Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sign of the Times (and a Little Rant)

When reading upon perfume boards one comes across an involved discussion by numerous perfume lovers about fragrances that could be aptly described by the rather ghastly term "fruitchouli", you realise that something is quite rotten in the kingdom of Perfumistadom! You might expect Tina Turner to get out the saxophones and break into "We don't need another hero fruitchouli" (beyond Thunderdom) and if you feel that way I can't blame you; who can? Three quarters of the market (at least the mainstream sector, but not exclusively) are inundated by the plague of fruitchoulis that walked the path that Angel paved and later Narciso Rodriguez diverted a bit. Talk about a snowball. But let's start at the top!

The very term "fruitchouli" was coined by an undentified perfume lover Mbanderson61, exasperated by the abysmall unoriginality that the fragrance market displays for some years now, churning out a flood of releases that mimic each other in a frenzied pace. The two main elements seem to be sweet fruity notes (a sad remnant of the anemic 90s where pastel fruits were left to substantiate "airy" or "watery" notes) and the newly refound note of patchouli, buffed and sanitized out of its hippy references and ready for its close-up, mr. De Mille. Hence the brilliance of the coinage of "fruitchouli"! It's surpemely evocative of the current trend.

Personally I would differentiate between the archetypal Angel and its clones/upstarts/homages (Angel Innocent, CK Euphoria, Coco Mademoiselle, Lolita Lempicka, Flowerbomb, Prada, Cacharel Liberté, Miracle Forever, Hypnôse and Hypnôse Senses, Nuits de Noho, Coromandel, New Haarlem...) and some other popular fragrances with patchouli, a family inaugurated by Narciso For Her (namely Lovely, Midnight Poison, YSL Elle, Gucci by Gucci, Chypre Fatal, Citizen Queen, Lady Vengeance, Perles de Lalique, Agent Provocateur...).
I would classify the former into gourmand orientals ~they're generally quite sweet and the fruitiness is more distinct, often underlined with vanilla/caramel/marshmallow/foody notes etc. The latter I would classify into floral woodies/"nouveau chypres" (technically the "new pink chypre" genre IS a floral woody; patchouli & vetiver base is considered a woody base). Michael Edwards classifies them in a seperate family within chypres (mossy woods) as well.

Making a conscious effort to sample and think about several new releases lately, I found myself bored beyond belief at the sameness encountered and my reluctancy to even bother putting a few words together for the benefit of the casual reader searching for opinions on the latest; such was the disappointment and ennui. From the uniform look, uniform style of the new Anthology line by Dolce & Gabbana to the inoffesive lappings of sweet nothings of Ricci Ricci (pity, the bottle is fabulous!) to the vinyl and "flat" rosechouli of the new Parisienne, all the way through the generic Idole d'Armani, I didn't feel myself moved beyond a cursory spray or two. When you have dedicated a personal site to fragrances and are writing on them professionally as well, this does forebode very gravely...
It's not the lack of artistry or technique in the execution of an idea, as some releases are competent. It's the idea itself that has become mundane, tired, overdone, vulgar; even though it seemed like a nice concept all those years ago! Like waking up in some Heaven where all the girls and boys look like Grace Kelly and David Beckham with a perpetual smile on their faces and delicious macrobiotic 4-course food is served at 12 sharp by white-gloved valets. After a while you just long to bring a scruffy Johny Depp and his Nabisco saltine crackers in bed, don't you!

Perhaps the most brilliant suggestion and new term/classification proposed comes from Perfume of Life's long-time member Mando who exclaims humorously (and expectantly): "I think the next wave should be "bootichouli" - chypres heavy with civet accents". If Beyoncé and Jennifer Lopez have bootylicious down pat and Kim Kardashian is famous for her derrière as well, then let's all pray that "bootichouli" can be the new trend in fragrances. Why not? It does present some technical problems, as civet is not exactly the most easy or ethical essence to harvest, but in an age where everything can be replicated in the lab using nano-technology-this and infra-technology-that, the illusion becomes much more of a reality (And there is already synthetic civetone). But that's besides the point really: The point is enough is enough! There is a ripe audience for a skanky new genre and we're cornering an increasing share of the market. Please hear us roar!

Art: Baloon Dog by Jeff Koons via flavorpill and
photo by Jemima Stelhi via


  1. Lovely rant. :)
    Btw, the bootichouli idea actually sounds like it could be fun to smell.

  2. Mike Perez14:59


    Honestly, I had never heard of the term fruitchouli before. Would you say that Idylle by Guerlain falls into this category (with it's similarities to Narciso Rodriguez for Him)?

