Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Estée Lauder Private Collection

Too many days, I wonder what I am doing here. While I know I can't give up my perfume habit--my perfume mania--I wonder why I don't just walk away, write my impressions in a journal, and comment on what other people, "experts," have to say. Some days I feel like perfume is not about the journey, but about the end result: the opinion. I have no desire to be a critic, only a fan. I remain stubbornly novice because I don't want to be tired, but I realize by doing so, I marginalize myself. It's very hard to line up with someone who mostly gushes, who's trying things everybody else has already tried. I feel like one of those time-traveling characters in a movie, plopped down in Times Square straight from the Nineteenth century, who wants to talk to everybody about all the lights! Can you believe the lights? Look at those over there that go from red to green to yellow and back to red again! Have you ever seen anything so spectacular?

It's exciting, but it's also lonely.

Sorry for the introspective moment. It's been one of those weeks. On to the perfume.

The story, as everyone knows it, in a nutshell: Private Collection was Estée Lauder's signature scent, kept a mystery. When people asked what she was wearing, she said it was perfume from her "private collection." In 1973, she succumbed to public demand and released the scent for sale.

The notes listed on the Estée Lauder site are as follows:
Top: honeysuckle, jasmine, citrus
Heart: orange flower, ylang-ylang, coriander
Base: sandalwood, patchouli

The notes listed on osMoz are as follows:
Top: green note, orange blossom, linden
Heart: jasmine, reseda, chrysanthemum, rose
Base: sandalwood, heliotrope, musks, amber

Notes, schmotes. Talk amongst yourselves about who's right and who's wrong. Here's how Private Collection works on me:
Top: Pulpy citrus, a little bitter, like the white insides of a grapefruit peel. It is rather refreshing and sharp, and does come off a bit green. After about fifteen minutes of this phase, which is my least favorite, it softens somewhat, even becomes a bit soapy.
Heart: I think jasmine serves less as a top note than as a bridge to the heart of the scent. All at once it seems any trace of citrus disappears, and although a peppery green note stays behind (I mistook this for vetiver until I read the notes, but now I know the coriander plays its part to perfection), the floral notes take center stage. Orange blossom comes to the fore the more the scent begins to mellow, and as it transitions to the base it sweetens and even becomes a bit powdery.
Base: Even thought it's powdery and warm, I detect no heliotrope, which to me is a "standout" note, like tuberose. One can almost never mistake it. I believe this is simply an elegant balance of sandalwood and patchouli, as the Lauder notes reveal. It does have an extra warmth, though, it seems, and I have to admit I was surprised not to see vanilla listed in the base notes.

When it comes to a perfume like Private Collection, or any of a handful of classic perfumes, my opinion matters not one whit (not that it matters a whit with any other perfume, but you get my drift). I can only tell you what legions of perfume fans already know: Any serious perfume fan should own a bottle of this. It's classically elegant, warm, timeless. What I can't fathom is why Estée Lauder has relegated it to the "All Other Perfumes" category on their site, along with several other classics. Sad. I hope that's not the last stop before the chopping block. Surely Dazzling could go instead, or a few of the Pleasures. Yes, a Pleasure for a pleasure--now there's a trade.

*image from