Elie Saab Le Parfum : Fragrance Review



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

Once upon a time, the woods were for men and the flowers were for women. Coco Chanel and her perfumer Ernest Beaux rebelled against these stereotypes by creating Bois des Iles, a dark woody composition that was as elegant as it was shocking. The new generation of feminine woody fragrances, from Estee Lauder Sensuous to Bulgari Jasmin Noir, layers the woods so heavily with the floral notes that the character becomes blurred.  Unfortunately, most fragrances in that family are what I label as “acrylic florals”—possessing in equal measure the strident sharpness of woods and the neon brightness of modern floral notes. Elie Saab Le Parfum is the latest example of this genre, a cross between Sensuous and Narciso Rodriguez for Her.

Elie Saab Le Parfum is a debut from the Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab, who became famous for his elegant designs. The fragrance was created by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, whose trademark musky floral accord forms the core of the composition. The moment it begins to unfold on the skin, the bright orange blossom and gardenia notes set its tone. The rose tinged patchouli reminiscent of Narciso Rodriguez underpins the white floral notes, while the layers of musks give  Elie Saab the smooth feel of lacquered wood.

While I do not find Elie Saab Le Parfum appealing, on a technical level, it is a well-crafted fragrance—it lasts well, has great diffusion and a coherent character. Of course, this is not enough to make a great, or even a merely good, perfume. Elie Saab is loud and relentless, with a persistence of sharp woody notes that borders on irritating. The press release describes it as “an ode to light.” If so, it is like being blinded by a projector, an almost painful experience.

Elie Saab Le Parfum includes notes of orange blossom, jasmine, patchouli, rose, cedarwood. It is available in 30, 50 and 90 ml Eau de Parfum. It is currently available at Harrod’s.

Sample source: PR 



  • Suzanna: Sounds like an LED floral to me–and I love your “acrylic floral.” You can just smell that one; it’s lurking at every fragrance counter just waiting to commit an olfactory crime. August 25, 2011 at 10:01am Reply

  • violetnoir: I found this to be a solid mainstream release, but I would not buy it.

    Hugs! August 25, 2011 at 11:30am Reply

  • Elisa: I tried this a couple of weeks ago and described it as a cross between NR for Her and Alien. Either way, very familiar territory. August 25, 2011 at 10:05am Reply

  • Flora: Acrylic floral -perfect! It does sound terribly conventional, which is too bad. Elie Saab occupies about the same high end design territory as Badgley Mischka, and their signature perfume is fantastic. I expected better from ES. August 25, 2011 at 4:12pm Reply

  • sweetlife: Laughing — and I especially love your first line. Also: saving up your olfactory dessert post for a little later today. Skimmed the beginning and it made me so hungry I must go eat lunch, first. 😉 August 25, 2011 at 1:51pm Reply

  • Victoria: Ah, my fellow dessert lover! 🙂 August 25, 2011 at 11:29pm Reply

  • Victoria: I also had much higher expectations for it. You are right about the similarity with BM! I somehow thought that it would be just as fun and memorable. August 25, 2011 at 11:30pm Reply

  • Victoria: I agree, solid and forgettable. August 25, 2011 at 11:30pm Reply

  • Victoria: I can see that too, it has a similar radiant floral quality paired with a woody-ambery note. August 25, 2011 at 11:31pm Reply

  • Victoria: >>it’s lurking at every fragrance counter just waiting to commit an olfactory crime

    This made me laugh out loud! 🙂 Thank you! August 25, 2011 at 11:31pm Reply

  • Maria: Thank you for the review. This perfume was a suprise to me. I find the begining really good, it smells so much different from mainstream perfumes, a bit dark, sexy, a bit odd, it smells like a FK, may be a easier version of Absolue pour le Soir. I was like, wow, they made it. But after 10 minutes starts going worse and worse in a common teritory, some white flowers, artificial. Such a dissapoinetment. I was mostly suprised to read how happy was FK with it. I don’t know, may be they just used cheaper ingredients in the end. Sad.
    It will be intersting to see the appeal to the public because I think the first part is not for everyone. But the rest might find many fans. August 26, 2011 at 3:56am Reply

