Poême : Missing the Poetry
When I first smelled Lancôme Poême six years ago during the time of its launch, it struck me as unbearably shrill and synthetic. It is a testament to the cheapening of fragrance formulas over time that when I smell it today, it actually seems to contain more naturals than most of the current big prestige launches. Of course, the quality of the materials is only one aspect of a well-made perfume; the balance between different parts of the fragrance is what determines how it behave and whether it ultimately pleases its wearer. Poême is an example of an interesting oriental orange blossom idea that is executed in a heavy-handed manner. It is like a nicely cut dress made out of a cheap fabric—appealing idea, but ultimately very unpleasant to wear.
Poême was created in 1995 by Jacques Cavallier. While the marketing materials talked at length about some mysterious blue Himalayan poppy, Poême is essentially a tuberose and orange blossom accord sketched in a classical oriental style, with warm musk and balsamic vanilla notes outlining the base. Today the fragrance smells surprisingly dated, with the heavy amber recalling the style of fragrance that produced Elizabeth Arden Red Door and Elizabeth Taylor White Diamonds. The peppery green accord reminiscent of Estée Lauder Estée and Spellbound adds a harsh bitterness to the shrill floral accord. The effect is unctuous and thin at once, an achievement in itself.
Oriental Orange Blossom : Exploring the Modern and the Vintage
So, why do I bother reviewing Poême, a commercial and creative failure? The fact is that talking about Poême gives me a chance to highlight a few of my favorite fragrances. First of all, Hermès 24 Faubourg is a super orange blossom and jasmine composition that recalls the shape of Poême. It fleshes out the oriental orange blossom idea that Poême merely suggests before the pungent, oily tuberose overtakes everything. The perfumer Maurice Roucel is known in the industry for his ability to create dramatic and seductive effects, and his talent is obvious in 24 Faubourg, a seemingly posh and proper fragrance that nevertheless has a smoldering undercurrent.
Somewhat older is Jean Desprez Bal à Versailles, which cradles its iris and orange blossom heart in a dark embrace of incense, patchouli and vetiver. The orange blossom lends a luminous note to this elegant, full-bodied oriental. If you care to step even further back in time and apply your detective skills to the task, Jean Patou Chaldée, now discontinued, can provide a fascinating example of a dark, yet radiant orange blossom amber. Originally created in 1927 as a tanning oil, Chaldée manages to be lighthearted, seductive and sophisticated, an absolutely irresistible combination.
On the other hand, if you love orange blossom interpreted in the plush, dusky timber of an oriental, then Guerlain L’Heure Bleue is the fragrance to explore. Dark, velvety, with a delicious licorice meringue top note, this composition retains its beauty and elegance even today, almost a century after its birth. Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar launched this spring offers a similar idea, but in a breezy and cheerful interpretation aided by a generous dose of mandarin and green notes. It still retains the moody allure of an oriental orange blossom, yet it is always ready to break into a smile. Lovely!
P.S. So what about the star rating for Lancôme Poême? I gave it 2 stars. The other fragrances mentioned are 4 star rated, while L’Heure Bleue gets a full 5 stars for all of its magic.
Sample : my own acquisition