Elizabeth Taylor : White Diamonds

White diamonds

Created by : Carlos Benaïm

Date : 1991

Genre : Glamorous white floral

Concentration : eau de toilette

Diana Vreeland once said, “I loathe nostalgia.  I don’t believe in anything before penicillin!”.  I know exactly how she feels.  As I get older, thinking of the good ol’ days seems so pointless!  As with life’s regrets, better to leave the past where it belongs… in the past.  As Ingrid Bergman said, “Happiness is good health and a bad memory.”

But I think even the least romantic of us can be pulled back into nostalgia every now and then… usually when we least suspect it.  And so when I saw the photo of Elizabeth Taylor on the cover of the White Diamonds’ gift set… something pulled at my heartstrings. It brought me back to younger days and late-night movies and talk shows. You know with all the talk of Cate and Angelina and Beyoncé channelling old Hollywood glamour… they never really get close to the original goddesses of the time… and Elizabeth Taylor was certainly at the top of that list or darn near it.

The creator of White Diamonds is Carlos Benaïm who also created Ralph Lauren Polo, Calvin Klein Eternity for Men and Frédéric Malle Eau de Magnolia.   No doubt about it, Carlos knows his stuff!  So when in 1991 he set out to capture old Hollywood glamour with White Diamonds, he hit the bull’s-eye!  White Diamonds is a creamy-rich, elegant white floral with a woody base that could easily be marketed by a prestigious French house at twice the price.  This fragrance is beautifully constructed… no jagged edges, not a shrill note to be heard.

According to Fragrantica, White Diamond’s composition is as follows :

The top notes are aldehydes, bergamot, neroli, orange and lily. The heart unites the classical trio, violet, rose and jasmine, accompanied by ylang-ylang, Egyptian tuberose and narcissus. The base is composed of oak moss, patchouli, musk, sandalwood and amber.

As you can see all the usual suspects are there but you’d be hard-pressed to pick out any individual note… at least I was, particularly in the heart.  The overall effect is symphonic.

The only problem I see with White Diamonds is one of perception.  Because it’s a celebrity perfume, one automatically assumes that it will be badly made and leave you with a chemical stink bomb after all the lovely notes have evaporated.  Not so.  This one is gorgeous from beginning to end.  Don’t let the blingy packaging and discount price fool you.  For added sillage, I’ve been putting a drop of the parfum on my wrist preceded by Chanel’s ultra-expensivo Crème pour le Corps from their Les Exclusifs collection. Together, they’re sublime. If you had told me the combination was the latest Lauder fragrance, I would believe you.  Serge Lutens?  No, because White Diamonds is better than any Lutens floral.  Guerlain?  Probably not because the genre is off. Tom Ford?  Yes. Chanel?  I don’t know.

If you see this package at the store, buy it and enjoy.

Jean Patou : Joy eau de parfum (UK version)

Created by : Henri Giboulet

Date : 1955

Genre : Aldehydic animalic

Concentration : Eau de parfum

What used to be called Eau de Joy has since been renamed Joy eau de parfum and as far as I’m concerned, it’s false advertising.  It should be called Joy eau de civet.  I mean I knew that the eau de parfum would be less floral and more aldehydic than the eau de toilette but all this synthetic civet is way too much.  So, it doesn’t surprise me that the people in charge of the Jean Patou line, Designer Parfums, have hired Thomas Fontaine to oversee “the fragrance development for its heritage brands… Worth, Jean Louis Scherrer and Jean Patou.”  And from the same press release, “Today Fontaine is recognised as a leading specialist in recasting vintage formulas for modern times.”  The man for the job!  (Thanks to FiveOaks from Perfume of Life for this link.)

Joy eau de parfum needs a “parfum initial” treatment à la Shalimar from Guerlain.  Joy edp is too heavy, too dense and too animalic.  It needs some lightening up with bergamot or powder or something.  Hopefully Thomas Fontaine will be able to bring it in step with modernity otherwise I can’t imagine it will be around very much longer.  I’ll admit though that in the first 15 minutes, I smelled the most beautiful rose note and I kept hoping that it would keep going in that direction… but no.  It went to civet and stayed there.

I understand that Joy eau de toilette is still beautiful.  The first time I sniffed the edt was a few years back and I remember the sheer beauty of it just knocked me over.  The rose and jasmine notes were so very clear… the most beautiful duet I think I’ve ever experienced.  But this eau de parfum needs a makeover.

I don’t mean to be catty (ouch) but this next duet pretty wells sums it up.

Today, I went to Montréal’s Expozine -Small Press, Comic and Zine Fair!  It was crowded and smelly but kudos to the participants who showered this morning with patchouli soap and oil!  Honestly, it was the best smell blast I’ve had in a long time.

The joy of aldehydes

Recognizing the presence of aldehydes in perfume is not easy for me.  In fact, I bought White Linen by Estée Lauder as a reference scent just to be able to practice.  But the aldehydes in White Linen are easy to identify because they are overdosed and they are the kind that really sting.  Generally, the aldehydes are not so obvious and so I look for different clues.  With Joy eau de parfum by Jean Patou, it was the abstraction that provided the clue.  In other words, it’s not so much what I smelled but what I didn’t smell.  I couldn’t pick out notes.  Jacques Polge said it best when he said that “les aldéhydes concourent à brouiller les pistes.”  Simply, aldehydes blur the notes.  That’s why Chanel No. 5 doesn’t smell like its constituent parts… rose, jasmine and ylang ylang.

For people just starting out with perfume, aldehydes are frustrating because they can make a perfume illegible and everyone loves to be able to sniff a fragrance and say… “Ah… iris!” or “What a great rose note!”  But with aldehydes, you can’t do that because the notes are blurred.  Aldehydes force you to just smell (and perhaps feel)… but not think!  Total fragrance abstraction reminds me of abstract art such as the sublime rubber stamp print by Saskatchewan-born Agnes Martin.  There is no point in analyzing it.  You are reduced, or rather elevated, to just looking at it and appreciating it for what it is.

Chemically, aldehydes are built of 3 hydrogen atoms and a carbon atom (H3C) at one end followed by a straight chain of carbon atoms and anchored with an oxygen atom at the other end.  The first 8 iterations (from 0 to 7 carbon atoms) are not used in perfume.  But from C8 (8 carbon atoms) to C12 (12 carbon atoms), watch out!  Their notes vary from waxy to citrus to incense-like.  What they do to perfume is difficult to describe but they are responsible for masterpieces like Chanel No. 5, Arpège (pre-reformulation) by Lanvin and Chant d’Arômes by Guerlain… the most famous among them being No. 5 with its cocktail of C10, C11 and C12 aldehydes.  If anyone is interested in finding out more about aldehydes and perfume, I encourage you to check out The Secret of Scent by Luca Turin.

And so for this week, I’ll be wearing either Joy eau de parfum or Diorella and I’ll get back to you with my review.

Have a nice week everyone!

Image : Praise (1976) by Agnes Martin

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