Honey by Marc Jacobs opens up to the nose smelling like a ripe slice of honeydew melon in the summer followed next by an impression of vanilla cake icing. These two main initial sensations are enlivened by musk and a smattering of synthetic ambergris offering a slightly animalistic, furry feel. The whole is actually quite abstract. Figurative impressions are fleeting giving way to the perception that Honey is an assemblage or collage of popular, mainstream perfumery accords for young women who like their perfumes to be clean and fun. That's the first stage...
In the second stage, the main honeydew melon note - officially they are green pear and fruity punch with juicy mandarin - becomes more laden with sugars as if it had had time to ripen overtime and in full sunlight. There is even a slight hint of decay or overripeness.
It is amusing to think that this might be a pop-culture, cartoonish take on Le Parfum de Thérèse by Frédéric Malle Editions de Parfums which focuses on a similar fruity note: the green, melon-y side of the golden peaches of Femme by Rochas.
What makes the green melon funner in Honey - and by now you will have understood that the "Honey" refers to the honey in honeydew - are its pink bubblegum accents, its Banana-Split nuances, the candy flavor of ethyl-maltol.
While an undercurrent of salty and vanillic musk spells "sexy", it's all in good cheer and never threatening either to the wearer or the people left in the wake of that trail. The perfume is cute inside out. Now you can take a second look at the bottle and imagine it's a big bonbon or a perfect potential bonbonnière if Marc Jacobs wants to do some quirky home decor.
The composition is not all about sugar however. There are, like in some sours, an acidic nuance to counterbalance the sweetness. It's a bit green, a bit grassier, but mostly we stay in the realm of the candy factory, one that has been churning many perfumes in the past two decades since Angel by Thierry Mugler.
The fragrance at one point becomes orangier, heading in the direction of both Grand Marnier and creamcicle, and even the sweet French treat Chamonix - the bite-sized genoîse filled with orange marmelade which served as inspiration for the previous perfume Liberté by Cacharel (2007) - which as it happens has notes of honey and sugar.
Habitués of Lush stores will also catch a whiff that is reminiscent of their patchouli if you were to headspace it - sweets combos escaping from bins of bath bombs and hippie soaps.
As the scent evolves further, the sensation of ripeness deepens. It is only when the perfume smells like deep-boiled melon jam poured piping hot from a copper pot, with a serving of Earl Grey tea, that it feels like more mature women could wear this fragrance too. The drydown further explores the temporal arc drawn by a fruit getting closer to the hour of its final demise. It's all about ripeness and hence, there is a hint of mortal decay.
Perfumer Annie Buzantian working with consultant Ann Gottlieb went for the fruit and sweets palette of perfumery notes, one that has become popularized in the United States via Bath and Body Works fragrances, both functional and fine, which owe much to the trends-oriented work of Ann Gottlieb.
Marc Jacobs as a visual creator mostly wanted an illustration of the bottle. Mission accomplished. The only surprise du nez might be that insistence on prologing the life of a fruit beyond the normal, accepted shelf life in a supermarket. Think more open market in a tropical country, albeit with access to refrigerating technology to cryogenize the fruits some.
Notes are: green pear, fruity punch, juicy mandarin / orange blossom, honeysuckle, peach nectar / honey, golden vanilla and smooth woods.