Eris Parfums: Ma Bete, Belle de Jour & Night Flower

Eris Parfums' Barbara Herman (right) and perfumer, Antoine Lie (left). Source: Fragrantica. com

Eris Parfums’ Barbara Herman (right), and perfumer, Antoine Lie (left). Source: Fragrantica. com

Eris Parfums is a new brand, founded by Barbara Herman, a vintage perfume expert who wrote the book, Scent and Subversion: Decoding a Century of Provocative Perfume (2013) after many years of being a blogger on her site, Yesterday’s Perfume. (Book links provided at the end in the Details section.) When she decided to launch her own line, she turned to perfumer Antoine Lie whom she’d first met as an interview source for her book. As she explains in her biography section on Eris Parfums, she wanted to “create a collection of fragrances as daring and erotic as fragrances of the past.”

Eris Parfums trio. Source: erisparfums.com

Eris Parfums trio. Source: erisparfums.com

The results were three eau de parfums launched earlier this year: Ma Bete, Belle de Jour, and Night Flower. I’ll look at each one in turn. As part of my new resolution of providing a more succinct analysis whenever the perfumes permit it, I’ll give a more generalized breakdown of a perfume’s development instead of my usual detail, and also skip discussing comparative reviews.

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Puredistance White

A “dream of white and gold” is the tagline for White, the latest release from the luxury brand, Puredistance. The company makes one of my favorite fragrances, the glorious M, so I always look forward to their releases. I also appreciate that they don’t release an avalanche of fragrances each year, settling instead on one scent that they work hard to perfect, and I greatly admire the luxuriousness elegance of their packaging. There is just something about Puredistance that I really like, even when one of their fragrances leaves me cold, like their Black.

Source: Puredistance website.

Source: Puredistance website.

Thankfully, White (or “WHITE” in all-caps as it is officially spelt) isn’t the disappointment of that last scent, though it is no M, or even Opardu with its head-turning opening phase. White is elegantly done, has a gorgeous drydown, clearly uses some very expensive ingredients, and certainly creates the visions of white and gold (or yellow) that were intended. That said, it is also a simple fragrance that is very safe in my opinion and, for much of its opening stage, also excessively commercial in profile as well. Its beauty lies in its drydown, due primarily to the superb quality of the expensive ingredients (real Mysore sandalwood!) that dominate at that point, but the rest of the scent didn’t feel distinctive or special to me. It’s a testament to just how warm, friendly, and nice the people behind Puredistance are that I feel like an utter cad saying that, but I can’t help it.

White was created by Antoine Lie who spent over a year on the scent. At one point, when the outcome didn’t match the vision that Puredistance’s founder, Jan Ewoud Vos had for the scent, everything was scratched and Mr. Lie started all over again. Mr. Vos wanted something pure, sunny, bright and evocative of happiness, and he wouldn’t settle for anything less. The final version is meant to “enhance your mood through intense, but comforting beauty” with “shades of serene white and warm gold” created through “the best and most expensive ingredients in the world.” White will debut at the Milan Esxence show at the end of March, but will be officially released around April 20th. Like its siblings, it is an extrait de parfum, but White exceeds the levels of prior scents by clocking in at a whopping 38% fragrance oil.

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Puredistance Black: Shades of Purple & Pink

The night is dark, and full of terrors.”

Source: Puredistance.

Source: Puredistance.

That is one my favorite quotes from the television series, Game of Thrones, and I often come up with fun variations for different occasions. It’s a line which sticks in my head, so I wasn’t surprised when it popped back up just before I began testing Black, the new, about-to-be-released fragrance from one of my favorite perfume houses, Puredistance. The luxury brand talks about how the scent was inspired by “the concept of black,” and about how it is a “mysterious fragrance that stays in the shadow, giving away – only every now and then – part of its nature.”

Upon reading that part of the press release, and seeing the image sent by the company, all I could think of was, “the night is dark (black), and full of luxury.” Well, not quite. As it turns out, Black is indeed an extremely luxurious fragrance that smells very expensive, but I found it to be as purple and pink as humanly possible. At one point, it evoked fluffy pink clouds, and I almost expected a chubby cherub to be sitting on one and offering me turkish delight. For me, “Black” is the absolute furthest thing from its name, and is not my personal cup of tea. It’s not a bad fragrance by any means — in fact, it’s well done and clearly emanates luxury — but we all have subjective tastes or things that we struggle with, and I struggled quite a bit with Black.  

Black in the 17.5 travel flacon. Source: Puredistance.

Black in the 17.5 travel flacon. Source: Puredistance.

Like all of Puredistance’s fragrances, Black was created by a master perfumer, in this case, Antoine Lie, and is the very highest perfume concentration, an extrait de parfum. Black clocks in at 25% perfume oil, a figure that is surpassed only by Puredistance’s exquisite floral, Opardu (which has 32%). Black will be released at the start of December, and is described as follows:

Puredistance Black is an understated elegant and mysteriously charming perfume inspired by the concept of BLACK; a concept that for centuries has been associated with secrets, mystery and style.

Puredistance BLACK is created in Paris by the famous French Perfumer Antoine Lie based on a concept of Puredistance founder Jan Ewoud Vos. The essence of the concept was to create a perfume that is close to the wearer and releases sensual and elegant scent layers in a whispering way – without shouting. A mysterious fragrance that stays in the shadow, giving away – only every now and then – part of its nature.

Black in bottle, non-travel form.

Black in the regular, non-travel, bottle form.

