The Different Company Pure Virgin ~ perfume review

The Different Company Pure Virgin perfume bottleThe Different Company Pure Virgin perfume bottleThe Different Company Pure Virgin perfume bottle

Update: Pure Virgin has been renamed Pure eVe.

It seems like just yesterday that perfumistas were adjusting to the idea of L'Eau Serge Lutens — a resolutely clean, "fresh from the laundry" fragrance from the master of the heady floral and the spicy oriental. Sure, everybody else is making them, but people didn't expect it from Serge Lutens. Pure Virgin, the latest from The Different Company, has similar inspirations — "a simple and comfortable perfume" is how they put it — but it's perhaps not such a leap from some of the brand's relatively light fragrances?

The outcome, however, is quite different from L'Eau Serge Lutens. I didn't love L'Eau Serge, but I didn't hate it either. It was a well-done if not especially exciting clean scent, and that, perhaps, is a big piece of the problem: is there such a thing as an exciting but resolutely clean, just-out-of-the-shower fragrance? I will lay my prejudices on the table by answering my own question: no. They all smell like very tiny variations on a theme that can be explored just as easily in the laundry aisle of your local supermarket as at the perfume counter, and that's true whether you're using "the best quality of Musk", as The Different Company proclaims of perfumer Celine Ellena's creation, or whether you're using the cheapest of cheap aroma chemicals.

Pure Virgin, in particular, smells like any number of fragrances, high-end and low, meant to mimic the smell of clean cotton, from L'Artisan's L'Été en Douce to Clean's Cotton T-shirt.1 Pure Virgin adds a sweet fruit 'n candy note (the official notes: evanescent musk, light wind, linen flower, white rose, cedar and calisson) and a bit more vague rosy-floral than some; it's supposed to be a unisex and I guess it qualifies, but some men will feel more comfortable with the L'Eau Serge. A number of commentators on MakeupAlley have compared it to Sarah Horowitz's Perfect Veil;2 what kept coming to my mind was that if you asked a perfumer to make a more sophisticated version of Love's Baby Soft, you'd end up with something an awful lot like Pure Virgin.

If you like clean fragrances, that might sound tempting, and do give it a try. I am not a fan. I don't demand that every fragrance be exciting, but I do prefer that my personal fragrance not smell like a cleaning product. I didn't mind wearing L'Eau Serge, as I said, but I found Pure Virgin hard going — perhaps that means that if you like clean fragrances, all the better? I will say that the lasting power is excellent.

Pure Virgin is reportedly Celine Ellena's last fragrance for the brand; going forward, she will be replaced by perfumer Bertrand Duchaufour (see today's announcement of Oud Shamash). I will be sorry to see her go, but I'll remember her by the brilliant De Bachmakov — my idea of the perfect clean fragrance.

The Different Company Pure Virgin is available in 50 ml Eau de Toilette. For buying information, see the listing for The Different Company under Perfume Houses.

1. Ok, I admit it, I have not smelled Clean Cotton T-shirt. But I've smelled any number of other scents from Clean whilst goofing around in Sephora, and they mostly all smell like clean laundry or shower gel or a mixture of the two.

2. It appears to have found quite a few fans on MakeupAlley, by the way.

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  1. Oh my Robin! Why is it that when we don’t particularly like a perfume, the lasting power is great and when we love a perfume, the lasting perfume seems so fleeting! It’s just not right!

    • Robin says:

      LOL…it is one of those laws of nature, right? I swear, you cannot wash this stuff off.

      • Marjorie Rose says:

        I LOL’d Robin, when I saw your comment about how you will say “the lasting power is excellent!” It reminded me of comments I have to leave on check-in sheets for some of my naughtier students. They have to take a sheet to each of their classes, and the teacher is supposed to score their behavior and leave a positive comment. Well, some days it’s REALLY hard to come up with something positive, so you get things like, “Thanks, K—, for leaving the room without throwing your binder this time!” :p

        • Robin says:

          Ha! Well, I really did manage TWO positives: it lasts, and it smells more sophisticated than Love’s Baby Soft ;-)

  2. Bear says:

    The ‘clean’ trend is frankly more annoying to me than either the oud or ‘too-many-patchouli-rose-scents’ trends.
    Soapy scents irritate my sensibilites for some reason, so this can be checked OFF the to-smell list. Thanks!

