Perfume Review: Serge Lutens La Fille de Berlin

In time for Valentine’s Day, Serge Lutens is releasing the first of two new fragrances for 2013. It is La Fille de Berlin (“The Girl from Berlin”), a unisex rose perfume that tries to pay homage to a woman’s strength, resilience and beauty in the face of destruction.

Lutens is a very intellectual perfumer who seeks to render concrete the most abstract of theories and images. That is never more evident than in his press materials for La Fille de Berlin — such as his explanatory video which you can watch below and which has been translated in full on YouTube.

A shorter, barely less oblique explanation of the scent is available in the press release posted on Fragrantica where Mr. Lutens describes the perfume as follows:

A flower grown under our ruins, cut off from the world, appears before your eyes to all of us to open our eyes. I took courage in both hands in her flowing Rheingold hair. On the lips, I tasted blood. My girl from Berlin showed combative, more beautiful than ever–and so I broke my contempt and yet my shame, hiding under the guise of my pride. Through the power of criticism, of love and hate, God and the devil, death and life, I drew a furrow in which she disappeared. And while the maelstrom together beats on me, I pay homage to her beauty enraged.

A scene from "A Woman in Berlin" ("Anonyma: Eine Frau in Berlin".)    REUTERS/Constantin Film/Handout  Source: Reuters article 2008

A scene from “A Woman in Berlin” (“Anonyma: Eine Frau in Berlin”.) REUTERS/Constantin Film/Handout. Source: Reuters article 2008

If all this esoterica leaves you sighing, you’re not alone. Long story short, La Fille de Berlin is meant to pay homage to the strength of German women who survived the Soviet occupation after the war — though there seems to be something much darker, more ominous, and much more violent being referenced in both his video comments and in the press release references above to shame and blood. If you read the complete YouTube quote from Mr. Lutens, you will get a full sense of the incredible bleakness, anger, betrayal and misery which seems to be at the start of his dark, almost existentialist mythology for La Fille de Berlin. (One almost wonders if he’s talking about rape, in addition to some sort of actual or symbolic “murder.” No matter how much resilience may be his ultimate theme, the whole thing is very unsettling.)

Since none of these things are a happy way to sell perfume (especially on Valentine’s Day), Mr. Lutens tries to be slightly more positive in his quotes to The New York Times where he states, “Beauty is the moment in which you rise up […] It is the moment when you pick up your head, stride through your own ruins and climb up the mountain.” Okay, it’s still not particularly happy and cheerful, what with “your own ruins” — but, at least he tried.

La Fille de BerlinThere are no perfume notes for La Fille de Berlin. Lutens is a perfume house which often omits a large part of the ingredients in its perfume description but, here, it does so completely. The rumour mill says that La Fille is a rose and pepper scent, while Luckyscent feels some of the notes are “Rose, violet, pink and black pepper, musk” — but Lutens himself has stayed silent. On his website, the fragrance is only described with still further (and, by now, rather exasperating) lyricism:

She’s a rose with thorns, don’t mess with her. She’s a girl who goes to extremes.
When she can, she soothes; and when she wants … !
Her fragrance lifts you higher, she rocks and shocks. 

That’s all well and good, but I’m afraid I find nothing shocking or extreme about La Fille de Berlin. It’s a lovely rose scent which starts with peony-like roses before taking a fruity (and almost fruity-patchouli) turn, then becoming rather austere and, by the end, quite nondescript. I found it pretty average as a whole, and far preferred LutensSa Majesté La Rose for a rose scent — and any number of other Lutens fragrances in general. If truth be told, La Fille de Berlin was actually a bit of a disappointment. I’m not alone in feeling that way. One of the handful of reviews already out is from Cosmetopica (who also couldn’t make head nor tails out of Lutens’ lyricism). She, too, found the perfume far less distinctive and exciting than many of Lutens’ other creations.

Peony roses at Warwick Castle, UK. Photo used by permission from CC at "Slightly Out of Sync."

Peony roses at Warwick Castle, UK. Photo used by permission from CC at “Slightly Out of Sync.”

