Estée Lauder Sensuous (2008): A Buttery Fusion of Woods & Amber {Perfume Review} {New Fragrance}


Sensuous is the latest major feminine launch by Estée Lauder following Tuberose Gardenia Private Collection introduced last year in the summer.

If there is an American beauty brand that has consistently aimed to make as many women as possible feel more beautiful through access to fragrance allure and luxury, that would be Estée Lauder. Although it is sometimes stated that Lauder wanted to capture the attention of the upper-classes with her luxurious-feeling scents, their price points indicate otherwise, targeting rather the woman who believes she has it in her to live a better life. So a rephrasing of that characterization is that probably, Estée Lauder is the most upwardly mobile brand and the waiting room meanwhile smells good. Private Collection (1973) may have been initially a private gift to Princess Grace of Monaco, but taxi cab drivers loved it just as much and it finally made it to the department store counters...

Mrs. Estée Lauder was obviously particularly sensitive to beauty; the models that have graced the advertising pictures of the brand have become the stuff of advertizing legend thanks to their both glamorous and classical looks.There were Karen Graham, Shaun Casey, Willow Bay, Carolyn Murphy (see Estée Lauder advertisements for more familiar faces). Paulina Porizkova was noted for being a discreet turning point - a sign of the times - a beauty that was slightly less Greek. Liz Hurley further made the Estée Lauder woman archetype feel more accessible.

These standards became an iconic reference and even made it into the popular culture. Thus, best-selling author Dan Brown tickles the desires of his masculine readership by talking about the main feminine character in his thriller Digital Fortress as looking like an Estée Lauder model, in order to stress her exquisiteness knowing his readers will catch on to that mainstream gold standard of beauty:

"Her delicate European features and soft brown eyes reminded him of an ad for Estée Lauder" (p. 16)......


The bottle: the back of the Sensuous bottle is ribbed, adding a sensual tactile element to the experience of the perfume. It is unusual and very pleasant to the touch, almost acting like a worry-perfume-bottle. The jus is a pink-champagne color. Photo © The Scented Salamander.

Like these images of confident beauties, perfumes by Lauder such as Youth-Dew, Cinnabar, Azurée, Private Collection, Aliage, Estée, Knowing, all seem to celebrate femininity on a grander scale. They whisper this quote by Estée Lauder, who was rooting all the way for the "jolie laide":

"Beauty is an attitude. There's no secret. Why are all brides beautiful? Because on their wedding day they care about how they look. There are no ugly women - only women who don't care or who don't believe they're attractive."

Such is the fullness of the body of an Estée Lauder perfume, the classic ones especially, that while it is common to talk about the sillage or wake of a perfume as that invisible aromatic trace that is left by a woman passing by on a street in an unforgettable manner or leaving a fragment of her essence as she leaves a room, one is tempted to say that many of the classic Lauder perfumes seem to sashay their way around. Today, it may not be as easy as yesterday to wear these compositions as they seem to demand a dressed-up look and hark back to a time when women were less part of the work force and consequently less practical-minded about their outfits. There is indeed something like a lingering aroma of the fifties about these rich trails, a time that also saw a return to stronger feminine identities in fashion with the New Look, its wasp-y waistline and bell-like skirts.

Sensuous in 2008

Sensuous, which will launch in June 2008 exclusively at Bloomingdale's first and Estée Lauder counters in July, continues this tradition of passionate attention to femininity; women in Lauder perfume advertisings for example are consistently shown off like idols on an invisible pedestal (the perfume is that invisible pedestal) and are seldom even seen as part of a couple so as to stress their ideal courtly-love character.

But Sensuous offers a more casual, modern feel. Tuberose Gardenia Private Collection was already less flamboyant, a gentler, more intimate projection of femininity, yet still overtly sophisticated and, importantly in this case, "niche". With Sensuous, we get another attempt at further accessibility. It is not anymore about the couture dress but rather about the simpler white shirt, stolen from men and adapted to the feminine silhouette as shown in the new ads. In order to embody the every woman, not one but four models were chosen to represent Sensuous: Gwyneth Paltrow, Elizabeth Hurley, Carolyn Murphy, and Hilary Rhoda. They perhaps represent not so well the ethnic diversity that exists today in America and are all uniformly elegant and sleek, but it is an attempt at conveying a message of pluralism nevertheless. Aerin Lauder said,

"Each model represents a different side of sensuality," [...]"Hilary conveys youth, while Carolyn's classic look communicates elegance. As an actress, Gwyneth brings an emotional range to sensuality and Elizabeth portrays confidence and wisdom." (via The Moodie Report)

