The urban jungle seemed very far away as she dressed in the bedroom of the villa at St. Barts. It hadn’t been a planned visit, but her seduction of him had been a long time in the making. He’d stolen her heart the minute he’d walked into the room, with his black leather jacket, devil-may-care tousled blond hair, chiseled Nordic face, emerald eyes, and wide grin. He smiled at everything, and she hoped he would smile at the new lingerie she had bought. She felt nervous, but excited, as she awaited his arrival. She gave herself another big spray of perfume for good luck.
The swirl of orchids, velvety ylang-ylang, jasmine, vanilla and sweet musk curled in the air around her, mixed with the tropical hint of coconut that wafted in from the trees on the beach. She had loved him for so long, not daring to think he may feel the same way, and she almost couldn’t believe their time had finally come. She hurriedly poured herself a snifter of expensive, aged cognac to relax her nerves, and a few drops fell on her golden skin, mixing with the sweet flowers and tropical headiness. She smiled as the fragrance and boozy liqueur enveloped her in their narcotic touch. How could he resist their heady lure? She was wearing Sensual Orchid, she was ravishing, she was invincible, she would tempt him beyond all belief.
I generally try not to review fragrances that are exclusive to Europe, extremely hard to track down, or difficult to sample. I couldn’t help it this time, as I was quite surprised by a sexy, heady, gorgeous fragrance from LM Parfums called Sensual Orchid. LM Parfums is a French niche house founded by Laurent Mazzone, and its fragrances used to be exclusive to Europe until just recently. A short while ago, New York’s Osswald perfumery started carrying the line. Yet, I still hadn’t intended to officially review the fragrance that I obtained last year by complete happenstance from eBay. [Update: LM Parfums is now also available at Luckyscent.]
Then, a few days ago, after having a bad day, I just decided to put a tiny, single, minuscule sprayed drop on my hand. For hours, that almost nonexistent smear emitted a smell whose delicate tendrils curled in the air around me. I couldn’t believe it, and every time I sniffed my hand, I couldn’t get enough. So, I said limited access be damned, I just had to had to tell you about this wonderful perfume and the house behind it.
LM Parfums is the brain child of a Frenchman with Italian origins, Laurent Mazzone, who was fascinated by fragrance from a young age. As Essenza Nobile explains, “[a]s a young child, he analyzed and mixed samples of perfumes to discover new scents…. a passion for scents was born.” In 1998, “drawn by fashion catwalks and workrooms,” Mr. Mazzone decided to dedicate his life to fashion, opening up a boutique called Premiere Avenue. (I believe it is the same Premiere Avenue site that I so often link to in the Details section as a perfume retailer.) When Mr. Mazzone decided to enter into the world of fragrance, he initially started with scented candles but, in 2010, he expanded into actual perfumes. He launched LM Parfums which now has eight fragrances to its tally. As that Essenza Nobile biography explains, his “desire is to convey his passion to fashion through a line of perfumes evoking luxury fabrics. […] He came across renowned noses that he had always admired by their creation fulfilling his emotion.”
One of those noses is Jerome Epinette whom Mr. Mazzone hired to create the second Extrait pure parfum in his collection. In 2012, LM Parfums released Sensual Orchid, a floral oriental with 20% perfume concentration. Believe me, its opulent richness and luxuriousness shows! Sensual Orchid’s description, as quoted by OsswaldNYC, reads:
Like a feminine model on the catwalk, Sensual Orchid captivates your senses with its incredible aromas. The second essence of perfume will take you to the front of the stage. The carnal pleasures evoked by this sumptuous arrangement of natural sophisticated fragrances. A first subtle scent of citrus fruit and almond leads you into a refined heart of orchid, jasmine sambac, Lysilang, peony and heliotrope then leaves a voluptuous final touch made of vanilla, musk, blonde wood, white cedar wood, labdanum and benzoin.