La Fille de Berlin opens on me with a wet, dewy rose note that is faintly similar to the sweetness in a tea rose, but slightly richer and redder. That said, it’s not as rich as a hearty, beefy Bourbon or Damask rose, but something in-between. Perhaps, large peony roses? Soft violet notes flicker and dance at the edges. Sometimes, the scent seems soft and slightly powdered. At other times, heartier and deeper. The violet notes vaguely evoke YSL‘s Paris in its original formulation but Paris is a much warmer, headier, more intense, and spicier take on roses.

As some others have noted, there is a subtle green note which is present. It’s as if Christopher Sheldrake (Lutens’ favorite perfumer and traditional cohort in olfactory adventures) sought to bring in the scent of the green, leafy sepals which protect a rose bud. The green notes are hard to describe. They’re not like those at the start of Sa Majesté La Rose which is a much more lavish, baroque and dramatic scent after its green, slightly soapy start. In La Fille de Berlin, the green elements are fresher and slightly dewy, and underscored by what seems to be geranium leaf.

Source: ElementalLife.org

Source: ElementalLife.org

There is also an unexpectedly woody element, like that of a rose’s own stem, and elements of rich, wet soil. It’s an odd mix — greenness with earthy, loamy soil and the faintly woody aspect of a rose stem — and it makes me wonder if Christopher Sheldrake sought to disassemble every part of a rose before putting them back together again. He’s done that deconstruction trick for Lutens before; it was handled brilliantly with the tuberose flower in Tubereuse Criminelle.

Ten minutes in, La Fille de Berlin begins to take on a fruity aspect. At first, it’s the unexpected scent of cherries. Then, it’s just a general fruity smell under the veneer of sweetness and it strongly resembles some purple patchouli fragrances I smelled last year. Specifically, it calls to mind Marc JacobsLola and, to a much lesser extent, Chanel‘s Coco Noir. Both are scents with rose, a fruity patchouli element, notes of pear, pink peppercorn, and geranium, over a base of musk. As the Fragrantica notes demonstrate, Lola, in particular, is a primarily rose and peppercorn perfume with fruity-patchouli overtones. I own Lola and Coco Noir, so I sprayed on a little bit of each on my legs to see if I was just imagining things.

Purple rose at Warwick Castle, England. Photo provided with permission by CC from "Slightly Out of Sync" blog.

Purple rose at Warwick Castle, England. Photo provided with permission by CC from “Slightly Out of Sync” blog.

I was not imagining things. Though Lola opens with heavy fruit notes, it soon develops into something extremely similar to the jammy, peppercorn rose in La Fille de Berlin. Coco Noir is completely different in its opening, but it too has that jammy, purple, fruity patchouli element in its middle stages. (I reviewed it here, if you’re interested.) It should be noted that Christopher Sheldrake (who undoubtedly created La Fille de Berlin) was also responsible for Coco Noir, along with Chanel’s in-house perfumer, Jacques Polge. But it is really to Lola that La Fille de Berlin seems most similar at the start. The main differences is that the latter is slightly less fruity, much more subtle and fresh, and of infinitely better quality. There is nary a screeching synthetic in sight — which is much more than I can say for Mr. Jacobs’ creation.

Two hours in, La Fille de Berlin changes. The sillage drops even further, and the perfume takes on a cold, austere, almost metallic bent. It loses what warmth it had and becomes a linear progression that is predominantly rose with white musk and light sandalwood. It is far from exciting. Victoria from Bois de Jasmin had a far sexier time with the scent, experiencing amber, musk and faintly “naughty” bits:

A couple of hours later, my skin smells of amber and musk. La Fille de Berlin has an intriguing animalic note that would be untoward and raunchy if the rest of the composition were not so refined and polished. The reference here seems to be Serge Lutens’s own Muscs Koublaï Khan […] a rose wrapped into so much musk and civet that it becomes something else altogether. La Fille de Berlin, on the other hand, is much less musk and more rose, and it’s well-behaved enough to be worn to the office without raising anyone’s alarm. But when you press your wrist to your nose, you notice the naughty and smoldering bits. The impressive tenacity will ensure that you will be aware of La Fille de Berlin for the entire day.