As part of the whole concept of mysterious shadows, Puredistance wants you to treasure the “beauty of the unknown,” and merely describes the scent as one that is more “masculine and oriental” than Puredistance “I.” The company is keeping secret Black’s perfume notes, saying only that you should “Envision, Smell, Feel. Don’t analyse.” If you’re a regular reader, you all know how well I manage not to analyse things…. It’s hopeless. I was incapable of just smelling, feeling, letting go and not analysing with the uber-luxury brand, JAR, and it’s not possible here, either. It simply is not my personality or forte in life, given my obsessiveness with both facts and details. 

So, based on what I smelled, let me give you my guess of the notes in Puredistance Black:

Ginger, cardamom, absinthe wood (wormwood), saffron, rose, patchouli, myrrh, opoponax (sweet myrrh), amber, sandalwood (not from Mysore), and benzoin.

What I’m less absolutely certain of is the possible inclusion of oud, a tiny touch of elemi wood or guaiac as an additional source of woody smoke, and a drop of vanilla. It’s extremely possible, but I wouldn’t bet my life on it.

Cardamom. Source: www.kitchenheadquarters.org

Cardamom. Source: www.kitchenheadquarters.org

Puredistance Black opens on my skin with a blast of cardamom, immediately followed by ginger, amber, absinthe wood, incense, saffron, patchouli, and a whisper of rose. There is a balanced sweetness, a suggestion of sandalwood, and a saffron that is neither buttery nor hot, but wonderfully spicy. The ginger adds a lovely, fresh, piquant bite that works beautifully with the sweeter notes and the woodsy notes.

Speaking of the latter, I guessed absinthe (or wormwood) for a few reasons. First, even before I tested the perfume and simply upon taking the vial out of its white, satin pouch, I was hit by an extremely strong blast of oud-like woodiness that was herbal, spicy, and green — too much so to be real agarwood. It was also extremely similar in smell to the wood note in Amouage‘s Fate Man, a fragrance that officially includes wormwood. On the skin, the woodsy notes was surprisingly less dominant and forceful than what was wafting out of the vial, but it felt even less than complete, total agarwood in nature. Absinthe shares a few cursory, initial similarities with oud, so that’s what I’m going on.

purple smokeThe initial opening of Black in the first two minutes is lovely, but then, my nemesis takes over: purple, fruited patchouli. For all that I love black/brown patchouli, I despise the purple kind that is ubiquitous and everywhere in modern perfumery. A friend asked me the difference the other day, and I think my explanation may help some other people too.

For me, traditional (and rather 1980s) patchouli is brown/black in hue, with chewy undertones of sweet amber, spice, leather, wood, and incense smoke. The current, modern version of patchouli is purple in hue because it’s fruity, syrupy, jammy, incredibly sweet, and with grape and berry undertones. The very original type of patchouli is the 1970s, hippie kind that is really, really black, dirty patchouli and that people describe as a “head shop” scent. Some examples of fragrances with a strong purple patchouli note would be: almost every commercial, department store perfume containing “patchouli,” Marc JacobsLola, Chanel‘s Coco Noir, Le Labo‘s Ylang 49, Frederic Malle‘s Portrait of a Lady, and, now, alas, Puredistance Black. An example of black/brown, more traditional patchouli would be something like Profumum Roma‘s Patchouly, Serge LutensBorneo 1834, Chanel‘s Coromandel, or Reminiscence‘s Patchouli. It’s not a long list at all because that sort of patchouli is incredibly uncommon nowadays.

Source: Tasty Yummies blog. (Link to website embedded within photo. For recipe for Concord grape jam, click on photo.)

Source: Tasty Yummies blog. (Link to website embedded within photo. For recipe for Concord grape jam, click on photo.)

I spent all this time outlining the specific smell and nature of purple, “fruit-chouli” because it is the heart of soul of how Puredistance Black manifests itself on my skin. No less than three minutes into the perfume’s development, the saffron-oud blast takes on an almost grape-y, berry, jammy overtone that is incredibly sweet. Five minutes in, I feel as though I’ve been covered by fruit syrup. Twenty minutes in, I feel as though I’ve been transformed into a berry tart with unctuous, cloyingly sweet, fruited, purple Smucker’s jam, then sprinkled with rose petals and a dusting of saffron. I have to be honest, I lost my appetite — and I hadn’t eaten in over 12 hours.

I wish there were a substantial counter-balance to the deluge of fruit-chouli in the opening hour. There is a herbal, woody note that flitters about like a tiny hummingbird, but it’s far, far underneath, and wholly unable to compete with the grape-y, berry onslaught that is stomping over my arm like a Panzer unit in full fury. I know my skin tends to amplify base notes, but this is a bit ridiculous. I think sadly back to that absolutely lovely opening with its spicy, gingered, slightly herbal, ambered woodiness, but it’s gone, smothered by unctuous, purple, saffron-rose-infused molasses. Even the absinthe gasps for air, then retreats to the corner to hide its head.

"Purple Velvet Gold Flakes" by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

“Purple Velvet Gold Flakes” by *Will3style at Deviantart.com. http://will3style.deviantart.com/art/Purple-Velvet-Gold-Flakes-258099755

There is no salvation in low sillage, either. That promised description of a wispy perfume that “stays in the shadow”? Ha! Black’s opening is strong and potent, with significant sillage, wafting in a purple cloud almost a foot around me. I normally would be thrilled, but the fruit-chouli is starting to crush my spirit. For a whole hour, I’m drenched by jammy, grape-berry molasses, that is just lightly infused by particles of saffron-infused rose, incense, absinthe wood, and honeyed amber. The ginger is no longer noticeable, and neither is the cardamom.

