Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.
To say that Christian Dior J’Adore attained legendary status faster than any other fragrance created over the past ten years is in fact an understatement. Since its birth in 1999, this vivid fresh floral has been responsible for a family of more than 500 offspring, ranging from mainstream to niche, from Estée Lauder Pure White Linen to Dog Géneration Oh My Cat. I cannot even begin to count how often it is selected as a benchmark for developing new feminine fragrances especially with regards to radiance and diffusion. Yet, J’Adore is also a perfect example of how dysfunctional the fragrance market has become. Instead of being left alone to shine in its resplendent glory and to continue to top the list of global bestsellers, J’Adore has been reformulated and diluted by flankers to the point that its character has been attenuated and its message confused.
The concept behind J’Adore was gold and its hypnotizing effect. Perfumer Calice Becker evoked the captivating glow of precious metal through an intricately woven composition that delivered its radiant quality through a beautiful progression of accords, from the vivid green top note to the lush floral heart and finally to the silky drydown. J’Adore’s luminous aura is introduced by a vivid green ivy leaf note (an interesting aroma-material Glycolierral,) which, while vibrant, is nevertheless soft and creamy. As the initial scintillating notes settle, the floral accord begins to unfold. I have been wearing and studying J’Adore for the past 10 years, but every time I smell this ingenious composition of floral notes, which oscillate from rose to violet, from freesia to jasmine, from honeysuckle to tuberose, I still get the same jolt of pleasure and delight. As J’Adore develops on the skin, it truly recreates the iridescence of a jewel. The fragrance traces a beautiful arc and settles into an incense and amber colored drydown. Dusky and moody, it is the perfect counterpoint to the preceding bright, shimmering accords.
J’Adore was an immediate success when it was first launched, yet, for reasons unknown, LVMH (Dior’s parent) saw fit to tamper with the formula. The remarkable quality of the original J’Adore was its radiance and clarity, with a sillage that uniquely combined airiness and richness. The balance between different floral notes achieved a striking a cappella harmony. The current J’Adore instead has a hazy floral effect, with a strong peachy jasmine accent. The spring-like green freshness is completely absent as is the captivating jewel glow of the floral heart. While it is a pretty fragrance, the reformulations have completely destroyed the incredible balance that set J’Adore apart from all other modern florals. Likewise, I find that the tenacity and the sillage have suffered, with the fragrance appearing both thinner and sharper overall.
As if the alterations weren’t enough, J’Adore has had so many flankers that its message has become completeley diluted. For starters, there were several Eau de Toilette versions. In 2003, the EDT was interpreted as a fresher, dewier version of the original, which was actually quite excellent. In 2007, the EDT was recasted as a magnolia and citrus accented composition. The same year, J’Adore Absolu came out, with stronger accents on jasmine, rose and ylang ylang. In 2008, we had J’Adore Le Jasmin, which was essentially a lush jasmine note set into the fresh green accord of J’Adore. In 2009, we were prompted “to rediscover the femininity of J’Adore,” which was just as well, because I badly needed some reminders at this point as to the purpose of these flankers. J’Adore L’Eau Cologne Florale is actually quite a lovely, light orange blossom-violet composition, but there is certainly nothing J’Adore to rediscover in it. If you are still reading this, you have the patience of an angel, and I will spare you the details of the non-alcoholic J’Adore and J’Adore summer versions. While I am sure that we have plenty more J’Adore alter egos to anticipate, I will just mention the latest one, J’Adore L’Or. It came out in 2010, boasting its use of the most prized natural essences, and serving as an example of a simple truism—expensive ingredients do not make a great perfume.
Christian Dior J’Adore (1999) includes notes of bergamot, mandarin, champaca flower, ivy leaves, jasmine sambac, Turkish rose, violet, orchid, blackberry musk, wood, plum.
J’Adore L’Or (2010) includes notes of bergamot, mandarin, champaca flower, ivy leaves, Grasse jasmine, Rose de Mai, sweet pea, violet, orchid, patchouli, amber, labdanum, tonka bean, vanilla.
To identify older J’Adore packaging: my older bottle and packaging of the EDP (Christian Dior Paris is written on a violet tinted oval, circled with gold); newer EDP (Dior is written on a solid gold oval; both photos found online).
Samples: my own acquisition; my older bottles of J’Adore EDP (which was the focus of my review) were from 2000, 2002, and 2006.