  3. OMG, E, you really nailed it. I laughed all through this post, tho' it is a sad state of affairs. I second Mando's call for a new wave of bootichoulis. Wouldn't Tabu be the model for that?

  4. Hahaha, a perfect rant to note style that has taken over. I am so sick of fruitichoulis; while I admit I have a few (hey some are technically good) I rather sick it being the only scent around.

  5. Anonymous15:28

    More skank: yes, please! I would think that Bal a Versailles would be more of a model than Tabu. I happen to be wearing Tabu today, and at least on my skin there is a medicinal/Coca-Cola top note and then a lot of spice, but nothing animalic. Of course, your results may differ!

  6. Ines,

    thanks, I really really believe the bootichouli idea has potential!! I'd love them to become a trend :-)

  7. Mike,

    LOL, it's something that the girls over at Posse and Denyse use because a perfumista mentioned it at some point and it caught on, I guess. It's not a proper term, just casual parlance amongst ourselves.
    Oh yes, Idylle is an example.
    Like I said some are more competent than others. And some less.

  8. M,

    glad you had a laugh, Mando had me in stiches when he mentioned it (with his usual pizzaz style and tongue in cheek humour).
    Let's parade for the bootichouli! I will take this further, let's pose for the bootichouli! (have junk in the trunk and all that)
    Tabu would be good, Bal a Versailles even better, as would Parfum de Peau and there is already Gucci EDP (the brown one, did they discontinue it? Typical....)

  9. J,

    yeah, when something takes the market by storm it reminds me of the advent of private and satellite TV: How to decide what to watch when 100 channels broadcast the same style shows? You long for the days when all you had to choose from were three state channels.

    Some are quite indeed nicely constructed, the arch-examples being modern classics!

  10. Patty,

    thanks! I think you're getting something which I had always captured in Youth Dew: the Coca Cola effect. It's there in Tabu as well, now you mention it. It's rather cleaner than Bal a Versailles (which I LOVE in EDC which is, less admit, none too polite).
    Gorgeous bootichoulis, reveal yourselves!!

  11. Helg,
    Reminds me of when certain ingredients take over in food trends, ex. Chipotle and Bacon. While I love both of these I don't want them in everything.

  12. Good thing I had already finished my tea this morning, or it would have been all over the keyboard!

    I am really not fond of patchouli and seem to be rather sensitive to it - in that it seems to jump out at me, even when present in small amounts. Needless to say, Angel and its descendants, and NR For Her and its ilk did not capture me.

    However, I absolutely adore Citizen Queen, which did not seem even remotely chypre-ish to me, but a naughty rose leather that seems far more closely related to Bal a Versailles. I wear either one when I am, ahem, In The Mood (Scruffy Johnny or not!).

  13. Jen,

    perfect analogy!!
    I think things are cyclical in general: something becomes all the rage and then cools off for the next to come along (remember when it was Pilates all too recently or legwarmers when Fame first came out?)
    I wonder which are the fragrances out of the genre you genuinely love! (I have expressed my own love for Narciso, Innocent and Lolita Lempicka I think)

  14. Mals,

    LOL, glad you got a kick out of this!

    Patchouli is rendered unrecognisable sometimes nowadays. And sometimes it's maxed out in all its glory (thinking about Borneo); not always easy to get along with.
    Personally I like it a lot but I can see how people have trouble with it.
    Citizen Queen is quite nice, very true! I get a woodier vibe than you, perhasp not a typical leather, but a very nice rose, eh? (I also like Lady Vengeance, but that's a rosechouli, LOL!)

  15. Oh hell yeah, bring on that bootichouli! I adore patchouli and civet, so that would be heaven! Knowing that synthetic civet exists, when will this "clean" trend end and that era of skank be ushered in???

  16. Bring ON the bootichouli! Where do I sign up!? You made me laugh with "there is a ripe audience..." yes, ripe indeed. I share your love for Bal, btw. I have a quasi-mannered parfum and a *ridiculously* skanky EdC, as if someone's hand had slipped while making it. And I find fruitchoulis less annoying, personally, than those ... sweet, gourmandy nothings exemplified by Mariah Cary M, the Gwen Stefanis, and half the shelf at Sephora.