Source: hdwallpaperplace.com

Source: hdwallpaperplace.com

It was with enormous relief that things start to slowly — very slowly — improve at the end of the first hour. The Smucker’s patchouli jam lessens fractionally, allowing the rose to finally come out properly from its gooey purple shadow. The rose is sweet, just slightly dewy, and pink in visuals. With each passing moment during the second hour, it takes on a weight of its own, and starts to diffuse the fruitedness of the perfume. The woody notes and light incense are also more noticeable, though they’re largely blended into the greater whole.

Rose-flavoured Turkish Delight.

Rose-flavoured Turkish Delight.

By the start of the third hour, Puredistance Black’s purple hues have turned into a gorgeous shade of pink. The perfume wafts about 2 inches above the skin, and has a soft, creamy texture like a fluffy cloud of saffron-rose. In fact, Black takes on a Turkish Delight, or loukhoum quality, though without any of the sugared powderiness often associated with that confection. The patchouli remains, but it is quite mild as compared to its original, completely nuclear blast. Instead, it merely adds to the loukhoum association with a soft touch of grape. It actually works perfectly and brilliantly now. The absinthe wormwood and touch of incense lurk in the shadows, leaving an image that is primarily that of a pink, fluffy, creamy cloud. I almost expect to see a pink-cheeked cherub sitting on one of them.

I mean it quite sincerely when I saw that I enjoyed this phase of Black. I really did. It reminded me of a significantly richer, creamier, more luxurious version of the drydown phase of Tom Ford‘s Noir de Noir. There, the syrupy, very baroque rose with saffron, truffle earthiness, and the merest, speckled touch of oud also turned into a loukhoum confection in its final stage, but there are big difference. Noir de Noir was much thinner at that point than Black, had an almost violet-y touch, and, more to the point, was extremely powdered in nature. I wasn’t particularly fond of the violet, vanillic powder of the drydown, and I’m relieved that Puredistance Black has none of it at this stage.

Source: 8tracks.com

Source: 8tracks.com

Even better, Black is infinitely deeper, smoother, richer, creamier, and more opulent. The perfume is fluffy, but rich; sweet but not excessive; and an utterly beautiful, creamy, deep, pink rose with just the right amount of fruited patchouli. There is also the very necessary touch of woodiness which Noir de Noir lacked in its drydown, adding a balance to the floral sweetness. Here, the woody element has the faintest flicker of herbaceousness, but, more importantly, a creamy smoothness that makes me wonder if there is generic, Australian sandalwood or cashmeran underneath.

Black remains as this lovely mix for a few hours with only minor alterations. For example, at the start of the fifth hour, the perfume drops to lie just barely above the skin. The herbal absinthe wood that continues to hide behind the floral loukhoum changes in strength, fluctuating from mild to weak on the overall scale of things. And there is a growing hint of something anisic that is rising to the surface.

At the 6.5 hour mark, however, Black begins to transform. It takes on a licorice undertone and slight whiteness which makes me think that it must have myrrh. It is a note which is known to display an anisic, herbal facet, in addition to a slightly churchy, cold, white, incense note. The latter is extremely subtle in Black, but it’s there as well. At the same time, there also is a flickering shade of something honeyed which resembles very much sweet myrrh or opoponax. In addition, Black is starting to show a slightly vanillic powderiness that makes me suspect the presence of benzoin. In its final change, the perfume has turned into a gauzy veil that sits right on the skin, though it is still easily noticeable and potent when sniffed up close.

"Pink abstract" by Montserrat Lopez Ortiz via fineartamerica.com

“Pink abstract,” painting by Montserrat Lopez Ortiz via fineartamerica.com

Black still smells of a floral confection first and foremost, but the newcomers become increasingly noticeable. And, in all honesty, I’m not completely thrilled by the overall effect. There is a cloying undertone to the rose Turkish delight when combined with the anisic, slightly cold, white incense-y myrrh, the sweet myrrh, and the vanillic powder. It’s not helped by a new spiciness that faintly resembles All-Spice powder and/or star anise. In small doses and for a short period of time, the sum total is perfectly fine, but Black stays this way for hours on end. I found it a little fatiguing, if truth be told.

In its very final stage, starting at the 9th hour, Black turns into a whisper of sweet vanillic powder with rose, a vague blur of myrrh, a flicker of abstract woodiness, and an odd underlying tinge of sourness. It’s all a shadow of its former self, coating the skin like the sheerest, thinnest glaze. Black finally fades away about 14 hours from the start with four squirts from the small sample, and 15.25 hours with 5 medium sprays. (Note: My sample atomizer didn’t release the same amount as would be available from a regular bottle as it had a very small hole and a wonky release, so the quantity applied was not as large as those numbers may suggest. It would really be the equivalent of 3 small-to-medium smears from a dab vial, and 4 large ones.)

I tested Black twice, and I’m afraid I wasn’t very enamoured on either occasion. I don’t mind the middle phase, but I wasn’t crazy about the last one. And there aren’t words whatsoever to describe my reaction to the opening hour. As I said, I thought Black significantly and substantially improved at the start of the second hour, but the first one was rough.

Yet, it’s important to put my comments into context: I absolutely loathe purple, fruited patchouli. I try to grit my teeth and get over it when the note is minor, but when it is significant, substantial, and potent, then I simply can’t bear it. I don’t think others have quite the intensity of my reaction to fruit-chouli, which isn’t helped by having a skin chemistry that amplifies the note. In short, my reaction is very subjective and personal to me.

