Sensual & Decadent, the latest release from LM Parfums, is a fragrance whose opening blew me away at first sniff and made me do a double-take so fast that my head practically swiveled off. I thought I had finally discovered my Holy Grail vanilla, a sumptuously buttery, creamy vanilla doused in buckets of cognac, rum, and then even more cognac still before being finished off with a lick of lush floralcy. After 5 minutes, I was tempted to lick my arm. After 15 minutes, I actually did so.
In hindsight, it was a foolish idea (that I don’t recommend) but I simply couldn’t help it at the time. Sensual & Decadent’s opening is like an alcoholic gourmand’s wet-dream version of “vanilla,” and I was so intoxicated by its hedonistic extravagance that I rather lost my mind. Technically, the perfume doesn’t fall within the vanilla genre at all and is either a floral oriental (a “floriental”) or a fruity-floral, but that is a distinction that only makes itself apparent later on when Sensual & Decadent transforms. In the first hour, though, I was certain that I’d found my “Holy Grail” vanilla. Unfortunately, Sensual & Decadent subsequently changes quite dramatically, turning into the sort of fragrance that is so much outside of my personal tastes that I came close to scrubbing it off and then, after 22 hours, I finally did so. I’m rather heartbroken about that because the opening… my God, that opening! I licked my arm, people, I actually licked my arm!
Sensual & Decadent is an extrait de parfum that was created by Jerome Epinette as a sequel to LM Parfums’ fantastic Sensual Orchid. I didn’t know that originally when I received the package from Laurent Mazzone, and one reason why my head swiveled around so quickly at the first sniff is because Sensual & Decadent instantly felt like the “decadent” and more vanillic version of a fragrance I love.
It was Sensual Orchid, in fact, that is responsible for my blogging relationship with LM Parfums. Back in late 2012, I’d never heard of the company which was sold exclusively in Europe at the time. I ended up with a decant of Sensual Orchid as part of an eBay purchase of other perfumes, but I loved it so much that it rapidly became one of my favorite florientals. I subsequently wrote to LM Parfums to inquire if I could buy samples of the rest of the line and, eventually, one thing led to another, from a meeting with Laurent Mazzone in Paris to my love of Hard Leather. But Sensual Orchid has always come first for me. I’m quite serious when I say that it might be in my Top 5 for modern floral orientals, so its initial similarity to Sensual & Decadent left me overjoyed.
Sensual & Decadent was first launched at the Pitti perfume trade show in October of last year. A Fragrantica article by Juliett Ptoyan explains how Laurent Mazzone sees the fragrance and its relationship to the original:
The common word in both fragrances’ names didn’t appear coincidentally: according to Laurent [Mazzone], Sensual & Decadent is an accomplished version of Sensual Orchid. It’s a peculiar remix with the same original tune but with some new orchestration. […][¶] The new perfume can be reviewed both as an independent work and the sequel of the story about sensuality which was started by Jerome Epinette in 2012. Anyway, this is not a usual flanker but the concluding part of the story.
I agree. This is a “remix” with very different parts that, as a result, sounds like a very different song when the two fragrances are taken as a whole and from start to finish. It’s also a much more extravagant song in terms of both its opening richness and in the opulence of its package which involves boxes within boxes, gleaming black lacquer within black velvet, more velvet within the actual lacquered box, golden logos, and golden monograms.
All of that plays into the themes of baroque decadence that Laurent Mazzone is trying to emphasize within the fragrance itself. LM Parfums describes it as follows:
It is made that nothing can surpass it, that’s why you can find the beauty of Baroque inside. This perfume is all about decadence. Golden glitters, baroque’s glamour and remixed modern sensuality that plays with your skin senses.
HEAD NOTES: Lisylang [a special Robertet product centered on ultra-rich ylang-ylang], Rhubarb
HEART NOTES: Heliotrop, Labdanum
BASE NOTES: Oud, Vanilla infusion, Benzoin.
