Essence Narciso Rodriguez


Indulge me in a bit of whining here: I am so tired of mainstream fragrance flankers that I want to take them all and…and…and… Honestly, what could I possibly do with them? Fragrances containing alcohol are highly flammable, so starting a giant bonfire is out of the question. Having a weenie roast in the stadium parking lot is one thing, but feeding beer to the fire is not an option. The bottles are glass, so theoretically they can be recycled. But really, how many bud vases does one person need? It´s like trying to come up with alternate uses for a hockey puck; besides the obvious, and using it as a paperweight, what additional purpose does it serve?

Essence Narciso Rodriguez isn´t exactly a flanker to his previous scents, but it is in the same floral/musk family. I am not a fan of NR for Her eau de toilette or eau de parfum (too much chypre in that one for me), and I am completely anosmic to Musc Oil for Her. But, when I sampled Essence from the tester in Saks a few weeks ago, I liked it. I kept sniffing the inside of my arm for the rest of the day thinking I would love a full bottle of this; it´s just the right blend of musk – nicely earthy and politely skanky, with hints of clean floral. Unfortunately, what I got from the sample atomizer was completely different: it started with a sharp burst of iris, rose and (gasp!) powder; A LOT of powder. Where was the powder in the tester? And why did it smell so differently in the sample atomizer? Has this ever happened to anyone else, or is my sense of smell still in crisis?

When sample Essence finally settled down, it morphed into…Philosophy Amazing Grace. I pulled out my bottle of Grace, sprayed some, and yup, Essence is pretty near a dead-ringer for it. Grace is decidedly cleaner and better behaved in the drydown, but the two are remarkably similar; like how NR for Her Eau de Toilette and Lovely Sarah Jessica Parker are for the most part, identical. Maybe I should have started off by stating, “I am so tired of smelling scents that remind me of…”

According to Now Smell This, Essence´s notes consist of iris, rose, benzoin and musk; a very pedestrian blend as far as I´m concerned, but if you can withstand the initial blast of powdery flowers, what remains is quite pleasant. The bottle is a simple silvery flask, very much in keeping with the unfussy sophistication of Rodriguez´s clothing.

As of this posting, there is no information on Essence on Rodriguez´s own website, or any of the department store sites, although it is in stock at the Saks nearest to me. I believe 100 ml is $95.00 and there is a 50 ml size for sale as well. I tried in vain to find out what the exact notes are for Philosophy´s Amazing Grace, but I fear that Grace´s formula is keeping company in the same vault with the secret blend of eleven herbs and spices used to make Kentucky Fried Chicken. There is just nothing out there. There are listings of notes for Pure and Baby Graces on, but none listed for Amazing and Inner. By the way, Inner Grace is another SJP Lovely/NR for Her doppelganger. I´ll stop now, since this is turning into a “Six Degrees of Separation” scenario; a worthwhile idea for a future post, perhaps?


  • ellen says:

    I was in Saks in Boston and they are doing a complimentary engraving event for Narciso fragrances on Wed the 25th of Feb…the start of their beauty week. The bag looked really cute! I thought the fragrance was delicious!

  • karin says:

    Hi Nava! I just received a Saks catalog in the mail (says Hothouse Beauty on the front), and it has a scent strip of Essence. Prices listed are $100 for 3.3oz and $78 for 1.6. There’s also a body lotion, shower gel, and deodorant spray.

    Ozmoz lists notes of Amazing Grace as Citrus Notes, Soft Floral Blossoms, and Hint of White Musk. Sounds pretty vague!

    • Nava says:

      Thanks Karin. 🙂

      I haven’t gotten that Saks catalog yet, but I did get a phone call earlier today about the Neiman Marcus Beauty Event starting next week. Saks only had the fragrance; none of the body products yet. I’m curious as to how the scent strip smells since there are disparities between the store tester and the sample atomizers. It’s so weird…

      I saw that note listing for Amazing Grace on Ozmoz and thought the same thing. The formula has definitely evolved over the years because I remember it being way more flowery. There’s a parfum concentration now that’s exclusive to QVC that I’m dying to smell.

      • karin says:

        Hi Nava. OK, just rubbed the scent strip on my wrist. It smells to me like Ivory soap! Very fresh. I definitely don’t smell any skank!!! Unfortunately, I haven’t sniffed Amazing Grace, so can’t tell you how it compares. Does it also smell like Ivory? I also don’t smell any of the musk that exists in For Her (which I have). Though, it may appear in the drydown…

  • Melissa says:

    I like Wordbird’s idea. Flanker-powered automobiles. Seriously though, some of the department store/Sephora-type fragrances confuse me so much that I won’t even try them. Oil, For Her, edt, Musc, etc-I’m never sure whether they are flankers, different strengths of the same scent, etc. And unless they got rave reviews, I usually won’t bother to try them. The only exception for me is the Ferres and speaking of confusing, the names require a pocket guide to sort out. But a number of them are worth the confusion.

