Orlov Paris Star of The Season & Cross of Asia

The Star of the Season diamond. Souce: am-diamonds.com

The Star of the Season diamond. Source: am-diamonds.com

The most famous gems in the world are the inspiration behind a relatively new perfume house, Orlov Paris, and its debut collection. Unlike many other brands that use jewels as marketing hyperbole, the link here is a personal and logical one. As Orlov’s website explains, its founder, Ruth Séry, comes from a family that has been in the diamond business for generations, and she herself seems to be both a diamond cutter and diamond dealer in Antwerp.

But she is also a perfume lover, and, when she learnt that all her favourite fragrances were made by the same man, she “told herself that if ever she founded her own fragrance house, she would work with Dominique Ropion. No one else would do.” He agreed to create five fragrances for her, each inspired by a different legendary gem, like the 100.10-carat “Star of the Season” or the 29-carat canary-yellow diamond called “Flame of Gold,” once owned by the Hollywood star, Greer Garson. All five are pure parfums (extrait de parfums), and were released in the fall of 2015.

Orlov fragrances. Photo source: Fragrantica.

Orlov fragrances. Photo source: Fragrantica.

Today, I’ll look at two of the five fragrances, Star of the Season and Cross of Gold, with Orlov and Flame of Gold to follow in the next post. In order to keep this review at a manageable length, I won’t provide the company’s official description for each scent in full as I usually do, merely the relevant portions regarding to the note list. I also won’t quote comparative reviews, but I will give you the general gist of people’s opinions on Fragrantica and a link for you to read their comments in full if you’re interested. So, let’s begin.


Orlov Star of the Season, bottle and box. Photo source: Luckyscent

Orlov Star of the Season, bottle and box. Photo source: Luckyscent

Orlov’s description for Star of the Season and its notes reads, in relevant part, as follows:

Rare Indian sandalwood is sprinkled with cinnamon, cumin and clove, drizzled with caramel and infused with vanilla. Iris concrete unveils dark chocolate facets, bolstered with velvet-smooth patchouli and amber. Rich Turkish rose absolute adds berry and mulled-fruit facets.

According to Luckyscent, the succinct note list is:

Orange blossom, iris, rose, cinnamon, cumin, clove, caramel, vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood

Star of the Season opens on my skin with fruitchouli-drenched florals dusted with a few small pinches of earthy, slightly skanky, and rather stale smelling cumin. The flowers lie atop a base of generic woodiness before being cocooned within a cloud of white musk that is simultaneously clean, fresh, vanillic, and dripping with white sugar. In short, it’s a fruity-floral given a semi-gourmand treatment with just a touch of earthy cumin. The latter doesn’t last for long and begins to weaken a mere 10 minutes into the fragrance’s development, but it is the only thing that really separates Star of the Season from any number of similar mainstream fruity florals.

Source: LOreal.com

Source: LOreal.com

A number of niche lovers seem to breathe Dominique Ropion’s name with awe. I am not one of them. While they venerate him for a handful of famous Malle fragrances, I think the full body of his work paints a very different picture. As his Fragrantica page demonstrates, he is the absolute king of the department store fruity-floral and their flankers: Lancome’s La Vie Est Belle (and its 9 flankers); Tresor (and its flankers); Flowerbomb (and its flankers); Mugler’s Alien (and its flankers); Lady Million (and its flankers), and… well, you get the picture. (He’s even made a celebrity fruity-floral, Jennifer Lopez‘s Live, though that one doesn’t have a flanker as of yet.)

In short, if you come across a diabetes-inducing, saccharine-coated, pink berry floral drenched in a tsunami of laundry clean musk and vanillic sugar, there is a good chance that he created it. It’s not something I admire or respect, but so long as this tired formula (and broken record) stays in the mall, I can ignore it. But when it shows up in the niche field with a significantly more expensive price tag, virtually no olfactory difference in scent, and little to no discernible elevation in quality, then I get annoyed. And that is the case here with Scent of the Season, at least on my skin. Except for the short-lived cumin, it is basically yet another flanker, a more heavily sugared version of La Vie Est Belle, or a fusion of that scent and Flowerbomb. One of Mr. Ropion’s other (allegedly) “niche” creations, A Lab on Fire’s Mon Musc A Moi was the same way on me, leading me to wonder if he’s either incapable of or unwilling to drop certain olfactory crutches and formulaic accords when he makes his fragrances. In my opinion, they all smell alike: overly simplistic, overly synthetic, typically linear, shapeless blurs of synthetic florals, drenched either in laundry clean musk, tooth-aching sugary sweetness, goopy, pink berried jam, or some combination thereof.

Photo: Bread and Companatico blog. (Direct website link embedded within.)

Photo: Bread and Companatico blog. (Direct website link embedded within.)

The problem here is that Orlov’s version of this tired formula is not something that you could buy for $60 at Sephora or $19.99 at TJ Maxx, even if it smells almost exactly like it, in my opinion. This costs a rather unbelievable $330. For that amount, it’s not unreasonable to expect a distinctive and original composition. But the only olfactory distinction between Star of the Season and something like Ropion’s Flowerbomb on my skin is the cumin note — and that isn’t even a major part of the scent. In fact, it weakens after 10 minutes amidst the ballooning clouds of fruitiness and vanillic sugar, and then disappears almost entirely at the 40-minute mark.