Sensual & Decadent opens on my skin with cognac, cognac, a bit of rum, and then more cognac, all poured by the bucketfuls over the creamiest vanilla imaginable. The cognac is slightly fruity, like apple Calvados mixed with a more orange-y brandy that’s been soaked in oak caskets. The liqueur smells a lot like a purer, brighter version of Kilian‘s Apple Brandy, except this one feels as though it has a bit of expensive, top-notch sugar cane rum mixed in as well.
The alcohol runs like a torrential waterfall over an utterly sumptuous vanilla that smells like something created by a three Michelin-star chef: his richest crème anglaise sauce combined with his creamiest vanilla flan, his best French bean ice-cream, and his most indulgent vanilla cake batter. Madagascar, dark Bourbon, and French Bean vanilla varieties are layered with triple cream, egg yolks, butter, and benzoin resins. Then, the richest ylang-ylang is folded into the densely concentrated mix, bringing in the flower’s creamy, custardy, vaguely banana-ish undertones while simultaneously adding its heady, narcotic and intoxicating floralcy as well. The ylang is merely a small island amidst the thick ocean of vanilla and booze, but its immensely custardy richness works indirectly to kick the fragrance’s decadence up another notch. As Chef Emeril Lagasse would say, “Bam!”
The boozy vanilla is the star of the show for the first 90 minutes. I’ve tried Sensual & Decadent several times, and I’d estimate at least 80% of the opening bouquet consists of that singular accord. Benzoin resin and labdanum amber are indirectly responsible for the alcohol aroma, but they circle around the queen and don’t appear in their own right. The rhubarb is nonexistent on my skin, while the oud is a microscopic splinter buried deep in the base. As for the ylang, it is a third-wheel in some ways; its floralcy is so subsumed within the vanilla’s butteriness and custardy richness that it sometimes feel more like an orchid vanilla flower from which the beans grow and whose aroma often laces the most expensive vanilla fragrances. For example, the famous Tihota. In short, the first 90-minutes are really a vanilla soliflore rather than the floral-oriental or fruity-floral that the fragrance eventually turns into. Granted, it’s a highly alcoholic and opulent vanilla that is smudged at the edges with wisps of floral lushness, but it’s a basic, straightforward, simple vanilla nonetheless.
Still, it’s an ideal sort of vanilla for someone like me. First, there is butter, not sugar. Sensual & Decadent’s debut doesn’t drip with white sugar like so many fragrances in the genre, at least not initially. A lot of vanilla fragrances that I’ve tried smell like crème brulée and have a thick crust of sugar that’s been caramelized and, frequently, burnt to the point of bearing almost an acrid undertone. Profumum‘s Vanitas is the loudest and biggest example of that. Other vanilla fragrances are drenched in white musk, resulting in a scent that is all too often fresh and excessively clean. Even Tihota bears a strong amount of musk. The vast majority of fragrances that I’ve tried in this genre actually merge the two trends, presenting an almost ridiculously sugared, caramelized vanilla infused with clean musk.
Sensual & Decadent chooses a different path in its opening hour, and that’s why I loved it. It’s buttery vanilla custard with amber (that simply happens to take the form of alcoholic cognac) but there is no white sugar or white musk on my skin. Absolutely none whatsoever. I was so thrilled, you had no idea. Unfortunately, the first signs of the blasted musk pop up after 45 minutes, although it is merely a muted, minor note on the sidelines at this point. Its appearance coincides with a more noticeable fruitiness as well. For now at least, it feels more like a part of the cognac than an actual, separate fruit. I should mention, though, that at no point in any of my tests did I smell my arm and think “rhubarb.” Initially, it’s merely a generalized fruitiness that eventually skews red in feel, like a berry, before turning much later on into a rosy, red-purple jamminess like fruity patchouli.
