Panthea and Wish Come True are the latest releases from Stéphane Humbert Lucas‘ 777 line whose name is often shortened to SHL 777. My Reviews En Bref are shorter looks at fragrances that — for whatever reason — didn’t work for me or didn’t seem to warrant one of my detailed assessments which typically cover a scent from head to toe, from its official description to quoting other people’s thoughts in comparative reviews.
Panthea is an eau de parfum that was released around the end of May. As a uniform rule when it comes to the SHL 777 fragrances, the official note list is always merely the most simplistic nutshell. Monsieur Lucas has told me a number of times that he prefers to provide merely the broadest brush strokes for what’s in a fragrance and, in my years of covering his line, not once has the official account ever been the complete, full tally of the notes. Neither Panthea nor Wish Come True are different in that regard.
The official list for Panthea is, according to Luckyscent:
Bergamot, pink pepper, tangerine, elemi, white tea, carrot, iris, jasmine, violet, carnation, white musk, tobacco flower, tonka, sandalwood, patchouli.
Panthea opens on my skin with a brisk, chilled, lemony bergamot within a cloud of jasmine. To me, it doesn’t smell like real jasmine but, rather, hedione, a fresh, clean, cool, lemony, jasmine-scented material much beloved by Jean-Claude Ellena for its green-tinged cleanness and crispness. In fact, I would bet money that Panthea has some hedione in it, if not a lot. The hedione is partially responsible for the flecks of greenness within Panthea’s floral cloud, but I’d also wager that violet leaf plays a part as well.
Other notes quickly follow suit. There are the jammy, slightly spicy, fruity berries of pink peppercorns, then tiny wisps of a powdery, somewhat lipstick-scented violet as well as the more lemony greenness of a rather piercing, sharp violet leaf note. All three things are minor as compared to the clean, cold, stony, and immensely soapy aromas of iris which bursts upon center stage after only a minute or two. It becomes a central part of the bouquet, curled tightly around the crisp, lemony “jasmine”/hedione and the brisk bergamot as the driving thrusts of Panthea’s opening bouquet. Finishing things off are a few slivers of vaguely sandalwood-ish woodiness and then a thick blanket of laundry clean white musk.
When smelt from afar, Panthea strongly resembles expensive floral soap combined with expensive floral-citrus shampoo, a few blobs of indeterminate red berry sweetness, and a flicker of indeterminate beige woodiness. I’m not keen on any of it, particularly the high-pitched shrillness of what seems far more like violet leaf than violet flowers or violet, lipsticky ionones. I’ve also never been a fan of hedione which always takes on a soapy aspect on my skin as it develops.
In fact, it takes a mere 10-15 minutes for all of Panthea’s bouquet to skew sharply towards the soapy end of the spectrum, and the result closely resembles Hermes‘ 1970s-era Caleche. Like Panthea, Caleche is a fresh, clean, very citrusy floral with jasmine and iris that’s enveloped within an overpowering deluge of soapiness (aldehydes in its case, as well as white musk) with tiny accents of woodiness and greenness licking at its white edges. Where original version Caleche had oakmoss, Panthea has violet leaf, but the primary, central focus of both fragrances is very much the same: fresh, clean floralcy layered with brisk, lemony citruses and subsumed within a white cloud of soapiness.
The unmistakable similarity and olfactory overlap are enormously difficult for me. I was given Caleche (and its ghastly soap) as a present on my 7th birthday after some bad experiences in my initial perfume adventures with YSL’s Rive Gauche and JC Ellena’s First. All three are immensely aldehydic floral compositions, but Caleche was so intensely soapy that it was the last straw. I hated it so much that baby-me swore off perfume entirely, I kid you not, and things would have stayed that way until a fortuitous encounter later on with my mother’s Opium. But Caleche… I have run from it and any fragrance that smells like it for several decades now, so having its modern descendant blaring from my skin was an unbearable experience for me right from the start.
It didn’t get any easier, either. Roughly 20 minutes in, Panthea’s soapiness and white musk ballooned in size, becoming louder and louder. I started to feel as though I was wearing expensive shampoo as well as expensive Caleche soap. At the same time, both the violet leaf and the “jasmine” turned sharper, while a distinct ISO E-like quality began to flitter around the background next to a dry, synthetic-smelling, sandalwood-ish woodiness.
