Monday, January 28, 2008

Estée Lauder Pleasures and Pleasures Intense

Until I bought this gift set for myself, I had never really smelled Pleasures, the original. I think I may have sniffed it briefly in a department store, but either it never had an impact because of the ubiquitous heavily perfumed air that surrounds cosmetic counters, or didn't have an impact. I might never have smelled Pleasures Intense, either, except I received a bottle of it for Christmas several years ago.

Pleasures, the Original is all about sharply drawn flowers and leaves, crisp color against a grassy background: green, deep purple, bright white. It brings to mind the intense pleasure of a sour candy that leaves a slight memory of pain even as it sweetens on the tongue. I love the literal clarity of the juice—no color at all, refreshing like water. This is said to “capture the clarity of flowers just after a spring rain,” and it does so nicely, although not in the melancholy, thoughtful way of say, Apres L'Ondee. This is cheerful and bright, and one knows the sun will soon break though the clouds and make everything shimmer.

The notes in Pleasures are as follows:

Top: white lily, violet leaves
Heart: black lilac, white peony, karo-karounde, Baie rose
Base: sandalwood, patchouli

Pleasures Intense is a honeyed, fragrant floral tea of a scent, meant to be worn near a roaring fire burning away in a stone hearth at a ski lodge. The opening notes, as in the original, bring to mind sharp color, although these are warmer in nature, a deep green coupled with the deep ruffled pink of peonies. The floral heart is intense, as promised, but I admit I find this much more well-balanced than the original Pleasures. The maple wood and vanilla end give this fragrance a slightly gourmand feel. This scent to me is a bit like plain pink silk lingerie under heavy winter clothes, delicate and intimate, warming and effortless.

The notes in Pleasures Intense are:

Top: green lily, Le Charme peony
Heart: Moroccan rose, pink tiger lily, jasmine
Base: maple wood, benzoin crystals, vanilla

At first it struck me, as I progressed through some of the more recent Lauder releases, that they seemed to grow less complex with each passing release. The straight-forward (and often boring) development of many mass market perfumes has driven many perfume fans to the niche world. However, it's important to distinguish lack of complexity from simplicity. Neither of these perfumes is very complex, but they should not be dismissed. Both—the former more so than the latter—are to be appreciated more for the sum of the parts than for the parts themselves. These perfumes are the equivalent of wardrobe staples—let's say a white cotton shirt and a fine wool sweater, respectively—that never fail. Still, they also fail to invoke much imagination or passion. They will never fail the wearer, but they will also never make her the center of attention. These are what I like to call “Saturday perfumes,” perfect for spritzing on before one leaves the house to run errands or meet friends for breakfast. They don't get in the way of the wearer. Of the two, I prefer Pleasures Intense. I haven't tried any of the other flankers, but if you have and would like to share, please do!

*images from