Estee Lauder Pleasures : Perfume Review


Star rating: 5 stars–outstanding/potential classic, 4 stars–very good, 3 stars–adequate, 2 stars–disappointing, 1 star–poor.

I enjoy re-reading books that struck me as memorable. As time passes and one gains more experience and knowledge, one’s perspective changes sufficiently to make new discoveries. Revisiting fragrance is not much different in that respect–the knowledge one gains in the interim makes one understand better the art and the pleasure of perfume. Estée Lauder Pleasures has been on my list to reevaluate for quite some time, largely because of its reputation as a modern classic. It was never a personal favorite–its clean and wholesome aesthetic runs counter to my love for things dark and mysterious. However, as I wear it, I cannot but admire its strong signature and its gorgeous layers of floral absolutes set against the crisp green notes. …

Created by Firmenich’s Annie Buzantian and Alberto Morillas, Pleasures has been one of the top sellers for Estée Lauder since 1995 when it first debuted. It expresses an idea of a stylized peony, a holographic image in vibrant green and pink shades. What separates Pleasures from other pretty floral renditions is that it is layered over a unique musk base—metallic and sparkling, rather than animalic and sweet. Indeed, Firmenich musks are renowned in the industry for their variety, complexity and performance. The result is a “just out of the shower” scent that conveys perfectly the American ideal of clean.

While Pleasures captures a scent that soap and water leave on the skin, it is also luxurious and memorable. The rose absolute notes are honeyed, warm and complex. Pleasures wears like iron, and its sillage is strong without being strident. Another notable facet of Pleasure is a pink pepper note, which contributes a delicate cool spiciness. Even now, more than 10 years after it was first used, pink pepper continues to be a trendy accent for new launches.

In many ways, Pleasures has shaped much of the olfactory landscape of the 1990s and rejuvenated the green floral genre. Its family of offsprings and imitators is large enough to warranty a separate article, if not a chapter. Moreover, I find solace in the fact that the best-sellers on the market like Pleasures, Thierry Mugler Angel, Chanel No 5 and Coco Mademoiselle are the high-quality, well constructed fragrances, which ruins counter to the marketers’ notions that it is the consumers who demand cheap, celebrity endorsed juices.

Pleasures includes notes of “White Lily, Violet Leaves, Black Lilac, White Peony, Karo-Karounde, Baie Rose, Sandalwood, Patchouli.” There exist also various flankers (Pleasures Delight, Pleasures Intense, Pleasures Exotic.) It is available directly from Estée Lauder website as well as the Lauder counters.



  • Elizabeth: Thank you for that excellent point about the bestsellers! Whenever someone claims that Americans have simple, unsophisticated tastes and will only buy simple, sugar-candy perfumes, I point to the popularity of Angel. I smell it absolutely everywhere. You can call Angel a lot of things, but “simple and unsophisticated” are not among them.

    But Pleasures…that’s something I truly cannot wear. On me it resembles the air in a hothouse filled with dead and dying flowers. 🙁 May 9, 2008 at 2:48pm Reply

  • rosarita: I have been revisiting EL Pleasures as well this spring. I wore it in the 90s, when it was just right for my life at that time: busy and filled with school children, both my own and others. I hadn’t smelled it in years. Around the first of this year, a very kind perfume blogger sent me a small bottle of Pleasures parfum, and I saved it until spring weather arrived. It is truly gorgeous in parfum form, but I enjoy spritzing this scent even more, I think. It smells bright and crisp and juicy, not fruit-juicy, but the kind of sap that comes from pulling very green weeds out of the flower beds. I’m enjoying it very much. Thanks so much for the review! May 9, 2008 at 3:22pm Reply

  • March: V, can I say again how happy I am that you are back to blogging?

    I wound up with a small bottle of Pleasures Delight in a recent gift w/purchase, and I found myself, well, delighted. It and Pleasures are not really “me” — that metallic note you mention in Pleasures is very strong to me — but they are interesting and undeniably pretty.

    I am guilty of avoiding things *because* they are mainstream and popular. I am trying to rectify that. I’ve tackled Euphoria, Tommy Girl and Dior Addict recently. May 9, 2008 at 5:32pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Elizabeth, excellent point about Angel. I have to say that few things irritate me more than reading that American consumers have poor, unsophisticated tastes. It is just that the brands often play too safe. Inexpensive fragrance is not necessarily bad, but a bland, faceless imitator is. Pleasures and Angel are anything but.I also do not wear Pleasures, but I appreciate what it is as an artistic object in itself. May 9, 2008 at 7:47pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Rosarita, the scent of Pleasures is somewhat nostalgic for as I associate it with the time when I first came to the US. It just embodies the American beauty ideal so well for me. I have not tried the parfum, but I can just imagine how lush the florals are in it. I must say that when I wore Pleasures yesterday, a couple of strangers complimented me on it. It is difficult to miss. May 9, 2008 at 7:54pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: March, ah, thank you so much for saying that. It is really a pleasure to be back to the bloggosphere.