"Bokeh pink and white" by Erykucciola-sToCk on Deviant Art. (Direct website link embedded within.)

“Bokeh pink and white” by Erykucciola-sToCk on Deviant Art. (Direct website link embedded within.)

Around the same time, all the notes blur together. There is no clearly delineated orange blossom, iris, cinnamon, clove, or sandalwood on my skin. The floralcy is wholly generic and indeterminate, a rosy-ish blur suffused with goopy fruitchouli, vanilla, increasingly caramelized sugar, and white musk. This core bouquet doesn’t change in any dramatic way in the hours to come; there are merely shifts to the order, prominence, or nuances of some of the notes. For example, to my growing horror, Star of the Season grows sweeter and sweeter (and sweeter) as the caramel and sugary vanilla surge to the forefront, intertwining with the fruitchouli molasses and the increasingly laundry-like clean musk. The only minor positive in this sea of banality is a quiet, subtle creaminess that emerges in the base after 90 minutes, turning Star of the Season into a sugar-frosted, pink berried floral with vanilla, clean musk, and fluctuating, lesser streaks of caramel and cream. Once in a blue moon, a hint of something vaguely, nebulously woody pops up in the background, but it’s a fleeting, elusive whisper (that smells synthetic and not remotely like real sandalwood on my skin).

Source: 123rf.com

Source: 123rf.com

The gourmand notes take over roughly 3.5 hours into the fragrance’s development. Star of the Season is now a sugared vanilla drizzled with caramel and a few dollops of fruit jam. The creaminess has largely disappeared, while the faceless floralcy has been subsumed within growing amounts of white musk that are beginning to smell like the Bounce fabric softener sheets in my laundry room. The main focus, though, is the vanilla. Over time, the musk becomes just as important. By the end of the 6th hour and the start of the 7th, Star of the Season becomes a simple blend of clean, sugared, vanillic musk and remains that way until its end.

I tested Star of the Season twice, always using several generous smears amounting to 2 good sprays from an actual bottle. The projection was average, opening at about 4 inches, while the sillage was somewhere between 6 to 8 inches, probably because my skin amplifies the reach of any fragrance with a lot of white musk. After 90 minutes, the numbers dropped, both becoming quite soft. It took 4.25 hours for Star of the Season to turn into a skin scent, and the fragrance typically lasting 8 and 8.5 hours, depending on test. I find that low for a pure parfum, but I was relieved because I couldn’t stand the scent.

Judging by the reviews on Fragrantica, though, I’m in a distinct minority. The comments there at this time are all positive, with descriptions like “absolutely stunning,” a “5 star vanilla fragrance,” or “a perfect mixture of vanilla and a warm woody scent.” So, if you love vanilla gourmands or gourmand fruity florals, then you should ignore me and try Star of the Season for yourself. I have no doubt you’ll enjoy it. Whether you love it enough to actually spend $330 on it may be another matter, though.


Orlov Cross of Asia via Luckyscent.

Orlov Cross of Asia via Luckyscent.

“The Cross of Asia” is a legendary diamond that was first discovered in South Africa in 1902, weighing a whopping 280-carats before it was cut. Orlov describes its namesake scent as follows:

Dominique Ropion has studied ylang-ylang closely in order to bring out each of its facets. Surprising hints of green apple and crystalline pear. Spices, enhanced by cool coriander and essence of cypress. A glowing rose note and heady white floral effects, set off by orange blossom, tuberose and jasmine absolutes. Finally, a lash of leather reveals the yellow bloom’s secretly animal nature…

Luckyscent quotes that description, but gives the following note list:

Geranium, ylang-ylang, jasmine, tuberose, amber, musk

I’ve tested Cross of Asia a number of times, and there are basically two different versions of the opening hour on my skin, one that is centered on the ylang and one that is all about the tuberose. The two versions always end up merging after 60 to 75 minutes, becoming the same — a clean, green-white floral driven predominantly by the tuberose — but the differences are worth noting since this is a fragrance that is supposed to be “ylang ylang in all its facets.”

Source: hdwpics.com

Source: hdwpics.com

In Version #1, Cross of Asia opens as an abstract floral with a delicate, indeterminate character that gives off a yellow feel but which, initially, doesn’t translate as ylang ylang at all. It takes about 10 to 15 minutes for the flower to take shape, but it’s an incremental process. First, there is a subtle butteriness; then, inch by inch, minute by minute, a gradually deepening of the note, turning yellower, stronger, and more solid in shape. The faintest spiciness takes hold, followed by a whisper of something velvety that is sweet and vaguely custardy. If you squint, you can almost see (or smell) the contours of something ylang-ish taking shape, but it’s a shimmering abstraction in these earliest minutes, a suggestion more than a concrete reality.

Then, about 15 minutes in, the ylang suddenly appears. It’s a blurry, shapeless version of ylang from a distance, but the bouquet now smells unquestionably of ylang ylang up close. Woven into it is a whiter and greener floralcy, but that’s as hard to pin down as the ylang was at first. Finishing things off is clean musk and a subtle, rather tonka-like powderiness.

