Friday, 17 May 2013

The (Not Entirely) Unbearable Lightness Of Lightness - Perfumes For Summer 2013

There was once a pot which called a kettle black. I try to remind myself of this each time I feel the urge to become snooty about so-called 'summer scents'. The truth is that although I now tend to treat them with the sort of disdain I reserve for McDonalds, Primark and TV talent shows, there was a time when I bought them, wore them and even - brace yourselves - enjoyed them. So in the interests of fairness and open-mindedness, I've decided to assess the merits of this year's motley assortment of 'light' perfumes vying for the attention of holidaymakers at Duty Free counters across the globe.

Taken as a whole, they're not unlike the colourful parade of humanity which descends upon the beaches of southern Europe every July and August. At one end of the sun-worshipping spectrum, we have three offerings from Calvin Klein. Although I evaluated them on different days, my notebook shows me that my initial reaction to them was exactly the same. Three words written in large capitals, followed by several exclamation marks: OH MY GOD!!!!!!!!!!! They represent the people you really don't want to end up next to during your hard-earned appointment with a deckchair, the sort who play loud music, make a mess and annoy everyone by taking up acres of space with their inane ball games. CK One Summer annihilates its wearer's soul with cheap oranges, melons and cucumbers yelling over a faint suggestion of the brilliant original's citrus-musk accord. The women's Eternity Aqua combines sick-making guavas and mangoes with a budget air freshener. And Eternity Summer kills its vaguely-interesting top notes of green apples and digestive biscuits with a drydown that is pure furniture polish. Tilt your umbrella at an anti-social angle, stick your headphones firmly in your ears and avoid this lot like a plague of jellyfish. Better yet, move to the other end of the beach.

Mr and Miss Davidoff are the ill-matched couple. She feels the need to draw attention to herself with a swimsuit featuring garish, fruit salad colours. He's more interested in spending quality time in the water so that he can perfect his breast stroke. To put it more prosaically, the new Cool Water limited edition for women (dubbed Into The Ocean) is an unattractive cocktail of sugar, berries and the oyster-like sickliness of calone. The men's version is much better, but that's because it's basically a lighter formulation of Pierre Bourdon's original, which is still one of the best mainstream masculines around. The lavender is intact, the citruses are in the right place and the marine edge isn't too pronounced. All is as it should be... but why would you buy this when you could have the real thing?

Guerlain's latest Aqua Allegoria - Nerolia Bianca - is the pretty girl who draws attention with what appears to be effortless good breeding, but then disappoints everybody with an unfortunate behaviour trait, like belching very loudly or picking her nose. In other words, NB is preceded by an excellent reputation - the recent run of Aquas has been commendable - but it lets the side down with its unengaging, excessively soapy orange blossom accord. I realise the whole point of the Aquas is to be affordable and accessible, but the likes of Pamplelune, Herba Fresca and last year's Lys Soleia manage to be both inexpensive and interesting. Compared to them, Nerolia Bianca is coarse and simplistic.

The Issey Miyakes are the pale people for whose skin everyone else breaks out in sympathy. Their whiteness makes you worry that if they don't keep re-applying their SPF 40 every five minutes, they'll end up more crisp than the French fries filling the air with their scent. You fear for their well-being, even as you slather another layer of Hawaiian Tropic upon yourself. But then on closer inspection, you realise that they're quite happy as they are. Both the men's and women's summer editions of L'Eau D'Issey - this year reworked by Alberto Morillas - take their respective originals' translucent water accords and make them more cheerful with an injection of tart kiwi. In their drydowns, good old stomach-churning calone makes an unwelcome appearance again, but overall, they are certainly two of the more welcome additions to Beach Party 2013.

I've always had a soft spot for Gaultier's summer scents. In fact, they've long been my preferred iterations of Classique and Le Male, probably because they're lighter and breathe more easily. In its summer guise, the former's candied floral accord is quiet enough to be enjoyable without being sickly and the latter's aromatic sweatiness is toned down to the point of being palatable. Or, to continue our analogy, this is the couple with whom you can get on only when they're by the seaside. In all other settings, they're just a bit too self-obsessed. But when they're lazing around on a sun lounger and sipping a cocktail, they relax and stop acting as though they've got something to prove.

