It is quite a surrealist experience to smell perfumes which are housed world aparts in different bottles and labeled under different name brands, yet smell strangely similar. The fact that the four perfumes under consideration were launched by just two houses the same year cannot be mere coincidence. Smelling La Femme Bleue by Armani Privé and Ambre d'Orient by the same brand and then discovering La Pluie and La Fumée by Miller Harris was like drawing an abstract yet exactly symmetrical diagram in mid-air....
What is sadly missing in these so-called niche, exclusive creations, is originality. Quality has to rely on a measure of originality or at least authenticity. Offering sister formulations, however qualitative, with radically different stories spun out around them is like inviting people to collectively smoke hashish and cultivate illusions. This is not what perfumery as the art of illusion is about. If illusion there is in the best sense in the fragrance world, it is linked to nature and time.
So that if you wanted to purchase La Femme Bleue, which is marketed as a very exclusive launch limiting itself to 1000 copies, you could always get La Pluie, that is if you are looking for a misty blue iris with a touch of chocolate, notwithstanding the mention for the first of a "black iris" and for the second of "tropical showers". You could also go to the Guerlain counter and get Iris Ganache, which is actually more interesting and complex.
La Fumée -- if you expected this one to be a pensive contemplation of the idea of smoke, you will be disappointed. It is more like smokes and mirrors and smells uncannily similar to, of all scents, Ambre d'Orient by Armani Privé. This time you should get Ambre d'Orient over La Fumée because it makes the ambery point more forcefully.
Note the perfect symmetry of the arrangement:
La Pluie = La Femme Bleue
La Femme Bleue = La Pluie
La Fumée = Ambre d'Orient
Ambre d'Orient = La Fumée.
Something else too: Rose d'Orient by Armani Privé smells a lot like Wood Mystique by Estée Lauder.
It seems that the niche segmentation of the market is being confused with islander mentality. In reality, niche-perfumery aficionados are more likely than others to compare notes between the different houses rather than to stick out of blind faithfulness to one or two brands. The era when you could be called "a Guerlain woman" is almost gone now. The Internet brings all the niche perfume labels under the same roof and makes them part of a mass-market of ideas and notes about fragrances. The partial yet noticeable return of strongly signed perfumes - see for instance Violet Blonde by Tom Ford - and originality in mainstream perfumery this year reveals once more how certain facile distinctions are just comfort blankees for the mind or for dead-serious snobs. What matters always is the integrity of one's vision, no matter where and how. Make a simple scent, but make it yours.
What one did not expect was to see the creators ignore creativity and deliver cookie-cutter juices to connoisseur collections and labels, of all places. Please...