Source: suggestkeyword.com

Source: suggestkeyword.com

Cross of Asia remains as a ylang ylang fragrance for the next 30 minutes, but changes are in sight. The tuberose is starting to take shape in the same incremental fashion, and slowly cuts through the ylang, diluting its presence, turning the bouquet greener, crisper, and dewier. As the first hour draws to a close, Cross of Asia has turned into something quite different, a tuberose dominated fragrance that skews almost entirely green-white in colour. The buttery ylang is merely an elusive whisper now, a few dying gasps that are silenced roughly 75 minutes into Cross of Asia’s development. At that point, the fragrance turns into Version 2.

Source: Colourbox.com

Source: Colourbox.com

To put it another way, Version 2 skips the entire ylang prologue and starts as a tuberose fragrance right off the bat. In two of my tests, Cross of Asia opens with non-indolic, fresh, and clean tuberose that feels as green as the flower’s unopened buds. It’s infused with a dewy or watery floral greenness, the inevitable white musk, and a green fruitiness that, once in a while, actually smells a little like crisp green apples. Other elements quickly follow suit. An extremely thin, screechy, synthetic sandalwood runs through the base. For a brief moment, a few minutes at best, a sliver of caramel sweetness lurks in there as well, though it never translates into actual “amber” at any point in the fragrance’s development. In the background, flashes of geranium leafiness pop up, but they’re minor and heavily muffled on my skin.

Photo & source: Petals and Wings wordpress blog. (Direct link embedded within.)

Photo & source: Petals and Wings wordpress blog. (Direct link embedded within.)

For the most part, Cross of Asia’s opening bouquet in this version is centered almost entirely on a dewy, crisp, green tuberose, layered with a similarly green fruitiness and an excessively clean freshness atop a generically woody base. It is gauzy, almost translucent, in feel and body. All of it feels synthetic to my nose, and something is irritatingly sharp, though I can’t figure out if it’s the geranium, the white musk, or the sandalwood.

Regardless of opening version, the rest of Cross of Asia always develops the same way. The timeline merely changes depending on whether there is a ylang prologue or not. For the purposes of clarity, I’ll simply talk about the changes as though we’d always started with the tuberose bouquet.

Roughly 20 to 30 minutes in, Cross of Asia shifts a little. It starts to grow sweeter and fruitier. More importantly, the jasmine makes its first appearance, hovering first on the sidelines, then joining the tuberose on center stage a short time later. Its arrival adds richness and heaviness to the fragrance’s body, ending the gossamer translucency. Once in a blue moon, the jasmine emits whiffs of indolic blackness and headiness but, generally, it’s as crisp, clean, bright, and fresh as the tuberose.

Source: merlyimpressions.co.uk

Source: merlyimpressions.co.uk

Cross of Asia’s second and core stage starts to take shape roughly 45 minutes into the fragrance’s evolution. The jasmine is now so prominent that it has become the tuberose’s second-in-command. The screechy, synthetic sandalwood becomes equally significant not longer after, exploding out of the base to become the other big player on center stage. The tuberose is always the unquestioned star of the show, but these other elements circle around it, turning Cross of Asia from a gauzy floral centered primarily on tuberose into a floral woody musk with a heavier, richer feel.

Smaller changes take place around the same time. The tuberose’s dewy wateriness is replaced by Ropion’s standard, sugar-drenched vanilla, while the green, vaguely apple-ish note becomes a minor blip on the sidelines. At the 90-minute mark, a more abstract fruitiness takes its place. From time to time, I find it resembles that blasted pink berry that Ropion loves to stick into so many of his mainstream fragrances, but I may simply be a little traumatized at this point.

Source: wallcoo.net

Source: wallcoo.net

Cross of Asia changes again about 2.75 hours into its evolution when it turns into an almost bridal floral bouquet. It’s a blur of fresh, green-white flowers infused with intensely sharp and clean musk, equally sharp white woods, a ghostly hint of a pinkish fruitiness, and a new type of sweetness that sometimes reminded me of Guerlainade-style tonka. It’s basically the same tonka-like note that appeared in the background of Version #1’s ylang prologue but, like so much else in this fragrance, the details are hard to pin down amidst the blurriness of the notes. Still, wherever it comes from, the Guerlainade-like vibe is nice in conjunction with the blend of white flowers, and an infinitely more appealing, smoother version of sweetness in my eyes than the granulated sugar variety.

I just wish that the various flowers were clearly defined, solid, concrete elements instead of a shapeless, generic morass of whiteness, but that seems to be as futile a wish as hoping Ropion could make a fragrance without a veritable tsunami of musk (and/or sweetness). It’s simply how he does things. While it’s my issue and my Achilles heel, I think these elements contribute to the fragrance’s lack of distinctiveness and rather forgettable simplicity. In two months time, I doubt I’ll be able to recall what distinguishes one particular Orlov floral from another.

It doesn’t help that so many of the fragrances share a similar drydown that is essentially some sort of sweet, sugary, and clean musk with one extra accompaniment tossed in. In Star of Asia, the accord was vanilla and some caramel; in Flame of Gold, as you will see later; it’s woodiness; and, here, in Cross of Asia, it’s a generic, green-white floralcy.

