Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
Given the fact that flying is such a nuisance these days, I can do without olfactory ennui at duty-free shops. However, unless one chooses to stock up on the old favorites, the duty-free shelves offer little olfactory excitement. The choices range from uninspired to comical. By way of example, Dior and Givenchy seem to favor pale fruity-florals and lots of pronouns (Dior Me, Dior Me Not, My Givenchy, My Givenchy Dream). Bali in Kenzo’s inexplicably named 7:15am in Bali smells like a vodka cocktail. Then, I am led to conclude that the only thing that caused Azzaro to name their travel retail scent Jetlag was perhaps being in such a state indeed. On the other hand, what could be their excuse for Cockpit? …
In light of all this, I expected Lancôme Cyclades (named after a Greek island group in the Aegean Sea) to be yet another fragrance to forget soon after leaving the airport. If I still feel ambivalent about it, it is nevertheless memorable. The scintillating bergamot and pettigrain notes set over a plush, Ombre Rose* like drydown of rose, musk and vanilla make Cyclades a pleasant departure from the usual fruity-floral fare. The vibrant citrus notes have the complex, peppery fizz that characterizes natural bergamot oils. The uplifting start provides a perfect contrast for the warmth that takes over once the initial sparkle fades. Cyclades has simultaneously a classical softness and a modern clarity. A touch of green fig paired with warm woods reminded me of a likewise contrasted sensation of Un Jardin en Méditerranée by Hermès—crisp and soft, floral and woody.
The drydown is where Cyclades falls apart. The voluptuous softness wears off, revealing the bare bones of the composition, musk and dry woods. As time goes on, the only thing that is left behind is a pale vanilla musk. Within the initially rather sophisticated composition, this bland accord seems like a nod to the contemporary definition of an inoffensive perfume. Thus, after a promising start Cyclades fails to take me further than a neighborhood mall.
The more I think about the duty-free scents, the more I wonder why, by and large, they are so uninteresting. Afterall, are not the excitement of travel and the lure of faraway destinations the best sources of inspiration for creators?
Lancôme Cyclades includes notes of neroli, bergamot essence, oleander, jasmine, white musk and vanilla hyperabsolute. Available at the duty-free stores, as are other fragrances mentioned above.
*Jean-Charles Brosseau Ombre Rose is a classical fragrance created by Françoise Caron and released in 1981. It includes notes of ylang-ylang, rosewood, honey, peach, iris, lily of the valley, rose, sandalwood, musk, coumarin, vanilla. The delicious softness of this floral oriental made Ombre Rose quite legendary.