L'Extase by Nina Ricci, signed by perfumer Francis Kurkdjian, who now has his own house but still works for the industry at large, is to my mind a study on the suggestive sensuality of the floral musk. It is officially labeled as a musky floriental, but more primarily, it taps into the sexy and clean simplicity of floral musks. For the brand,
"L'EXTASE is an incandescently modest fragrance with a genuinely erotic signature,"...
The new perfume might succeed, marginally, at suggesting amorous ecstasy better on the visual plane than on the olfactory one, if you turn your attention away from the perfume and towards the ad campaign fronted by model Laetitia Casta.
Taking the scent of fresh, rosey peonies, the nose has tried to make the impression be that, allegedly, of sweaty peonies and of a musky embrace of human bodies. Because this is 2015 and the gourmand aspect of perfumery is a major cultural phenomenon, a dose of ethyl maltol was added to sweeten the brew, pushing it in the direction of a salty-sweet rose-peony jam infused with vanilla and a smidgeon of jasmine.
The modern, well-powered roses and peonies will of course recall Pleasures by Estée Lauder by Alberto Morillas, pink peppercorn included.
This competent composition, which technically is very good, however fails to win you over with any sense of unpredictability or imaginative disarray. Streamlined like a military operation meant to succeed at its mission, the jus is efficient, does not smell bad, but is conservative at the core, all the discourses on unraveling of the senses and ectasy be damned.
A nuance which is somewhat interesting in this commercial opus is the manner in which a nuance of greener-than-average lychees has been grafted onto the peonies. It feels authentically fresh and crisp. Much later on, the benzoin, a material well-studied by Kurkdjian, who re-worked the Papier d'Arménie, will bring its deeper and softer counterpoint.
The musk in L'Extase evokes the saltiness of perspiring skin without ever turning dirty. It can be a huge embarrassment to wear a fragrance and discover in the heat of summer that it smells like you're branded with the scent of a pissy city corner. It's impossible to explain to passersby that a perfumer went animalic on you while you're left to wonder how such a medieval musk could be let loose in 2015. If you're looking for a sophisticated inspiration for a clean floral musk - this fragrance, in a way, is an expensive version of a musk oil - and you like the fragrance of fresh peonies warmed up by a discreet Oriental base, then give it a try! This is the kind of fragrance that is looking for a skin match to bloom. It's really meant more to be worn than to be talked about.