Bounce Spring Renewal drier sheets via Pinterest.

Bounce Spring Renewal drier sheets via Pinterest.

That’s what kicks in a mere 4.5 hours into Cross of Asia’s evolution when the long drydown begins. From this point forth, I waft nothing more than floral white musk with pops of greenness and soapy cleanness. In the background, once in a blue moon, there  is something elusive that is either fruity or sugary. It’s too insubstantial and ghostly to really pin down. At the end of the 5th hour and start of the 6th, the musk turns sharper and cleaner. It’s starting to smell like a greener version of my floral-scented, Bounce fabric softener sheets for the dryer.

This unfortunate, laundry-floral bouquet goes for hours. To be precise, an additional six hours in one test, with Cross of Asia finally dying 13.5 hours from its start. In my second test, it lasted a bit longer, just a hair under 14.75 hours. I attribute both numbers to the fact that my skin holds onto white musk like crazy and longer than the average person’s. (As a side note and point of clarity, I actually tested Cross of Asia four times in total in order to get a handle on the opening changes and the role of the ylang, but I scrubbed the fragrance in the last two tests after 6 or 7 hours when the drydown began.)

On Fragrantica, there are only two reviews thus far from people who have actually tried the fragrance, and they’re split. One woman loves it, calling it “smooth and classy. Starts off with some fresh tuberose and ylang-ylang. The jasmine is not indolic but light and airy. Underneath I get a rounded rosiness that is really nice.” The second review is from a man and is negative. “Alfredo86” writes: “A synthetic and unpleasant tuberose-geranium concoction. I can’t believe this comes from Dominique Ropion, much less its price tag. Get his Pure Poison for Dior instead: it smells 5 times better and it’s 5 times cheaper.” I agree, Pure Poison is a much better tuberose, and a more appealing scent as a whole. In fact, I own it, and I’d wear it any day over Cross of Asia.

The sad thing is, Cross of Asia was actually the most appealing of the quartet that I tried, at least before it turned into the inevitable white musk fest. I certainly preferred it to Orlov which was a scrubber on me and which I’ll discuss next time along with Flame of Gold. I had such hopes for the latter because it was the one woody composition out of the lot but, as you’ll see next time, it turned out to be overly simplistic soliflore that was linear, synthetic, insubstantial, and terribly banal.


What I had originally hoped to do was to review all four of the fragrances in the same point in order to provide ample evidence of my overall conclusion, which is that this is one ridiculously overpriced collection in my estimation. But I’ll raise the same point here, even if we haven’t gotten to the other two (even more depressing) fragrances yet.

Each Orlov fragrance costs $330, and that’s an astonishing amount, in my opinion. To me, none of them have a demonstrably greater, unquestionable hike in complexity, quality, luxuriousness, or even basic olfactory profile from mainstream fragrances that you can find in a mall for less. Yes, a few of them are better, but not massively more so than Flowerbomb, La Vie Est Belle, Pure Poison, or any number of similar fragrances. Whatever negligible improvement there may be, it’s not enough to warrant $330 a bottle, if you ask me. (And don’t get me started on $1,890 for the Elixir version that has the exact same juice, just in a fancier bottle with a small diamond in it.)

To me, an even bigger problem is that the Orlov fragrances are terribly boring. At best, they’re unmemorable. At worst, they felt like an utter chore and slog to wear. I ordered my samples in December 2015, tried all four, and felt so apathetic (or negative) about most of them that I couldn’t summon up the energy to do the necessary further tests, let alone write about them. I put it off for almost four months. These are precisely the sort of compositions that have made testing or wearing perfume an increasingly joyless affair for me.

Orlov is not solely to blame, but it’s reflective of a larger problem. I’m beginning to despair about the state of niche perfumery in general, finding it’s taking on too many attributes of the commercial sector. Like, for example, the way so many fragrances smell alike. I sometimes feel as though I’m writing the same review under a different name because so many things smell the same! (I think there are a variety of factors to blame. One is the loss of a wide range of raw materials due to IFRA/EU restrictions, and the accompanying rise of a handful of trendy synthetics, especially in years when a hot, new one is released and all the niche perfumers flock to use it. Another is the way all the brands, niche or otherwise, jump on the same thematic bandwagon, be it oud, caramelized vanilla gourmands, smoky leather with woods, or saccharine-dusted, pink berried, fruity-florals. A third reason is the fact that niche brands have an easier time selling things at a luxury or super-luxury price if the scent is familiar rather than edgy or “out there.” In that sense, the mainstream aesthetic is trickling upwards to impact niche when the flow of influence used to be the reverse.)

What really depresses me, though, is when “niche” brands present fragrances that are wholly mainstream in olfactory composition as something ostensibly original, distinctive, unusual, and/or interesting, and then jack up the prices to create the illusion of “luxury” as well. In my opinion,”niche” is not supposed to be a Sephora or Macy’s fragrance stuck in a fancier bottle with little appreciable or major improvement in quality, just a bigger price tag and fewer retailers. That’s not my idea of what these fragrances are supposed to smell like, and why we’re willing to pay the price differential. But that’s what I see happening more and more lately — and Orlov is a perfect example of it, in my opinion.