    I also have been revisiting Dior Addict. I think that I like it more and more.Actually, I heard a trend presentation on Russia and apparently it is the only country where it is a top-seller. What do you think so far? May 9, 2008 at 8:02pm Reply

  • March: Well … based on two test-drives I like Addict a lot. I haven’t looked up the notes. It’s of a style I happen to like, kind of frankly in-your-face sweet orientals? There is something synthetic-smelling about it that I like very much (you could analyze this much better than I can, I would love to hear your thoughts.) Mentally I group it with Poison and Versace Dark Crystal, although Poison’s a much better scent. They’re … they’re not trying to be flowers? I find them creamy and comforting in the winter. (So you are saying it’s not a big seller here? I’m surprised!) A little goes a long way, my guess is if I went and read reviews on MUA or Basenotes it’s a love-it-or-hate-it.

    Euphoria I like in theory but man, people really drench that thing on. You can smell it at 30 paces. Some fragrances should come with little “apply lightly” stickers. May 9, 2008 at 8:12pm Reply

  • girlsodeadly: I ‘m not sure if I understood this right about Angel but I just don ‘t see a connection with Angel and the american market. I never really smelled Angel on anyone in New York but in Paris during the 90’s this fragrance was a nightmare, the french call it “un parfum de caissieres de supermarche” because in France working class women wear strong sillage luxury perfumes to gain social status, just like they starve so they can afford to buy label clothes. On the other hand upper class parisian ladies wouldn ‘t wear Angel, it ‘s something you smell in the metro but not in high end society circles or anything that a top executive woman would wear.

    Pleasure turns salty on my skin, after two hours the sillage is strong, overwhelming and unpleasant because of the saltiness. May 10, 2008 at 1:57am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: March, ok, let’s review Addict! That sounds like a perfect fragrance to revisit. It is too Oriental for American tastes and too vanilla sweet for French (German tastes are more along the lines of green florals and fresh florals). This leaves Russia, where in-your-face orientals are very popular. In general, it is a curious market. It is either very retro trends that are big (chypre, aldehydic florals) or new styles (Light Blue ). Plus, Russian women love French fashion houses, and Dior name still resonates strongly with them. Dior was one of the few fragrance brands one could find in stores in the Soviet Union (at astronomical prices, of course.) However, not everything from Dior is a big seller in Russia, so it must be both the name and the juice.

    Euphoria is incredibly potent. A little goes a long long way! May 9, 2008 at 10:16pm Reply

  • Lizzie: Thank you so much for a really informative review. I’m currently living in the Middle East, where many of my favorites such as Opium, Rive Gauche, Must de Cartier, Private Collection and Chanel No. 5 smell way too strong and turn rancid on my skin.

    Pleasures has been another favorite since it first came out, and after several years of being unable to wear it due to changing chemistry, we’ve made friends again. In this climate, nothing beats its clean yet promise-of-more-to-come sillage after a long day. I especially treasure the waft of clean-sheets-about-to-be-messed-up it gives off when I emerge from the subway hours after work on a hot, sticky New York City evening, a testament to its staying power through time, soot and sweat.

    Please keep writing; your blog is always on my short list of places to consult when I want to know anything about a fragrance. May 10, 2008 at 6:33am Reply

  • chayaruchama: Delightful to have you back, as always!

    I remember choosing Pleasures, when it was first released, as a ‘feel good’ for my now-deceased Lithuanian MIL.
    It was perfect for her.

    I agree heartily with your observations concerning cultural preferences; it makes me smile broadly.

    Pleasures is one that I re-sniff in stores, but don’t really want to wear myself-
    Again, as Dr. Herz says-
    The associations make my wearing it highly improbable…

    Be well, my dear. May 10, 2008 at 8:22am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Girlsodeadly, the connection is that Angel is one of the top 5 best-sellers in the US, as supported by NPD market research. It is also a best-seller in France, second to Chanel No 5. I lived in Paris in 1990s and I know exactly what you mean about Angel being everywhere. May 10, 2008 at 9:58am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Lizzie, thank you! I am very happy to hear this.
    Pleasures always maintains its freshness, and I can see how it can be a perfect scent on a hot, sticky day. I was in the Middle East last year, and I noticed how some scents I brought with me simply did not work at all. However, the traditional attars were perfect, even though light and sheer they are not. I am not sure where in the Middle East you are, but I am curious whether you had a chance to explore any of the local scents. The region as a whole is really a birthplace of perfumery. May 10, 2008 at 10:43am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Chaya, thank you, and it is a pleasure to chat with you, as always! Associations with scents and music are very strong. I cannot even begin to count how many perfumes have become off-limits for those reasons. May 10, 2008 at 10:52am Reply

  • Marina: Pleasures is associated in my mind with a good friend of my mine from back home. It is “her” scent, I don’t think I could wear it. Even if I fell in love with it now all of a sudden. It smells gorgeous on her though. May 10, 2008 at 11:38am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Marina, I feel the same way about it, actually. A good friend of mine wears it, although now thanks to my influence, she bought Chant d’Aromes. I am very pleased, because she selected it on her own after I mentioned how much I like Guerlain fragrances in general. May 10, 2008 at 4:49pm Reply

