vendredi 24 juillet 2009

Private Collection Jasmine White Moss by Estée Lauder: Holographic Chypre

Restrictions on oak moss, public disaffection and the hijacking of the name by P.R. departments to label juices that are anything but… We’ve all but buried chypres by now, haven’t we?

Most classics have either undergone a full-body lipo and chemical peel like Mitsouko, or they’ve been castrated like Miss Dior. Newer family members sport various surgical enhancements – like Tom Ford’s trout-pouting, silicone-breasted and rather delightful Arabian Wood, a misnomer if there ever was one, as it is neither Arabian nor woody. Or else they seem to have succumbed to over-breeding, like the no less delightful Jubilation 25 by Amouage, with its baroque cumin and balsam overdose.

Enter Estée Lauder’s new Private Collection Jasmine White Moss, a Seventies style green chypre with a fruity bent, meant to be one of Estée’s undeveloped formulas and thus, perhaps, a move to anchor the brand in its own heritage. And, possibly, a bid to seduce older, chypre-literate demographics without scaring off the young women who are graduating out of the fruity florals. As an added bonus, a new captive material, “white moss mist”, is introduced to replace oakmoss and usher in the era of the rash-free chypres.

Spraying on Jasmine White Moss is an odd exercise in déjà-senti.

Cristalle? Check. The original Private Collection? Check. L de Lubin, Acqua di Parma Profumo (pre-reformulation), Azzaro (again pre-reformulation), Givenchy III, Diorella ? Check. It’s got bergamot, it’s got galbanum, it’s got jasmine, it’s got that slightly over-ripe fruity, melon-like note you find in classic Roudnitskas, as well as the ubiquitous, cleaned-up patchouli used in most of what’s currently labeled “chypre”.

And like all three of the new Private Collections – think of Tuberose Gardenia’s tamed shrews – this neo-retro chypre has been cleaned up, thoroughly groomed and spayed of anything remotely earthy, musty, indolic or otherwise disturbing. Thoroughly Americanized – no offense intended to Americans: I’m talking about the concept, not the actual, diverse individuals. And that’s what PCJWM is: the concept of chypre, rendered IFRA-compliant and palatable to contemporary tastes; the spirit but not the flesh. As noncommittally lovely as a rom-com star – and don’t get me wrong, PCJWM is very pretty indeed, though somewhat pallid and lacking in staying power. She’s just not Romy Schneider or Jacqueline Bisset.

I guess what mostly bothers me about Jasmine White Moss, despite its loveliness, is the fact that it doesn’t bring anything new to the genre: it just reminds me of a lot of things I love and have lost.

This is how chypre will be allowed to live on, then: as a hologram. This is as good as it gets.

Image: Kate Moss "hologram" from Alexander McQueen's Fall 2007 show. Which isn't actually a hologram, but a special effect used by magicians since the 19th century called Pepper's Ghost. It's all done with mirrors, folks!

32 commentaires:

  1. Excellent commentary. I tried this and could only think, "Now, what does this remind me of? I know it reminds me of something, what is it? "

    Not that it's bad; it's not. But I never did get out of that "What is this like?" phase.

  2. Olfacta, I feel as though JWM were a composite image with a less than optimal resolution. Frustrating.

  3. I'm sorry, come again? "White moss mist"????? That is nonsensical. Honestly, if I ever create a perfume, I'm going to refuse to release a list of notes, to avoid this sort of folderol. My press release will say, "It's a great big honkin' amber. Try it, it's fantastic." And that is all.

  4. A., "white moss mist" is surely just a name for a new aroma-chemical, same as Ambroxan or Galaxolide, only this time it's a substitute to moss, and God knows we sorely need some in this absurdly over-regulated world. I'm all for what Frédéric Malle and Hermès do, actually: when there's a key synthetic, just name it and educate the public.

  5. Excellent post and commentary. Damning with faint praise. It's a crying shame that perfume has been reduced to this. Ah well... in a world that calls McD.'s food, what else could you expect?

  6. Thanks Rappleyea. Although, truth be told, I'd rather wear this than a lot of disfigured chypres: at least what you smell is what the perfumer intended it to be (at least the second perfumer who worked on it).
    On the other hand, Cristalle is still holding up pretty well...

