Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar ~ fragrance review

Oscar de la Renta Esprit d'Oscar

These past few years we've seen a number of "modernized" versions of classic fragrances. Some of them, like Yves Saint Laurent Belle d'Opium and Christian Dior Miss Dior Chérie, don't smell at all like their parent versions. Others, like Chanel No. 5 Eau Première, Estée Lauder Youth Dew Amber Nude, and (to go back a few years) Hermès Soie de Calèche are recognizable kin of their forebears. Oscar de la Renta Esprit d'Oscar stands apart from the pack in that it is both clearly related to the original Oscar de la Renta of 1977 and yet has its own personality. I wouldn't be surprised if it ends up outselling its parent.

Perfumer Frank Voelkl created Esprit d'Oscar, which launched this month. Esprit d'Oscar's notes include lemon, bergamot, citron, jasmine, orange flower, tuberose, heliotrope, vetiver, tonka bean, and musk. Although I hadn't smelled Oscar, the original, in years, Esprit d'Oscar called to mind the original's tuberose and sandalwood signature right away. But there was something different — softer, lighter, and not as insistent, yet complex and much more than a watered-down version of the original.

Esprit d'Oscar's citrus is a quick whiff on the way to the double whammy of sandalwood-toasted tuberose sitting on the vanilla-almond-cocoa powder of heliotrope. The tuberose here is warm and golden, just about ready to drop off the stem. It's not at all the tropical fresh tuberose of, say, Frédéric Malle Carnal Flower. The powerful personality of the sandalwood-tuberose combination reminds me a little bit of the sandalwood-jasmine combination of Guerlain Samsara. Although it's quieter than Samsara, Esprit d'Oscar is equally distinctive.

Then, earthy, rooty vetiver steps up and the heliotrope dials down its volume. The caramelized tuberose and sandalwood heart soldier on, but the vetiver grounds them and cuts the cloy. At this point Esprit d'Oscar reminds me a little of Lancôme Trésor's rose-vetiver heart. This might sound like a powdery, confused mess. After all, tuberose, heliotrope, sandalwood, and vetiver? Samsara and Trésor? And did I forget to mention the pinch of cardamom I swear I smell, too? To me, it all works deliciously and forges a one-of-a-kind olfactory fingerprint — not many fragrances can claim that these days.

Esprit d'Oscar has moderate sillage and lasts for a good while. Despite being distinct, Esprit d'Oscar doesn't demand attention. I wore it heavily for a week, and although I could smell it around me, I never worried about gassing out my coworkers. Esprit d'Oscar sweetened a tiny bit as it aged, but it dried down true to form and faded over about ten hours. It's a true floral oriental and might overwhelm in humid heat, but it's not particularly heavy.

After smelling Esprit d'Oscar, I was curious about the original Oscar de la Renta and stopped by Macy's for a quick spritz of the Eau de Parfum. I remembered a whopper, juicy tuberose-sandalwood-cardamom fragrance, but Oscar's tuberose, while still bright — brighter than that of Esprit d'Oscar — was thin, and a funk (civet? plastic cardamom?) wore right through, start to finish. A burst of sneezy aldehydes kicked it all off. Oscar smelled dated, and I'm not sure if it could ever make the transition to "classic." Still, you've got to hand it to Oscar, it does have a singular approach.

Oscar de la Renta Esprit d'Oscar

In the end, I prefer Esprit d'Oscar. I know I'll be referring friends to Esprit d'Oscar who don't have the patience for sampling and mail-order niche fragrances. To the person who is tempted by the sensual, warmly colored marketing of Belle d'Opium or Gucci Guilty, I say, try Esprit d'Oscar instead. It's more individual, definitely more enjoyable, and has all the makings of a signature fragrance. This is one I look forward to smelling on the streets. If you like floral orientals, it's worth a trip to the mall to sample.

Oscar de la Renta Esprit d’Oscar is available in 50 ($78) and 100 ($98) ml Eau de Parfum at select department stores.