  17. I am fascinated by what Yuri Gutsatz (Le Jardin Retrouver) had to say on the subject of disharmony in perfumes, and I blogged about it today. Have you tried any of his fragrances?

    BTW I linked to your post.

  18. Helg,
    I admit I actually admire quite a few Narciso Rodriguez edt, Lovely, Coco Madamoiselle pure parfum. Interesting you mention Lolita Lempicka, I get absolutely no patchouli from it rather a smokey vetiver and vanilla come out on me.

  19. Jared,

    you got me there, I don't know, but I can only sign the petition!! Thanks for your enthusiasm, if we're passionate it might work ;-)

  20. March,

    oh, yeah I liked the double entendre of "ripe" (made me inwardly giggle a bit) and there, you liked it too!

    Seriously, let's make a petition for "bootichouli"! I have something in mind, in collaboration with someone which I will reveal in a short while, which might be tons of fun and would need your word of mouth.

    And as to those hyper-sweet things....pleeeeze, let's not even utter their names, I get so depressed. (Yes, some of the fruitichoulis can be quite nice in comparison)

  21. Karin,

    thanks for the link! Appreciated :-)
    I haven't had the pleasure of knowing mr. Yuri Gutsatz so I will certainly pop over to see what you think. I'm sure you did justice.

  22. J,

    I quite love Narciso (and Lovely is indeed lovely, although it does remind me of Narciso too much for it to get a unique slot in my mind, but I wear it sometimes so that says something, eh?)
    The one I have always had trouble with is CMlle and because I understand that it is a huge hit, I have tried very hard to come to terms with it, but it never worked. Something alienates me in it, which ~I know~ doesn't speak exactly highly of my social intergration skills (Surely if millions of people love it, they know something I don't? Anyway...)

    Lolita is neither too much patchouli to me, sorry if it came across as I meant that; to me it's all about liqorice and a dark woody vibe. But it is a progeny of Angel, even if it stands apart and this is why I included it (In the category of homage, more than imitator). Funny how perception is often what shapes our physical experience.

  23. This is a CLASSIC! Another one for the book for sure. Hmm... all of the sections in the book had "P" titles - perfumes, places, past. So would this be under Protests? Peeves?

    The bean counters can't hear us roar over the clink, clink, clink of the beans.

  24. Anonymous01:33

    hello, i'm meg
    i surfed to find Dior's sketch and then encountered this page.
    your article is really exciting.
    thank you for interesting knowledge.

  25. I'm with you on this one E!

    Sick, sick, sick of patchouli! Doesn't help that fragrances with this as a base end up caramelising on me.

    An eloquent rant!

  26. Donna,

    you're enabling! P....yes, I haven't forgotten. :-)
    Alas, you're right about the click of the beans....Maybe we should "roar" with our butts!! :P

  27. Hi Meg and welcome! Nice to see you here.
    Thanks for commenting and glad you liked it! It's a little of an inside joke but also a protest against the uniformity of the market, so I hope it rings a bell for many.

  28. L,

    LOL, it seems like a lot of people have trouble with those bases, eh? I think the trouble is that those patchouli-scents often have that helping of too calorific toppings (It starts sounding like a recipe, doesn't it?), so it's only natural it ends up smelling too sweet.

    Personally I rather like patchouli in ITSELF or in a "soli-leaf" composition (shall we say, since it's not a flower to say soliflore), and in several classics as well, but when everything ends up smelling the same because of those same bases, I get more than a little annoyed...

  29. Bootichouli! Yeeesss!

    If more things smelled like Bal, I guess I'd just be in heaven.

    I think at this point I'd have to say that, with new releases, the more glossy supermodel-featuring soft-porn-full-page ads there are in the F-mags, the worse the juice.

    IMHO Prolux did a halfway decent job with the new Bal (although it's certainly not the vintage, for sure) and if they can do that and sell the stuff for $25, then all of the big companies could try for a bootichouli.

    Actually, I'm sort of fascinated with Coromandel at the moment, though.

  30. P,

    by all means, it would be simply marvellous if more followed the Prolux example and produce such fragrances: I don't see why it can't be done. Then again, there might be some sociological reasons, which is something I want to focus on a seperate post with some thoughts I have.

    Ah, I didn't mean to dish all fruitchoulis, though! I like Coromandel :-) (But I think I love Borneo more?)

  31. ... after your description of heaven, I want to go to hell. Sounds much more interesting.

  32. Hell always is... *evil grin*


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