I only wish I had her experience; it sounds infinitely more interesting! Having just tested extreme animalic musk and naughtiness in Parfum d’Empire’s Musc Tonkin, I’d be quite alert to the presence of any skanky notes or civet in La Fille de Berlin, no matter how minute and refined. But, alas, I simply don’t smell it here. No amber, either. There is some earthiness which was there from the start, though faint, but I attribute it to the undertones of what seemed more like patchouli than animalic elements. And, even so, on a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being extreme earthiness), I’d place the note at a 3.5 at the start and at a mere 1 towards the end. Instead, something else is much more evident. I swear, even in the dry-down, there is a fruity note! It is much, much more subtle than it was at the start, but it is still there. I find it excessively sweet, and I blame it on the pepper which has to be closer to the fruitier type of pink peppercorn berries than to anything black and biting.

As a whole, my experience with the final hours was much closer, again, to that of Cosmetopica. She owns and loves Muscs Koublai Khan, so she would have noticed any animalic similarities had she encountered them. Instead, she detected milky sandalwood in the dry-down. I agree; I found a definite creamy, soft, milky aspect to things, though to my nose it didn’t smell like strong or, even, genuine sandalwood. More like an ersatz cousin, if you will. For the most part, it was mild and quite overwhelmed by the white musk and by that endless fruity element.

La Fille de Berlin had average sillage and very good longevity. The perfume projected for the first twenty minutes before settling in to become much more discreet. It became close to the skin about three hours in, though it was still strongly noticeable if you brought your wrist to your nose. The overall duration of the scent was a little under nine hours on me. On Cosmetopica, it was eight; on Victoria from Bois de Jasmin, “the whole day.”

All in all, La Fille de Berlin is well-behaved, refined, unisex perfume that is perfectly pleasant — with all the implications that accompany that last adjective. As Cosmetopica’s review noted, one buys niche perfumes with their higher price tag for something that is slightly more distinctive and interesting. Serge Lutens has perfumes that run the gamut from being intellectually brilliant masterpieces that are not versatile scents for everyday use, to things that are simply lovely and constantly wearable, to scents that are occasionally just perfectly “nice.”

This is the latter. Though the bright pink colour of the liquid is absolutely gorgeous and though I wanted to love it, at the end of the day, I found La Fille de Berlin to be quite boring. And, for reasons I can’t quite pinpoint, it wasn’t a particularly happy scent in my mind either, unlike Sa Majesté La Rose. (That conclusion doesn’t even consider Mr. Lutens’ incredibly dark and depressing backstory for the perfume which, ideally, I shall forget about as soon as possible.) However, as with every review, perfume is a wholly subjective thing — so what may not be my cup of tea may be a ravishingly sophisticated, discreet rose scent for others. As always, it’s best to try it and see for yourself.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: La Fille de Berlin eau de parfum is available right now on the Serge Lutens website where it costs $120 for a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle. In other currency units, I’ve read that it will cost €78. There does not seem to be a bell-jar for the scent on the website. It is also available right now for $120 on Luckyscent — which ships internationally. Luckyscent is not showing any samples for sale at this time. I will update this post when the perfume becomes available at other retailers, such as Barney’s or Harrods — both of which traditionally carry a handful of Lutens perfumes. La Fille de Berlin has just debuted, but is supposed to be fully launched in March 2013, so I suspect it may be a few weeks before it is available outside of the company’s website or in its Palais Royal headquarters in Paris. The perfume is part of Lutens’ “export” line of fragrances, so it definitely will be offered at other selected retail outlets. For other countries, once mid-March comes around, I suggest using the Lutens Store Indicator guide on its website to help you find a location that sells Fille de Berlin near you. Samples should also be available soon on decant sites, and I will update this post once I see them listed on places like Surrender to Chance.

Perfume Review – L’Artisan Parfumeur Safran Troublant: Saffron Delight

Swirls of dark orange from the most expensive spice in the world combine with the rich red of candied roses, the canary-yellow of creamy, custardy vanilla, and the sweet browns of cardamom to result in an instant reaction: “Heaven!”

Safrant Troublant.Source: Olibanum WordPress Blog.

Safrant Troublant.
Source: Olibanum WordPress Blog.

Actually, at first, I just gave a faint moan upon smelling Safran Troublant from the French niche house of L’Artisan Parfumeur. That doesn’t happen often. Incoherent babblings of joy, and mutterings of “Heaven,” followed soon thereafter. The name may translate to “troubling” or “disturbing” saffron, but this is one completely comforting, absolutely delicious fragrance that is perfect for those of you who prefer your perfume to be discreet and unobtrusive. Those of you who prefer more sillage will be disappointed, however. And, all of you should take serious note of its fleeting nature.