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  1. meg says:

    Thank you for the lovely review. Unfortunately, now I really want this, but it’s bad to buy un-sniffed, right?

    • Angela says:

      I rarely buy a real stinker when I buy unsniffed, but I’ve sure spent a lot of money on so-so perfume! The good thing about this one is that it should be relatively easy to find and sample before you buy.

      • meg says:

        Maine is a beautiful place to live, but presents obstacles to perfume shopping – in person anyway. Do you have any advice on how I might get a sample by mail? If not, I’ll just HAVE to make a trip to Boston or NY soon!

        • Angela says:

          That does make it a little more difficult!

          On the left, below the list of recent reviews, is a short list of articles, including one called “How to Get Fragrance Samples.” You might try that. Good luck!

        • behemot says:

          Hello, current ALLURE magazine has a scented strip of Esprit d’Oscar inside. It is not the same as a real sample, but still something. I like it a lot.

          • Angela says:

            Vogue does, too. Thanks for the heads up!

  2. Bejoux says:

    Great review – got a real lemming for this now! I adored the original Oscar but I agree it ‘s not the same now – too screechy. I shall be haunting my local stores til this comes in – how long til it hits London I wonder……….

    • Angela says:

      To me, it’s a little more of an autumn scent, anyway, so if it takes a little while to show up in London it might not matter too much (although it’s been a cold spring here!).

  3. zara says:

    thanks for the review, I stumbled upon renta’s oscar the other day in an e-shop and remembered it as quite heavy, with a lot of sillage – a white flower overload and now there’s a flanker! and a nice one at that! I will definitely try it.

    • Angela says:

      I think it’s worth trying, especially if you like floral orientals and you remember the original Oscar with at least a little fondness.

  4. Tara says:

    With your review and Marina’s at Perfumesmellinthings..I am very tempted to by this unsniffed, it sounds gorgeous in an easy way. Do you know if it’s at Nordstrom’s yet? or which other “selected department stores” it might be found?

    • Angela says:

      I didn’t see it at Macy’s, but I’m pretty sure it’s at Nordstrom. If you try it, let me know what you think!

      • Tara says:


        Do you find it similar-ish to Quand Vient la Pluie as Marina does? I adore that perfume, but it literally impossible to find and was wondering if this might be a reasonable substitute?


        • Angela says:

          It has been so long since I’ve smelled Quand Vient la Pluie that I couldn’t tell you. Is that the one that is supposed to be a lot like Terracotta Voile d’Ete?

          • Tara says:

            Sorry, I don’t know.

          • Angela says:

            I just looked it up, and it looks like Terracotta Voile d’Ete is now Quand Vient d’Ete, so not the same, darn it!

          • Erin says:

            Terracotta became, as you say, Quand Vient d’Ete and is a warm, clove-y carnation floral with a dusty, compact makeup angle. It’s very nice, increasingly expensive (especially in the Les Parisienne bottle) and hard to find… but not nearly as wonderful and rare as Quand Vient la Pluie, which, alas, was limited edition, housed in a crystal bottle and insanely costly from the strart. Pluie is an sweet, bright iris fragrance, with a pop of lime and what the LT/TS guide very accurately calls a heart of rootbeer. Great review, by the way! I’ve liked a few of Mr. Voelkl’s previous scents – will have to try Esprit d’Oscar.

          • Angela says:

            Thank you! I smelled Quand Vient la Pluie once, at Bergdorf’s, but that was a long time ago. Your description leads me to think Esprit d’Oscar is probably a whole different fragrance.

    • meg says:

      For whatever it’s worth, Oscar de la Renta’s web site is offering free shipping…

      • Angela says:

        Uh oh. Is that the sound of someone caving to the unsniffed I hear?

        • Tara says:

          That’s what it sounds like to me…it also sounds like some enabling too.. :)

          • meg says:

            ;) never! he..he..he..