  7. Ah, Denyse.
    How much of this did you sample ?
    EDP, or perfume ?

    Yes, it's derivative, yes, it may smell 'spayed', compared to other chypres...older ones, especially.

    I get indolic ripeness both in my nose, and on my skin.
    The parfum is to die for.

    It is beautiful, classic, and NOT boring.

    Is it vintage ?
    Is it beautiful in its own right ?

    I, too, lament the restrictions and constant reformulations; but that may not bring them back.

    I'm gonna enjoy the hell out of this one....;)

  8. Chaya, it's the edp, and I gave myself my usual good squirts on both wrists... I'm sure the parfum is richer, how couldn't it be? I'll be sure to sample it when it reaches my shores. I'd be delighted to eat my words, but for the moment, I still own too much of the real oakmossy stuff to get a true kick out of this one. My loss.

  9. Not LOSS, my friend; I hear you.
    I have my bottles of 'beloveds' which I use and treasure...

    This isn't one of those.
    But in its own right, it is delightful.

    Simply not in the same category ;)
    Bisous !

  10. Chaya, I guess I'm just being a grumpy classicist and perhaps not giving this the chance I'd give if I hadn't known the templates of the genre. I'm actually very glad that Lauder is putting out sophisticated, adult fragrances.

  11. Are you the lovely L from Vancouver, CC? I seem to remember there is a connection between you and your alter-ego. . .
    Just wanted to thank you for the gift or your knowledge and your beautiful, very fluid and able writing. Nothing I've read has captured Jasmine White Moss like your review. I don't know how you say so much in so few words, but you sure know how to choose them.
    I have now been officially bitten by the vintage bug, and it's a BAD one. There is something about older scents that is addictive; for me, I think it's the authenticity of them. They were created as a perfumer's self-expression, not as a product designed to sell in volume as profitably as possible.

  12. Dear D.,

    Whenever I hear that a newly released scent is classified as a chypre it stings me because it reminds me of all those beautiful perfumes that are lost forever. (I know this may sound rather melodramatic & there are much more important and/or dramatic things in life than the loss of chypres, but to be it´s a tragedy.)
    So far JWM isn´t released in Germany & I´m sure it´ll take quite a while until it´ll pop up in stores. Maybe I´ll like it, but it won´t be the "real thing" & won´t surely give me the feeling of some kind of secureness that pre-formulated chypres always evoke in me.

    BTW: Do you maybe know which perfume Romy Schneider used to wear? I was wondering about it while I was watching "Le mouton enragé" a few days ago & was once again impressed by her screen presence & her melancholic beauty. Now that you mentioned her name this question aroused again. IMO chypres would have fit her perfectly.

  13. Robin, no, I'm not from Vancouver. Though I *am* Canadian: I come from Montreal but I've been living in Paris for ages and my name is Denyse.
    Thank you for you kind words. I couldn't agree more about vintage perfumes. Though I can't wear them on a daily basis, they elicit a very different feeling from the contemporary ones, at least in the mainstream -- there are several "parfums d'auteur" composed with soul...

  14. Malena, I agree: on the global scale of events, the castration of chypres is only a blip, but it still feels like a loss...

    I don't know what Romy Schneider wore. Maybe Helg has an idea, she did a list of the fragrances worn by stars a while back. Helg?

  15. Somehow I sensed some kind of connection between us, Denyse. It's a Canadian thing.

    How lovely to live where you do. I eagerly saved your Right and Left Bank Paris fragrance tours of late, dreaming of the day. . .Invaluable reference material without a doubt.

    I know what you mean about vintage scents. There are certain times, places, moods for them. Although it saddens me that so many of the old materials will never be used again in modern fragrances, I am heartened by the originality and beauty of some of the new releases which incorporate the kind of molecular technology I imagine the classic perfumers of the day would have loved to play with. If there is a heaven, getting all those noses together to discuss, share and create would truly be heavenly.

  16. "Thoroughly Americanized – no offense intended to Americans: I’m talking about the concept, not the actual, diverse individuals."

    Why so apologetic, carmencanada?
    What do you call "Thoroughly Americanized", at least in perfumery?
    you mentioned in the french section "american diversity" as opposed to concept; about diversity in america, this country is both about and not about diversity (just because the president is biracial although defines himself black, doesn't mean the whole country is as diverse...yet, but complex yes it is).