  • maggiecat: I’m looking forward to trying this – the scent strip I found in Allure was appealing, I thought, but it’s hard to tell from that. I’ve begun to find that American perfumes all seem too loud and heavy to me, but I keep sniffing around anyway. I thought the scent strip had a nice Adult Woman vibe, as opposed to the fruity florals that so abound at the counters. But I’ll see what happens when I spray it in person. Thanks for the review! August 26, 2011 at 2:18pm Reply

  • Carrie Meredith: I found that there is a delicious musky undercurrent to Elie Saab Le Parfum, that if they just focused on that or let it sing more clearly (and take a couple other things away), it could be in line with something from Amouage. As it stands, it’s a very American, and as you say loud, standard entry into a market already flooded with such perfumes. August 26, 2011 at 12:23pm Reply

  • Lynn Morgan: To Flora: really; you like Badgely Mishka? I thought it was the reason they went bankrupt! That and their tendancy to create clothes that can only be worn by women with severe eating disorders! I admire the artistry of Elie Saab’s clothes- his Oscar dress for Halle Berry is justifiably a legend- but the perfume sonds seriously pedestrian. August 26, 2011 at 7:40pm Reply

  • Victoria: I see what you mean! The drydown is the most disappointing part. It is just so predictable. August 27, 2011 at 2:13pm Reply

  • Victoria: So true, standard is a good descriptor to apply to it. Wish it were not the case! August 27, 2011 at 2:14pm Reply

  • Victoria: Do let me know what you think when you smell it! I like your “Adult Woman” description very much. 🙂 August 27, 2011 at 2:15pm Reply

  • Victoria: Hey, I like it too. It is a fun fragrance, especially when one is in a mood for some fruit. 🙂 August 27, 2011 at 2:16pm Reply

  • sunsetsong: Walked into my local Boots and this fragrance wafted towards me. No mean feat when the sample spray is around 40 feet from the door. At the time, I had not tried ES LeP but usually have a quick potter round the perfume counter, and a little spray of whatever takes my fancy. OOOO – Elie Saab I thought, lovely gowns let’s spray this one.

    It immediately reminded me of Giorgio (eeek!!), I did wear Giorgio in the 80s I confess, but my sense of smell was majorly curtailed by my huge cigarette intake at the time. I def cannot handle Giorgio now.

    As ES Le P dried down, I recognised the perfume which had greeted me at the the door. This frag is seriously radiant and has immense lasting power. I find it altogether too much in its fragrance form but would like to try the body products. August 28, 2011 at 5:57pm Reply

  • Luxury Activist: Very elegant concept but not sure the fragrance is as elegant as it should. I saw better orange flowers in the market like Classique JPG or Alien Thierry Mugler.
    LA August 29, 2011 at 4:10pm Reply

  • Natalia: ES le P indeed has a “grown up” feeling to it, which i love, and it’s very likable, too. it didn’t turn all that artificial on me, but it was seriously SWEET – and super long lasting. the image of an “adult woman” wearing an evening dress with some ice cream and syrup on top just can’t be taken seriously… August 30, 2011 at 2:46pm Reply

  • YellowLantern: I obtained a sample of this one and it is all high pitched sweetness on me. Like orange blossom dissolved in a pound of simple syrup. I simply cant take sweetness of that magnitude on me when it’s a floral composition (I can tolerate sweetness better in wood or amber based scents though). I agree with your projector comparison. August 31, 2011 at 9:20pm Reply

  • Melissa: I read a good review of this and a few positive comments. So, against my better judgement, I went to Nordstrom and gave it a generous spray. The opening bright floral notes were loud but tolerable. But they were quickly joined by the sharp woody notes that you describe and that emphatic patchouli that can be found in so many mainstream fragrances. Just when I thought I couldn’t enjoy it less, the musk seemed to glue it to my skin, making it pretty much impossible to scrub off. Not my kinda fragrance. August 31, 2011 at 10:59pm Reply