It’s also a reaction that is not even remotely common to others who have tested perfume. Black has generally been greeted with uniform admiration and liking, even by those who usually share my perfume tastes and skin chemistry. Take, for example, The Non-Blonde who writes, in part:

Puredistance is stepping into unexpected new territory with Black, a dark and romantic fragrance created by perfumer Antoine Lei[.] … Black [is] an oriental with an edge that could have come straight out of the labs at Amouage.  […]

Puredistance Black holds my interest from the very first second. A medicinal camphoric note there that lets you know that the raw materials here are real and uncompromising. Soon it becomes honeyed and steeped in booze, making the maybe-oud go down easily and deliciously. Perfumes of this kind, from Amouage to By Kilian often use their sillage to assert themselves as luxury. Not here, though, and as the press materials stress– this is a feature, not a bug. And I have to say that I love it. Black is not exactly a skin scent but it lives and thrives on skin level;  the emotional storm is very much there, manifesting itself for one’s own personal pleasure for a full day and night, just without broadcasting it to the world.

My reaction was also different from those who did detect the patchouli, but had a completely different perception of its nature. In a gushing rave, The Perfume Shrine described Black as follows:

a quasi-brutal opening with a tangy citric fruitiness allied to the darkest, earthiest patchouli possible, like snails coming out of the bush in the dusk, but the cloak of the night soon mollifies it with a woody cluster of honeyed plummy-cedar notes reminiscent of the Lutens canon and a “suede” orientalism. The sweet melange is also reminiscent of pipe tobacco, laced with a boozy aftertaste that lingers. (I hypothesize smoky cypriol/cyperus and vetiver should be featured too). Chewy, a meat course for non vegetarians. […]

Puredistance Black reminds me of the darkness and weirdness factor of Goutal’s Un Parfum Cheri, par Camille, fueled by an intense Indonesian patchouli grade replete with all its earthy chocolate and darkness “dirty” facets. […] Black would be also liked by those who appreciate Borneo 1834 and Bois de Violette or by oudh and tobacco fragrances fans, as the bittersweet oriental feel would appeal.

I’ve tested both the Lutens fragrances that she mentions, and I see absolutely no similarity between the patchouli in Borneo 1834 and Black. Not even remotely. As for Bois de Violette, I don’t think mere fruited sweetness with wood is enough to make the perfumes comparable in style. Clearly, we have very different skin and skin chemistry.

Patchouli — of any kind — isn’t mentioned at all by two bloggers with whom I generally have very similar perfume opinions, as well as perfume tastes. Take the lovely Caro of Te de Violetas who writes:

The initial impression is one of chaos: its fiery opening smolders with notes of chili pepper, cinnamon, and green cardamom, soon overlapped by the bitterness of saffron and absinthe. A smoky touch of oud dominates the blend for a while and brands its character. I am not especially devout of oud but the effect here is restrained and it suffices to cast a veil of mystery. The whole effect is opaque but lightweight and refined. As I near my nose to my wrist, I can’t shake from my head images of Bogart and Bacall. The progression is as smooth as velvet. As it turns softer, well into the drydown, vanillatobacco and tonka ensure a plushy sweetness but the darkness never completely fades away.

As a woman, I can wear Black more comfortably than the rugged M, but I still prefer to smell this on a beloved man or on a handsome stranger.

The Scented Hound also never mentions patchouli, though parts of his experience sound to me as though they involved both absinthe wood and myrrh:

WHAT I SMELL:  Black opens with a sweet and deep incense and smoky accord.  I want to say there’s some bergamot and what seems to be a bit of floraled honey mixed with the smokiness.  That initial smokiness breaks away somewhat to reveal this almost butter like creamy light almond.  But as soon as I notice that, the incense starts to waft up from the bottom again, this time with what seems to be a bit of sueded leather. There’s a bit of sour that makes an appearance that doesn’t detract, but like the smoke and incense, seems to pop in and out.  After around 15 minutes it seems like there is a bit of peppered metallic that makes an appearance.  Again, it comes and goes like all of the other notes which seem to intermix seamlessly without one note dominating.  In the end you’re left with a very light, close to the skin, smooth and elegant slightly woody incensed perfume.

As all of this should make clear, Puredistance Black is different things to different people. All these reviews are dissimilar, though mine seems to veer furthest outside any common thread.

So, the bottom line is that you should try Black for yourself, and make up your mind. If, by chance you generally share similarities with my type of skin and perfume taste, don’t be put off by my review. For example, if you love Tom Ford’s Noir de Noir, or if you would like an even richer version of its drydown, you absolutely should consider Puredistance Black. I will only caution you on one thing: if you’re expecting another, darker, woodier version of Puredistance’s absolutely spectacular “M,” then you will be disappointed. They are nothing alike — and every reviewer who mentions “M” is absolutely consistent on that point.

Perhaps that is small part of why I struggled with Black. M happens to be one of my all-time favorite (modern) fragrances, an absolutely magnificent marvel that is in my Top Ten, and which I would bathe in, if it were possible. The chypre-oriental-leather-amber mix is also the perfect representation of my perfume tastes. I don’t do well with sweetness, and Black turned into a very extreme, very pink example of that. If I had experienced something actually black in hue, with smoky, woody, dark Orientalism, then I suspect M might have had some stiff competition. As it is, I’m afraid it doesn’t.

DISCLOSURE: My small vial of Black was provided courtesy of Puredistance. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, my opinions are my own, and my first obligation is to my readers.

