Monday, May 16, 2011

Fragrance of the Moment

One of the great olfactory feats of the pre-turn of the millenium that turned an anisic accord into a starring role, with a hypersweet overdose of liqueur-like intensity, this 1998 bestseller went where even Dior Hypnotic Poison wouldn't go. Its sweetness and intensity so piercing, the only sensation I could aptly compare it to would be Sambuca liqueur, which tastes like licorice-infused rocket fuel. Beautifully packaged in a now-iconic apple-shaped flacon, and originally marketed through an ad campaign greatly resembling that of Anjou's Devastating perfume whereby a female figure is seen lying in the forest, the "temptation" theme is complete with hues of an enchanted forest, of purple (flacon), green (box) and gold (cap). It has been reintroduced time and time again in limited edition presentations such as “Star Dusts” (2005); in the miniature perfume collectors' world, Lolita Lempicka minis were sold in a myriad of styles such as a royal carriage theme. Upon beholding these little temptations unto themselves, it's difficult not to squeal very quietly under one's breath, "kawaii!!" before doing an about face, to go pine away in private lest one feels tempted too much.

But the longstanding success of Lolita Lempicka has everything to do with the actual scent along with its memorable combination of packaging (visual) and name (auditory). The true temptation is the substance within, the aroma at once comforting / familiar, and jarring. Perhaps a hypersweet Gourmand (Woody Oriental) is to fragrance wearers what the electric guitar is to music listeners; some people will never take to it, as it feels too foreign, unnatural and wrong.

Yet, the fauvist sweetness of Lolita Lempicka elicits comments from cab drivers in the city when I wear it, even in small doses.

"What is that perfume you are wearing?"

"LL. Do you want me to crack the window?"

"No, it's very pleasant."

I have recognized Lolita Lempicka on someone at a Brooklyn restaurant where a classical pianist plays through the dinner hours - a fancy dig for sure - and thought there is no nicer perfume to meld with food aromas than the Sambuca-like LL. There are many reasons why people can't tolerate the Gourmand, especially of this challenging level, but just because a creation is full-bodied, complex and strong, it doesn't have to wear you. You can always be judiciously calculating as to the amount you will wear, and the sillage you will project. Tip: Ask a friend if (s)he thinks it's too much.

The sugary, hydrogenated corn syrupy sweetness, like the bone-crushing sound of an electric guitar maxed out on distortion, goes through me, making me feel immaterial and light. But then, the heavy, wooded-ambery base notes provide a bottom to sink one's teeth into - a real "bottom" to the rhythm of my personal sillage space, pumping, pulsating, edgy and alive. With Lolita Lempicka, I'm reminded once more that a great perfume creation is one which meets both cerebral and physical needs, the pleasure of wearing fragrance derived from that perfectly integrated whole.