Valentino Valentina ~ perfume review

Valentino Valentina advert

Anyone who regularly samples mainstream fragrances can vouch for the fact that a disconnect between the advertising and the juice is not an uncommon occurrence, and the gulf can be just as wide at the higher reaches of the price (and status) scale as at the lower. It's not at all unusual for an aura of luxury, sensuality and sophistication to be projected onto what smells, essentially, like a strawberry lollipop.

Valentino's new1 Valentina does not sink into strawberry lollipop status, but it's far too well-behaved to live up to its advertising — I almost wished for strawberry lollipop, or some other sign of exuberance. (There, I've already given away the ending, so now you can skip the rest of today's post and go on about your business). Valentina is supposed to be sensual and sexy, and the advertising, featuring model Freja Beha Erichsen, might also lead you to expect something playful but elegant, rebellious but sophisticated, with all the funding such attributes might require, and then plenty more to spare. The bottle's floral decoration in subdued tones of pink and ivory could be the haute couture version of the stick-a-flower-on-it trend that started with Marc Jacobs Daisy.2 As an exercise in aspirational luxury, and the notion that those who can't afford the clothes — or the lifestyle to go with them — might still buy into the dream with a bottle of perfume for less than $100, the packaging and advertising hits its mark perfectly.

Valentina is advertised as a floriental. Michael Edwards calls it a soft floral — and we know Michael Edwards is always right, yes? The opening is strawberry-tinged citrus: it's bright and lively, and it's only very sweet for a minute or two. It dries down quickly into a sheer and clean modern white floral — the sort that doesn't smell much like real flowers, and that you could wear to your office without bothering the person in the next cubicle. It is not entirely without interest; for a time, a bitter green edge keeps the floral notes from being merely pretty, and there is a hint of earthiness (the white truffle note, presumably, although it's mighty subdued) in the pale woody musky dry down. Eventually, it's all smoothed over with a bit of powder.

It's well done enough, in fact, I like Valentina better than a bajillion other department store fragrances of the last few years. But it isn't fabulous, or even memorable, and not for a moment am I tempted to buy. I doubt I will even use up my sample. I hope that if a woman ever finds herself in Freja Beha Erichsen's shoes — that is, in a gated Italian villa, wearing a gorgeous Valentino dress, and about to escape her fancy wedding by sliding down sheets thrown over the balcony ledge so that she can run off to a nightclub where it rains glitter and make out with a young boy in a car — well, I hope that she can find herself a more fitting perfume.3

As an aside, I'll add that I was sorry not to adore Valentina. Regular readers know that I don't know a thing about fashion, but I was fascinated by the movie Valentino: The Last Emperor.4 I am hard pressed to think of another designer of Valentino's stature that doesn't have a single iconic fragrance under their brand name — if you can think of others, do comment.

Valentino Valentina, packaging

Valentino Valentina was developed by perfumers Alberto Morillas and and Oliver Cresp. The notes feature bergamot, strawberry, jasmine, orange blossom, tuberose, cedar, amber, white truffle and vanilla. It can be found in 30, 50 ($80) and 100 ($108) ml Eau de Parfum and in matching body products.

1. Valentina debuted in Europe last fall, but is not due to launch in the US until next month. It is the first Valentino fragrance under new licensing arrangements with Puig; apparently all of the earlier Valentino fragrances have been discontinued.

2. Marc Jacobs was hardly the first to stick a flower on a bottle, but he does seem to have given the idea new legs, so to speak. And while we're on the subject of Marc Jacobs Daisy, I'll add that its advertising was actually perfectly in line with the juice: young, casual, unpretentious.

3. I should note that I read reviews on several beauty blogs that described Valentina as "smelling expensive". It does not smell particularly expensive to me, but of course as always your mileage may vary. For an interesting commentary on issues of quality and pricing in the fragrance market, see Bois de Jasmin's recent article The Price of Luxury Perfume.

4. About which the New York Times accurately said "Watching the movie is a little like gorging on chocolate and Champagne until that queasy moment arrives when you realize you’ve consumed far too much."

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57 Comments

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  1. Absolute Scentualist says:

    Thanks for the review, Robin. And here I’d hoped Valentina would be more interesting than it apparently turns out to be, as well. In my mind, I’d thought something more along the lines of Miss Dior Cherie (the good version from a couple years back) with more white flowers and earthy notes thanks to the truffle and patch. But that doesn’t sound like the case. If samples ever show up on Evilbay or even a mini for a reasonable price, I might take the plunge, and give it to my daughter if it doesn’t work for me. But it is unfortunate that this won’t likely be a Valentino I finally love since it sounds just too mild mannered and same old, same old.