    • Robin says:

      Interesting. Right now the oud seems more ubiquitous to me (at least, on the niche side) so it’s bothering me more. The clean scents seem more like a passing irritation? We’ll see, maybe this is the next bandwagon.

    • platinum14 says:

      I’m with Bear!

  3. Meg says:

    I am a complete sucker for the marketing of “clean smelling” perfumes: the white bottles, the minimalism, the evocation of simplicity, sheets, linen, or ironing a shirt. Then I get the sample *cough* l’eau, aqua universalis *cough* and discover that actually, I don’t want to smell like a pale yellow manifestation of clean sheets. May this review strengthen my resolve that PV is not worth ordering a sample of.

    • Robin says:

      But wait, do you like *any* of the clean scents? Seems odd to be attracted to them and then hate them!

      • Meg says:

        Maybe I am just attracted to clean visuals? I guess “clean” is a slippery category. I dislike SL’s L’eau and aqua, the L’Asrtisan l’eaus leave me cold (but do they qualify as clean?). Not a fan of Acqua di Gio, have not tried the “Clean” line you speak of. I do, however, like mint-y notes (which I guess could be considered clean?) and lighter fare, like Winter 1972.

        • Robin says:

          Ah…well, there is clean and then there is clean as in laundry detergent clean. I like plenty of fragrances I think of as clean, including many of the lighter L’Artisans. It’s the overdosed white musk scents (the ones that smell like cleaning products) that I don’t like.

    • Aparatchick says:

      Exactly, Meg. I love the idea – and the marketing (who doesn’t love snuggling into a bed freshly made with clean sheets?), but then I try the scents …. and I’ve never found one I would wear.

    • Merlin says:

      Actually, I like the scent of really good soap, so I could like ‘Clean’. I thought Prada d’homme smelled like I had just showered with something luxurious and lovely; but, everyone I asked thought it was revolting on me ) :
      My ‘Clean’ for the moment is infusion d’ Iris which doesn’t smell at all like soap but does smell ‘clean’, invigorating and beautiful.

      • Robin says:

        I love Prada Homme! That, to me, smells like expensive soap, not like laundry detergent.

      • Meg says:

        Yes, I agree that “expensive soap” does not equal “ubiqutous clean.” There is a part of the drydown of N.5 that reminds me of soap in a good way.

        • Robin says:

          Exactly! And that’s true of many aldehydic florals. Not the same as this overwhelming white musk stuff.

          • mals86 says:

            Count me as a fan of aldehydic-floral clean, too. I think I have more tolerance for white musk than many people do, but to be honest it’s more that I just don’t *hate* it.

  4. rebieFR says:

    Smells like the first Kenzo Amour to me. Not bad but far too easy for such a niche brand which claims to be different.

    • Robin says:

      Interesting…this didn’t remind me of Amour at all. I should try them together, but I probably can’t talk myself into wearing it again.

  5. bjorn says:

    “light wind” is an ingredient now? They bottled wind? I understand the concept of Fantasy notes, but now we are firmly in the Delusional notes territory.

  6. Karin says:

    I am also not one of those on the “clean” bandwagon. Really, really do not like this genre of fragrances. Another one I don’t need to try! :-)

    • Robin says:

      I know this one will find fans though. We are the minority even if we end up being in the majority in the comments today!

      • Merlin says:

        I do worry about putting people off with scents that appeal to my developing nose. To most people a scent is either attractive or repulsive and I would prefer not to repel people with the way I smell!

        • Robin says:

          Understandable. I am careful about what I wear out, but since most of my fragrance use is at home, it doesn’t affect my purchases.

  7. RuthW says:

    Frankly I find the name hilarious, wouldn’t “Pure Virgin” be considered a double negative/ double positive – whatever your viewpoint, pick one.
    I don’t care for the “clean” genre because it is well covered by mid market companies and drugstore body sprays, even Dove as some for about $5. Why pay niche prices for something I can get anywhere?

    • Robin says:

      I have to agree in theory — why pay more? — but that said, I am sure I frequently pay niche prices for simple but well-done things (I say this as I contemplate replacing my nearly empty Osmanthe Yunnan). So *if* I loved clean, I can see paying more for a top notch version.