Safran Troublant is a unisex, spicy oriental eau de toilette that was created by the famous nose, Olivia Giacobetti, and released in 2002. L’Artisan Parfumeur‘s website describes it as follows:

A potent portrayal of candied roses; alluring and just a little dangerous

Safran Troublant is an unsettling and potent portrait of a candied rose. The sensuality is heightened with the addition of sandalwood and spicy ginger notes. This makes for a seductive and unexpected fragrance, where the saffron serves to highlight the sheer opulence of the rose. Beautiful and a little dangerous to wear.

The notes are:

saffron, red rose, vanilla, ginger and sandalwood.

As a side observation, Fragrantica is flat-out incorrect in its summation of the perfume. First, they have continuously listed Bertrand Duchaufour as the nose behind its creation, despite numerous comments correcting them. They also seem off on the notes, since they insist on listing “passion fruit flower” when no-one — least of all the company itself — has given any such indication or has smelled any passion fruit.

Sholeh Zard.Source: FoodandFarsi.com

Sholeh Zard.
Source: FoodandFarsi.com

The opening of Safran Troublant will be familiar to any of you who have had Indian or Persian saffron-rice desserts. “Sholeh Zard” is a Persian rice pudding with saffron, rose, cardamom and nuts. Its Indian counterpart is “Kheer” or “Payasam.” They’re both utterly addictive, though I personally think the Persian one is significantly heavier on the saffron which is probably why its colour is bright canary-yellow, whereas the Indian version is not. For a wonderful discussion of both saffron and Sholeh Zard, as well as recipe for how to make it, check out Food & FarsiThe Spice Spoon, or the other sites linked in the photos. (But don’t do it if you’re hungry. Really, I warn you. I learnt the hard way, and now I’m famished…)

Safran Troublant’s first minutes are a swirling delight of sugared rose: deep, dark and candied, but richer than anything in mere rose water. This is no cloying, saccharine-sweet tea-rose but a darker, heavier floral. It’s sugared and spiced, making this a great perfume for those who have problems with more traditional or girly rose perfumes. The sweet, almost nutty warmth of the cardamom combines with the almost peppered, earthy sweetness of the saffron to provide a richness to the perfume’s foundation.

Sholeh Zard. Source: Foodival.com

Sholeh Zard.
Source: Foodival.com

The vanilla here is incredibly lush. This is no cupcake vanilla or, even, the vanilla of bottled extract. It evokes tapioca pudding: creamy, heavy, and utterly unctuous. And it’s thick like the brightest, yellow egg custard!

About five minutes in, there is a strong hint of cumin. However, unlike many of my other experiences with the note, it’s not really earthy and never “skanky.” It just adds another layer of earthiness and spice to counter the sweetness of the scent. The ginger starts to make a greater appearance at this time, too. It’s not sharp or bitter but, rather, almost candied.

Saffron. Source: FoodandFarsi.com

Saffron.
Source: FoodandFarsi.com

Neither note, however, is the true star of the perfume. That role is taken almost entirely by the glorious saffron which remains throughout  the duration of the scent. It’s heady, rich, compulsively sniffable, and makes Safran Troublant far more than a simple vanilla or gourmand scent. It is absolutely the best parts of this lovely perfume.

Unfortunately, one of the worst parts is Safran Troublant’s fleeting nature. On one arm, where I put on my usual number of dabs, the perfume vanished entirely within ten minutes. Yes, TEN minutes! I’d read one commentator say that the perfume disappeared on her within minutes of application, but I thought that had to be an exaggeration — even for the typically light, ephemeral L’Artisan line. Apparently, not. On my other arm, however, where I had trebled the dosage due to my utter love for the fragrance, it was a different story. The perfume’s sillage dropped by about 85% within ten minutes but, to my surprise, the perfume itself remained. I can’t quite account for the differences but, clearly, one needs a lot of the perfume for it to stay even as a discreet skin scent.

And it is most definitely discreet! Far, far too discreet for my personal preferences but, for those of you who don’t like intrusive scents or who can’t always find perfumes appropriate for a strict work-environment, it should be utterly perfect. Well, assuming it lasts on you…..

