Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Estee Lauder Sensuous: fragrance review

The scent of Sensuous is rather clever, even if not particularly ground-breaking, balancing all the ingredients and chords in an effect that would make you feel, like one reviewer said, "the victim of your own fragrance snobbery." We tend to bypass mainstream releases in favor of niche, and yet there are some mainstream releases which make us wonder what we have been neglecting, or viewing with unwarranted contempt, and Sensuous is one of those scents.


Sensuous in 2008 was moving the boundaries from already well known Estee Lauder floral notes towards an opulent oriental woodsy-amber concept, to praise the beauty and sensuality of women all ages. The fragrance was created in cooperation with the nose Annie Buzantian of Firmenich, who composed it of sensual lily notes, magnolia and jasmine petals in the top. The heart brings aromas of molten wood and amber, while the base introduces sandalwood, black pepper, juicy mandarin pulp and honey.

Lightly spicy and quite creamy, the original Sensuous gives me a warm, soft, just right impression of lightly scented skin, in a way paying homage to the creations of Lutens (though less spicy-sweet), but also winking in the direction of Tom Ford's personal favorite Santal Blush, which is also a very creamy and smooth skin scent if you let it dry down. The sandalwood is what is most prominent on my skin, totally a creative attempt at giving that old mainstay of perfumery a valiant effort, but quite effective and very indulgent; it's skin-like at the same time as it's clean and polished, perhaps with a distant whiff of smokiness in the background.

The advertising campaign for the original Sensuous was actually talking about "molten woods", which is as good a term as any fantasy line, I guess, to capture that titillating balance between straight-faced earnestness and blurted out seductiveness. People still pick perfume in order to appear more alluring, there's no use in denying it. So Lauder embraced it, but in a quite classy and clever way, which should teach the market a lesson or two.

The way to do that was to employ several different spokes models (actually two well-known actresses, the pleasantly mature and established Liz Hurley and the not-so-ridiculed-on-U.S-soil Gwyneth Paltrow; and two supermodels, Carolyn Murphy and Hilary Rhoda), dressed in an identical white man's shirt in various stages of decency. The move is clever in a double whammy way: men's shirts, as worn by women, not only offer a morning-after visual code that the public has been conditioned to interpret in exactly this way thanks to endless movies utilizing the trope, but also an androgynous way to borrow the "better" qualities of the masculine gender in the public perception and stereotyping, i.e. self-confidence, assertive disposition, a devil-may-care regard for others' responses. So in one single decision, Lauder and their creative directors managed to appeal to a woman who is both strong enough to not care about men's weighing of her value, but also attractive enough to have men in her life in a sexual way.

The next installment in the Sensuous line came in September 2010, more fittingly season-wise, in the countdown to Christmas. Sensuous Noir is indeed a rather dark fragrance and my personal favorite in the triptych.

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