclosure: This review was for a perfume from my own collection.