When I get over my gloom, I’ll write about Orlov’s Orlov and Flame of Gold.

Cost & Availability: Each fragrance is a parfum that comes in a 75 ml bottle for $330. Two of them come in an “Elixir” version; the scent seems to be identical but the bottle is fancier, contains a diamond, and costs $1,890. In America, you can find the regular version at the NY Bergdorf Goodman store, but the fragrances are no longer listed on their website. Luckyscent has them all, including Star of the Season and Cross of Asia. They sell samples for $6, and ship worldwide. There are no international retailers at the time of this review, but you can order directly from Orlov itself. I think they ship overseas. Samples: Surrender to Chance sells samples of each fragrance starting at $6.49 for a 1/2 ml vial. I bought the Set of 4 which includes all the ones covered here, each in 1/2 ml vials. The starting price for the set has been reduced from roughly $26 to $23.99 at the time of this review.

40 thoughts on “Orlov Paris Star of The Season & Cross of Asia

  1. Thank you for saving me all thirds money I would have spent on the samples 🙂

    • I’m glad I could help in some way, Marianna. Having said that, I feel I should say that you should try things for yourself if any of the fragrances appealed to you originally or if you like any of the fragrances mentioned here. Maybe you’ll have better luck with it on your skin. Plus, I can’t remember how you feel about sweetness or gourmands.

        • Thank you for coming back to let me know. I have a better sense of your tastes now. And, as a result, I advise you to avoid Star of the Season at all costs! lol 😉

  2. Personally, I would ingest Ylang Ylang if I could. Or bath in it if that was possible. It is one of my favorite notes in all of perfumery. I do not understand how Mr Ropion could not make something beautiful when Ylang Ylang is the star!

    • Ha, I grinned at the thought of bathing in ylang-ylang. I would love to do that, too. It’s definitely one of my favourite florals, especially when its creamy, buttery, spicy, heady, custardy lushness is on full display and in a truly rich, solid fashion. I wish that had been the case here.

  3. I got a chance to sample Star of the Season. I dabbed a little on, had a confused raised eyebrow, put the sample away and haven’t went back to it. Honestly , I didn’t understand it. Two samples that I have received that bring a smile to my face are ,MDCI’s Chypre Palatin and Profumum’s Alba. They are up there in price, but at least I enjoy them. Thank you for the honest review.

    • LOL at the confused, raised eyebrow. 😀 How did Star of the Season smell like on you? BTW, Chypre Palatin is absolutely superb! A favourite of mine as well. I bought a bottle, my mother took one sniff of it, promptly ordered one, and has made it her signature scent for the last 2 or 3 years. See, that’s a fragrance whose materials, composition, richness, unquestionable quality, and complexity make its price completely justified and, for me at least, well worth it. I don’t think I’ve tried Profumum’s Alba, though I’m a huge fan of their ambers.

  4. I’ve just received more Profumum, including Alba. I just loved Ambra Aurea so much, Aqua Sala and Fiore Ambra, I had to keep going.
    However. Kafka: you ok? Is this the beginning of the end? Will you leave niche perfumery if this doesn’t let up? I’m beginning to feel that new unoriginal distasteful scents are better than reformulated previously gorgeous ones because the latter involve grief (I tried original Chergui…sigh…).
    What can we do to sustain you through this process?!?!?!?!

    • I’ll keep on as long as I can manage, and hope something happens to change things. Perhaps 2016 will be a better year for fragrances than 2015, though I’m not particularly optimistic for some of the reasons that I’ve mentioned here. You have no idea how many things I’ve tried over the last 5 or 6 months that I’ve either hated passionately or been utterly apathetic to. The SP attars were a rare exception, but it’s gotten to the point that I dread smelling the latest new release. In fact, I’ve passed on covering 4 new brands simply because each of their collections was so bad, I couldn’t face it. (Plus, 2 of them were small companies without the sort of money behind them as this Orlov one has, so my rule about small start-ups and negative reviews kicked in. But, for the others, I just couldn’t deal with the ordeal of extensive testing and writing.)

      But, anyway, it’s not the end for now, though the reviews won’t happen with the clock-work schedule of the past where one popped up every other day or so. I’ll continue as long as I can, and just hope that my love of perfume isn’t killed off entirely in the meantime by all the subpar to godawful new things I try (or the badly reformulated oldies).

  5. Thank you for the review, I trust your tastes and will leave the house of Orlov alone. The phrase “And its flankers” made me giggle! That aside, I wanted to ask if you can recommend anything by Dominique Ropion that is worth trying.

    I will have to add Chypre Palatin to my next sample order, it sounds interesting.

    • The things I loved from Dominique Ropion were the very, very old stuff that has undoubtedly been reformulated a number of times by now. I love and own his vintage Amarige, but that’s not a fragrance that I’d recommend to most people because it is one of the most polarizing, controversial ones around. (You can read my satirical post on just how notorious it is if you’re interested, but keep in mind that it is the old Amarige that I loved.) In terms of other stuff, I own and like Ropion’s (vintage) Pure Poison, but you have to be a hardcore tuberose lover for that one, and I don’t know if you are.