Putting aside my Caleche issues and aromachemical sensitivities, I wasn’t enthused by the excessively mainstream character of the composition. It reminded me of Givenchy‘s Dahlia Noir, a fresh, clean iris-driven floral that I made the mistake of trying in Macy’s upon its release in 2011 and which sent me running in search of a bathroom to wash it off. Dahlia Noir is powdery instead of soapy, but it actually has several notes in common with Panthea apart from its alleged, purported “iris” (a purely synthetic, faux “iris,” if you ask me) like citrus, pink pepper berries, sandalwood, tonka, laundry musk, and ISO E Supercrappy. On my skin, Panthea smells like Caleche and Caleche soap with a good slug of Dahlia Noir mixed in as well. I find the end result to be a far cry from SHL 777’s early aesthetic or anything truly “niche,” for that matter.
I tried to endure the fragrance as long as I could, but I ended up scrubbing Panthea both times that I tested it. The first time, I only managed 20 minutes. The second time, I sought to give Panthea a fair shot but, after 90 minutes, I simply couldn’t take it any more and washed it off.
Even if Panthea is not for me, it will probably be a big hit with a certain sector of the market, namely, women who adore Caleche, fresh clean florals, fragrances that smell like expensive soap, and the floral-aldehydic style that is such a signature of classical scents from Chanel. That’s probably why one Fragrantica commentator wrote so happily that Panthea was: “The most beautiful fresh floral that reminds me of the most luxurious soap ever created. That isnt a bad thing at all.” If you feel the same way, try Panthea for yourself.
WISH COME TRUE:
Wish Come True is also an eau de parfum, and it was released at the same time as Panthea. Essenza Nobile has a longer note list than the one at Luckyscent but, once again, I think it’s only a partial picture of what is in the scent because I found Wish Come True shared a number of the elements and accords that are in SHL 777 Taklamakan. According to Essenza Nobile, Wish Come True’s list is:
Topnotes: Mandarin, Bergamot, Ylang Ylang
Heartnotes: Citrus Essence, Incense, Sambac Jasmine, Bay Leaf, Cardamom
Basenotes: Ambergris, Tuberose, Vanilla, Heliotrope, Styrax, Mysore Sandalwood, Musk, Laotian Oud
Wish Come True opens on my skin with tart, tangy tangerine and bergamot layered within a heavy, thick sea of ethyl maltol that smells of caramel-praline, fermented fruits in malt beer, and wheat. Fruity, honeyed, and slightly indolic jasmine follows suit, then a custardy and slightly banana-ish ylang ylang. The whole thing is set against a backdrop of several accords found in Taklamakan: smoky incense centered on myrrh and sweet myrrh; cinnamon-scented benzoin; spicy patchouli; dry, woody vanilla; sticky balsamic resins; and dry woods dominated mostly by smoky cedar. The highly gourmand floral structure is then drizzled with more ethyl maltol caramel, decorated with shards of crystallized creme brulée sugar, and spritzed with white musk.
It’s quite a barrage of notes that hit the nose, but they’re individually clear and distinct while also blended seamlessly together. Having said that, certain elements stand out amidst the floral, fruity, gourmand, oriental, resinous, woody, and quietly smoky accords. The strongest one out of the lot on my skin during the first 10 minutes is the heavily fermented, extremely wheat-like malt beer and the macerated, caramelized fruits aged within it. Then, after 15 minutes, the ylang-ylang joins the primary, driving mix, its floralcy wafting a profoundly custardy quality. The Taklamakan accords are only the backdrop against which everything operates but, out of those, the incense has the strongest trail.
I’m not quite sure what to make of it all. The wheat is an interesting addition, especially when juxtaposed next to the custardy ylang-ylang, but I’m less keen on the fermented beer aspect of the ethyl maltol and I definitely can’t handle the cloying sweetness of its main caramel-praline aroma. I like the background whiffs of Taklamakan, especially its cinnamon, woody vanilla, and spicy patchouli, all of which work well with ylang’s spicy floral side, but I don’t think they work well with the ylang’s banana. In fact, it makes me a little queasy whenever the two set of accords merge to waft a banana-malt beer aroma on my skin, and that combination is particularly noticeable at the 45-minute mark.
To be fair, I don’t like the ethyl maltol note here at all, in any of its facets or combinations. A big reason why is that it is just so intense, loud, and bulldozer-ish that it creates a rather unbalanced set of accords on my skin as well as an excess of sweetness. From what I’ve been told, Stephane Humbert Lucas’ SoOud line is typically quite sweet, dominated by caramel or gooey gourmand elements, and he’s done the same for a handful of his SHL 777 fragrances (see, e.g., Une Nuit à Doha), but none of them have ever felt quite so cloyingly sweet on my skin as Wish Come True.
