Elizabeth and James Nirvana Black


“We didn’t want to do another very average commercial fragrance where it could be anybody’s name on the bottle,” Mary-Kate Olsen declared in a WWD interview. Even if “better-than-average commercial fragrance” is not exactly a hard-won title these days, I’m happy to reassure MK that Nirvana Black, one of the two debut fragrances in the Olsen twins’ Elizabeth and James line, definitely qualifies.

The official notes for Nirvana Black are violet, sandalwood, and vanilla. I get no violet, or really any top notes to speak of. Nirvana Black is a sweet, creamy sandalwood fragrance from beginning to end. Perfumer Pierre Negrin claims that Nirvana Black contains “a good-grade sandalwood from Australia,” and it’s true that the fragrance never feels scratchy or thin. I’m basing this review on a rollerball (Sephora Beauty Insider reward, run don’t walk y’all), so I can’t speak to projection, but the lasting power is surprisingly good.

I like the Olsen twins, with their plucky little fashion careers and their slow loris eyes, and I like Nirvana Black just fine. I just can’t help thinking that Kate Walsh did it better with Boyfriend in 2011. Boyfriend had that same golden vanilla dry down, but the plum and myrrh notes made it significantly more complex. But seeing as Boyfriend has been dropped by Sephora, it’s nice to see another surprisingly good celeb scent on the market (especially one that comes in rollerball form).

The lost Olsen.
The lost Olsen.

Kate Walsh Boyfriend

Kate Walsh Boyfriend had the great misfortune of being released at exactly the same time as another celebrity scent, Jennifer Aniston. Now, I have no idea who Kate Walsh is. I know her only as “the one with the pretty red hair on that show that I don’t watch because everyone on it is a whiner.” I cannot help but know who Jennifer Aniston is, because every time I go to the grocery store I am inundated with tabloids fixated on The Current State of Jennifer Aniston’s Uterus.


I suspect that Jennifer Aniston’s perfume will do better with customers, due both to the fact that it is less ambitious than Boyfriend and to Ms. Aniston’s higher profile (which is kind of inexplicable at this point, Friends ended in 2004 you guys). And that’s a shame, because Boyfriend is the better perfume, and is far more interesting than the vast majority of the fragrances currently on Sephora’s shelves.

Kate Walsh Boyfriend is a warm, intoxicating incensey vanilla. The myrrh note adds a muskiness and depth to the vanilla that, although I’m sure must be very common in niche fragrances, I have not observed in a mainstream fragrance before. Boyfriend might be a relatively simple perfume, but it smells fabulous. I doubt that I would even wear it around a boyfriend, because a perfume this sensual might suggest that I was still on the prowl. The EDP concentration contains a poorly blended jasmine note that does not seem to be present in the Body Oil. This jasmine seriously compromises my enjoyment of this otherwise totally enjoyable fragrance, so I definitely recommend the Body Oil as my preferred concentration.

None of my boyfriends have ever smelled remotely like Kate Walsh’s platonic ideal. They all smelled like the Salvatore Ferragamo cologne, because that’s what I bought them when I was 15 and believed that men should smell like a swimming pool. Kate Walsh Boyfriend would have been a big step up.