It’s Maurice Roucel Day!

It’s hard not to adore a perfumer who looks this much like Mario, but I promise that I have several far more legitimate reasons for highlighting Maurice Roucel today. A Roucel perfume is instantly recognizable. His work is joyfully exuberant, boisterously playful. At a time when so many perfumes are soulless, focus group-tested creations, Roucel’s fragrances have personality. I respect Roucel because his work is never trivial or insipid. His mainstream fragrances are just as good as his niche creations (and sometimes even better!). Today I will be discussing eight of Monsieur Roucel’s creations. Please share your own opinions of these perfumes in the comments, or suggest more Roucel fragrances for us to try!

Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur

Musc Ravageur has received nothing but adoration from perfume lovers since its release in 2000, and I am not about to break with that grand tradition now. Despite the name, Musc Ravageur is actually an amber fragrance. Its clove and cinnamon top notes positively sizzle, eventually giving way to a terribly sexy, warm amber-and-vanilla dry down. Believe the hype about this one.

Bond No. 9 Broadway Nite

Broadway Nite has what so many modern perfumes lack: excitement. Roucel’s pairing of electrifying aldehydes with bracingly green violet notes resulted in a perfume that crackles and sparks with tension. I am too boring to wear this perfume, but I highly recommend it.

Missoni by Missoni

The discontinuation of this Missoni fragrance after only a few years on the market came as a surprise to exactly no one. First, the bottle. That bottle was bad, y’all. The juice itself was also somewhat perplexing. Missoni is essentially an inedible gourmand fragrance. It features a prominent chocolate note, but juxtaposes the chocolate with bitter grassy notes. It’s actually pretty great, but I can understand why no one particularly wanted to wear it.

L de Lolita Lempicka

This is the happiest perfume ever created. It opens with sweet orange and incense, and then becomes an addictive salty-sweet combination of vanilla and immortelle. The dry down bears a fair resemblance to Musc Ravageur, but Musc Ravageur’s top notes are so fantastic that I consider them both necessary. L de Lolita Lempicka has been discontinued in the U.S. I cannot stress this enough: if you find it, buy it.

Hermes 24, Faubourg

24, Faubourg is one of those rich, grand jasmine-and-amber fragrances that were so popular in the last century, but 24, Faubourg is much sexier than most of the other scents in that category. It is sweet and powdery, but far from girlish or insipid. Highly recommended to fans of classic florals.

DKNY Be Delicious

I suspect that when Roucel begins work on a new perfume, he thinks to himself “Go big or go home”. The vibrant, exhilarating DKNY Be Delicious is proof that Roucel has yet to go home. Be Delicious is an apple scent, but it could not be further from the standard sweet, demure apple fragrance. No, Be Delicious is a spectacularly tart, fluorescent green apple, the likes of which have yet to be genetically engineered.

Le Labo Jasmin 17

This is the one Roucel creation that I can’t get particularly excited about. Jasmin 17, oddly enough, does not smell like jasmine. Instead, it is a perfectly pretty soapy orange blossom fragrance. There is little to distinguish it from the hundreds of other soapy orange blossom fragrances, although it does lack the unfortunate screechiness that is becoming common in those scents.

Bond No. 9 New Haarlem

First, I must point out that New Haarlem is virtually identical to Rochas Man, an earlier Roucel creation. Rochas Man is much cheaper, so if you are not a bottle ho, you should buy that instead. (I am a bottle ho. No shame.) Having said that, both New Haarlem and Rochas Man are deliciously golden woody fragrances. The Bond website alleges a coffee note, and I can see that connection, but New Haarlem is not so literal as to actually smell like coffee. It does, however, have a pleasantly roasted quality.

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Bond No 9 Broadway Nite

Perfumes with a strong violet note tend to go in one of two directions: powdery, candied violets or green violets. Broadway Nite definitely falls under the second category. It opens green and bracing, which makes the always-pleasing-but-somewhat-cliche violet/rose combination feel new and exciting. Broadway Nite has a sparkling feel that I associate with aldehydes; imagine a bottle of champagne on a Broadway diva’s dressing room table. Eventually Broadway Nite becomes creamier, with vanilla and musk creeping in. If you smell closely, you can detect the scent of the Lancome lipstick (Frederic Malle Lipstick Rose employs the same lovely trick) that the diva applies before she belts her heart out on stage.

Broadway Nite was aptly named- it is undoubtedly the most flamboyant of Maurice Roucel’s creations. Broadway Nite is a Josephine Baker kind of gal, the type to buy her pet cheetah a diamond leash and take it for walks along the Champs-Élysées. She pities those who save false eyelashes and red lipstick for special occasions. I find this kind of high-personality brassiness delightful, but I suppose it could also be considered vulgar in some circles. Broadway Nite reminds me of my best friend’s mother, a former broadway actress and the most fabulous woman I know. I can give it no higher recommendation.

Josephine Baker. Too fierce for words!

Broadway Nite can be found at Saks Fifth Avenue, Harrods, Bond No 9 boutiques (which are all in New York), and on the Bond No 9 website, http://www.bondno9.com/. It is available for $45 for 7 ml, $140 for 50 ml, and $205 for 100 ml.

Disclaimer: I got a sample of Broadway Nite at Saks Fifth Avenue.

