American Fragrance Classics

White_linen_3

What are your favorite American fragrance classics?

The first American pharmacy opened in 1729 in Philadelphia, where drugs and perfumes could be purchased. After several ownership successions, the pharmacy ended up in the hands of Hazard, Caswell and Massey. Thus, Caswell-Massey can rightfully claim to be the oldest pharmacy in the United States. Many others soon followed.

Elizabeth Arden, originally Florence Graham, opened up her beauty shop in 1910, creating Blue Grass to commemorate her favorite Virginia retreat.

Charles Revson, a son of a Russian immigrant, along with his brother Joseph and a chemist, Charles Lachman—the “L” in the company name, founded Revlon in 1932. Their first fragrance Norell, named after the designer Norman Norell, debuted in 1968.  …

Revlon’s competitor, Estée Lauder was established in 1946, with Youth Dew (1953) being an enormous success. A recent discussion on Estée Lauder and Tom Ford prompts me to ask about your favorite American fragrance classics (and others, not to be confined solely to classics).

One in particular that comes to my mind is Estée Lauder White Linen (1978). Its innovative appeal lies in its lack of ornamentation typical for heavily aldehydic fragrances—bergamot, ylang ylang, vanilla, coumarin. However, rose and green floral notes provide an interesting complex touch.

White Linen advertisement from psine.net.

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32 Comments

  • Marina: I would have to say White Linen too, though I do prefer its Breeze version. …which reminds me how much much I want to own a bottle again…must get one. Thank you for enabling yet again, Vikochka! November 8, 2005 at 9:16am Reply

  • Tania: You know I’ve never smelled White Linen!

    I wasn’t wild about aldehydes until recently, and now I actually look for them specifically, and have been meaning to seek this one out.

    Chris Brosius’s fascination with the original Norell (not the current formulation) had me curious, but I don’t think I’ve ever smelled that either, or even seen it.

    And Blue Grass? Never smelled it.

    Two of my best friends wore Red Door and Beautiful; Red Door I had a bottle of, but found it completely unwearable. Beautiful was my friend’s and my friend’s only, and I have never owned it, but always thought it was perfect for her freckled, curly-haired, blue-eyed, All-American thing, although she had a habit of dumping it on.

    Thinking about my own fragrances over the years, I think there’s one American fragrance I ever wore: Lauren. I thought there would be more, but I can’t think of a single other one. What a gap in my sniffing education. November 8, 2005 at 10:51am Reply

  • Katie: At this very moment, what is coming to mind is the Weil house – their Antilope is something I just love, and their Secret of Venus is irreproachably beautiful. But alas, they are not made anymore in formulas that resemble the original formulas. Sigh. Such a pity November 8, 2005 at 2:33pm Reply

  • linda: I used to wear Spellbound and Cinnabar. I also like White Linen, which is weird because I usually avoid aldehydes. November 8, 2005 at 3:00pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: M, my pleasure! I have never tried Breeze, but I shall do so. As you know, I really do not mind aldehydes at all. November 8, 2005 at 4:26pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, I have not worn many American fragrances, because they were not available when I was growing up, but now I would like to explore them more.

    White Linen is a fascinating composition that was revolutionary even in the wake of fragrances like Rive Gauche. I read that Galaxolide (musk that makes up a large proportion of its composition) was associated with laundry products, and perhaps the nose Sophia Grojsman used it on purpose to create a freshly washed linen feel.

    I have never tried Lauren, however I recently sampled vintage Norell, and it is beautifully composed. November 8, 2005 at 4:30pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, can you please describe Antilope for me? I keep hearing about it, but I have never tried it. November 8, 2005 at 4:31pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: L, both are quite interesting, although I do not remember them really well. I am jotting them down on my “to revisit” list. Thank you! November 8, 2005 at 4:32pm Reply

  • Tania: Never tried Lauren! That will be remedied shortly. November 8, 2005 at 4:32pm Reply

  • Tania: P.S. Can you describe Norell? I am just so curious. November 8, 2005 at 4:34pm Reply