    Well, second exception, but this falls into the category of “mainstream flankers that received good reviews”. Today I am wearing Flowers by Kenzo Oriental. Most of the reviews and comments that I read about this one say that it is an improvement on the original. And judging from the blissful woody, floral, incense blend that is wafting up from my neck, I would tend to agree.

    • Nava says:

      Really, how many Ferre Incantos are there now? It really is very easy to lose track.

      It’s interesting how a lot of designers/design houses have been using fragrance to keep themselves afloat. I always wonder how worthwhile it is to keep churning their scents into flankers when most don’t seem to hang around for very long. Even the “limited edition” buzz they attempt to create is pretty lame. I don’t think they realize how confusing and overwhelming it is to the consumer. I’m no marketing whiz, but hey – that’s my opinion. 🙂

      • Nava says:

        Oops! Incantos are Ferragamo. Ferre…Ferragamo. See? I’m confused, too! :d

      • Melissa says:

        Hmmm, ya really want to know? Let’s see. Gianfranco Ferre, Ferre by Ferre, Ferre by Gianfranco Ferre, Ferre 20, Essence d’eau by Gianfranco Ferre, and that’s just a start. There are probably 5-8 more. The men’s are just as bad. The only saving grace is that they tend to be good. But the names are ridiculous.

  • March says:

    I tried it the same time you did, and thought it was … really nice! Kinda fun! Was mostly amazed because I could smell it at all! (The regular NR bottles are filled with water as far as I’m concerned.)

    And the same deal with the atomizer she gave us. I sprayed some on a couple days ago in anticipation of your review, and lusting after that bottle — seriously, I don’t think you did the bottle justice. People — that silver bottle is gorgeous! Anyway I sniffed my wrist and thought, wth?!?!? Totally different. Kind of harsh on me.

    I’m glad to hear about the NR/SJP lovely connection because I can’t smell Lovely either, they must be made from the crystal waters of the same mountain stream… or is that beer?

    • Nava says:

      Thank you! I was convinced there was something else in the sample atomizer since it smelled nothing like the tester. How freaky is that? And yes, the bottle is gorgeous. Too bad what’s inside is so disappointing.

      Maybe we should start an Egyptian Musk Anosmia support group. I can think of a bunch of different smells I wish I was anosmic to instead of EM.

  • Wordbird says:

    Use all that flanker juice to run your car.
    Just THINK what the exhaust fumes would smell like!

    Seriously? I wonder if these companies have considered the damage they do to their successful brands by constantly watering down their impact and value with flankers?

    • Nava says:

      Great idea! Although whatever would come out of my exhaust using flanker juice couldn’t possibly compete with passing a crammed livestock carrier on an interstate. I swear I want to go vegan every time I see one.

      • Existentialist says:

        Nava, one of the worst things I have seen in recent years was one of those livestock carriers with a load of hogs that tipped over on the highway near my home. I had to drive past it on my way to work that morning, and while visually it was not a big deal, the sound of those poor, trapped, terrified animals was ghastly. And that’s my little plug for vegetarianism today. Sorry if that casts a pall over your post (which I enjoyed, although I haven’t tried any of the scents you mentioned).

  • Masha says:

    I suppose a flanker is a cheaper option for a company in that they don’t have to go after trademarks for it, and they consider marketing already half accomplished by the original. But most flankers are dross, that’s the catch these folks don’t seem to get! But then, with all the cost-cutting and ingredient cutting going on in the last few years, most releases are total dross anyway, so, sigh…here’s to vintage collections!

    • Nava says:

      OMG, it’s so depressing to see it spelled out like that. You’re probably right. That makes it all the more inspiring when I smell something halfway decent in a department store.

      I’m usually a pretty big niche snob, but admittedly I’m a neophyte when it comes to vintage scents. I must work on changing that.

      • Masha says:

        Yes, I’m planning to try some of the Irma Shorell line soon, I know Mr. Dame uses the authentic formulae for some of the scents from the 50s and 60s, and he’s not bound by IFRA restrictions, either!:d If anyone has tried some, let me know!

  • Louise says:

    I dunno…I kind of like the idea of a bonfire, used to toast marshmellows for s’mores…:d/

    That Essence was a trickster for sure. I really thought I like it (I do like all the For Her and musk things).

    But, nice for a second, and then Boom o’Meh.

    I must give up hoping for dept. store quality…I’ve only been happy with my Guess Gold in recent years 😮

    Happy Friday, all 😡

    • Nava says:

      Stay tuned for my next post. I found a few department store gems that knocked my socks off. At least for the time being. 🙂