DETAILS:
Cost & Availability: Black is an extrait de parfum concentration (the highest), will officially debut in December 2013, and will be available in a variety of different sizes on the Puredistance website. Its European retail price will be as follows: €165 for the 17.5 ml travel spray, €275 euro for 60 ml (about 2.1 oz), and €490 euro for the 100 ml/3.4 oz bottle. The American prices are, respectively: $198, $330, and $590. Until its official release, samples of Black are being temporarily offered as part of a promotional special from Puredistance (at the website linked up above). The promotion involves: 2 x 2ml vials of the Extrait for $39 or €29, with free shipping. Retailers: Upon its release, Black will be offered at the usual Puredistance retailers which include: Luckyscent and MinNY in the US; Jovoy in Paris; and London’s Roja Dove’s Haute Parfumerie division on the 5th floor of Harrods. You can already pre-order at Luckyscent. For all other countries, you can use Puredistance’s Store Locator which lists retailers from Australia and New Zealand to Austria and Russia. I will try to remember to update this post later with more direct links, as well as links to sample sites like Surrender to Chance which normally offers Puredistance fragrances in vials that you can buy for testing.

Secretions Magnifiques – A Satirical Courtroom Review

Jane Doe [class representative, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated]  v. Etat Libre d’Orange Secretions Magnifiques– Case # 13-527319-CA

[The Bailiff]: “All rise! The Court is now in session, The Honorable Michael Marx presiding. On the docket is the class action lawsuit, Jane Doe [class representative, on behalf of herself and others similarly situated]  v. Etat Libre d’Orange Secretions Magnifiques– Case # 13-527319-CA. The complaint alleges sexual harassment hostile work environment, assault, battery, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. Please state your name and business before the Court.”

[A small, dainty, very conservatively dressed blonde woman rises]: “I am Prudence Prim of the firm of Proskauler Rosybanks on behalf of the Plaintiff class.”

Saul Goodman. Source: Tv.com

Saul Goodman. Source: Tv.com

[A dandified man with a bad comb-over and a garish suit rises, and gives the jury a big grin]: “I am Saul Goodman, or, as you may know me, “Better Call Saul” representing the Defendant, Secretions Magnifiques from the house of Etat Libre d’Orange.”

[He points to the table where a balding, heavy-set man sits in a tight-fitting, food-stained Hawaiian shirt that barely holds together over his enormous, hairy stomach. His arms are covered with sailor tattoos, his legs are aggressively splayed apart, and his fly is open to reveal a lack of underwear. He belches, wets his fat lips, and blows a kiss to the attractive Juror #9 who visibly recoils in horror.]

"The Good Wife" snapshot via articles.philly.com.

“The Good Wife” snapshot via articles.philly.com.

[Judge Marx addresses the jury]: “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. The Court thanks you for your time. You are here today to hear the civil class action complaint against Secretions Magnifiques. This is an employment law case. You cannot consider the role of Defendant’s employer, Etat Libre d’Orange, who will be tried separately. Also, I know it’s been impossible to sequester you against the recent media storm regarding the criminal charges being filed against Secretions Magnifiques for public lewdness and indecency. You cannot consider those issues. I repeat, you cannot. I will give you further instructions at the end of the trial. The Plaintiffs may now proceed.” [Bangs gavel.]

THE CASE FOR THE PLAINTIFFS:

[Prudence Prim rises]: “Ladies and gentlemen of the jury. He is the most notorious man in the niche perfume world. This is not hype. This is not a lawyer’s hyperbole. Secretions Magnifiques is notorious. Say his name to any even moderately knowledgeable perfumista, and watch them pale. His legend is such that people nickname him Secretions Gag-nifiques,and see how long they can take his scent before they run to vomit or scrub him off. Yes, some people actually do become physically ill from this vile wretch. We are here to seek justice from Secretions Magnifiques for his tortious conduct in rendering the environment around him hostile to all who have the misfortune to be in his presence. We seek compensation for the pain, suffering, and the nights in which a husband wearing Secretions Magnifiques lost the chance for consortium with his wife because she locked him out of the bathroom. Help us heal the emotional wounds left by this heinous man.

Source: ichetkar.fr

Source: ichetkar.fr

Let us start at the beginning. Secretions Magnifiques was created by Antoine Lie and was released in 2006. Etat Libre, in a statement that will fully damage them in their own lawsuit, confesses flat-out to his lewd, indecent, and morally repugnant nature. Their description brazenly and blatantly talks about sperm! Blood! And all sorts of other things that fine, upstanding citizens should not be subjected to in their workplace. How brazen are they, you ask? In their manufacturer’s sample, Etat Libre’s description of Secretions Magnifiques actually comes with the image of an erect penis spraying out semen! [Crowd gasps and starts to whisper. Secretions Magnifiques smirks, and rubs his crotch.]

That’s not even the half of it! This is Etat Libre’s full description of the fragrance:

Like blood, sweat, sperm, saliva, Sécrétions Magnifiques is as real as an olfactory coitus that sends one into raptures, to the pinnacle of sensual pleasure, that extraordinary and unique moment when desire triumphs over reason. Masculine tenseness frees a rush of adrenalin in a cascade of high-pitched aldehydic notes. The sensation of freshness is gripping. Then the fragrance reveals a metallic side, precise and as sharp as unappeased desire.

We are on a razor-edge… skin and sweat mingle, and tastes of musk and sandalwood. The slightly salt marine effect stirs, arouses, and sets your mouth watering. Tongues and sexes find one another, pleasure explodes and all goes wild. Confusion reigns supreme. A subversive, disturbing perfume. It’s love or hate at first sight. Sensuous jousting is rarely satisfied with half-measures…In between Don Juan and the Woman who offers herself, arms are laid down…who will be the first to surrender?

