Elizabeth and James Nirvana Bourbon and Rose


Time of death: September 9, 2015. “The celebrity party is over,” WWD pronounced, citing the $100 million drop in celebrity fragrance sales between 2011 and 2015. It’s time for the afterparty, a more exclusive gathering of celebrities who made smarter decisions about their fragrance lines. At the top of the guest list are the Olsen twins, those plucky slow lorises behind Elizabeth and James.

Downright uncanny.

Nirvana Bourbon and Rose are the latest in a long line of shrewd choices over at Elizabeth and James. Rather than flooding the market with flankers after the huge success of the original Nirvana fragrances, the Olsens took a respectable three years to develop the next pair. The happy result: two solid-quality fragrances that actually surpass the originals.

Nirvana Bourbon is the clear breakout star of the duo. It’s a sheer, woody vanilla, closely related to niche vanillas like Arquiste The Architects Club and Le Labo Vanille 44. This is very good stuff, especially for the price ($25 rollerballs are yet another smart Olsen decision). Nirvana Rose is an elegantly musty rose; think warmer and less fresh than Stella McCartney Stella. I prefer Nirvana Bourbon for myself, but I respect the creative risk behind Nirvana Rose. Young American customers tend to be suspicious of rose notes, and while Nirvana Rose certainly isn’t heavy, it’s not a light, fresh rose, either.

That’s the secret to the Nirvana fragrances’ success, I think. They’re not lowest common denominator scents. They respect our intelligence. The nosedive in celebrity perfume sales is a lesson to brands who insult the customer’s intelligence by slapping a celebrity’s name on increasingly awful juice. You can’t get away with that anymore. Party on, Olsens!

Disclaimers: This post is not sponsored and does not contain affiliate links. I tested Nirvana Bourbon and Rose at my local Sephora.

11 thoughts on “Elizabeth and James Nirvana Bourbon and Rose

  1. I was SO excited when I found these at Sephora; I must have checked 3 times before they actually had them in stock. After wearing them for a bit, though, I was a little underwhelmed (which is unfair, since these are way better than a majority of scents at Sephora).

    I want to like Bourbon more, so it will get another chance, but for some reason, it kept reminding me of Tea for Two.

    1. I’m so bummed that you were underwhelmed! Tea for Two is much spicier to me, but I certainly wouldn’t mind owning both 🙂

  2. Loris comparison is brilliant.
    I haven’t tried these (or the earlier Black) as I rarely choose to go to Sephora. I agree that the slow releases help the brand look less celebrity, as does the packaging. I also think that the brand name choice (Elizabeth and James) was excellent — appeals to those who know it’s the Olsen twins, sounds elegant and niche-y for those who don’t. About the rollerballs, I don’t think it was solely their decision. If you want to be carried at Sephora you will make a rollerball at some point, even Tom Ford has three rollerballs now, exclusive to Sephora.
    I think this is a wise decision by Sephora as it makes many perfumes more accessible and allows for the habit of carrying perfume for re-application. (I was startled when I read over and over that young women carried 100 ml !!! bottles in their purses for re-spraying.)
    Best of all, as you say, is that that the scents are not mediocre or part of the endless following of a trend. Party on, indeed. 🙂

    1. What keeps you away from Sephora, Lindaloo? Those Tom Ford rollerballs seem so overpriced at $45- I wonder if Tom will ever make Private Blend rollerballs. I’d buy a Tobacco Vanille rollerball no matter the price!

      1. Not much of a makeup wearer so not much motivation. Also, halogen lighting strikes me as weird for testing makeup.I once tried a range of concealers on my hand and could see no real shade difference — out in the mall lights the differences were significant. This is all silly of me because they do make perfume samples!.

  3. Looking forward to trying this one, I have an unassailable craving for dark vanilla perfumes and had been pleasantly surprised by the Olsens’ Nirvana Black. As they say in Project Runway, there was a real taste level there. (Also, hurrah for sensibly sized perfume rollerballs, which spare my already overstuffed tote!)

    1. Oh, the Bourbon sounds made for you, Malmaison! As convenient as rollerballs are for overstuffed totes, I think a few have been swallowed by the bottomless pit that is my purse over the years.

  4. Hi Ari,
    I’ve tried both and prefer the Rose, at least for now. Perhaps the Bourbon will appeal to me more as the weather cools down. Both are lovely, though. I have yet to try the originals.

    1. The Rose was a really pleasant surprise, especially since I didn’t care for Nirvana White all that much. I’ll be very curious to see how it sells- the Sephora reviews seem mixed between “I love this!” and “It’s so… mature.”

  5. I’m very fond of the Rose! and I’ll be passing the Bourbon along to a friend who likes non-cupcakey vanillas. Well done, Mesdames Olsen! I agree — they’ve been very smart about this brand.

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