      (But my gut reaction, since I hate clean, is that you’d have to be crazy, LOL…)

  8. halimeade says:

    I own one small bottle of clean fragrance- Gap Close- and that is more than enough for me. I’m not one for heady or statement fragrances, but fragrance is my one opportunity daily to add a little spice to my life, I just don’t feel like I need more soap.

    • Robin says:

      I don’t usually wear what I think of as statement fragrances either. I guess I like a happy medium most of the time :-)

  9. Rappleyea says:

    My note next to L’Ete en Douce is “Tide” – and I didn’t even realize that it was *supposed* to smell like laundry detergent! Thanks for vindicating me, Robin. lol! ;-)
    P. S. I make my own laundry detergent, and avoid the aisle in the grocery store like the plague so you can guess where I stand on paying perfume prices for that smell!

    • Robin says:

      Strictly speaking, it was *not* supposed to smell like laundry detergent but like linen drying in the sun, or somesuch. And it did…but to me, that includes the scent of the laundry detergent used to wash the linens, right?

      • Rappleyea says:

        Hehehehee…. should have used some vinegar in the rinse cycle! :-D

  10. Krizani says:

    How funny, I chose White Linen to wear today. I think this is as close as I’d care to get to something “clean”.

    WL has interesting development, that gorgeous rose in the middle and such radiance. The other perfumes marketed as clean can often give me a migraine much like the laundry exhaust that comes straight into my windows from my neighbor. They seem to have something in common that does this to me; “regular” perfumes don’t do that to me and I’m very migraine-prone.

    I think it’s kind of surreal that bona fide laundry products can be a spike in the head within seconds and my rather large perfume collection has nary a one that can do that to me. Hrm, life is often odd, eh?

    • Robin says:

      Nobody will mistake White Linen for Love’s Baby Soft, I don’t think!

    • Jillie says:

      Oh how I agree with you about the migraine-inducing properties of most detergents/softeners! That smell is the bane of my life at the moment, and I can’t get away fast enough from people whose clothes reek of it; quite literally I get nauseous. I think that the manufacturers are beginning to realise at last that we don’t all want to smell like this and I notice that a few are introducing “special” softeners that don’t have everlasting (disgusting) fragrance built in. I wonder what the specific components are that make be so sick and headachey?

  11. Fleur says:

    I like it. It’s like a kinder, gentler version of Luctor et Emergo by POTL. i don’t know if I’ll be able, at my age, however, to tell people I’m wearing something called Pure Virgin without evoking either gales of laughter or eyes rolled to heaven.

    • Robin says:

      Hey, I would just lie! I don’t see why we should always be saddled with these ridiculous names.

  12. Daisy says:

    I haven’t been anywhere lately to read about this—but I can tell you that I got a sample from Luckscent a week or so ago and my very first thought, the knee jerk reaction was : SH Perfect Veil clone.
    and it’s boooooooring.

    • Daisy says:

      de Bachmakov wins hands down!!!

    • Robin says:

      Interesting. My first thought was “expensive Love’s Baby Soft”, but I probably don’t remember Perfect Veil all that well! It’s all splitting hairs anyway, right — these are all clean musk scents.

  13. I like Perfect Veil and wear it quite often as a go-to day scent. Has that slight lemony touch with the clean muskiness. Now this post has sadly reminded me of one of my early impulse albatrosses, L’Ete en Douce. The Guide called it “laundry-soap-on-steroids”. How did I not notice that before I walked out the door with this, 65 euros lighter – and cleaner?

    • Daisy says:

      I didn’t mean my comments in a negative way–just that it’s sorta been done. I have Perfect Veil and like it quite a bit…it’s good for layering too…especially if a scent is a little too “bright” . I just cannot see buying both Perfect Veil AND Pure Virgin. It’s a little redundant.

    • Robin says:

      Ok, so the L’Artisan is cleaner than the Perfect Veil? (Serious question, it’s been a long time since I’ve smelled Perfect Veil. Remember it as another clean musk, also like Philosophy Something Grace)

  14. Branch and Vine says:

    I love both Perfect Veil and Pure Virgin so I guess I’m the odd person out. There are times when I want something that’s snuggly w/out being too much. I think Iris Poudre very much fits into this catagory too. I love the softness and have been looking for something PVish w/ a bit of a twist~voila!
    Can’t do SL L’Eau or the Clean line at all. Actually I’ve been using SL L’Eau as a room freshener and it’s fantastic!
    As for the Pure Virgin here’s another fun fact. I just got a bunch of samples w/it of course and have layered PV w/Michele Bergman Black Tuberose and it’s stunning. You gotta love niche ~even if it’s clean niche!

