The Smell of a Star

I was enjoying the group diss of Danielle Steel´s new fragrance on Scentzilla and Perfume-Smellin´ Things, when I got to thinking: are there any celebrity scents I really like? For the purposes of today´s post I´m not counting scents released as brand extensions by fashion houses like Juicy Couture or Betsey Johnson; I´m talking scents by people who have nothing other than their own name to offer. I decided to do this off the top of my head, so tell me what I´ve missed.

– a shining example of a perfect celebrity scent. I have no idea why Alan Cumming wanted his own fragrance, but he hired Christopher Brosius to come up with a stunning, weird, wearable mélange: (lifted from his website) “leather, peat fire, highland mud, burnt rubber and white truffle ground the scent with rugged sensuality, while the core notes of cigar, heather, Douglas fir and rubber contribute to its sharpness. The fragrance is completed with spicy top notes of bergamot, black pepper, Scotch pine and whiskey.” I love this thing. I´ve heard it described as a winter comfort scent, but to me it has the aura of sex with drunken, debauched men, an interest Alan and I share in theory if not in practice. If you click through, you can watch Alan prance around wearing eye makeup and nothing else in his hilariously salacious video. Bonus: ancillary skincare products (Cumming in a Bar, Cumming All Over, etc.)

With Love … Hilary Duff. Notes (via Sephora) are: Mangosteen Fruit, Exotic Spice Blend, Chai Latte, Mangosteen Blossoms, Cocobolo Wood, Amber Milk, Amber Musk, Balsam, Incense. I was startled by the scent chosen for this teen queen´s debut – a rich, nutty, milky comfort scent rather than the fruit cocktail you´d pretty much expect. I like it so much I figured it´d be a flop with its target audience, which definitely isn´t me, but when I asked at pre-teen emporium Claire´s (where they have it on display) she told me it´s been a huge hit with the girls, although she admitted that, oddly, “a lot of women are buying it too.” When I finish off my generous sample, one of those women will be me. Excellent lasting power, and look at that pretty bottle. I was not surprised to see this on several fellow bloggers’ lists of winners in 2006.

The J. Lo oeuvre – go ahead, sue me. There are so many now I´d have to hit Macy´s (or the drugstore) to brush up, but I think my favorites are Miami Glow and Live. The truth is, though, it´s splitting hairs – they all smell like tanning oil on Miami Beach. (According to my local Macy’s and another mall shop, Live is their best seller in the line.) Genius perfumery? Nah. But fun.

SJP Lovely – Notes (via Nordstrom) are: lavender, orchid, amber, apple martini, paperwhites and musk. Okay, I can barely smell this. But the part I can smell is a nice, elegant musk that is surprisingly sugar-free when compared to the competition. She actually worked hard with the perfumers on this one, according to the articles I read when it came out. While it´s not something I´d necessarily pick to wear, I wouldn´t laugh at anyone else wearing it.

Ines de la Fressange
– okay, this is a bit of a stretch, because I´m not sure she´s a celebrity – I think she´s a French model and, for awhile, Karl Lagerfeld´s muse. Notes (via The Perfume Connection) are: blackcurrant, bergamot, white rose and lily of the valley, musk. I´ll be honest: I don´t know why I love this so much. It´s outside my usual range of perfumes in that it´s, let´s face it, a fruity-floral. However, the blackcurrant and musky drydown are charmingly bittersweet rather than cloying. I´m a bit puzzled because most of the websites show a squat, dull bottle; the one pictured here (from Sephora, which no longer carries it) reflects the loveliness of the juice.

Passion by Elizabeth Taylor
– Notes (via Perfumebay) are: Gardenia, Jasmine, Lily of the Valley, Ylang-Ylang, Rose, Musk, Indian Patchouli, Sandalwood, Incense, Cedarwood, and Moss. I´ve now accosted two Women of A Certain Age to ask what wonderful incense fragrance they were wearing, and both said Passion. It smells like hell on me, though; maybe my skin chemistry is wrong? Or maybe I need to buy a bottle and tuck it away for 30 years until I´m mature enough? I´ve never had the nerve to smell any of the rest of her line.

Kate Spade – okay, she does clothes now, but to me Kate Spade is bright, whimsical (and expensive) stationery, china, handbags and home products. Anyway, I think there were several scents: Kate Spade, Beauty, Classic Pearls, and Winter Blossom. Notes (swiped from eBay) are: honeysuckle, jasmine, gardenia, tuberose, and fresh muguet. The differences, if any, among the scents elude me; what I remember is an elevator-clearing ode to white flowers, particularly gardenia and muguet. It/they are all discontinued, so I guess sales were poor, but judging by the prices these things go for on eBay, the line has its hardcore followers. Did I love it? No, but I admired it. It was over the top — mean and green and different. When I went back to get some last year, it was gone.