    Here’s hoping we get another year of nice department store surprises like last year, which still surprises me when I think back on how many I either want to buy or actually bought. It is only February, after all, and though Valentina sounds like a miss, hopefully it will prove the exception rather than the rule.

    • Robin says:

      Well, do go see what you think, and bear in mind that I didn’t much care for the original MDC — maybe you’ll like Valentina better than I did? To my nose, MDC was more fun though. This is trying harder to be sophisticated, without having the balls to be edgy.

      So far this year, the SM Lily is the best I’ve smelled, but you’re right, it’s early yet!

  2. janaroo says:

    I luv luv luv the bottle however like you was so disappointed in the juice.

    • Robin says:

      Have you seen the bottle in person? I haven’t.

  3. mals86 says:

    I steadfastly deny that I am a bottle hound, but that one is so (squee!!) adorable…

    I’m all stocked up on “just pretty,” so it is disappointing to hear that this one won’t be more than “just pretty.” Even for a white-floral-so-called-oriental, I doubt I’ll make exceptions: I want a bottle of Memoir Woman. Now THAT’s a perfume.

    • meg says:

      Go for it! I’m wearing Memoir Woman today. It’s so gorgeous… and the bottle is great too!

    • Robin says:

      Just to be clear, I would not even call this a white floral, but a soft floral with white flowers. That distinction makes perfect sense to me, LOL…hope it does to you.

      • mals86 says:

        Ah. Yes, it does.

        • Robin says:

          Good. Re-read what I said in the actual review, & probably shouldn’t have worded it that way.

          • Robin says:

            Then read it again and wasn’t sure. I wish all posts would disappear 5 minutes after they were published.

          • Merlin says:

            Poster’s remorse!

    • AnnS says:

      Mals: I want a bottle of Memoir Woman too! If I have to wait the entire year and buy nothing else, that is the only bottle in my cross-hairs right now, and for a few months now. I have a decant I cherish. It is just gorgeous!

      • mals86 says:

        It is both gorgeous and weird… I just posted a review today.

        There’s a seller on ebay with testers for $200, no shipping… Daisy swears by this seller in Kuwait – worth looking into, hmm?

        • AnnS says:

          I’ve been wondering who Daisy’s seller is?? Hmmm indeed.

  4. Ikat says:

    The bottle tart in me wants that jar, but I am so meh about the notes.

    • Robin says:

      I am quite sure that somebody could make a fragrance with those exact notes that I would adore! More “real” flowers, esp the jasmine & tuberose, way more white truffle, in fact, make that black truffle. And a wee bit heavier on the green. And just the slightest whisper of strawberry, if we must.

      • Marjorie Rose says:

        Re: white truffle vs. black truffle–Now take this comment with a grain of salt, since I’ve never had the pleasure of a side-by-side comparison, but it seems to me that choosing white truffle is sort of like choosing pink pepper–”we want something different and with some edginess, but not really, so we’ll pick the milder version of it and hope we don’t offend anyone.” It’s a shame. (‘course, I respect me some rebels, even when I don’t like the end result–take the risk to offend me any day over boring me!)

        • Robin says:

          Oh, I was mostly kidding. These are synthetic aroma chemicals, not truffles, and yes, I’m sure they called it “white” truffle to indicate that it was soft, in the same way that they call call musk “white” when it’s clean and “pink” when it’s fruity, etc etc.

  5. alotofscents says:

    Sigh…..I’ll probably like it. I seem to be drawn to soft florals or fresh florals these days. I hope I won’t be booed off the site but I actually love Gucci Guilty. To me, it’s soft, with just a hint of warmth.
    Oh anyway, Robin, remember a long time ago when I asked you why they put jasmine in so many perfumes and you said, “I don’t know. It smells good, I guess.”
    I have learned that it isn’t a coincidence after all. Jasmine is used as a stabilizer, for whatever it’s worth.

    • Merlin says:

      What does a ‘stabilizer’ do? Keep the potion from blowing up?

      • Robin says:

        Keep it from changing color or smell…obviously most perfumes will “turn” eventually, but hopefully not too soon.

        • Merlin says:

          Oh, tks. probably obvious to most…

    • Robin says:

      Hey, nobody gets booed off for liking (or not liking) anything! In fact, if you like it, I hope you’ll come back again and comment to tell people so. Always good for everyone to see different opinions.