  • donix: for me it smells very similar to Today by Avon 😉 September 1, 2011 at 10:16am Reply

  • Gail14: Nothing special, but definitely tolerable. Trust me…there are worse fragrances out there! September 21, 2011 at 6:32pm Reply

  • RusticDove: My mom wanted this for her b’day, so I got a bottle for her. When she put it on, I was immediately reminded of… something. Every time she walked by… hmmm, what is that familiar smell? Then it hit me – it smelled very much like SJP Lovely on her. I really liked Lovely when it came out, but grew so tired of it. So unfortunately, every time mom walked by & I caught a whiff of Ellie Saab, it just kind of annoyed me. lol September 26, 2011 at 11:14am Reply

  • Victoria: I can definitely see that! I just find it very jarring and loud.
    Sent via BlackBerry from T-Mobile September 26, 2011 at 11:18am Reply

  • Isabel: I have loved perfume since I was aware I had a nose, but the one consistent thing I’ve found over the years is that body chemistry does matter. For instance I once stalked a stranger to find out she was wearing Flower Bomb, which I had tried before and smelled like cheap aldehydes on me. Yes, I tried it again. Same regurgitated dead whale smell. And yet, so attractive on someone else.

    There are only two or three of the five stars here that smell half-decent on me. Chanel no. 5, which smells like heaven on my mom, evokes eau of drowned rat on my skin. Elie Saab, on the other hand… It’s heaven and I’ve received compliments from total strangers, both in elevators and on the street (which has only happened with two other perfumes, Bottega Veneta and the sadly defunct “Pure Moment” from Sung, NOT to be confused with the scabrous abomination that is “Pure”).

    I should add that Elie Saab is the only perfume that my husband can stand, so that’s a bonus for me. No, I’m not affiliated with the brand in any way. Just a fan. Also like some of the Jo Malones and (don’t kill me, I know you don’t like this perfume either) Chanel no. 19 poudre. It’s true, it fades to a delicate scent, but I find nothing cheap (or indeed overly powdery) about it.
    Sorry for the tome, and thank you for the reviews!
    Isa May 26, 2012 at 3:40am Reply

    • Victoria: Isa, I’m glad that you’re enjoying it, and that’s the most important thing. Why does it matter what anyone else thinks about this perfume? All of us have our own opinions, and we’re entitled to share them, and as long as we respect each other’s differing viewpoints, it makes for a vibrant and fun discussion. Thank you for your input. May 26, 2012 at 12:30pm Reply

      • Isabel: Victoria, of course, not my intention to suggest otherwise… hmmm… perhaps I came on a bit too strong because I so love this scent… I did enjoy reading everyone’s input, sorry if I stepped on any perfumed toes… 🙂 May 26, 2012 at 7:50pm Reply

        • Victoria: No worries, after running a blog for 7 years my toes are now made of steel. 🙂 May 27, 2012 at 12:28am Reply

  • Julie: This is such an old thread but I came upon it because I didn’t know what notes comprise ES. I have to agree with Isabel – this is one of my favorite fragrances! Indeed it is overpowering when sprayed at various points, but I need only one spray at the decollete and voila, I am set for the day! July 10, 2012 at 11:26pm Reply

  • Tonie: Hi, I am very surprised at all the negative comments about Elie Saab. While I cannot begin to describe the low notes and high notes and what I am picking up…I can tell you from the first time I came across this scent, I have been in love with it. I usually wear Vera Wang’s original scent and when feeling bold or going out for the evening I will wear Infusion D’Iris or sometimes I combine the two. But Elie Saab has something which keeps me coming back to spray some on when at the perfume counter. I keep kleenex in my purse with this scent on it to lift my Spirits when the day is done and I need a perk. I love this scent and it is next on my list of purchases…just before I pick up Portrait of a Lady! Have a great day…. December 5, 2012 at 2:17pm Reply

