Flanker of a Flanker: review of Estee Lauder Modern Muse Le Rouge Gloss

Yesterday I met a dear publishing friend for lunch, and he surprised me with a bottle of perfume. We usually just talk books, but he knows that I write (or did write) about perfume. So, when a bottle of perfume landed in a gift bag at an event (that Mr. Lauder himself attended), I seemed to be the logical final destination for said gift.

Here’s where I admit what a snob I’ve become.

When my friend pulled it out and showed it to me while explaining the origin, I was, of course, grateful, but what ran through my mind was this:

Oh great. The flanker of a flanker of a stand-alone that wasn’t worth paying attention to. Probably a scrubber.

To say my hopes were measured would be a tremendous understatement. I tossed it in my bag and forgot about it for the next few hours. Later, when I got home, and before even opening the cellophane, I started with some research. What’s the blogosphere got to say about this, I wondered?

None of the reputable bloggers had given it any attention–no surprise there. With so many great houses and rockstar perfumers, this sort of thing doesn’t generally warrant the attention of the die-hard perfumista. Mass-market flankers have a reputation for being ignorable, and here was a flanker to a flanker. Not something to inspire much optimism. Fragrantica has an entry, with quite a few reviews, but those reviews are all over the place. People love it, people hate it. After reading my way through the feedback, I prepared myself for a sticky, screechy, chemical composition.

Slowly, cautiously (ever in fear of getting a scrubber on my skin), I began opening the box. Once the top was open, before the bottle was out, I could already smell it. It was projecting.

What’s this?!

Before I even sprayed the first test-blast on paper, I was taken aback at the smooth, jammy-rose sillage emanating from the ugly little box & bottle. Surely, this is a trick. Highly suspicious, I sprayed the pink/red juice on paper and waited. Waited for a synthetics-induced headache, the screechy-sweetness of a mass-market flanker, the plasticky approximation of living rose. I got none of those things.

Le Rouge Gloss has a stupid name, an ugly bottle, and traces of a much more sophisticated heritage than EL Modern Muse. I ended up spraying it on my skin A WHOLE BUNCH over the course of the next several hours and into the evening, and from top notes to dry-down, Le Rouge Gloss is not only better than it ought to be, it’s damned good.

Seriously though–it’s damned good.

The most immediate and obvious reference is, for me, Romano Ricci’s Juliette Has a Gun Miss Charming, which I really, really liked, but not quite enough to pay the JHAG price for. The similarity is uncanny, and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone told me that it’s an actual, literal head-space capture knock-off of the niche scent. It’s really lovely.

LRG also bears kinship with two other great, nearly edible roses: L’Artisan’s Safran Troublant (just a nod) and more so Parfumerie Generale’s no. 13, Brulure de Rose, though I find the PG deeper, warmer, and even a tad sweeter. The PG also has more distinct stages of development, while LRG remains somewhat linear throughout its life on skin. Which is fine by me, because it smells fantastic.

If you love jammy-rose, I can’t recommend this stuff highly enough. It’s practically free on evilBay, and all the discounters have it, anywhere from $25-$50. Sillage is moderate and lasting power is about average for an EDP; I re-upped about every three hours because I knew I was going to write about it, so kept myself in a cloud for the entire afternoon/evening.

Listed Fragrance Notes: Black cherry, carrot seed, mandarin, rose centifolia, pink pepper, jasmine absolute, vinyl accord, styrax, saffron, labdanum, vanilla, patchouli.

It smells better than it ought to, and I’m totally under its spell; since it’s discontinued, I’ll be snagging a few backup bottles. If you’re a fan of the jammy-rose, I recommend you find it and give it a sniff–I’m confident you won’t regret it.

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