The notes, as provided by OsswaldNYC, include:
Top notes: Mandarin, almond, neroli
Heart notes: Orchid, jasmine sambac, Lysilang [ylang-ylang], peony, heliotrope
Base notes: Vanilla, musk, blonde wood, white cedar wood, labdanum, benzoin
Fragrantica adds ylang-ylang to the list, but it seems to be a reference to Lysilang. According to the Academia del Profumo, Lysilang involves a special and different sort of ylang-ylang scent due to the “fractioning” method of perfume processing:
The technique of fractioning can be used to dismantle the odour into its various components or groups of components, before proceeding to select the fractions that are nobler or more interesting from an olfactory standpoint. The result is a cleaner, purer end product.
This technique is used with vetiver, for example, removing its earthier parts: the smell of the roots and its less attractive notes.
Lysilang (by Robertet), a very pure, natural and fresh odour, is obtained in this way from the essential oil of Ylang Ylang III from the Comoro Islands.
I think the description is important because ylang-ylang is a big part of Sensual Orchid, and its aroma feels unusually concentrated, rich, heady and creamy in the fragrance, while simultaneously being oddly clean in a way. It’s just one of a few unusual aspects of the fragrance.
The key to Sensual Orchid, however, is the eponymous flower in the title. It’s an odd flower because it doesn’t have any one, particular, easily identifiable aroma. Orchids are not like tuberose or roses, to give just one example, with a clear, set fragrance. Instead, it can be almost anything, depending on the species of flower and what pollinated it. Fragrantica has a very fascinating exploration of the subject, in which Dr. Ellen Covey of the Olympic Orchids (both an actual perfume house and an orchid nursery) talks about the flower’s various, different, possible aromas:
There are about 20,000-30,000 species of orchids belonging to about 900 different genera. Orchid scents are all over the place from the most beautiful floral scents to odors that we find unpleasant, such as feces or rotten meat. The scent depends on what insect pollinates the orchid. Bees and butterflies are attracted to floral scents, and flies are attracted to rotting animal matter. Each genus of orchids has a range of scents, but there is generally some predictability within a genus. Cattleya orchids all have floral-type scents that range from light and citrusy to heavy and indolic. Bulbophyllum orchids often have rotten meat odors, or other stinky smells.
I have orchids that smell exactly like coconut suntan lotion, butterscotch and cedar wood, cinnamon, sweet clover, roses, or baby powder. If there is a “typical” orchid flower scent, it would probably be a generic cattleya, but more often the “orchid” note in perfume is a fantasy note of some sort. Vanilla is extracted from the seedpods of an orchid, so maybe it could be thought of as the quintessential orchid scent.
I have no idea what species of orchid is in Laurent Mazzone’s Sensual Orchid, but I can tell you it smells wonderful! The fragrance opens on my skin with a burst of booziness. It’s pure cognac, as explicit, sharp, liqueured and slightly fruity as very aged, extremely expensive cognac can be. The note is then followed by: the richest ylang-ylang; custardy, rich vanilla; a hint of smoky woods; and bitter, green-white almonds.
On their heels is a delicate, pastel, floral note as crystal clear, clean, bright and sparkling as a bell rung at the top of the Swiss alps. It smells of lilies, peonies, hyacinth, rose, jasmine, vanilla — all wrapped into one in a cool, clean, crystal liquidity. It is all of those things, and, yet, none of those things. It’s a floral orchid in 3D. Mixed with the powerful ylang-ylang and the sweet vanilla, backed by that boozy cognac fruitedness, the final result is incredibly narcotic, dramatic, opulent, and heady.
Other notes are layered underneath. The orchid has a coconut characteristic that Dr. Covey talked about above, as well as some sort of subtle, intangible, sweet spiciness. There is also a whiff of juicy, sun-sweetened mandarin, lying heavy and ripe on the branch. The heliotrope’s almond note is interwoven throughout, and the whole thing sits atop a base of white woods with slightly smoky cedar.
Within minutes, the cognac’s sharpness softens, as the vanillic, creamy, floral facets of the orchid increase, along with a sensuous muskiness and the coconut. The latter feels both like chunks of the fresh fruit, and its rich cream. My feelings about coconut generally range from ambivalence to dislike, especially if there is a suntan oil feel or anything cloying. On my skin, Sensual Orchid manages the feat of having a rich coconut scent that is nothing like Hawaiian Tropics, and yet, conveys a wholly tropical feel in a very light way. I have no idea why I find it so intoxicating, but I think it’s the overall combination of notes that renders Sensual Orchid a very sensuous, compulsively sniffable experience.