The quantity of caramel ethyl maltol here not only feels quite heavy-handed, but it also muffles some of the notes to the point of strangulation. For example, the jasmine is quite drowned out after 10-15 minutes, and there is nary a peep of the bay leaf, cardamom, tuberose, or heliotrope at all on my skin during the first four hours. In the face of such a barrage, the fresher notes which do appear don’t stand much of a chance and are transformed. For example, instead of the tangerine and bergamot being crisp, bright, fresh notes, they are turned candied and immensely sugary. The double duo of vanillin and ethyl maltol even impact the musk, turning it into the always disconcerting aroma of white sugared laundry cleanness. The cumulative sum-total effect is a bit of a hot mess, in my opinion.
During the first, opening hour, Wish Come True’s focus keeps shifting between two related but slightly different bouquets:
- a ylang-ylang floral version of Taklamakan, complete with its incense, resins, cinnamon, dry vanilla, and smoky woods; or
- a floral gourmand where ylang-ylang banana custard is sandwiched between thick slabs of caramel praline and then doused in fruity, fermented malt beer, and only thin wisps of incense and resins float around the background.
Things change midway into the second hour. Roughly 90 minutes in, the sweetness levels seem to go up ten notches. The result is tooth-achingly cloying with heaps of caramel piled in mounds over burnt sugar, caramelized vanilla, sticky toffee’d resins, banana pudding, and malt beer. I honestly can’t bear to sniff my arm too often up close, and I feel quite queasy when I do. That Banana-Malt Beer mélange is simply dreadful with the heightened levels of caramel.
Wish Come True changes again at the start of the 3rd hour. The ethyl maltol loses its malt side, although its caramel remains unchanged and is as forceful as ever. At the same time, the ylang ylang dissolves into a faceless, shapeless floralcy, while the Taklamakan vanilla-incense-woody accords and the white musk come to the foreground.
The result is an abstract, hazy floral gourmand blur cocooned within an abstract ambered warmth that is centered primarily on caramel and caramel-drenched, abstract white floralcy. The flowers may be indeterminate, but their petals have been candied with sugar, singed with smoky incense, then spritzed with sugared white musk. However, things are different when I smell Wish Come True on the scent trail rather than up close. From a distance, the white florals are completely sublimated within the caramel and sugar.
Whether I smell Wish Come True up close or from afar, it’s much too cloying for me and I felt the constant urge to scrub. I finally gave in and called it quits at the end of the 3rd hour and the start of the 4th when even the abstract, candied white florals were finally smothered to death by the sugared caramel. SHL 777 fragrances typically last a minimum of 15 hours on me, some as much as 20-22 hours, and I lack the patience (or masochism) these days to endure that sort of longevity for a scent that I really do not like or cannot bear to wear.
I don’t provide comparative reviews and quotes in my Reviews en Bref, but you can read Fragrantica if you love floral gourmands and are interested in Wish Come True. There are four or five comments there at this time, and they’re all positive.
Wish Come True may not be my cup of tea, but it isn’t a terrible fragrance; it’s simply best suited for someone with particular tastes. As regular readers know full well, I have a low tolerance level for excess sweetness and I do not enjoy gourmands. I particularly dislike the ethyl maltol trend that typifies many of the modern Guerlain gourmands. Yes, ethyl maltol is the material responsible for the “praline” note in the mainstream Guerlain scents that so many people seem to adore, although I would like to point out that none of them have ever manifested the malt beer side of that note on my skin. (Bogue’s new MEM has a bit of it but never to the degree, strength, or quantity demonstrated here in Wish Come True.) Still, if you’re a fan of the current hyper-sweet Guerlain aesthetic or if you like floral gourmands in general, you may want to give Wish Come True a sniff for yourself.
On a side note, I think Wish Come True skews slightly towards the feminine side, but a man who loves floral gourmands could pull it off, especially from the 3rd hour onwards when it’s more or less a pure gourmand. (I think it goes without saying that Panthea is highly feminine, although men who love fragrances like Caleche would probably enjoy it.)
I have little else to say in closing except that I really hope Monsieur Lucas returns to his darker and more Franco-Arabic niche aesthetic with his next fragrance.
Disclosure: My samples were kindly provided by Luckyscent. That did not influence this review. I do not do paid reviews, and my opinions are my own.