The main criticism of this much-loved scent is its fleeting nature. You all know that I have skin that is incredibly voracious when it comes to perfume, but we’re talking about normal people here! From Fragrantica to Makeupalley, there are endless comments about how Safran Troublant barely lasts. Many give four hours as the maximum, while others give significantly less. The one review I mentioned above about how it lasted mere minutes came from “Goddess Dreams” on Makeupalley who wrote:

Well, well, well, now I too know what it’s like to have a scent that now you smell and then two seconds later “poof” and it is completely GONE! Where did it go? I’d love to know! But my, I love it so much, why did it have to leave so soon? This is ridicilous, I mean I sprayed it on, no joke a good spray I gave it too, but I’m talking within minutes (I was still at the L’Artisan counter and it was GONE – not slowly withered away – GONE ALL AT ONCE WITHOUT A TRACE). But, oh while it was there, for that charming special moment that it lingered on my skin – that was wonderful. I would have paid any money had it lasted only a touch, but my chemistry made NOTHING out of this. While it was there however, magical it was!

Again, on me, the scent remained on the one arm where I splashed it on heavily but, even there, it lasted a mere four hours. And I could smell it only if I brought my nose right up to arm. Still, what a glorious few hours it was. The notes didn’t alter in any way from what they were at the start — this is hardly a complex perfume that morphs and shifts with every hour — and I’m uncertain as to whether there is sandalwood in any significant amount, but the scent was hauntingly beautiful. It’s well-blended, too, and definitely unisex — though it think it may lean a wee more towards the feminine side for men who aren’t enormous fans of rose fragrances.

If I thought Safran Troublant would last in any way on me without constant re-spritzing, I would put aside my usual issues regarding discreet perfumes that are mere skin scents, and buy it immediately. However, at $145 a bottle, it’s a little too expensive for me to be re-applying it every few hours in gallopingly great, hefty doses. Still, I urge you to try it if you can. This is a scent that should appeal to everyone from those who like spiced florals or gourmand fragrances, to those who need low sillage perfumes for the workplace. And, with Valentine’s Day on the horizon, it is a particularly good choice for those who love rose fragrances. Frankly, it may be true love for many — regardless of the date in question.

DETAILS:
You can find Safran Troublant on the L’Artisan Parfumeur website where it costs $145 for a large 3.4 oz/100 ml bottle. No other size is offered, and the perfume only comes in Eau de Toilette concentration. Elsewhere, you can find it at Barneys, Beauty Encounter, or Lucky Scent. Though Sephora now carries the L’Artisan line, this is not one of the seven L’Artisan scents they offer. The same thing applies to Harrods which carries 24 of the brands’ fragrances, but not this one for some inexplicable reason. I also couldn’t find it on Neiman Marcus, Aedes or Nordstrom’s websites where, if it was shown at all, it was listed as “out of stock” (with pricing that was clearly from years ago). However, you can easily obtain samples from Lucky Scent at the link shown above, or at Surrender to Chance where prices start at $3.99 for a 1ml vial.

Review En Bref: Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose: Lipstick & Powder

As always, my Reviews En Bref are for perfumes that — for whatever reason — didn’t seem to merit a full, exhaustive discussion.

The luxury fragrance house Editions de Parfums Frederic Malle is one of the most respected niche perfume lines in the world. It was founded in 2000 by Frederic Malle, a man who has luxury perfume in his blood. His grandfather founded Christian Dior Perfumes, and his mother later worked as an Art Director for the same perfume house.

Lipstick RoseIn 2000, Malle teamed up with the perfumer Ralf Schweiger to create Lipstick Rose, a powdery floral, which the Malle website describes as follows:

Marilyn in Technicolor, vulnerable even brash. Lipstick Rose is Ralph Schweiger’s vision of glamorized femininity. A perfume that smiles at you, like a dash of lipstick with its rose and violet-flavored bonbon scent. Grapefruit and violet enhance the fragrance’s rose note. The backdrop is musk and vanilla with a hint of vetiver and amber.

Fragrantica lists its notes as follows:

rose, violet, musk, vanilla, vetiver, amber and grapefruit.