  5. Bee says:

    did I hear tuberose, and a reminescence of a former signature scent (Trésor), and sandalwood, and vetiver…? dear Angela, you’re a genius in creating instant lemmings :-)

    • Angela says:

      If it turns out you like it, at least it’s an easy one to get!

  6. helenviolette says:

    Thanks for the review Angela- great as always :) I will try to sniff this when I come its way- sounds promising.

    • Angela says:

      I’d love to know what you think of it. I’m putting my decant away for a little while and then will try it again to see if I need a whole bottle.

  7. Jessica says:

    I’ve been curious about this one… the original *did* always feel a bit “dated” to me, but this sounds like a very nicely-done update that isn’t a pink-berry cocktail… how refreshing! Thanks.

    • Angela says:

      It really is nice not to get a load of sticky fruit and patchouli!

  8. mals86 says:

    I only smelled the original (via a “vintage” mini from ebay) recently, and rather liked it, although it got a little dull in the drydown. Might have to smell this – but if as you say it’s a little heavy for summer and humidity, I can wait awhile!

    SO nice to see a flanker that isn’t berried and patched, and especially one that smells distinctive! Thanks for the review.

    • Angela says:

      I agree with you–I was pleasantly surprised! I think this one will be a big seller.

    • Winifrieda says:

      hey Mals, me too! A close friend wore this back in the day, and I just got it as a memory lane purchase….I am still trying to work out if it is damaged; I seem to remember it as very sweet and floral – but that was compared to Opium and Mitsouko .
      I can smell a strong whiff of orange blossom, maybe a fairly well integrated tuberose (but not the clear ringing tones of a Carnal Flower or Beyond Paradise), and yes the strong oriental base seems to come over very strongly.
      I must say that I do love the clean sweet brightness of current classics like CF and Beyond Love…
      This new version sounds great! Maybe undoing the damage of reformulation…or they took notice of the fact that they already had a classic white floral oriental on their hands!

      • Angela says:

        They’re supposed to be putting out something else in October, too. I wonder what it will be? This release bodes well, but who knows? Oscar could decide it needs that fruity patch fragrance on the market.

  9. kaos.geo says:

    Dear Angela, how much cocoa are we talking about here?
    Full-on-chocolate or delicate whiff?
    Thank you for the review!

    • Angela says:

      Probably even less than a delicate whiff, I’d say. You’re welcome for the review!

  10. Timbit says:

    Last week I was given a sample of this in Shoppers Drug Mart (Ontario, Canada). The SA was enthusiastic: “Do you like perfume? (Me: Uh, yes) Anyone who likes perfume will LOVE this.” She had been quite helpful at the makeup counter, so I didn’t make the scornful face or scoffing noise that would have come naturally, considering I was standing beside a display of some forgettable celebrity something.

    I took it home – and darned if I don’t love this. The original was one of the perfumes my Mum used to wear. This reminds me of her perfume, except in the way that you remember only the good aspects (like the beautiful view at the end of a hike) and forget the less good (like how tired and cranky you were on the way up). To me this is lighter – as in more light-hearted, more cheerful – than the original, but still interesting, comforting, and familiar.

    I went back and bought a bottle the next day!

    • Angela says:

      I’m glad you like it! I admit to being surprised, too, at how much I liked it.

      Love the way you told your story, by the way.

      • Timbit says:

        Angela, I’m glad you liked my story. I really love your reviews – you have so many lovely stories and insights, and a great writing style.

        • Angela says:

          Thank you so much!

  11. Sandstorm says:

    I love vetiver in perfume but all the citrus notes kind of scare me (not a big fan of citrus perfumes). It may be good in 90 degree heat but not in early spring where it is still a little to cool.

    • Angela says:

      There are lots of citrus notes listed, but to tell the truth I didn’t smell a whole lot of citrus.