Sexual harassment I tell you, sexual harassment! And how does all this occur? Well, Secretions Magnifiques’ parts, according to Luckyscent, consist of:

Iode accord, adrenaline accord, blood accord, milk accord, iris, coconut, sandalwood and opoponax.

Secretions Magnifiques’ character is revealed from the very first moment he sidles up against your skin. I won’t give you my take; just read the company’s own admission against interest about what he smells like. It’s their words, not mine, when they talk about “blood, sweat, sperm, saliva,” and metallic notes. Still, there is plenty of testimony from those in the class who have suffered from Secretions Magnifiques.

Source: nitestar.de

Source: nitestar.de

[She nods to the bailiffs who helps several pale, wan, witnesses from Fragrantica walk, one by one, shakily to the witness stand. Many are covered with clothes stained by vomit, or have bile encrusted on their face from their bouts with Secretions Magnifiques. Some look green, a few are dry-heaving even as they give their statements. One witness had to be revived by paramedics after collapsing in the hallway outside Courtroom 3A.]

  • I have never smelt something more disgusting than this scent. It’s blood and metal and illness.
  • Blood and just unpleasant.
  • Mostly seaweed to me and dirty seawater. Tried to wash it off and its not coming off. I smell like I took a dip at the sea and have not showered in a few days. My fiancée told me I’m not allowed to sleep in bed tonight.
  • I have to join the legion of those who wish this concoction had never seen the light of day. Honest to gods, I violently wretched. An eggy, razor-sharp whiff that made me recoil and run for the toilet. Perhaps it’s the smell of fear, whatever. Sadistically, I swabbed my partner with it to test the reaction with his chemistry as we are rather different… same dismal result, with extra grudge!
Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. Source: DenofGeek.com

Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life. Source: DenofGeek.com

  • Biggest mistake ever!!! This literally worked like a whisk in my stomach and for the very first time in my life I had to jump up and run to wash it off. I don’t get any of the notes listed, probably just a tiny bit of seaweed due to the aquatic fishy smell. It doesn’t smell like blood, saliva, sperm or sweat but all these blended together and preserved in a sealed jar for a century. [¶] Every home should keep a small vial of this as a first-aid emetic in case someone in your family had food poisoning. Also girls who want to shed a few extra pounds, look no further: use this on a daily basis will definitely suppress your appetite to none because it not only lingers on your skin but also in your mind. 
  • WARNING: Do not sniff this if you are pregnant or you will vomit. […]  it started smelling like urine. It reminded me of my little cousin who used to wet the bed. Now, it smells just like a neglected child who is forced to wear her mother’s generic hooker perfume to cover up the fact that nobody has given her a bath or washed her clothes in a very very long time. To add insult to injury, the child has been eating wet catfood straight out of the can and has some of the food stuck in her hair. […][¶] Calling this perfume “disgusting” is an understatement. It’s actually depressing and exploitative to the point that the stench made me want to call Child Protective Services. I won’t be letting my husband smell my hand; I love him too much to expose him to something this disturbing and putrid.

Ladies and gentleman of the jury, there are dozens more witnesses from Luckyscent who have similar tales. Take, for example, an experienced nurse who could not handle the flashback to the worst of her experiences in the health care field:

This reminds me of my days of working at the local public health hospital where I was tasked with the dubious honor of assisting those who were homeless and in need of medical care. The stench of this thing they call a perfume is just like the whiff i would get when my patients would peel off their pants. Smegma, body odor and yeast. […] RUN away!

I can see from your faces that you don’t believe me, that you think it couldn’t possibly be that bad. Well, I’m sorry to have to do this. Guards! Bring in the testers!”

[The guards set up two, tiny canisters at each end of the room. The jury shifts in their chairs nervously. A small phalanx of the judge’s clerks tiptoe in and discreetly set up small garbage cans at intervals along the gallery and the jury box. The Plaintiff’s attorney takes a deep gulp of air, holds her nose, points to the guards and nods.

Pfft. Pfft. Pfft.

Abstract Black Smoke via mobile-wallpapers

Three small whiffs of scent are released from each of the two canisters. The notes dance burst out like ghosts to hover in the air with a cold metallic clang as the room gets chilly. The notes hover there, white spectres who line up before the jury and wait for their scent to carry across the room. Very soon, half the jurors pale. Juror #3 starts to violently gag. The other half, however, merely stare back at the hovering aromas, fold their arms nonchalantly, and shrug. The ghosts look frustrated and disappointed. They lunge at the unimpressed jurors, one of whom distinctly mutters “eh” and yawns. The Defendant smirks, and scratches himself. 

His Honour, the Judge, decides enough time has passed for evidentiary analysis. He orders the ghosts back into their canisters, the windows opened, and the two solitary buckets filled with some dribbles of vomit to be removed. As a precautionary measure, he has the bailiffs hand out Pepcid anti-acid pills to everyone in the courtroom except the Defendant — whom he orders to zip up his fly and to stop adjusting himself. The Plaintiffs rest their case. The Court convenes for lunch, and then, upon its return, the Defense presents their case.]

THE DEFENSE:

Saul Goodman[The defense attorney, Saul Goodman, rises, points a finger at the jury and says]: “Piffle! Yes, Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, that is my response to the Plaintiffs’ case. PIFFLE! So my client doesn’t smell of roses and vanilla. Big whoop-di-do. So he’s different, original, obnoxious, extremely weird, and sticks to your skin forever. Is that a reason to sue him and ask for half a billion dollars in damages? Ha! Ridiculous. No, Secretions Magnifiques sucks, but he’s hardly as bad as the legend. 

