Los Angeles as seen through French eyes in a perfume that tries to capture the gourmand essence of both cities in one bottle. Coca-Cola and Macarons are the symbols chosen to represent each city in a new fragrance from A Lab on Fire called Paris/ LA. (The scent is sometimes written alternatively as “Paris L.A.“, but I’ll just refer to as “Paris/LA.”) It’s a very original idea which Paris/LA tries to accomplish by marrying the zingy, zesty brightness of Key lime, ginger Cola with the creamy vanilla of a Parisian macaron dusted with “neroli petals” and then wrapped in ambered warmth. Some of you are probably blinking at the sound of all that, and trying to wrap your head around the thought of ginger-lime cola infused with the creamy filling of a macaroon (never mind adding “neroli petals” to the mix), but it somehow works. At first.
Paris/LA is an eau de parfum that was created by Laurent de Guernec and released last month. On its website, A Lab on Fire describes the olfactory interplay between cities as follows:
When they speak to each other, it’s a filtered language, a private exchange. One adores, the other abides––for the lover sees what the beloved cannot. LA, captured through Parisian eyes, succumbs and is made new. A refreshing Coca-cola marries a smooth-shelled macaron. When you look around, are you still in the same place you started?
According to Luckyscent, Paris/LA’s notes are as follows:
Key lime, ginger, cola accord, neroli petals, coriander seeds, thyme, macaron accord, amber, musk.
Paris/LA has a truly intoxicating, addictive opening on my skin. I had actually planned to test another fragrance the night when I accidentally opened the vial, but some of Paris/LA got on my fingers and I couldn’t stop sniffing it. Lured in and sucked in, I ended up completely changing my testing plans in order to spend more time with a truly delicious blast of zingy, zesty, tart lime with ginger cola and a drop of lemon honey. Okay, so it was soon followed by something synthetic and plastic-y when I actually put the perfume on my arm, but what a wonderfully bright, fizzy, tart-sweet-spicy start! The opening minutes were so much better than the words “cola” would ever lead one or, rather, me to believe.
There is more to the scent than just that, even from the start. Juicy sweet oranges lurk at the edges, while hints of clean musk and creamy sweetness bring up the rear. The “neroli petals” don’t actually translate as either orange blossoms or the more piquant, green-woody neroli on my skin, but are more like the actual fruit, dripping with their sweet juices. Unfortunately, I suspect they are also the cause of the hint of plasticity that weaves in and out of the shadows, though it might also be from the vanilla that stirs within the creaminess deep in the base. Whatever the source, it’s a little disconcerting when it pops up, but it’s a very minor, muted touch on my skin. At least, it is at first. To my dismay, it starts to grow stronger in synchronicity with the clean musk which is also starting to catch up to the main notes; and the latter smells extremely synthetic.
For the most part, though, the wonderful opening is dark, fizzy, ginger pop soda with tangy, tart limes, flecked by crisp lemon, honey, and juicy oranges. There is no coriander or thyme on my skin, nothing noticeably herbal about the fragrance at all. What stands out is how — by some clever feat — all of it smells like actual perfume, instead of a drink that has accidentally spillt on my arm. Even more impressive is how perfectly it is balanced between the sweet and tart notes. Yes, Paris/LA is a sweet scent, even in its opening minutes, but none of it feels suffocatingly cloying or like a ball of sticky goo. I have a very low tolerance for excessive sugariness and gourmands are really not my thing, but Paris/LA strikes a wonderful balance in the opening. It’s all thanks to that tart, briskly refreshing and truly zingy lime which helps to keep things in check, as does the ginger’s spicy and fresh facets.
Unfortunately, it’s pretty much downhill from there, and quickly at that, too. A mere 15 minutes into Paris/LA’s development, the scent starts to get sweeter. The creamy undertone is slowly turning into vanilla custard, while the tangy lime is weakening with distressing rapidity. With every passing moment, Paris/LA is becoming a perfect olfactory representation of Japanese Haribo Cola candies. It’s not just me, either. Someone on Fragrantica made the same comparison, too.
While all of this is happening, the other notes in Paris/LA continue to turn even sweeter. The “neroli petals” now feel like pure orange syrup on my skin, while the “macaron” accord is really just vanilla drenched with a crystallized burnt sugar crust. 20 minutes in, the lime-ginger bubbles are being squelched by what is now a tidal wave of sugar and vanilla creme brulée. There is a very synthetic quality to the notes on top, while the streak of plasticity in the base grows wider. And, for the first time, there is a chemical undertone that feels completely separate from all the rest. The perfume continues to waft a ginger cola bouquet, but it is feeling more nebulous than before, and there is barely any lime in it.
By the time the 30-minute mark rolls by, Paris/LA is so sweet that I could almost feel the sugar molecules coating the inside of my nose and the back of my throat. It was a very odd sensation, but there was definitely a physical correlation that I don’t encounter often. Some synthetics have larger molecules than natural essences, so perhaps that is the cause, but whatever the precise technical reason, Paris/LA is simply unbearable for my tastes. Hardcore gourmand lovers may feel differently.