As I said at the start, Sensual & Decadent changes quite dramatically from its opening phase, and the end result is essentially a vanillic fruity-floral with sugary sweetness and clean musk. The first sign of what is to come is the pop of clean musk after 45 minutes, but things really start to shift midway during the 2nd hour when the musk, fruitiness, and floralcy grow stronger. Ylang-ylang has become one of my favorite floral notes, but that’s not really what shows up on my skin. It’s orchid instead. Not the liquidy, crystalline, pure orchid of Sensual & Decadent’s precursor, Sensual Orchid, but more of a sugared impression of a vanilla orchid instead. It’s basically something akin to the scent in Van Cleef & Arpel’s Orchidée Vanille, only in stronger, boozier, more ambered, and less diffuse form.
The vanilla changes around the same time as well. It’s airier, less buttery, no longer eggy, or quite as rich. To use foodie terms, it’s gone from being a dense flan or custard to becoming an aerated mousse that eventually, several hours later, turns into one of molecular gastronomy’s light foams. The cumulative effect of all these shifts by the end of the 2nd hour is that Sensual & Decadent’s bouquet has changed from being 80% to 90% boozy vanilla to one that has 50% vanilla and 50% everything else.
The numbers or proportions continue to change as time passes. By the middle of the 3rd hour, there is as much white musk on my skin as there is vanilla. In fact, a veritable avalanche of fruitiness, sugared caramel, and clean musk descends upon the vanilla, smothering it, and making it merely a side note. Sensual Orchid was never so sweet, fruity, or clean on my skin, and I never once saw it as a fruity-floral which is what Sensual & Decadent often appears to be deep down.
Sensual & Decadent’s long middle stage begins roughly at the same time, about 3.5 hours into its development. In a nutshell, the fragrance switches from being a vanillic fruity-floral with clean musk into a slightly woody, vanillic fruity-floral with clean musk. The new arrival doesn’t smell of oud on my skin, and it’s certainly nothing remotely like the Laotian agarwood in Hard Leather. Instead, it’s merely a generalized, beige, clean, abstract sort of woodiness, and it’s completely folded into the main bouquet.
It’s become almost impossible to separate out the notes at this point because they’ve fused into one great shapeless mass, an overlapping haze of fruitiness, sugar, vanilla, boozy benzoin, abstract woods, and an amorphous, vaguely orchid-ish floralcy, all tied together by thick, heavy coils of sharp, clean musk. The latter is too, too sharp and laundry fresh for my personal tastes, but I struggle just as much with the new sugariness of the scent.
As regular readers know, I have a low tolerance level for excessive sweetness, and the amount in Sensual & Decadent exceeds it by a mile, to the point where I feel as though white sugar might as well be an actual ingredient in the fragrance. At times, the sugar smells as though it’s been turned into caramel but, at other times, it’s suffused into the fruit which is so loud, sticky, and thick that it feels like waves of molasses have dyed everything crimson. The vanilla is immersed within the jam as yet another layer of sweetness but it’s no longer a clear note in its own right and no longer boozy either. In fact, the cognac has essentially vanished, or perhaps it’s simply transformed into that sugared caramel. It’s hard to tell amidst the deluge.
The ylang-ylang is equally anonymous, nondescript, and muffled. Sensual & Decadent is unquestionably a fruity-floral at this point, but the specific flowers have been blurred to the point where I can’t single out what’s in the bouquet. All that’s left is the impression of creamy flowers fused together with equal parts sugar, caramel, vanilla, and red fruits, then placed over a woody base and under a heavy cloak of cleanness. It’s an intense scent, and a purely feminine one at that.
Sensual & Decadent remains a diffuse, blowsy, strong blend of the same notes for a number of hours, but their strength and nuances change. For example, the vanilla becomes sheerer and sheerer until the drydown stage at the start of the 8th hour when the vanilla is finally swallowed up by the fruity-floral accord. The woodiness begins to fade away at the same time. What’s left is a simple, extremely sweet, and immensely clean fruity-floral bouquet. It lasts for so long, it might as well be an elephant. On and on it goes, so sharp, so sweet, and so… I don’t have the words, my mind felt bludgeoned around the 16th hour.