And that´s … about it. So. Fess up, I´m not going to laugh – I mean, look at me with my J. Lo fetish. Do you have a celebrity scent secret addiction you´d like to share? Is there some fabulous, obvious thing I missed? Should I have included Carlos Santana?

  • March says:

    Cheez — okay, you’re right about the diva thing. I always love the “I only want the green M&Ms” routine (although maybe that’s Britney? or Courtney?)

    Come on, that booty may not be TALENT, precisely, but it’s still her gift to mankind…;))

  • March says:

    Katie — someone mentioned there’s a Passion lotion. Maybe that would ramp it down enough and/or give me the right incense note. I swear, it’s gorgeous on those women. Just not on me./:)

    I don’t want Jean Reno to love me. Run!

  • Cheezwiz says:

    March – my hatred of JLo is probably mostly irrational. I think it has to do with her total overexposure. She has no real talent that I can see other than marketing her name.

    She has also pulled some outrageous diva antics (I mean way beyond the pale of normal celebrity demands) which make me want to slap her silly every time I see her face plastered in a magazine.

    I am with you on wanting to see more curvy women in the media though.
    End of rant;)

  • Katie says:

    Heh, well you already know how I do love Cumming so…

    In Control has a distinct, and very well done caramelly note on me… but I just can’t stand it nevertheless. I shoved my wrist under my husband’s nose and asked him, what does this smell like to you, and he said, “I don’t know, it just smells really juevenille.” And yeah… that about hit the nail on the head for me, too. But you may as well sniff it sometime. I really don’t like it, but eh – I thought I’d try it just for fun, and that’s worth something I suppose.

    I can’t believe you mentioned Passion! For some reason it ALWAYS makes me think of Poison (old Poison.) The two are inexorably linked in my brain. I still like it, though, yeah, it’s a leeeettle too loud for me to really wear as well.

    The one celeb perfume I haven’t tried that I’m actually dying to sample is Jean Reno’s. I mean, it’s called “Jean Reno Loves You!” Yikes! Doesn’t that just sound scary!? So of course I have to smell it if I ever have the chance.

  • Lauren says:


    Thanks for clearing that up for me. The comments on Botrytis are, um, interesting.

    I’d love to try Cumming. I think he recently married his boyfriend!

  • March says:

    Flora — that is an excellent endorsement of what makes Ines so appealing — I should have contacted you to write the review!\:d/

    That Paloma — I love the way she smells, but I feel like I’m still not up to the drama.

    Somehow your description of WD makes me want to (cautiously) sniff it. What is wrong with me? What if it permanently fries my nasal cells?

  • March says:

    Ellen — that stuff wasn’t sexy-skanky to me — it smelled more or less like the air by a chicken farm. :-&

    Would it surprise you that your description of Botrytis has me wanting to retry it? I’m hoping for the pee part … it actually makes sense, I’d expect that from a wine fungus.

  • March says:

    Cheez — Alan is wildly sexy, although you’re right — he is definitely shopping the other side of the aisle.

    Why a JLo hater?!?!? I think she’s done some great music and (as a mother of three girls) I am insanely grateful that she looks the way she does. Not the sleazy part (although she’s certainly classed up a bit) — the curvy part.

    Yes, it was you, I believe, who suggested Ines to me.

  • Flora says:

    Oh, I just LOVE Ines de le Fressange – and it certainly is not a typical fruity-floral, it has a wonderful green fresh quality as well as not being too sweet. Plus it has iris, vetiver and patchouli, not usually found in those candy-sweet fruity frags. I just bought the big bottle to be my summer scent, as the smaller one I got last year went fast. I fear it is now discontinued so I will have to find another standby for summer at some point. I love it because it smells great no matter how hot it gets. A perfect summer perfume with NO aqueous notes, who could ask for more? BTW I bought it unsniffed for 2 reasons: I researched the notes extensively and I could not imagine it being bad; and I totally worship Ines herself for her taste and style, so how could she be behind a bad perfume? 🙂

    I have tried the Duff and it’s not bad, though the opening is better than the drydown, IMHO. Of course Paloma Picasso was one of the very first celeb frags and one of the very best fragrances ever, period, for those who love big fat walloping chypres (raises hand). I never could wear it myself as I was not old enough to be up to the challenge when it first came out, but I adore sniffing it even now. No teenagers need apply.

