The certified organic We Love New York collection from Honoré des Prés is one of the best surprises of 2010. Like many others, I had issues with the line's debut scents, launched in 2008 and developed by perfumer Olivia Giacobetti.1 My favorite of the first five was Sexy Angelic, a tribute to the calisson, specialty of Aix-en-Provence and possibly the world's most divine confection. Sexy Angelic opens with a fresh, mouthwatering cloud of marzipan and crystallized melon... and then, swiftly, nothing. Within a minute or two, the top notes have completely dissipated, leaving behind a very faintly minty, showered-skin smell that lasts for approximately six more minutes. Even for all-natural eaux and in the context of Giacobetti's ethereal Iunx waters, four of the original Honoré scents set new records for brevity. Unfortunately, the sole enduring scent, Chaman's Party, seems to feature enough tulsi (aka holy basil) to remind me of those ayurvedic teas served at spas where you are instructed to always apply facial moisturizer with a counter clockwise motion. (Don't let me discourage you from sampling it, though. It was a winner for Robin.) The experience seemed too mixed for 100 ml at $145, so with mild disappointment, I mentally filed the line away as one not likely to inspire a purchase.
But then, with the announcement of the We Love New York trio in March, I had to consider re-filing. From the note lists, which seemed to promise bolder, longer-lasting fragrances, to the painfully cute, coffee-themed packaging: everything about I Love Les Carottes, Love Coco and Vamp à NY caught the attention of wired perfumanity. Early reviews from Denyse at Grain de musc and Octavian at 1000 Fragrances were very favorable. Looking for a North American release date, I went to the Honoré des Prés website. Back in June, the text on the site was sublimely ridiculous, rivaling anything out of Serge Lutens or By Kilian. The copy has since been trimmed, but consider the original "story" of Love Coco: "The one of an heroic globe-trotter, rescued from an sea injury, crossing the Malaysian jungle, carried by her brave boyfriend. Happy Ending : She got saved in a village by the latex milk from the hevea tree, applied as an olfactory plaster." (via colette.fr) Clearly, it was time to order samples from Europe. Whatever else the experience was going to be this time, it was unlikely to be mixed.
I don't regret sampling any of the three scents in the collection, but Vamp à NY was my early favorite and is still the one most likely to join my collection. The center of the fragrance is tuberose absolute. The tuberose note here is both extraordinarily weird and tantalizingly familiar: it has the tropical feel but not the freshness of Piguet's Fracas, it's as uncompromising but not as cold as Serge Luten's Tubéreuse Criminelle and it is has the specificity but not the weightless floral structure of Beyond Love from By Kilian. As March from Perfume Posse has pointed out, it seems to maintain a balance between the salty, buttery slick of a tub of movie theater popcorn and the raspy, spicy sweetness of root beer. In fact, the early and middle stages feel to me like a tuberose version of Dior's jasmine-centered Hypnotic Poison: a soda shop float made with coconut rum and suntan lotion instead of ice cream. While Hypnotic Poison remains smooth and creamy to the finish, though, Vamp à NY becomes more raw and smoldering as time passes. It is the sort of siren song that wears best in either the hottest summer or the deep freeze of winter.
The original five Eaux de Toilette from Honoré des Pré seemed like baseless fragrances. In stark contrast, Vamp à NY is a fragrance with two melodic lines and it gains in intensity after the first half hour: in the lengthy drydown, tolu, peru balsam and especially benzoin are the embers that carry and magnify the heat from the earlier notes of rum and green vanilla. The floral notes never entirely burn out and they add a langourous, feminine feel to the otherwise unisex base. The sillage throughout is significant enough to be seriously sexy, but this Eau de Parfum is not Fracas-sized. (What is?) Spraying, rather than dabbing, is recommended. All in all, this is one of the most memorable fragrances of the year and it will likely be my next perfume purchase.
Honoré des Prés Vamp à NY is $98 for 50 ml Eau de Parfum; for buying information, see the listing for Honoré des Prés under Perfume Houses.
1. With the exception of Honoré's Trip.