There is a very classique richness to the scent, but it also has a very modern feel. Sensual Orchid is very airy in feel, though it is also extremely potent, heady, and strong in projection. Not Amouage or ’80s powerhouse levels of potency, but definitely enough to wrap you in a very shimmering haze. Despite the old-school richness, nothing about the fragrance feels dated or centered on traditional tropes. Sensual Orchid doesn’t call to mind the famous Dior models of old in their New Look dresses, or the grand dames of Chanel. It’s not a scent that I would associate with Guerlain’s divas, but with a very fashion-forward, confident, strong woman who is assured enough to flaunt her own sensuality. She is the sort who would wear Sensual Orchid with a skimpy dress to go out clubbing, then come home to toss the bottle in her carry-on bag and go on a quick, impromptu, romantic, weekend get-away to St. Barts.
Thirty minutes in, Sensual Orchid shifts a little. The dry, slightly smoked cedar stirs more prominently in the base. Up on top, the jasmine now appears to dance a merry quartet with the ylang-ylang, the orchid’s coconut, and the vanilla. The peony, the almonds, and that lingering, crystal clear, liquid note that feels so much like lilies, all look on from the sidelines and clap. From afar, the fragrance smells like an extremely seamless, well-blended bouquet of boozy sweetness, indolic flowers, and creamy vanilla. Up close, it’s almost too powerful and rich, with an opulent depth that reminds me of Amouage‘s Ubar mixed with some of my beloved Alahine‘s boozy overlay.
Sensual Orchid is a rather linear scent, and its core essence never changes. Over the next few hours, the differences are primarily ones of strength, deepness, and projection. At the end of the first hour, Sensual Orchid becomes smoother, richer, and deeper. The boozy cognac fades away, the mandarin orange retreats to the edges, and the fragrance feels mellower as a whole. By the 2.5 hour mark, the fragrance feels like a soft cloud. I wish the notes were better delineated with less overlap and haziness, but Sensual Orchid is nonetheless an intoxicating swirl of creamy, indolic, sweet florals, infused with vanilla, touches of coconut, and the vaguest whisper of dry cedar. The word “lush” keeps coming to mind, along with visuals of a billowing white and yellow cloud, and scantily clad women with golden skin. On occasion, the image is that of a naked woman on a beach because there is a clean, warmed muskiness to Sensual Orchid that feels like heated skin touched with a shimmering, floral, slightly tropical oil. It’s never animalic or sweaty, it’s not even a very prominent note, but it adds to the languid sensuality of the fragrance.
Near the end of the fourth hour, Sensual Orchid hovers as a potent veil just above the skin. It’s a blend of ripe, blooming white florals infused by a dry woodiness, and the subtlest hint of booziness. The jasmine, ylang-ylang and orchid are fused together as one. The vanilla has now turned almost dry, thanks to the impact of the cedar and its quietly smoked character. The coconut is almost silent, and the almond has vanished. The mandarin which was never an integral part of Sensual Orchid on my skin is now merely a vague suggestion that pops up occasionally, but you have to sniff damn hard to really notice it. Finally, there is a tinge of synthetics in the base, whether from the “white woods” or from something else, but it’s muted, minor, and soon fades away.
Sensual Orchid remains that way until the middle of the seventh hour when it finally turns wholly abstract. It’s a soft, nebulous, indolic, musky floral sweetness that covers the skin like the finest silk lingerie. In its final hours, Sensual Orchid is merely a trace of sweetness, muskiness and abstract white flowers. All in all, it lasted just over 14 hours with very strong projection for the first 2 hours, then good to moderate sillage for a number of hours, before ending as a soft, unobtrusive veil for about 6 hours. It only became a true skin scent around the middle of eighth hour. I used about 3 small sprays. While aerosolisation definitely increases both longevity and projection, Sensual Orchid is generally a strong fragrance with a very soft weight that I think is intended to go from hardcore diva glam, down to an increasingly intimate scent, before ending as a “my skin but better” musky sweetness in its final stage.