The YSL family has scrubbed up well this year. I'm not sure where their Mum is - perhaps she's still recovering from Manifesto - but middle-aged Dad, 20-something son and slightly younger daughter turn out to be classier than one might have expected from the colour of their beach towels. The patriarch is wearing the Tonique edition of Kouros. The 1981 version's indescribable 'I am testosterone, hear me roar' accord of civet and musks is still unmistakable, but it's been made more sociable with the inclusion of radiant citruses. Watch out, though: Papa YSL still hits the gym and he's as as virile as he was thirty years ago. His son, the awkwardly named L'Homme Libre Cologne Tonic, is nowhere near as silly as you might think. Initially, he induces yawns with a mono-dimensional dose of Cashmeran and vetivert. But if you engage him in conversation you'll see that there's a lot more going on behind his preppy grin. Thanks to the talents of Olivier Polge, violet leaf, cucumber and a fistful of pepper combine to create a genuinely compelling effect, not unlike that achieved by Mathilde Laurent's sophisticated Eaux De Cartier (see below). YSL Junior may look like he spends all his time eyeing up the ladies and perfecting his tan, but it turns out he's a member of Mensa and he devours Sudoku puzzles for breakfast.

His younger sister is this season's gorgeous debutante, dazzling onlookers with her ingenue green eyes, gleaming, brown hair and a disarming smile. True, Paris Premieres Roses may be yet another entry in the long procession of new rose perfumes (more on that in a moment) but it's beautiful, heart-stopping, powdery, light and instantly likeable. I still maintain that the EDP of the original remains one of the most ravishing mainstream roses, but if it's a bit too heavy and old-school for you, try this version. Be prepared to swoon.

Sitting by themselves, away from what they see as a boring, predictable crowd, are this year's Aqua Chic ladies from Mugler. By no means are they as worldly as some of the other people with whom they're sharing the ultraviolet, but they evoke a tremendous envy because they just seem to know how to have a great time. Everything about them should be wrong - from their multi-coloured nail varnish to their oversized Crocs - but overall, they make a statement that spells Fun from every sun-soaked pore. Both Angel and Alien Aqua Chic are essentially faithful to their prototypes. But the former links the sugary patchouli combo with green apple whilst the latter attaches its weird, woody jasmine to orange blossom. The effect is kitschy, but I defy anyone not to respond to it with a smile and a chuckle.

Away from the main rabble - perhaps in some kind of private enclosure - is a small cluster of well-heeled lovelies who aren't exactly part of the summer brigade, but feel that their low-calorie composition gives them the right to gate-crash. They've just endured a fortnight of back-to-back exams at Uni, so they've decided to jump on a plane and engage in some serious indolence. Each of them has a distinct personality of her own, but they're all united by one thing: rosy cheeks. Narciso Rodriguez For Her L'Eau, Eau De Cartier Goutte De Rose, Miss Dior edt and Guerlain's La Petite Robe Noire edt preserve the central ideas of their more familiar versions (respectively: skin-hugging musks; expansive woody-violet; strawberry-flavoured popcorn patchouli; dark, syrupy cherry) and give them a face-lift with a dewy, pink, virginal rose accord. I'm not sure who we have to thank for the current rose mania - perhaps it's Michel Almairac's fault for using rose water in L'Eau De Chloe - but it's certainly been the most prominent trend of 2013 so far.

In a different mode is François Demachy's reworking of Dior Homme Cologne. You want to watch out for this guy: he's not as suave as his pedigree would suggest and that Rolex on his wrist is a fake. Unlike his older brother (aka: the 2007 formulation), he doesn't feature the gourmand iris vibe of the main Dior Homme scent and simply presents a modern, musky cologne accord beneath a grapefruit top note. The best example of this genre is still Mugler's Cologne, but I expect this new Dior will win many fans with its deceptive smoothness. Clutching a leather handbag and pouting with Mediterranean insouciance is the L'Eau version of Prada's Candy. Thankfully, it doesn't veer too far away from 2011's delightful construction. Daniela Andrier has kept her basic caramelised, musky benzoin framework, but has made it slightly less sticky with a floral facet that's part sweet pea and part... you guessed it... rose. Sidle up to her and give in to the luscious lilt of her sugar-filled promises.

Whether you're a black pot or a black kettle, enjoy the summer... if it ever arrives!

[Reviews based on samples provided by Calvin Klein, Davidoff, Guerlain, Issey Miyake, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Yves Saint Laurent, Thierry Mugler, Narciso Rodriguez, Cartier, Christian Dior and Prada in 2013.]


No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks very much for reading my site and taking the time to leave a comment.

Please note that whilst the full range of views is welcome on, comments containing expletives and/or abusive language may not be published.

If you're using Safari on an Apple device, you may experience some difficulties with submitting comments. Please consider using Google's Chrome browser on your Apple device; this may make it easier to leave your comment.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...