  • Katie: Antilope is definitely unusual. The vintage wee mini bottles I have of the parfum are fruity (but not sugary!!!) and sagey, and somehow create a very sueded feel. I do have a later version of an eau de parfum, called Antilope pour elle that is very close to the original, though not quite exact. It’s a bit scratchier, but acceptably close. It’s a bit heavier on the suede smell than the older juice, which I kind of like, but I regard it as being an excellent reissue of the old. Skip the cologne strength version that the online retailers all seem to be awash in, though. Eventually I will finally get around to writing up some junk about the Weil stuff I’ve tried 🙂 November 8, 2005 at 4:47pm Reply

  • julien: In France, we often imagine american women prefer soft perfumes,with a big scent wich makes it smell “clean”.

    I don’t know if it is true,i never went to america…
    And i figure out that there must be also a real taste for strong scents,like YOUTH DEW.

    Can anyone precise these facts for me?
    Thanks.

    To me, even though it is not a classic american fragance,the scent that reminds me most of the american touch is CHANEL n°5 as it was maryline perfume…

    Lovely post,as always.
    Kisses dear.
    Julien. November 8, 2005 at 6:09pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, thank you very much! November 8, 2005 at 7:27pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Katie, thank you very much. It seems like something that should be sampled. I like the suede feel in fragrances, as it invariably adds a certain gentle softness, even if the composition is rich. I cannot wait to see you writing on Weil. November 8, 2005 at 7:29pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: J, yes, I think that the clean scent is what American fragrances tend to be characterized as, although of course it differs. Here, Angel still seems to be the top seller, and clean it is not. I do not have any other statistics though, but I would be interested to see them. November 8, 2005 at 7:31pm Reply

  • Campaspe: White Linen is the only EL fragrance I can stand, although you and Wyrmiax piqued my curiosity about Azuree. Isn’t Evyan an American company? In that case, I would name Most Precious and White Shoulders as my favorite American scents. November 8, 2005 at 7:48pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: I have not tried Azuree, which seems to be a chypre. I will start more testing of EL fragrances soon. One needs to fill those gaps. Evyan seems like an American company, based on some information I was able to find. I have not tried their fragrances either.

    Yes, White Linen is definitely my favourite from EL as well. At least, so far. November 8, 2005 at 7:56pm Reply

  • Tania: I remember Laurice Rahme saying that American women are all about white florals: gardenia, tuberose. November 9, 2005 at 4:29pm Reply

  • Ayala: My favourite American fragrance is Private Collection.
    It is strange, elegant and refined – though a bit too potent in the Estee Lauder tradition.
    I prefer the parfum, for both the slight difference in scent (the green top note is fresher and more like freshly cut grass, and the orange blossom and rose heart is more apparent).
    Private Collection makes one feel very special. It’s hard to explain the feeling.
    The top note also reminds me my first and most favourite (lost and discontinued, alas!) perfume – Abishag from the Israeli Museum. A scent that was inspired by perfumed Biblical beauties. The top was almost identical to Private Collection, only that the base was an oriental-labdanum-oakmossy; Overall it was like layering Parfum Sacre & Tabu with Private Collection top notes.

    Also dabbing avoids the messy sillage that the sprays forces you into.
    I also like Cinnabar but it is a bit too heavy for me to wear. Youth Dew smelled gorgeous in the parfum form as well (the scent escaped the sealed bottle I have encountered at Holt Renfrew, and I was alsmot considering buying it). November 9, 2005 at 1:08pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: A, Private Collection is one of EL fragrances I have not tried, however hearing you describe it makes me think that I really should.

    What a fascinating description of Abishag! I can only imagine how interesting it must have been. Too bad it is no longer available. Perhaps, you can create something similar. November 9, 2005 at 7:04pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: T, interesting! I wonder why do we not see more of white florals in her compositions then? November 9, 2005 at 7:05pm Reply

  • Tania: V, if I remember right, she made that declaration about white florals in an anecdote about how, when she was distributing Annick Goutal in the US, she demanded that Goutal produce a gardenia fragrance for the US market, but Goutal didn’t want to, because as a proper Frenchwoman she disliked gardenias. According to Rahme, she insisted that it was necessary for the market, and therefore we got Gardenia Passion.