  17. Robin, yes, there may be a kind of Canadian spirit at play though I'd be hard-pressed to define it (as would most Canadians, I suspect).

    To this day, I do try to count my blessings about living in Paris, which gives me the opportunity, among other things, of meeting certain perfumers (but that's the least of it!).

    About vintage: I really need to get down and wear/review some of my beauties, many of which I've mostly used for my own culture. But the very thought is daunting.

  18. Bijou Olfactif, thanks for raising the point(s).

    I loathe over-generalization and I always try to distinguish between, say, an idea of what is "French", "American", whatever, and the individuals who have that passport. Just as I hate saying “men are like this”, “women are like that”, etc.

    I used the word "diverse" in its primary meaning, "many and different", without the reference to ethnicity it has come to take on.

    I use "American" as a concept in fragrance in opposition to the "French" concept. The American school of perfumery (in recent history) veers either towards marketing-driven, “clean” scents with no overtly erotic or heady notes, just as it meant “bang-for-your-buck” powerhouses in the 80s. Many French perfumers of the old school that I’ve spoken to perceive and deplore the influence of the American style on the market as a whole. JWM seems to me to be the interpretation of chypre within that American style.

    However, as a great many American perfume lovers I know have a much wider palette of tastes, I took care to distinguish the concept and the individuals. Though I’m not French, I’ve been living in France long enough to get bugged at sweeping generalizations about the French, I figure my American readers might be annoyed too to be lumped into a single category.

  19. Hello Denyse

    Maybe I need to try this again, but at first sniff, I did not like this at all. I need more indoles in my jasmine and more mossiness overall in a chypre. It smelled thin and synthetic on me, with none of the richness that I crave in a chypre. Maybe, as Chaya mentioned, the parfum would be better?

  20. Melissa, I suppose the parfum would be richer... I've smelled this again today and once more, it felt like a cross between Cristalle and a Roudnitska. As far as neo-classical Roudnitska-esque chypres go, I still think something like Francis Kurkdjian's L'Enlèvement au Sérail for MDCI has a richer feel to it.And Cristalle is still around in good condition. So...

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  22. Mist is just a name, sort of like a proprietary name for a formulation. White moss Mist is an accord based on a study of a certain type of moss. It is called Mist, because there are other moss accords from the same study, which are heavier and darker.
    For some strange reason, I actually did not get to smell this one until it hit the market, but I liked it. I do not mind a well-done retro and I certainly welcome any return to green chypres, however attenuated they might be.

  23. It sounds like we got a lot of the same thing from it. I too kept thinking of what it reminded me of -- only those fragrances are mostly better (in my opinion) and cheaper.

  24. And PS I found your "American" discussion in these comments interesting. I personally imagine you in a difficult situation: aware (as you must be) of potential sensitivities by your English speaking readers of feeling dismissed by the French. FWIW I got where you were going, and no offense was noted. I think someone (Perfume Shrine?) did an interesting post on the concept of quintessentially American perfumes not too long ago.

  25. Victoria, thank you for the info, I was going to email you to ask about it... I was wondered whether it was a molecule or an accord (which seemed more likely from the name and odorant effect).
    I'm glad green is making a comeback too -- I'm studying late-60s early 70s fragrances right now and it's a very typical note of the period.

  26. March, now I'm holding out for the perfume version (if it ever hits these shores), which might be added value compared to the older green chypres, many of which aren't produced in that concentration.

  27. March, clearly I don't want to seem dismissive either of American perfumes or American perfumistas, and as I said, I don't like over-generalizations. God knows as a French Canadian, I grew up on Estée Lauders and the brand is truly a part of my olfactory heritage.

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  31. I hope to try this soon - I went to my Lauder counter yesterday and it's coming in the next few days. I have hopes for it since it's based on an older formula; I can't wear, or bear, the newer ones that all smell the same on me after a few minutes. Hopefully this one will be devoid of the dreaded "Lauder accord" and thus wearable for me. I don't expect it to be great, but I would hope for very good.

  32. Flora, it's definitely old-school in feel. And very good.