But the fragrance was not done yet. Sensual & Decadent went on, gradually turning into sugary, clean white musk with a breath of fruitiness but showing no sign of death in the hours which followed. It might have coated the skin like a thin lacquer but the fragrance was there nonetheless when I finally gave up around the 22nd hour and scrubbed it off. At least, I tried to. The scent not only remained on parts of my skin after several scrubbings and two scalding showers, but I could still detect traces two days later. All this from 2 sprays of perfume. On the fabric of my shirt, Sensual & Decadent shows no signs of going away after five full days. It wafts its bouquet of red, jammy fruits drenched in sugar and musk with such force that I’m astonished. Again, just two sprays. (I’d sprayed my shirt back in the early moments of excitement in my first test when I thought I’d discovered my Holy Grail vanilla.)
In short, Sensual & Decadent has the lifespan of an elephant, but it also has massive sillage as well. With 2 sprays from a bottle, the fragrance typically opens with roughly 4 inches of projection and 6 inches of sillage that rapidly explodes to fill the entire room. In fact, in one of my tests, I initially sprayed Sensual & Decadent in my bedroom before going to my office a few minutes later; when I returned after 4 or 5 hours, I found my bedroom still smelt heavily of the perfume. In short, this is a fragrance that makes its presence known — in the room you’re in and any rooms you may merely pass through.
It takes quite a while for the nuclear cloud to shrink. After 5 hours, the projection drops to about 1.5 inches but the sillage continues to be very large, between an arm’s length and several feet. It took almost 10 hours for Sensual & Decadent to turn into a skin scent, but the parfum was still easily detectable up close without much effort. Things became a bit harder after 16 hours but, as I said, the fragrance was still going when I finally gave up in the 22nd hour and tried to remove it. My skin tends to both amplify and hold onto scents that contain a lot of white musk or sweetness, but Sensual & Decadent’s level of tenacity is new to me, even for a pure parfum. Never before have I encountered a fragrance that was detectable after multiple scrubbings (using various combinations of acetone, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, baby oil, olive oil, and laundry detergent), two hot showers, and two full days.
If Sensual & Decadent had remained as an alcoholic gourmand’s vision of vanillic perfection, I would have found this monster longevity to been wonderful, but it was too much given what subsequently transpired. That said, I’m sure the longevity will happily impress anyone who loves the rest of the fragrance and its core essence. I suspect a number of women who love both gourmands and vanillic, fruity-floral powerhouses will be thrilled with Sensual & Decadent and will find the name to be a perfect fit. I can’t see most men wearing this fragrance, though. Not unless they adore the aforementioned categories. And it obviously won’t suit anyone who dislikes sweetness, heady florals, boozy notes, or vanilla.
There isn’t a lot of discussion about Sensual & Decadent, but I’ve found a few comparative opinions to share with you. The sole review on Fragrantica so far comes from “Q80” who writes: “Cloying vanilla ice cream, the kind of ice cream that is full of cream and butter! too much for my taste!” That’s all he says, and I have the sneaking suspicion that he was so put off by the opening that he didn’t smell the hours that followed since there is far more to Sensual & Decadent than just vanilla ice-cream. Still, the point remains that, for some people, the vanilla may be too intense, buttery, creamy, and, yes, probably “cloying” as well. You should keep that in mind if you prefer either a lighter, sheerer, smokier, or creme brulée sort of caramel-vanilla.