    • Robin says:

      Oh, I really doubt you’re odd man out — people are always just more apt to comment if they agree with the review, you know? These things sell, so they’re obviously very popular.

  15. ny9 says:

    Wow, I can’t stand Perfect Veil or CLEAN, but I absolutely adore Pure Grace by Philosophy. It’s clean without smelling like a health food store. Amazing Grace is also beautiful. Water Lily, Bergamot, Soft Musk and Floral, but not “homemeade” smelling if that makes sense. I didn’t hate Serge L’Eau, but I didn’t find it interesting enough to purchase. Love’s Baby Soft was my first scent…at twelve. Next up to try, L’Ete en Douce. Someone wrote it smells like Tide- I’m hoping it’s more Wisk! ; )

    • Robin says:

      Now wait, so you think Perfect Veil smells like a health food store? I think of health food store smell as very herbal, and maybe the opposite of laundry detergent.

      But as I was reading your comment, thought of another you might like, and it’s one of the Tom Ford Musk collection but now I can’t remember which. Might be the White Suede.

  16. kaos.geo says:

    My go-to clean scent is Chemistry by clinique… it is clean vetiver and ginger.. but something with my *chemistry* (gasp! hehehe) turns it into something more sexy afterwards.
    regarding the “Clean” series, I smelled them at sephora too and yes, once you’ve smelled once.. you`ve smelled at least a variation of the rest.
    I bought Fresh’s sugar and lemon for a friend as a gift (it was very cheap at the check out aisle at sephora) but man, was it too clean and baby like… it made me sick, I could almost smell clean baby and (sorry for this) a hint of milky baby puke! :-P

    • nozknoz says:

      That Clinique Chemistry really sounds good, kaos.geo! Would you say it is a unisex scent?

    • Robin says:

      The Fresh Sugar & Lemon stuff is so popular! I don’t get it either.

  17. kindcrow says:

    “Light wind?” Sounds like light flatulence :-) I’m soooo immature.

  18. nozknoz says:

    This really puts me in high curmudgeon. When The DIFFERENT Company jumps on the clean AND oud band wagons in the same news cycle, well, it’s clearly one more sign of the decline and fall of Western Civilization (which we already knew to be in free fall based on leaf blowers and people texting as they drive, etc.). And the name Pure Virgin REALLY irritates me (though not as much as leaf blowers). I know the marketers have already kicked the Boomers to the curb, but I’m not sure how many eleven year olds can afford TDC. Of course, the world IS supposed to end on Saturday, so maybe this is just one more harbinger. :-) I wonder if rants count as aerobic exercise?

    • Zazie says:

      I would be one very toned lady, if they counted! ;)

    • Robin says:

      I think that must have burned off calories, no?

      I agree though. There is an article about niche in WWD today…here’s a quote: “There is a common desire and wish to be distinct. The mass market is no longer delivering on this promise to be different”

      Ha. Niche stopped delivering on that promise ages ago.

  19. Safran says:

    To me, it’s a very well made baby scent – baby skin, baby hair, baby powder. I can imagine, that it gives extreme comfort, but I rather go for other comfort scents, that smell more adult. I asked my 10 year old daughter (without telling her my thoughts before), if she thinks, this one would make a nice teenager scent. Her reply was: ” Mom, a teenager doesn’t want to smell like a baby, a teenager wants to smell exciting!” Oops, I am a bit worried, where she got the exciting idea from, but otherwise she had the same baby image.

    • Robin says:

      I think it’s true though…teenagers today would not wear Love’s Baby Soft.

  20. Andreea says:

    The more interesting info is that Duchaufour is going to be the nose of TDC. Nice!
    Still thumbs up and respect for Sublime Balkiss, which I think it is Celine Ellena.

    Scents that smell like “clean” which is just an artificial way to be or describe clean! are too, too bad for me. I cannot stand that smell anymore! Not to believe I used to wear PoloRalphLauren Sport for Woemn for several years – also such a “clean” scent. Todays I get a bad headache from it.
    Well – today I read NST :-) ;-)

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