  12. thenoseknows says:

    I LOVE Your Reviews…. SO MUCH! I just Purchased Gucci Guilty Pour Homme (and BTW I would EASILY Recommend Gucci Guilty Pour Femme to anyone… I think it is FANTASTIC!) and will send you a review of it if you wouldn’t mind (just suffice to say…. LOVE IT!) but i have to also disagree slightly about the Original Oscar… I, Personally, Find it Sunny and Bright, not nearly as Bright as Esprit, but i don’t smell the Plasticy element you find funky or feel it is Dated… I DO think it is a Heavy wearing scent and after being on the market all these years I would have to say it is a “Classic”

    Personally, I LOVE the Orignal Oscar and was a little taken aback at how Esprit only breezily feels like the original juice, not badly taken aback, but nonetheless… The Big Grand Feeling Of Oscar EDP I personally find Sensuous and Unctuous and Quite Ballsy! It isn’t for a wallflower at all and I like my women to be anything but wallflowers! :-D So… I Do Like Esprit VERY MUCH, especially when viewed perhaps as a completely new facet or aspect of the original and not so much a little sister or something, but i think the cannon of fragrance that is the Oscar EDP is Something Special and Quite Wonderful… It was one of my Late Sis’ Faves and i think of her every time i smell it! SHE… Was CERTAINLY No Wallflower!

    • CM says:

      I loved your comments! My grandmother, great aunt, and mom all wore this and they were all VERY strong women (Auntie & Grandmother all owned and ran successful businesses in the 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s!) Hats off to your late sister. I love a good scent memory!

    • Angela says:

      Thanks for weighing in on how much you love Oscar! I always like hearing people describe perfume they really love. My reintroduction to Oscar was a spray from a department store tester of the EdT, and I’m sure it doesn’t compare to decades of smelling it on women you love–the real test.

      • thenoseknows says:

        Thank You for your wonderful Review! can’t wait to read what you review Next, Madamoiselle! :-)

  13. CM says:

    I want this! My grandmother used to wear the original Oscar and it was the *epitome* of chic in our household. All the women had bottles on their dressers, including me. My mom recently sent me a bottle with a tiny bit of amber liquid EDT left over from… the 80’s or early 90’s at least… that was in my Grandmother’s things. It’s in fine shape but there’ not much left in the bottle. Perhaps the new version is different as I don’t get any ‘funk’ from the classic Oscar at all.

    I loved your review and really want to try this modern take. Perhaps this will be a version I can wear while remembering my grandmother!

    • Angela says:

      It sounds like Oscar is a family tradition for you! Maybe you should have bottles of both.

  14. OperaFan says:

    Loved the original (early ’90s version) but never bought it for myself. Nina (’87) was my signature scent at the time. Between you and Marina, I’m really hopeful that I might like this one!

    • Angela says:

      I was wearing Coco when a lot of people were wearing Oscar, so I know what you mean. Give Esprit a try–maybe you’ll like it–or not!

  15. matildaben says:

    I saw this at Nordstrom in Seattle yesterday. They had a good display of it, testers out, and would give out free samples if you asked.

    • Angela says:

      Thanks for the tip!

  16. AnnS says:

    Angela – I’m going to have to stop reading your reviews! I remember the original Oscar fragrance very well from my childhood – I think a lot of women wore it. It never really suited my tastes – too much tuberose – but I always loved that bottle. I am really going to try and find this to test it out. Your review is so intriguing! I would love to get a nice tuberose oriental, and I’d love to get that bottle. Rarely do I buy for a bottle, but come on – it’s so pretty. Anyway, I felt that the new Douglas Hannant Piguet was similar to what I remember of the original Oscar, but the DH kind of dropped the ball in the drydown. …

    BTW – I do now own a small 15 ml bottle of White Diamonds edt, ha ha. It is very lovely and classic. For good portion of the middle part, it reminds me very much of the original Boucheron for Women, which I’ve also owned and wore for a number of years in the 90s. It’s also a milky white flowers fragrance, but more oriental.

    You have lemming magic this year!

    • Angela says:

      “Lemming magic”! In my pre-perfume jargon days, I might have been insulted to be compared to a rodent, but now….