Paris/LA is a very linear, simple scent, and most of its subsequent changes are one of degree because the main notes generally remain constant. At the end of the first hour, the fragrance is merely caramelized, sugared, synthetic vanilla with ginger cola and clean musk. Even the custard has been smothered by the candied icing. Lingering traces of orange syrup lurk all around the edges, and hints of ginger struggle to come out, but neither one is very successful. The whole thing is very airy and sheer in body, with moderate sillage. In its opening moments, Paris/LA was a strong cloud with 3 inches of projection from 3 good smears or the rough equivalent of 2 small sprays from an actual bottle. By the end of the first hour, the number drops, ranging between 1.5 and 1 inch above the skin.
By the time the 3rd hour rolls around, creaminess floods over the notes, but their core essence is largely the same. Paris/LA is now softer, smoother, and the sweetness has been dialed down a notch. It no longer feels like a sickly-sweet, thick blanket of crystallized sugar over vanilla custard and gooey syrup, but it is rather a relative thing. If anything, the “macaron” filling has merely switched places with the sugar. Meanwhile, to my regret, the white musk that I loathe so much has increased. Paris/LA is now mainly a mix of sugared vanilla cream flecked with ginger cola, atop an equally creamy base that is heavily infused with clean musk. The perfume is also almost a skin scent at this point.
Paris/LA devolves further as time passes. At the start of the 6th hour, the creaminess takes over entirely, followed by clean musk that smells like hairspray or shampoo. There is no cola or ginger, but lingering traces of the sugared, crystallized vanilla remain. In its final moments, Paris/LA is merely a blur of clean sweetness with some suggestion of creaminess about it. All in all, the perfume lasted just under 8.25 hours on my skin, and I was unhappy for 8 of those hours.
Paris/LA has received mixed reviews on Fragrantica. Only 4 people have left comments at the time of this review, and 2 of them are very complimentary. One chap, “BuysBlind,” loved the macaron note, found the perfume to be perfectly balanced, and wrote that it was not cloying despite being “uncompromisingly sweet”:
the “macaroon” in Paris*L.A. is fantastic. I actually get a little hungry smelling this. It takes you right to the heart of the dessert, and you can easily imagine all the ingredients as they’re being prepared together in a bowl. Almonds, butter, sugar, and egg whites presented in small, chewy little cakes–they’re all there in just the right proportions and seem composed by a skilled, graceful hand. What I really enjoy about Paris*L.A. besides the fun, unique notes that are presented, is the fact that it’s smooth and wearable. There’s nothing clumsy or “blob-like” about this. It doesn’t become overbearing, as gourmands often do. Uncompromisingly sweet in what it presents–Coca-Cola and Macaroons–Paris*L.A. manages to avoid becoming cloying because it is never too heavy. In fact there’s a fresh, fizzy quality to the entire fragrance that keeps it afloat and buoyant. I suppose this is the Coca Cola in play, and it does a wonderful job of balancing the macaroon.
In sharp contrast, another commentator, “Dheald414,” found Paris/LA to be a huge disappointment, and his experiences track mine very closely. Like me, he loved the opening, even though it turned into a Haribo gummy bear, but he writes that, “after about 20 minutes in, all the bite and sharpness dies down and you’re left with a cheap-smelling, sickly sweet, custardy vanilla that lasts for hours, although you will wish it didn’t[.]” The zestiness also didn’t last for a second commentator, “Lana148,” who says “the juice turned messy-sweet[.]… The mix smells a bit too chemical for my liking and the quality is not there[.]”
On Luckyscent, there are only 2 comments at the time of this review, and both are extremely positive. One calls the perfume “delicious,” while the other writes, “I feel happier each time I take a whiff; this scent is a sunny disposition natural antidepressant in a bottle.”
How you respond to Paris/LA is going to come down to your individual baseline for sweetness, your personal definitions of “cloying” versus “delicious,” your feelings about synthetic notes, and your skin chemistry. I felt as though I were going to enter a diabetic coma, and barely restrained myself from scrubbing off the scent. While I found Paris/LA to be cloyingly sweet for my tastes, I also thought it smelled synthetic, which is rather a separate issue. Vanilla can take on a plastic-y quality, while clean musk can smell like hairspray on occasion. Both things occurred here, though I want to stress that the hairspray cleanness only occurred towards the end. Unfortunately, the sickly sweetness was a constant. Some of it may be due to my skin chemistry and my low tolerance for sugar-iced vanilla, but I also think this isn’t the most high-quality, luxurious gourmand around. Paris/LA costs $110 for 60 ml, which is a wonderfully reasonable price, but you do get what you pay for.
Be that as it may, if you are a true, hardcore gourmand fanatic, I think you might enjoy Paris/LA quite a bit, and I would recommend it for a test sniff. The opening minutes are fantastic, and the rest may be very much to your taste, at least if your skin chemistry complies. However, people like me who have a low threshold for excessive, over-the-top sweetness should stay very far away from Paris/LA. You may enjoy the L.A. part, but Paris really rules the fragrance and, I’m sorry to say, the city falls sadly short in comparison.