    The current crop of lightweights (Britney, Paris)made for teens and tweens all smell pretty alike, being sugary messes – the maven of all celebs, Elizabeth Taylor, did/does more grownup frags, but most are just too heavy and stifling. White Diamonds is by far the worst of all, and is on my top 10 list of worst crap ever foisted on the perfume-wearing public, right up there with Christian Lacroix’s C’est La Vie. WD smothers the wearer, and all within the same ZIP code, with a heavy, cloying, throat-catching miasma that makes me ill if I even catch a whiff. In my opinion, of course. :d

  • Ellen says:

    Wow, March. I mean, maybe you’re supposed to wear knee socks & a pleated skirt with L’Air de Rien — look all innocent while smelling like a skankstress?

    BTW, I’m not normally terribly offended by sweetness in perfumes, though I prefer green, woody, incense, etc. But Botrytis smelled to me exactly like the sun-warmed doorways of NYC when the street guys have been peeing there. Sweet, but not in a clean or pleasant way… Since I’ve never smelled anything else I’d describe that way, it could mean something. Or not…

  • Cheezwiz says:

    Oh that Alan is such a naughty little monkey! Even though he prefers the lads, I still think he’s sexy. Probably the accent (among other things) :d

    Hilary Duff’s been getting good press for her fragrance. Haven’t tried it – don’t think its up my alley, but bravo to whoever designed the bottle, as it’s very pretty.

    I confess that I quite like JLo’s Live fragrance, and I also love the bottle. But I will never buy it, because I loathe JLo and don’t one a penny of my money to wind up in her bank account.

    Glad others like Ines de La Fressange’s scent – I got this on deep discount, and I really enjoy wearing it.

  • March says:

    EvilP– I have to say, the drydown of Hil is what keeps me coming back. It manages to stick around without becoming irritating, and that can be a tricky spot to hit for me…

    let me know if you try Botrytis.

  • March says:

    Skye — thanks for de-lurking!!! We were all talking about the KISS scents months ago, I have no idea if they were released. I loved Paul Stanley… lessee, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley — wasn’t there another one? The pretty one…

  • March says:

    Elle — I would have LOVED to be part of the creative team: Cumming All Over, etc. How much fun was that? And that video!! I kept laughing, and then telling the girls, go away!!!

  • March says:

    Marina — PS — he is doing one, right? What happened to the KISS scents, anyway?

  • March says:

    Marina — no way?!?! You and me, sharing the JLo love … your secret is safe with me.:-$

  • evilpeony says:

    Favorite Jessica Simpson scents… lordy… >:)

    of the stuff on the list, ive only sniffed the Duff stuff (i just had a vision of Duffman spraying a maddening crowd with perfume) and Lovely. Of the 2, I prefer Lovely.

    That Botyris scent sounds intriguing… must try that soon. THanks Justine and March!

  • March says:

    Ellen — a great story!! I mean, have you SMELLED that thing?!?


    Innocent it is not. Waaaaay over my skank line.

  • March says:

    Lauren — Botrytis (the frag, not the fungus)is stocked by LuckyScent: “A lush autumnal fragrance inspired by the rich, honeyed sweetness of extraordinary Sauternes wines like the magnificent vintages of Chateau d’Yquem. Opulent, golden, voluptuous. A warm and velvety blend of honey, candied fruits, quince and pain d’epice that caresses the senses. Truly intoxicating.” I found it too sweet, but am now wanting to re-try having read it compared to In Control…

  • March says:

    Maria — like the IUNX waters! [-o<

  • Maria B. says:


    Of course you can layer the Dalai Lama scents. They are everything–and nothing. :d

  • March says:

    Maria — Hil used to be cuter but rumor has it she’s being starved and blonded down to blend in with the rest of the anorexic doll-heads.

    JLo — I think we have no fears there, body-wise.

    The Dalai Lama scents! Sort of a duo. Can you layer them?

  • March says:

    Robin — you and I have a little thing we share for Alan Cumming, if I remember correctly. He is just cute as a dirty little button.:x Am considering buying Cumming in a Bar just for the name.

  • March says:

    Flor — aHA!! Someone else likes La Duff!!!

    I should try the Passion in lotion, maybe that’s what I need…

  • March says:

    Justine — wow?!?! In Control smells like Botrytis?!?! Okay, I definitely have to smell it. I have the sweet-eating skin, it may work on me.

    I have not smelled Barbara Bui. Adding it to my list:-“

  • March says:

    Tigs — I don’t remember Debbie Gibson, but I do have a bottle of ! lurking around here somewhere from one of our blind swaps…

    Paul Newman would smell pretty hot. I just saw a frightening pic of Robert Redford in what looks like a bad hairpiece, though.