    • I saw the bottle in person and it is very pretty. I never wore the original Oscar. I don’t even remember trying it. Back then I used to wear Givenchy’s Ysatis and Lancome’s Magie Noire for nite time and EL’s Cinnabar or Chloe during the daytime. (I can’t even imagine wearing Cinnabar at all anymore because it is such a heavy perfume.) I didnt try this new Oscar while at the mall when I saw it because I was already wearing samples of EL’s Bronze Goddess and BG Soleil. I didn’t notice them giving away the samples! Now I wish I had looked harder! I will definitely go back to get some! Great review, Angela! thank you.

      • Angela says:

        Did you end up buying the Bronze Goddess or Soleil? It sounds like you’re craving summer scents.

        • Hi Angela,

          I ended up buying the Bronze Goddess. Haven’t worn it yet but looking forward to it. I am at work today wearing Chanels’ Beige and actually I think the EL BG and the Beige definitely share a note or two.

          And it is amazing how our tastes change …I used to love, love Cinnabar so much and now one teeny spray of it has me rushing to open a window! Maybe I should try it dabbed instead of sprayed…It could be the weather getting warmer finally!! not so sure though…

          • Angela says:

            I agree with you about how much tastes can change. I used to love Cinnabar too–in fact, I remember asking for it for Christmas one year in high school. Now I can live without it just fine.

  17. ggperfume says:

    I don’t remember even trying Oscar – perhaps because its era was the time when I only wore my signature fragrance, the original Chloe. Both Esprit d’Oscar and Oscar are now on my list to check out next time I visit a mall. Thanks for bringing this to our notice, Angela. (Oh, and White Diamonds, too).

    • Angela says:

      You’re welcome! To me it’s a welcome departure from so many department store new releases.

  18. Lars Lapsus says:

    Hello everybody. This might be the right place to post this:
    A few days ago I smelled Mouchoir de Monsieur and was surprised it smelled nothing like I remembered it!
    Now I was wondering if it was reformulated, if it was just a deluted tester or if my nose wasn’t working that day (I do have a cold)… I smelled a rather casual cologne, citrussy and aromatic but all the rudeness was gone, as if they had killed the big dog, put the guy into a crepe cotton sommer suit and replaced the huge burgundy velvet bowtie with a pastel office tie. It used to be pretty much unwearable for me, but the change seems rather radical, if my nose didn’t betray me.

    • Angela says:

      Oh no! I hope you accidentally got a hold of a bum bottle. I remember the rude smell well from when I smelled Mouchoir a year ago.

  19. AnnS says:

    Just a little comment waay late to this party, but pertinent too. I just got my bottle. GORGEOUS! Warm, powdery, floral, subdued. It really presents itself just as the notes describe with no trickery – orange blossom, jasmine-tuberose, heliotrope, vetiver, warm sandalwood. I get a good whiff of vetiver out of it, but I think my nose is very sensitive to vetiver in general – but it does keep it from getting either too gourmand or too puffy powdery. FYI – this reminds me *a lot* of MPG Secrete Datura – but not as rich. Anyone who likes that kind of powdery white flowers oriental will be OK with Esprit d’Oscar.

    • Angela says:

      I’m so glad you like it, and thanks for coming back with your impressions! Interesting comparison to Datura Secrete, too. I’ll have to try them together.

  20. Ladyslipper says:

    I just sniffed this out of my INStyle magazine and now want it,so pretty.

    • Angela says:

      I hope you get to try it in real life soon!

  21. Subhuman says:

    What a shock to hear of a new mainstream department store release that is distinctive, high-quality, mature, and interesting. Especially after the likes of Belle d’Opium and Gucci Guilty, I was beginning to give up hope of such a thing. Good on you, Oscar. I’ll be sure to check this out, even if I don’t end up wearing it (florientals bore me to tears).

    • Angela says:

      I think so, anyway. It smells pretty good to me, and, as you say, not super pandering.

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