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

  • Jennifer says:

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

    • March says:

      Ugh. Over my line. Seriously. Sira des Indes makes me feel like I stepped in something and need to go change my shoes. In its defense: I think I’m a Skank Magnifier. I mean, I like ripe smells (thank goodness) but if it’s in there, I’m featuring it. So that might be a perfectly reasonable fragrance on other people.

      PS Have you tried Mona di Orio’s Nuit Noire? Heh heh. I ran across my decant the other day. That’ll put fear into the hoi polloi.

  • Solander says:

    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”.

    • March says:

      That’s an interesting perspective on Merveilles — I’d say skin chemistry? (Hey, take with a grain of salt the opinion of a woman who can’t spell the name of the frag correctly, as I have just realized, reading your comment.);)

      I’d say, have hope. It doesn’t smell a thing like Merveilles — I was just trying to give comparative weights, so to speak, because commenters are always wondering how relatively strong something is (a reasonable question) and it’s a hard thing to gauge. (Hey, I spelled gauge right, anyway.) You might hate Courtesan, but it won’t be because it reminds you of EdM.

      Still pondering your feelings about EdM. That’s a great description, by the way. It’s a very strange fragrance, and I get your whole “bitter” idea, I can see what you’re saying, only it doesn’t smell perfume-y to me. Some element must be going all wrong on your skin. Also interesting: the chief beef among perfumistas, I’d say, is EdM is too “light” — hence PdM, which to me sort of defeats the entire point of EdM. If that makes sense. Have you tried that or Elixir?

  • Abigail says:

    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.

    • March says:

      Florence was not so nice on me. There’s something in there (rose?) that was not working for me. Stella was a lot better, though. And I like Touch, too.

      • Abigail says:

        I bought the sample only because of a comment on LuckyScent that said something along the lines of guys wanting all women to smell like that.

        So I put it on, sniffed it, felt puzzled, harassed poor long suffering husband and instead of the expected “It smells like…perfume?” I got “Mmmmm…if all women could smell like that it would be WONDERFUL.”


    • Maria says:

      Abigail, congratulations! On the day you announced your upcoming nuptials I was having blogging problems, but I was wishing you happiness.

      • Abigail says:

        Thank you!!

        The rain held off for our outdoor wedding and I like to think that it was everyone’s well wishes that did the trick.

    • March says:

      I forgot to ask — what fragrance did you wear?!?

  • Lee says:

    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?

    • March says:

      That was her! And it IS nice on me. Even the Cheese likes it, and he doesn’t comment on much (unless it’s to ask me not to wear it again.) I’m wearing it right now, as a matter of fact, to try and divert my mind from a terrible layering accident.

  • Robin says:

    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?

    • March says:

      Because I am the first person on our soil to recognize its genius?

      Because everyone else hates it and they’re trying to figure out how to quietly pull the plug?

      Well, as you said once to me, I have an odd hunch that you’ll know soon how you feel about it.

  • tmp00 says:

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

    • March says:

      Like Barney, I want you to use your imagination and think of what I came up with, reading that comment.

      And actually, I think this would smell smokin’ hot on you.

      • tmp00 says:

        it took me about three reads of that before it finally hit me. Thank god I’m in a private office- and I had swalloed that mouthful of Diet Coke. =))

        • March says:

          Well, obviously you know how I read it on the first read — I thought it was a bit fresh, even for you!;)

          • pitbull friend says:

            Oh, thank goodness I wasn’t the only one who read that! Sometimes one does worry about one’s own thought patterns! 😮 –Ellen

          • Judith says:

            I thought he meant it that way.:”>

          • March says:

            Well, Tom, I guess it’s official — you’re the blog pervert. Where’s my bondage emoticon?

  • violetnoir says:

    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! 😉


  • pitbull friend says:

    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

    • Abigail says:

      Ellen – I can’t imagine what a Tauer grilled fruit would smell like. Dry? Indolent? Sexy? Lonestar Memories has just the perfect amount of smoke…what would a pineapple cowboy smell like?


      • Maria says:

        A Hawaiian cowboy? :d No, really, gals, I don’t think Andy is going to go for using pineapples or any other fruit soon. Notice I didn’t say “ever.” That would be a foolish thing to say.

      • pitbull friend says:

        But don’t you think that “Pineapple Cowboy” is an awesome name for a perfume? Or maybe a drink?

        Just popped over to Abigail’s blog & saw that both of them wore Tauer L’Air du Desert Marocain for the wedding. Gorgeous! –Ellen

  • Patty says:

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

  • donanicola says:

    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!

    • March says:

      Unless I’m searching wrong, I didn’t see a single bottle on fleaBay, not even worldwide. Nobody but me likes this? Ah, well, it’s happened before…

      • donanicola says:

        Heh March I just tried it! My local dept store in the City had it – how lucky I feel right now. I definately get the cumin pretty much straight off but after about 15 mins the scent does disappear on me which is a shame because I like it. Will perservere and try another day on another part of my arm or something. Now, I could get a bottle or two for you? Patty will have my email through Frag Frips if yopu want to contact me. Nicola.

  • Marina says:

    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!!:”>

    • March says:

      Hah hah! No, no! I’m very sorry, but clearly there’s a reason I ended up with the bottle (fate? destiny? The Big Flacon In the Sky?), and if I shared with you, well, someone might figure out that I gave you some. And you might blog on it. So sorry, no. Neener neener neener.

      PS You’ve got mail.

  • Elle says:

    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.

    • March says:

      You could have KILLED me when I read that list. There’s part of me that’s still a little skeered that I’m going to wake up a month from now and realize I’m a complete dunderhead about this one.

      I need you to try it, FT, and tell me what happens.

  • Judith says:

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

    • March says:

      Well, you’ll know soon enough, won’t you?;) I’m looking forward to hearing your reaction.

      • Judith says:

        By an amazing coincidence, I just got some of this to try. And on me it is. . . .skanky fruit– or fruity skank! With some salt on the side. I like it. I definitely get some fruit, though I wouldn’t be able to identify what kind–and it’s not yucky fruit as in most modern perfumes. Rather, it’s a more old-fashioned fruit, with a healthy dose of skank and salt. Towards the beginning, it came near being too sweet for me, but it never made it, and then it backed off. I like it very much, although I can’t say (yet) that I love it!

        • Judith says:

          Ooooo–I am liking this better and better as it goes on. Really great! (not a drop of powder on me either)

          • March says:



            It’s not easy being first off the ledge, you know?

            Well, I’ve sent this out around and about, so I’m hoping for more feedback.

            BTW I can’t believe you got yours so fast!

  • Louise says:

    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…

    • March says:

      I’m glad to hear the skank crept back! Although you are really scaring me with your Teint comparison b-(

      I am going to pretend I didn’t read that comparison, in fact.>:)

      Seriously, I didn’t get powder. But it was a bit dull without the skank.

      • Louise says:

        Definite powder-which I don’t hate, but didn’t work at all with this one.

        • Maria says:

          Thank you, Louise, for trying Courtesan, and thank you, March, for giving her some to try and for mentioning the results. I already have too many fragrances on my to-try list. BTW, fourteen hours after putting on Fig-Tea eau fraiche I’m still fragrant with it. What interesting body chemistry. 😕

          • March says:

            That Fig thing is amazing — I mean, I generally don’t have lasting power issues anyway, but for something as light and friendly as it is, it really lasts.