At no time is Sensual Orchid an edgy or revolutionary scent, but it’s a very luxurious, opulent, and sexy one. It feels like the sort of perfume that a woman would to seduce, and consistently calls to mind the image of a woman in lingerie, lying languidly on a bed as she awaits her lover. It’s a scent that seems intentionally meant to intoxicate and captivate a romantic partner with its narcotic sensuality and brazenly diva-ish, dramatic headiness. Part of it is the sheer indolic nature of those lush, ripe, blooming white florals, and part of it is the quiet, golden muskiness of the scent combined with the creaminess of both the ylang-ylang and the vanilla.
I couldn’t find a single blog review for Sensual Orchid, either in-depth or otherwise. However, the fragrance does come up in two Basenotes discussions. One is a thread in the Men’s Fragrance Discussion section called “SUPERNICHE- Best Frag No One Has Heard Of,” and asks for suggestions. Sensual Orchid is the very first name given by a male poster called “Hednic.” Later, down below, another commentator adds: “This whole LM line has some real crackers – Sensual Orchid but hey guys we got Black Oud by LM too which is really well done! We gonna hear a lot more about LM I assure you.” Sensual Orchid gets mentioned again in a very short thread from August 2013 in the Female Fragrance Discussion section about LM Parfums in general. The original poster purchased a bottle from Italy for supposedly $190 and thought Sensual Orchid was “soooo gorgeous!”
You may wonder why I’m bringing up the location of the Basenotes threads. It’s because I think Sensual Orchid can work on a guy’s skin, and there are clearly men on Basenotes who agree and have no hesitation saying so in a discussion of Men’s Fragrances. Yes, Sensual Orchid is a very lush, floral scent that skews feminine, but I happen to think that a confident, assured man could rock this type of fragrance just as much as an Amouage oudh or Creed’s Aventus. Perhaps not every guy would feel comfortable with orchid and vanilla, but dammit, they should be! Sensual Orchid would smell unbelievably hot on a guy’s skin, and I’m not budging from that belief, all my photos of scantily clad women notwithstanding.
Lastly, I have to talk about the price. Sensual Orchid costs $225 or €195. While that may seem a lot, it’s for 100 ml of extrait de parfum. When was the last time any of you saw that concentration being offered in a 100 ml size and for a price less than some smaller eau de parfums?! I never have. 15 ml for Rubj Parfum extrait is $325! 50 ml of Amouage’s Lyric Extrait costs $470, and it’s half the size of Sensual Orchid. Puredistance’s Opardu is also an extrait that comes in a 100 ml size, but it costs $590! My point is that Sensual Orchid is a gorgeous fragrance whose price may seem high, but it’s almost a steal for what it is, let alone as compared to the price of other niche extraits on the market.
Now, I realise it’s almost sadistic to bring up a fragrance that my American readers can’t sniff or test unless they live in New York. For that, I deeply apologise. As part of my penance, I’d like to offer one reader a small sample from my own decant. It won’t be much, just around 1 ml, but my own decant is very small and I’d like to have a bit of Sensual Orchid to wear when I go on holiday at the end of the month. So, in the comments below, leave a comment letting me know if you’re interested.
Given LM Parfums’ wide availability in Europe and New Yorkers’ access to it at Osswald, I’m afraid this mini-drawing will be limited to American readers who do not live in New York City’s Tri-State Area or have access to Osswald. You have until Friday, September 13th at 11:59 p.m. Central Standard Time (CST) in the U.S. to let me know if you’d like to be entered. I will select a name using Random.org at some point the next day, and will update the end of this review with the winner’s name. So, check back Saturday the 14th, and if you’re the winner, you have three days (until Tuesday, September 17th) to contact me at the blog email with your shipping address. (Failure to contact me in the appropriate time frame means I’ll give the sample to someone else.) If lush, floral Orientals are your cup of tea, and if you’re not bothered by sweetness or indolic headiness, then I think you may like Sensual Orchid.
[UPDATE: GIVEAWAY & General Samples: Random.org has chosen and the winner of a small sample is POODLE! Please contact me with your address, and I’ll send some Sensual Orchid off to you. ]