According to the Lancôme website, the company “has appointed some of the greatest contemporary perfumers to pay homage to Lancôme’s founder, Armand Petitjean. The result is Maison Lancôme, a new collection of fragrances that so exquisitely touch upon and carry on Petitjean’s dream, and the essence of the House itself.”
That’s all fine and dandy, but I don’t care if Petitjean’s essence is handed out at Saks by a band of angels who are also giving free foot-rubs, I’m not stopping by, because Lancôme fragrances, ugh, they’re the worst. Except for my tiny four-bottle vintage set (Sikkim, Climat, etc.) I don’t own any Lancôme fragrances; to me they often smell plasticky and sour at the same time, the scent of air freshener in the smokers’ bathroom.
So until recently the nicest thing I could have said about the Maison collection is: the bottles looked gorgeous in photos, and too bad they were Lancôme.
And then I saw them in Chicago and they looked even more gorgeous in person. Truly, those bottles are begging to sit atop my dresser next to some pearls and the keys to a swanky sports car. Looking over the collection of bottles on the counter, I passed on the three with oud in the name — for the love of pete, could we please move on from oud already?! The jasmine marzipan one was just okay; the tuberose one reminded me nothing’s as good as Carnal Flower. Lavande, no thanks… leaving me with two rose scents, Parfait de Rôses and Rôses Berberanza.
As you know if you’ve been reading the blog for awhile, I am not a big rose-perfume lover. Live roses, yes; rose scents, no. So these Maison roses ticked all the destined-for-failure boxes: a perfume note I dislike, from a line of perfumery I avoid. Of course that meant I had to try them, right? Right?
The Rôses Berberanza was comically awful on me – too sweet, with a base that was barnyard-like thanks to the oud they slipped in there. Even the SA made a face and said, “no.”
The Parfait de Rôses, however, is gorgeous. Done by Nathalie Lorson, it features roses, roses, pink pepper, more roses, a dab of vanilla, roses, and a wisp of incense and tolu balsam. They’re calling it a gourmand oriental: “Heady and sensual, this fruity floriental wraps us in a gourmand veil of irresistible sweetness.” Doesn’t that sound grim? It’s not. In French, parfait means perfect – but it’s also a frozen custard-like dessert made with cream, eggs and sugar, often with a fruit component. Parfait de Rôses has the same creamy softness without being overtly edible – the rose is jammy, the base vanillic rather than sugary, with a hint of fruit compote and a dash of pepper. Reviews on Fragrantica mention the smell of Turkish delight without the intense dusting of sugar; I’d say more like the smell of a rosewater-raspberry macaron sitting on a cashmere pillow.
When I was a girl, my no-nonsense, sensible-shoes-wearing mother packed me off to weekend matinees at the Kennedy Center. I don’t remember any discussion about it; it was just a thing she did, and just for me. I’d put on my best church dress and my patent leather shoes, and my father would drive me across the river into D.C., pull our old red VW bus up in front of the hulking mass of the Kennedy Center, and drop me off alone, which these days would probably earn you a visit from social services. It was always a show in the Opera House, always a box seat (!) and I’d sneak up there early so I’d snag one of the seats in front and not get stuck behind some grownup. Inside my small blue purse was a couple of dollars for a soda at intermission, some Kleenex and a cough drop or two.
Why do parents do the things they do? I wasn’t musical, or a budding aesthete. Even back then, a box seat ticket for a season must have been a fortune to them. I doubt either of my parents ever set foot in the Kennedy Center. I wish I could ask my mother why, all these decades later. I wish she’d gone. But she stayed home on the couch, drinking tea and reading, while I saw Baryshnikov dance and heard Yo-Yo Ma play the cello, among many amazing performances. I walked myself down the grand concourse of the Kennedy Center, into the hushed, red-carpeted splendor of the Opera House, and felt like royalty. I can still hear the gentle chimes calling us in to our seats. Then eventually I turned into a surly teenager and she started going blind and that was the end of it. I bet I never thanked her once. I wish I could thank her. I’m older now than she was then, and I wish I’d known what an extraordinary gift she was giving me.
I sprayed Parfait de Rôses all over my shirt so I could keep smelling it, and it’s still there a week later. If its scent were a color, it would be the deep, rose-red of the Opera House, and if I were going there again, I’d dab a little Parfait on my wrists and a little on a handkerchief—not too much, it’s a sillage beast – and I’d sit in a box seat and remember how when I was a girl my feet barely touched the ground, and then the lights would dim and the murmuring would fade away and I would feel that breathless magic again, waiting in the dark for the curtain to rise and for something wonderful to happen.