I should confess at the start that I am not usually worshipful of rose scents, and that I’m even less keen on very powdery ones. In short, I’m probably the wrong target audience for this fragrance to begin with. Nonetheless, there have been exceptions, and I always try to keep an open mind to things and to really give perfume a chance. I failed here. I didn’t last a full two hours before I simply had to wash this off and then take some aspirin for a very rare, perfume-induced migraine.

Lipstick Rose opened on me with a strong note of primarily powdered rose, then violets, followed by a faint touch of musk with a hint of yellow grapefruit. The latter was faint, and barely cut through the powdered florals. There was a sweet touch of vanilla bean as well. Moments later, the violet notes became as strong as the rose, if not stronger. It was very similar to sweet, powdered, candied violets. As the perfume continued to unfurl, I went back and forth on which floral note dominated. Sometimes, it seemed to be the rose; sometimes, the violets.

It was very evocative of YSL‘s Paris in vintage form. The latter was a scent in which I doused myself for a full year in the early 1980s (leading, perhaps, to my lingering issues with rose fragrances) but Lipstick Rose is far more powdery, less clear, less purely floral, and more sweet than my memories of Paris. That said, I was initially surprised to actually like Lipstick Rose. I certainly didn’t expect to. But note the word “initially” in that sentence.

pampers-baby-wipesAs time passes, Lipstick Rose’s sweetness increases in strength, as do its powdery notes. I have an incredibly strong impression of baby wipes. I’d read a few similar comments to that effect on Fragrantica and elsewhere, and they aren’t joking. There are also very waxy notes that — as expected and as frequently reported — call to mind old-fashioned, luxury lipsticks. (Numerous people compare the scent to old Lancome lipsticks, though I’ve read comparisons to MAC as well. I smell old-style Chanel-rose combined with the Guerlain-violet lipsticks, amplified by a thousand). It’s a hand-to-hand combat between the rose, the violet, the sugar and the baby-wipes powder, and it’s only just begun….

About thirty minutes in, Lipstick Rose starts to become unbearably cloying and, even worse, synthetic to my nose. I feel the start of a tell-tale thump in my head, which only comes with extremely strong synthetics. In the FAQ section of his website, Frederic Malle classifies Lipstick Rose as one of the strongest perfumes in his line. The second strongest category, to be precise. The strength would be fine if it wasn’t so synthetic to me. The sillage is powerful in the opening hour, though I’ve read that it fades away and becomes a much softer scent as a whole. Perhaps, but I couldn’t take the full evolution. At exactly one hour and 47 minutes into its progression, I waved the white flag. My head hurt, I felt actually queasy, and not even scientific accuracy for a review warranted another moment of it.

One of my goals in my reviews, at least in my full ones, is to give a full impression of the perfume, with comments from others — lovers and haters alike. So, for full fairness, I want to present you with the other side of the picture. And I’ll start with another perfume blogger: Birgit of Olfactoria’s Travels. She first “shunned” the perfume before becoming “enamored” and changing her mind. She found its extreme feminity to be a symbol of independence, femininity on her terms and a symbol that eradicated the strictures of her youth regarding cosmetics or feeling pretty.

"La Goulue" from the always amazing 19th century painter, Toulouse-Lautrec.

“La Goulue” from the always amazing 19th century painter, Toulouse-Lautrec.

On Fragrantica, the reviews vary from great appreciation of the perfume’s retro quality to thoughts that it is too powdery and too much like wearing an actual lipstick. You may find some of the comments — positive and negative– to be useful:

  • For me, this is such a “happy, happy, joy, joy” kind of fragrance. It makes me think of clowns, old theaters, really red and kind of sticky old lipstick, doing a careful make-up… and also the phrase “It cost´s money to look this cheap”. 🙂 Very retro, very not have to think about the morning, carefree, adorable, easy to like kind of scent.
  • If you like tooth achingly sweet perfumes then you will probabily like this. Its a shame, i like most Frederic Malle perfumes and find them quite natural smelling, if you know what i mean, but this one is just to artificial for me!
  • If you like being a girl, you’ll most likely enjoy wearing this perfume. It’s so bright and glamorous and reminds me of the ballet days of my youth. Smells very reminiscent of Lancome lipstick and is very delicately feminine.
  • violets and roses, on a slight musky vanilla base. It has been done before. I still like it, but the more I wear it, the more underwhelmed I am… sorry. […] This has a lot in common with YSL Paris, in it’s edp vintage formulation, which I owned. But [Paris is] much rounder and smoother, and overall a much prettier scent.