      For everyone else, the things that make Ropion so venerated and loved are his creations for Malle. Women adore his feminine tuberose called Carnal Flower, his fruity-floral rose called Portrait of a Lady, and his mimosa-ish Fleur de Cassie. Men love his Geranium, Vetiver, Portrait of a Lady, and one other whose name I’ve forgotten. Keep in mind that all the ones that people (other people) adore have been reformulated by now, some quite drastically so.

      I can’t recall the specific notes you love the most or the ones you struggle with, so I don’t know what to recommend to you out of the Malles, but that is clearly where you should start if you want to explore the things that make Ropion such an admired nose in some quarters.

      • Thank you! I love Vetiver, I need to try that one. I will have to look for mini of Amarige, it sounds like something I would like. I love Carnal Flower and have yet to try Portrait of a Lady.

  6. My experience with Star of the Season was different, and very positive, maybe because my skin kills sweetness and wildly amps cumin. So I start with about 15 minutes of what I can best describe as “synthetic dust bunnies.” Really, I put it on before I start dressing and won’t leave the bathroom until that phase is over because I would not subject my husband and dogs to it. Then about 3.5 hours of pleasant vanilla with just the right amount of cumin, enough to smell earthy but not sweaty. Then gone. The sweetness and laundry musk never show up. All very pleasant except the very beginning.
    But then it’s time to pay the piper, and that’s where it falls apart for me. The bottle looks pretty in pictures but is sort of cheap-looking and feeling when you handle it. And $330 for 75ml? This should cost a hundred dollars. For a hundred dollars, I would wear it around the house and garden and put up with the first 15 minutes. Wearing a perfume for garden tasks is no disparagement, by the way, because that’s when I’m happiest. But I do not pay exorbitant prices for my gardening perfumes.
    I find myself fantasizing about what Sultan Pasha would do with earthy sexy vanilla, deer musk, and the faintest possible touch of cumin. I suspect that I would bankrupt myself to get it.

    • Star of the Season sounds so much better on you! I really appreciated you taking the time to describe or explain how it was on you. How lucky you didn’t get any of the fruitchouli! And, obviously, the sweetness and musk as well. One thing I’m curious about is your description of the bottle and its feel. Judging by your comments on the exorbitant pricing, I assume you didn’t spend $330 on a pleasant vanilla for gardening. I know you often participate in splits by buying decants, so did you get the bottle that way? Or are you assessing how it handles and feels another way?

      Regardless, I agree that this fragrance is priced too high. But I think the appropriate value for a composition like this one would actually be less than a hundred dollars. LOL

      • I got a partial bottle in a split. It isn’t that the bottle is bad, just that it isn’t the quality we expect for that sort of money.
        Because sweetness just doesn’t come out much on me, I don’t experience all that much sweetness in anything from this line, but with the other four I don’t experience much of anything else either. Pleasant enough in a way, slight, and forgettable. But I enjoy SOTS enough to be looking to get a little more juice.

  7. I truly appreciate your honesty in this review. I had received a few samples of Orlov perfumes but had forgotten that I had them. When I received them, I remember doing a quick dab and smell of each, but none were memorable or unusual and I never thought of them again. Yet, I keep seeing “Orlov” in different blogs and on on-line perfumeries. Yes, some niche companies have been going over the top with their prices. If they were worthy it would be different, although I may not buy a $330 perfume I loved and was different than anything else because I have cash constraints, I can’t imagine anyone spending $330 for something so generic. It sort of proves that people will buy anything if they think it is “in”, or it was advertised as among the best, etc.

    • I agree with you, though I think a number of people will buy the fragrances for reasons beyond just hype and advertising. Fragrances like Flowerbomb, La Vie Est Belle, and Pink Sugar are blockbuster sellers. I think people who love them (and that commercial style of perfumery in general) will undoubtedly think the Orlov fragrances are the “high class” version of their favourites, and be eager to buy it. It is that very similarity that will make women rave about the scents, imo. If those people can afford $330 a bottle for what they think is an improved, more elegant, luxury version of their beloved Flowerbomb or Pink Sugar, I have no doubt they’ll buy it. Well, all the more power to them.

      But, for me, all that is a far cry fro what niche should be. That’s not why I focus on this sector of the industry, or why I am willing to spend the higher prices for a niche fragrance. And, it seems, you’re the same way. Thank you for letting me know how the fragrances were on you or to you, Filomena.

  8. I’m glad you reviewed Orlov. I had four samples and didn’t like any of them. I agree that Orlov was the worst of the four and I disliked Cross of Asia the least. Orlov has some great copy for not great perfumes.

    PS I tried Romanza. It’s basically a nice, plain narcissus on me. That’s it. Sampling it was funny though. I asked my daughter to sniff it on my arm. She did and pulled back quickly with a look on her face that I’d never seen before, but included surprise and disbelief. She sniffed again and the same thing happened. She said it smelled like her cat had poop all over his butt and someone tried to clean it with narcissus blossoms. 🙂

    • I know you love florals, Maya, so I imagine you had high hopes for the Orlov line when you ordered the samples. It’s a pity they didn’t work for you, either, but I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s funny how you, me, and Alfredo (commenting below) all disliked the Orlov one the most out of the lot. LOL. I’m rather glad to know I’m not alone in that regard.