  • March says:

    Teri — glad to see someone else liked the Kate Spade. I was startled by how fast it disappeared from the stores. Not like big markdowns — it was just … gone.

    Go ahead, try the Cumming. It’s well worth it.

    • c says:

      Cumming is a Christopher Brosius invention. It is not like any other “celebrity scent” I have tried. It actually has class! :d

  • March says:

    Patty — next week — my favorite Jessica Simpson scents!!! Also, an entire week devoted to Jean Nate! After: my favorite veryverysweet dessert scents!

    Kill me now.

  • March says:

    Dinazad — don’t hide! I LIKE comments! I’m a comment junkie!:d

  • March says:

    Gail — someone else mentioned her fragrance as being quite good. I think she’s just gorgeous. I would hope her fragrance would live up to her beauty.

  • March says:

    Judith — p.s., I laughed SO HARD the first time I saw that video.

    Dinazad — oh, I’d like to smell Fred Astaire! I had a huge crush on him as a girl.

  • March says:

    Judith — I have never smelled Deneuve. I have heard it mentioned several times, though. It would not surprise me at all that it’s amazing. I mean, look at that woman.

  • March says:

    Chaya — hmmmmmm, I wonder what Morgan Freeman would look like?

    I’ve read rumors about AC’s after-hours life. I’m thinking he’s a Cumming type of guy. If you catch my drift.

  • March says:

    Sariah — ugh, I hated that Brulure thing. Two votes on the blog for BS In Control — how interesting. I’ll have to go back and smell it.

  • March says:

    Carmen — thank you for all that information! I had googled her image — what a gorgeous woman. She’s what I’d love to look like — chic and French.:”>

  • March says:

    Leopoldo — but I LOVE the mall!! I have a whole set routine — I drink a latte, eat one of those disgusting hot pretzels that leave me with greasy fingers, sniff in a certain route…

  • March says:

    Dinazad — looking at all these responses, I’m surprised there are (of course) a number of scents I’ve never heard of. /:)

  • Skye H. says:

    I love Cumming, both the scent and the actor! That video was quintescential Cumming. I really liked the Carlos Santana scents (the men’s version was my favorite), and my mother is a devout White Diamonds fan. It’s a very pretty scent and always reminds me of her. The notes are: Amazon Lily, Neroli, Aldehydes, Tuberose, Narcisse, Turkish Rose, Jasmine, Orris, Amber, Oakmoss, Patchouli, & Sandalwood. I have ben dying to try the KISS scents, has anyone here sampled them?

    Now back to my regularly scheduled lurking.

  • Elle says:

    Cumming is brilliant. Very hard to rave about the scent w/out laughing at myself over how it’s sounding…had to rephrase twice. And the video totally cracks me up.
    Am a big fan of Ines (the person), but somehow have failed to try her scent. Must remedy that.

  • Marina says:

    I agree with all of these, including the first J.Lo scents. I am waiting with baited breath for Marilyn Manson’s scent :d

  • Ellen says:

    Oh, Maria, you cutie! Your note about the Dalai Lama scents (a darn good idea, I might add) reminds me of something I’d been meaning to note here.

    A while back, folks were discussing the Jane Birkin L’Air de Rien (“Air of Nothing”) and what a good scam of a name that is. Well, I happened to mention it to a Strasbourgeois I know. He pointed out that for someone to have “l’air de rien” means “looking all innocent,” implying that one really isn’t.

    Puts a different spin on it, wouldn’t you say?

  • Lauren says:

    I should probably clarify my previous post: botrytis is grape vines is considered a good thing, apparently it leads to some very good wines!

  • Lauren says:


    This botrytis fragrance you mention… is that based is some way on the type of fungus that grape vines sometimes get?

  • Maria B. says:

    I was watching on a news show recently a segment about celebrities who have their own fashion lines. I could only recognize J. Lo. I wouldn’t be able to pick Hilary Duff out of a Hollywood lineup.

    How about His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Impermanence? It could be followed by HH the Dalai Lama’s Nothingness.

  • Robin says:

    Great picks! I keep hearing great things about the scents from Paloma Picasso & Isabella Rossellini, but haven’t tried them myself.

  • Flor says:

    I haven’t really smelled a lot of celeb perfumes. I like Hillary Duff a lot, actually. Normally it would be too sweet for me, but for some reason it works. I got one of those small roll-on thingies, which are really cute and practical. I’m thinking I’m going to buy a full bottle though because it is sooo gorgeous. I have no love for the rest, and I don’t think I’ve smelled most of them. If I have, they were quite forgettable. Well, I used to have ET Passion in cream form, it was good.