[Judge Marx interrupts him:] “Mr. Goodman, is your defense essentially that Secretions Magnifiques … er… “sucks,” as you put it, but he simply doesn’t suck that much????!”

[Saul Goodman:] “No, your Honour, not exactly. Well, yes, I am saying he doesn’t suck that badly, but my main argument is that the evidence presented to the court cannot be considered reliable because it is the result of mass hysteria driven by preconceptions that have conditioned the subjects to smell what they were told to smell. In short, it’s all Etat Libre’s fault for creating this ridiculous legend in the first place, and my client is not to blame for the social conditioning.”

[The Judge blinks, takes a closer double look at the huckster facade put up by Goodman, then nods at him to continue.

Source: Amazon.uk

Luca Turin. Source: Amazon.uk

[Saul Goodman gives him a small wink and grins:] “I call my first witness, the Honourable Luca Turin, perhaps the most famous, respected fragrance critic in the world, to repeat his 5 Star rave of Secretions Magnifiques in the perfume bible, Perfumes: The A-Z Guide:

  • Stupendous secretions! The Dada name has me drooling. The fragrance is both less and far more than I expected: It’s not an animalic (supposedly) raunchy thing that works on the assumption that we collect soiled underwear or frequent the same nightclubs as cats and dogs. It is, however, an elegant fresh floral in the manner of Parfums de Nicolai’s Odalisque, given a demonic twist by a touch of a stupendous bilge note, which, my vibrational nose tells me, can only be a nitrile. I remember years ago mounting an impassioned defense of a forgotten Quest material called Marenil, which smelled just like that: oily, metallic, entirely wrong, and begging to be used intelligently. I’m delighted to see it was possible.

Now, I can see my learned colleague yearning to make some objection about how Luca Turin’s views are purely academic and involve intellectual nostalgia about certain unusual synthetics. So I will call to the stand the perfume blogger, Kafkaesque, who has often disagreed with Mr. Turin’s views on fragrances.”

[Witness is sworn in, and Goodman starts the direct:] “Kafkaesque, let me ask a simple question: Do you agree with Mr. Turin in light of your experience with Secretions Magnifiques?”

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

[Kafkaesque]: I don’t agree with Mr. Turin’s gushing rave, but I share his view that Secretions Magnifiques is certainly much less than I expected, and hardly the scent of soiled underwear or urine. I didn’t experience the bilge or sea-water note that he describes, but I did detect a nitrile aroma similar to that which Mr. Turin says was used in Serge LutensIris Silver Mist. To quote his review of that fragrance, he wrote that the Lutens’ fragrance was dominated by a “seldom-used brutal iris nitrile called Irival. The result was the powderiest, rootiest, most sinister iris imaginable[.]” Secretions Magnifiques, on my skin, has a metallic, clanging, chilled vodka and powdered floral note that is extremely similar to what I experienced with Iris Silver Mist, and it is a large part of Secretions Magnifiques for me. 

Source: free-background-wallpaper.com

Source: free-background-wallpaper.com

But let me start at the beginning. Secretions Magnifiques opens on my skin clanging of steely metal with a floral, powdered undertone like iris. It is followed by more metallic blood, then a milky note that is chilled and alcoholic, as though iced vodka had been swirled in, along with some sweetness. It is all cold steel, cold vodka, cold milk, blood, and floral sweetness, in an extremely off-putting, unpleasant mix. But it also made me think, to use your terms, “Big Whoop-di-do.”

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

Source: wallpaper.metalship.org

The metallic notes are the most interesting, the floral ones are a bore, and my real problem with the fragrance is something else entirely: Synthetics. The least offensive are the subtle aldehydes lurking about, undoubtedly from that mis-named “adrenaline accord” referenced in Etat Libre’s statement. They describe it as “a cascade of high-pitched aldehydic notes. The sensation of freshness is gripping.” As usual, Etat Libre goes too far. It’s not “high-pitched,” and the sensation is hardly “gripping,” but then, they always exaggerate. Plus, they may like aldehydes more than I do. 

Bounce Fabric SoftenerMy bigger problem lies with the white musk in Secretions Magnifiques’ base. It combines with the aldehydes to create a clean, almost laundry note, along with a slightly fresh sweetness. Eventually, it starts to become one of the most prominent parts of the scent, smelling much like Bounce fabric softener sheets that you throw in the dryer, though it also has a horrible, metallic hairspray undertone. I cannot bear any of it. That said, the freshness of the aroma seems like an ironic opposite to the lewdness of the spraying semen pictured in Etat Libre’s imagery, and certainly contrary to the accounts of dirty “smegma” and urine offered by some of the Plaintiffs’ witnesses here today.

Thirty minutes in, the cold, clean synthetic freshness of Secretions Magnifiques mixes with the metallic notes and a milk aroma that starts to feel a little sour and curdled. The result does churn my stomach a little and it does render me a little queasy. Strangely enough, the part of my arm where I applied the fragrance almost feels cold. Perhaps I’m a little suggestive, but it feels as though the chilled metallics and the nitrile’s vodka-like feel have cooled my arm. The power of imagery only goes so far, however. I am known to be an extremely suggestive vomiter who will start heaving even at a mere mental visual or image. And yet, I hardly felt like vomiting over Secretions Magnifiques. To paraphrase your comment, it sucks, but it doesn’t suck that bad.