      As for Romanza, I’m sad you didn’t get any of the artemisia/wormwood or green/black elements on your skin. The wormwood was the best part!! As for your daughter, heh, I confess I grinned a little at her reaction. The “cat poop” note definitely had to come from the civet. Poor thing, I wouldn’t want to smell like cat poop butt, either. Going back to you, though, what a shame you didn’t get any of the other notes or more interesting nuances on your skin. Plain narcissus sounds very boring. Just as well you sampled first.

  9. Same here. I had all the samples and I disliked all of them. I paid particular attention to Orlov, which I found to be a sickengly sweet tuberose that added nothing new to the scene (and that is, of course, lightyears away from masterpieces such as Fracas or Tubereuse) and Sea of Light, basically a fruity aquatic that I was hoping to like, but didn’t: the fruity accord was too generic and overpowering, and I could smell at times the salty water in the background, which didn’t make the fruity accord any better. A disgrace for the man who created une fleur de Cassie…

    • Sadly, your experience with the Orlov may actually be better than my own. :\ As for the Sea of Light, I can’t say I’m surprised by your reaction. I knew that mixing calone (aquatic/water note synthetic) with Ropion’s inevitable white musk overdose and his beloved fruity accord couldn’t possibly end well, which is why I don’t plan to try the fragrance at all even though a sample is being sent to me by a friend. Your description cemented my decision, though. Look on the bright side, though, Alfredo, it seems you were spared from the chlorine smell that calone can sometimes manifest. 😛 At least there’s that…. 😉

  10. How disappointing they all were : sweetness is such s difficult thing to play with ….almost never elegant , the names sounded promising though ..I wonder what the Orlov family has to say ?

    • You tried them, Ahmad? I would have loved to see your face after spraying them at Bergdorf’s. How I wish I’d been there….

  11. Thank you for the honest take on this Kafka. I’ve never been a fan of Dominique Ropion – mostly because I don’t get into the whole cult-following of perfumers some people do. Maybe the only exception is Andy Tauer, who, for now, makes fragrances for his own line, dancing to his own tune.

    I find that nowadays for 70% of their time/effort perfumers have to deal with technical issues and 30% is spent on actual creativity. In some cases, the 30% is being generous. Look at the latest releases from Dior and Burberry, for example. The creativity component there was limited to how to come up with a generic fragrance for the least amount of money. It’s like hiring a top baker to make you a cake on a budget of $5 and only with three ingredients. Sure, she can do it but the results won’t be original.

    I can definitely see the “me too” trend taking hold of the fragrance industry. I think this is especially evident in small perfume lines owned by non-perfume businesses (e.g. Orlov Paris). I’m always suspicious whether such houses commission perfumes because it is a nice compliment to their business or because they really care about fragrances. Is Ruth Sery passionate about perfume or is she merely interested?

    A great take on the house and the state of the niche industry.

    • Judging by the biography section on the Orlov website, it sounded to me as though Ms. Sery had a genuine love of perfume before starting the brand, a love that goes back a while. So I don’t think it was started as a complement to her business, but I agree that some people are motivated by such considerations when starting a brand outside of their core area of business. (Quite a number of them, alas.)

      The thing is, from the fragrances listed in her bio, it sounds to me as though Ms. Sery loves mainstream, commercial fragrances. That’s what she knows and appreciates. Amarige, Alien, Dune, etc. (I happen to love Amarige myself, albeit in vintage form. More importantly, I think it represents a style of perfumery that Ropion has since left behind. He did Amarige in 1991. His style has become something very different, particularly over the last 10 years, and Amarige isn’t representative of his aesthetic the way something like Alien or Flowerbomb is.)

      In this case, I think Ropion is responsible for how things turned out, so I see the baker situation/analogy differently. My guess is that an ardent, worshipful, adoring fan managed to get her hero to make something for her, and so she left it largely up to him, deferring to his expertise. The baker, it turns out, is someone who can churn out replicas of his greatest hits in his sleep. And he’s used to doing precisely that. Doing the same thing again and again without any substantial variation. No time spent on any actual thought in order to create something new and completely different. Just the same old things that he can toss together blindfolded and with one hand tied behind his back. His reputation is such that he’s left to do what he wants, unless it’s the big chain companies asking him to stay in budget. But, here, there aren’t the same budgetary constraints because the target retail price is not $60. And he’s got a worshipful fan who is just so thrilled to get her hero that she’ll let him do what he thinks is best. Which is… the same old thing he always does. Which is how he can whip up 10 new fragrances a year.

      That’s my guess for how things went down, but it’s obviously speculation as I wasn’t there. Either way, I think Ropion has a certain olfactory schtick. And it’s extremely tired by now. I also don’t think he deserves the adulation that he receives in some quarters just because he did some Malles. Those are rare exceptions to the rule, if you ask me. (And a number of those are way over-hyped, imo, too.)

      • I can definitely see Ropion has his style. I see you take issue that he is not being original or creative using his style.