      Having trouble w/ the idea of jasmine as stabilizer — have never heard that, and although there are plenty of things I don’t know, seems like most perfumes don’t have real jasmine anyway (?)

      • Subhuman says:

        I could be totally wrong about this – and fully expect a perfumer to pop in here and tell me I’m crazy – but I like to think of jasmine as a “silkening agent” in a perfume, rather like adding a splash of cream to a bold, heavy sauce. Jasmine seems to smooth out the cacophony of other notes bumping into each other, tieing them all together with a satiny, smooth ribbon. As long as it’s done with a light hand, of course – we all know what happens when jasmine is laid on too thick. (I suppose white musk accomplishes a similar task, albeit in a less obvious fashion, and mostly where base notes are concerned.)

        • Robin says:

          Oh yes, I do think jasmine blends nicely with other materials. But again, there is no one raw material that stands in for what is listed as “jasmine” in lists of fragrance notes. To give just one example, sometimes what is listed as “jasmine” in the notes is really hedione, which has markedly different properties from natural jasmine. And there are other synthetics that can stand in as well.

          • Robin says:

            (And adding, I’m not an expert either, & not pretending to be!)

          • Subhuman says:

            True this. Although I do feel that hedione – at least in the perfumes I’ve smelled containing it – performs a smoothing, bodifying effect similar to true jasmine, and perhaps more stealthily. I don’t really recognize “jasmine” when I smell hedione, just a dewy, silky white floral accord. (I could be way overanalyzing this.)

  6. victoriaf says:

    I was just at Sephora marveling at the number of bottles with flowers on them. This one looks nice, but I didn’t see it in person.

    Still haven’t smelled Valentina, but it sounds like something I would expect–polished, well-put together, with a wide appeal. And white florals do really well in the US. I’m off to see the ad though.
    BTW, do the perfume ads really feature on TV? I don’t have cable, so my only TV watching happens when I visit mom. I feel like the European channels show one perfume ad after another, whereas we don’t get as many of them here.

    • Robin says:

      I don’t see all that many commercials because nearly everything I watch is recorded on Tivo (or is streaming from Netflix). But I do see one every so often!

  7. Bela says:

    I think that bottle is ghastly: those plastic flowers are monstrous. I find the whole thing so horrible that I couldn’t bring myself to pick it up to smell the juice when I saw it in a store. It could be *the* perfume I’ve been waiting for all my life… I will never know. LOL!

    • Robin says:

      HA…c’mon, if it was really The One, you could just decant it! But I don’t think it’s The One for you.

  8. Dawnkana says:

    Hi,

    I sampled it at Neiman Marcus today and I thought it was blah or meh or yawn. Nothing groundbreaking.

    Like you wrote in your review, it’s office safe.

    I don’t think it reminds me of anything in particular except for the regular mass marketed department store fragrances. It’s just another one like the rest.

    The bottle is not too bad. I think it’s cute. It’s more interesting than the juice.

    • Robin says:

      I would say that it doesn’t smell “high end” enough for Valentino, but it’s arguably more “high end” than Rock N Rose, so what do I know ;-)

      • Dawnkana says:

        High end or low end, I just want something that doesn’t smell like every other scent out there. Some creativity would be nice but I know it doesn’t work like that in the corporate side of the perfume business.

        Rock N Rose, Ha! I remember that one. It was sold at Neiman also a while ago. I think its target audience were the Avril Lavigne fans and/or the teens to early 20′s. I think it had a counter life at Neimans for about a year. And there were various flankers of it.

        I did get to sample and sniff the new Jo Malone scents today. I liked the Iris one best, but….. it smelled like a weaker version of Prada Infusion d’Iris and lasted a whopping 5 minutes on my skin. I am holding out hope for the new Prada Infusion d’Iris Absolue which is due out in couple of months if I recall correctly.

        • Merlin says:

          I found that rock n’ rose smelled a little like cold rock and a little like rose. Still I wasn’t enamoured of the effect. Also, I doubt it was really meant to smell like rock…

          Do you mean Malone’s Iris and White Musk cologne intense?

          • Robin says:

            I think she means the one that is in the new London Blooms trio.

        • Robin says:

          Dawnkana, Valentina reflects a number of current trends, but to me it was not a dupe of anything else. Actually, it reflects the same trends as Stella McCartney LILY — they could be cousins — but Lily wasn’t so meek about it so is the more “memorable” scent.

