Worth Courtesan

Note to everyone I just sent a package to: I sent 9 on Friday, which is roughly 7 more than I can handle, so if you got the wrong things, sorry! Enjoy! You know where to find me! Also, my packages look like they were prepared by enthusiastic 3-year-olds. Also, my atomizers may leak (I promise never to buy from anyone but pilotvials or Patty again.) Also, to the people who got samples of Black Sea: the dang atomizer dribbles half the spray down the side of the bottle (argh!), no matter what I tried. So I ended up using small vials, because wasting all that juice is heartbreaking. It´s strong enough you should still be able to get a good bead on it; making samples was certainly gagging me.

Today we´re staring hard at Worth Courtesan, released in 2006 to accompany the estimable Je Reviens (which was re-launched in 2004) and available at Harrods, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges, House of Fraser and a few other places in the UK.

I tried this on a whim the day I got to Edinburgh, because I´d not heard of it, and then bought it on five minutes´ thought and a heart full of lust, and with a couple of sidetracks I´ve been wearing it almost daily since I got home. Clipped from the Worth website: “The House of Worth worked with perfumer Pierre Bourdon to recreate the spirit and tradition of Parisian Courtesans of old. Glamorous and mysterious, the floriental fragrance is an intoxicating mix of exoticism and sensuality. Seductive and sophisticated, Courtesan encourages the sense of touch, the warm caress of skin.”

Courtesan, as I reported from Edinburgh, is something I didn´t think existed: a summer skank scent (subcategory: sweat.). I have plenty of sweaty loves, generally containing of a dollop of cumin and/or vetiver and/or musk (the new Femme, Yatagan and Le Labo Vetiver spring immediately to mind), but they all fall solidly into the fall/winter roundup, and I put them away once the temperature hits 70 or so.

Courtesan has essentially no development on me; it starts off with a delicate perspiring skin smell – what we call a ladies´ “glow” – and underneath that is some sort of vague, not-overpowering floral. It melds with me in a way I´m fascinated by – it´s as if I´m wearing not just perfume but the ghost of perfume warmed by someone else´s body. And if that sounds disturbing, it isn´t – it´s an alluring smell, the trace of fragrance on a lover´s skin. It is not sweet – if I had to pick a single word, it would be musky, although musky sounds too heavy (but does convey some of the carnality of the scent.) I would characterize it as unisex, although obviously it´s marketed for women.

So nobody was more shocked than I was to read the actual notes of the fragrance. Someone pasted them in comments on my Edinburgh post, from Basenotes, but I assumed they were wrong. Here are the notes directly from Worth (with heavy editing and massive deletion of modifiers like “enticing,” etc.): Cinnamon, Cardamom, Clove, Pineapple, Red Berries, Bergamot, Orange Blossom, Egyptian Jasmine and Turkish Rose, woody notes, Sandalwood, Peach, Caramel, Raspberry, Chocolate, Cocoa Beans, Amber, Vanilla and Musk.

Well, that sounds disgusting. Seriously, how horrible is that? Can we make it any worse? Maybe a marine note? How about … banana? Kill. Me. Now. I don´t know what to say about those notes. They´re … inexplicable. I´ve given them to you, because I feel honor-bound, but I´m of no further help. I might have guessed the spices, I wouldn´t have guessed any of the fruits at all, the dusting of cocoa I can smell now that I´m looking for it, the idea of caramel/chocolate horrifies me, and I´d have sworn an oath to cumin and/or vetiver in addition to the musk, because for the life of me I can´t think what´s generating that gentle sweaty smell. All I can do is: a) conjure the genius and track record of Bourdon; and b) state delicately that, at this point in my sniffage, I´ve decided that x percent of any listed notes are just random lies dreamed up by the marketing drones. Who knows what´s in there?

In terms of weight and feel, Courtesan reminds me a little of Eau de Merveilles. Let me be clear: it doesn´t smell like Merveilles at all (and Merveilles is genius, whereas Courtesan is merely very, very good). But Courtesan has that vague salty sexiness, along with the odd aura-like sensation Merveilles gives me; it´s elusive and omnipresent at the same time. I adore Merveilles, but I really bring out its funky side in hot weather, to the extent that people in line near me might wish I’d remembered my deodorant; so far, Courtesan seems to be calibrated perfectly for our heat and humidity.