  • Sveta: Vika, what is “peony” in Russian? Is it “pion”? May 12, 2008 at 8:25am Reply

  • Linda: I don’t like Pleasures, but I agree with you that it is impossible to miss. Still, I don’t mind it on others as much as I mind Angel. May 12, 2008 at 9:57am Reply

  • Florence: Years ago I bought Pleasures unsniffed because there was a gift with purchase. But then I completely forgot about it. Just last month I was at the Lauder counter and I spritzed some on. Wow, it became love at first sniff for me. It’s so fresh, green and cool. I’m obviously going to buy a full bottle now. May 12, 2008 at 10:39am Reply

  • Cara: Would you believe me if I told you that I have never smelled Pleasures? LOL! I will check it out the next time I go to the mall. May 12, 2008 at 1:03pm Reply

  • Lizzie: Hi Victoria, I am in the UAE. I haven’t tried the attars and local fragrances; I suppose I just gave up on them because they are so strong and the local women and men drench themselves so you can’t help sampling everywhere you go. However, you’re right and I won’t leave without at least having a go. In fact, there is one that men wear that is glorious – a super clean, full-bodied floral marine, if you can believe it. More than once I have been sorely tempted to follow some dish dasha-wearing man to ask him what it is and maybe now I’ll stiffen my spine and do it. I’m dying to know what is in it. May 12, 2008 at 3:47pm Reply

  • oblitterati: Thank you for reminding us all of the joy of Pleasures. This was one of my first fragrance loves – and I now feel transported to 1995. I associate the sweet peppery notes with my high school transition from army jackets to peacoats. May 12, 2008 at 4:24pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Sveta, yes,it is pion in Russian. May 12, 2008 at 6:22pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Linda, I will take Pleasures over Angel any day, when it comes to experiencing an overdose of either. May 12, 2008 at 6:25pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Florence, what a nice discovery! Do you think that your old bottle might still be ok, or do you not have it anymore? May 12, 2008 at 6:30pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Cara, if you live in the US this is tantamount to missing Titanic. 🙂 May 12, 2008 at 6:33pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Lizzie, I had to smile when you mentioned wanting to follow those men to find out what perfume they were wearing. When I was in the Middle East, I had this urge on numerous occasions, but for obvious reasons let the common sense prevail and instead went to the perfumeries to ask what the locals wear. For women, I would often be presented with blends heavy on rose and sandalwood. Men’s options would range from rose-tinged marines to oud rich orientals. I completely agree with you that if you do not care for this sort of thing, then the scent Gulf residents prefer can become suffocating. I personally loved it, but then I was there on a visit rather a long-term stay.

    If you make any interesting scented discoveries, please share! I will experience them vicariously through you. 🙂 May 12, 2008 at 6:44pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Oblitterati, your transition is definitely something I have experienced too. Well, mine was from peacoats to army jackets and back to peacoats. I seem to recall that I wore Tresor then. However, Pleasures left a mark for sure! May 12, 2008 at 9:45pm Reply

  • cathleen56: I have never smelled Pleasures, either, I’m surprised to say. Is it more of a lily scent, or lily-of-the-valley? In doing some research, different sources emphasize different notes. May 13, 2008 at 10:32pm Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Cathleen, it is a sheer, green peony, very diffusive and sparkling. Definitely worth trying, if only to know what it is. Plus, I am sure that once you smell it, you will also recognize it. May 14, 2008 at 8:25am Reply

  • Cara: Pleasures is one of my favorite perfumes and is almost an SS for me as it was for my Grandmother when she was alive, her last one before she passed. I used to think that florals were not for me but then I tried Pleasures and could not stop complusively smelling my wrist until the scent faded. It reminds me of my father’s rose garden in summer when I was a girl, all warm flowers, languid rose and warm skin, a lovely reminder of such an innocent, happy time in my life. May 20, 2008 at 1:44am Reply

  • Boisdejasmin: Cara, it is such a beautiful memory, and a wonderful way to be linked to your loved one, even if she is no longer here. Thank you very much for sharing this with me. May 22, 2008 at 4:09pm Reply

  • European Zoe: Boisdejasmin, I’ve only recently discovered this blog, and I just wanted to say that you have such a great taste in perfume 🙂
    It’s nice to read something appreciating the wonderfulness of Lolita Lempicka’s L (my favourite perfume which I wear all the time 🙂
    Your blog inspired me to track down a sample of Dior’s Hypnotic Poison, which I agree is lovely and I may be purchasing it soon 😉

    I agree that Pleasures is a great scent; it’s my favourite floral perfume, and I generally abhor florals.
    As for Angel; I tried a sample of this yesterday and it was foul!!
    Obviously just not my thing………………… June 21, 2008 at 8:42am Reply

  • Domestic Goblin: I enjoy wearing Pleasures in the winter when it’s bitter cold. For some reason I find the fragrance radiates more in lower temperatures. October 22, 2013 at 2:21pm Reply

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