Jean Paul Gaultier Classique (EDP)

Although I prefer the term “artistically disheveled”, my roommate could tell you that my side of the room is disastrous. It looks like Tiger and Elin tried to work out their marital issues. In the midst of all this chaos, only one thing manages to stay consistently clean and organized: my perfume collection. They sit in neat little rows on my nightstand- at least, the pretty bottles do. The less aesthetically pleasing bottles (hellooo, Comptoir Sud Pacifique, Rochas, and M.A.C.) are hidden away out of vanity. I know, I know, don’t judge a book by it’s cover, inner beauty, etc etc. Let me tell you a story about a little cologne I like to call Rochas Man.

I used to own a bottle of Rochas Man that was one of my very favorite perfumes (it smells EXACTLY like Bond No 9 New Haarlem, for all you Maurice Roucel fans), but the bottle was rather… awkwardly shaped. And yes, gentle readers, by “awkwardly” I do indeed mean phallic. It was hideous. No matter how lovely it smelled, I could not bring myself to display it alongside the Lolita Lempickas, Chanels, and Pradas. God help me, I am a terrible person.

See??? Can you really blame me, y’all?

Anyway, my eye for a pretty bottle is how I ended up with a bottle of JPG Classique EDP. I had only the vaguest recollection of how it smelled, but who could resist those luscious curves? Not I, clearly. Fortunately, Classique is just as lovely on the inside as it is on the outside. Classique is a very sensual blend, starring the sweet warmth of orange blossom and also featuring rose, chocolate, and anise. Mr. Gaultier talked a big game with Classique (“Just to be modern, [we added] one part nail polish remover!), but truthfully Classique is nothing groundbreaking. It’s just another woody-floral, which will probably be a tad too sweet for more intense perfumistas. Still, Classique is highly pleasant, so much so that I often reject other orange blossom fragrances for not measuring up.

A word of caution: Classique comes in two formulations, EDT and EDP. The two are quite different- a fan of one may not necessarily like the other. A flanker, Classique X, was recently released. Classique is available at most department stores and at Sephora for $44 for 2/3 of an ounce (only at Sephora), $78 for 1.6 ounces, and $100 for 3.3 ounces.

Disclaimer: I purchased a bottle of Classique from Sephora.

Lolita Lempicka, L de Lolita Lempicka

If you were to ask me what the holiest site in Israel is, I wouldn’t respond with “The Western Wall” or “The Dome of the Rock”. Every woman knows that the most sacred place in our tiny, beloved country is the Michal Negrin store. Michal Negrin is primarily a jewelry store chain (although it seems to be expanding into the lifestyle business, with everything from clothing to wallpaper). The general theme appears to be wistful, old-fashioned pictures of women bedazzled by colorful rhinestones. It’s all very over the top, but somehow manages to stay on the right side of kitsch. I once spent a full hour there agonizing over whether I should buy the green version of the following 400 shekel ($100) decorative elephant. My best friend wisely dragged me away, but damned if I don’t miss that stupid elephant.

If the Michal Negrin store had a perfume line, it would undoubtedly be something like the Lolita Lempicka brand. Lolita Lempicka, with its stunning glass bottles and consistently interesting scents,  is somewhat of an oddity in the mainstream perfume world. Today I’ll be reviewing the original Lolita Lempicka, which was released in 1997 (which is freaking ancient in perfume years), and the newer L de Lolita Lempicka.

First up, Lolita Lempicka. In the wake of Angel, which was released in 1992, hundreds of copycats flooded the market, hoping to capitalize on Angel’s monstrous success. Lolita Lempicka has often been accused of being such a knockoff. I personally see no resemblance, although like Angel, Lolita seems to be a love-it-or-hate-it fragrance. I was solidly in the “hate” camp for many years. I thought it was the most disgusting thing I’d ever smelled. It was insanely sweet and smelled just like licorice (my least favorite note). I was legitimately puzzled as to how that gorgeous apple-shaped bottle could house such a revolting smell.

I finally retried it last weekend and am frankly feeling a little foolish. Lolita Lempicka is delicious and delicately pretty. It smells like sweet pastry dough and cherries. It is still very sweet, but when comparing it to L by Lolita Lempicka for this review, I was shocked to discover that Lolita Lempicka is actually less sweet and considerably softer. Luca Turin, a famous perfume critic, gave Lolita Lempicka one of his very rare five-star ratings in his “Perfumes: The Guide”. He declared it “the ideal accompaniment for flirtatious banter from prim girls in glasses.” As a lifelong four-eyes, I agree wholeheartedly. According to Basenotes, the notes are ivy, anise seed, violet, amarise, licorice, amarena, vetiver, tonka, vanilla and musk.

Unlike its predecessor, L de Lolita Lempicka gave me no trouble whatsoever. Created in 2006 by perfumer Maurice Roucel, L is imminently lovable. It begins with citrus and cinnamon, much like Maurice Roucel’s other masterpiece, Frederic Malle Musc Ravageur. L is far softer than Musc Ravageur, and for the most part smells much like freshly baked Snickerdoodle cookies. L would be rather generic, albeit delicious, if it were not for a curious salty note lurking in the background. That saltiness can be attributed to the immortelle flower, a note rarely seen in perfumery.

L is not quite as intellectual as her older sister, but she’s quite a crowd pleaser. My friends often ask to borrow perfume from me before we go out. They don’t want my Prada or Classique (“too heavy”) and they certainly don’t want my Yvresse or Chinatown. Inevitably they reach for the sweet, irresistible L.

Lolita Lempicka has a new scent, Si Lolita, which was released in France last summer but has no U.S. release date beyond “2010”. However, it has been getting very good reviews on other perfume blogs such as Perfume Posse, and the bottle is nothing short of stunning. I eagerly await its arrival.

Disclaimer: I own bottles of Lolita Lempicka and L de Lolita Lempicka, both purchased at Sephora.