        • dolcesarah says:

          I suggest investing in costume national, Amouage, Atelier, Creed, Santa Maria Novella, Dyptyque or a tiny assortment of I Profumi de Firenze, they are $100 and have alot of white musk, amber, something Chiarra, that’s a good one and Senza Fine. I’m loving my first Caron, farnesiana, or whatever it’s called. I love it. Santa Maria Novella are colognes from Italy, look at LAFCO, but they are freeing, just bright enough for a blah day. Then if none of that works, slip into a place that sells SERGE LUTENS. You’ll never be the same.

  9. Subhuman says:

    I suspect that the bottle looks tackier in person than in photos, but the box is truly lovely. Those outlined petals in greyish-pink…sigh.

    Bottega Veneta is proof that a mass-market fragrance by a luxury brand need not SMELL mass-market, if you catch my drift. BV smells pricey and well-crafted, yet it’s produced by Coty. Valentino has no excuse. None! (Fans self vigorously.)

    • Robin says:

      I have a feeling Valentino has never hired really good people to direct the fragrance line.

      Yes, Coty puts out some great things, and also some dreck. I would say the same of Puig — look at the marvelous job they’ve done with Prada. But that must be up to the folks at Prada who are smart enough to insist on how their brand is represented, & so assume nobody at Valentino is taking charge.

      • Robin says:

        But now adding — not to say that Valentina is dreck, which it really isn’t!

      • Subhuman says:

        Puig is mostly celeb dreck, right? I still remember being gobsmacked when I read that they was behind Prada’s scents. Miuccia and Co. must have cracked some whips over there.

        • Subhuman says:

          “They were”, rather. I done good grammar.

        • Robin says:

          They’ve got a mix, just like Coty. High end brands are Valentino, Prada, Comme des Garcons (although they only do part of the line), next tier down is Carolina Herrera, Paco Rabanne, Nina Ricci. Then they’ve got plenty of mass market stuff.

    • Bela says:

      In person, the bottle is the tackiest, most hideous thing I have seen for a very long time. Blech!

  10. littlecooling says:

    I have seen the bottle in person and I like it. It looks like what it does on picture. Which I was very happy about. But the scent it self is just..okay..I, as u, Robin, was hoping for something a bit more daring and interesting. If I ever buy this perfume, it should be for the sake of the bottle and wearing it on those days, when I won’t offend any, but they way I smell ;)

    • Robin says:

      I bet lots of people are going to buy it for the bottle.

  11. shabbus says:

    Not sure if this counts, but Louis Vuitton does not have a fragrance associated with it (although I understand that will be changing later this year).

    • Robin says:

      I think they’re crazy too…after all these years, it’s a big risk.

  12. eminere says:

    Sorry to read it’s underwhelming.

  13. cindo45 says:

    Hi Robin – I am very intrigued by your profound knowledge of perfume. While I will admit that I am a novice and my experiences have all been with products that are ~ well for a novice, for a lack of a better word…

    I was so excited about Valentina, not b/c of the bottle, but b/c of Valentino himself. I thought surely that after “Rock n Rose” he would want to “right” himself…

    So the real purpose for this message? Could you please lead me towards what a true perfume fanatic is wearing? What are your favorites? Since you are so knowledgeable, I think that I could really get some good ideas from you. While I don’t do Coty – My average bottle of perfume is about $75.00 – so not the big spender, Unfortunately, I also like convenience. So could you please tell me what I should be purchasing to wear this spring? Day? and Night? Thanks, as I am eager to learn from you….

    Here’s another hint about me – today I purchased OH Lola and my second bottle Coach Poppy ~ am I hopeless? Please help!

  14. zubi says:

    I found this horrendously sweet. Not celeb perfume or 16 yr old sweet, as they managed somehow to stay on the border of classy adult, but I’d say I’ve seen MUCH classier.

  15. ralovesuk says:

    This is a tame, slightly orientral, soft floral which in my opinion lacks character. It’s not something people will recognize or remember.

  16. necrochild says:

    Gosh, I see this is kind of ”old” fragrance, and I’ve just come to test it. As a newcomer in perfume world, it was overwhelming! But I can barely feel the fruity notes, only the strooooong jasmine and orrange blossom, and then ambery vanilla. Not my cup of tea, but not horrible, I bet flowery sweet scents lovers will like. Also, the sillage is not too much, so you don’t need to worry about it.

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