Although No.4 by Jil Sander comes nowhere near the novelty of Maxwell's laws of electrodynamics, it is despite its in the wings presence rather memorable to me both for its expansive radius of spicy oriental scent and the fact that its relative success condoned an infamous scented catastrophe just one year later, Spellbound by Estee Lauder (1991). But whereas you'd have to dig a moat around the house that kept a bottle of Spellbound (even in a remote drawer, under lock and key in a wooden box), Jil Sander No.4, although a characteristic 1980s-style powerhouse that would challenge the best of the lot in radiance, thrived on a somewhat less carnivorous attitude, This is exactly what makes it worthwhile of rediscovering it nowadays that we crave more flesh-eating perfumes after a prolonged 20 year-lasting perfume diet of either strict veganism or one for severe hypoglycemia. It's a the Lana del Ray effect: there's something trashy retro about her, but refreshingly different from the average pop singer too which makes it very "now and happening".
|Tomb of Talma by Helmut Newton, Pere Lachaise cemetary Paris 1977, via Pinterest|
Coming out in 1990, No.4 by Jil Sander had both accumulated the gist of the big orientals that dominated the decade of carnage (and emulated their core elements), such as YSL Opium, CK Obsession, Dior Poison and to a lesser degree Cinnabar and Cacharel Loulou, but had also devised a way to give an impression of quiet animalism, an aura of worn elegance that was antithetical to the distance that the quarterback shoulder pads of these fragrances evoked at the same time.
It's utterly meaningless to try to differentiate "notes" in this perfume, as the weaving of each thread in this complex macramé is so intricate and complex that it would be more of an exercise in author's vanity than an actual helpful breakdown. The notes read like there's everything and the kitchen sink in it. It'd be much more practical to say that No.4 by Jil Sander is warm, perceptibly spicy with anise and what I sense as clove-coriander (a whiff of pomander), with a tuberose heart winking to Poison's direction. And more importantly it has the sort of oriental base that characterizes big 1980s classics: big, proud, Amazonian, sounding its barbaric yawp over the rooftops of the world.
If you like that sort of nyctophyliac thing, you will like this sort of thing, but it's worth keeping in mind these are bombastic perfumes worthy of a mini Katrina in radius; be sparing and considerate of your fellow human beings when applying, don't ambush them in the morning train to work.
If you enjoy anise and clove orientals but want something more contemporary (with a much higher price tag), you can look into Noir Epices by Frederic Malle for an alternative. If you'd rather settle for the under-appreciated underdog, No.4 can be found online for a decent price.
I have a vintage boxed miniature to share with a lucky reader. Please comment below this post with your impressions/opinions/questions to enter the draw. Draw is open internationally till Sunday midnight and winner will be announced some time on Monday.
Notes for Jil Sander No.4:
Top: geranium, peach, bergamot, plum, anise
Heart: rose, violet, jasmine, tuberose, heliotrope, ylang ylang, coriander
Base: amber, sandalwood, oakmoss, patchouli, vanilla, musk, civet, cedar, tonka bean.
Related reading on PerfumeShrine:
Underrated Perfume Day (reviews of forgotten fragrances),
Oriental Perfume Basics.