  • Sassa: When this was first released, you couldn’t walk into a department store without having a scented ribbon shoved at you from all directions. I was not impressed, it didn’t stand out and the ribbon was an annoyingly “please love me, I’m entirely inoffensive and helpless and also Hello Kitty” peachy pink.
    But I did get a sample in some beauty gift or another, and threw it into the ‘swap’ bag.
    However, I just saw Katie Puckrik’s video review of the EdP and decided to dig out the sample for proper sniff.
    Wow – I am now loving the opening. So much that I think I am going to need another couple of wearings of this. The dry down is getting a tad too musky for me, but I’m detecting a powderyness that’s compensating for it. If the orangey-powder ovetakes the musk, then this is going to be a ‘buy’ for me. December 29, 2012 at 10:47am Reply

  • Burcu Antmen: 2 stars is not what this perfume deserves.It is one of my favorite and when i wore this everbody compliments on my smell.And Narciso Rodriguez for Her is too much heavier according to Le Perfume. September 4, 2013 at 5:27am Reply

  • JennieG: I have the lighter EdT version and it’s very lovely and springy to me. Not as “thick”. I am new to perfumery so to me this is a pretty, classy, appropriate for work perfume and I really do love it. But again, I have no induction into the niche world (not yet). Love your blog, so much information here! February 4, 2014 at 5:20pm Reply

    • Victoria: The EDT has a very nice freshness to it, and it feels easier to wear (for me, at least). And it has a great tenacity too, without too much sharpness or sweetness. I bet that it smells terrific on you! February 9, 2014 at 11:30am Reply

  • Areej: Elie Saab, on me, is the most beautiful, elegant and graceful scent. I get always get complimented multiple times when i wear it. I didn’t find any part of synthetic, the patchouli did make it sharp, but did not render it ordinary in any way. But then again, that’s just me. Different noses, different opinions. 🙂 I love your blog. I can never buy a perfume without reading what you have to say about it first. Love from Malaysia. June 2, 2014 at 5:56am Reply

    • Victoria: Thank you very much, Areej! Everyone’s skin is the most important ingredient in perfume, because it can make something smell fabulous, or on the contrary, flat and uninteresting. Glad to hear that Elie Saab works so well for you! June 3, 2014 at 3:05pm Reply

  • Natalia P: Painful is a perfect word for it! October 25, 2014 at 7:39pm Reply

  • JulienFromDijon: I find you hard on Elie Saab perfume.
    It’s a mainstream I enjoy, and that felt like a niche perfume when I smelled it for the first time in a mainstream perfume shop.

    It reminds me of the “saffron rose” opening of “a scent” from Theo Fennell.
    Its orange blossom smells true to me, with just the hint of beewax and cumin.
    The amber feels more lively that most mainstream amber. (Illusion or a tiny dollop of the true things, dunno, but it’s nice)

    Another comment quoted “Badgley Mischka”, which is another 5 star from Turin I did enjoy.

    I find it ambitious, bracing, and enjoyable, even if it borrows a few trick from half a dozen other perfumes. February 13, 2015 at 11:30pm Reply

  • Dollhouse: What a harsh review. It is true that it has a sharpness but it still is beautiful. March 11, 2015 at 9:10pm Reply

  • Sara: Thank you for a great blog Victoria! Your impressions of scent are so spot on. I tried Elie Saab le parfum on a cold spring evening in the countryside and although I kinda liked it for the sunny orange blossomy vibe, it was indeed like being blinded ny a projector. A bit exhausting, especially after a day in the sun. 🙂 April 7, 2015 at 10:13am Reply

    • Victoria: I also find that many perfumes change depending on the weather, so it could be that under the warm layers, Elie Saab smells softer, gentler. I know that it has its fans, but I don’t care for it. Bottega Veneta Knot is more like my idea of an orange blossom. April 7, 2015 at 11:18am Reply

      • Sara: Yes, but it was still very intense. My nose (and head) tired after a couple of hours. Fun to sample, though. I haven’t had a chance to try Knot yet, but I will have to look for it now, thanks! April 9, 2015 at 7:00am Reply

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