The second review is the Fragrantica article that I mentioned earlier. It talks about the fruitiness in detail, a “raspberry” note merged into “caramel”:
Firstly, fuming raspberry caramel runs down the skin, slowly begins to boil, eventually grows darker and shows some almost imperceptible wooden shade. At some point the fume fills with benzoin and tropical flowers and it feels like the silk lining of a new fur coat sliding over naked skin. It seems like the lining itself – not the lambskin on the top – restrains cold air. Sensual & Decadent appeared to be a hedonistic fragrance – women once wore such scents in restaurants while dressed in velvet dresses or formal men’s suits. The fragrance is too unveiled to be unisexual. This is the 1990’s version of Monica Bellucci from Frederic Meylan’s photoset – she is alone in her bed at last, stretching and contemplating last night’s events.
This fragrance is much deeper (there’s not fire, but the fume) than Sensual Orchid, it doesn’t pulsate on the skin but stretches, flows over and vapours away as a kiss. It’s challenging – as are the previous works of LM Parfums. The one-night stand just starts and comes up to the climax in Sensual Orchid, but the new fragrance is about everything that happens ’til the logical end: thanks, it was great, keep in touch.
If you’re wondering just how much the two LM Parfums fragrances overlap, I think there are surface similarities in the first two hours but the scents ultimately differ when taken as a whole. The best way to explain is to compare them to two Picasso portraits in the same series. The proportions of the individual features have been changed, and they’ve been moved around as well. Sensual & Decadent opens with triple the amount of booze and perhaps quadruple the vanilla that there was in Sensual Orchid’s opening. The floralcy is muffled and enveloped by the main duo, while the fruitiness has been slashed down to the merest dribble. In contrast, Sensual Orchid opens with boozy mandarin and creamy, beachy coconut, but the fruits never become such a major part of the scent as the jammy red fruits do here. Sensual Orchid’s floral component is not only strong and individually distinct, but it is also multi-faceted because the shared ylang note is paired with jasmine, the titular orchid, and peony.
In Sensual & Decadent’s second phase, all four parts of the scent share an equal piece of the pie. That was not the case with Sensual Orchid which retains a notable floralcy from start to finish. Nor did it ever have musk to a degree there is here. Plus, its musk was warm like heated skin, not white, clean, and sugary. In Sensual Orchid, the woods are a minor component but, in Sensual & Decadent, they become the sixth co-equal part of the main heart stage. In the drydown, Sensual & Decadent moves away from its mother scent completely because it’s all about fruitiness, clean musk, and sweetness. Essentially, Sensual & Decadent ends as the inverse of its own opening. In contrast, Sensual Orchid ends as a soft, indolic, musky floral sweetness. Ultimately, I find the new fragrance to be more “Decadent,” while the original is more “Sensual.”
Sensual & Decadent may not have worked out for me at the end or as a whole, but I cannot emphasize enough how utterly glorious I found the opening. I kept thinking of Marie-Antoinette. Specifically, the Sofia Coppola movie with Kirsten Dunst and the scene that is set to the Bow Wow Wow song, “I Want Candy,” except this Marie-Antoinette is initially surrounded by different sorts of vanilla desserts and bottles of brandy instead of cakes and Ladurée macarons.
The Marie-Antoinette “I Want Candy” scene becomes even more applicable once the cognac-vanilla departs because Sensual & Decadent turns into a girly extravagance like the rest of the scene in the film: excesses of fruity confections, sugared cream, candied sweetness, pastels, and, symbolically speaking at least, champagne, shoes, and rich brocades. And, like any catchy pop song, the perfume has simple riffs and lyrics that go on (and on) without much change. I suppose the best way for you to see Sensual and Decadent through my eyes or, at least, to see its core essence after the opening is by watching this short clip from the film:
In short, this is not my sort of fragrance but you should try it for yourself if you’re a hardcore gourmand, love vanilla that is both liqueured and buttery, enjoy candied fruitiness, and want a feminine powerhouse in luxury form.
Disclosure: My bottle of Sensual & Decadent was courtesy of Laurent Mazzone and LM Parfums. That did not impact this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.