        I’d argue Jean Claude Elena is not much different, especially after joining Hermes. He has pretty much done the same style of fragrances but with different variations. What is your take on Elena’s work? What about Kurkdjian?

        • Ellena doesn’t impress me, either. Lol. For much the same reasons. In fact, Ellena is one of my least favourite noses, and someone who I think is fawned over to a cultish degree. I can’t relate to it at all, and I’ve said openly and bluntly that I’m glad he’s retiring. I desperately hope that, under the new nose, Hermès will stop putting out watery, sheer, minimalistic concoctions that are more illusory abstractions than concrete olfactory compositions with rich hues and actual character. I could go on about Ellena’s style all day, but you get the gist.

          As for Kurkdjian, I think he can be great when he does a darker or richer fragrance, but I think he’s hampered by his investors and backers to do safe, clean, fresh, sheer composition. Do, so clean and gauzy. His glorious, superb, brilliant Absolue Pour Le Soir is a good example of what he can do but it’s also the lowest seller in his line, so he doesn’t head in that direction as a result. But he sometimes tiptoes there, as much as his backers or the client permits, as shown by his Ciel de GUM for Moscow’s GUM department store. I think he’s got major range, but circumstances don’t permit him to engage in the variety that he’s fully capable of.

          I don’t worship any nose or think anyone can have a perfect track record, but my favourite nose is Christopher Sheldrake. I love so many of his Lutens creations, and I think he’s brilliant. Unfortunately, Serge Lutens’ aesthetic has changed dramatically over the last 5 years, so the fragrances he now wants or is directing Sheldrake to make have suffered as a consequence.

  12. Oh na na. Oh na na? That was oh damn. One just cannot escape the long tentacles of autocorrect! I thought yes yes, something befitting my deepest fantasies of crystal eyed Russian oligarchs in perfume form….I have to say that I have had glimpses of same from Xerjoff, Irissss, Xxy, and the wood one, but sadly even my profligate spending on perfume has its limits. M Ropion probably thought ‘come in spinner’, that’s an Australianism for wanker….yes,trying to copy the current Guerlain sugar overdose is doomed to failure because even Guerlain has now failed in that. And I say that because I love sweet candy, lolly, pink musk sticks, caramel, burnt sugar, and similar excess. If you have ever smelled the smokey air around a Queensland sugarcane mill in crushing season you would understand the delirium. And then there is Bundy rum. Haha what would normal people think if they stumbled upon our perfume discourse? Thank you dear K, I often feel guilty for the trauma you endure for our beloved art….

    • The smokey air around a sugarcane mill? That sounds divine! Need to come to Australia! But we have sugarcane mills in FLA also. Just not where I live. Need to check this out…

      • Hahaha, Ricky, I just KNEW that description would make you sit up and drool! Go on with your gourmands and your bad self, my dear. I think it’s great you’ve found something you love so much. (And I mean that sincerely and truly.) xoxo

      • Ricky in Australia they burn the mature cane to rid it of the leaf, although I think there has been a lot of pressure nowadays to desist on environmental grounds. So when the burnt cane stalks get to the mill, and go through the crushers, boilers, dryers, what have you, the sugar aroma, molasses, mingled with the burnt sugar of the cane fires is, well, it is truly amazing. Unfortunately Bundaberg Rum has been bought out by some multinational but in the olden days Bundy rum captured all this in its liquor. Twas truly magical…..it would be interesting to see what they do in Florida!

    • “Come in spinner”… LOL, that’s a new Australianism for me. (One of my best, dearest friends is an Aussie.) I’ll have to find a way to use that phrase the next time I call him. 😀 As for the fragrances, I actually think that trying to copy the current Guerlain sugar overdose would be a popular marketing and olfactory tool for most people. Those Guerlain scents sell. In fact, Guerlain is itself copying others in going that route, older releases that started the whole gourmand trend to begin with like Alien, Angel, and Pink Sugar. There’s a lot of money and success to be had in copying this style of perfumery. And the companies know it. But it’s one thing to copy it with a $60 perfume or even an $80 one. It’s quite another to do it and ask $330, imo.

  13. Mad Props, Beloved Kafka!!! The Kindest of Thanks to You; for enduring this collective monstrosity on our behalf!!! Honestly, they lost me at Flowerbomb + Cumin!!! The word does not need another Fruitchouli (which surprised the heck out’ta me when Andy Tauer recently debuted one in Tauerville???) I seriously do not understand this disturbing development in Niche! Hope you and the Hairy German are well!!! 😀

    • I fear neither the Fruitchouli trend nor the Laundry Clean Musk one will ever die. I’m convinced that I’ll be 90 years old, and the two will still be as popular as ever. :'( It would be one thing if it were limited to department store fragrances, but there seems to be no escape from it in the niche field either these days. So depressing.

  14. Methinks I’ll spring for the Elixir versions!

    I completely expected these to be awful. That says something, no?

    I am stunned at how interesting you made these reviews, by the way!

    • Ha, yes, I can really see the $1,890 bottle in your future… 😉 😛 It’s nice to know I somehow made these reviews interesting, since it didn’t feel that way while writing them. LOL.

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