Burberry Body is one of the most interesting perfume launches to take place this 2011 fall and winter season. And not just because Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is fronting a high-profile advertising campaign which was launched on a global plane. Taking up the challenge of embodying the new Burberry woman, the perfume does so by relying on a note and a myth, the English rose. But the fragrance is very careful to avoid clichés...
The fragrance was composed by perfumer Michel Almairac, who in the past created Burberrys of London for the house, a wonderful, lesser known work of his. The nose, who has signed several rose perfumes of note, has managed to come up with yet another distinctive rose composition of the most classical and rehashed of floral scents.
His other rose interpretations include "the closet rose soliflore" Chloé by Chloé but also one of the two reference rose perfumes for L'Artisan Parfumeur, Voleur de Roses. For Bond No. 9 he did West Side and Bryant Park. If anyone is able to bring an original twist to a rose scent, Almairac would be as all of these fragrances are distinct from each others.
In contrast to perfumer Sophia Grojsman, nicknamed the Queen of Roses by the fragrance industry (YSL Paris, Lancôme Trésor, Calvin Klein Eternity), Almairac's work is more contrasted and contained within each perfume. Grojsman's work on the other hand feels more like a continuity reinventing itself each time. If there is a clear creative thrust to Almairac's rose creations, Grojsman's rose perfumes are more than anybody else perhaps capable of capturing the eternal beauty of roses and suggest a sense of awe.
Body has an element of awe to it, but it is a more subtle and discreet brand of awe.
With Burberry Body, we have one of those rare occurrences where both aficions and casual wearers of perfume will be able to talk to each other about the same scent, instead of past each others. The reason is that the composition mixes a creative personality with classical references.
The fragrance can be seen to straddle the divide between two extremes: old European charm and a modern sense of energy by melding quaint with (slightly) strange. The paradox is that the absinthe note used to create this effect is actually quite expressive of the 19th century, just like rose soliflores are. But perhaps because we live in an age where social conservatism is dotted upon through revivalist TV shows like Mad Men, it feels now that the absinthe sippers are more controversial than ever while the material itself never lost its original dark and brooding character. With the return of the beverage on the market after its retreat out of illegallity, this is what it retains, its natural bitter edge.
Notes: fresh green absinthe, peach, freesia / natural rose essence, iris, sandalwood / Cashmere wood, creamy vanilla, sensual amber, musk.
The initial impression is reminiscent - and actually a quote - of the rose-glass-tinted effect of Paris by Yves Saint Laurent, a landmark rose perfume which redefined the rose-soliflore genre, taking it away from your memories of quaint, old-fashioned rose scents to one full of life, modernity and whimsical Parisian chic. Bearing the signature of perfumer Sophia Grojsman, this is a full blue-blooded lineage. At the same time, Burberry Body, if it betrays some of the structure of YSL Paris in its makeup, feels novel. You will not perceive the scent as a repeat, but on the contrary, as a new direction. It is also more linear and surprisingly multi-faceted.
Burberry Body opens on a fresh tea-rose-like impression not unlike Rosa Thea by Borsari 1870, soon followed by spicy and aromatic accents smelling of mace and later on more clearly of absinthe. These unexpected nuances lend an element of disorientation to the senses. The brand wanted to be innovative by offering woody top notes, and they succeed in catching you off guard. The rose feels free, natural and moody, not wanting to go in the expected, classical direction. The absinth or wormwood note brings a strange slant, but also an energy to the rose which prevents it from feeling simply like the attempted snap-shot of a naturally grown rose from an English garden.
The rose accord is very recherché and was carefully crafted, opening like a slideshow of bitter, light petals tinged with nuances of spinach green. For those who like to invoke the Arthurian legends, and Celtic legends in general, the rose of Buberry Body has no trouble fitting into an universe where fairies brew strange herbal potions. Like for Tubéreuse by Caron, but more subtly here, it brings a slightly illogical, magical tonality to the main floral note, but not to the point of feeling disquieting. It is a bit as if it were a plausible rose perfume for figures such as Morgan the Fairy or Melusine.
The subtle fresh, medicinal nuances of absinthe behave like a more complicated, complex and mysterious mint accord (see Les Parfums de Rosine Diabolo Rose), while suggesting the fresh, cool and green tapestry of a mossy forest.
The fragrance then turns liquorish-y - with a hint of sweet rose candy, like an artful mole on a face - but never in an edible, tasty sense, but rather in the sense of smelling like a natural essence of rose in its raw state. There are heavy, drunken petal-y effects and a verdancy which is almost metallic.
This stage of the perfume mimicks the initial one by replaying the same notes but with different effects while keeping a contrasted balance of green and rosey pink, coolness and warmth. All the controversial facets of the natural rose essence material have been preserved albeit refined so as to make them willed and interesting. A light undercurrent of vanilla sweetens the juice slightly, just enough to bring a counterpoint to the potentially more jarring effects of a natural rose liqueur. If you have ever smelled a rich essence of rose, you know it can be downright sickening in its potency.
A further interesting aspect of this rose perfume is how the dark undercurrent never seems obvious. Sometimes, you get an aerial boomerang effect and the perfume smells different to the point of feeling like it is not the one you are wearing. It then comes across as dark, oud-like and spicy. An ambery, myrrh-like facet also plays with the air and is never obvious immediately. It reminds me of the beautiful myrrh note in Beautiful by Estée Lauder. The drydown phase reveals that dry, herbaly and woody facet better.
The brand is making much of this launch and as it turns out, both outer and inner designs are equally compelling. Burberry Body is an unconventional rose perfume, despite the fact that it quotes a classic. It is a rose perfume with some of its petaly effects reminiscent of YSL Paris, while a new, much more modern energy seems to course through its veins. After the initial charmingly rose-y effects recalling more classical atmospheres described by the phrase "English rose", a surge of something almost futuristic interrupts that initial impression.
The flacon dares to be very long and slim - like a bullet or a wand - and won't be mistaken with another one. Reportedly, several years in the making, the perfume feels at times like a masterpiece, especially when you catch some of its more elusive facets, like its hidden dark resinous and spicy character which feels like there are artful secret layers to the scent.
The composition to me explores the limits of "difficult" for a perfume destined to be worn by many, instead of jumping with both feet into everything immediately attractive, like rose jam and macarons. Where it seems to want to adapt to reality, is in its controlled projection. It steadily insists on being a discreet beauty, a skin scent meant to be easy to slip on.
The name "Body" may be the new version of a skin scent called body scent which radiates with different facets over time, being linear, close to the skin and surprisingly able to project different moods in a controlled manner. In other words, this perfume does not treat you as if you were a babe in the woods, - but to tie in with the commercial - as if you were a babe in a sophisticated, state-of-the-art trench-coat.