Whether Courtesan would appeal to you would depend, I am guessing, on whether you get the dirty bits. On Louise (often my fragrance opposite) she got the dirty bits, on and off, for about 15 minutes, after which it became an inoffensive fruity-floral. Not execrable, mind you. Not great. Just sort of there. The fortunate would get what I get – an entire day of summer-friendly sensuality – the sun-lit bedroom, the romp in still-warm, rumpled sheets, and your lover´s scent lingering after.

Odalisque, 1874 Jules Joseph Lefebvre, Art Institute, Chicago courtesy of wikipedia

Worth bottle image, quotes and fragrance notes from www.worthparis.com

50 Comments
Jennifer June 4, 2007

For skankiest fruity floral I nominate Patou's Sira des Indes, there is some serious civet skank running through it.

Solander June 4, 2007

Sounds lovely, if you get the "glow", not the fruity/floral... But the comparison to Eau des Merveilles scares me a little. I know you said they don't smell alike, but if they share something of a similar atmosphere it still scares me. EdM was not armpit-skanky on me, it was just off, off in an artificial way, which is worse. It was so "perfumey" I could virtually taste it, sort of bitter-ish, not quite salt but with, I don't know, the odd perfume equivalent to salt? Couldn't be further from a natural, soft, skin scent "glow".

Abigail June 4, 2007

This may have been the first perfume review that made me want to...kiss my husband! ah, newlyweds...kinda cute, kinda disgustingly sweet (like a celebrity fragrance?) I agree, it sounds very interesting. I'm trying Tocca's Florence today and it smells like a skanky gardenia and fruit salad. Courtesan sounds much better.

Lee June 4, 2007

I thought it smelled lovely on March. You did spray this one on your skin, right? Or am I confuzzled?:-? Wasn't it the ultra slim East European woman doing the SA duties?

Robin June 4, 2007

Courtesan sounds so intriguing -- your description of it, that is. The notes sound like A Bit Much. Wonder why it hasn't made it to the US yet?

tmp00 June 4, 2007

this reads like it might be right up my (back) alley..

violetnoir June 4, 2007

Hey babe--If the notes start to sound scarier to you, throw that bottle over here to California because I love the sound of 'em! ;) Hugs!

pitbull friend June 4, 2007

March, my excitement and anticipation are definitely peaked. Thank you! Skank I'm not so much a fan of. Burnt things, I am. I am fervently hoping that Andy takes up the idea of eau d'ananas grille' (? grilled pineapple), as was discussed at his blog. Makes me want to zip on over to Zurich (by teleporter, perhaps?) and grill him up some fruit (maybe peaches or nectarines, too?) so he can see what I mean. --Ellen

Patty June 4, 2007

Ha! skanky fruit for me! It has an addictive quality to it for sure!

donanicola June 4, 2007

Going to look out for this. Pineapple is lovely in that Fizzy thing L'AP do so I'm not averse to it in theory, and peach is fab in Femme and Mitsouko so again, it's got to be worth a sniff at least. That painting is rather splendid too!

Marina June 4, 2007

I am very intrigued. Love the description and...don't faint...pineapple makes me curious. So, um, is there like a, um, sample prize draw...or lets swap!!:">

Elle June 4, 2007

Saying prayers to the gods of skank that that is what I would get w/ this. It sounds irresistible! I really do think that marketing people insist that at least a miniscule drop of various Voracia Tatas friendly notes get put into scents so that they can make them sound appealing to the teenage crowd. But I still find it puzzling that they'd want a scent called Courtesan to sound like an insulin shock inducing fruity chocolate dessert.

Judith June 4, 2007

Verrry interesting! I wonder whether I will get skank\:d/ or fruit?:-w Only time will tell. . . . .

Louise June 4, 2007

Now, March, I don't really like to think of us as fragrance opposites, but rather, er....complements (and compliments). But now I wish I had really smelled Courtesan on you, because as you note, it smelled nothing like your your overall description of the fragrance. It just went almost Teint de Neige powdery, yes? But after I left you, a bit of skank crept back later...