The Measure of Success: Scents and Scentsibilities

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How do you define success? Is it experiencing Andy Warhol’s fifteen minutes of fame or is it having a name that’s remembered through the eons? Is it money or power or is it perhaps something far more personal—the hope that we’ll be remembered with love and respect by those we care for? However we measure it, there are some people whose names have come down to us through history who seem almost as alive to us today as they did decades or centuries ago. The perfumes I reviewed this month contemplate the nature of success, with very different inspirations and interpretations. 

Boadicea the Victorious: Delicate and Complex

Michael Boadi is a well-known British hair stylist who decided to branch out into perfume creation in a big way. He recently released sixteen fragrances all inspired by Queen Boadicea of the Iceni, who led a famous, but unsuccessful, revolt against the Romans in first century England. 

With so many perfumes in the line, I had a hard time picking what to review. I like perfumes that give me a lot to smell and think about and I ended up choosing two very different fragrances. One is as green and pretty as England in the spring, the other is dark and redolent with war and strife, but both are out of the ordinary and well worth trying. 

Delicate has notes of bluebell woods, hyacinth, rose, lily, jasmine, clove, cinnamon, and galbanum. Reading the listed notes, one would think that Delicate is a sweet, gentle floral, but the reality is far more interesting than that. Delicate opens with sharp, almost bitter, green notes under the bluebell. It gradually moves through a soapy rose heart offset by an almost sour clove scent. I like the contrast of the two scents; it makes the rose much more refined and thoughtful. The drydown is a wonderful hyacinth that captures the moment when you lift a hyacinth from the garden, earth still clinging to its roots. 

Complex is the perfect name for this fragrance with its harsh, almost shocking, opening and burnt wood-incense drydown. Listed notes are violet, labdanum, leather, musk, civet, basil, and sage. 

I think if I hadn’t already smelled and fallen in love with Tauer’s incomparable L’Air du Désert Marocain, I might not have gotten past the opening notes of this strange, wild perfume. Andy Tauer gave me a love for incense and burnt wood, and Michael Boadi has taken that love and tweaked it with Complex. 

Complex opens with a pungent gust of smoky wood and violet that knocks you back on your heels. The smokiness has a marshy undertone that melds with the sage to create the bitter herb heart of Complex. The drydown retains the bitterness and adds layers of incense to create a fragrance that is definitely not for the faint of nose or heart, but is nonetheless intriguing, and most definitely masculine. 

The bottles are heavy crystal with pewter caps and sides engraved with Celtic designs, with a different design for each fragrance. They’re beautiful and expensive, as are the perfumes. Available in 50- and 100-milliliter bottles, for $175 and $265 respectively. Samples are available at Luckyscent for $4. 

Bond. No. 9: Andy Warhol Success Is a Job in New York

Bond No. 9’s latest fragrance is inspired by cash and named for an article illustrated by Andy Warhol in the 1950s for Glamour magazine. 

Success Is a Job in New York has a longer name than any fragrance I can think of, and being inspired by cash is certainly as bold as Andy Warhol ever was! Luckily for Bond No. 9, Success is warm and charming enough to live up to its name. Listed notes are coriander, cardamom, mandarin, and bergamot, with heart notes of jasmine, tuberose, rose, plum, and pimento, and base notes of vanilla, patchouli, and amber. 

Success opens nicely with a citrus bergamot that warms to the skin immediately. The floral notes are muted, offset by the spicy cardamom. Contrary to its brash resume, Success isn’t at all flashy. It’s understated and well done, and the drydown is a sophisticated and modern mix of patchouli and vanilla, very old money with a touch of downtown boho. Success is marketed as genderless (the new unisex) and I think it would work very well on either sex. This is a great fragrance for the fall, and the lasting power is excellent. 

The bottle has a black background with an image of a silk-screened Andy Warhol dollar sign from 1981, orange on one side, blue on the other.

Andy Warhol Success Is a Job in New York will be launched October 1, 2009 in 50- and 100-milliliter bottles for $145 and $220 respectively at Bond No. 9 and Saks Fifth Avenue

Parting note: If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.—Katherine Hepburn 

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