    Although I think most recently Laurice has said that American ladies like gourmands, so the white floral association may be out of date. Or not. Perhaps we like big flowers and big cakes, both.

    I think Madison Soiree out of the Bond line is actually a white floral, but tempered with greenness. I liked it a lot, thought it was just girly enough but not too too girly, felt springlike and refreshing, but there was something about it that seemed unfinished, unbalanced, so I never bought it. November 9, 2005 at 8:34pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: That sounds very Laurice, based on what I hear about her. I suppose that gardenia does do well here, although I confess that there is something I cannot take about AG Gardenia Passion. It is well-done, but I just cannot wear it. Marc Jacobs Perfume, on the other hand, is great. I did not wear it when it first came out, because I smelled it everywhere, but now I am drawn to it again.

    I am laughing over your big flowers and big cakes comment! November 9, 2005 at 8:47pm Reply

  • Stacey Goodwin: I love Grey Flannel by Geoffrey Beene NY
    It’s a mans scent but I wear it in summer here in Aussie because it is so fresh lavender and violets ad light greens I think it very feminine. January 7, 2006 at 9:12pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Stacey, Grey Flannel is a wonderful fragrance, and I can see what you mean. It has a gentle, enveloping quality and it is easy to wear. January 8, 2006 at 8:36pm Reply

  • mary woroniec: I loved norell 2. I enjoyed wearing during the holidays. Does anyone else remember this scent? April 29, 2006 at 6:06pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Mary, I tried the vintage of version of Norell recently, and I was amazed by how elegant and beautiful it is. Such a rich and harmonious composition! April 29, 2006 at 6:20pm Reply

  • MiriamSilvana: Although Youth Dew and Estee (!), a clean and vibrantly woody scent, are my favourite Americans, Jontue by Revlon used to be my ‘alternative’ for Youth Dew. A little bit lighter smelling it still was amber-sweet with flowery top -probably gardenia- was there. However, it was not that sophisticated as YD. Jontue was popular during end 70ies into 80ies and rather inexpensive. Fine for disco and dining.
    Another American classic was Fire and Ice also by Revlon. It seems to have been there since the 50ies, far before my time. I discovered it in the early 90ies overhere – in the Netherlands that is. Fire and Ice struck me as tantalizing right away. The character describes as fresh and sensual at the same time. Besides it was labeled as a chypre-type aldehydic. Anyway I saw it as the summum in the aldehyde family, simply because of the contradictory and surreal characteristics. I also reckoned this to be typical for American perfumes. May 10, 2006 at 5:45pm Reply

  • MiriamSilvana: Adding, American style does not particularly mean fresh and sporty or a-sexual in perfumery. And I feel that the nostalgic fuller American scents do have influence over here. Even the barocco-packaging that a brand like Avon used to have which was considered fulgar by Western(!) Europeans is of influence. And with french noses creating American perfumes -Island by Michael Kors and Euphoria by Calvin Klein- I think both sides of the ocean are literally meeting in the middle. May 10, 2006 at 5:47pm Reply

  • BoisdeJasmin: Miriam, a great list! I remember Fire and Ice by Revlon, which I discovered first in the 1990s when I came to the States.

    I agree with you that the American style is very difficult to pin down, especially since the trends seem to be converging. Island by Michael Kors is a good example. As for Euphoria, the group of perfumers behind is quite multicultural, including a perfumer of Vietnamese descent, Loc Dong. May 10, 2006 at 7:05pm Reply

  • ALIX HANNAN: My mother bought me some Most Precious by Evyan when I was 16. It was the only scent that smelled wonderful on me and didnt give me a headache. Im 64 now , and still cant wear any other scent. If any one knows where I might purchase any product please let me know.

    It was the only scent July 16, 2007 at 1:02am Reply

  • Girl: Hmm..
    Your bloggings are great, I’ve just started my own blog too. November 22, 2007 at 4:33am Reply

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