For Elizabeth Taylor Black Pearls Eau de Parfum, it’s almost as if the Liz Taylor perfume team set out to make a fragrance that was the complete opposite of White Diamonds. First, of course, the name. What could be more removed from a white diamond than a black pearl? Then the fragrance itself. White Diamonds is a grand, soapy, white floral with a clean, dignified, and innocent air. Black Pearls is something else altogether.
“Well, if we really want to distinguish it from White Diamonds, we’ll need fruit,” a marketing person must have said.
“How about peach? You know, voluptuous, like Ms. Taylor herself. We can add a spot of bergamot to keep it from being too sweet,” the perfume executive said.
“What else? What else will set it apart from White Diamonds?”
“Maybe vanilla? We can make it an oriental. Wait! I know — how about leather? A whopping leather note? There’s nothing innocent and ladylike about that.” And so, in 1996, Black Pearls was born. At least, in my imagination that’s how it happened. And that’s how it smells.
In the mid-1990s, White Diamonds continued to sell well, but "Fragrant Jewels," the trio of fragrances Elizabeth Taylor released in 1993, didn't make as much money as hoped. Although Taylor had just wrapped up her marriage to Larry Fortensky and had hip replacement surgery, she was determined to make sure Black Pearls was a success. She appeared in four CBS television shows, including "Murphy Brown" and "The Nanny," in black pearls-related plots. (In "Murphy Brown," Murphy was supposed to interview Liz about her stolen black pearls, but the pearls were found. In "The Nanny," the nanny somehow loses Taylor's pearls in a car accident.)
At the first spritz of Black Pearls, peach and bergamot greet my nose in a sweet-tart combination that reminds me of currant. The oily leather underlying the fruit, when added to the vanilla that kicks in soon after, makes an almost chocolaty aroma, like a decadently trashy version of Annick Goutal Eau de Charlotte.
The fragrance continues to grow freakier as the leather note burgeons to ride neck-and-neck with the peach. I sense some rose riding along, too, but it's definitely second billing, along with any other florals that might have been thrown into the mix. After an hour or so, when the leather calms into an inviting suede, musk and amber take over. The musk isn’t White Diamonds’ clean musk, but is the sweet, dirty musk of Coty Wild Musk and Jovan Musk for Women.
Black Pearls is a distinctive, warm fragrance, but for all its wild ride, it stays surprisingly close to the skin. It lasts a murmuring but solid eight hours on my skin.This might be a good one for our Australian readers to test about now. Northern hemisphere readers venturing into summer are advised to wait until cooler weather hits, or have headache relief on hand.
Black Pearls doesn't seem to be built to be a crowd pleaser, but there's something over-the-top about it I find irresistible. Just as a few times a year I need to overindulge — eat an extra-large hot fudge sundae, and, o.k., toss some toasted pecans on top and how about some marshmallow creme — Black Pearls satisfies when I want a perfume with all cylinders firing. I’m not sure I could wear it three days straight, but when the urge for excess itches, Black Pearls will scratch it.
Elizabeth Taylor Black Pearls is discontinued, but it’s readily available online for as little as $13 for 100 ml Eau de Parfum.