At its truest, a flanker is a riff off an original scent, a lighthearted and maybe even forgettable spin on the themes of its forebear. After all, most flankers are around for a year or so then fall out of production. They're not meant to be masterpieces. Sticking to this definition, Estée Lauder Pleasures Bloom is a textbook example of a flanker.*
I've felt so underwater on fragrance launches lately, that as much as I respect the brand, these days I wouldn't turn my head at an Estée Lauder flanker. But I was wandering through the mall with my niece in Billings, Montana, listening to the ways of dating among teens (Niece: "And so I texted him for, like, two months before I met him." Me: "You texted him all that time and he didn't even know who you were?" Niece: "Aunt Angie, that's how we do it these days. Anyway, I texted him and found out we were both at the mall at the same time...") and stumbled across the Estée Lauder counter at Dillard's. A tester of Sensuous Noir was on the counter. As I sniffed a tester strip, the sales associate handed me Pleasures Bloom. "Do you like florals?" she asked. "Try this."
In that moment, Pleasures Bloom struck all the right notes. I'd spent almost a week eating slabs of beef, walking across asphalt parking lots oozing waves of oily heat, and suffering the indignity of having a sparkly mauve tattoo of Piglet sprayed on my arm at the Montana Fair (I blame niece who insisted a background of barbed wire would "make it extra good.") The bottle of Guerlain Coriolan I'd packed was a miscalculation. Pleasures Bloom's fruity floral notes were a drink of fresh water.
The original Pleasures, launched in 1995, is a clean, diffusive floral that smells to me like a stainless steel soap dish in the downstairs powder room of a house in a nice Connecticut suburb. Pleasures Bloom takes the fresh, soapy feel of the original and feeds it a couple of grapefruit cocktails in the garden.
Pleasures Bloom Eau de Parfum, released in July, has notes of grapefruit, raspberry, lychee, violet flower, peony, rose, jasmine, green lily, musk, patchouli, and vanilla. On spraying it, first I smell a tingly pouf of pink grapefruit bolstered by wet rose and lychee. It's a drinkable, refreshing potion, like a sipped glass of chilled pink zinfandel from a box on the patio at a baby shower. It doesn't offend and it definitely refreshes. While it cuts the heat and takes the edge off those irritating baby games, it also doesn't inspire me to ask for a second glass.
After a few hours, the dew drops off the composition as a woody musk kicks in quietly, the same bugspray-like musk that infests so many new fragrances. I don't smell much vanilla or any patchouli. Pleasures Bloom lasts half a day before it's kaput.
In the end, I either want something more campy — maybe Yoo-hoo instead of pink zinfandel? — or something more satisfying and intriguing. Although I decided I don't need a bottle of Pleasures Bloom, it would make an easy gift for the aunt you don't know well. Almost everyone would like Pleasures Bloom even if no one loves it. Standing in that mall in Billings, I was grateful to Pleasures Bloom for reminding me I wanted something refreshing and easy to wear. In my case, though, it should have been a bottle of Jo Malone White Jasmine & Mint.
Estée Lauder Pleasures Bloom Eau de Parfum comes in 50 ml and 100 ml bottles ($52 and $74 respectively.) For information on where to buy it, see Estée Lauder under Perfume Houses.
*Of course, not every flanker is a seasonal throwaway or even mirrors the fragrances it flanks. To name just a few examples, Christian Dior has made an industry of Poison flankers that don't smell anything like the original. Thierry Mugler has released parfum flankers to Angel that have become collector's items.