    Dancer at the Folies Bergeres. Source: the amazing site of Thomas Weynants. http://users.telenet.be/thomasweynants/actrices.html

    Dancer at the Folies Bergeres. Source: the amazing site of Thomas Weynants. http://users.telenet.be/thomasweynants/actrices.html

  • I see the comparison to YSL Paris (one of my favorites) but the spirit of the two scents is entirely different: Paris is a deeply romantic traditional floral where Lipstick Rose is naughty (I think my aunt would have said it has moxie) and irreverent. This perfume should be sitting on a frilly vanity next to a big fluffy powder puff and a jar of Jergen face cream. It’s so humorously retro that it’s become
    Can-can dancers at the famous Moulin Rouge. Source: the very cool Dressign Rooms entry on the Tina Tarnoff blog, Thought Patterns: http://tinatarnoff.typepad.com/thought_patterns/2009/06/dressing-rooms.html

    Can-can dancers at the famous Moulin Rouge. Source: the very cool Dressing Rooms entry on the Tina Tarnoff blog, Thought Patterns. (Click on the photo to go to the blog.)

    modern.

  • I just feel being in a wardrobe of Moulin Rouge, where big shiners ornaments the mirrors and many different cosmetics lies on the dressing table, costumes hang on the wall, the air is full of joy, everybody is laughing and there is a big crystal vase in the middle of the dressing table with a dozen red, full and rich roses, which captures this one moment. […] This perfume brings exactly those pictures into my mind and fulls my heart with calmness and joy.

On MakeupAlley, the negative reviews are harsher:

  • This is a terrible fragrance. I find it hard to believe that it has received such high acclaim. It absolutely smells like an old lady’s makeup bag. Who wants to smell like that?!
  • For the life of me I can not understand why this has such a high rating. It does smell exactly like lipstick, and not a nice one. Like the cheap waxy smell of the ones I bought at the drugstore when I was 12. I would never pay good money to smell like that.
  • Perfume is such a personal thing – I expected to love this because it has rose and violets which are some of my favourite things, and I admire most other Malle creations, but it is a sickly-sweet, powdery abomination on me. Wearing this, I find it hard to breathe and promptly develop a filthy headache. 
  • I love fresh rose fragrances, and don’t mind sweet candied violets, but this smelled so strongly of sweet powder on me that I could barely tolerate it. Had to wash it off after 30 minutes. And I barely applied any from my sample vial. Cloying and much too powdery for me.
  • Ugh. Imagine a vintage lipstick mixed in with some rose essential oil slathered on your skin. When applying, I get melted plastic and a hint of rose. On drydown, it just smells like crayon. I’ve tried it a few times, but I still really don’t like this one at all. 

I think there are a lot of women who would find Lipstick Rose to be their ideal scent and a joyous, fun evocation of enormous femininity. But I would strongly urge those women to test it first. I am not alone among perfume bloggers in thinking it a cloyingly synthetic fragrance. One friend of mine — who actually adores powdery fragrances and many Frederic Malle creations — seemed to shudder faintly when I mentioned my agonized reactions to it yesterday. He immediately dismissed it as “very synthetic,” and told me “[i]f you wish for a fragrance that smells like makeup, go get a sample of 1889 by Histoires de Parfums, fun and burlesque in the bottle.”

I shall follow his advice. To the rest of you, Lipstick Rose may be your ticket back to the 19th-century Moulin Rouge. But you may want to be close to a bottle of aspirin and a shower when you try it…

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: You can purchase Lipstick Rose in a variety of different forms and ways. OnLipstick Rose line his website, Malle offers: 3 travel-sized sprays in a 10 ml size for $110; a 50 ml/1.7 oz bottle for $165; a 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle for $240; or a 200 ml/6.8 oz Body Milk for $100. You can also find the perfume at Barneys and, according to the Malle website, it is also carried at Saks Fifth Avenue, though it is not listed on the Saks website. Outside of the U.S., you can use the Store Locator to find a location that carries the fragrance near you. If you want to try a sample, Surrender to Chance carries Lipstick Rose. Prices start at $5.99 for a 1 ml vial.