Modern Trends in Perfume – Part I: Sugar, Spice & Even More Sugar

Perfume is a subjective thing. Let’s get that out-of-the-way right now. Arguably, everything in life is subjective as reflected by Plato’s Cave. But perfume is especially intangible and personal since it depends on our individual body chemistry, our tastes, our olfactory memories of the world, and so much more. With that in mind, and with the awareness that a blog is all about the personal and subjective, here are what I see as the current trends in perfume: Sugar Bombs, Gourmands, Extreme Eccentrics, Clean/Fresh scents and, finally, the newest, super-popular trend which entails Aoud/Oud. For reasons of length, I’ll split up the discussion into three parts.

Sugar Bombs.  Viktor & Rolf’s Flowerbomb is supposed to be a white floral with patchouli. To me, it’s a revolting explosion of sugar. Sugared water. Diabetes in a bottle. I have little more to say on it because: a) I find it unworthy of verboseness and verbiage; and b) it’s too linear and one-dimensional for me to *have* much to say! I will grudgingly admit  that this enormously popular perfume is not to blame for the current state of sugar bombs on the market.

No, that honour goes to Thierry Mugler’s Angel. Angel is a polarizing scent with an abundance of enemies and fans. It’s been copied endlessly – something I’m extremely bitter about, if I might add. Angel is sweet, sweet and… well, you get the picture. Patchouli candy floss which one commentator compared to sweet vomit. For me, the biggest problem may be the incredibly synthetic nature of the scent. If you went to Whole Foods, for example, and checked out the natural oils, you would usually find a depth of flavour with nuances, varying degrees of potency and some richness. In contrast, synthetic perfumes have an almost sharp, sometimes metallic or burning, element to them. They can be chemically abrasive in a way. I remember spraying some of the reformulated Shalimar a few weeks back and there was an instant harshness to the opening notes. You can also see my review of Chanel’s Coco Noir — the opening notes of which triggered an almost burning sensation in my nose. (Yes, I sprayed a lot, but still! I spray a lot of most perfumes and don’t have that feeling unless there is something synthetic going on.) But going back to Thierry Mugler’s famous Angel. It’s a synthetic, cloying sweetness. There is nothing natural about it, as there would be if you went into a bakery shop redolent with chocolate, sugar, caramel and spices. No, Angel is just artificial, chemical sweetness. And it has triggered a virtual avalanche of sweet smells that have emulated it and sought to seize a piece of the lucrative perfume market.

The cloying twin sister of the Sugar Bomb scents are the Gourmands. They share similar characteristics, especially in that artificial nature, but I do see a difference. Gourmand scents are closer to pure desserts, often bringing in fruit and candy notes, almonds and chocolates in lieu of more floral elements. Don’t get me wrong, there is sugar throughout, but the sugar is not offset by white florals or by spicy notes such as the technically and theoretically “oriental” Angel.  There won’t be rose, jasmine, patchouli and musk but blackberries, melons, raspberries, caramel, licorice, chocolate and the like. Examples would be: Michael Germain’s Sugar Daddy & Sexual Sugar (no, I’m not making those names up!), Aquolina’s Pink Sugar or ChocoLovers, numerous Victoria Secret or Britney Spears scents (like her Fantasy), and yes, probably a good chunk of celebrity scents in general out there. I really don’t have much more to say on the subject. I’m not a fan and never will be. I’ve blocked out as much of the scents from my memory banks as I can from sheer trauma.

Going in the exact opposite direction are fragrances which I will call the Extreme Eccentrics and which specifically seek to replicate or emulate the scent of genitalia, sweat, dirty sex and decay. That will be one LONG discussion, so I’ll focus on those scents in Part II here, while Part III will address yet another polar extreme, the Clean/Fresh category of fragrances that are currently  popular on the market.