  • Justine says:

    Barbara Bui is my favorite. East to wear, it sgreat for when I just want to smell good. Often times I want to smell interesting (well, good too), something to distract me from my mundane work day.

    I love Brits In Control Curious, but I don’t wear it. It smells a lot like Botrytis, which has a huge following. Both scents are nice, but ultimately too darn sweet for my taste. Of course, if layered over MKK, they might work for me. I’ll have to give that a go…

  • Tigs says:

    I liked Hilary Duff also. The first celebrity perfume I ever tried was Debbie Gibson – remember that one? It was called Youth something or other (Electric Youth?) It smelled like Exclamation! if I remember correctly. Terrible, but not bad, if you know what I mean. But what the world really needs is Eau de Paul Newman. And he would donate the profits to charity too. Paul Newman for President!

  • Teri says:

    Happy to see some Kate Spade love….or at least admiration. I’m a huge fan of her leather goods and her fresh, brisk style with clean lines and a minimum of ‘doodads’ on her bags.

    I know exactly what you mean by that kick of green underpinning the florals in her fragrances. I, too, seesawed over buying one for months, and when I finally came down in favor of so doing, they had vanished from the stores.

    I’ll definitely want to give Cumming a try. Inside this business-suit-clad body, there’s a wildly unconventional woman dying to get out. 😉

  • Patty says:

    I am thinking you are coming unhinged, woman. 🙂

    But I do really like Cumming.

    I think Brad and Angelina should come out with a fragrance, it will be a cross between raw sex and Santa Maria.

  • dinazad says:

    Manifesto was great, I liked that too! And now I’ll shut up – been commenting here too much today…. sorry (hides face shyly)!

  • Gail S says:

    Manifesto by Isabella Rossellini. I might have been alone in this as it doesn’t seem to have stuck around long. As I recall, it smelled herbal, green and dry.

  • dinazad says:

    Eau de Morgan Freeman? I’d second that. And, having seen a documentation on classic musicals lately: if you could bottle the charm, grace, presence and most of all, the smiles of Messrs Astaire and Kelly, I’d buy that immediately. (So shun me, sue me… I’m an old-fashioned gal!)

  • Judith says:

    PS I LOVE the video!

  • Judith says:

    Big snob here. I like Cumming. Best celeb fragrance? Deneuve.

  • chayaruchama says:


    PLEEZ create an “Eau de Morgan Freeman” for me…
    And I’ll create an “Eau de Anderson” for you.
    Deal ?

  • sariah says:

    Yesterday I was testing Bruleur de Rose (sp?), by Parfumerie Generale, my notes say “burnt sugar layered over dry woods, could be a Spears”. I was not impressed. A women at work, who I can smell from outside of her cubicle, wears the Curious, or Curious in Control, not sure which – a very strong woody vanilla base. As much as I would like to slam it – it smells really good on her.

    Love that Cumming commercial.

  • carmencanada says:

    I’m with Lee on this one: can’t be bothered with mall scents (but then I admit it: I’m a snob). Just a technicality: Ines de la Fressange, after her dismissal from the house of Chanel for having accepted to pose for the bust of Marianne (the symbol of the French Revolution, which was inadmissibly plebeian for the aristocratic Karl), she became a fashion designer, and her scent was launched in that context. She is indeed quite famous in France and still rates the cover of Paris-Match: she’s lovely, funny, self-confident and witty, the quintessential Parisienne. Her brand, sadly, was bought out and she was fired.

  • Leopoldo says:

    Slap me down for snobbery, but I only think I’ve smelled Lovely out of all these (and that might be the only celeb scent I’ve sniffed). I’ve wanted to sniff Cumming for quite some time, but it ain’t available here.

    This isn’t deliberate sleb-avoidance. It’s more mall / dept. store avoidance. For, in spite of my love of frags, I hate/detest/loathe shopping unless it’s a VERY special occasion (the souk in Marrakech, the Marais in Paris, that kind of thing…). Put it down to irredeemable misanthropy if you wish…

  • dinazad says:

    Stephanie by Bourjois. Named after Stephanie of Monaco it came in a bottle which mirrored the draped, wide-shouldered dresses she favoured at the time, and it smelled of spices and vanilla – edgier than Chopard’s Casmir (which came later). When it was discontinued I embarked on a search for a substitute, and that’s what finally drove me to fragrance addiction (I have a much-cherished bottle, and it’s still as gorgeous as I remember. Could last longer, though). I agree on SPJ Lovely – a lovely, elegant scent indeed!