The upcoming fragrance is meant to be wearable and it is. It was created by perfumer Annie Buzantian of Firmenich in collaboration with Karyn Khoury and Aerin Lauder. Sensuous offers a touch of masculinity (woods are traditional masculine notes) that is made completely feminine at the same time. It represents a move to adapt to an evolving US market as florals have been retreating and the brand sees a trend towards feminine woods. Said Karyn Khoury," of year-end 2007, floral fragrances represented 51% of the US market. However, in 2000, that figure was 72%, and 65% in 2005." Finally, it does not belong to the school of perfumes with strutting-peacock-like sillages but thrives on delimiting a more intimate space around the body. It is a perfume, most of all, for the woman who wears it and then a little for the people around her; another sign certainly of changing times. Sensuous has a warm enveloping presence that seems to build a cocoon-like envelope around you. It is comforting without being foody as gustatory allusions here have been stripped of their down-to-earth connotations and employed mainly for texture and thought-associations. If Sensuous develops a sensation of buttery woods it is in order to express the vision of " a river of molten woods". Yet at the same time, subliminally, we get the message of comfort sent by a rich "buttery" impression. Karyn Khoury again said, "For Sensuous we imagined a fabulous wooden sculpture, and wondered, if you could take all that sleekness, all that sensuality, but then melt it so that it was fluid, almost like a river of wood, what would that smell like? That basically was the brief [to Firmenich], which endeared me no end,"

Sensuous, From Top to Bottom: A Buttery Fusion of Woods and Amber

The first impression about Sensuous is that it is indeed very woody, especially when smelt from the bottle. Once it diffuses on the skin, the woods are much more disguised and part of the blend rather than conspicuous. The main sensations are also tropical-floral (ghost lily, magnolia, jasmine in the top notes; ylang Nature Intact), burnt amber, musky, vanillic, and buttery with a salty edge. If the new perfume is an attempt to take a step back from florals and produce a "woody amber" instead, it does not eschew them but just give them more of a supporting role as flowers drizzled-over with thickish maple-syrup-like amber sweetened with honey (NaturePrint). The ad copy likes to call them "atmospheric florals".

The scent is warm and round with just a suggestion of rasping powder. Sensuous soon sinks into the skin with only a few yellow buttery nuances emerging from a fusion of woods and amber, the "melted woods Natureprint accord". Then the perfume gains some strength back and this time reveals a cacao powder but also chocolate facet with an overall whipped ganache impression. As already stated above if the references are gustatory, they are not literally gourmand.

The bouquet of flowers that surfaces is white and tropical with a savory accent to it. The term "molten", like butter, is a good descriptor for the feel of the perfume. Butter CO2 extract is actually used in perfumery and it is a note found in another recent Estée Lauder scent, Bronze Goddess, but in a more gourmand guise. Mariah Carey M also offers a sophisticated buttery impression.

The sexiness of the scent is enhanced with musk and cumin-y accents mimicking feminine sweat. It is perhaps what Estée Lauder terms the "feminine accord".

The drydown lets out the sandalwood note in a more solo fashion.

Sensuous is rather linear, that is, it does not play on a labyrinthine development. The evolution is discreet and non-dramatic. It does offer that element of transfiguration that makes a perfume be part of your skin rather than estranged from it. It is mainly a skin perfume but with a fuller body than what is usual for this type of scents. Its tones are deep brown caramel and softly glowing amber.

Notes are: "ghost lily accord, magnolia and jasmine petals; a heart of molten woods and amber, and a drydown of sandalwood, black pepper, juicy mandarin pulp and honey."

"The Sensuous collection includes eaux de parfum in three sizes -- 1 oz. for $39.50, 1.7 oz. for $49.50 and 3.4 oz. for $69.50 -- as well as a 0.25-oz. parfum, $90; a 6.7-oz. body lotion, $37; a 6.7-oz. shower cream, $28.50; a 0.33-oz. touch-on fragrance, $39.50, and a 0.74-oz. brush-on perfumed pressed powder, $65."

See the following for information about the Sensuous sweepstakes.

See the following for a look at the four ads for Sensuous

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3 Comments | Leave a comment

  1. Ok, I can't tell if you liked it or not?!

  2. You know, I seldom ask myself this question as I find it limiting, both for me and readers.

    I think it's a good commercial fragrance. Personally, in this same genre, I would prefer to wear Guess by Marciano (see review in index) because it is more complex and has more depth. But I can see how people could really like Sensuous. It's an attractive fragrance and should be popular.

  3. Lovely post, but I have never been a woman who likes to leave her fragrance as a calling card.


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