Part of it may be a question of skin chemistry. I don’t smell semen or seawater, though there is something slightly salty about the concoction. The blood isn’t hugely significant on my skin, and feels more like the drop you’d have in your mouth if you accidentally bit the inside of your cheek. There is no coconut, though there is that milky aspect to which I referred earlier. As for the purported “sandalwood,” it’s wholly synthetic — a subtle haze of beige, generic woods that doesn’t even rise to the level of ersatz, wannabe Australian sandalwood. 

Source: overstock.com

Source: overstock.com

In less than two hours, Secretions Magnifiques turns into a synthetic, sweet, floral, aldehydic, woody musk. The blood note largely vanished after 90-minutes, the metallic element warmed up and became softer, and the whole fragrance turned smoother. It’s soft and sweet with the milky note having deepened into cream, backed by those abstract, amorphous beige woods and an equally abstract, chilled, floral note that vaguely resembles iris. It’s well-blended, but the whole thing smells simultaneously cheap and somewhat like refined, fresh, clean soap with — as Mr. Turin noted — a somewhat demonic, metallic twist thrown in for shock value.

Secretions Magnifiques remains that way for hours and hours. The reports of the fragrance’s frightening longevity are completely accurate. Secretions Magnifiques was still going strong on my perfume-consuming skin at the 13th hour when I gave up out of sheer boredom and washed it off. It seemed quite capable of lasting another 10 hours on me — and smelling of clean, fresh Bounce laundry sheets with abstract, sweet, slightly milky, woody floral musk is not my cup of tea. All in all, it’s an unappealing scent, but Secretions Magnifiques is hardly as vile as I had expected.”

[Saul Goodman:] “Then, how do you account for all the negative reports?”

[Kafkaesque:] “There are a few things to consider. First, for all the negative reports on Fragrantica given by the Plaintiffs, there are at least as many indifferent and underwhelmed reviews, if not more so. A few madmen even think Secretions Magnifiques is a beautiful masterpiece that they love, but I personally think that goes too far. The thing to consider are the many, many reports that essentially mirror this comment from a Fragrantica poster:

How terrible is this fragrance? To me, it’s nothing on par with some of the horror stories written below. I don’t really care for it, but that’s because it just smells awkward. These notes do not compliment one another and don’t make for a particularly nice perfume.

The other thing to consider is skin chemistry. Some people’s skins will bring out the more unpleasant sides. Yet, I firmly believe that a tiny portion of the negative reviews might be very different if the fragrance were smelled blindly. If people did not know they were testing Secretions Magnifiques — with all the visuals and legendary horrors surrounding that name — I think they’d find the fragrance to be merely an extremely unpleasant scent. They wouldn’t be driven to vomit, or to perceive semen.

Our brain filters aromas through a host of different factors, including imagery and pre-set knowledge. If you’re absolutely convinced that you’re going to smell urine and semen because that’s what you’ve been told again and again, then you may well end up doing so. However, if you go in with a blank slate, I suspect that some would get primarily a metallic, slightly salty, synthetic, fresh, abstractly floral fragrance that was extremely weird, unappealing, and mismatched, but nothing to actually gag over. In short, for some, the aroma may be a snowball that turned into an avalanche because of Etat Libre’s presentation and because of the subsequent social conditioning. It’s partially Pavlovian conditioning due to (not so) subliminal messaging, and partially an issue of the Collective Consciousness Theory. Again, I stress, this does not apply to everyone because skin chemistry does play a role, but I think social conditioning may apply to some of the people who have issues with the scent. They smelled what they expected to smell, and what they were told they would smell. A self-fulfilling prophesy turning into perceived reality.”

[Kafkaesque steps down, and Saul Goodman turns to the jury.] “Ladies and Gentlemen, I ask you to put aside your preconceived notions, and to really think about what you smelled in this courtroom today. Think about prophesy, social conditioning and mass hysteria as an explanation for some of the testimony you heard from the Plaintiffs, and discount their claims. Yes, my client is an ass, and a cheap, vulgar, synthetic lout. Yes, he sucks, and I wouldn’t want to smell like him. But, really, Whoop Di Do! There are a lot of unpleasant fragrances out there on the market. Don’t believe the hype, and let your verdict be a clear message to others that a perfume company’s marketing is not the same as reality. By all means, have them stay far, far away from Secretions Magnifiques. I certainly would! But objectivity and fairness require that you find him innocent of these extreme charges. Thank you.”

[The Defense sits down, the Judge gives his instructions, and the Jury leaves for its deliberations. They return six hours later, and a tired Jury Foreman (who has drenched himself in an entirely different fragrance, perhaps as a shield against the smell of Secretions Magnifiques) hands the bailiff a slip of paper.]

THE VERDICT:

Judgment for the Plaintiff.

Compensatory Award: $4.75, or the starting price of a sample test vial of Secretions Magnifiques from Surrender to Chance.

[The decision was 5 to 4: five jurors voted to convict the very second they set foot in the jury room. They refused to even try on the perfume for additional tests, and couldn’t get past the witness accounts. The legend was just too great. However, four jurors agreed with the “Whoop di Do” theory, and found the evidence against Secretions Magnifiques to be largely self-fulfilling prophesy. They didn’t like the fragrance and certainly would never wear it, but they simply didn’t think it amounted to the level of a vomitous, social nightmare. They won out in the discussions of the jury award, refusing to award serious damages, let alone half a billion dollars worth.]

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Disclosure: This is not intended to be a proper depiction of a trial, Legal Procedures, or the law. It is a parody that is meant only in fun, though the essence of the perfume is accurate.